Free Markets, Free People
I’m amazed at times by what I read in major daily newspapers. OK, not as much now as I would have been say 10 or 15 years ago. Maybe it’s just awareness on my part now, but as I get older I am confronted by what I see as half-baked opinion on the pages of such rags than I ever remember before.
Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m the one that’s gotten sharper over the years and am able to spot nonsense more easily than before. Take for instance, Nina Power of the Guardian. Power is a senior lecturer in philosophy at Roehampton University, so she can be forgiven for being somewhat removed from reality. In her opinion, which the Guardian gladly publishes, the problem of the riots in London and elsewhere can be laid at the feet of government and austerity policies. Why? Well let her explain:
Since the coalition came to power just over a year ago, the country has seen multiple student protests, occupations of dozens of universities, several strikes, a half-a-million-strong trade union march and now unrest on the streets of the capital (preceded by clashes with Bristol police in Stokes Croft earlier in the year). Each of these events was sparked by a different cause, yet all take place against a backdrop of brutal cuts and enforced austerity measures. The government knows very well that it is taking a gamble, and that its policies run the risk of sparking mass unrest on a scale we haven’t seen since the early 1980s. With people taking to the streets of Tottenham, Edmonton, Brixton and elsewhere over the past few nights, we could be about to see the government enter a sustained and serious losing streak.
It’s the “brutal cuts” and the “enforced austerity measures”. Note she admits that “each of these events was sparked by a different cause”, however she then rejects that admission and claims that in reality they all come back to government cut backs.
Really? It couldn’t be good old technology aided criminality could it? Or something else completely? Or a combination of other things altogether?
For instance, in the next paragraph, she says:
The policies of the past year may have clarified the division between the entitled and the dispossessed in extreme terms, but the context for social unrest cuts much deeper. The fatal shooting of Mark Duggan last Thursday, where it appears, contrary to initial accounts, that only police bullets were fired, is another tragic event in a longer history of the Metropolitan police’s treatment of ordinary Londoners, especially those from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, and the singling out of specific areas and individuals for monitoring, stop and search and daily harassment.
One journalist wrote that he was surprised how many people in Tottenham knew of and were critical of the IPCC, but there should be nothing surprising about this. When you look at the figures for deaths in police custody (at least 333 since 1998 and not a single conviction of any police officer for any of them), then the IPCC and the courts are seen by many, quite reasonably, to be protecting the police rather than the people.
Oh, so it could be all about police harassment then and nothing to do with “brutal cuts” or austerity? It could be that the spark that lit this fire had to do with police treatment of minorities? It certainly seems that is what she’s saying. And of course the riots elsewhere could simply be copy-cat. Criminal gangs who learned the methods used in Tottenham and deploying them elsewhere to loot and avoid the police?
Well, yes, it could be. In fact, it could really have nothing at all to do with the “entitled and dispossessed”.
Combine understandable suspicion of and resentment towards the police based on experience and memory with high poverty and large unemployment and the reasons why people are taking to the streets become clear.
They do? What’s clear is she’s bound and determined to link them, that’s for sure. But clarity … yeah, not so much.
But that is necessary, even if not true, to conclude the following:
Those condemning the events of the past couple of nights in north London and elsewhere would do well to take a step back and consider the bigger picture: a country in which the richest 10% are now 100 times better off than the poorest, where consumerism predicated on personal debt has been pushed for years as the solution to a faltering economy, and where, according to the OECD, social mobility is worse than any other developed country.
As Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett point out in The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone, phenomena usually described as "social problems" (crime, ill-health, imprisonment rates, mental illness) are far more common in unequal societies than ones with better economic distribution and less gap between the richest and the poorest. Decades of individualism, competition and state-encouraged selfishness – combined with a systematic crushing of unions and the ever-increasing criminalisation of dissent – have made Britain one of the most unequal countries in the developed world.
All of that from a riot against police that one could conclude was a long time fermenting. Recall the LA riots – was that because of “brutal cuts” and “enforced austerity measures”? Was the looting that took place then a result of “decades of individualism, competition and state-encouraged selfishness” or mobs taking advantage of the lawlessness the riots brought to loot what they wanted?
And even if she’s half right – what’s the solution she’d desire? Well “equality” of course. She’d rather trample the rights of those who’ve won “life’s lottery” (even though they worked their rear ends off to do so) and redistribute it to the poor and disenfranchised than ask the poor and disenfranchised to do what is necessary to give themselves a chance in life and quit demanding others do it for them.
Collectivism, although she never comes out and says it, is her answer. And we’ve seen how well those equal societies did, didn’t we? Well at least those of us who had been born before the collapse of the USSR and objectively observed the outcome.
Yes, friends, a whole new generation of collectivists begin to rear their heads, some having never seen what the collectivism of the last century brought in terms of “equality” - Equality of misery, equality of oppression and equality of hopelessness.
The problem in the UK isn’t austerity, it’s the results of collectivism and the fact that the inevitable outcome has begun. It isn’t individualism that’s the fault. It’s a massive state which robs people of incentive through it’s supposed benign acts of state sponsored charity. Why strive if you will be taken care of whether you do or not? Why seek food if you’re not hungry or don’t care what you eat? Why take care of yourself if the state will do it for you? And if you start running out of money, tax the rich bastards who want better.
Uncle Jimbo, at Blackfive, puts the exclamation mark on the real reason London is burning:
Liberal social policies have brought western civilization to the breaking point. They had the best of intentions, just ask them. But they, and sadly we, are getting a heaping dose of the law of unintended consequences. If you train an entire cohort of society to believe that the government doesn’t just offer a safety net but a way of life, well you get this- gangs of scum who will take what they want if the free lunch stops showing up. The chattering class is doing their level best to paint this as a legitimate reaction to dire economic times, and for once I agree with them. This is what happens when you run out of other people’s money.
By the way, this isn’t just a one-off bit of nonsense from Ms. Power. She’s been quite active in the Guardian pages denouncing all sorts of things with titles such as “Don’t Assume the Police Are On Our Side”, which makes me wonder what “our side” might be, and “Happiness has been Consumed by Capitalism” which clarifies the sides.
If you’re wondering why Wikileaks has been able to obtain military reports on Iraq and Afghanistan as well as diplomatic cables for the last 10 or so years, wonder no more.
According to the UK’s Guardian, up to 3 million people had potential access to those archives on the government’s Siprnet system.
More than 3 million US government personnel and soldiers, many extremely junior, are cleared to have potential access to this material, even though the cables contain the identities of foreign informants, often sensitive contacts in dictatorial regimes. Some are marked "protect" or "strictly protect".
To me that’s a phenomenal revelation. If, like me, you were wondering how a Private First Class like Bradley Manning had access to this sort of information, now you know. Had I been aware of the number who had potential access to these files, I’d have said it isn’t a matter of “if” but “when” a leak would occur. Allowing that amount of access to information marked “Secret” and “NoForn”, short for “no foreign dissemination”, as well as the names of highly sensitive sources and contacts is a intelligence disaster waiting to happen.
A State Department Spokesman claims it was a reaction to pre-9/11 intelligence sharing – or lack there of:
"The 9/11 attacks and their aftermath revealed gaps in intra-governmental information sharing. Since the attacks of 9/11, the US government has taken significant steps to facilitate information sharing. These efforts were focused on giving diplomatic, military, law enforcement and intelligence specialists quicker and easier access to more data to more effectively do their jobs."
He added: "We have been taking aggressive action in recent weeks and months to enhance the security of our systems and to prevent the leak of information."
While I certainly don’t at all condone the Wikileaks publication of these cables, I have to tell you, given this new information, that I’m not at all surprised it has occurred. In fact, I’m rather surprised it has taken this long. And, of course, the damage being done is incalculable to US interests and foreign policy – not to mention those contacts and sources named. Wikileaks claims to have safeguarded that information, however, that’s a hollow promise. We have no idea who has seen these archives in full and what they may have done with the information. Any present contacts or sources have to fear for their lives and the likelihood of developing new sources and contacts just took one hell of a shot in the head.
Prior to 9/11, human intelligence (HUMINT) was an area of extreme weakness for the US. We’d made a conscious decision decades earlier to rely on technical means to gather intelligence – communications intercepts, spy satellites, etc. But, with some very notable intelligence failures (India’s nuclear weapons, Cole Bombing, embassy bombings, 9/11), we again understood the critical importance of HUMINT and have been attempting to again establish networks around the world. Obviously, the strictest secrecy must be maintained in order for that to work. Leaks like this could completely destroy those new networks and make impossible our ability to establish new ones.
No matter what you think of Wikileaks, and I’m not at all pleased or happy with what they’ve done, the decision to put this information on a network on which 3 million had potential access to the information borders on criminal. Sharing information is one thing – it should be done, but it must be done intelligently. This wasn’t about sharing – it was about a structural failure to safeguard critical information in a manner in which it should have been safeguarded.
The fact that these cables are being published around the world right now isn’t just the fault of Wikileaks, but a government which allowed that information to be easily accessed by those who had no reason or need to access it. The result of such poor management is now evident for all to see.
That’s what the Guardian is saying. And, it claims, that will “silence” global warming skeptics.
You mean man’s link to warming has finally been proven and we will now reap what we’ve sown?
Well, not exactly. Here’s the reason they give:
[The] [n]ew estimate [is] based on the forthcoming upturn in solar activity and El Niño southern oscillation cycles.
They then trot this out:
The hottest year on record was 1998, and the relatively cool years since have led to some global warming sceptics claiming that temperatures have levelled off or started to decline. But new research firmly rejects that argument.
The research, to be published in Geophysical Research Letters, was carried out by Judith Lean, of the US Naval Research Laboratory, and David Rind, of Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
The work is the first to assess the combined impact on global temperature of four factors: human influences such as CO2 and aerosol emissions; heating from the sun; volcanic activity and the El Niño southern oscillation, the phenomenon by which the Pacific Ocean flips between warmer and cooler states every few years.
The analysis shows the relative stability in global temperatures in the last seven years is explained primarily by the decline in incoming sunlight associated with the downward phase of the 11-year solar cycle, together with a lack of strong El Niño events. These trends have masked the warming caused by CO2 and other greenhouse gases.
Notice anything in there that sounds familiar? Remember the report on this peer reviewed study? The Guardian apparently doesn’t:
Three Australasian scientists have published a study in the Journal of Geophysical Research claiming that virtually none of the observed temperature increases in the Earth’s atmosphere in recent years can be attributed to man-made factors.
And to what did the 3 scientists attribute recent warming?
“The surge in global temperatures since 1977 can be attributed to a 1976 climate shift in the Pacific Ocean that made warming El Niño conditions more likely than they were over the previous 30 years and cooling La Niña conditions less likely” de Freitas said.
“We have shown that internal global climate-system variability accounts for at least 80% of the observed global climate variation over the past half-century. It may even be more if the period of influence of major volcanoes can be more clearly identified and the corresponding data excluded from the analysis,” he added.
Again, what was it the scientists the Guardian are trumpeting included in their analysis?
“…volcanic activity and the El Niño southern oscillation…”
And the sun – something we’ve been pointing out for a while has a huge impact on heating or cooling on the earth. It has also been very quiet for a few years.
We have obvious agreement between the two studies that three natural activities over which man has absolutely no control are driving the climate. And the Guardian gives us nothing – absolutely nothing – that supports the AGW connection which it implies the inclusion of man-made CO2 emissions and aerosols. No percentage of cause or contribution to the warming, no idea if the inclusion has any effect at all, nothing. The Australians reached pretty much the same conclusion but found no connection with man-made emissions.
One final word – I’m not a “global warming” skeptic. The globe warms and cools. Its a natural thing that the globe has been cycling through since its formation.
I’m an AGW skeptic. And this study does nothing to change that. In fact, it reinforces what the Australians did. The globe my very well warm in the next 5 years. But I still am not seeing anything that definitively links that to man. I’m seeing a lot that links it to nature though.