Debating climate change deniers is generally about as useful as debating young-Earth creationists. They have no evidence on their side, but that doesn’t seem to worry them in the slightest. Given that these people managed to go through school without picking up even a modicum of scientific theory, it seems pointless trying to lecture them.
So instead, this is an invitation to climate change deniers to make their case right here. Here are 10 questions for deniers to answer in the comments section of this blog. Feel free to answer any or all of the questions below. The best answers (assuming there are any) will be published in a follow-up post, fully credited and fairly presented.
Please note that comments should not be added in crayon.
Picture question: Look at the picture of Lord Monckton above. Would you buy a used car from this man?
If there is a “scientific debate” why do only 24 out of 13,950 peer-reviewed papers (that’s 0.17%) dispute man-made climate change?
Who knows most about the climate? a) Climate scientists, b) Economists, c) Oil companies, d) Michele Bachmann?
The greenhouse effect, caused by carbon dioxide, is explained by basic Physics and can be easily demonstrated in the lab. Do you still deny this even after watching the short, simple video? a) No, I admit defeat b) What’s a lab?
Carbon dioxide has increased by 40% since the start of the Industrial Revolution. Is this a) A lot, b) Not a lot?
Look at yourself in a mirror. Does that look like a person who can grasp scientific concepts? a) Yes, b) No, c) I can’t read – I’ve no idea how I got this far through the post.
As I blogged earlier this week, Mali’s supposed “anti-jihad” efforts are looking remarkably like previous attempts at ethnic cleansing against “white” desert tribes by the black Malian majority. I am friends with a Malian Tuareg, M, who now has fled to Europe, but has family in Timbuktu.
Yesterday, the media reported that Malian forces had taken Timbuktu. Some reported of “reprisals against Islamist supporters”. The reality appears to be that racial minority businesses have been robbed and individuals lynched. A Facebook update from M received yesterday:
Yesterday the black population of Timbuktu blessing and encouraged by Malian army break Tuareg and Moorish houses, stores and take their contained. Why the French army did not say anything? Ago the arrival of the Malian Army in Timbuktu all the Tuaregs and Moors have left the city leaving behind their property. At the same time the black population that does not participate in the hunt against the Tuaregs and Moors are therefore considered Islamist [and lynched]!! This is terrible!! … killed by population and malian army in public
what are happing now is the some as in 1991, 1992, 1994
It is sad and not human
As ever, the moron media has swallowed the “war on terror” justification for this military action. And as they did in Rwanda, France turns away as one African tribe slaughters another.
Oh, and did you notice that, having diversified from Middle Eastern sources, the US now gets 25% of its oil from West Africa?
Denver, Colorado. Yesterday, yet another unknown white American opened fire on some of his fellow citizens, apparently at random. He attended a premier of the latest Batman movie, threw a smoke grenade, and strolled around shooting (apparently) complete strangers. This story is so familiar, as is the aftermath: arguments over gun control, heated discussions over why people do this, sick jokes. But who can blame the jokers? We’ve been round this loop so many times before – what else is there to say?
This – and I mean people opening fire on random strangers with no apparent political target or goal – is overwhelmingly an American phenomenon. I found a list of notable school shootings on Wikipedia and crunched some numbers (I realise that this one wasn’t a school shooting, but I wanted a quick global comparison of such events, and this was the first reliable-looking resource I found).
Here’s a breakdown of the above list:
USA (current pop: 312m) : 118
Canada (pop:34m): 11
Europe (pop: 738m): 22
South America, Asia and Australia (pop: 4572m): 13
Africa isn’t mentioned: although it’s a continent where many horrors have occurred over the past century, kids walking into school with guns and spraying their classmates with bullets may not be among them.
A European like myself may start by smugly noting just how much more prevalent such events are in North America. But this is to miss a wider point. It seems that the “white world” has a random violence problem; factoring in the one incident in Australia, only 7.5% of these incidents happened in Asia or South America, regions comprising well over half of the world’s population (this ignores that two of the “Asian” incidents took place in Israel, which is effectively a European colony too – I didn’t check whether these Israeli incidents were “classic” school shootings, or the result of the Israel/Palestine land struggle).
It is Europe, and its diaspora, that has claimed the moral authority to dominate, invade, bully, occupy, bomb and manipulate the rest of the world’s populations for the past 500 years or so. The collapse of the European empires didn’t end this behaviour, but merely shifted the centre of the Empire from London, Paris and Berlin to Washington DC. Indeed, America has been relentless in pursuing the same claims that Europe had once made: Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Lebanon, Libya, Iran – these (and their resources) were all territories jealously claimed by European powers before the new American Empire came into being.
This article isn’t about analysing why events like yesterday’s in Denver happen – I’m sure even as I write, thousands of blog posts have been published on that subject. I’m merely pointing out what should be obvious: not only does the “Western World” (aka white world) not have the moral authority for its endless wars and occupations; it lacks any moral authority at all. Most of the huge slaughters in the past few centuries have been carried out by Europeans or their descendents; and even those few that weren’t – the Cambodian killing fields or the Rwandan genocide – have Whitey’s fingerprints all over them (America’s secret Cambodian war led directly to the Killing Fields, and The French, Belgians and the Vatican were squarely in the frame for Rwanda).
This shooting is a reminder of something that most of the world is never allowed to forget: the violence that is so much more implicit in European cultures than almost any other (an excellent book, Dark Continent, looks in more depth at this truth). Westerners have deep trouble understanding or believing this, despite the endless wealth of evidence surrounding us. Even today, far-right agitators attempt to persuade us that it is the Muslim world, not us, that is the threat to world peace; a precursor to persuading morons that yet more white violence, just one last push against Iran, or Venezuela perhaps, is the answer to the problems facing the planet.
It’s time for Whitey to get some self-knowledge. When the European diaspora ends its eternal blood lust, the world will take a huge step towards civilisation. While America is incapable of stopping crazy, gun-wielding morons from shooting up schools, McDonald’s or cinemas, how can it possibly justify having military bases (undeclared occupations) in over 150 countries?
Europe has always been the world’s most divided and war-torn continent (the past 60 years of relative peace have helped us forget this inconvenient truth). In the 20th century, we decided to finally finish the job by tearing ourselves (and much of the outside world) to pieces in the two biggest wars ever seen. Although the Americans tend to overestimate US involvement in the European part of World War II, it’s undeniable that we owe America a huge debt of gratitude; firstly for joining the war in 1942, but perhaps even more significantly for the huge bail-out Europe received afterwards – better known as the Marshall Plan. Yes it’s true, the USA itself reaped huge rewards by holding Western Europe away from the Soviet Union; the bail-out kept America in the game as a global superpower – and after 1990, THE global superpower. But to deny US generosity would be wrong: to put it in American terms: they saved our asses.
The bail-out had far more than financial consequences. It allowed Europe to escape a spiral of poverty and bankruptcy, and implement a continent-wide social democracy, providing freedom, prosperity and a generous safety net to all Western Europeans. With universal healthcare, our life expectancies rocketed, and Europe’s workers became healthier and more productive, yielding economic gains. Generous welfare safety nets enabled people to take more risks, and thus encouraged entrepreneurialism. Social mobility rocketed.
Meanwhile across the Atlantic, America was heading in the opposite direction. The military-corporate war machine didn’t want to be closed down, and found an excuse to turn the short-term war into a permanent one: the “Red Threat”. So long as Americans could be kept ignorant and afraid (a condition which requires endless warfare), the corporations and military could endlessly undermine freedom and democracy, and grab power away from the people. To their own surprise, the US corporatocracy won the Cold War; this wasn’t the plan. Without war, the American people would demand a smaller military and greater freedom. New “threats” needed to be found (and, as we know, they were). As George Orwell wrote in his classic Nineteen Eighty-Four:
The war is not meant to be won, it is meant to be continuous (full quote)
In WWII, American troops arrived in Europe to discover that they were better fed and taller than Europeans: now that has reversed. Europeans are now more likely to progress through the social hierarchies than Americans. The American Dream is still alive and well… but in Europe, not America.
Sooner or later, as Eisenhower warned in 1961, the power of the military-industrial complex would come to outweigh elected government, at which point democracy will be under mortal threat. That time may have now arrived. The 2000 Presidential election was clearly rigged by corporations working hand-in-hand with the Republican Party in Florida. The 2003 Iraq War was fought with the money and lives of ordinary Americans, for clear corporate objectives. In the 2010 Citizens United case, the US Supreme Court decided that free speech entailed allowing corporations to spend as much as they liked to influence election outcomes – effectively abandoning the principle of “one man one vote”. Money has always played a huge role in US elections; now it is the only thing that matters. The corporate aristocracy warned of by Thomas Jefferson in 1816 now truly holds the power in America.
Chief among those corporate aristocrats are the Koch Brothers. They are chiefly responsible for turning the Tea Party movement into a force which in turn drove out right-of-centre conservatism from the Republican Party, and transformed the party into a nakedly pro-corporate force. The brothers lobby heavily for their oil, gas and chemical interests, and spend big to ensure that right-wing Republicans who support their aims will win elections. From a British perspective, the activities of the Kochs are simply staggering: our democracy may have flaws, but buying elections in this brazen way would be, quite simple, illegal.
The US could easily improve its democracy by borrowing from Europe’s older and and more democratic systems: restrict lobbying and bar politicians from accepting donations from vested interests; restrict political advertising to political parties only; impose spending caps as well as donation caps; adopt voting systems that allow new parties to enter the arena; take easily-rigged electronic voting systems out of corporate hands; make registering to vote as easy as possible; extend democracy into the corporate boardroom. But while corporations can own US politicians, and buy elections, none of these things will happen.
Koch products also reach us in Europe via their company Georgia Pacific EMEA, which provides a handy brand list on their website. European believers in freedom and democracy can ensure that they and their friends and families avoid the Koch brands listed below. OK; it ain’t the Marshall Plan, but it’s a start. America once saved our asses from fascist rule – let’s return the favour.
It was pretty clear, except perhaps to morons, that Bush and Blair were building up for their attack on Iraq long before war was declared in March 2003. Most people will still remember the huge global day of protest in February 2003. Most populations, with the notable exceptions of Israel and the US, were strongly against the war, and most people were well aware that the Iraqi “threat” had been concocted. People were also unconvinced that Saddam’s “evilness” constituted a reason for war, especially since he had been armed and supported by the US for years before he was identified as a “bad guy”.
London’s march on 15 February 2003 was the largest protest in British history: over a million people demonstrated against the war. However, that protest was not the first; 400,000 Londoners marched against an attack on Iraq in October 2002 – itself one of the largest marches ever seen in the UK. Already in October, most intelligent observers knew that the decision had been made, despite the Bush/Blair lie machine claiming that our leaders were still “hoping for a peaceful resolution”. Years later, we discovered we’d been right: Blair had already given his backing to the neo-con war plans in March 2002, a full year before the war began.
We weren’t fortune-tellers or mind-readers; we simply knew some history, and could see that the public was being softened up with scare stories about Saddam Hussein. Likewise, we already knew in 2002 that the neo-cons planned to attack Iran. On a successful “liberation” of Baghdad, they would continue on to Tehran. Fortunately, the Iraq war was incompetently handled, and the US became bogged down, preventing a new front from being opened. But the war on Iran wasn’t cancelled, just postponed.
As I’ve observed repeatedly over recent years, the only reason Iran hasn’t been attacked is that, with wars underway in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US doesn’t have enough military capacity. It’s no coincidence that, alongside the recent US troop withdrawal from Iraq, America has also opened dialogue with the Taliban (yes, those same evil-doers that they were going to wipe out in 2001, remember?) The US now has plenty of capacity for a new war – and when in recent history has it ever failed to take advantage of such a position?
The excuses for attacking Iran are as patchy as those for attacking Iraq. They may be developing WMD (in the form of nukes)… but the US has been saying that for years, and there’s still no firm evidence. Even if they are, there is nothing in international law to prevent Iran from owning nukes – Pakistan and Israel both developed the bomb in secret, resulting in relatively little fuss. There are simple lies aimed at the most gullible morons: Iran says it wants to wipe Israel from the map? False. Iran denies the Holocaust? Also false. Then there are truthful claims about Iran’s human rights record; yet Iran is no worse than many US allies: Saudi Arabia, Israel, Jordan, Uzbekistan to name a few. The US never – repeat Never – goes to war in order to defend human rights (in any case, wars can only make the situation worse for the people of Iran, and make it impossible for them to rise up against the regime).
You’d hope that enough Americans would have learned the hard way, from Iraq, or Vietnam before it. But most Americans rely on the US mass media for facts, and (as we saw in Iraq) the US mass media is incapable of holding the military-industrial complex to account. The New York Times famously apologised for its Iraq coverage; most US newspapers and TV channels were even worse, but failed to apologise.
The case against an Iran war is even simpler than the one against Iraq. Unlike Iraq, Iran has never attacked its people or neighbours with WMD. Indeed, it was Iraq that attacked Iran with chemical weapons in the 1980s; weapons that were supplied by the Reagan administration. Yet morons seem to never learn; and the moron media in the United States seems no more willing to tell the truth about this coming war than they were in 2002/03. Iran’s huge reserves of high quality oil hardly need mentioning.
The UK government is making supportive noises of the coming American war; Cameron will undoubtedly follow, but without the support of the population, just as Blair did. This time, much of the EU is also on board. The Obama administration may be no less warlike than the Bush regime, but it’s clearly more skilled at diplomacy.
When Blair took us to war, MI5 told him we would likely experience terror as a result. on 7 July 2005, 52 Londoners were killed on public transport, and hundreds injured. If we attack Iran, we expose ourselves to new terror – which in turn will create new justifications to continue this eternal American war. The next war is coming soon; our leaders are terrorists, and are inviting terrorism upon us; mass-murder will, yet again, be done in our name. And we have no choice but to resist.
Anyone who says they can reliably predict anything complex is either deluded or a liar. Nevertheless, “pundits” are well paid by media outlets to do exactly that, and the start and end of the year is a particularly busy time for this type of quackery. These modern-day soothsayers will of course focus heavily on their successes and ignore their failings, thus “demonstrating” that they’re qualified for the job of telling us what the coming year will hold, or where we should invest our money.
OK, this was a pretty easy one. This was actually a prediction that morons would greet the cold weather with cries of “What happened to global warming?” I was right on that count too. And you watch, the moment a cold snap hits anywhere, especially in the US, they’ll say it again this year. I think this is what morons think of as humour.
Prediction 2: The Tea Party Will Become Increasingly Confused
Given how confused the average Teapartier already was this was a brave prediction. Did it come true? Well, the “grass-roots” phase of the Tea Party seems to have fizzled out. Though designed to look like a movement of the people, it was a well-funded campaign by far-right interests to win seats in Congress, and it succeeded. The initial phase involving marches of angry, misinformed morons has ended, and the morons have gone home, perhaps wondering how they were so easily fooled into marching for billionaires’ interests (but probably not).
The rise of Occupy, a genuinely spontaneous (and unlike the Tea Party, global) movement eclipsed the Tea Party from September onwards. Teapartiers were left to gloat on Twitter that police didn’t assault and arrest Tea Party marchers like they did Occupiers. Well yeah, that’s because the Tea Party was fighting for the right of the powerful to remain powerful – Occupy on the other hand was a genuine challenge to authority.
Was I right? Kind-of – I don’t really know how to measure this accurately. The Teapartiers were confused, are confused and will continue to be confused.
Prediction 3: Islamophobia to Rise in Europe/Israel, peak in UK/US
This is a big prediction, and hard to measure over such a short time-frame.The Islamophobes march onward. Breaking it down:
Mainland Europe: the drumbeat of fascism pounds ever louder, and Muslims are bearing the brunt. As the hate becomes established “fact” in the mind of morons, inevitably crazies take action – most noticeably in Norway in July, when Anders Breivik attacked and killed 77 people associated with the Labour Party. He was partly driven by hate for Muslims, and inspired by the English Defence League (EDL) and the Muslim-hating American Pamela Geller. For sure, things haven’t improved in Europe during 2011.
Israel: fascism is rising, and is taking an increased stranglehold over government. Israel, once a largely secular country, is increasingly religious, and the religious right is establishing itself in government and the military. Islamophobia isn’t at the heart of Israeli fascism, but it plays an increasing role. Israel continues to head rightwards into fascist territory.
UK: the main far-right party, the British National Party (BNP), seems to have undergone a partial collapse through the year. The EDL, a fascist street movement, also doesn’t seem to have made gains in support, though it recently announced an electoral pact with a tiny far-right group, the British Freedom Party. Overall, the far-right looks weaker than it did a year ago – whether that involves wishful thinking on my part though, I’m unsure.
US: I’ve detected less Islamophobic screaming on Twitter, as the right turns more to immigration as its primary cause. But recently, a non-controversial TV show called All American Muslim showed that Muslim-hate is not only strong among ordinary morons, but that corporations could be swung as well.
Score: 6/10… probably
Prediction 4: US Economy Will Gain Strength as UK Weakens
The US was pushing ahead with a government-funded stimulus; a fairly weak one, but a stimulus nonetheless. Meanwhile, the British government began heavy spending cuts in 2010. This provided the perfect comparison: stimulus or austerity? Which would win?
Stimulus won convincingly. The US economy is showing increasing (but still weak) growth and unemployment is starting to fall. Meanwhile, growth has completely stalled in the UK, and we may have already entered another recession. UK unemployment is rising fast. The bad news is that moronic Western governments are now all determined to use austerity before the economy is strong enough to take it, despite the lessons of the US/UK experiment (which proved yet again that Keynes was right).
As demand for oil rises globally, the price can only go up. As I predicted, the price rose strongly until April. At that point, new fears emerged over the US and European economies, and the price started to slide. It then rose again, and finished the year higher than it had begun. This prediction wasn’t difficult – energy prices are going to keep rising fast until huge investment is made in non-fossil fuels. And (as I pointed out), the Republicans controlling the House of Representatives won’t let that happen; neither will the oil-industry-loving Conservatives in the UK. We continue to wait for Germany and China to deliver mass, low-cost alternatives.
As for morons drawing the wrong conclusions: that was an even easier prediction. US morons blamed President Obama and demanded more domestic drilling (which is happening anyway). UK car-driving morons screamed that the government takes too much tax (missing the point that it’s only high taxes on fuel that have stopped us becoming even more addicted to oil than we already are).
Predictions 6 and 7: Jesus won’t return and the world won’t end
A fair number of morons believed the crazy predictions of preacher Harold Camping that Jesus would return on May 21st, and Judgement Day would come on Oct 21st. I bravely predicted this wouldn’t happen. And it didn’t. Yay!
So I think I did pretty well. OK, I didn’t mention the Arab uprisings, the ongoing meltdown of Europe, the Japanese quake and tsunami, the rise of Occupy, or the laughable mess of the Republican Party’s race to find an opponent for Obama (I should at least have predicted the last one).
What do you think will happen in 2012? I reserve the right to “borrow” the best predictions and make them my own.
In these moronic times, truth is often weirder than fiction. It’s been obvious for many years that the US war machine is desperate to find an excuse, any excuse, to attack Iran. In 2001, Bush included Iran in his “axis of evil” (aka places we plan to attack). Only the complete disaster that was the Iraq War prevented the US from having the capability for war with Iran. Now that troops are being drawn down from Iraq, the Pentagon is ready for war with Iran. Furthermore, the Pentagan needs war with Iran. Not using those troops and weapons would mean not spending the huge military budget, which could lead legislators to believe that it’s too big… and the Pentagon just loves its budget.
A few weeks ago, in the spirit of satire, I wrote a piece called Twenty Reasons To Attack Iran. This was to help out the poor people at the Pentagon, struggling to justify their planned war. Point three of the 20 read:
3. They were responsible for 9/11.
A joke, of course. The 9/11 attack was carried out by a dissident Saudi group, Al Qaida. It was then blamed on the Taliban (as an excuse for the Afghan war) and then insinuated that Saddam Hussein was involved (as an excuse for the Iraq War). Surely the same excuse wouldn’t really be used again?
Well yes, it turns out… Fox News (who else?) have reported that Iran “may have had a hand in 9/11” (see video below). Ludicrous? Of course. But never underestimate the stupidity of morons – least of all Fox News viewers. If the majority of Americans were capable of thinking for themselves, the Iraq war would never have been tolerated. Nor would the Patriot act, or Vietnam, for that matter. If the American moron wasn’t so moronic, the huge military budget would have been reallocated to spending on things that Americans actually need – education, healthcare, that kind of commie stuff. But the American moron is that moronic – watch out for morons repeating this nonsense.
Meanwhile, I think I’ll stop attempting satire – reality is more satirical than I could ever be.
It was fashionable (and desirable) until the mid-80s to question how well capitalism worked as a basis for running society. Then the social “greed is good” changes brought about by the Reagan/Thatcher revolution began to take hold of the Western (or at least the Anglo-Saxon) psyche, and it became a form of sacrilege to question the magic power of the free market to fix any problem, anywhere. That superstition gradually became established fact – until, of course, the system began to show its deep flaws in 2008.
Saturday’s Guardian carries a comment article from Tim Montgomerie (editor at the ConservativeHome web site) titled Capitalism is amoral – we’re our own worst enemy. The piece tries to make the case that the ills of recent years have been caused by “extraordinary government activism”, not by out-of-control markets. However, the examples supplied are weak – the author seems to accept, for example, that the main problem with Obama’s $787bn stimulus is that it was too small, given the scale of the crash. Another example given is the Iraq War, seeming to forget the huge profit motive of the oil, arms and reconstruction industries to make that senseless war happen.
But let’s challenge the core assertion, one that is so often repeated without challenge: Montgomerie repeats the popular idea that “Capitalism is not immoral but amoral. It does what its users demand of it”. Is that true? Does the profit motive always work for consumers? Montgomerie gives food and transport as examples, so let’s examine these industries: amoral or immoral?
It’s true that competition has given us more food choices that ever before. That applies to the wealthier parts of society, at least. In young markets, competition creates an explosion of choice, which is certainly a good thing. But once corporations became established in the food industry, strategies changed. Choice is just one way to attract a customer base, but there’s an easier way: make your customer dependent on your product. This is where the needs of the market and the needs of the consumer diverge. Humans are designed to seek out rare ingredients that we need. Meat fat was such a rarity in pre-history (before hunting tools were developed) that we find it highly attractive and addictive. Refined sugar is an addictive drug, only discovered in recent centuries. Salt is a generally rare and necessary substance that, again, we have a natural addiction to. So in the amoral world of the market, it makes sense to add increasing amounts of these ingredients to food, not because users are demanding them, but because profitability naturally rises as a result.
So far, as suggested by Tim Montgomerie, this is amoral behaviour, not immoral. No harm is intended. The next stage is this: scientific researchers (state-funded usually) begin to notice that people are getting fatter; that tooth decay is increasing; that diabetes and other diseases are rocketing. This information starts to spread to the consumer. It’s at this stage that markets lose their claim for amorality. The food industry now has three options:
Moral: listen to researchers and make food healthier, even if that hurts profits.
Amoral: continue to address the evolving desires of the market as consumer demand dictates. Of course, this does happen, but as the history of the food industry suggests, it’s far cheaper (and thus more profitable) to use healthy-sounding language than it is to take addictive substances out of your products.
Immoral: begin propaganda operations to counteract scientific research that might hurt profits. Most markets end up here. Once you have a consumer base hooked on your product, the logic of profit is remorseless: attack anyone or anything that threatens your bottom line.
In a young market, amorality (following consumer needs) is the way to go; but in mature market, the immoral choice is often the most profitable. Rather than simply track consumer demands, it’s more profitable to control them. Many examples can be found of immoral behaviour by the food industry in pursuit of profits: in the US, private corporations have often won contracts to supply schools with food and drink. The result is a fall in the quality of food eaten by children. Now they can get consumers addicted to junk ever younger, and resist the pressure to educate children about food and health, thus crushing future consumer demands for better food. In a perfect example of market immorality, in 1998 Oprah Winfrey ran a show exposing the appalling way the American beef industry was rearing cattle. The amoral response would have been to track any change in consumer attitudes, and change production techniques; but that would be hugely expensive. Far cheaper to shoot the messenger, as Oprah found to her cost. She immediately lost advertising and faced action, both legal and propaganda to discredit her. She backtracked quickly, providing a non-critical “interview” with a beef industry rep. to “set the record straight” (i.e. lie without interference). Examples like this are legion: the food industry will viciously attack anyone that questions the health of its products (remember McLibel?)
We can apply the same approach to transport. Mass transit (when not starved of investment), offers the fastest, cheapest and most fuel-efficient way to carry large numbers of people and goods. From the 1940s, the car provided an alternative that was more glamorous but slow, expensive and fuel-hungry. Sure, people desired cars, but they wouldn’t trash superior transport systems for an inferior one. Given that cities only had the space for a fraction of their population to use cars, would people destroy their environments just to own cars?
Enter the car mafia, comprising several industries: car manufacturers, tyre manufacturers, road builders, and of course, oil producers. Car transport requires far more resources than rail, trams and buses: huge, multi-lane highways which require vast amounts of space. More space still needed for parking (most private cars spend most of their lives wastefully parked). And most important of all, cars burn far more fuel than mass transit to move the same numbers of people. Would consumers abandon cheap, fast transport for slow, expensive transport? Of course not; but they were never given the choice.
The car mafia set about destroying mass transit, which they could never have competed against in a free market. Across the US, between 1936 and 1950, mass transit systems vanished as the car mafia went into action, destroying electric transport infrastructure. History tells us how happy post-war consumers jumped at the chance to own cars, and that’s undoubtedly true; less is said about the abolition of transport choice. Free market fundamentalists claim markets create choice, but the opposite is often true.
In the UK, the world’s greatest rail system was cut to pieces; between 1950 and 1975, the railways were slashed from 21,000 miles to 12,000. The most significant steps were taken in the 1960s by Dr Richard Beeching, Chairman of British Railways. Beaching was encouraged to cut the railways by Ernest Marples, the Conservative Transport Minister. Marples also happened to be a major shareholder in a construction company that made huge amounts of money from motorway construction. This story is an important part of modern British history, and the name Ernest Marples should be remembered as one of Britain’s best known crooks. But the car mafia, and their tame media, have ensured the British people have forgotten what happened to our transport system
The transport market has failed; we make ever slower journeys for ever higher cost, and most people use the car not by choice, but because choice was taken away to increase profits.
And The Rest
Given the choice of being amoral and following consumer needs, or immoral and crushing competition, the car mafia did what any market does: follow profit at any cost to society. The consumer doesn’t lead; he takes what corporations offer, which is often the most inefficient and expensive (and hence profitable) option. Markets do work, when they’re young and genuinely competitive, but that is a temporary phase. Endless examples can be found of market immorality: the Iraq War was fought so that the US taxpayer could be fleeced of $trillions by US corporations; the millions spent on climate change denial have shored up billions in oil industry profits; the tobacco industry likewise denied the cancer link for decades after the evidence was available.
Markets are good at creating and incubating fresh ideas and new technology. They liberate individuals and societies from bureaucracy and make societies more creative. But this is always a temporary effect. Established markets will support literally anything – murder, slavery, war – to hold on to their privileged positions. So Tim Montgomerie and other “markets are amoral” fundamentalists are disingenuous, only telling half the story. Markets are immoral; only a strong, well-funded democratic state can hope to keep them in check.
I try to maintain a global perspective in my moron-watching, but that’s difficult: just trying to keep track of moronic activity in Europe and the US is hard enough. However, Africa is a continent that has always held great fascination for me, and I’ve enjoyed travelling to a number of countries there. Sub-Saharan Africa is a wonderful place to travel. Sadly, the Western media is interested in reporting little other than famine and war in Africa, ignoring most of the other 99% of happenings there. The BBC used to produce an excellent radio programme/podcast called This Week In Africa, which gave a good, weekly overview of African events – sadly that was lost to the UK government’s moronic austerity measures.
Focusing on African morons may make some liberals uneasy; because African heritage is deeply entwined with racial issues in the West, many will miss the obvious: Africa itself isn’t a racial issue. Furthermore, the politically-correct version of African history tries to explain away every failing of Africa by blaming colonialism. Colonialism did represent resource-theft on a huge scale, and the colonial “scramble for Africa” carve-up by European powers created long-term political headaches that still rumble on; yet the colonial era (approx 1880s to 1960s) was also an unprecedented time of development for the continent, during which the population increased around sixfold and the continent’s great cities of today were born. The “it’s all our fault” school of Western liberal thought is a fine piece of subtle racism; while white supremacists like to say everything good in Africa is a foreign import, liberals say everything bad is. In reality, Africa is capable of both success and failure without our help. Africa is rich in many resources, but perhaps one of its most abundant resources is bad leadership; if moronic and crazy leaders were tradeable currency, Africa could be the wealthiest continent on Earth.
Africans themselves generally have a clear view about where their problems originate: after all, they are the ones who are daily extorted of money by the police, who face discrimination based on which ethnic group they belong to, who struggle to make a living at the roadside while their politicians drive past in fleets of expensive SUVs, who see their countries’ resources skimmed off into Swiss bank accounts. A Sierra Leonean businessman I met was refreshingly straightforward about his country’s problems: “Our leaders are a bunch of illiterate savages”.
The African story isn’t just the gloomy tale of war and famine that’s dripped out through our media. Despite a handful of countries that can truly be said to be “basket cases”, the average African economy is growing at a very healthy pace. Schooling is becoming ever-more standard, and literacy is growing fast. The lack of good communications across the continent has been rapidly solved by the arrival of mobile telephony, with mobile phone ownership approaching levels seen in developed countries. Africa’s final hurdle is to improve its governance. African countries will no doubt soon experience their own civil rights era; with more educated and demanding populations than ever before, we can expect, within a few years, to see black Africa rise up in pursuit of better leadership, as we’ve seen in North African and Arab countries this year.
So here is a brief tribute to a few of Africa’s moron leaders – those people who by theft, suppression of free speech or just downright idiocy, are slowing Africa’s emergence into the developed world.
Robert Mugabe is the perfect example of a revolutionary hero who turned out not to be such a great national leader once the revolution was won. Mugabe served over 10 years in prison during the struggle against white minority rule. In power since the formation of Zimbabwe in 1980, Mugabe quickly revealed his moron credentials by attacking his opponents and committing mass-murder against a tribal minority, the Matebele. Gradually, Zimbabwean opposition was crushed. Mugabe then set out on a populist land-grab from white farmers, handing land to his friends and supporters, with the result that harvests failed and a once-prosperous country fell into poverty. Indeed, hunger is a favourite weapon used by Mugabe against his enemies. Despite being electorally defeated, Mugabe refuses to let go of power, and will remain until death (he’s 87), or until his ZANU-PF cronies finally find the guts to depose him.
Traditional “medicine” and superstitions are rife in Africa, and this extends even to the ruling classes. Nelson Mandela’s successor in South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, allowed himself to be convinced that AIDS wasn’t related to the HIV virus, and acted to prevent antiretrovirals from being made widely available, despite South Africa having the world’s worst AIDS epidemic. After several years, Mbeki’s stance was overruled, and antiretrovirals were made available, but only after an estimated 365,000 people had died due to his ignorance. Mbeki’s successor Jacob Zuma showed himself to be no more enlightened about AIDS when, standing trial for rape, he revealed he’d had unprotected sex with a woman he knew to be HIV positive, and had showered afterwards to “protect himself”.
Resentment between African tribes has often been hugely exacerbated by the hasty drawing of post-independence borders as European colonial rulers left and African leaders replaced them. Every African country is ethnically divided to some extent, and leaders (elected or not) will often represent their own group rather than the national interest. It’s hardly surprising then that African leaders tend to use power to discriminate against rival tribes, which in turn heightens tensions and makes conflict and genocide more likely. This happened most starkly in 1994 in Rwanda, where the minority Tutsi ruling group was suddenly turned upon by resentful Hutus, resulting in the loss of around 800,000 lives.
In Kenya, the 2008 elections collapsed into ethnic violence between the dominant Kikuyu tribe and others; political leaders on both sides were accused of stoking the violence for political gain.
Sierra Leone has racist laws on the statute that prevent any non-native from being born a Sierra Leonean citizen, however many generations his family may have lived in the country.
Africa’s most multiracial country, but also a fragile one, is South Africa; a Cameroonian man recently told me of his difficult experience working in South Africa, saying that black South Africans were the most racist people he’d ever encountered, especially against other black people. South Africa’s ANC leaders have generally been careful to tackle racism, seeing the danger it could cause to such a diverse country, but recently a leading ANC figure, Julius Malema, was convicted of hate speech after leading the singing in public of a song that advocated “killing Boers”. So far, South Africa is largely peaceful and politically stable, with the ANC easily winning every election. But with growing anger against ANC corruption, and the rise of an opposition party led by a white woman, watch out for more race-baiting coming from the ANC as its monopoly on power becomes weaker.
Africa is perhaps the worst place to be gay. While homophobia is widespread pretty much everywhere on earth, African laws against homosexuality tend to be the most draconian, and the most enthusiastically implemented. Liberals often try to blame this on the West, pointing out that many of these laws originate from the colonial era, and that African homophobes are enthusiastically supported by American Christians, but that’s a subtle piece of liberal racism which assumes Africans wouldn’t know how to be homophobic by themselves. The laws may descend from colonial times, but then so do almost all sub-Saharan African legal systems. African homophobia is homegrown. Europe has now abandoned its homophobic legislation, but African nations (with the laudable exception of South Africa) seem to show no enthusiasm in doing likewise.
If one country can sum up the greatest hopes and worst fears for Africa’s future, it’s Nigeria. A large, federal nation of 36 states and 155m people, it has oil reserves that bring huge revenue flows into the country. Unfortunately, much of that is embezzled within the corrupt political system, and rapidly exits the country again. Nigeria has the wealth to build good education, healthcare and electricity infrastructures for its people; but has largely failed to do so. By rights, given its mineral wealth and human resources, Nigeria should be ready for a place in the G20; but that is a distant dream.
A figure that best illustrates Nigeria’s problems is the salary paid to its politicians. Incredibly, while three-quarters of the population lives on less than $2 per day, Nigeria’s elected representatives earn around $1,500,000 per year (no, that’s not a typo: I really said $1.5m), and are the world’s highest paid politicians. By contrast, US politicians earn around one-sixth that amount. This huge reward for winning elections helps explain the corrupt and violent mess that is Nigerian politics – and the perks of political life go far beyond the salary.
Nigeria’s economy is growing and the country is becoming more wealthy. But unless its wealth is shared among the population, the nation risks falling back into bloodshed. No country can have a stable existence with the world’s worst poverty sitting alongside enormous wealth. And the oil won’t last forever; if the proceeds are not invested wisely, Nigeria could see catastrophe as production goes into decline. If Nigeria destabilises, the entire West African region, and beyond, would be flooded with refugees and collapse into chaos. Probably more than any other country, Nigeria is key to Africa’s future.
Morons were naturally excited when news leaked of an alleged Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in the US a little over a week ago. The rest of us were a little more suspicious, given America’s long history of interference in Iran. Iran’s last democratic government was overthrown in a CIA-backed plot in 1953; the murderous Shah, America’s puppet leader, was overthrown in the 1979 Iranian revolution, and the US has been quite openly trying to destabilise the government ever since. They encouraged Saddam Hussein to attack Iran, even providing him with chemical weapons (yes, those WMDs), resulting in a long and bloody war during the 1980s.
American sabre-rattling has long helped Iran’s moronic leader Ahmadinejad stay in power by cultivating a climate of fear within the country. And the US has been desperately trying, and failing, to find hard evidence of a nuclear weapons programme for several years now. America’s two great Middle Eastern allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia, both resent Iran’s influence in the region; and of course, the Iranians have vast oil reserves, second only to Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. In short, America would do anything to find an excuse to attack Iran.
Having watched this charade for a long time, I’ve started to feel sorry for US leaders; rather than convince the world of an Iranian plot, they’ve just made themselves look inept. So here’s my gift to the Obama administration: below are a number of very convincing reasons to attack Iran (at least, more convincing than the pathetic efforts to date). Feel free to use one or all of them. A small fee of $1,000,000 would be appreciated, payable on usage.
Reasons to attack Iran:
We’re done in Libya now.
They dissed Obama’s mother.
They were responsible for 9/11.
They were responsible for Pearl Harbour.
They don’t allow abortion or gay marriage. (Editor’s note – that’s not gonna work)
They have WMDs.
Ahmadinejad created the sub-prime mortgage fiasco.
Ahmadinejad has scary eyes.
They have plenty of oil. (Editor’s note: too honest)
Jesus wants us to.
Because we can.
It’s full of Muslims.
Because we already run most other Middle Eastern countries, so we’d might as well grab the whole set.
It’ll win Obama the moron vote.
Because Israel said so.
We spent $trillions on weaponry, and if we don’t use it the taxpayer might wonder why.
Avoid unleashing thousands of mentally-scarred soldiers on America’s cities.
It’s the latest hub of global jihad.
They don’t even speak proper Arabic. They speak Iranianish or something.
Oh come on, they’re brown and evil – what other reason do you need?