Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Layer 167 Brown's Preservation, Market Regulation, Making the Unconventional Conventional, Justice, and a Journey In Moral Reasoning.

So the PLP has decided that Brown should stay. David Miliband was on the radio this morning explaining why this is so. He's such a patronising little git. He admitted that millions of people had wanted to vote for Labour last week but had withheld their votes. He said these people seemed to think the party had “forgotten them”. So he and his pals now want to “remember them”? Really? This is me you're talking about, you posh little twerp! I don't want to be remembered! I want my party to be back in the hands of people who understand why it exists.

It's still beyond him to admit that New Labour, a cuckoo in the nest of the Labour Party, which he was involved in creating as a 'special advisor' to Blair, has completely fucked up and betrayed its main purpose, which has always been to govern in order to create a social democracy in which there's social justice, greater equality, the abolition of poverty, etc.

So he now wants the government to take decisions that are the “equivalent of owning two thirds of Lloyds Bank”, which he says was “unthinkable” even a year ago. Unthinkable by you and the rest of your pals, you twat. Progressives and radicals have been advocating such things for decades. What's he ever done to even suggest, let alone fight for, such ideas - to make them part of our political discourse?

It wasn't only that most of the brainwashed electorate deemed such nationalisation or part-nationalisation to be the crackpot ideas of the “looney left” - he himself would have said so, and probably did say so, till the financial system went belly up and they were forced to act – to bail out capitalism.

Little Dave now says that it's Labour's job to “make the unconventional conventional”. That was ALWAYS it's job, you pillock!

He said, “Don't tell me that markets don't need to be regulated”. Oh dear. We've been telling him and his mates that markets, especially financial markets, DO need to be regulated, and saying so for fucking years. That's what Keynesian economics is all about – intervention in the markets and curbing the excesses and failures of the market system. It was brainbox Milly and his chums who thought there was “no alternative” to the Chicago School, free market globalisation and voodoo economics.

No matter. Let's let bygones be bygones. Let's assume Little Dave and NuLabour have wised up and now want to make the unthinkable thinkable, the unconventional conventional, and are now determined to pursue proper socialist policies through to the end of this Parliament.


Polly Toynbee, for one, isn't holding her breath.

Dazed, gripped by delusion, the party tonight bottled it.

There is a bold, reviving leader's speech that might yet salvage Labour. It just can't be delivered by Gordon Brown.

Now things couldn't get worse, at 15% and below Ukip. How can Wales have gone Tory? Good grief, only 8% voted Labour in the entire south-east.

Gordon Brown is not Labour's only problem, but he is the greatest obstacle to recovery.

Crack up, collapse, catastrophe, the nightmare is real.

Merkel and Sarkozy won by taking more radical social democratic action than Brown did, by nationalising the banks, with higher social protection for the unemployed and more state intervention, squeezing parties on their left by turning leftwards. How Sarko railed against the "dictatorship of the market", while Brown missed the bloody mood and apologised to the CBI for the "regrettable" 50p tax rate. He failed to seize the anti-bonus, anti-banker spirit of the times that should have been Labour's moment.

What exactly is radical or leftwing about Gordon Brown?

His private finance initiative projects, his ill-advised public-private partnership for the tube, abolition of the 10p tax rate to give a tax break to higher earners, 42-day detention without trial, ID cards and springing a Trident replacement with no discussion on future foreign policy? Every time the rightwing press suggests he is betraying Blair's modernising agenda, he does something to prove it's not true, such as the third runway at Heathrow.

Why is the Daily Mail's Paul Dacre a frequent family visitor?Under Brown's chancellorship, Britain became yet more unequal, and the child poverty target was abandoned. All the "golden years" GDP growth went for the rich few, not for the many. Of course Brown did not intend that, but he never had the political courage to make the tough choices that would have sent money flowing away from the rich towards the rest.

To govern from the left requires a bravery he lacked to face down the power of money.

Imagine a new leader stepping out in July who says this: "Friends, there will be an election and a referendum on constitutional reform. I relinquish the injustice of the prime minister choosing the date: from now on elections will always be on the first Sunday in May, with fixed parliaments. Before then, we will clean up expenses and every sitting Labour MP will undergo reselection. A convention on the constitution and on liberty will bring in clean party funding: democracy will not be in hock to the whim of millionaires. We will have an elected Lords, sweep away obscurantist flummery in the Commons and devolve more powers. This parliament that made a mess of things must clean it up before it goes. A referendum on proportional representation deserves time for the arguments to be put fairly.”

“All we do from now on will be for cleaner, greener and fairer government. I will apologise for things we have done wrong, so you may better believe me when I boast of all we have done well. There is much to be proud of, and much that will be put at risk if we don't sing the praises of the considerable good Labour has done: Sure Start is just one emblem. Don't let anyone say the money was wasted or that the state should be shrunk. We stand for all the important things in life that we can only buy together – health, education, safe streets, beautiful parks and the long fight to stop climate change."

That's not so hard is it? But Brown can't and won't do it.

I still doubt the Labour party is so useless that it will let Brown lead them to destruction at the next election.


Under this article there were two superb CIF comments which deserve wider dissemination:

By boonery

I think I am finally reconciled to Ms Toynbee, all criticism forgotten, because her article is one of such despair, all the more potent for being resisted for so long. For month after month, she has returned to the fray, ever optimistic that the situation might turn around, that things would get better, desperate to believe that someone – Blair, Brown, Milband, Johnson – would allow her party will rediscover its soul.

Now she seems to have accepted the simple truth: it wont happen. Its too late. The Labour party – her Labour party – has gone, probably for ever, consumed by the egotism and lust for power of those people who took it over when John Smith died. There are no differences between Blairites and Brownites; they are merely power factions battling it out. There are no ideas for making Britain a better, fairer place; they are irrelevant. If talk about light regulation is needed, it will be spoken. If talk about equality is necessary, then that too will be uttered. But the words have no meaning, beyond their usefulness in gulling the foolish.

The old party – always confused, never really socialist, but on the side of the angels and invariably pointing in more or less the right direction – signed a pact with the devil and gave up its soul to win elections. From then on Blair and Brown gutted it of principles and purpose, and turned it into a machine whose sole purpose was to keep them in place. It has done its job, but we have little of substance to show for it, beyond a surveillance state, a wrecked economy, a political system held in contempt, and an immoral war which has dragged our good name in the mud.

Some in the Labour party – Ms Toynbee amongst them, perhaps, but also those in the Parliamentary party who remain decent, idealistic public servants -- now see how they have been tricked out of their dreams, had their best intentions exploited for cynical ends. They should have everyone's sympathy, even of their opponents, because they hoped, and had those hopes trampled in the mud by crueler, lesser people.

But it is over, and what Blair and Brown between them have done should never be forgiven. They have not only betrayed the ideals of good people who followed them, they have destabilised the entire political system. They have taken a magnificent political tradition which stretched back a century, which embodied the noblest sentiments of fairness and equality, and corrupted it for their own gain. What is left is a name, and a memory. Nothing else.

The magnitude of the tragedy cannot be easily summed up. Even the Conservatives will suffer. There will almost certainly now be a Conservative government with a large majority, and that will doom Cameron as well. For 30 years we have lurched from one huge majority to another, and every time such excessive power has corrupted those who held it, and weakened Parliament and the democratic system. The Conservative party needs a strong Labour party or it will make the same mistakes, every bit as much as Labour was ultimately tempted into arrogance by the implosion of the Conservatives.

Cameron will not be strong enough to resist the temptation to use the power Brown will allow him to take. For Browns final gift will be to ensure that Labour has no chance of providing any serious opposition to what comes next.


By guardianreeda

Most of the labour MPs, and pretty much every character hoping to be elevated to leader, has happily voted for the policies which buried the promises given by Labour in 1997.

I voted in 1997 for whiter than white government. What we got was corruption, cash for laws, dodgy donations, MP fraud and serial flipping.

I voted in 1997 for an ethical foreign policy.

I voted in 1997 for fiscal prudence.

I voted in 1997 for electoral reform and a restoration of local democracy. I didn't realise at the time that this meant filling the cabinet with unelected yes men.

I voted in 1997 for an integrated public transport network, not endless Heathrow expansion.

I voted in 1997 for a profound reduction in class sizes and free education for those who want it.

I didn't vote for corrupt sales of aircraft to extremist Muslim dictatorships. I didn't vote for super casinos. I didn't vote for idiotic illegal unwinnable wars. I didn't vote for an erosion of civil liberties. I didn't vote for spiraling obsession with identity politics, idiotic league tables for schools, endless NHS reforms and reforms of reforms, dodgy off-balance-sheet PFI deals, endless spiraling debt, the walking away from the responsibility of regulating the banks, and I didn't vote for cabinet ministers to defraud the taxpayer.

Get rid of Brown - a good first step.

The second step is to get rid of anyone who didn't understand what was so compelling about the promises made in 1997.


On Radio 4 this morning Professor Michael Sandel gave the first of his Reith Lectures:

New Citizenship
Michael Sandel
Reith Lecture

We need to think afresh.

We must foster spiritual values and ask ethical questions – construct a moral system as part of our citizenship.

A new USA president is taking new directions. (end of the neo-cons, market worship and the shock doctrine)

We need to consider ideas about morality and politics and justice.

We must return to fundamental values – economics doesn't question these.

We're in a time of financial crisis and economic crisis – the need is pressing.

A time for civic and moral renewal.

Public outrage at what's been happening in civic and public life.

We need a politics oriented towards the pursuit of the common good, not individual gain.

We need to ask what it really means to be a citizen.
We need a robust public discourse that engages with moral and spiritual values.

We need to reinvigorate public discourse about the common good.

We need to rethink the role of markets – and the moral limits of markets.
We're experiencing the economic fallout of a huge financial crisis.
We're at the end of an era of market fundamentalism and a mania for deregulation.

Markets cannot be the mechanism for achieving the public good.

More than regulation we need to rethink the role of markets.

We need to reconnect markets with values.

Greed and irresponsible risk-taking must be replaced with responsibility, trust & integrity.
We need to return to proper personal values – and think about the effect of markets running amok.
Markets always run on self-interest & greed.

Conservatives have always claimed there's some sort of moral alchemy of markets. Plainly this is bollocks. (I'm paraphrasing.)

We need the restoration of integrity.
We have to rethink the role of markets and keep them in their place.

Some things money can't buy.
Other things that money can buy and shouldn't.

We've seen the expansion of markets into spheres governed by non-market norms – education, health, policing, the military. (all of this in line with neo-con shock doctrine)

Some are now advocating paying kids to get good scores on standardised tests and paying kids to read books. Some are even saying we should sell citizenship to those who can best afford to pay.
All of this is bollocks.

Markets embody certain norms.
They leave their mark on social norms.
So where do markets belong and where should they be kept at a distance?

Monetary incentives undermine intrinsic incentives.
Market mechanisms become market norms.
There's a corruption of real incentives.

Consider the issue of fees v fines.
Should we allow countries to pay their way out of reducing greenhouse gasses? Would that be a fine or a fee?
Should we buy and sell the right to pollute?
This is ridiculous. What we need is a new set of attitudes.

Some things in life are corrupted and degraded if they are turned into commodities.
(eg SATs? Sell your soul, cram the kids, do to them “whatever works” to raise test scores, and pay the schools in Level 4s and 5s. Fine those who don't score high by labeling them failures and forcing them to change their educational philosophy, and even sacking their senior managers.)

We need to bring moral and spiritual norms into public discourse.

“Efficiency” cannot be the only thing we take into account.

(The need to consider these ideas as though they're something new tells us all we need to know about what a dumb society we've become. Political, social and philosophical thinkers understood all this centuries ago - Rousseau, Marx, Engels, Thomas More)

Cultivating a shared life and a shared citizenship.

Altruism and civic spirit.


Justice - A Journey in Moral Reasoning

This link might take a while to download because it's a video of Prof Sandel 'lecturing' to a vast hall of students at Harvard, and contains clips of students commenting on the impact of the session(s) and his style of 'delivery'. It's also a superb example of what great, interactive teaching should be all about:


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