Look to the future now, ‘cos something has begun

A couple of short thorts because nobody can be bothered reading or writing anything longer today! Actually, I’ve realised that at the moment, the bottleneck in this blog is writing rather than ideas, so this partly represents a dump of the “must write a longer piece on that one” file.

  • Some fridges have magnetic doors and some don’t. Try getting that information out of the fridge magnet industry.
  • I have no idea what this is all about, by the way.
  • A lot of people have been worrying unduly about what will happen to “free TV” in a world in which digital video recorders allow you to automatically skip the ads. How about … having a regressive flat rate tax on television ownership and using it to fund five state-owned television channels and a radio network? Nah, couldn’t possibly work. Only the free market can provide high quality entertainment. And anyway, a government-owned network would surely degenerate into propaganda.
  • I mentioned the last time we did one of these, that if Shania Twain was so fucking popular, how come I don’t know anyone who likes her. It is instructive to think these things the other way too … everyone I know online seems to care a hell of a lot about Andrew Sullivan. Does that mean he’s important? No, because we’ve already established through the Shania Twain thing that the people I know are utterly unrepresentative of the general population.
  • Just a few facts about how things got how they are in Zimbabwe:

    Before 1979: Mugabe leads his ZANU freedom fighters in guerilla war against the Rhodesians. They dream of freedom and land reform.
    1979-1981: Mugabe, Nkomo, the Rhodesians and the British lay the foundations of the New Zimbabwe at Lancaster House. The key issue is land reform. The British promise that they will finance the transfer of land from the white population to the black population on an equitable basis.
    1982-1997: It becomes gradually clear that the British don’t like Mugabe and have absolutely no intention of keeping their promise (note: the Tories were in power throughout this period). The black Zimbabwean population waits patiently, then less patiently, for land reform. The white Zimbabweans hang around on their farms — they know that land reform is coming, but they can’t afford to leave without the compensation the British promised. Gradually, the white Zimbabweans forget that land reform was ever agreed.
    1997- shortly before the present: The current fucking mess kicks off in earnest.
    shortly before the present – present And then just to put a cap on it, a drought strikes the region.

    Alright. First things first. I do not mean to exonerate Mugabe. There is always the option of not acting like a bastard and it is his fault he didn’t choose it. Although the proximate cause of the problems in Zimbabwe is the drought, things are much worse in that country than they are in Malawi or Zambia, and this is probably Mugabe’s fault. I am not going to comment on the question of him starving his political opponents, because I haven’t seen that claim substantiated, but I suspect that it’s the sort of thing he might do. But … the question that really has to be asked is what the fucking fuck did Her Majesty’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office think they were playing at? If you encourage a populist Third World revolutionary leader to make expensive promises about land reform, and then create a situation in which it is impossible for him to keep them, how the hell do you expect things to end up? Badly. It is very hard to avoid the suspicion that something like the current mess in Zimbabwe was planned or at least expected.

  • A longer article will be forthcoming on how the ball was dropped in Malawi. Meanwhile I note that the current President of Brazil has been elected on the basis of substantial promises to the dispossessed, and is being denied the financing to keep them. How does this game end? Badly, usually.
  • Another way of putting the point of my previous essay is that, on the old “No Blacks, No Irish, No Dogs” principle, that if it weren’t for a crew of politicians a lot worse than Al Sharpton (the Kennedys, Daleys, Tammany etc), you wouldn’t even be able to rent a room if you had a surname like Hannity, Coulter or O’Reilly.
  • Speaking of which, Ms Coulter has a new book out. I fear for its sales, given that her core readership is a bit wiped out by Christmas, the Michael Moore book & film, subscription renewal time at the Nation, soccer boots for the kids, the price of granola, plus we’ve still not really got round to finishing getting annoyed at the Hannity book. This thing’s never going to eran out it’s advance if it’s dependent on conservatives to buy it!
  • People seem to be faintly drawn to the idea that there might be more political dimensions than just “left” and “right”. Bullshit. Being in favour of allowing other people to take drugs, shag each other or read what they want isn’t a political position; it’s what we call “manners”, “civilisation” or “humanity”, depending on the calibre of yokel you’re trying to educate. The political question of interest splits fair and square down a Left/Right axis: either you think that it is more important to provide a decent life for everyone in the world, or you think it is more important to preserve the rights of people who own property. You can hum and haw as much as you like about whether the two are necessarily incompatible, or whether the one is instrumental to the other, or what constitutes a “decent life” anyway, but when you’ve finished humming and hawing, I’m still gonna be asking you the question, and your answer to it will determine whether or not we’re gonna have an argument.
  • JK Galbraith’s maxim that “the project of the conservative throughout the ages is the search for a higher moral justification for selfishness” is still worth every word of political philosophy written since the war, as well as being a damn good explanation of why self-styled “Libertarians” and trad conservatives stick together.
  • The singular of “Weetabix” is “Weetabik”, and I don’t care what anyone else says
  • About a year ago, I told someone that my political position could be summarised as “in favour of more meat in the pies, more booze in the beer and fewer hours in the day, and against more or less everything else”. It’s still a decent summary.
  • The official position of D-Squared Digest on the subject of Napster, Gnutella and all similar is that copying is theft, theft is sin, sin is forgiven, so get stuck in. In other words, the fact that copyright law means that upstanding citizens are committing theft by sharing their music, is a good thing about theft, not a bad thing about the law. A sensible copyright law could not be drafted in any other way, and nobody should be expected to obey the law that we have. This is only a problem for people who hold the legal code to a standard of consistency and completeness much more stringent than that of elementary number theory. The sky will not fall in, people will not stop creating works of art and the music, film and publishing industries will continue to be roughly as profitable as they are today. How do I know? Because the only argument to the contrary is that “people won’t buy music/books/films because they don’t need to if they can get them for free”. Take a look around you. Do you see people buying only the things that they need? Or do you see a massive goddamn lucrative edifice based on the fact that people can be persuaded to buy a whole lot of shit they don’t need? Thorsten Veblen would have had a bit of fun with this one.
  • A Happy New Year to us all.

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