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“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Paul Seabright and the contemporary mystification of competition

Competition is an all-explainer word - and as such, a contemporary myth. One throws it about as if we knew all about it. And we throw it about as if, knowing all about it, we know all about the world. We don't. The less we know, the more we throw it about - which is the way with myths. The more we know, the less inclined we are to throw it about without at least introducing a little explanatory curtain music.

In theTLS last week, Paul Seabright, in a review of Melvin Konner's Women after All,  threw it about to make a semi-claim about the social dimension of human sexual evolution. Here are the two grafs that concern me.

“Konner has two distinct stories to tell, and the one that occupies most of his pages is well told: it concerns what we now know about how biology shapes the difference between males and females, in many non-human species as well as in our own. It is no longer tenable (and has not been for some time) to think that biology determines only the anatomy of male–female differences while culture determines all the differences in behaviour. Human behaviour is massively variable and responsive to cultural influences, and virtually all observed types of behavioural trait have been found in at least some men and in at least some women. But there are still some traits, good and bad, that are more characteristic of men than of women, and vice versa.
Some such differences in traits (such as the greater male predisposition to violence) are present across most or all cultures, even when the magnitude of the difference is responsive to particular environmental and cultural circumstances. Some (such as a greater male preference for competitive environments and a tendency to perform better under the stimulus of competition) appear to hold in some contexts but not in others, yet are rarely found in reverse. For some, too, we know a little about the correlation of the trait with some physiological characteristics, such as testosterone levels. For others (such as the greater tendency of women’s scores on various tests of competence to be affected by what is called “stereotype threat” – a sensitivity of performance to cues about what is considered normal or expected for their gender), we still have frankly no idea.”

I’m interested in the meaning of the sentence in the second graf, of course. It seems so hedged that it ends up in a clause that makes the entire thing obscure. “Some (such as a greater male preference for competitive environments and a tendency to perform better under the stimulus of competition) appear to hold in some contexts but not in others, yet are rarely found in reverse.”
 What, exactly, does this mean? Certainly in natural history, competition within a species between males would mostly reference reproduction. Males compete to mate with females to produce more ‘vehicles’, as Dawson would have it, to carry their genes. Compete, here, seems to be consonant with competition within an idealized capitalist system. As we know, Darwin actualy took his competition model partly from Linnaeus, whose metaphor of the economy of nature referred not to the market, but to the court – to, specifically, competition for positions. There were places, awarded by the sovereign, that courtiers competed for. If you like, natural selection is at the crossroads between the Linnaen competition for place of the pre-capitalist system, and the Smithean competition for market share of the capitalist system.
This in itself should point to the fact that the greater propensity of males to create and flourish under the “stimulus of competition” is, on the surface, a contemporary truism, but when unpacked as a statement about human natural history, seems to beg the question of what is meant by competition and how it is a stimulus at all. Does flourish here mean that males devise competitive systems in order to mate with more females? And if this is so, why does it seem to be the case that the competitions end up having much more to do with positioning in the socius for most of the history that we know (which has rarely involved the love matches we now assume as the norm) than with biological reproduction?
Seabright could be saying, I suppose, that the competitive stimulus is perverted from its original framework.
Even here, though, it is not clear to me how this story of  competition – which is, remember, a functional relationship  - is supposed to work when applied generally to human societies and male and female difference. The phrase makes the individualist methodological assumption, but doesn’t press it too much, because once it is pressed it becomes pretty ridiculous. At least since the dawn of agriculture, most human beings have lived in families or clans and been ruled by these families or clans, at least as far as reproduction is concerned. These clans might compete under the image of the limited good – to use a phrase I am fond of – but I am not sure why women aren’t as much a part of this competition as men, or why they are supposed not to flourish under it. Nor why the relation between men and women isn’t competitive as well, in these circumstances – why does Seabright tacitly suppose gender leagues?
Sociobiologists have an unfortunate tendency to use any random ethological observation to make their points – but as the seventies song said, I don’t like spiders and snakes and that ain’t what it takes to love me. Humans are primates, primates are social animals, and we should go for our pertinent ethological data there, if anywhere. But just confining ourselves to human societies for the moment, I don’t see a big argument here for a., the idea that competitive systems are all fundamentally varieties of some primitive competitive relationship, or b, that the kind of competitions we find in the last fifty years, say, in business tell us anything about the natural history of human beings. 
Seabright sticks with his league play idea even as he shows that the complications of it make it fundamentally unrealistic, and in doing so, alludes (like the economist he is) to some tossed off bit of crackerbarrel wisdom by a wealthy fuck:
This in turn leads to a different kind of competition among males for access to these females than that among females for access to the males. Males are usually more persistent in their endeavours, and females more selective in response to male persistence. Males are usually more interested in the quantity of mating opportunities and females more interested in their quality. Each sex depends for its fitness on the ability to overcome the bottleneck created by the availability of the other, but the bottlenecks are different, and only exceptionally should we expect to see similar mating strategies evolve in the two sexes of any species.
These points are well known to biologists, but one of the fundamental insights of sexual selection (one congenial, of course, to Freudian psychoanalysis) is just how many apparently diverse behavioural traits are in effect mating strategies, directly or indirectly. This is no less true in our own species than in others, and that awareness creates endless opportunities for both science and speculation. One of the entrepreneurs quoted by Konner puts it bluntly: “Fundamentally, what drives most human behavior is basically foreplay”. The remark is revealing, though, less for what it says than for what it leaves out, namely afterplay. Human beings are a species whose social life is shaped uniquely in the animal kingdom by the massive investments we make in raising children. So much of our behaviour is about coping with the consequences of mating rather than just about making mating more likely to happen. It is probably a characteristically male trait to forget that.”

The last sentence would have been incomprehensible in the 18th century, for instance, when the reproductive investment was the center of the family in many, many ways. It is a characteristically 2000s trait among the glib krewe of tell all-ers to forget that.


Saturday, May 23, 2015

competing as a royal screwing

The ideological work of the capitalist system is seen at its most successful in creating the character mask of the competitor for the laborer. In our time, the workers work against each other not only in terms of the price they put, or can put, on their work, but also in as much as they must partake of the treadmill of skilling and de-skilling, which has advanced beyond what it was in the first industrial era - much as Marx predicted. The capitalist system seeks the maximum level of interchangeability among all the members of what I’d broadly call the working class – that is, the class who do not own the means of production. Thus, as members of that class strive to attain a higher price for their skills – investing in education and training – the organizations that hire them strive to devalue those skills by breaking down the peculiarities inherent in their routines. That is, the system strives to make them purely quantifiable. Consequently, we see such things as this: in the white collar world – say, of academia – the ‘uniqueness’ of the academic skill set is continually confronted (and the academic anguished by) the quantitative protocols by which the organization not only judges it, but by which it shapes an interchangeable work force. This is true everywhere there is R and D – the single inventor is replaced with the laboratory worker, the engineer is continually forced to market his labor inside the organization, etc. In the eighties, it became faddish – and still is – to speak of the worker’s “owning” their projects. Now, of course, the workers know that the projects are owned by the company. But the false ownership relation does its ideological work by turning the workers into small entrepreneurs, engaged in rivalry one with the other, or in temporary alliances. In this way, the workers never face the organization as an associated whole. To call the project workers the ‘owners’ of the project is an interesting instance of what Althusser meant by interpellation – that the first ideological act is the identification implicit in greeting, so to speak. 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Famines and Slumps: Galiani versus Smith, or a rehearsal for the Keynesians versus Chicago part one



It struck me as a bit of a revelation, yesterday, that a now obscure debate about trade legislation in 18th century France resonates in economic thinking to this day, as the sides that were drawn in that debate took a form that was inherited by political economists who, over the last two hundred and fifty years,   have variously called themselves by different names: liberal or conservative, radical or orthodox, saltwater or freshwater, etc. They are even now arguing about the meaning of the business cycle - which has a much more insistent position in economic thinking, now, than famine. Yet it was famine that first prefigured the division, within the circle of enlightenment thinkers, between what one might call, anachronistically, the pragmatists, and those that represent the economic mainstream, from Smith to Robert Lucas.  Until Keynes, the pragmatists had no central, doctrinal figure – but in the eighteenth century they did have Ferdinando Galiani, whose Dialogue on the commerce of grain conceals one of the wittiest texts of the 18th century beneath a title only an accountant could love.
The Dialogue came out in 1770.A little background, maestro, before we proceed with the explication de texte razzmatazz
In the 1760s – and here the go to texts are Stephen Kaplan’s series of books about bread and politics in 18th century France, including Bread, Politics and Political Economy in the Reign of Louis XV and the foreward to his edition of Galiani’s Le Bagarre – the physiocrats temporarily triumphed in their struggle to de-regulate agriculture, both in France and in Tuscany – both regions, as it happens, well known to Galiani. The traditional triumphalist history concedes, at this point, that instead of what was supposed to happen in theory –the increase in competition and efficiency, and the lowering of prices for grain – there followed a number of famines. By the end of the 1760s, the circle of philosophes around the encyclopedists were divided between the orthodox adherants of the free trade doctrine and dissenters, including Diderot. It was in 1770 that Galiani, who was previously seen as an advanced economist of the free trade type, published his dialogue. All hell broke loose.
Karl Gunnar Persson summarizes the physiocrat theory well: “ only free gran trade can achieve price stability. Local price stability required exports in tiems of abundant harvests, moderating the decline in prices. In lean years imports would make price increases less violent than if a region had to rely exclusively on its own supplies. Free entry to the grain trade was vital because with many merchants excess profits in the grain trade would not prevail: they would be arbitraged away by competing merchants.” (4)
One senses, here, the invention of a device that would be used over and over in the next two centuries. One was the important place given to the natural equilibrium of the unimpeded market. It would adapt to changed circumstances so as to bring about the most efficient outcome, unlike outcomes produced by regulation. The second is the place of competition. Competition would insure that the price system corresponded to that promised by the free market. This competition, it was assumed, would never devolve into monopoly. If it did, the price distortions would lure into the market space other competitors.
The physiocrats of course had other theories that are rejected today by mainstream economics – most notably, the idea that all wealth is based on agriculture. But this we will leave to one side.
Next, lets take our hero – Abbé Galiani. Ferdinando Galiani was a prodigy, writing letters like a dean when he was seventeen, lecturing when he was eighteen. Born in 1728, Galiani came from a distinguished and educated family. He wrote his treatise on money at the age of twenty; Schumpeter, among others, has remarked on its ingeniousness, both by the hypothesis of a subjective theory of value –  which is of course the way station to the marginalist revolution in the 19th century – and for his remarks on general equilibrium.
By the time he came to write the dialogues on the grain trade, Galiani had had a lot of subsequent experience as both a writer and an adminstrator. He had, in the latter role, experienced the brunt of famine in Tuscany. It is usual to call Galiani a sceptic, which is a polite way of saying that it is hard to place him in some whiggish history of economics. I think that scepticism is rooted in two things, intellectually: one is the spirit of Vico, who seemed to have influenced all Napolitan thinkers. I’m thinking especially of Vico’s famous strike against Cartesian philosophy, On the Study methods of our time, with its rebuke of the geometrical method in philosophy. The other influence, which I may simply be making up, is Shaftesbury. Shaftesbury was a Napolitan thinker by adoption, one might say, since he retired and died there.  Galiani was not an anti-Lockian, like Shaftesbury, whose animus was born of his personal connection; but  about reasoning I think Galiani was of the same mind as Shaftesbury in moving the cursor of definition from the individual to the social: it was a product of sociability rather than introspection. It was the product of dialogue and the conditions that made dialogue possible.
Now one of our persona is in place. Our other persona – for I am making this a two person essay, radically foreshortening the whole thing – is a man who needs no introduction, as he has been in your office, kitchen, bedroom and dreams whether you know it or not: Adam Smith.
I will hold back on the background with Smith. Since he is the more known of our figures, I will merely allude to the fact that the Scotland in which Smith lived and worked was, like the Kingdom of Naples, a primarily agricultural place. Scotland, in 1695, emulated the English by encouraging the export of grain in order to bring in national income. It was a very short lived sport of a policy:  “In Summer, 1695, they were very busie in giving rewards for having their Corn carried abroad, and a few months after, as impatiently employed in buying it back again.” (Karen Cullen, 31) In fact, over the next five years, the harvests in Scotland were so bad that the people experienced scarcity and famine, only returning to the norm in 1700. As demand increased, so did prices: “In the two years from 1695, prices increased as much as 110 percent… In 1697, prices moderated a little, but in 1698 and 1699 they rose to new heights. Though precise figures do not exist, large numbers of the population died from starvation and disease. The dearth had serious consequences for rural incomes; many tenants faled to porduce a surplus.” (Richard Saville, 39)

The argument I am going to make is that the formal couple of regulation or deregulation and famine have a conceptual similarity to other forms of regulation or deregulation of cyclical economic processes. And it is this conceptual similarity that makes the debate between Galiani and Smith an interesting precursor of the contemporary debates between slightly heterodox Keynesian approaches to the economy and orthodox ones.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

the parable of methods

In a letter to Sophie Valland, Diderot gave an account of an argument concerning method between his friend Grimm and M. Le Roy. Grimm hated method, or at least talk about method – either you knew how to arrange things through the force of things, or you do not. Le Roy took the opposite opinion. Just then the secretary of the ambassador of Naples in France – Ferdinando Galiani – spoke up:

“My friends, I am reminded of a fable: listen. It will be, perhaps, long, but it won’t bore you.
One day, in the midst of the forest, there arose a dispute concernng song between the nightingale and the cuckoo. Each vaunted his talent. “what bird, said the cuckoo, has a song as easy, as simple, as natural and also as measured as me?|”
- What bird, said the nightingale, has one that is sweeter, more varied, more lively and more light and more touching than mine?
- The cuckoo:  I say little, but what I say has weight, and order, and is thus memorable.
- The nightingale: I love to talk: but I am always new, and I am never tiring. I enchant the forests. The cuckoo saddens them. He is so attached to the lessons of his mother that he would not dare chance a tone that he hasn’t got from her. Myself, I don’t recognize a master. I play with the rules. It is when I infringe on them that I’m admired most. What comparison can there be between his fastidious method and my happy inspirations!

The cuckoo sought to interrupt the nightingale several times. But the nightingale sang on and didn’t listen: it is a little their characteristic fault. Ours, carried away by his ideas, followed them with rapidity, without caring about the responses of his rival.

However, after  the exchange of replies and counterreplies, they agreed to give the judgment of their dispute up to a third animal.
But where to find a third equally instructed and impartial who could judge them? It is difficult to find a good judge. The went in search of one everywhere.
They were crossing a meadow when they perceived an ass with the most grave and solemn aspect. Since the beginning of assdom, none had ever sported such long ears. “ah, said the cuckoo, in seeing them,”we are really fortunate that our dispute is an affair of  ears: here’s our perfect judge. God created him for us especially!”
The ass was eating grass. He hardly imagined that one day he’d be called upon to judge music. But Providence amuses itself with all kinds of things. Our two birds abased themselves before him, complimented him on his gravity and judgment, and exposed to him the subject of their dispute, after which they humbly begged him to listen to them and decide.

But the ass, hardly turning his heavy head and not missing a blade of grass, made them a sign with his ears that he was hungry and that today was not his day to assume the judge’s seat. The birds insisted: the ass continued to graze. In so doing, his appetite eased. There was some trees planted along the path through the meadow. “oh well, “ he told them, go there. I surrender to your wish: you will sing, I will digest, I will listen to you, and then I will tell you my opinion.

The birds went like a shot and perched themselves. The ass followed them with the air and step of a judge made of cement walking through the halls of the palace of justice. Finally he arrived and said: “begin, the court will hear you.” He was of course the sole court.

The cuckoo said: My lord, my argument is such that you cannot miss a word. Grasp the character of my song and, above all, observe the artifice and the method.” Then, breathing deeply and flapping his wings to emphasize the beat, he sang: coocoo coocoo coocoo coooocooo coocoo. And after having combined this in all possible ways, he fell silent.

The nightingale without a preambule deployed his voice, threw himself into the boldest of modulations, followed the newest tunes, and the ones that were the most rare. His cadences were such that they verged on the breathless; now one heard the sounds fall and murmur from the bottom of his throat like the ripples of a stream which loses itself among the pebbles, now the voice went higher, swellled little by little, filled the entirety of the air and remained there as though suspended. It was successively tender, light, brilliant, pathetic and painted whatever character it took on. But his song was not made for everybody.

Carred away by his enthusiasm, he kept singing; but the ass, who had already yawned many times, stopped him and said. I don’t doubt that everything that you sang there is very beautiful, but I don’t understand it. It appeared to me to be bizarre, tangled, and incoherent. You are perhaps more expert than your rival, but he is more methodical than you – and I, I am for method!


Such is the parable of methods.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Gehlen on alienation, Marx, and instituted freedom

In 1952 the conservative sociologist (and literally, I should note, a former Nazi one of whose students, Fritz Arlt, was a key functionary in the destruction of Poland’s Jews) Arnold Gehlen published a famous paper entitled “Over the birth of freedom from alienation.” The paper had two goals. One was to establish the essentially idealistic geneology of Marx’s notion of alienation. Gehlen traces it back to Fichte’s notion that the I in actualizing and externalizing itself experiences some essential loss of control. That feeling of loss and the desire to reestablish total control of the ego’s activity is compared, by Gehlen, to the French revolutionary terrorist program to establish total control in order to have total freedom – except, as Gehlen amusingly puts it, Fichte was just storming the Bastille of his own head. The idealistic assumption about the total I, here, is then traced through its appearance in Schelling and Hegel up through Marx and, to an extent, Freud.
As Gehlen says, Fichte’s insight was a genuine idea – and genuine ideas are rare in philosophy. Instead of claiming that Fichte is simply wrong about the “I” and its self-activity, Gehlen claims that alienation, as it develops in German idealist philosophy, describes a genuine phenomenon. That phenomenon concerns a two-fold sense of the world: on the one hand, the feeling that “man” or some creator has constructed the world, and on the other hand, the feeling that the creator is in the power of the created. This feeling, of course, slips from man the collective to oneself as the individual, a part of a partial collective. This powerful explanatory schema was employed, according to Gehlen, by the next generation of left Hegelians, like Feuerbach, to explain and demystify religious belief. God, it turns out, is a perfect symbol of the alienation process at work: man creates God, and then reverses the relationship so that it is God, in myth, who creates man. That historical and intellectual reversal is, perhaps, the central property of myth. Myth in this enlightment sense is that which both perceives the power relationships implicated in the real and reverses them. Thus, myth cannot be dispelled simply by claiming that myth is a lie – an illusion is not a lie. It is a genuine phenomenon out in the world. Here Gehlen is content to point to how illusion is laid on the table and understood, freeing us from it. Myself, I think he could have gone further: it must be dissipated not by analysis, but by the movement of the angle of one’s vision. Analysis might convince one that what one is seeing is an illusion, but only that practical movement can dissipate the illusion.
But Gehlen isn’t just investigating the idealistic background of Marx’s comments in The German Ideology. He is also interested in Fichte’s idea on account of his own idea – that the human being characterized by a fundamental lack, which is at the nucleus of her or his consciousness. Gehlen’s philosophical anthropology might argue with the details of Fichte’s sense of the I, but not with the general structure. Fichte, according to Gehlen, characterized the lack of control to which the I is condemned as the realm of bondage, of unfreedom. Here’s the rub, for Gehlen: in fact, the dream of total control, of the identity, say, of product and intention, is not the highest degree of freedom, but instead an erroneous reading of what freedom is all about. As Gehlen puts it, in a rhetorical flourish that would gain the approval of any Cold War liberal anti-communist: “Whosever enthusiastically realizes the feeling of freedom and the great determnation of man, whosever wishes to live out this titanic relief into which this feeling streams, whoever in this thought feels his heart beating more strongly, will, by an enigmatic destiny, find himself becoming the pacesetter of the Guillotine.”
Of course, Gehlen’s words are harder to read if we put them against the background of the pacesetters of the concentration camp, like his former student Arlt, whose thesis comparing “Israelite” women and Icelandic women – to the advantage of the former – was passed right on through by his thesis advisor. But looking aside from this: Gehlen’s notion is that the moment of alienation is not a moment in which freedom is lost, but is, rather, when it becomes a practical reality. Freedom is never direct: Humans can to themselves and their kind only maintain enduringly an indirect relationship, they must take a detour, alienate themselves, find themselves, and for this purpose we have institutions. These are the clearly human produced forms, as Marx saw correctly, in which the spiritual, an even in its greatest riches and pathos an undulating material, is realized, is interlaced in the flow of things and is thereby able to endure.”

This perspective, which welcomes alienation, bears the distinct flavor the capitalist consensus of the time – when, of course, the mention of alienation could not be avoided. It lives on when alienation is no longer a word to conjure with – has been almost unanimously junked by both the rational choice right and the rational choice left.

However, I am suspicious of this junking, its motives and its function. I'll return to this another time.


Friday, May 08, 2015

the no alternative years

Labour  failed in the most basic ways. They had four years to develop a counternarrative, but instead developed a counter-excuse: "we were so austerian, as austerian as you!" Basically, if you can't capitalize on the reserve of good feeling for government agencies like National Health and the reserve of bad feelings for privatized agencies, like the train system (ooops, that dittoed under Blair), then you should not play ball.
There are good defeats and bad defeats. A good defeat is one that lays the ideological groundwork for the future. A bad defeat is one that leaves behind a wreckage of opportunism and users. The Labour defeat (why actually are they still called Labour?) is of the second variety. It was hard to care when, as was obvious months ago, they had succeeded in turning certain victory into defeat. Running on a blairite message of nudgery and sticking to austerity against a tory party that was also running on a blairite message, they lost lost lost. And then, too, there was the repulsive - to my mind - Milliband, who has the look and feel of an upper class jerk.
So why didn’t Labour hammer austerity? Well, you have to talk about why the Great Slump happened if you are truly going to hammer austerity. And that means you have to talk about the City - which were and are great friends of the Blairites. There is a stupid analytic habit of thinking of elections as separate events from the rest of the political flow. They aren't. By choosing to softpedal the problems caused by the City, Labour backed itself into a corner long ago. Plus, of course, they have to bear the burden of the insane and wicked foreign policy of the Blair years. Given these burdens, one had to mark Labour down as the underdog from the beginning. The excuse that it was mean old Murdochian media that put them down won't work - Labour's victories have traditionally come against the establishment press – the one exception being Blair, and we know the sacrifices that Blair’s endorsement imposed. To face that media attack requires being nurturing of a structure that can withstand it and attack back - organized labour – to create a counternarrative. Blair (whose victories were a disaster for Labour) carefully cut the tie to labour. While Ed Balls retreat on austerity was bad in the campaign, it was the symptom of a wholesale disintegration of the old labour structure. 
A good case in point is transportation. Have you ever ridden on a London bus or a british train? They are awful and much, much more expensive than theircounterparts on the continent.
But the thatcherism that Blair adopted and passed on to his successors disallows any discussion of the issue of privatisation - which was accomplished, in the UK, after the Thatcher government thoroughly trashed the service and maintenance of the nationalized train system. A simple populist program that would call for comparable pricing to the norm in the EU would actually have put money in the pockets of the wage class. But it would have offended the city, and the blairites, and so it can't even be spoken. Instead, the pledge was a process one of handing power over buses back to regional authorities and blah blah blah. It was typical of the thrd way style: a lot of boring process talk to get around offending the moneyed. 
I think this election is a premonitory of the next pseudo-left wipeout, in France. The PS has set itself up for one of those defeats it will be hard to survive. Unfortunately, we will have a rightwing Europe to contend with in the next decade. Unfortunately, too, it won’t look much different than if we had a pseudo-left Europe to contend with in the next decade. No alternative, once a slogan, is now a cancer.


Thursday, May 07, 2015

enough mass death, please

Excellent article about what is happening in Yemen.

It is part of the comedy of our time that the assembly in France is voting in measures to strip the citiizens of their privacy in the name of protecting them against "terrorism", when their foreign policy is directed towards flooding the Middle East with arms and helping the Saudis destroy countries like Yemen, thus creating the perfect conditions for terrorism. It is as if the government were promoting a strict quarantine of its citizens on the one hand while funding a petri dish firesale of toxins on the other hand.
When Ukraine split into two pieces, the former president fled to Russia, and Putin's Russia supplied the rebels in the East, there was universal condemnation from the bien pensants. There was even a comic conference of the usual pro war wankers, the BHL types, in Kyev. When Yemen split into several pieces, the former president fled to Saudi Arabia, a totalitarian country, and SA bombed the shit out of Yemen to restore him, without a whimper from the bien pensant crowd. The US jumped into the fray on behalf of those friends of democracy, the House of Saud, and have had a great time assisting with the dronage. Hmm, meanwhile, the outrage from the thumbsuckers at the New Yorker or the NYRB - the crowd that includes George Packer and Ben Judah, who froth every time Putin winks are busy doing other things - honing their TED talks, no doubt.
But I'm a wee little pee, not a Gargantua of liberal interventionist virtue. And I'm raising my wee little pea voice to say: stop bombing the shit out of Yemen! Immediate aid for the people, who are on the verge of an Ethiopian style famine!
I have long given up hope that the Western states are anything but the pawn of their plutocrats. But perhaps on this issue, the good side can win. Enough of mass death, please.