MarkHumphrys.com

Home      Blog      About      Contact

Click to hide the content:
Search:

    


Politics - Discussion with a student


Discussion with a student, Jan-Mar 2006

I had an intelligent discussion with this student (site now gone) in 2006.

I'm going to interleave his text with mine here, since it makes the discussion easier to follow.



His initial entry

A blog huh? To be perfectly honest, I'm not a big fan of blogs. From what I've seen, they end up as the rants of bored, self-absorbed individuals who pontificate (in nefarious TXTSPK no less!) on about the trivial details of their life i.e. recent romantic trysts, what their favourite food is etc. - BORING! However, they do offer a convenient way to out one's thoughts and opinions should they choose to do so. As you can see, I really like the < i> HTML tag.

I'll be more inclined to pontificate on about current affairs, politics and the like here. I know, to some, that sounds like having one's teeth pulled sans anaesthetic. Unfortunately, I'm not going to apologise for talking about subjects which have a real and everyday influence on our lives.
On that note, I'm going to talk about a particular website, markhumphrys.com. Before I begin, I'll say that these are just opinions. I have no background in these topics as such, I'm merely using my democratic rights to air my views on topics that interest and concern me. Disagree if you like. Also, it may appear incomplete at times. That's because of a small isse of exams.
Soon, I'll be adding the facility to add comments to the page. Also, this article will be in continuous development, so strong are my opinions on the subject.

I stumbled across this page as Dr. Humphrys is one of my lecturers ........ He uses it as a means of expressing his opinions. I respect him for taking the time to do so. As regards the actual opinions that he expresses, I find myself agreeing with him on some, and deeply disagreeing with him on others. He says that religion is nothing but meme competition. To which I say he could be right. I'm more inclined to go with Pavlov's very specific assertion that religion is nothing more than a human social reflex, created out of a need to form a mass consciousness. I agree with him when he says that science is the way forward. The improvements in quality of life that the west has enjoyed in the last fifty to one hundred years are spectacular, and they were largely thanks to the hard work of scientists.

I agree with him on certain aspects of his religion pages, specifically he regards the Islamic terrorists who behead civilians and plant bombs in foreign cities as savages, anachronisms in human society who belong in the middle ages. I agree. There is no justification for that total lack of value for human life. However, with relation to his opinions on the third world in general, the Bush dictatorship, dealing with the problem of what he calls "Islamofascism," and the war on Iraq, I find it impossible to reconcile my opinions with his.

Mark Humphrys:
"Why is the Third World poor? Many people on the left claim (based on no evidence) that the Third World is poor because we are rich. In reality, of course, the cause of third-world poverty is simple. Third-world people are poor because of third-world governments."

I say: No evidence?? Where has he been looking? Try Ethiopia, a country known for its coffee, but lesser known for the horrific exploitation of workers by first-world companies such as Nescafe, Maxwell House etc. Then there is the collusion between Coca-Cola and paramilitary "death squads" in Colombia, who have kidnapped and murdered several union leaders at bottling plants in the country. To refute that first-world companies behave like this would be irresponsible and akin to giving the finger to the families of those who have been affected by such travesties. Yes, third world governments have a huge part to play and this, and they probably have the worst track records when it comes to human rights, and managing the countries they are in charge of. But the west (America in particular) has consistently supported repressive regimes for the sake of corporate greed or satisfying its astonishing paranoia. Generals Efrain Mont, Pinochet etc,


Mark Humphrys: "In reality, the solution to poverty is:
Democracy.
Free speech and a free society.
Capitalism.
Free trade, not fair trade."

I say: I agree! Throwing money at the problem has not helped. Regime changes have definitely not helped. What we need to do is foster independence and self-sufficiency in the poorest countries, allowing them to stand on their own two feet, as opposed to providing the proverbial crutches. In many countries receiving aid, the gross domestic product has decreased rather than increasing, so we need to re-evaluate the function and usefulness of aid.

Mark Humphrys (Pre November 2004 US presidential election): "Now I believe that Americans are different to Europeans. That if they are attacked, they will not do their attacker's bidding, but rather the opposite. That a serious attack would instead be followed by a Bush landslide, and a green light for regime change in Iran and Syria."


I say: There is a serious problem with the pro-west movement. This idea, that the US can simply attack whoever it feels threatened by, termed "preventative warfare," is absolutely ludicrous. "Regime change" is a nice euphemism for "install someone who will submit to our orders." It's ludicrous! It is this sort of behaviour that creates Osama Bin Ladens, not some ridiculous inherent moral bankruptcy unique to Islam or anything like that. But America has been doing this for decades. Saddam Hussein, Dictator George W. Bush's arch nemesis and the posterboy for the success of "the war on terror" was supported by the US goverment. The Taliban, the first targets of the regime change era, were also initially supported by the US during the cold-war era. Indeed a good joke I heard around the time of the war in Afghanistan was that the US bombs and missiles had post 9-11 patriotic slogans on them like "Hijack this"! etc., whereas the Taliban guns simply had "made in America" embossed on the outside metal. Of course, when the Afghanistan bombings began, the US armed the Northern Alliance, composed of Tajik and Uzbek warmongers who were the Taliban's enemies. However, not many people knew that the reason the Taliban came into power, was that the Northern Alliance once were as well, practicing the same complete lack of morals and indifference to human rights, indiscriminately bombing civilians, raping women and summarily executing those to did not adhere to their rule. Mark Humphrys says on his website that the Nixon and Bush senior eras, the eras of "realpolitik" as he calls it, were failures, and he openly acknowledges that these governments aided and abetted dictators, and this makes me glad. But the problem has not gone away. In some people's eyes, the western world is paying the price for its goverments' "deals with the devil" and the victims are largely innocent "non-combatants" in US military parlance.

Donald Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam Hussein, 20/12/83. He's obviously lost and just asking for directions.



Mark Humphrys: "Drug use should be legal. Adults want to mess with their bodies and minds - always have, always will. It's science's job to make it interesting and safe. It's not the government's job to enforce someone's idea of a religious or moral code of behaviour. We lock up in jail people who take drugs even if they harm nobody and are leading productive lives. This can only be based not on public health but on the idea that one adult can tell another adult what to do in his private life. Just as bad as all the innocents in prison is that the drug laws, just as alcohol prohibition did, have created a vast, violent underworld which would vanish if drugs were legal. Think of all the muggings and burglaries that would stop if the poor could afford their habits."

I say: When I read this first, I got quite pissed off I must admit. I read basically the same argument under a different wording in the booklet accompanying Moby's smash album "Play" (Mute Records, 2000). I seriously fail to see the logic in it. As a man who professes his faith in the scientific method, surely he cannot deny the overwhelming evidence suggesting drug use is bad. I believe, that if alcohol and nicotine were introduced to society for the first time in 2006, that they would be immediately banned. Quite simply, drugs are probably the biggest burden on our health services. Night after night, our A&E departments countrywide are inundated with slobbering, incoherent idiots seeking medical assistance because they have no self-control. Taking drugs does affect other people, not just the consumers. Taxpayers are forced to pay money to help heroin addicts kick their habits. Alcoholic mothers often give birth to children with serious brain or physical defects. The same goes for the children of heroin addicts. They are born addicted to the drug as well, requiring a traumatic rapid detox after birth, and will probably have a lifelong predisposition to heroin addiction afterwards. Those children have the course of their lives determined self-indulgently and selfishly by their parents. That's outrageous and completely unfair.

Legalising drugs would be validating an incorrect approach to solving what, I believe, is fundamentally a social problem. A huge amount of people, in Ireland anyway, live completely unfulfilled lives. They work jobs they hate, are forced to live on the breadline because of scandalous overcharging throughout the economy, and are forced to tread through their lives in an agonisingly mundane fashion paying bills, taxes and living to work as opposed to working to live.They go out on a friday night, take out a twenty euro note and decide to do a few lines of coke to pep them up. Nobody gets hurt. Until you have a heart attack or your septum falls out. Look at the streets of Dublin city centre on a saturday night. Generally civilised human beings are transformed into violent thugs by alcohol, resulting in them kicking the shit out of each other because of a "look" or gesture. Alcohol has destroyed countless lives and families, and it's legal!

We need to address this problem, I won't suggest how, because I'm not an economist or sociologist, but drug use is a symptom of it, not some clandestine solution being stifled by "the man." Drug related crime might decrease marginally, as it's likely that in the event of legalising drugs, pharmaceutical companies would be allowed develop patents for safer versions of heroin, crystal methamphetamine etc., but the drugs are still addictive and probably would remain so, as the dealer would be replaced by a corporation, who ironically share the same intentions (making money off your habit). That handbag in the empty car is still going to look rather appealing to a junkie 24 hours after his last fix, if he has to pay for his next one. Mind altering substances are just that, they warp the personality of the user and result in completely unpredictable behaviour. Forget terrorism, this is a bigger threat to civilisation. I believe drug use should be clamped down on, but I don't think imprisonment is the solution. It's probably more expensive for the taxpayer to keep an addict in jail for a year than to treat his addiction. Also, we shouldn't punish people for falling into a situation caused by forces beyond their control such as economic deprivation, homelessness etc. Rehabilitation is the answer.


Dr. Humphrys says: "If you're not willing to publish your criticisms online, then you obviously aren't serious. Why should I participate in a conversation in which you are anonymous and I am public? I have the courage to publish my opinions and sign my name to them. You need to do so as well, if you want me to talk to you." Ok then, I will!

This is interesting, though the title left a lot to be desired.



My reply

Firstly, well done on having the courage to publish your own opinions and sign your name to them. I always enjoy a discussion with someone intelligent (as opposed, say, to the anonymous neo-nazi that took me on recently).


Third world poverty

Let's reply to some points. I say: "Many people on the left claim (based on no evidence) that the Third World is poor because we are rich. In reality .. Third-world people are poor because of third-world governments."

As a response you say: "No evidence?? Where has he been looking? Try Ethiopia, a country known for its coffee, but lesser known for the horrific exploitation of workers by first-world companies such as Nescafe, Maxwell House etc."

"Ethiopia" does not mean "Coffee" to me. (Maybe I have a less glamorous lifestyle than you!)
Rather, it means "Genocidal communist butchers who deliberately caused the "Live Aid" starvation, famine and democide in the 1980s. Soviet-allied marxist butcher Mengistu who killed at least 2 million men, women and children with the help of Castro's Cuba and other allies."

Today, Ethiopia ranks as only "Partly Free" in democracy and human rights, and as "Mostly Unfree" in free enterprise and economic freedom. And here you are claiming that Nescafe etc. are the main cause of poverty in Ethiopia!

Instead of looking at the obvious - the Ethiopian government - the left seems determined to find out that we (the West) are somehow guilty. So you pick on irrelevant stories like Nescafe. I'm not saying Nescafe are saints, I'm just saying they're not the cause of poverty in Ethiopia. They may exploit workers, but even if they do, they probably also reduce poverty.

Prove me wrong: How to prove me wrong: Find a graph that shows a positive (rather than a negative) correlation between the number of multinationals in third world countries and their poverty. Good luck with that.

I can prove my theory: In contrast to the unproven "multinationals theory" of poverty, I can prove my point that lack of political and economic freedom correlates with poverty:

  1. Political freedom: See the correlation below.
  2. Economic freedom: See the correlation below.

The fact is the third world is not poor because of us. It's poor because of rotten third world governments that stamp on freedom, don't protect private property, and so on. So please, stop talking about Coca Cola, etc. They are simply not relevant. Coca Cola is not the major cause of poverty in Colombia.



The correlation between lack of political freedom and poverty. Freedom House, 2001.



The correlation between lack of political freedom and poverty. Freedom House, 2004.



The correlation between lack of economic freedom and poverty. The Heritage Foundation, 2006.



The West supported bad third world governments

You say that the West has often supported rotten third world governments that stamp on freedom. I agree. That is why I am a "neo" conservative rather than a "realist" conservative. Supporting dictators has certainly been one of the West's crimes.

But as a factor in world poverty it has not been very important. Socialism was probably the single major cause of poverty and famine in the last century. Followed by dictatorship, tribalism and Islamism.

Pinochet is a really bad example for you to use here, by the way. He was a murderous dictator who should face justice, yes, but he reduced poverty, not increased it. He was good for Chile's economy, not bad. Why? Because although there was no political freedom, there was economic freedom.

I'm not sure the West ever supported anyone who caused poverty and famine on the titanic scale of a Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Kim Il Sung, King Jong Il, Mengistu or Omar al-Bashir (unless you count our support for Stalin in WW2). Let me know if you can think of any poverty-maker on that scale that we ever supported.


Updates on America's "support" for Saddam

On the one hand, I am happy to link to even more damning evidence of that sleazy 1983 meeting:



Rumsfeld and Saddam in 1983.


On the other hand, the US was not much of an "ally" of Saddam.
Consider what Reagan said after learning of Israel's bombing of Iraq's nuclear reactor in 1981. Israel never asked permission from the US, or the UN, or anyone. But while the UN and the world were outraged, Reagan's first reaction was to shrug and say: "Well, boys will be boys!"
Some "ally"!

Also consider arms sales to Iraq under Saddam:



From Who armed Saddam?
Some "ally"!



The current war

You say: "There is a serious problem with the pro-west movement. This idea, that the US can simply attack whoever it feels threatened by, termed "preventative warfare," is absolutely ludicrous. "Regime change" is a nice euphemism for "install someone who will submit to our orders." It's ludicrous!"

We'll just have to agree to disagree here. I support the West. I don't support its enemies. I think the West should attack those who threaten it.

The top enemies of the West are the dictatorships of Iran, Syria and North Korea. But more than that, I want to see all dictatorships destroyed, peacefully if possible. By war if necessary. But I want all these regimes to fall in my lifetime. As I say, we'll just have to agree to disagree.


The cause of terror

You say: "It's ludicrous! It is this sort of behaviour that creates Osama Bin Ladens, not some ridiculous inherent moral bankruptcy unique to Islam or anything like that."

I disagree. Bin Ladens, like Hitlers and Lenins, will always be with us. They do not need rational grievances to base their movements on. These movements are based on self-pity, pride, hatred, bigotry, fantasy and hallucination, not on anything so rational as "root causes" or "western foreign policy". See the idea that 9/11 must have had some logical cause. The idea that hatred has to have a good reason is absurd and ignores history. See The Paradox of Cruelty: The greater the hatred, the less the reason.

If there is any "root cause" it is that the rotten states of the Middle East encourage a rotten ideology like Islamism to flourish. The enemy is Islamism, not Islam, by the way. Islamism is a modern, 20th century utopian ideology, very much like violent utopian communism. All Muslims should join with us in defeating it.


Blowback

You say: "Saddam Hussein, Dictator George W. Bush's arch nemesis and the posterboy for the success of "the war on terror" was supported by the US goverment. The Taliban, the first targets of the regime change era, were also initially supported by the US during the cold-war era. ... In some people's eyes, the western world is paying the price for its goverments' "deals with the devil" and the victims are largely innocent "non-combatants" in US military parlance."

Well, America's brief support for Saddam against Iran has been greatly exaggerated. But yes, you are right, supporting such people is wrong and often self-defeating. That's where the neo-cons come in - they're the ones who want to stop doing that kind of thing. You should be a neo-con!

And America has made up for it anyway by deposing Saddam and the Taliban. Surely you are pleased with that!

It's true that the neo-con revolution is only partial. Bush himself is half-realist, half-neocon. He is still allied with the dictatorships of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Afghanistan is still rated "Not Free". Iraq is still rated "Not Free". There's a long way to go. But the movement is in the right direction.


Drugs

Quite a different topic. I haven't thought about this issue in a while. But yes, I do still think drug use should be legal.

Don't misunderstand me - I'm not a libertine who thinks a life of hedonism is a good idea. I'm a libertarian who believes we should all be treated like adults. If consenting adults want to pay each other for sex, watch porn, worship satan, or take drugs, in the privacy of their own home, it is not the government's business. But you have to behave like an adult. That means you can party, but only if you can pay for it, and only if you can fulfill your responsibilities in the rest of your life - do your job, pay your taxes, mind your children, etc. Let me quote what I say about sex: "I'm a libertarian or a classic liberal, not a conservative. I believe in hard work and responsibility, but I see no reason why consenting adults cannot do anything they like. It's your life. It's not for the state to tell you what to do. You can have fun, but similarly it's not for the state to save you from yourself. You can have fun, provided you take responsibility for your own choices."

All the things you mention are people not taking responsibility for their own choices - assaulting people, clogging up A&E, damaging their fetus. I am sympathetic to the argument that such people should: (1) pay for what they have done, and: (2) be individually banned from further purchasing drugs or alcohol (they should "lose their licence"). People who can't handle drugs and alcohol shouldn't be allowed take them. I'm happy to go with that. Just as people who can't handle driving are banned from driving.

Locking up in jail people who take drugs, even if they harm nobody and are leading productive lives, just seems wrong to me. And that's what we currently do.


I see the David C. James post. Amusing title! I guess I'll reply to him shortly too.

Regards
Mark Humphrys



His reply

I wonder as I write this entry if I am exercising my narcissistic side by presuming people will read it. Judging from the distribution and quantity of hits I have beem getting, there is a smidgeon of people who are interested in what I think. Better than nothing! My political opinions have oscillated to and from either end of the spectrum in recent years. Right now I would have to say I probably fall into the centrist category. I think that capitalism is the most practical and pragmatic economic model there is. I believe in reasonable civil liberties, democratic and therefore civilised society. I also however, think that such a society does not work without having intrinsic and fundamental inequalities. In the book "1984" by George Orwell, there is a section detailing a book by the enemy of the state of Oceania, Goldstein, called "The theory and practice of oligarchical collectivism." Although the book was in part written by, and therefore denounced by O'Brien, a senior member of the totalitarian "Party," it states some things which I believe to be true. Firstly, there are always three groups in society; the high, the middle and the low. Secondly, even when that pattern is disturbed, through war etc., it always re-asserts itself. This is something which I believe to be true. Society is a pyramidal structure in my view, with a large working class, sizeable middle-class and small but elite upper class. Some speculate that Ireland's social hierarchy has a more hourglass figure, with a diminishing working class and burgeoning burgeois group. I believe this may be true in material terms and educational attainment, as more and more people have degrees than ever before. However, as Ireland moves more and more towards having a completely service-oriented economy, I believe the working class' role whill change to suit this, but they will still exist.

When I think of George Bush, I can't help but feel slightly grim. I refer to his government in previous entries as the Bush dictatorship, because he bought and manipulated his way into power. This is a well known fact. This is the behaviour of dictators. Now that he is in power, I believe him to be the world's most successful, if not competent, demagogue. He achieves his aims via sweeping statements, propaganda, indoctrination and manipulative rhetoric, which he doesn't write himself. I Also believe him to be one of the world's most regressive leaders, taking his country back as opposed to forward. He has his business partners' interests at heart - not the American people. The reponse to hurricane Katrina made this self-evident. He has eroded American civil liberties with the "Patriot Act." Neo-conservatives love him. He's the best thing since sliced bread in their opinion, because he is homophobic, a Christian, a WASP gives tax breaks to the rich elite, and appears to have family values at heart. However, as a leader, I think he is incompetent, a poor speaker, inarticulate,the quintessential mediocre president. He is the exact opposite to what I'd want in a president - an anti-intellectual. He is what Jimmy Carter would like to have been. His government keep the people of America in a constant state of fear with his warning colour system. Big Brother would have been proud of him.

Neo-cons can't understand why people don't like him for invading Iraq and Afghanistan. "But he ousted repressive regimes and installed democracy" they cry! Hmmm, no he didn't! There should be a picture of Iraq next to the word 'anarchy' in the Oxford dictionary. Every day scores of people are butchered by suicide bombers. Literally thousands and thousands of people have died. Thousands and thousands died under Hussein I agree. But surely it should have stopped once he left. Afghanistan's government is a sham. The opium trade still runs the economy. The Americans are pulling out and leaving the British to do their cleaning up. He is motivated by the gluttonous search for and sale of fossil fuels. The oil companies have gotten their man in the white house. Yes, it's an overused argument, and yes some people think it's a juvenile and overly general one. But time and time again it has been proved right. He installed pipelines in Afghanistan, and I'm pretty sure he has done so in Iraq. Neo-cons claim he invaded these countries out of a noble quest for a democratic middle east. If only.



My reply

OK no one's arguing with you, so I'll have a go. Don't worry about hurting my feelings. I love a good debate!


The 2004 election

You say: "When I think of George Bush, I can't help but feel slightly grim. I refer to his government in previous entries as the Bush dictatorship, because he bought and manipulated his way into power. This is a well known fact. This is the behaviour of dictators. Now that he is in power, I believe him to be the world's most successful, if not competent, demagogue. He achieves his aims via sweeping statements, propaganda, indoctrination and manipulative rhetoric"

Isn't this all just a long-winded way of saying: "We lost the election. It's not fair! Wah!".

Bush is not a dictator. That's just silly. There is a free and critical press (freer than our press in Ireland for a start), and free and regular elections. The fact is, your arguments got a good airing, and the American people didn't buy them. Michael Moore even had a hit film promoting your theory that the war in Afghanistan was somehow about an oil pipeline. The American people didn't buy it. The 2000 election may have been a draw, but the 2004 election clearly wasn't. The American people clearly rejected your side and voted for Bush. You (and the Democrats) need to listen to the people, and not invent silly conspiracy theories as to why you lost. It happened because they didn't buy your arguments. And neither do I.

If the Democrats really want to win, they need to stop whining and analyse why they lost. Basically, if they want to win in 2008, they need to get serious about national security. See my posts after the 2004 election: Will the Democrats ever win again? and The new media lie: "It's all about religion". I'd like to see the Democrats recover. We need two parties. The Republicans need a proper opposition. And all things being equal, I would prefer a liberal who was sound on the war to a religious conservative who is sound on the war. But the Democrats have to become a serious party.


George W. Bush

"Neo-conservatives love him. He's the best thing since sliced bread in their opinion, because he is homophobic, a Christian, a WASP gives tax breaks to the rich elite, and appears to have family values at heart."

You need to understand the difference between neo-conservatives and paleo-conservatives. To crudely simplify, neo-cons tend to be left-wing and libertarian on social issues, right-wing and idealistic on foreign policy. Neo-conservatives don't agree with Bush on religion, creationism, gay rights, stem-cell research, etc. It's just that foreign policy trumps everything else, until Islamism is defeated.

As I said before the 2004 election:

I am not American, and I have no vote in America. But if I did, I would vote for George W. Bush. Yes I know he's not perfect. I know he brings religion into public life. I know he's a creationist. I know he's pro-Drug War. I know he's a protectionist. I know he's against stem cell research, human cloning and gay marriage. But we are at war, and the war is more important than all of these issues.

Bush is not the ultimate neo-con hero. He's just the best since Reagan.

By the way, is there something inherently wrong with being "Christian and WASP"? Aren't you being a bigot? I'm an atheist for the last 21 years, but I've no problem with Christians and WASPs. I have a problem with specific policies, such as opposition to cloning, or promotion of creationism, but you seem to regard it as a criticism that someone is "Christian and WASP" at all. That seems like bigotry to me.

You also complain that he "appears to have family values at heart" and a commenter complains that he has a "simplistic supposed concern for the traditonal 2.1 family". Are these meant to be criticisms? I have no problem with gay marriage being legal, but the traditional family is clearly the best system for society, where possible.


Afghanistan and Iraq

"Neo-cons can't understand why people don't like him for invading Iraq and Afghanistan."

Actually, the people of Afghanistan can't understand why people like you are opposed to their liberation. 82 percent of Afghans support the American war on Afghanistan.

Iraq has not gone as well as hoped, it is true. But this was probably inevitable - or rather it was inevitable that a fightback would happen somewhere. This is a long-term War on Islamism, and it was inevitable that Islamism, after its initial hammering, would regroup and fight on a front somewhere. It is Iraq's bad luck, like northern France in WW1 and WW2, to be that front.

Why the jihad chose Iraq to fight in, when the majority of Iraqis hate them and want them dead, is a mystery. But such groups rarely care about popular support. They are certain in their own minds.

Did anything encourage the jihad to make a stand in Iraq? Yes, I think the year-long, worldwide fury about the Iraq invasion encouraged them to fight here. Had Bush invaded Iraq straight after doing Afghanistan, without consulting the UN at all, it would have gone much better and there would have been far less resistance. The Arab world would have been stunned and shell-shocked. But the Iraqi people would have enjoyed their democracy and would be delighted with the change. The jihad would never have bothered with Iraq.

Instead, stupidly, Bush listened to Tony Blair and went to the UN, and there was a year of fury across the Arab (and western) world to get the jihad stoked up and ready for resistance. The "anti-war" marches before, during and since liberation have encouraged the jihad to think that here, in Iraq, it could win. And the endless ongoing negativity from the media, the left, and I'm afraid people like you, encourages them to think that America will bail out eventually. See: The media and the left encourage the enemy (even if they don't mean to). The Iraqi fascist resistance cannot beat the U.S. militarily, but they can win if opinions like yours win the day back home in the U.S., and America pulls out as it did in Vietnam. See: The left wants Iraq to be Vietnam.

This is the only way they can win and stop democracy - if the left win in America. If not, well eventually the jihad will simply give up, as they did before (e.g. in Algeria).


The reasons for war

"He is motivated by the gluttonous search for and sale of fossil fuels. The oil companies have gotten their man in the white house. Yes, it's an overused argument, and yes some people think it's a juvenile and overly general one. But time and time again it has been proved right. He installed pipelines in Afghanistan, and I'm pretty sure he has done so in Iraq."

Afghanistan attacked America. America had to attack Afghanistan. It's very simple.

As for Iraq, there are many reasons for the Iraq war, just as there are many reasons to hit Iran now (and I hope America and Israel do soon).

There are lots of brutal Islamist, communist and other dictatorships in the world that I would like to see destroyed, by force if necessary. I guess that's why I am not a leftist. If America announced it was going to topple the regime of Sudan tomorrow, for example, I would just say "Go for it". I would not need to hear any specific reasons.

Mark Humphrys



His reply

Firstly, a few things need to be clarified. Dr Humphrys had responded to my latest entries as you can see below in the comments section. I want to say that I am not implying that if you are a neo-con you're homophobic or a WASP etc. That was my fault that I didn't clarify that, but I'm usually writing these pages quite quickly, so I often miss typo's, scripting errors etc. What I meant is, there are elements within the American neo-conservatism movement which are. However, I stand by my assertion that George Bush is a poor president. Hillary Clinton and John Kerry both said that "history will be a harsh judge of this administration..... it has a completely apolitical approach to governing the country and is devoid of a sense of responsibility." They led their country into war on the basis of non existent intelligence and have probably broken international law. It doesn't look too likely that they will be held accountable for their actions however.

I would probably fall into the neo-conservatism camp on some issues, but starkly oppose it on others. Some people have said to me that I am perhaps too forceful in the way I express my opinions. I disagree. I enjoy discussing and debating these issues, and hopefully people who read my opinions like doing so, whether they agree with them or not. The beauty of publishing your thoughts online is that if someone doesn't like them, they just hit the back button and go somewhere else. I'm not out to hurt anybody's feelings, or insult anyone.



His further reply

He says: " By the way, is there something inherently wrong with being "Christian and WASP"? Aren't you being a bigot? I'm an atheist for the last 21 years, but I've no problem with Christians and WASPs. I have a problem with specific policies, such as opposition to cloning, or promotion of creationism, but you seem to regard it as a criticism that someone is "Christian and WASP" at all. That seems like bigotry to me."

I say: No, I don't believe there is anything wrong with being a Christian or a WASP. I am a Christian by baptism, although I don't practice and am generally more inclined towards secularism. What I have a problem with is the exclusive promotion of agendas of such groups. The only people who seem to have a voice in America are white and middle class. The incident with hurricane Katrina and the government's astonishing apathy towards the plight of the (largely black) group of victims in New Orleans made this self-evident. Surely in a democracy, one should embrace the notion that all are born free and equal. But this simply isn't so in America.

He says: "the people of Afghanistan can't understand why people like you are opposed to their liberation. 82 percent of Afghans support the American war on Afghanistan."

I say: Perhaps so. But, *according to a survey of eleven countries conducted by the BBC and various polling organisations, a whopping 60% of non-US respondents have "unfavourable" or "fairly unfavourable" attitudes towards the American president. All countries except Israel, Australia and the US rated America as more dangerous that Syria, an alleged member of the "axis of evil." Furthermore, another survey conducted by the Washington-based Pew research center for the People and the Press in 2003 found that: "Opinions of the US are markedly lower than they were last year. The war has widened the rift between Americans and Western Europeans, further inflamed the Muslim world, softened support for the war on terror and significantly weakened global public support for the pillars of the post World-war 2 era - the UN and NATO." In addition, Pew found that less than 50% of western Europeans like American ideas about democracy and less than 40% endorse the spread of of American ideas and customs. My third and final survey, conducted by the EU in early 2003 found "widespread support" for the proposition that America is reponsible for harming the environment and operates to keep poor countries poor, which backs up a point I made in an earlier post rather nicely! The point is not that I'm right and Mark is wrong or vice versa, but that we can all pull out obscure surveys and fire statistics across each other's bows. We never how it was conducted, how big the population sample was, the socio-economic status of the participants etc. In short, I wouldn't myself consider surveys cogent evidence in proving that the American strategies are working, or not! After all, we know the old expression that "there are lies, damn lies and statistics!"

*Taken from "Why do people hate America?" (Sardar,Davies '03-'04)

He says:" Bush is not a dictator. That's just silly. There is a free and critical press (freer than our press in Ireland for a start), and free and regular elections."

I say: "When it comes to Fox News Channel, conservatives don't feel the need to "work the ref." The ref is already on their side. Since its 1996 launch, Fox has become a central hub of the conservative movement's well-oiled media machine. Together with the GOP organization and its satellite think tanks and advocacy groups, this network of fiercely partisan outlets--such as the Washington Times, the Wall Street Journal editorial page and conservative talk-radio shows like Rush Limbaugh's--forms a highly effective right-wing echo chamber where GOP-friendly news stories can be promoted, repeated and amplified. Fox knows how to play this game better than anyone. Yet, at the same time, the network bristles at the slightest suggestion of a conservative tilt. In fact, wrapping itself in slogans like "Fair and balanced" and "We report, you decide," Fox argues precisely the opposite: Far from being a biased network, Fox argues, it is the only unbiased network. So far, Fox's strategy of aggressive denial has worked surprisingly well; faced with its unblinking refusal to admit any conservative tilt at all, some commentators have simply acquiesced to the network's own self-assessment" - taken from FAIR.org.

I have already had a response to this before I was able to complete it. My point basically is that the press in America is not as free as one would hope. The example of Fox is a good one, but there is a far bigger machine at work. News Corporation, owned by Rupert Murdoch has essentially become the media arm of the Republican party. This is undeniable. We remember Fox news announcing George Bush had won the last election, only to find out that he had in fact lost some of the states that Fox initially quoted. News Corp. also owns The Wall Street Journal, another prominent right-wing publication. Then we have Clear Channel, who own it seems every concert venue and billboard on planet Earth, who also sponsor pro-war rallies The fact is that American media is dominated by a small number of huge conglomerates, whose voices are overpowering and have a huge amount of control over what the media says to Americans. Both major political parties in the states have received donations from the media corporations. This says a lot of what I want to say, only better. Vast sections of the American media have collaborated with the government in creating a climate of fear in America and attempting to rally the Americans towards the administration and gain support for the war on terror. So overpowering is the voice of republicanism in American media (NOT society!) that it seems like they are the only ones talking. I do acknowledge in this country that there is not a strong right-wing voice which should be rectified. I for one am open to hear all sides of an argument.



My reply


Bush "only cares about white people"

You say: "The only people who seem to have a voice in America are white and middle class."

You mean apart from the black former Secretary of State, the black former National Security Adviser and the black present Secretary of State?

And the Hispanic Attorney General. And the Hispanic Secretary of Commerce. And the Hispanic Secretary of Housing. And the Japanese-American Secretary of Transportation. And the Chinese-American Secretary of Labor.

All these people were appointed by George W. Bush, who you are calling racist.

"The incident with hurricane Katrina and the government's astonishing apathy towards the plight of the (largely black) group of victims in New Orleans made this self-evident."

Nonsense. That's just Michael Moore-ish spin by people who hate Bush.

"Surely in a democracy, one should embrace the notion that all are born free and equal. But this simply isn't so in America."

Nonsense. Have you lived there? It's no different to Ireland.


"Why do they hate us?" (Like, who cares)

"according to a survey of eleven countries conducted by the BBC and various polling organisations, a whopping 60% of non-US respondents have "unfavourable" or "fairly unfavourable" attitudes towards the American president ..."

You're changing the subject. I know much of the Arab world and much of western Europe has stupid, even disgusting, opinions. That's why I rate half of western Europe as in the "Axis of Weasels", and I rate much of the Arab world as in the "Axis of Evil". The good guys should simply ignore their stupid opinions and get on with changing the world without them. Not a lot of people supported Britain in 1940, remember, when it was the only fighting democracy left in Europe. We (Ireland) certainly didn't.

I'm not disputing your surveys at all. But you (and that book) conclude that we should listen to these opinions. I think we should ignore them.

"My third and final survey, conducted by the EU in early 2003 found "widespread support" for the proposition that America is reponsible for harming the environment and operates to keep poor countries poor, which backs up a point I made in an earlier post rather nicely!"

No it doesn't.

Lots of people believe the stupid socialist idea that America (or the West) is rich because the third world is poor. That third world poverty is not caused by medieval tribalism and juntas and maniac dictators, but rather is caused by sinister rich white men. So what. Lots of people believe in God. That doesn't mean that God exists.


The stupidity of the world, summed up in one easy graphic

Survey of world opinion, Sept 2008. From here.
Withering put-down of the decadent Europeans: "Kenya probably spends 3c on education for every dollar Britain does, yet they know more about what's going on in the world."
And the rational conclusion: "Why do we care what other countries think about us? Everyone worries about our image abroad. If they are this stupid to think we attacked ourselves, we shouldn't care."


Your surveys are not relevant to the point here. My survey is.

Your surveys are not relevant to the point here. My survey is. The point is what do the Afghans think about their liberation? You couldn't understand how anyone could support that war. I pointed out that the Afghans supported it! If the rest of the world couldn't support their liberation, then shame on the rest of the world.


"Bush is a dictator". America "has no free press".

I said: "Bush is not a dictator. That's just silly. There is a free and critical press (freer than our press in Ireland for a start), and free and regular elections."

You said: "When it comes to Fox News Channel ..."

So what? So Fox has an angle. Who cares? All media have an angle. The New York Times does. RTE and the BBC certainly do. Everyone does.
The Irish Times and the Guardian always spin the news to suit their soft-left agendas (which is why I don't read them much since the war started on 9/11).

No one forces you to watch Fox, so what on earth are you complaining about? If you don't like it, watch something else.

Mark Humphrys



His reply

He says:"Your surveys are not relevant to the point here. My survey is."

I say: My point, was to prove that it is possible to quote statistics all day to refute someone else's but that doesn't mean one of us is right and the other is wrong. Don't get me wrong. The idea of overthrowing the Taliban and installing democracy is fantastic to me. I want them to be happy and free. I just wish that (a) they did it themselves and (b) that was the real reason America bombed Afghanistan in the first place.

I said: "The only people who seem to have a voice in America are white and middle class."

He said:"You mean apart from the black former Secretary of State, the black former National Security Adviser and the black present Secretary of State? And the Hispanic Attorney General. And the Hispanic Secretary of Commerce. And the Hispanic Secretary of Housing. And the Japanese-American Secretary of Transportation. And the Chinese-American Secretary of Labor."

I say:: Yes exactly! Everyone apart from those people. All 35.9 million Americans living below the poverty line, according to an annual Census Bureau survey (one survey I think is "relevant"). 24.4% of African-Americans live below the poverty line, the highest incidence of any racial group. 4.3 million people have slid in poverty during the reign of the Bush administration. That is pretty much the whole population of Ireland. The top 1 percent of all U.S. households own 38 percent of all wealth (property, cash, savings, stock value, and insurance policies.minus mortgage payments, credit card debt, and other debts). Wealth inequality generally fell from 1929 to the mid '70s. Since then, it's doubled. African Americans are 12.2 percent of the population but account for 37 percent of all AIDS cases. Latinos are 11.9 percent of the population but account for 19.2 percent of all AIDS cases. The fastest-growing population of those infected with the AIDS virus is African American women. - taken from villagevoice.com. Yet the war on terror and privatising Iraq's industries without open tender are more important.



My reply


The American media is "not free"

"... taken from FAIR.org"

You seem to think we should accept FAIR.org as an unbiased group. In reality, they are just another biased, left-wing, anti-Bush, anti-neocon group who spin the news the way they want. And that's fine. That's what free speech is all about. I don't like FAIR.org's particular spin on the news, so I read other meta-commentary sites about the media.

For example, I prefer Accuracy In Media, or the Media Research Center. See the latter's survey: TV's Bad News Brigade: ABC, CBS and NBC's Defeatist Coverage of the War in Iraq. They looked at 1388 stories about Iraq on these three massive TV networks, that you claim are "attempting to rally the Americans towards the administration and gain support for the war on terror". They found that 848 stories focused on negative topics or presented a pessimistic analysis of the situation. Only 211 stories featured U.S. or Iraqi achievements or offered an optimistic assessment. Just 8 stories recounted heroism or valor by U.S. troops. While 79 stories were on allegations of combat mistakes or misconduct by U.S. military personnel. I think that puts paid to your theory that the American media is pro-war.




Anyway, as I say, everyone spins, including all the media you read. I don't like FAIR.org's spin, so I don't read it. This is the beauty of a free press - that I'm not forced to listen to FAIR.org. Likewise, if you don't like Fox, stop complaining about it. Watch something else. It's really a very simple point.

I think the problem is really that some people - like the FAIR.org lefties - just can't stand the fact that an alternative is allowed to exist, and even worse, that it is popular. They can't believe people could be so stupid as to be Republicans or right-wing, so they go on and on about how Fox is sinister propaganda brainwashing the masses. It may make the lefties feel better, but it leaves me unmoved.

"My point basically is that the press in America is not as free as one would hope."

Sorry, but really, this is nonsense. A "free" press does not mean a press where everyone buys the papers that you like. A "free" press means a press unconstrained by law. The American press is unconstrained by law. It is a free press. If people use that freedom to voluntarily watch Fox and buy the Wall Street Journal (if only they did!) then tough luck for you, but it does not make the press any less free. This is really a very simple point.

"News Corporation, owned by Rupert Murdoch has essentially become the media arm of the Republican party. This is undeniable."

Who cares? Why is this of any importance? So News Corp tilts to the right. So what. If you don't like it, don't watch it. Almost every other big media outlet in America tilts to the left (see survey above).




And all of Europe is full of shills for the Democratic party and against Bush, often on taxpayer money. RTE, BBC and Channel 4 are brazenly anti-neocon, pro-Democrat, anti-Israel and anti-Bush. I really resent that RTE forces me to pay for their consistently soft-left, anti-American, anti-Israel spin on the news, such as Carole Coleman's dreadful interview. If taxpayers are going to pay for them, the least they could do is be unbiased, don't you think? Same for BBC, who spin the news to the soft-left on taxpayers' money. It really is shameful. At least Fox doesn't force people who don't agree with it to pay for it. Sky News is the only neutral TV channel I can seem to get on my set (I can't get Fox).

"Vast sections of the American media have collaborated with the government in creating a climate of fear in America and attempting to rally the Americans towards the administration and gain support for the war on terror. So overpowering is the voice of republicanism in American media (NOT society!) that it seems like they are the only ones talking."

I don't know what fantasyland you're getting this from. Most of the American media is hostile to Bush, survey after survey shows that American reporters are well to the left of the American public, and most of the American media has been negative and defeatist about the War on Islamism since about early 2002.

Fox is popular because there is a hunger for something different from what the mainstream media is providing. I read Internet blogs for the same reason - because I am hungry for something different to the cynical, negative defeatism on RTE, BBC and the Irish Times.


  • The western media

  • Al Gore's Insolent Assault on Reason, Robert Tracinski, May 23, 2007 - Criticism of a similar argument about the media by Al Gore. "This is by no means a new theme on the left; Noam Chomsky has been peddling this stuff for years. We only think that we are free to write and to speak and to make our minds up for ourselves, the left tells us. But behind the scenes we're being manipulated by the big corporate media, so the votes we cast and the consent we give to those who govern us is artificially "manufactured." ... This leftist conspiracy theory - the view that "big corporations" control everything - has a specific target: not the left-leaning news shows offered by the big three broadcast networks, but Rupert Murdoch and Fox News Channel, the successful cable television home of the right-leaning media."



Two pictures from the 2008 US election sum up the unthinking left-wing bias of much of the US media.
As John Nolte says: "Barack's cover could've just as easily read; REZKO, AYERS, & RACIST CHURCH."



Venezuelan strongman Chavez doesn't like Fox News, Sept 2009.
If dictators and strongmen don't like you, you should be proud.
If they do like you, you should be ashamed.



Anita Dunn (Obama's White House Communications Director) attacks Fox and praises CNN, 11 Oct 2009.
Transcript: "Fox News often operates almost as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party. ... when [Obama] goes on Fox, he understands that he is not going on - it really is not a news network at this point. He's going to debate the opposition. And that's fine. He never minds doing that. ... They are - they're widely viewed as, you know, part of the Republican Party. Take their talking points and put them on the air. Take their opposition research and put them on the air, and that's fine. But let's not pretend they're a news network the way CNN is."
Aren't all journalists meant to be "the opposition"? With Obama in office, we now have a situation where the US government openly says it likes other TV networks and dislikes Fox. Doesn't that mean that Fox is "speaking truth to power" while the other TV networks just repeat the government line.



David Axelrod (Obama's Senior Advisor) praises ABC and attacks Fox, 18 Oct 2009.
Transcript: "All - the only argument Anita was making is that they're not really a news station, if you watch - even - it's not just their commentators, but a lot of their news programming, it's really not news. It's pushing a point of view. And the bigger thing is that other news organizations, like yours, ought not to treat them that way, and we're not going to treat them that way. We're going to appear on their shows. We're going to participate, but understanding that they represent a point of view."



Percentage of each candidate's speech carried by each channel in the crucial Jan 2010 Massachusetts senate election when Republicans took Ted Kennedy's seat (the most dramatic sign yet of an anti-Obama electoral backlash).
From here.



Al Qaeda attacks Fox News in an internal document.
Fox News should be very proud of this.
Al Qaeda does not have major problems with the other TV channels. Shame on them.
From captured letter written in Jan 2011 by Al Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn to an unknown recipient within Al Qaeda.



Republicanism is in the minority in American media, but it is mainstream in American society

"So overpowering is the voice of republicanism in American media (NOT society!)"

You have it completely backwards. The voice of the Democrats is overpowering in American media, while American society leans more Republican. The 2004 election was only one of many occasions when American society showed it was far more Republican than the media. Are you familiar with these figures, that show how Republicanism is mainstream in American society:

"I for one am open to hear all sides of an argument"

Then I suggest you read the RSS feeds on my blog for a few months and see if your opinions don't change. In particular, they will introduce you to the wonderful world of National Review, and my favourite modern writer, Victor Davis Hanson. Though I can't say I read this kind of stuff myself before the age of 33.


Bush is "racist"

You said: "The only people who seem to have a voice in America are white and middle class."

I said: "You mean apart from the black former Secretary of State, the black former National Security Adviser and the black present Secretary of State? And the Hispanic Attorney General. And the Hispanic Secretary of Commerce. And the Hispanic Secretary of Housing. And the Japanese-American Secretary of Transportation. And the Chinese-American Secretary of Labor."

You said: "Yes exactly! Everyone apart from those people."

Good lord, didn't my reply even make you stop and think for a second about your lazy assumption that Bush is racist?


35.9 million Americans are "poor"

"All 35.9 million Americans living below the poverty line, according to an annual Census Bureau survey"

You are confusing poverty and inequality. Serious poverty in historical terms or world terms does not really exist in the West. It exists in the third world, where children starve to death and people genuinely cannot afford medicine, food, clothes and shelter. It existed in the West up to the early 20th century. But it does not really exist any more, unless people deliberately reject the chances they get and the help they are given (e.g. because they are drug addicts or mentally ill).

What exists in the West is "inequality". I refuse to call this "poverty" because that is an insult to the millions of people in the third world suffering real poverty.

Of those 35.9 million "poor" Americans, for example, the majority own a car, a colour TV, a VCR, a telephone, a stereo system, a fridge, a microwave oven and a washing machine. Do you own a car, or a washing machine? The majority have air conditioning (which I do not have).

The majority of those 35.9 million "poor" Americans have 2 or more rooms per occupant (many have more). I and my family have only 1.3. "Poor" Americans have an average of 440 square feet of living space per person (many have more). I and my family have only 240 square feet. This is the nonsense that comes from your (and the Census Bureau's) redefining of inequality as "poverty".


What stops social mobility?

"24.4% of African-Americans live below the poverty line, the highest incidence of any racial group."

First, no they don't. Almost no African-Americans live in real material poverty.

If we talk about equality, however, it is true that African-Americans don't do as well as, say, Asian-Americans. Why is this? The left's simplistic answer is "racism". That may have been true 50 or 100 years ago (when Asian-Americans would have been discriminated against as well). But it's hardly true now. There is nothing stopping blacks, Asians or anyone else working hard at school, starting businesses and raising themselves up.

Well there are things stopping young people leaving the ghetto, whether in America, Ireland or Britain, but it's things the government can't really change - lack of family support, absent fathers, peer pressure from your gangsta dropout friends, and so on. It's culture.

Ghetto culture tells young kids that the only way to get rich is music, sport, celebrity or crime. This of course is rubbish. None of these is a reliable route out of the ghetto. Whereas working hard at school is. (Boring! Boring! But unfortunately true.) Young ghetto kids have to be smart enough to figure this out for themselves, with no help from popular culture or their peers or (often) their families. As I say:

To leave the ghetto the young person must adopt a completely different set of values to the culture all around him - for example, he must work hard in school and try to improve himself. This is impossible for most young people in the face of constant discouragement from his peers, who mock his hard work and may even assault those who work hard in school.

If you don't want to listen to me because I'm a privileged white man, listen to Walter Williams: "Real material poverty, to any significant degree, simply does not exist in the United States. ... Poverty of the spirit and dependency are today's problems." He's written a lot more on this topic.


Conclusion

As you can see, I reject left-wing economics and I reject left-wing foreign policy.

I do, however, respect the left for the pioneering work it did historically for women, blacks, gays, atheists and other minorities. However, all this work has been done, and success has largely been reached, in the West at least, and the action has now moved to the non-western world, where women, blacks, gays, atheists and other minorities are oppressed everywhere, notably in Islamic countries. The right seem to be the only people who want to change this.

So I don't really see what the point of the left is anymore. They seem to be fighting yesterday's battles.

Mark Humphrys


Feedback form

See explanation.
Enter a URL for me to look at:
Enter this password:


Politics      Religion      Politics feeds      Religion feeds      Maps      Since 1995.

Banned in Iran: This site is banned in Iran.

Blocked on Twitter: I am blocked on Twitter by George Galloway MP and Owen Jones and Mo Ansar and Charles Johnson and Frankie Boyle and Carlos Latuff and CAGE and Alaa Abd El Fattah and Aziz Poonawalla and Andy Kindler and Ali Abunimah and David Sheen and Mick Wallace TD and Cllr. Paul Donnelly and Cllr. Enda Fanning and Mary Fitzgerald and Frank McDonald and Donal O'Keeffe and Joanna Kiernan and Rachel Lynch and Allan Cavanagh and Umar Al-Qadri. What a shower. Islamists and Islamic right-wing conservatives. And their western leftist enablers and fellow-travellers.

Who I block: I will debate almost anyone. I love ideas. I will not debate (and will block) people who do the following: (a) Make threats. (b) Accuse me of crimes. (c) Comment on my appearance. (d) Drag in stuff about me not related to the topic. (My professional career, my personal life.) (e) Complain to my employer. Yes, people do all these things.