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Self-respecting despots endeavour to pass their oppressive regimes as enlightened dictatorships. Fascists love that.

Before the Righteous Left rears proudly up, no, dears, you started with the aim of using a dictatorship of the proletariat to attain your goal of Perfect Communism in the Beehive State, remember? The Will of the People, you reckon, guarantees that the enlightened elite of the Inner Party works, strenuously, for the good of the Many — even if there are always a stubborn and reactionary Few in the gulag.

But that is working in China, or so we are told. Hundreds of millions have been lifted out of poverty, and the country, uniting 18% of humanity, thrives toward hyper-duper superpower status. It works like clockwork, minus the occasional massacre, oppression of the odd minority, reeducation camps, fostering of the odd hermit kingdom — niggling stuff like that. But what are a few illusory individual rights, when set against the common good? …


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Rioters by Reuters

Its reputed inventors held that the rule of the people should be exercised by all citizens. Athenian citizenship, however, excluded women, slaves, foreigners, and men under 20 years of age.

Was that because the contemporaries of Pericles considered those categories not people? Far from it, as women were heard in court and were considered already too influential — remember Xanthippe. Slaves and foreigners had ways and opportunities to become free citizens, and young men sometimes just grew up.

The clue, to the main reason for those exclusions, is in the age limit for young men. By their 20th anniversary, men were supposed and quite likely to have taken part in some armed combat, defending the interests of the polis. In modern terms, they had put their arses on the line for their country. They had learned to cooperate and to place the life of their brothers in arms above their own. They had practiced some form of effective communication and had received a modicum of education — at least enough that they could be an asset to the community. …


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Don’t reach for the rocks, just yet. I have some solid progressive reasons for my unconditional support of another term for the Donald.

Think about it. Has there been another POTUS who could lie as assiduously as Mr Drumpf and get away with it, popularity unscathed? Not even Clinton, who could say “I’m not here” with confident chutzpah and be believed, told porkies so entertainingly.

It all started with Ford. No, not Henry, of Assembly Line Null-Therblig fame, sponsor of The Protocols, but the president who came after Tricky Dicky left. Remember? The bloke who couldn’t walk while chewing gum, whose tumbles from Air Force One caused the red carpet to receive a thick foam underlay? …


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The Pinkfoot are in ecstasy, as Elizabeth “Rampant Rabbit” Warren turns her rhetorical arrows on the Book of Palefaces and its Chief Sugarmountain.

I am not a fan of either Zuckerberg or his Facebook monster media platform, and I am not a particularly spiteful enemy of Mrs Warren, and I rather like the Democrats. Great fan of Obama’s, too.

What I really hate are populist myths, and Mrs Warren is a bit of an abuser on that account. Not more than most Law School professors, mind you, who walk a fine line between teaching courtroom procedure and sticking their noses into social critique — which they should not do at all. …


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No matter the regime, let alone the space between regimes (one wishes…) the question most often asked these days is “Can [leader of choice] make [favourite country] great again?”

The answer is, emphatically and without exception, no.

To understand why this is the obvious answer, we need to define great.

Great as in Empire great? You know, when [favourite country] ruled the world, or the waves, or the sun never set on it, or all of the above. Think about all the effort and expense that went into that; consider that it did not happen as the consequence of a master plan, as the empire was the gradual and cumulative result of a series of incidents, accidents, blunders, remedial action after said blunders, takeovers, piecemeal conquests, inheritances of someone else’s problems, rescues of failed companies. …


Why did working class English voters support Brexit?

Let’s not forget that only England and Wales had a slight majority for Leave.

And that is telling, as the deep issues within our post-industrial society apply where coal mining and commodity industry used to reign. When those became obsolete for our level of development, and rightfully closed, successive governments wilfully neglected to do anything significant about the former workers. Instead, a bewildering array of ineffective — and very costly — welfare mechanisms grew to keep the disadvantaged dependent on government aid. …


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Thank you, Suzuki1314!

Yes, we can, if and only if we change a few deeply ingrained habits.

First, we must stop talking about money, power and religion in the same context. Those ‘entities’ are quite different and, while there is an illusion that they are interdependent, they are not.

‘Money,’ this dirty word that many people fear to pronounce and replace with ‘currency,’ was and still is the most liberating invention in our history, right there with the art of lighting a fire, the wheel, and sliced bread.

Seriously. Before money, we had to rely on barter, charity, and ritual profligacy. Whenever we needed something, we had to go looking for someone who had it, and was willing to exchange it for whatever we could offer in exchange, or moved by pity or social spirit to give it away. Meaning that we had to accept whatever quality we found first, or keep looking. …


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Prison is hell. Which is fine, as prisons were initially designed to be a little sample, in this life, of what the sinner finds in the next. Hell and jail are key to retributive justice: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth.

Retributive justice aims at nothing but punishment, explicitly as a deterrent to future criminals. Prisoners are deemed deserving of it and of whatever may happen to them inside, just like in a divinely mandated hell. …


Right, I’ve just been accused of being an arrogant tyrant. Again.
So I’ll play Despot, the game for Ambitious Dictators.

The scene: I believe I lord it over a half-ruined country, which my family — from a minority religious sect — has milked for two generations, against the wishes of the majority — from a rival religious sect.

Both religious sects, mine and the evil devil-worshipping one of the rebels, have been killing each other consistently for the past 12 centuries.

I have friends: a bunch of oil rich fanatics who want to use my semi-demolished country to attack one of my bad neighbours to the South — from yet another sect we believe eat live babies for breakfast; and an ex-spy and secret police agent from a vast but filthily run country to the North, sitting on a huge pile of nuclear weapons of unclear functionality, who also happens to be a big oil producer and wants to contain rebellious bastards from one of his colonies — who happen to belong to the same sect of another of my neighbours to the South, who have oil coming out of their arses, are armed to the teeth and want to see me dead. …


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There is xenophobia, and homophobia, and photophobia (the fear of paparazzi…) The newest one seems to be cyberphobia, or the fear that The Machines will take over and exterminate humanity.

Nowhere is this as blatant as in the debate about ‘killer robots’ — automated/autonomous battlefield systems. At the recent UN CCW, whimsically named ‘Convention on Conventional Weapons,’ some AI experts warned about battle robots becoming weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), shooting up everyone and everything in their path, in uncontrollable frenzy.

Controls and legislation were called for, petitions signed, letters written, with the intent of banning the manufacture and deployment of such weapons.
Well, go right ahead, folks. You will have even less success than you had with landmines and cluster munitions and gases and biologicals: all hidden away now, but ready to come out of the closet if serious war breaks out. …

Flavio Zanchi

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