Chavez and land reform

Victor the Apostate Windbag has some sensible thoughts on Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez: "Chavez is no socialist, his land reform strategy… may have provoked the ire of the US and even absent landholders in the UK, but has, if we are honest, more in common with the land reform of Lincoln, than that of Lenin…"

He may, possibly, be going a bit far with "quite objectively, there is no better government on the Earth today than that of Hugo Chavez Frias". But the land reform thing is an extremely annoying point, and one well worth dwelling on.

Robert Mugabe’s land reforms in Zimbabwe are bad, not because they involve expropriating land from foreigners who stole it in the first place [*], but because they involve taking the country’s most productive land and giving it to corrupt murdering thugs to fuck up (and because said corrupt murdering thugs frequently murder the relevant foreigners).

Crooks like Mugabe have given a bad name to land reform. But it’s an essential step if we want to see market economies in the developing world: effectively, we need to replace the feudal system that prevailed in colonial Africa and South America with one based on individual property rights for the people.

[*] I find it hard to get terribly excised about what Robert Mugabe has done to wealthy Europeans, who either have or are eligible for developed-world passports anyway. The reason he’s one of the worse men alive is because of the appalling suffering he’s inflicted on vast numbers of poor Zimbabweans, who don’t have the same opportunity to flee.

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Unseen publications act

Primary research is overrated, in journalism and in general. Unseen Movies provides strong evidence for this: it’s a selection of movie reviews, written by someone who hasn’t seen any of the relevant movies.

As far as I can make out, there is no way in which any observer, no matter how well-informed, could tell the difference between these reviews and genuine press movie criticism.

If I’d’ve thought of it before now, I’d’ve reviewed the site before actually reading any of the reviews. Damn, I hate missing opportunities for cheap gags… (via Nosemonkey)

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Appeasing the chavs

Guido has a grimly amusing summary of Labour’s immigration plans, which are aimed squarely at winning the votes of racist scumbags. The Tory plans are even worse. The Lib Dem ones aren’t, which is another reason to vote for them.

Many people – most recently Julie Burchill, who is mad, but also some who aren’t – have been claiming that just because a certain unpleasant subset of white working class people want foreigners to fuck off back to their own countries and stop coming here, doesn’t mean we should condemn them. After all, non-racists are all middle class poseurs who live in Islington (where there are no immigrants), sip lattes, and don’t understand what it’s like to be poor.

This sounds remarkably like the alleged Guardian logic about crime, which nobody actually believes but which authoritarians like to use to stereotype liberal views: "it’s not the criminal’s fault; they had a hard time of it and we shouldn’t blame them". It’s bollocks when applied to crime, and it’s bollocks when applied to immigration too.

I have a preferred solution to offset any concerns about overcrowding: for each immigrant we take in, we kick out a native Brit who’s worse than them. With net migration running at 150,000ish per year, this shouldn’t be a major problem: the 186,701 people in Portsmouth alone would keep us going for a good 14 months [*].

[*] This is a joke. I’m sure there are at least a hundred people in Portsmouth who deserve to stay in the country.

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Speaking of tolerance…

"I’d like to have seen the world’s billion or so Catholics wake as if from a dream and say "Damn! The man was a fraud!" They could have run through the streets of Italy kicking his head along like a football, singing "that’s the end of all that bullshit!". Better that than all this inane reverence." – Ryan at Full Spectrum Democracy

No, Ryan’s post isn’t ignorantly anti-religious: it’s polemically anti-clerical, which is a fine English tradition.

Meanwhile, normally-sane-ish Non-Trivial Solutions has a spectacularly wrong-headed post. Upsettingly, he’s attacking a halfway sane article by Stephen Pollard, who is usually a twat.

"Anti-Catholicism good. Anti-Semitism bad. Right, got it, Stephen…", says NTS. Well, yes. Antisemitism is about hating people of the Jewish race; anti-Catholicism is about hating the institutions and leaders of the Catholic Church. The former is indefensible; the latter is perfectly defensible; and the difference is sufficiently obvious that one could only fail to grasp it if one were being deliberately obtuse.

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Backing Blair

"Replace Bliar with whomever you choose before the election, and we’ll withdraw from the field." – Tim Ireland articulates his demands

I’m still sceptical about the Tory-vote-recommending side of Backing Blair: if Labour looks at the election results and sees a swing to the Tories (for whatever reason), it’s unlikely to send party strategists in a less knee-jerk, populist and insane direction.

However, I heartily endorse voting Liberal, Green, Plaid, SNP, or even Respect rather than for the current lot. Not because I have any great desire to see the latter four increase their political power, but because all would send Labour the correct message.

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Sometimes, all you can say is ‘WTF?’

"It is worthwhile reminding ourselves of just how committed to reason, and to its scientific and philosophical manifestations, mainstream Western theism has always been." – Edward Feser at HackCentralStation

It’s an amazing article. Feser seems to be claiming that liberals are ignorant bigots because they don’t accept the logical validity of medieval philosophers’ proofs of the existence of God. He also appears to claim that the reason liberal professional philosophers don’t accept these proofs is because they’re only aware of "silly caricatures" of them. Patronising buffoon.

(he also claims that Stalin and Mao were Marxists: always a good way of confirming someone doesn’t know what the fuck they’re talking about… Via Squander Two, who has a rather different take)

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Mikhail, not Karol

Ever since Ronald Reagan’s death, I’ve periodically railed against the bizarre right-wing myth that Mr Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II were responsible for the end of the Cold War.

Marc Fisher in Slate and Jonathan Steele in the Guardian have some excellent articles this week reminding people of the truth – that Soviet communism was an inherently unsustainable system, and that the decision to end it was made by the Soviet elite and Mikhail Gorbachev in particular.

Two small points from me: the economic issue dogging the Soviet Union in the 1980s was not spending to keep up with Reagan’s loony arms race, so you can’t even credit him with the country’s economic collapse; and why the hell would you want to as a right-winger anyway? If that’s your political boat, better to say that communism failed because the market is the only efficient way to allocate resources…

(via Geraldine)

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Rapid dismissals

Megan McArdle is busy attacking strawmen in the gay marriage debate. She suggests it would be unwise to assume it won’t impact on straight marriage, listing various examples of previous marriage-related things that people assumed wouldn’t affect marriage but which have – easier divorce, social security for unmarried mothers.

However, she ignores the fact that all her examples directly affected individuals’ economic incentives to get married or not to get married, whereas allowing gays to marry does not affect the economic incentive for heterosexuals. There has so far been no convincing argument that there will be any impact on straight marriage.

Meanwhile, US police are sending undercover college graduates undercover into high schools to entrap classmates into selling them weed. At which point, the classmates are arrested and jailed. This outcome is a shame: it would be better if at this point the classmates pummelled the evil ratting cheating bastard to death.

In other news, George Bush has committed an impeachable offence, and Stephen Pollard is a wanker who invents almost as much anti-semitism as Melanie Phillips. Speaking of the latter, her husband Joshua Rozenberg seems to have problems understanding how the Internet works, as well as the Indian visa system…

(informed by Peter C, Vice Squad, someone, and England Project)

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On putting things up one’s orifices

Ambulance-blogger Random Reality has a series of posts concerning objects lodged up people’s arses. Recommended, if you find that sort of thing entertaining.

This also gives me the opportunity to tell my favourite ‘objects lodged up people’s orifices’ story: my doctor friend had a couple of A&E visits from a local, erm, ‘community patient’.

Each time, he had a different object lodged in his urethra. The first time, it was the arm of his glasses. The final time, it was a razor blade. A safety razor blade, but still…

Following the removal of the razor blade, the patient asked my friend to amputate his back. "But why do you want your back amputated?", she asked. "Because it’s black", came the reponse.

You can’t argue with that (pretty much literally, in fact: what on earth would you say?)

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