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Sunday Reading

Written By: - Date published: 9:32 am, April 21st, 2013 - 9 comments
Categories: interweb - Tags:

My regular Sunday piece of interesting, longer, deeper stories I found during the week. It’s also a chance for you to share what you found this week too. Those stimulating links you wanted to share, but just didn’t fit in anywhere (no linkwhoring).  This week: Vienna 1913, politics in our genes, burying Thatcher and failed economic theories.

A quirky one to start: a look at Vienna 1913 – when Hitler, Stalin, Trotsky, Tito and Freud all lived within about a couple of miles from soon-to-be-assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

The BBC also looks at a study showing that some of our politics may be genetically determined.

The Guardian, meanwhile has people wanting Thatcherites to admit the suffering caused by their idol, and Thatcherism to be buried, not just Thatcher. With the irony of so much public money being spent on the funeral of the cheerleader of small government goes the trouble caused by it being in the month benefits are slashed and tax cuts handed to the rich.

Far from saving Britain, Thatcher’s government delivered rampant inequality, social breakdown, disastrous financial deregulation, pulverising deindustrialisation and mass unemployment. A North Sea oil bonanza was frittered away on tax cuts for the wealthy and a swollen benefits bill as public services were run down, child poverty escalated and social mobility ground to a halt.

But for all that, her apologists insist, Thatcher did what was necessary to turn Britain’s economy round. But she didn’t. Growth during the 1980s, at 2.4%, was exactly the same as during the turbulent 1970s and lower again in the post-Thatcher 1990s, at 2.2% — while in the corporatist 1960s it averaged over 3%.

And despite claims of a Thatcher “productivity miracle”, productivity growth was also higher in the 60s (and it’s gone into reverse under Cameron). What her government did do was redistribute growth from the poor to the rich, driving up profits and slashing employees’ share of national income through her assault on trade unions.

Conservative Finance Minister George Osborne, fresh from crying for Thatcher but not the 2.65 million unemployed on his watch, is now having the IMF and all intellectual support for his austerity cut.  The Guardian continues coverage of the failure of Treasury’s favourite paper demanding cuts for growth.  They also show up the failure of “tax competition” – how it penalises the poor and costs states without any perceivable reward (except for the owners of multi-nationals).  Growth seems to have no correlation to tax-take either.

And the Guardian looks at the deafness of another Tory idealogue, Education Minister Michael Gove, as he disdains the advice of experts and calls for longer school hours and a much-criticised curriculum.

Over in the US there’s a look at how the NRA is more powerful than money, the president and 90% of US public opinion.  And also a fact check of the dodgy stats the NRA uses to justify its case.

Mother Jones also looks at our addiction to Nitrogen fertilisers – as in the explosion at West, Texas – and it’s implications.

excess nitrogen that seeps into streams and eventually into the Mississippi River, feeding a massive annual algae bloom that blots out sea life;emissions of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon; and the destruction of organic matter in soil. […] the US fertilizer industry increasingly relies on cheap natural gas extracted by fracking

Meaning the fossil fuel industry has gained a powerful ally.

To finish on a brighter note: An excellent video of Steve Jones, geneticist, who fears the phrase “the gene for X”, and wants to see the effort of the Human Genome Project repeated (& expanded) into a Human Social Project to find out what makes us and society tick, and expand on our knowledge of how a more equal society works better for all of us etc.

Life expectancy has been going up 6 hours a day every day since 1900, and all that is due to changes in the environment, none of that is due to changes in genes. [..] Many people think that if we can read DNA it could tell us when we are going to die. But we already know that from just a few questions: How old are you? Are you male or female? Do you smoke? Do you have a history of inherited diseases? Are you obese? But the biggest question is: What’s your zipcode. The difference in life expectancy between the richest and poorest zipcodes in a city like Glasgow is an astonishing 28 years. And zipcodes have nothing to do with genes. [..]

The answer is that we don’t change the way we are, we change the way we live.

9 comments on “Sunday Reading ”

  1. rosy 1

    “A quirky one to start: a look at Vienna 1913 – when Hitler, Stalin, Trotsky, Tito and Freud “
    Ah – missed Lenin

    In January 1913 alone, Josip Broz Tito, Sigmund Freud, Adolf Hitler, Vladimir Lenin, and Leon Trotsky (the latter two being regulars) were patrons of the [Cafe Central].

    Apparently the intelligentsia that met in Cafe Central used to shout across the room to each other in the midst of their political arguments, arguing about who would start a war. By 1918 the city was ‘Red Vienna’ when the Social Democrats came into power for the first time. As far as I know, except for the years of the war and post-war occupation, it’s been a ‘red Vienna’ ever since. It’s definitely the place for a political hobbyist like me to be for a while.

    Anyway, from the BBC link:

    Frederic Morton imagines Hitler haranguing his fellow lodgers “on morality, racial purity, the German mission and Slav treachery, on Jews, Jesuits, and Freemasons”.

    “His forelock would toss, his [paint]-stained hands shred the air, his voice rise to an operatic pitch. Then, just as suddenly as he had started, he would stop. He would gather his things together with an imperious clatter, [and] stalk off to his cubicle.”

    Morton also forgot Hitler’s persecution of homosexuals. Meanwhile, Freud lived on Berggasse, which is also the location of Cafe Berg, our much-loved local cafe. 85 steps from our front door (counted one night on the way home when we were talking about how very many cafes and restaurants were in the vicinity). I went there for lunch on Thursday and said a quiet Prost! to the passing of NZ’s gay marriage law. Cafe Berg has been catering to the gay, lesbian and transgender community for the past 17 years. There couldn’t be a more appropriate location for this cafe and its associated bookshop – Ol’ Hits would be turning in his grave, Freud might just give a puzzled smile, I’d like to think.

  2. Draco T Bastard 2

    Growth seems to have no correlation to tax-take either.

    Well, over the last few decades what’s happened is that higher taxes on the well off correlates with more growth. Not that I’m a fan of growth you understand.

  3. Cafe Central in ‘Red Vienna’ really is a great setting for a political play that thrashes out the arguments about genetic and social determination of politics.
    With Freud as the interlocutor we have a distinguished lineup on both sides.
    I put Freud in the middle since his theory lends itself to both genetic (libido) and social (repression) interpretations.
    And I count Stalin as on the side of Hitler, since for him ‘blood’ and ‘nationality’ was a powerful influence in shaping one’s ‘fatherland’ in stark opposition to Lenin and Trotsky.
    In fact around the time (1913) Lenin took Stalin to task for his position on the national question.
    Stalin was sent to Vienna to write an article on the National Question. What is a nation? etc.
    Lenin didn’t like the results. Stalin thought nationalism was based on ‘national character’ a psychological concept he borrowed from Otto Bauer (a native Viennese). He thought there was little room for nationalities to merge and that revolutionaries had to bury these differences into common class struggle.
    These differences would have lead to public rows but probably not across the cafe in the hearing of Hitler.
    On his death bed in 1922 Lenin again took Stalin to task for this Georgian chauvinism. Trotsky called Stalin’s regime in 1935 ‘fascist’ living off the backs of the workers.
    The climax of any Cafe Central exchange would be between Hitler, Stalin and Trotsky over the Stalin-Hitler pact, since the former certainly raised the threat posed by Trotsky in his conversations with Stalin.
    http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1939/09/ussr-war.htm

    • ghostrider888 3.1

      enjoyable read red

    • rosy 3.2

      Yes, a great read and you’re correct, RR. It’s the perfect setting for a political play (not these days – it’s full of tourists who come for the architecture not the political history).

      The climax of any Cafe Central exchange would be between Hitler, Stalin and Trotsky over the Stalin-Hitler pact, since the former certainly raised the threat posed by Trotsky in his conversations with Stalin

      It’s no wonder Trotsky was pursued to his death for showing the contradiction, hypocrisy and ultimately the horror of the H-S stance. There could be a fast forward to present day U.S/U.K state capitalism as foretold by Hugo Urbahns and Bruno R. (Thanks for the thought-provoking link, I’ve just spent a full morning on my political education).

      In Vienna back then, half the population was immigrant, as a full third still is today. I wonder how that would play out in the nationalist-fatherland narrative. It could turn the political play into a political farce.

      I’d like to get Alphonse Mucha in there somehow, he also was in Vienna for awhile, albeit a few decades earlier – another nationalist, but this time for his annexed Bohemia. His art fits the Cafe Central architecture. He eventually died after being denounced for his art (in particular, his Slav Epic depicting the history of the Czech and Slavic people) and interrogation by the Gestap0, in Prague in 1939.

  4. ghostrider888 4

    coincidentally, the prime role played by environment (nurture) is echoed in karols thread of comments.

  5. Rogue Trooper 5

    a beautifully composed post BUNJI

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