2016/11/25

Dan Little: Coarse-graining of complex systems

Dan Little writes about Coarse-graining of complex systems.

I am not sure whether these debates have relevance for the modeling of social phenomena. Recall my earlier discussion of the modeling of rebellion using agent-based modeling simulations (link, link, link). These models work from the unit level — the level of the individuals who interact with each other. A coarse-graining approach would perhaps replace the individual-level description with a set of groups with homogeneous properties, and then attempt to model the likelihood of an outbreak of rebellion based on the coarse-grained level of description. Would this be feasible?

Emphasis Mine

Marxists use coarse-graining as a matter of course. We have the ideas of classes with the possibility of dividing those classes into strats.

For example, we divide a Capitalist society into two (2) major classes:

  1. Capitalists
  2. Workers

There are other classes, but they do not figure in the major dynamic of the class struggle between Capitalists and Workers.

The Capitalist class can be further divided into two (2) major strata:

  1. Big Capitalists
  2. Small Capitalists

Even though Donald Trump, Mark Cuban, Eric Schmidt, and Bill Gates have wildly different temperments, histories, world-views, and political philosophies, they have enough similarities to be lumped together as Big Capitalists. Here the coarse-graining is concentrating on those attributes that are essential to model the behaviour of a typical Big Capitalist.


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2016/11/21

Chris Dillow: On class politics

Chris Dillow writes On class politics.

There is, however, a more intelligent form of class politics. This starts from the fact that class isn’t a state of mind but an objective fact: if you’re in a position of subordination to an employer, you’re working class whatever you feel. This means that being working class unites otherwise disparate people. The immigrant chambermaid, the skilled coder whose boss is a twat, and the academic facing the neoliberalization of the university are all working class.

This means they have some common interests. All would benefit from increased control in the workplace and increased bargaining power.

In this sense, class politics should be a unifying force. And there needn’t be a conflict between class politics in this sense and identity politics, for at least three reasons:

Of course, all this is easier said than done. One challenge for the left – which is as great today as in Marx’s time – is to build class consciousness. Politics isn’t just a marketing exercise aimed at getting our person into office. It’s about building a constituency for intelligent class politics. This is a long game.

But let’s remember the underlying fact here. The interests of the working class are, to a fair extent, the interests of most people. In this sense, the working class is not a problem in politics. It’s the solution.

Emphasis Mine

Thank you, Donald J. Trump, for overthrowing identity politics, and allowing class politics to reappear.

No more, the soothing voice of Barak Obama lulling us into a prison of apathy.

Trump has truly awaken us.

Now what are we going to do with this opportunity?


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2016/11/18

Chris Dillow: Ideology in economics

Chris Dillow writes about Ideology in economics.

Now, you might find this surprising. We Marxists are supposed to be spittle-flecked ideologues, and yet here I am demanding facts and utility.

But of course, there’s no paradox at all. As a Marxist, I have no skin in the game of whether the CAPM or efficient theory is right or not: such matters are orthogonal to my concerns qua Marxist. And in fact even if Robert Lucas’s main points were right — that business cycles are an optimum response to technology shocks with little welfare cost — a lot of Marxism would survive. Such claims are consistent with the notion that capitalism is exploitative and alienating and leads to unacceptable inequalities of wealth and power.

It’s sometimes said that Marxism brings ideology into economics. For me, though, it takes it out.

Emphasis Mine

Dillow is correct to insist that theory fit the facts.


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Ted Rall: Trump’s Fascism Picks Up Where Obama’s Leaves Off

Ted Rall writes that Trump’s Fascism Picks Up Where Obama’s Leaves Off.

Could President Trump deploy drones against American citizens (or non-citizens) on American soil? Yes, he could, says Obama’s attorney general Eric Holder. Obama could have declared that he — and future presidents — did not have that power. Better still, he could have asked Congress to pass a law banning domestic drone killings. Instead, he went golfing.

From what we know of Trump’s likely cabinet appointments, the next few years promise to devolve into a dystopian nightmare of authoritarian repression the likes of which few Americans ever imagined possible. As we head into the maelstrom, it will be tempting to look back fondly upon the Obama years as a period of relative calm and liberalism.

But don’t forget the truth. Fascism under Trump will merely continue Obama’s fascism with a smiley face — a fascism that we let him get away with for far too long.

Emphasis Mine

Rall is correct to point out that the instruments of State terror have been accumulating for some time. The smiling face of Obama has made them seem quaint.

The election of Trump has awaken some people to the fear that these instruments could be used against them.


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2016/11/17

Ted Rall: No, Everything Is Really Not Going To Be Alright

Ted Rall writes that No, Everything Is Really Not Going To Be Alright.

Now add the situation. Imagine 6 or 12 or 18 months from now, when these characters face the inevitable political crisis: terrorist attack. Natural disaster. Economic meltdown. Race riot. Nuclear crisis.

These aren’t personalities predisposed to respond to these challenges with introspection or compromise. Beginning with Trump himself, these are people with a cop mentality who, like a hammer, see everything as a nail to be pounded into submission.

Bear in mind, they’ll be 6 to 12 to 18 months inside the Washington Beltway bubble. Trump’s canny campaign instincts, his intuitive understanding of populist anger that got him elected, will have been dulled by lack of interaction with the public. Moreover, Team Trump will be 6 to 12 to 18 months into an unprecedented period of constant left-wing criticism and street protest. Think Richard Nixon: they’ll be deep inside a bunker mentality.

Everyone in the cabinet room will favor moves to curtail civil liberties: tracking and cracking down on leftists, preventative detentions, new police forces to protect the state and ferret out illegal immigrants and those who hide them, the use of drones to kill Americans on American soil (something Obama said was OK), even more abusive NSA surveillance.

In my book “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” I described the president-elect as “an accidental authoritarian.” He thinks of himself as a patriot, a good man. He hasn’t been planning to lead a plot against America.

Trump’s fascism will come about naturally, caused by the perfect storm of his ego, his CEO mentality, the politics and personalities of the men and women with whom he is surrounding himself, and a set of developments that are all but inevitable.

Canceling the next election? For these characters, it will be an easy call.

Emphasis Mine

Running any company, one has to be an authoritarian as one has to place Capital over People. Trump's instincts have been honed by his business experience.


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Joan Williams: What So Many People Don't Get About the U.S. Working Class

Scott Adams agrees mostly with what Joan C. Williams reveals about What So Many People Don’t Get About the U.S. Working Class.

For months, the only thing that’s surprised me about Donald Trump is my friends’ astonishment at his success. What’s driving it is the class culture gap.

One little-known element of that gap is that the white working class (WWC) resents professionals but admires the rich. Class migrants (white-collar professionals born to blue-collar families) report that “professional people were generally suspect” and that managers are college kids “who don’t know shit about how to do anything but are full of ideas about how I have to do my job,” said Alfred Lubrano in Limbo. Barbara Ehrenreich recalled in 1990 that her blue-collar dad “could not say the word doctor without the virtual prefix quack. Lawyers were shysters…and professors were without exception phonies.” Annette Lareau found tremendous resentment against teachers, who were perceived as condescending and unhelpful.

Michèle Lamont, in The Dignity of Working Men, also found resentment of professionals — but not of the rich. “[I] can’t knock anyone for succeeding,” a laborer told her. “There’s a lot of people out there who are wealthy and I’m sure they worked darned hard for every cent they have,” chimed in a receiving clerk. Why the difference? For one thing, most blue-collar workers have little direct contact with the rich outside of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. But professionals order them around every day. The dream is not to become upper-middle-class, with its different food, family, and friendship patterns; the dream is to live in your own class milieu, where you feel comfortable — just with more money. “The main thing is to be independent and give your own orders and not have to take them from anybody else,” a machine operator told Lamont. Owning one’s own business — that’s the goal. That’s another part of Trump’s appeal.

Emphasis Mine

Williams seems to be saying that the WWC wants to be part of the petite-bourgeoisie. She also notes that there is very little contact between the working-class and the Capitalists. Indeed, the hated face of the current system is the professionals who are also part of the petite-bourgeoisie.

Class trumps gender, and it’s driving American politics. Policy makers of both parties — but particularly Democrats if they are to regain their majorities — need to remember five major points.

Emphasis Mine

Williams lists these points as:

  1. Understand That Working Class Means Middle Class, Not Poor
  2. Understand Working-Class Resentment of the Poor
  3. Understand How Class Divisions Have Translated into Geography
  4. If You Want to Connect with White Working-Class Voters, Place Economics at the Center
  5. Avoid the Temptation to Write Off Blue-Collar Resentment as Racism

Williams concludes that:

Saying this is so unpopular that I risk making myself a pariah among my friends on the left coast. But the biggest risk today for me and other Americans is continued class cluelessness. If we don’t take steps to bridge the class culture gap, when Trump proves unable to bring steel back to Youngstown, Ohio, the consequences could turn dangerous.

Emphasis Mine

One of the good things to come out of Trump's victory is demolition of identity politics. In its place, people should cultivate their class consciousness.

Workers have to understand how the Capitalist system works. Their dream of becoming self-directed workers is being crushed by Capitalism, and can only be realised through Communism.


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2016/11/11

Ted Rall: Here Comes the Rise of the Anti-Trump Left

Ted Rall writes that Here Comes the Rise of the Anti-Trump Left.

Meanwhile, out in the streets where real political change can happen, I expect to see an anti-Trump resistance incorporating anarchists, veterans of the Occupy Wall Street movement, communists and socialists, radicalized left-wing Democrats, old hippies from the 1960s, Black Lives Matter activists, pro-immigrant people, work together and individually to oppose the radical right policies that we are going to see flying out of Washington over the next few years.

Out on the streets, Trump’s repressive tone will prompt brutal police tactics to which nonviolence will no longer be seen as the only acceptable counteraction. The “peace police” of the wimpy protests of the 1990s and 2000s will go extinct. Nonviolence will retake its rightful place as a noble and desirable tactic, but no longer the exclusive approach to taking on repressive government goons.

Donald Trump will be atrocious for the United States, especially with the Republican House and Senate. He’ll attack immigrants, Latinos, Muslims, victims of police brutality, God knows who else.

But he’ll be good for the Left. And, in the long run, the Left will be great for us.

Emphasis Mine

Trump might be good for the Left, but he will con those who do not have a grounding in Marxism. He is a Capitalist through and through. In looking out for himself, he is looking out for Capitalism.

The opposition to Trump must be based on principles, not on what we think he said. Trump has undergone a great journey that his own supporters do not comprehend. They think he is still the racist, homophobic, xenophobic, and islamophobic misogynist bigot that they had come to love.

They do not understand that Capitalism uses racism, homophobia, xenophobia, islamophobia, misogynism, and bigotry as tools of social control to divide workers against themselves. These tools are only useful in that they keep society under control, and will be abandoned once they cease to be useful.

I predict that Trump will legalise Gay Marriage in the USA before Australia does. Homophobia is losing its edge as a means of social control.

Even if Capitalism stripped itself of racism, homophobia, xenophobia, islamophobia, misogynism, and bigotry, we would still oppose Capitalism and work to replace it with Socialism, because the underlying social relations in Capitalism prevents people from reaching their full potential as human beings.


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2016/11/10

Hanson wants Assange released

Hanson wants Assange released..

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson will petition the Australian and American governments to work on the immediate release of "political prisoner" Assange, who has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for four years fearing extradition to Sweden then the US.

"I hope that in light of his great service towards freedom and truth, President-elect Donald Trump will consider granting Mr Assange a full presidential pardon," Senator Hanson said in a statement on Thursday.

Emphasis Mine

I was stunned when I read about this on Twitter. Some of the comments that followed were ignorant in they said that Donald Trump was not the President of Sweden (should be Prime-Minister). They missed the point that Hanson raised: extradition to Sweden would surely be followed by extradition to the USA to suffer the same fate as Chelsea Manning.

This appeal should be extended to:

  1. Edward Snowden
  2. Chelsea Manning

It is especially important in Manning's case because she is suicidal, and needs to be released from torture.

Even though some of the people who are now campaigning for Assange's pardon are racists, I agree with their reasoning.


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2016/05/28

US election: Donald Trump rules out US presidential debate with Bernie Sanders

US election: Donald Trump rules out US presidential debate with Bernie Sanders.

US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has ruled out a one-on-one debate with second-place Democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders, killing off a potentially high-ratings television spectacle.

The suggested debate would have sidelined likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton but given Mr Sanders a huge platform ahead of California's June 7 primary.

Emphasis Mine

Trump is afraid of Sanders because a debate would show Sanders to be a compelling candidate against him. Sanders is able to articulate policy positions that align with the values of the American voters without being condescending. His ordinariness would contrast strongly with Trump's garishness.

If this debate ran before the California and New Jersey primaries, Democratic voters would probably vote for Sanders over Hillary Clinton. This might even give Sanders a majority in the pledged delegates.

With a majority or close count in pledged delegates, the super-delegates would come under great pressure to choose Sanders. Clinton may still win the Democratic Party nomination because she has managed to give the sanction of the Democratic Party machine from whom the super-delegates are chosen.

If that were the case, then Trump would benefit from the perceived corruption of the Democratic Party nomination process, and may even attract sufficient Sanders supporters to win the Presidental Election.

Agreeing to this debate would be a high-risk strategy for Trump, as:

  • Sanders has to be convincing enough for voters in the remaining primaries to vote for him over Clinton;
  • Sanders has to be damaged enough by Trump so that the super-delegates choose Clinton over him;
  • Sanders' supporters have to remain upset enough to vote for Trump over Clinton.

There are too many moving parts for this to work for Trump successfully.


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