Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Capital Mobility

Capital Mobility is a more caustic neoliberal force than the more intuitive trade in goods by distant producers.

It seems inevitable today, but foundational economists Adam Smith and David Ricardo assumed no capital mobility.  Capital mobility changes everything.

With capital mobility, highly automated factories and procedures, inexpensive global transport, and so on, the global wealthy can drive an infinite race to the bottom in wages.

A good economy is one that is good for everyone, this was not what any economist would admit to enabling.  Capital mobility was hardly considered into the the 1960's.

As well, financial de-regulation (began with Carter, accelerated under Reagan) further propels the global race to the bottom in wages.

Of course, mainly what so-called trade agreements are about are corporate rights to supercede human ones, in the interest of greater and greater profits, and lowered quality of everything, including life.

Not really trade at all, but things that, help improve capital mobility.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Thank You, Barack Obama

One of my leftist friends is in a rage about being asked to thank Obama.  He points out the unceasing military adventurism, unbroken from the previous war criminal President, more drone and other bombing than ever, and more inequality-increasing trade agreements.  I could add to that increasing family-breaking deportations.

But I think there are a number of things people can be thankful for.  Here's my list:

The Iran Deal
Halting the Keystone Pipeline
Halting the pipeline at Standing Rock
Setting aside certain parts of the Arctic from drilling
Allowing the Security Council resolution condemning illegal settlements in Palestine
  (many previous Presidents let such resolutions pass, some like Reagan even supported them, but that seems unreal now given the ever increasing stranglehold of Zionism over our government)
Requiring a vote (which failed) before escalating war in Syria
Granting clemency to Chelsea Manning and Oscar Rivera

That's what comes to mind right now.  These are all things which required political courage: standing up to entrenched monied interests, mostly the deep imperium state.  They are the kinds of things we don't see much of anymore in the wake of the JFK assassination (he also occasionally stood up to the imperial deep state...ultimately at the cost of his own life).  And they have had positive impacts on the lives of many people so far, and potentially vastly more in the future, if the deals stick.

You may note a few things I didn't include, such as Obamacare, which I consider a mixed blessing which I personally detest because it forces poor people to pay for crappy high deductible insurance they can hardly use--as well as being an icon of neoliberalism, but has probably resulted in some number of people getting more lifesaving treatment than they would otherwise have been able to pay for--and note I'm not including the alleged benefit of being able to (forced to, actually) buy crappy insurance.  Also I detest the tax levied on decent health insurance, and also the labeling of decent health insurance as an unnecessary luxury ("Cadillac"), it's not so much that I mind paying the tax but that it may lead others to weakening or eliminating decent employer-subsidized coverage which is the only decent private health insurance which exists now.  Anyway, wrt Obamacare, I wouldn't repeal the law either, without doing the only thing better--public medicare for all.  I merely wouldn't try very hard to save it.  I also fear that "saving" Obamacare could be packaged with the privitazation of Medicare, to great disaster.  So I'd rather they cut off the blemish, if they must, rather than lose the finger, but the best approach is to let things stay as they are, and hope for improvement later, rather than toss the ugly goblet to the floor now.

We can't thank Obama for closing Guantanamo, obviously, but poorly told is the tale of how he tried (weakly) but Republicans successfully blocked that at every turn.

We can't thank Obama for actually building a new political movement, except we hope that a new political movement arises from the counterforce concentrated by the Bernie Presidential Campaign which opposed Obama's natural neoliberal and neocon successor Hillary.

We can't thank Obama for not being Hitler, not because he was Hitler but because that is not the kind of thing we thank Presidents for.  (I can't imagine it anyway--it's criticism by faint praise.)

And, sadly, the de-energizing politics of neoliberalism and costly imperialism which Obama inherited and continued has led us directly to Trump.

Henceforth, we may not need to worry about what to thank Presidents for.  We'll be a lot more worried about other things.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Comey, not Putin, "Hacked" the election

FBI Director Comey influenced the 2016 election more than just about anyone by holding a special press conference in October about Hillary Clinton claiming "new evidence" with regards to Hillary Clinton's email server when she was Secretary of State, "new evidence" which was apparently not very important because the whole matter was dropped not long later.  Comey is a Republican hard liner so it is not surprising he would attempt to influence the election to favor the Republican candidate.  To say he is a republican hard liner is just about the same as to say he is a fascist.  The constant refrain about Hillary's email server was heard throughout the election at Trump rallies.  It was the #1 issue that was used (along with the phony Benghazi "scandal") to claim Hillary was a lawbreaker and a liar.

Meanwhile, the only specific allegations heard so far about Putin involve a much earlier event, the release of DNC emails through Wikileaks in the spring.  These revelations were part what should have been an important part of news, that the DNC was not operating in good faith and fairness, but were trying, in every way they could, to crush the Sanders candidacy so the corporate candidate Hillary could have won.

Sadly, this news did not get very far (the mainstream media never mentioned the contents of the leaked emails, and only made a story that the leaking had occurred, even then making it sound like a heinous act with Hillary the victim) and had almost no effect on the primaries.  People who might have been concerned were Sanders supporters who already had much evidence that this was happening.  On the other side, as far as many Hillary supporters were concerned, the DNC was doing the right thing by clearing the way for the candidate they believed (albeit probably wrongly) had the best chance of winning.

So these revelations had almost no effect on the primaries (so the DNC could keep on stealing the nomination for Hillary) and by the time of the general election, they were almost completely forgotten, and they wouldn't have been very relevant to that either.

Now the National Insecurity types who are pushing the deliberate smear about Putin "hacking" the election (based essentially only on the Wikileaks release of DNC emails) are not really concerned about dumping Trump.  This whole blast of allegations is really designed to do just 3 things:

(1) Continue the war against whistleblowers,  like Assange, Manning, and Snowden, who have heroically risked their careers and lives to bring important truths to the public (they are all heroes in my book).  The leaking of the DNC emails were a Good Thing in my book, real news, regardless of who was behind them.

(2) Continue the Cold War against Russia, which is worth a trillion dollars a year to military contractors and their ilk.

(3) Put Comey off the hook, making the world safe for crypto fascists like him.

This sort of misdirection is extremely common in the reporting of "news" (by organizations tied into the media/military industrial complex).  This is precisely how phony memories are manufactured.  Now people may come to believe that events that had little to do with the general election results were decisive, and forget about the actually decisive events, like the Comey press conference.

Update: I read one commenter on Friday say that the whole phony hacking thing, as well as the current relentless barrage of media about Putin's atrocities, etc [we've killed millions in the past 15 years, how many have they killed?  we've bombed hospitals, entire cities like Faluja, I'm sorry, but my over outrage over them will have to wait until they catch up] is to force Putin to make the war with Russia that they thought they had in the bag with Hillary*, and to get the people behind it.  (*They might not have, perhaps everything as SOS was just a rouse to get her elected President, and then she'd shut down empire like a peace nik.  Just kidding. There was hope enough she would stay clear of actual warfare to vote for her (with Trump looking unpredictably worse or better, sadly more likely worse).  But in either case, the drumbeat would begin, the pressure would be applied until the President had to Command the Forces.  The Media and Deep State would be applying the same forces, Hillary would not get some kind of pass.)

Many many technical specialists are saying the DNC leaks must have come from a physical transfer, an internal source, not electronic hacking.  Among other details, NSA captures all such stuff, and could have known immediately about electronic transfers involving Russia or Russian agents.

And then there's all this hyperventilating about a bit of imporant news that came out, when we pull of military regime changes in countries we don't like.  There's no doubt that we are pushing information that suits our interests everywhere, and certainly some of it is phony or crookedly obtained.  Where are the saints in this room?  Why are we being so hypocritical all of a sudden?

Hypocrisy and the absolutism that it engenders dry the kindling for war.

Jesus Christ said to deal with the log in your own eye before chastising your neighbor's speck.

And we're far from dealing with our own problem--our extension and operation everywhere only makes us less safe.  We either perform, support, or protect continuing disasterous (for the recipients) military operations all over, and have done so nearly continuously for decades.

It was our desire to keep Russia out of the Middle east that had led to the current Syrian conflict and many preceding ones.  We encouraged protest and resistance, we supported rebel military forces with very deadly weapons, which then ended up in the hands of even more ruthless military forces.  It could only have been expected to lead to things that we have seen.

Further comments on December 18:  A friend claims the US is not "worse" than Russia.  She admits that US actions in Iraq and other places has been horrifying, but wonders how I determine we are worse, since Russia has also performed clear atrocities in many places, such as Checnya and now Syria.  So, we're the same, i.e., war criminals.

First, to be clear, I'm thinking about the excess deaths caused by our activities.  Excess deaths refer to the full counterfactual, had we taken no actions at all, and what would have been the difference.

In many places, violence has arisen because of actions we've taken which some might not consider "violent" at all.  But clearly in many countries we've seeded information and mis-information (as it should be remembered, all information is also disinformation, because no information is complete) to foment regime change, and this has had terrible effects, violence caused, for example, in the efforts of governments towards crushing rebel militias.

By this reckoning, virtually all of the major armed violence in the middle east in the past 40 years has been caused by US actions, even and especially including the currently headline crushing of resistance in Aleppo by Russia and Syria.

We could have predicted that as the consequences of our meddling starting years ago, if not decades.

I'm not alone in assessing that, Pat Buchanan also points to the US history of meddling as the essential cause of recent turmoil in the middle east, including the violence of the retaking of Aleppo.

And then, of course we've done sanctions (sanctions against Iraq in the 1990's alone were said to have killed one million, and that's probably an underestimate...did you hear much about this on the News while it was happening...and that's just one page in the collection of books on our sanctioning activities).  We've provided arms to countries (say, Israel is a good example, we give them $3B weapons a year, but our history of giving weapons of all kinds is very long...we gave rifles to Pinochet for example, and most recently arms to "moderate" rebel groups in Syria...what if other countries were openly arming anti-US groups within the US borders?

And then, drone attacks, no-fly-zones (which are essentially shooting ranges) and so on, have killed a large number.

Covert activities of all kinds, leading to violence through the collapse or near collapse of governments.

And then, huge wars, the most memorable having been Vietnam, for no good reason, except intimidating democracy movements in other countries.  Iraq and Afghanistan are in that category too (most would concede Iraq had not good reason, but the war in Afghanistan had no justification in international law either, the then-government of Afghanistan promised to cooperate in fair terms with the extradition of bin Laden, and even if they hadn't an action through international system of justice should have been taken).

And I'm sure I'm forgetting things.  But since the beginning of the cold war, I think I may have heard numbers as high as 50 million excess deaths caused by US activities.

So on the other hand, what about Russia?  Here I see I must have been wrong, most likely the number  is in the millions...I'm guessing 25 million or so.  So it's only about  2-to-1 greater deaths on our side.

But actually that was under the old Soviet Union, which hasn't existed since 1990.  So perhaps we have to only really compare since that time frame.

But this still does include the millions (from both sanctions, war, and occupation, and so on) of deaths in Iraq.  And really it also should include the virtually all of the deaths in Libya, Syria, Egypt, and so on, because we were fomenting rebellion from way back, backing rebels, and turning a blind eye to what was being done with our support.  And it should include all the deaths of Palestinians, because of both our military hardware support and diplomatic support of Israel.

Meanwhile, wrt Ukraine, I'd count the blame mostly on the US side.  Once again, we essentially created the rebellion, armed it, supported it, and so on.  The action on the Russian side was actually a counter-attack, more toward restoring the previous order.  How does that count?  I think generally it counts less, but also it's possible to say that excess deaths may have been caused by both countries.

I'd apply the same rule in Syria.  We're responsible for essentially all the excess deaths, we started the mess by fomenting trouble certainly as early as 2003 and perhaps as early as 1946.  Russia is responsible for that share of deaths it caused in the counter-attack recently.  Our share is greater almost by definition.  And there's could be negated by arguments such as saying the violence on the Russian side was for the purpose of defending a sovereign state (Syria), a once greater sovereign state.  And on our side, the usual laughable "Freedom and Democracy" (meaning, they weren't following OUR orders).  Of course we used as justifications "Chemical Weapons" even when the best evidence suggested it was our chemicals used by rebels.  Even if violence is in someway defensible like that, however, it may have still been avoidable by better actions, so it is still excess.  Probably the fairest accounting is for all the excess deaths, regardless of the defensibility of the reason.

The argments one hears from within the US (on, say, NPR) would make one almost always believe it was the US actions which are legally and morally justified, not the reverse.  But when I look at the map of countries, and my understandings of international laws, and morality, it most often seems, that most actions the US has taken are not legally and morally justified, hardly not a single case I can think of, whereas sometimes the Russian actions are.

Anyway, I still believe, by any fair standard, our level of excess deaths is far greater, though it might not be 200x compared to Russia in the 1991-2016 time frame, possibly as low as 10x.

But then, why not say "we're all the same, war criminals?"  Because in saying that, we're not dragging ourselves to the Hague, but we're always suggesting the Russians should be countered, perhaps even in some disruptive or violent way.

And this really gets to the final aspect of the morality of all this.  We are morally responsible for our own actions, and not for the actions of others.  And we have no moral authority to protest the actions of others, so long as we continue our own, either.

And that's why, we should keep our focus on our own imperial wrongdoing, and work towards stopping it, far and away above being "concerned" about the immoral actions of others.

What is sometimes proposed, is that in some cases (which seem to happen inordinately often wrt US intervention) we have an Obligation to act.  But the truth is, we have no obligation to act to further our own interests, to interfere with the legitimate internal decision making of other sovereign states, or to act in any way militarily except through internationally established institutions.  Any other action, as we often do, is actually illegal.  But because we do it, it's not illegal.

Even wrt these international institutions, the lines are such that military action is almost never a moral or ethical obligation.  It may be a moral obligation to accept refugees, especially refugees created by a destabilized region one was the initial and major causative factor for.  So in that regards, we are actually morally obligated to accept all Syrian refugees who are not terrorists.  But we prefer the non-obligations of making more refugees, by conduction, supporting, and otherwise helping military operations achieve more deaths, displacements, and other damages.

(Actually, it's quite possible that international institutions lack the moral authority to act as well, though I usually presume the UN does, as it does nominally represent all countries.)

The ultimate truth in "can one ever be morally required to act militarily" is boiled down to the simpler question.  Can one ultimately be morally required to kill someone else.  I believe the answer to that is no.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Inequality and Eduation

If perhaps inequality and poverty were not the entire cause of poor educational and life performance, directly and indirectly, it would almost certainly be vastly reduced in a society of vastly reduced inequality and poverty.
If only we could have and arm and eliminate inequality and poverty, which is of course what politicians sometimes do, especially of the conservative streak, or make outrageous claims that unloading tax from the top will somehow cure all, when it typically has the reverse effect, enabling the top to cash out more freely from social investments. So we have fewer factories, and fewer laboratories than we should have, and way more gilded on great mansions.
Well, actually, we could. Poverty and inequality are greatly affected by public policy choices. A modern society requires a large and useful social democratic state. Free healthcare and education for starters (not unknown in the world). Ultimately, there should be nobody unfed, unhoused, uneducated except by truancy.
And how could this be paid for? Well, the USA is the richest country in the history of the world, has incomparable advantages, incomparable resources, many of the world’s smartest people, and an informative history. We spend a vast fortune on a fantastically wasteful imperial enterprise, almost just for the sake of spending the money, and in fact
actual citizens (if not foreign investments) would almost entirely be safer if the whole project were abandoned, and defense became an entirely internal affair, such as building badly needed renewably energy based infrastructure.
For starters, resume taxing corporations, high incomes, speculative trading. Add to that carbon, offshoring, rents of all kinds. Everything but consumption.
Of course, the trend of the past 36 years is exactly the reverse, and the current scenario is acceleration simultaneously into the sinkhole and over the cliff. And while the democratic socialist approach gained some appeal recently, there has been a longstanding effort of eliminating all such thinking, and mainstream america believes somehow that the source of all their problems will be the cure for it.
This could be reversed by better education, historical and scientific. So maybe the bug is a feature?
Well, there’s another part to this. Are the financial and administrative elite themselves so uneducated as to believe their doing the right thing, that somehow they can continue to live in their isolated sanctums accumulating accounting wealth while the rest of the world collapses? Don’t they understand that true wealth is the ability to create, and that is maximized by having everyone doing their best?

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Political Correctness is bad

Shaming people for speaking their mind, for communicating in the words they know, is hurtful and harmful.  And it is capably argued here, that the rise of Trump was because he was so clearly smashing it.

I was pointed to this not by some right winger but from Richard Stallman's Political Notes.

I have never understood this issue until reading this article.

However despite being what one could call a leftist elitist, I've never thought shaming people is a good approach to anything.  I have disliked seeing people (and me) shamed as Communists, Socialists, etc.  I prefer talking about ideas and principles, not tribes, identifications or labels (though, I can talk about that too, and I would not offended by being called any of the things I just mentioned).

Does the badness of shaming people as a rhetorical technique extend to shaming them for being racist, xenophobic, anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim, misogynistic?

Yes, absolutely.

First, if there isn't an argument, it isn't necessary to always make one.  Here I deviate from legions of leftist theorists, but not from practical philosophers.

Second, if there is an argument, one doesn't have to take on the total field.  One should argue at the key weakness, which is always a mutually agreeable point, such as all people should have equal rights.  Starting from agreement, or close to it, and moving forwards is the only way to argue with anyone.  And to even make one small step forwards a day is all that is usually even remotely possible.

Starting from an attack, which shaming is perceived as, one cannot possibly move forwards.

OK, sometimes I may have forgotten this.

National Defense should mean National Defense

George Washington had it right: No Foreign Entanglements

Since then, however, James Monroe and Teddy Roosevelt have added some very bad ingredients to US policy, let alone nearly all Presidents since Teddy.

National Defense as provided by the US Government should mean exactly that: National Defense.

It should mean defending US Citizens within the US Borders, and nothing more.

If a US citizen decides to go outside the US borders, that's fine.  The US should not be a giant prison. However, once they leave the US Border, they are not entitled to US National Defense.  They are entitled to Diplomatic Services when and where those are available, including refuge in a US Embassy, but not a traveling defense shield against any and all threats.

Similarly, the US should not be defending other countries, or even other peoples in other countries, either.

That is not the responsibility of the US, and if the US tries to do it, it will get it wrong.  Even if it were to do the impossible, and get everything right, it would still be blamed for doing it wrong, but the fact is, this job is impossible to do correctly for the US, which is the national government of the United States, not the policeman of the world.

This is pretty obvious to most people most of the time, but the US has been way off track for a long time.

In all the time of the existence of the United States of America there has only been one arguable exception: World War II.  However, the US did not officially enter WWII until it was attacked, showing that to some degree US planners and US citizens were not far from thinking along these lines.

One problem then was that we hadn't been sticking to anything like neutrality beforehand.  When we were attacked by the Japanese, we deserved it.  We had already been contributing to the war in a non-neutral way.

While I would agree that WWII can be argued, I would stand on the side of those saying strict neutrality from beginning to end would have been preferable.  And providing humanitarian services, such as permitting more Jews to immigrate to the US--that would have been good.

Here I am disagreeing with my favorite documentary movie producer, Oliver Stone, who argues in his historical TV series The Untold History of the USA that not only was US participation in WWII morally and strategically necessary, it was delayed too long.

In my view that US participation in WWII created and essentially guaranteed the uber imperial state we have become ever since, to the detriment of the world and ourselves.