Saturday, September 8, 2018

Life is "Brazil"

"Brazil" the 1984'ish movie by Terry Gilliam, I mean, where they have endless advanced technology, but none of it works correctly most of the time.  Named after Brazil because of the fascist Brazilian government of the day (and perhaps, once again, today?).

Modern life IS beginning to seem more and more like Brazil in the sense of advancement only causing fragile systems that rarely work well.  (I'm not trying to make a point about the fascist angle of "Brazil" in this article.)

Starting pretty much from the top, how the commanding heights of our government shapes our society.

Foremost, that is of a militaristic imperialistic society that spends over $1T a year on endless wars that produce only more chaos and blowback.  While it can't provide healthcare or ensure full education and employment and decent living for all.  All sectors except the rich have been in a kind of social free fall, being unable to afford the basics of a decent life.

We have a need to reshape our entire energy and transportation sectors to renewable energy, or face total devastation or perhaps annihilation--which has already started for increasingly large number of species.  By turning our national largesse from militarism to renewable national energy and transportation development (I believe it should be owned and operated by the people and free for the people) we could solve both problems: creating the jobs to build a new middle class, and having the money to take care of everyone.  That would be investment, even as done by the public.  Instead, we "invest" in craters, enemies, chaos, blowback, and disasters.

But we can't make these changes, in fact we must pile on the fossil annihilation ever faster, because we must make rich people even richer, and because job #1 (empire).

The Madisonian vision was that the wealthy would take a long term view of the health of society as they had much to gain or loose directly from that health.

That has turned out to be such a crock.  It seems in many cases the richer they are, the more they want to take for themselves at the expense of society, thinking they can survive the deluge.  And giving them an upper hand in the functioning of society leads to the ultimate catastrophe for all, exactly as we are headed.

You see this kind of misdirection being played out all over.  We are "investing" in unsustainable models and often ones that don't work from the start, like private roads, and furiously disinvesting in the health of people and society in the future.

One part of the solution is to negate the Madisonian empowerment of the wealthy, and let the people more democratically decide what is going to be paid for, and by whom, rather than have a government that serves as stenographer to the plutocracy and oligarchy.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

IQ is not Intelligence

I've heard the claim about many kinds of intelligence before.  Believers in IQ promote the idea that IQ type intelligence underlies them all.  But clearly they are not the same, so there must be other factors also.

Here's a different kind of delineation than I've seen before: Analytical Intelligence (like IQ), Practical Intelligence, and creative intelligence, as described in this Guardian article.

IQ tests only capture analytical intelligence; this is the ability to notice patterns and solve analytical problems. Most standard IQ tests miss out two other aspects of human intelligence: creative and practical intelligence. Creative intelligence is our ability to deal with novel situations. Practical intelligence is our ability to get things done. For the first 20 years of life, people are rewarded for their analytical intelligence. Then we wonder why the “best and brightest” are uncreative and practically useless.
Here's the book of the authors.

Here's another recommended book

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Why the British Labor Party should not adopt a definition of Anti-Semitism

The very most definitive answer, from a few days hence to the distant past, addressing this issue, by the most thorough scholar Norman Finkelstein.

Also quoted at Mondoweiss.

I've mostly focussed on the political angle, of the neoliberal Blairites, like their American counterparts, using identity politics to destroy leftism.  This outer shell--and what some might call conspiracy theory (but in this case, widely recognized)--is not mentioned by Finkelstein.  He sticks to the facts of the specific decision that will be made by the Labour Party soon.

He looks within the immediate issue, and finds the demand of what he calls British Jewry to be way beyond the pale in every way.  They are attempting to define legitimate criticism of Israel as antisemitism.

I agree totally, and further that such free speech principles as the Labour party has had in the past ought apply even moreso in America, where they have been under similar attack.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Electric Cars

I have canceled my preorder of a Tesla Model 3.  I completely dislike removing all displays and controls (except for steering wheel and pedals) in front of the driver.  Certain displays and controls must be directly at hand for reflexive use, like speedometer, warning lights, wipers, lights, mirror controls.  The customary way this is done is fine.  I think my 2006 Prius is exemplary in this respect (and most others), with the full complement of stalk controls, steering wheel buttons, and fixed dash control for light, power, and electronic shift, and full internally reflecting (for greater depth...less eyestrain when watching environment mostly) speedometer main display, centered in front of the drivers.

I also had issue with the height of the rear window in the Tesla Model 3, said to allow about as much rear visibility as a Corvette, as measured by Car and Driver.

And the width, 5 inches more than my 2006 Prius (which is physically the perfect design, especially for a bottom heavy automobile, automakers should just clone the package design of the 2006 Prius which combines a relatively narrow and tall design with very good aerodynamics--it's actually brilliant--and the Ford Model E seems to be very similar, and the smooth curves of both are easy on the eyes, sadly the Model E is just slightly too wide for me, and no power folding mirrors that I can see).

Now, I could imagine Tesla fans would point to the automated systems minimizing the need for controls.  And the camera allowing for rear visibility through the monitor screen.  And the power folding mirrors.  (Most car mirrors will fold in, but it's unacceptable to have to get out of the car every day and fold them in to get into garage, and out when leaving.  It's a waste of time, it might be raining, you might be in a hurry and forget, etc.  Because Tesla thought of this, width isn't the #1 issue for me on the Model 3...the controls and displays are...but width is still problematic.  On the Ford Model E, width is the #1 issue)

I don't think one should need to rely on those things.  All the more so if actually doing the driving less.

Anyway, what other cars to consider?

Under consideration are the 2018 Chevy Bolt, and 2019 version of Hyundai Kona, and 2019 Ford Model E.

Ford Model E looks to too wide without motorized retractible mirrors, and I don't see them offered.

Chevy Bolt may look best now, things may change.

Leaf looks fine in 2019, check the details then, particularly active thermal management.

Hyundai Kona, I don't know, it may be best or one of, but also very hard to get.  I'm not fond of the angular stying and it looks like it might be small but that's better than too large.

Here's a Hyundai union leader criticizing EV' as job killers.   I hope and believe US union leaders would not feel this way or say this.  The GM CEO says GM is committed to a future of EV's.

Tesla fans often say that  all other ICE manufacturers including Hyundai building EV's may be a greenwashing exercise, and may involve getting more emissions credits to sell big trucks and the like.  They would claim, it's not sustainable.  So, they're not serious, they wouldn't ramp up if demand warranted.

I think demand will increase and they ultimately WILL ramp up, with EV's displacing ICE as the majority personal vehicle in 10 years or less.  That's what I understand many analysts as saying, and of course Elon Musk himself.  As well as being what I strongly hope will happen.  The most important thing is for those concerned like myself to buy EV's.  WRT the success of the EV revolution, it's less important who to buy it from, and nobody knows which manufacturers will be more sustainable anyway, that depends on many unknowns.

It might be worth noting that GM, Hyundai, BMW, Ford, and other mainstream auto companies are unionized.  Tesla and Nissan USA aren't.

It seemed the vast majority, perhaps 97%, of commenters on the EV blog were strongly opposed to unions.  I thought that strange, greens would most often I believe tilt left, and therefore mostly be favorable to unions, and wondered therefore if many of the commenters were were company trolls.  But all my assumptions could also be sufficiently incomplete or untrue so that when combined with the types who read such blogs it tilts like that.

The claim most often made to denigrate automobile unions is that they result in low quality cars.  This claim is demonstrably false, as most of the best quality cars in the world are union made.  It is true the US made poor quality cars in the late 1960's, and had (and still mostly has) a unionized workforce.  I know because my family owned a 1970 wagon that was virtually falling apart the day we bought it.  But subsequent to that, the US automakers cleaned up their act, and started making (mostly) quality cars again.  It seems what really led to low quality cars was the lack of high quality competition.  Once the high quality competition became available in the form of imported Japanese cars, US automakers were forced to make good cars, even if labor costs had gone up recently.  Quality is really a management decision.  Actually unionized companies, such as Ford, will always say that unions help them keep the quality level higher.

Personally I'd rather buy a union made car on the belief that the workers were less likely to be mistreated, and that unions help keep up wages and benefits for everyone including nonunion workers.  As the unions have faded away in USA, so have wages vs profits, and if all unions go away, workers might be toast.  It's another thought to consider when considering a Tesla.  And it tends to point to Chevy Bolt and Ford Model E, or anything made by Hyundai or German manufacturers as being the top choices for a leftist at present.

Tesla deserves a similar rating for at least paying decent wages and benefits now, AND being dedicated to electric transportation and energy.  But not enough to say ONLY buy Tesla, especially in view of their limited selection, quirky designs, and high prices.

And, of course anyone concerned about the future should buy nothing new except EV's, if possible.

However, the #1 issue in buying a product that meets my needs.  A car with terrible seats does not, nor does a car with inadequate controls, or that's too wide.

The above reasoning had me thinking of getting a Bolt, this year, before the tax rebate expires.  The Bolt has sufficient range, small enough size, and nice normal instrumentation combined with touch screen.  It has excellent performance (better than any car I've owned in decades).  And it's union made--at least the chassis and body.  Sadly, however, the front seats are notoriously uncomfortable, especially for heavier or wider people.  Even with the $6000 upper tier, which provides leather seats and other amenities, the seats are uncomfortable (even worse, according to many reports).  Seats are not replaceable anymore since they are wired into sensor electrical systems (seat pressure, seat belt confirmation) and possibly include airbags.  There was a possibility the Buick version would have better seats, it had been said they were going to be power seats, but the Buick EV based on Bolt will not be sold in the USA for another few years.  BTW, my 2006 Prius has fabulous seats, with very thick foam cushions on the bottom and on the side bolsters, and mine are still in perfect condition structurally, and has always had excellent lumbar support.  The 2001 Prius seat was not as good, I had to supplement it's lumbar support.

So, I'm back to waiting on a 2019 Kona, if I can get one, or a Leaf, if it appears the battery has sufficient thermal control in the new generation.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

The way

Doug Henwood's twitter (which is fabulous, I keep reading) quotes Anne Boyer tweeted last year that the way to reduce both sexual harassment & partner violence is to make sure everyone has food, shelter, healthcare, and what they need to survive not contingent on employment or romantic partnership.

Wow.  And just about everything else bad, I think, and yet it's so simple.

And not that expensive, I think, compared with other things we could probably live without, like full spectrum military dominance.

But, it's just at odds with that large goal of capitalism, to get human labor power as cheaply as possible.

And the solution to capitalism's declining demand problem (as capitalist societies get more unequal, spending drops, ultimately in a self-perpetuating cycle causing collapse unless stopped, usually by government fiat), as determined by mid 1940's planners, was not a citizen utopia, with permanent public sector development for free institutions of all kinds: education, healthcare, entertainment, electrification, communication, etc.  That would compete with private industry, it was said.  (Well, actually, it should eliminate near "private industry" in some areas, but so what...if everybody gets high quality free education, why need there be a private industry for most people?  Etc.)  Instead, and this is well documented, the US Planners from the start (before Soviet 'provocation', which could be interpreted as western provocation) decided on endless war.

Now we've gotten so "used" to endless military spending, it would indeed be a challenge to wind down to a society directed to human needs rather than imperial ambition.  I suggest a corresponding ramp up in public Free Renewable Energy systems, and we need about that scale, just to keep from downward economic spiral.

Few understand we "must" spend staggering amounts...just to keep the capitalism going.  But there's no reason why it has to be on making craters and dead bodies, and in pursuit of global ecocide.

We need to make these changes, I hope that's understood.  Ultimately to the simple result of everything needed for life be free.  (That is my goal, a better one than UBI, I feel, for many reasons.)

The goal is simple, but the journey is challenging.

When the growth era ends, the result is communism or total destruction.

It's simple to see and say that, less simple to lead the way.  To communism.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Russiagate: The Prowar Psyop created by Neocons

People who like me are skeptics of Russiagate (who believe that Russia did not attempt to influence the US election through illegal activities, or collusion with Trump) include nearly all of the antiwar leftists I know of, and smartest people I know of, including:

Edward S. Herman (MIT professor of finance, co-author (w Noam Chomsky) of Manufacturing Consent, the antiwar left's most well known book).  Wrote detailed article denouncing the Russiagate narrative as a classic war consent manufacturing campaign in July 2017, just before his death. Published in the most respected Marxist magazine Monthy Review.

Robert Parry--award winning antiwar journalist who broke major stories about Iran Contra and CIA Cocaine Smuggling--debunked Russiagate talking points several times a week from 2016 onwards Here's one classic report by Parry in late 2017, where he deconstructs reporting in the New York Times about the alleged troll farm that placed Facebook ads, showing most of the reported $100,000 ads had absolutely nothing to do with the electoral politics--such as puppy pictures--and the actual tiny dollar amounts spent on political topics.  Sadly, Parry died of cancer in January 2018, but his website ConsortiumNews continues with contributions by like minded reporters about a wide variety of topics.  It's fair to say ConsortiumNews tilts left, mainly antiwar, pro environment, and pro civil rights, as do all the writers I highlight at the top.

Yves Smith (founder of Naked Capitalism, another of my favorite sites).  He linked this great story by Norman Solomon (another of my heroes) showing the elite manufactured obsession with Russigate isn't paying off, constituents want other issues addressed more.

 Social critic and growth limits theorist James Howard Kuntzler (End of Nowhere, The Long Emergency) declares Russiagate to be a dangerous irrationality driven by justifiable hatred of Trump.

Doug Henwood (New York radio journalist, author of After the New Economy and other books)

Max Blumenthal (antiwar journalist, son of Bill Clinton's key advisor Sid Blumenthal).  In this story he shows that an early Mueller indictment actually shows the influence of Israel, not Russia, a point never made in the mainstream media, but often made in the antiwar and anti-Zionist media.

Caitlin Johnstone (Australian journalist and blogger)

Scott Ritter (journalist, weapons inspector).  Scott has written many articles debunking Russiagate talking points.

Articles by Stephen F. Cohen, Professor Emeritus of Russian Studies at NYU and Princeton, published in The Nation.

Antiwar blogger MoonOfAlabama.

Those who denounce and debunk the Russiagate narrative include all of the writers who appear at ConsortiumNews, Counterpunch, Truthdig, Portside, InformationClearingHouse, GlobalResearch, Moon of Alabama.  Virtually all of the commenters on these and similar many antiwar and left blogs I've ever seen.  Of course--Julian Assange himself, who consistently denied Russians or Russian linked intermediaries leaked him DNC materials.

Many on the left like Chomsky and Glenn Greenwald have hedged, admitting the Russians might have done some things, but denouncing the overreaction, on the basis that we have and continue to do far worse.  The left leaning The Nation simply never talks about Russiagate-per-se even while it is constantly examining Trump himself.

Perhaps not all of who could be described as radical and antiwar, left or right, but most, and all I find respectable so far.

And the antiwar right as well, the including antiwar libertarians such as Ron Paul, and well known Paleocons such as Buchanan and Paul Craig Roberts who write much nowadays about the need to disassemble the US empire.  While many establishment Republicans have made a Russiagate point or two in the past, in general the GOP is leaning more and more against it.  Of course Donald Trump himself has denounced it from the beginning.

The bottom line is...even if this were true, pushing it big could be an electoral disaster, which is exactly what Henwood and leftists have been saying for a long time, and now a major national poll as reported by Norman Solomon above.

The Russiagate Conspiracy Theorists

Who promotes the Russiagate conspiracy theory, that Russians illegally conspired with Trump?  Most strongly the "centrist" Democrats...the Clinton Campaign started the Russiagate narrative with the claim that Russians were behind the Wikileaks release of material showing favoritism toward Hillary at the DNC.  The Clinton campaign quickly changed the message from DNC corruption to Russian Influence.  (I tell this story in greater detail below.)

So, yeah, as very many I read are pointing out now, Russiagate was originally a plan by the "centrist liberal" elites to destroy the antiwar left, and it may be destroying the middle as well, by setting them up for another "unexpected" electoral wipeout.  One wonders how much the elite cares.

The Story

The incredible takeoff of Bernie Sanders during the spring of 2016.  By late spring, the mainstream media was giving people many reasons NOT to vote for Bernie, of course starting with the claim that Bernie was less electable and if he were selected as Democratic candidate.  Then more and  more stories arose discrediting the supporters of Bernie as thuglike "Bernie Bros."  That was failing too, it was beginning to look like Bernie might pull ahead.  At a critical point, Wikileaks relased emails proving the DNC was working against Bernie.  Bernie was now vindicated and he might have been victorious if this were the last word.  But this new story didn't have much play, because almost immediately a new story replaced it: the story that it had been Russians had hacked the DNC and given the emails to Wikileaks (and never mind what the emails showed).  In fact the Russiagate story of alleged Russian Hacking began hours after the still univestigated murder of Seth Rich, as if to change the narrative quickly.

So the story, if not the fact, was a war on the left from the very beginning.  And it has continued from there and morphed into a general purpose condemnation of leftists, the antiwar left and right, Russians, and so on.

The Problems with the Russiagate Story:

* Despite all the screaming heads on military-industrial-complex owned or operated "mainstream" media, including "public" media, no actual public evidence has been presented for the central claim of collusion between Trump and Russia in activity which illegally influenced the election.  We are being asked to believe the word of Intelligence and other Government officials who have frequently lied us into war and other disasters before.

* Not only have Intelligence agencies lied, they have murdered, drugged, tortured, and many other crimes, with not a person being held accountable.  And yet, these are the ones, some of them, often anonymous, that we must trust to believe the Russiagate stories.  Already some have been proven to be hacks on Russiage itself.

* It is a war consent manufacturing psyop, designed to demonize Russia and countries allied with Russia,  to ramp up the New Cold War which could result in nuclear annihiliation, rather than spending money on useful things, like renewable energy which might save humanity.  But along the way to annihiliation or collapse, he military industrial complex will make more money on "modernizing" weapons systems, because of course we continue to fear the evil other and must be "prepared" to counter them at any cost.  The consent manufacturing aspect of Russiagate was clearly spelled out by

* It is a McCarthyite war on leftist and antiwar journalists and websites.  Almost from the beginning antiwar and leftist websites who questioned Russiagate or other aspects of establishment malfeasance were categorized by mainstream media as Russian Trolls, to be marginalized by blacklisting, casting out of search lists, and so on.  This has been implemented more and more.  Bernie Sanders supporters were the first to feel the heat, when the leak of information about DNC favoritism toward Hillary was immediately buried with the (still unsubstantiated) claim that Russians were behind it, with the implication that Russians might prefer the nomination of Bernie and therefore it might not be patriotic to vote for him.  Those demonized by Russiagate included many of my favorite websites, including ConsortiumNews and NakedCapitalism.  Even now Bernie is feeling heat for not doing enough to stop Russiagate.

* It was an attempt to tie the hands of Trump so he would not be able to ramp down tensions with Russia as he claimed he would do during his campaign.  Indeed, he has still not lifted the sanctions on Russia, though he did, this month, actually meet with Putin, which should have been hailed as a good thing in itself.  But because he did not follow the Russigate script, and punish Putin for his alleged interference, which neither Trump nor other Americans believe, it was called Treason in the mainstream media.

* It is beyond hypocrisy, since it is well documented the US has substantially influenced over 81 foreign elections, and continues operating very well funded influence operations today through the National Endowment for Democracy and other "aid" and intelligence operations.   Billions of dollars are spent every year on such things, which include the well known Radio Liberty (formerly Voice of America).  We have operated heavily in Eastern Europe and continue to do so in all of Latin America.

* And that 81 is not even counting the government violent overthrows we orchestrated or contributed to, such as in Guatemala, Iran, Chile, and many other countries.  This is far worse than mere electoral "influence."

* And then, the wars, including Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iran, Libya, Syria, and Yemen, which we engaged or contributed or still contribute to.

* The fact that we still sanction Russia!  For reclaiming a tiny bit of territory they had controlled for nearly 200 years, where in a referendum over 90% wanted to resume Russian citizenship, and not the western government that had resulted from the most recent US backed coup.  This was a bloodless "conquest."  Compare this to our endless war in Afghanistan and proxy wars elsewhere.

* I'm all for tactically slowing Trump down, though I'm not impressed by the "sex" scandals so far.  But anyway, scandal mania against Trump as was done to Bill Clinton would be fine with me.  What irks me is the New Cold War with Russia that Russiagate puts front and center, and all the dangers and ill consequences that portends, and of course the war on independent and leftist and antiwar thinking.  Fighting Putin or Russia in the way won't do anything good for the people said to be hurt by them, such as women and homosexuals in Russia, or Syrians, or global warming (since Russia is an oil guy said we must stop Putin because of that...but the US is an even larger oil producer).

* The way to do those good things, is first and foremost, is to end war and empire.  Only then will anyone be able to afford to make the changes necessary.  So ending the New Cold War is actually our highest priority.  We must do that first, or nothing else important is possible.  To start that process, it's worth toning down the advirsarial rhethoric.  To stop looking for faults in others.  To be as generous as we can, overlook trangressions, as long as we can still move forwards.

* Even if there were a Russiagate as the media spelled out, it would have only made a tiny difference in the election.  I doubt it would have changed any precincts, let alone states.  Our own plutocracy spends billions to influence this game, before and after elections.

* In that context, it's hard to believe the Russians would have tried their hand on the small scale indicated in the official stories, such as the DNC emails.  The danger of being caught would be far worse than the possibility of doing anything useful.  They would also have had to have better statistics than anyone else to do the clever targeting required.

* In the case of the leaks about DNC favoritism of Hillary over Bernie, the DNC server was never provided to government authorities.  It was sent for examination by a firm with known anti-Russia neocon ownership, matching the attitude of Hillary herself.  This is one of the central flaws, and much of the privately gathered data could have been doctored or selected.  Trump was correct to comment on this.

* The media has pooh poohed the potential involvement of Seth Rich.  However, even Julian Assage has suggested his involvement by mentioning him in response.  Actually, here too, investigation of the Seth Rich murder was stopped under pressure from a top Democrat.  Seth Rich could have been murdered precisely because he alone could prove who the leaker was (assuming it was himself) and certain people would rather that information be replaced with a new more useful perpetrator: the Russians!  Also, of course, as a threat to anyone else who might get the idea of leaking from the DNC.

*  Jesus expressed one aspect of this idea of fundamental ethics the best when he said to remove the log from your own eye before protesting the speck in your neighbors.  That is exactly applicable here, including magnitude as I've argued above.  We should be ethical, and be most critical of our own faults, before criticizing others.

* In the case where there's not even any evidence, it's worse.  It's "bearing false witness."  We should not be talking about this unless we are absolutely sure.  To be sure, one should hear all sides, including the Russiagate skeptics, so we can grasp "the whole truth."  But the mainstream media would try to make you think that is unpatriotic or white supremacist (they have an angle for everybody).

* It's a distraction, from the things we should be focused on, which our own government is now doing, including our current ongoing very large scale influence and war operations, which we should not be doing, and should stop right now.  And our own oil production, mistreatment of immigrants and certain minorities, etc, etc.  It's even a great time waster for me.  How much time I'd have for other things if Russiagate narrative had never been advanced (by Hillary and friends first, I believe).

* Polls are now showing the Russiagate focus is not doing the Democratic Party any good.  Polls suggest politicians need to be focused on constituents immediate concerns.

More Links:

UK News aggregator 21Wire has assembled a treasure trove of anti-Russiagate articles, including a vast number by Robert Parry, but also Ron Paul, Stephen Cohen, and others.