Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Troll vs Contrarian

A Contrarian takes a position.  Specifically a position contrary to the other's (or the mainstream's) position.  Therefore a contrarian is subject to rhetorical attack both for their criticism and for their contrarian position.

A religious skeptic, for example, isn't just skeptical of religion, they adopt atheism.  That makes religious skepticism not trolling.

A concern troll need not take a position, though what they sometimes simply do is adopt the mainstream position, or the position of the group they are mingling with, without argument or defense.  Instead they focus all their rhetorical energy in attacking that very position indirectly by showing all the nuances that must be maintained in arguing about it, thereby constraining the argument ultimately to the advantage of an opposing position.

All arguments are deliberate falsehoods, in the sense of limiting the information to a particular set of ideas among a universe of others. Not the whole truth is an important aspect of truthiness, some sentences capture the whole truth better than others, but none can capture very much of it.  So we should not be surprised when all arguments can be in some ways shown to be false.  But there is no need to belabor the point.  The heart of an argument as an argument is primarily in it's capturing the primary essence, which if accepted means it becomes the most subject to qualification, not the least.

Thursday, August 6, 2015


Gunther Witzany has an interesting philosophy of biology outlined in this book from 2000.

I like many things he says very much.  He is deeply concerned about the Ecological Crisis of our times, what this means, how it came about, and how we need to change in order to save ourselves and our biosphere.  I believe his is absolutely correct that the now globalized ideas that originated from Western society need to be changed and fundamentally.

His ideas that living nature is structured in a communicative nature, I am finding interesting, perhaps not totally compelling yet.  I would think of this as one facet of living nature, not the whole ball of wax.  Further it seems to me that his path to the correct values and behaviors to save the biosphere need not necessarily come from his formulation, and therefore his formulation may not be foundational in that sense.  I thought, and still believe, I was already there, even in my Westernized and nature-detached POV.

This reminds me of arguments I once had with a fellow Sierra Club member who argued that to preserve nature, one had to "appreciate it" basically by spending lots of time in the wilderness.  This has always seemed wrong to me.  It has always seemed to me that many people who spend far more time in the wilderness than I do (for example, Dick Cheney) are still flooring their SUV's straight into the Ecological Crisis, and me, sitting alone in front of my computer screen, I can see quite clearly that it's wrong to overpopulate and over carbonize when many of those wilderness people don't.  I'm not quite sure how I got to the values I have via communication with nature except via the nature that exists, somehow, inside my own mind and may have been there for quite some time.  I think my ideas come from some other basic ideas, such as what it means to be a good person.  To be a good person is to do good for all.  Allism was the word I coined in High School.  To do good simply for a particular idea is wrong, and likewise to do good only for other humans at a cost to other species, etc.  Somehow this was intuitively obvious to me without having spent a life communicating with nature.

Anyway, he writes: "Today we find ourselves confronted with an ecological crisis. … No longer is merely the survival of mankind at stake, but the survival of most higher forms of life."

Actually…the potential threat is greater than that, the ultimate threat is to all life, though many discourage talking about the possible Venusification of earth.

He says this crisis is basically the result of a 100-year-long cultural development, which has escalated in the last 40 years (1960-2000).  Actually, anthropocentric cultures go back to the first Sky Gods, well over 2000 years ago, and even that probably wasn't the beginning of anthropocentrism.

He writes: "…As opposed to cosmo- or biocentrically oriented cultural traditions, Western civilization adopted a world view that made humans the focal point and undisputed beneficiary of the nature around us.  … Within western civilization, and particularly in its modern form, i.e., scientific-technically oriented industrial society, non-human nature was degraded to a mere resource."  He then further describes that our civilization similarly reduces humans to a mere resource in the same way.

He goes on "This anthropocentric approach to nature, which is first exported and subsequently internalized by the affected cultures, pushes both the reproductive capacity of these societies as well as the capacity of the exploited natural resources to their limits."

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Why does capital not deserve moral respect? Because all property is theft!

I imagine many readers (actually, I don't have many readers) being offended by my attitude toward debt in my axiom "Default Early and Often!"

These angry readers may say things like: People should be responsible!  People shouldn't sponge off of others!  Etc!  Essentially taking moral outrage at bankruptcy.

They're making it too hard.  There is no reason to believe that following the rules of Capital (i.e. Property…and as now constituted not including slaves in-the-traditional-sense) represents morality or immorality.

It fundamentally can't because the origin of property itself is theft!  Original land property, and many other kinds, was simply taken from the commons.  It's continued existence and trading is the continuation of an original crime.  It is not cleansed of immorality by successive generations who may have actually "contributed" to the general welfare in the process of earning their share.  Stolen property is stolen property regardless of whether you paid good money for it.  Furthermore the biggest share has always gone, all along, to the biggest crooks, liers, and slavers.  The notion that we're supposed to have moral respect for this, who owns what and can therefore tell us what to do in order to survive, is positively laughable.

Now if you want an easy life, or even a tolerable life, going along is the way to get along.  Living in the context of an original and continuing Grand Theft of Everything it's most often easiest to follow the rules, and be square with the devil of who owns what and how much.

But when you have the clear opportunity, and nothing to lose except your fake sense of morality…

It doesn't take them more than a second to discharge one fraction of their their debt to society, through limited liability or other legal means, bribery, or other means, or even to acknowledge it exists.  And these are the ones we ultimately obey as rent is paid to the original theft.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Polyamory? Good Luck! Polygamy? Well, no.

I've taken a kind of libertarian position, uneasily, regarding polygamy.  But this fascinating blog blows all my thinking about this away.

Polyamory is fine, assuming real polyamory among roughly free equals and not sex slavery.

Polygamy, multiple marriage, is something different.  It involves a contract, explicit state sanction and support, and has a long history of being associated with the abuse of young women.  I would now agree agree it is not a good idea to allow such legal associations.

Now because of its history, Utah has set a very tough standard against polygamy.  No state in the US permits multiple marriage contracts.  But Utah considers single marriages with multiple related childbearing cohabitants to be common law polygamy, and prohibits that as well.

That goes right at the heart of freedom of association, and many other rights.  But I don't even have to be a civil libertarian not to like it.  A Federal Court has ruled that Utah's prosecution of such associations is against federal law.  Utah has appealed the latest US court judgement in September 2014.

Now back to polyamory.  I don't think I'm just speaking for myself when I say that sexual relationships are hard, hard, hard.  I have never been in a polyamorous relationship, but I have spoken with some who are, and they say it gets harder still with multiple parters.  The negotiation of everything exponentially more complex.

Polyamorous relations are far more common among LGBT than straight.

Polyamorous associations possibly haven't done much, however, for a social difficulty which may be at the root of much crime and social dysfunction.  I don't think it's done more for lone wolf hetero males, since polyamorous associations which involve any women are likely to more women than men

That's not a reason to prohibit polyamory, it a reason for new, different, and restored institutions to actually replace traditional society rather than just denigrate it.

One institution which does soothe the pain felt by lone wolf males is legal prostitution.

I am anything but a champion of the market idea for solving everything, especially wrt allocation of social resources.  I more take the position that markets may be useful in some circumstances and should be used only in those circumstances, and be appropriately regulated.  Prostitution is one of those places where a well regulated market is especially useful.

Should make marajuana centric "coffee shops" also, another social institution that supports lone wolves and brings them into new associations.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Cross of Neoliberalism

The Euro is a 24k Cross of Neoliberalism.

Like all neoliberalism, it enables financial kleptocracy, and ultimately the end of democracy.

It should all be abolished, and we should return immediately to Social Democracy.

Sadly, neoliberalism will not be easy to dislodge.

It pays just the right people, like Presidents who can retire and make gazillions from their connections.

And more generally, moneys own the press, the airwaves, ultimately the outcome, which is uses to make still more money.

Cashing out should be expensive, and income more than 10 times the median and wealth accumulated from it should be taxed away, not built into a permanent enslaver of everyone else through endless means.

For every irresponsible--or just unlucky--borrower, there is an irresponsible lender, and we should hold the latter more responsible.  Default early and often is what rich people do, though they have better ways of doing that through negative externalities (aka cost shifting), limited liability and other means.  So I suggest default early and often to poor creditors too…Chapter 7 Bankruptcy if possible…there is no loss in moral virtue for a creditor unable to pay* in my view--that possibility was the Banker's responsibility.  Only consider the benefit of continuing credit, something I think is good and fine and best maintained if possible in societies that have it.  The greatest virtue is in having no claims to anything whatever.  Perhaps balancing debts with assets is one way to achieve that.  I'm glad to own a home outright, it fits my lifestyle, but I see no more virtue either in doing so or having done so.  I have some revolving credit card debt, now mostly at zero interest until next year.  I wonder if it wouldn't be more moral to have what bankers even seem to want…more long term financing.  I wonder if there wouldn't be greater virtue in being more extended and having paid for the work of others in developing my future establishment even more, and die with liabilities equalling assets.

Anyway I had some luck, after all, and worked many years.  But my only virtue from owning a home may be found in how I maintain or develop it and to what ends I use it.  Not the mere fact of ownership.

(*I would take their word for it…I don't think people should suffer much beyond the expectations at the time of taking the loan.  The lender is responsible for making sure the loan contributors to the borrowers life in such a way that enables them to pay back and still be able to benefit.  Being a gatekeeper for society, a lender takes on these responsibilities.  To do otherwise is to be a predatory lender, intending to profit from the misfortune of others.  Much of this is already in many laws which tended to be overlooked leading to the collapse of 2008.)

All are entitled to healthcare and higher education, regardless of ability to pay.  No overall benefit to society accrues from making people pay for those things…so they shouldn't!

When a need is not being met by private industry, or cannot be well met, it should be met by The People, just as Lincoln said.

Every financial asset is a claim on the future labor of others…that is what it actually represents.  Therefore there is no benefit to society from having "rich" people who have accumulated many of such claims.  The same real wealth in the physical world exists independent of any claims on it.  The only benefit from capital accrues from organization, organization which would be better achieved through democratic means.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Opposed to TPP

Opposed to TPP

Krugman, Stiglitz, Robert Reich, Dean Baker, (many others)

Environmental Groups (who fear TPP will be used to gut environmental protections):
Sierra Club, League of Conservation Voters,, Defenders of Wildlife, National Resources Defense Council, Greenpeace

Consumer Groups (who fear gutting consumer protections):
Consumers Union, Consumer Federation of America, National Consumers League

Progressive Organizations:
People for the American Way
Americans for Democratic Action
Common Cause
Daily KOS

Religious Organizations:
Presbyterian Church
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
American Friends Service Committee

Civil Rights Groups
Feminist Majority


Saturday, May 9, 2015

What is Prosperity?

I would define the sensible aspect of prosperity as a proportion: a proportion of the people who can afford a basic "middle class" life: good basics.  Enough even to send one child at a time to state college, enough for two solid cars (needed nowadays for a decent life in many cities, or an alternative extra cola for places like San Francisco where you don't need a car but other expenses are higher), a starter (the cheapest) home mortgage or equivalent rent.  (Doing all I just said they would have to be incredibly frugal also…or less frugal not doing those things.)

I'm guessing this is probably around the median income in the USA now, or around $60k for family of 4.  That translates to two full time working incomes of about $15/hr for two working persons.

So the USA currently scores 50% or 0.50 on my prosperity index by my own guesstimate.  I am not permanently putting this at 50%, I am not considering status or ranking, only what is required for a decent life.

(Has it been better?  Perhaps, and especially if other factors like risk are included.  But generally USA prosperity has been about stagnant since the 1970's, with the last year of the old New Deal being 1973. Prior to that prosperity had been growing since the 1930's.)

Why quantify something like "a decent life" instead of things like our "poverty line" based on the minimum calories one can get away with?  Well a decent life for all is exactly what we should be interested in.  I admit it may be harder, more subjective, but most people understand roughly what I'm talking about, and it's important.

And it is a thing not based on status, being above others, etc.  Status is not included in this basic measure.  So, the cheapest able car, code-compliant house, etc.  (Many people get by without those things…but that's poverty, not prosperity.)

In this measure it doesn't help for some people to be extremely rich--that doesn't make us any more prosperous.  But here we are also, as I said, focussed on the sensible aspect of prosperity…what we feel with out senses generally.  What we are creating for the future is another thing, and another thing entirely from much economics, investment analysis, etc.

While the financial structure we are creating is indeed important (and we would be doing better to be creating a simpler, more tractable, fairer, less gamed, etc., financial structure as well as greater equality) what we are creating for the future begins with what we are doing to the physical world.  Are we making it more nice (say, the possibility of having a decent life in places where it has generally been, in the last 10,000 years, possible to have a decent life) or less nice?  What is the prospect for the future?

I would say clearly we are disinvesting from the world in this way.  We are making it far less nice.  We are using up natural resources, generating pollution and environmental destruction, mass extinctions, global heating and acidification, and possibly far worse.  Such areas as have been great wild lands are turned into intentional uses, even the most basic one--farming--being destructive even if done organically (but far less so, of course).  The very best thing we can do with any land anywhere is to leave it alone--leave it to nature and the other species.  Or in many cases now--restore it to what it was, including the species if we can.

So much as we may pride ourselves on our productions even more perhaps than our extractions and utilizations and excretions, it may all be a negative in the long term creation sense.  (Sure, it was nice having the mobility and the comfort…but that's sensibility and not investment.)

Investment would be the creating of sustainable infrastructure for sustaining a sustainable number of humans…and toward the end of 100% prosperity, and a minimal decent human footprint for maintaining a technological society (another reason why 1billion or so might be the number) capable of such things as space travel.  AND leaving the rest for the rightful use of wild creatures in their natural ways.

We are, of course, doing anything but that, going mostly full throttle in the reverse direction now.

So investing also means building the society that can lead to fairly reducing population through birth control to achieve these ends.  If the ultimate sustainable population were to be around 1 billion humans, as I believe it to be, the required average birth rate could be calculated to achieve this within a reasonable time, say 150 years, with the maximum prosperity.  We might even have to achieve the goal sooner to avoid the worst planetary damage, perhaps 75 years, or some combination of environmental impact change and population reduction.

If we don't, I would imagine the same thing happening involuntarily and under horrendous circumstances over 250 years.

Or some mixture of restraint and catastrophe--that's actually the most likely thing, and with the human population temporarily undershooting the sustainable level, down to perhaps 10 million "survivors" who build the new human civilization 300 years from now.