Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Gold is not an Investment, excess saving is hoarding

Krugman's latest words on Gold are interesting, and end up calling gold a scam investment.

Buying gold promotes only one kind of business, that of mining and selling gold.  That's a tiny part of the overall economy.

Buying gold doesn't provide credit to people building other kinds of industries.  Buying corporate stocks and bonds would.

Putting money in a bank enables more lending by lowering the cost of money to the bank.  More lending means more pro ducting of things like cars, houses, and home improvements.

So buying gold is rather anti-social.  I know rational utility maximizers aren't supposed to be swayed by such things.  Anyway, I wouldn't be buying gold anyway, as I understand it as a speculation on the value of gold.  Speculation is a fancy word for gambling, and I don't like to do that because I seem to be a pretty consistent loser at gambling.

But whether I am swayed by such things or not, I think about them.

Now, there may be not so good aspects to those other things I just mentioned, and what they enable.  And I've long thought that "buying" is more pro-social than saving or financial investing because in the former case you are providing income to someone else, and in the latter you are only providing a loan.

So if it's OK to buy stuff, say high end audio equipment, why not gold?

Well also precisely because buying stuff not only provides income to others (one persons spending is anothers income), it provides us with stuff, which we enjoy directly.  So utility is amplified, so to speak, by buying the amplifier I may need for the best audio reproduction.  In fact, if an amplifier provides utility to me in the future…it is an investment.  (In some cases, it might be good store of value…or even a speculative wedge, as well, but that's not what I'm talking about.)

This may fall apart if I buy too much stuff, more than I need, more than I use, etc.  (Something I'm pretty sloppy about, actually.)

Of course, to the gold bug, survivalist, or similar kook, owning that shiny metal is enjoyed directly.  But that's a little sick, isn't it?

The main defensible reason to own gold would be as a store of value.  Though I dismiss the attempt to gain money or advantage through an increase in the price of gold as "gambling," merely holding gold, not respective of the fact it may become worth more or less relative to other things…is a defensible reason within limits.

What are those limits?  The limits to one's need for future consumption security or future reasonable bequest.  Saving more than that is "hoarding," which means other people's productive activity is being pinched indefensibly.  With the richest people however we may not think of this as hoarding so much as status seeking.  The richest seek to be richer than others.

That kind of pursuit of wealth for it's own sake, however, is just as bad socially as hoarding.

Rather than saving too much…what should the wealthy do?  Spend righteously and/or give money away righteously!

Happy Holidays

It's a commonplace that "thank you" is a rhetorical way of dismissing someone.  It's the last thing you say, or need say, to any kind of contractor, service person, or sales person.  And it's the last thing they need to say to you.  So, if someone is almost beginning an argument, which might take awhile, you can dismiss them with "thank you" and move on.

It doesn't seem quite as well known that holiday slogans such as "Merry Christmas" and "Happy Holidays" serve very much the same role rhetorically.  They are last words.  Since they are Non Sequitur, it follows they can only be responded in kind or with another non sequitur, politely of the same kind.

So as we are giving others our good wishes (or gratitude) we are also telling them "Move out of my way, buddy, I gotta get on with my Christmas shopping."

Now don't take this too badly, quite often non sequiturs are absolutely needed.  About once a minute or so perhaps…  And without them, people often become bores without knowing it.

Now the Christmas Greetings have another less-then-fully-wonderful aspect.  The are obviously an example of cultural imperialism.  We may think, despite the windbags, Christmas has become basically a secular holiday, and we need secular holidays, so go with what the Romans do, Christmas is for all Americans--a secular American holiday, not an exclusively Christian one.  But regardless of thinking that or not, not all people can be expected to think that, and there are those Christian windbags insisting that it isn't a secular holiday too, so there is that to think about also.

So offering a specific holiday with religious baggage as greeting is unavoidably culturally imperialistic.

Returning such a greeting isn't imperialistic, though it might be other things.  Not returning such a greeting in kind could be worse, or not, as transitions can occur to needless and useless argument.

I'm not that worried in the act of a single "Merry Christmas."  While it is unavoidably culturally imperialistic, it may be very little so unless used as a platform for further invasion, as the windbags do.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

President Obama's CIA Roots

This isn't Republican birtherism.  The exact opposite is true.  The President's mother and father were both CIA operatives, who met in Hawaii.  The young boy seen as having the perfect complexion for some future high office, he was groomed with CIA opportunities all the way.

Similar things can be said about other Presidents in recent history, I am sure.

His "looking forwards, not backwards" toward all CIA crimes like torture certainly follows.

One problem is, we're taking their word it is different now wrt torture.  And their word has a long history.

Giving an executive order to stop torture in 2009 was a fine first step.  But prosecution(s) should have followed, since it was already illegal (and against treaties).

And then there's drones.  He promised to use them less, but they haven't been dismissed altogether as law and ethics would demand.

And CIA, Wall Street, Military Industrial Complex, Media, Plutocracy, it's all the same thing with a lot of corrupt relationships.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

More Utility from more people?

Economic philosopher Jeremy Bentham developed the concept of Utility, a quantity roughly commensurate with the human sense of pleasure or goodness, and diminished by pain or badness.

Modern economic theories posit that markets regulate human activity to maximize utility.  These theories are full of extremely flawed assumptions and are mostly wrong.  (See for example the excellent book, Debunking Economics by Steve Keen.)

Among economists and others there is a notion that more human beings on earth increases utility as well.  Since under almost all circumstances, humans would prefer life to death, each additional person increases the total number of humans that would experience positive utility (and hence there is more Utility) unless circumstances get very bad.

I believe this is wrong on many ways, and that a much smaller human population would be better.  How is "more Utility from more people" wrong?  Let me describe some ways:

1) Not Just Humans.  The earth includes many non-human species who also experience pleasure and pain and goodness and badness in other ways.  There is no universal reason why their Utility shouldn't count.  Increasing human population generally increases the human planetary footprint, reducing the land space, biodiversity, unpolluted water and air, and other things which are needed to support non-human wildlife populations and their Utility.  Sure, humans could organize their activities so that they have less impact.  But they've tended not to, and even if they did, a larger human population only makes it more difficult to minimize the human ecological footprint.

The unfortunate fact is that the increasing number of Humans has created what is already the 6th largest extinction event in Earth's history, and it is likely to get far far worse over the next few hundred years.

2) Limited Natural Resources and Sinks.

3) Overcrowding.

While additional humans means more possibilities to experience Utility, it may diminish the Utility available to others in the cases of limited resources and overcrowding.  At some point the latter decreases may be greater than the hoped-for increases.  This is obvious when you go from a situation where everyone can easily be fed to one where there isn't quite enough, but occurs in many other ways as well.

4) Wrong model of Utility?

The notion that Utility is nearly automatic to human life may be fundamentally wrong.  I describe this idea last because it is somewhat speculative and could be wrong.

My own idea is that humans do not automatically have a positive utility, but rather neutral utility, i.e. zero.  It is network effects related to the existence of other human beings, as well as resources and opportunities, that provide either positive or negative utilities.

Such a model of utility arising out of the natural and social networks makes utility highly unstable.  When things are good they can be very good, as when there is a Golden Age.  When things are bad they can turn very bad, as in world wars or societies based on terror.

This also makes Utility highly contingent, not the sort of thing that can just add up when you have more people.  Fundamentally, and not even referencing limited resources, more people can be either positive or negative.  It depends.

Where has the golden age gone?

Written in reply to this blog post.

It's easy to think of golden ages in the past primarily because we lack experiences there.  Interpersonal violence has actually been on a long decline for thousands of years, just that it used to be more one-on-one.  The golden democratic age of ancient Greece ended with Socrates and his pupils.  Socrates preached a society run by those who know best--elites.  And he got what he wanted through his pupils who destroyed Athenian democracy.  Which didn't work out very well because they didn't know as much as they thought they did.  Funny he has become a kind of secular god precisely because his anti-democratic idealism fit with the emperors we have lived with since.  So our current rot actually began with ancient Greece.

The golden age democracy of Greece was much more democratic because it was based on lottery, not the rigged elections we have in capitalist democracy.  With elections that money can rig, democracy simply becomes another way we are owned.  The main way elections are rigged is through the media-controlled primaries.  Individualism and individual choice is promoted incessantly, but power-to-the-people actually comes only through solidarity.  Solidarity means real political parties with stakeholders whose success depends on how much they actually deliver to the people, not how much advertising they can buy.  The smoke filled rooms we abolished were actually what made our system work better.  The last golden age was from FDR to Kennedy, and economic elites--especially fossil fuel and war barons--reasserted control starting with the assassination of Kennedy and the rise of movement conservatism.

There's still a chance the Neolithic Revolution will be a success, but it's looking more like the beginning of the end.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Peace, Sister

I continue to believe that lesser evilism is the correct strategy in rigged games like voting in capitalist democracy.  Vote, and get on with it.  Don't bother with the campaign crap, except perhaps very selectively.  Put your effort into something else: reading, research, education, demonstrations.  Education is the big one, I always say.  And it starts with self-education.  And there are endless ways to do that.

However, YMMV.  If you have another vision, go for it.  3rd parties* are a perennial favorite among the most dedicated.  Less dedicated--perhaps--go for anti-voting.  IMO anti-voting doesn't have much positive effect in the historical record.  Believers might counter that when it (may) have an effect, it will turn the tables, unlike merely reordering the silverware.  It's not for me, but if you want to go for that, go for it!

(IMO, 3rd parties may be productive in some places, but in most of the USA almost all of the time, they are not.  Worked for Teddy Roosevelt, though, one of USA's best Presidents.)

As John Emerson at his Trollblog website says, movement conservatism has succeeded not because of following a single coherent "best" strategy, but by endless experimentation on the part of endless entrepreneurs.  Some lose big.  Fortunately, with all the money from plutocrats sloshing around, even the big losers can get nicely taken care of afterwards.  Perhaps better, even, to be a bigger looser.  So therefore big risks are taken, and sometimes pay off.  That's politics, not following the rules of one academic political scientist or another, as the Democrats do.  90% of all political science PhD's are Democrats, meanwhile one of the most successful political operatives ever--Karl Rove--took a political science course once.

Meanwhile, if you want me to vote 3rd party, show me the good bets first, that won't be what I would consider spoilers.  I'd even do more for a principled candidate (of the right kind, the only kind actually) than just vote, if they really, not in fantasy, had a decent chance of winning.  I do also support candidates, as I did the Kucinich presidency, largely for educational effects, though I denied that to myself at the time.  Kucinich, a primary challenger, never became a spoiler (to my knowledge, though he didn't sign the Texas Democratic Party loyalty oath).

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The overarching desire to be obeyed

Roger Gathman follows me in saying the the least reform would be special prosecutors for police violence cases.  Also, he compares the shooting by Daniel Harmon-Wright to that of Darren Wilson.  In the former case the police officer's claim to self-defense was contradicted by eye witnesses, and those eye witnesses were believed.  Underlying both cases, RG believes, was the Officers desire to be obeyed:

The Ferguson case, which hinged on Wilson’s claim that he felt his life was endangered, can be paralleled by a case that was tried just last year of a Culpepper Virginia policeman who killed a sunday school teacher, Patricia Cook. The policeman, Daniel Harmon-Wright, claimed that when he reached in her car window to take her license, she rolled up the window and took off. Thus, he shot her – seven times – because otherwise he would have been dragged to death. This seems more life threatening that anything that happened to Wilson. The difference was that eye witnesses, in the Harmon-Wright case, were believed, and they asserted that Harmon-Wright’s hand was not trapped in that window, and that he simply unloaded when she took off in her car. She was “escaping” him, just as Michael Brown was escaping Wilson, and the automatic response was shoot to kill. In fact, with a special prosecutor, I think Wilson’s claim of being threatened would be broken down in court – and what would be left was the overwhelming desire to be obeyed. However, there are limits on how police can achieve that last goal.

The Rational State

Bruce Wilder makes some more great comments in the blog on Ferguson at Crooked Timber.

As several commenters have noted, racism has a history. Indeed, it does. Turning racism into a political taboo marks one of the great triumphs of political liberalism in its long fight for the dignity and autonomy of the individual and to transform the state into a rationally administered instrument for a shared, public good.
The series of historic triumphs for political liberalism over racial oppression marked out a series of historic defeats for reactionary and authoritarian conservatism if “conservatism” is the label we care to attach to whatever apology in whatever era has been offered for complacency and indifference, regarding conventional acceptance of cruelty and vicious, amoral selfishness.
It doesn’t seem to me that one can really argue effectively with cruelty and vicious, amoral selfishness; in democratic politics, we’re always arguing with complacency and indifference regarding moral conventions.
It’s a measure of that remarkable series of triumphs of liberal politics against racism that “racist” is a such a powerful pejorative in conventional moral terms.
I love the phrase, "transform the state into a rationally administered instrument for a shared, public good."

Make it so is what we must do, not, for the foreseeable future, imagine we can work positively toward eliminating the existence of states.

Even though the history of states is precisely the opposite, or a kind of Pareto opposite, primarily to maintain the private good of the most elite and powerful within the society, with some good trickling down to some others.  But many reforms, and especially the civil rights reforms of the 20th century, and social democratic reforms like the New Deal, have broadened the beneficiaries of state's existence somewhat.  That program, of broadening the public good, was basically working until it was dismantled in the 1970's by concerted effort of plutocrats and oligarchs.

Then Bruce takes a turn toward saying this should not be turned into partisan bumper stickers and t-shirts.  Well I agree in a limited sense.  But this brings up the area where, I believe, Bruce and I differ.

I believe in voting for Democrats not as our saviors, but as simply being the better choice.  So hold your nose and vote.  But then move on, and practice actual reform politics in other ways.  It's a pity the electoral system has not only not been made better, but has become even more money oriented in the past few decades.  That will need to be changed…but it cannot be changed by tiny numbers of people voting for purity parties.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Human Population and the Antropogenic Extinction Event

Regardless of things we don't fully know, such as wherever the tipping points in global temperature rise are, however fast global warming may occur...

AGW and numerous other resource/pollution/land-use/extraction-effect problems can be addressed addressed, generally speaking, by population reductions.  A general assumption: half as many people, half as many such problems.  But actually problems tend to rise at least exponentially because of network effects, additionally with basic limits, self-sustaining tipping points, and so on.  So we could be more than twice as worse off with twice as many people, and so on.

Anyway, in the great Crooked Timber blog on AGW (op was the China/USA agreement, preliminary thoughts) the point was well made that voluntary population reductions (by forgoing pregnancy, etc) cannot solve the impending AGW tipping point to global civilizational collapse problem (aka 3 degrees Celsius and above).  We need 97% reduction by 2050 to stay below 2 degrees (not exactly a balmy afternoon either, expect melting ice sheets and desertification, see the book on 3 degrees, and for all we know 2 degrees might be the aforementioned tipping point, and some would prefer to stay below 1 degree…aka the ultimate effect 350ppm when we are now already 400ppm).  Meanwhile, business as usual is headed straight to hell (aka 6 degrees) by 2100, which we hope isn't the end of human history.  And once we get to 6 degrees, who knows how much more will be induced by further tipping points.  A previous episode of 6 degree warming resulted in one of the largest extinction events ever.

The problem is, to stay below the comparatively-safe-but-who-knows 2 degrees, we need 97% reduction in human net CO2 by 2050, from 36GtC to 1GtC per year.

No voluntary reduction in population control through restriction of birthing is going to decrease population that much that fast.

But this misses two key points.  First, changes in climate from increased CO2 tend to have a lifetime of 100,000 years or more.  Meanwhile we do not want human history to end at 2050, 2100, or whatever.  And presuming it doesn't, and assuming no rapid die-offs or miraculous changes, the climate goes on. (As does the environment generally.)  If net carbon production is still going on at 2050 or even 2100, it will likely continue the next year, and so on.  Changes in human population through voluntary control are slow but could continue indefinitely, ultimately reducing human population to a level that has both advanced technology and sustainability.  There is limited research on what this might be, and of course nobody knows what ultimate population might be, nor the technological infrastructure that will be available to sustain it (unfortunately, we are not building enough sustainable infrastructure now, which would be 100% renewable systems).  (I have often guessed at about 1 billion humans with a highly eco-conscious society, and the benefit of a sustained-mass-command-effort to build sustainable energy and transportation that starts real soon now.  Sadly it could be lower, much lower if we don't build out the required systems or do so well, we could suffer a huge involuntary loss through collapse of civilization's ability to organize food and energy production, leaving only pockets of survivors--which looks pretty likely within a few hundred years, and that is not the ultimate worst case possible which is planetary Venusification at unknown but presumed very low risk.)

Second: CO2 isn't the only problem, by far.

So even if it won't solve the immediate problem, global population restriction through control of birthing will be necessary for long term sustainability and should begin now at the fastest politically acceptable rate.  I am fine with a one-child policy, enforced by post-birth sterilization and humane administrative means (i.e., no forced abortions, and no harm to children) for violators.  And the usual freely available education and opportunity for women, birth control, and abortion on a voluntary basis.

If we don't control population through reasonable controls on birthing, more extreme measures will be forced on us by necessity.

The environmental footprint of humans in the not-so-far-off future will have to be at current subsistence indigenous levels.  Meanwhile, industrial society cranks away, promising to industrialize globally and raise all the world to lucky wage-slave status of western society workers.  If in fact consumer society is replicated everywhere it will be the greatest disaster ever.

And meanwhile economists, even in the IPCC report, blithely project 4 times greater average human income in 2100, for which environmental loss can be calculated as some fraction.  Well that is because of the "income bias" of economists.  If instead you look at the well being of the global commons, of eviscerating wildlife, of decimating ocean life, melting ice sheets, deserts, rising sea level, greater storms, declining water levels and land productivity, you would see epochal catastrophe, from which sustaining mass human income is improbable and mass loss of human lives inevitable.  Some "4 times greater income per capita".  Markets are not somehow going to save the commons because the commons have only been the dumping grounds for markets.  Nor will commons-saving innovation be driven by markets, see above.  The only hope for humanity is collective solutions to preserving the commons and providing social insurance, and possibly much more.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

World at 2 degrees warming, 3 degrees, etc

(All temps in Celsius of course.)

Long ago Nordhaus set a plausible goal for the human forced temperature increase of 2 degrees C.

That become an internationally recognized, or at least mentioned, standard…the target.

Well, by now, the failure to ratchet up or even meet standards, 3 degrees would pretty much be on target if all countries actually met voluntary targets for themselves they have already set.  And they've blown past all previous proposed targets already, so there's good chance they won't keep remaining commitments either.

Well, this can't be so bad, how about 5 or 6 degrees which many climatologists believe is plausible over 100 years.

What these would mean to climate, looking back at earth history, is discussed here.

2 degrees, which goes back in the record to when CO2 was 360-400ppm, btw (from before the development of Agriculture to when the Industrial Revolution started, we were at 290; we're at 400 now, and that will climb another 100, 200, or 300 before 2100, if not more, and continuing up after that).  Like major deserts in the center of most continents, no annual ice in the northern hemisphere, sea level 25 meters higher.

That's 2 degrees, the target which we might meet if we stopped all CO2 production in 5 years…or maybe not.

3 degrees, 5 degrees, etc., sound like very different Planets.  It gets far worse rapidly at some points.  The level of change is not linear but more like exponential over all.  Plus there are "tipping points" which have automatic positive feedback.  If we reach a tipping point, which might be between 2-3 degrees, we cannot prevent another rise.  For example if we reach a point where the amazon rainforest is deforested, methane clathrates all bubble out, then microbes eat all the dead venation in the soil everywhere, we might not be able to prevent another 2-3 degree rise (or more, as tipping points lead to crossing other tipping points).

Back over at the "Planet saved due to US/China Agreement" blog at Crooked Timber, comment 29 features ZM commenting about the decreases in CO2 production which would have to occur to keep us to only 2 degrees.  Basically it would have to plummet radically, not the sort of weak tea people talk about.  We have to get down to 1GtC per year globally by 2050, from 36GtC per year now.  (Or we could just stop emitting altogether (net zero) in 5, or 10 years, depending on climate model assumptions, and I suspect all those models leave out the huge hard-to-model feedbacks like methane clathrates we may be facing.)  Here's what ZM says is the IPCC scenario for 198GtC total emissions by 2050:

2015-2016 = 36GtC p.a. = 36GtC over the period
2016-2020 = 15GtC p.a. = 60GtC over the period
2020-2030 = 5GtC p.a. = 50GtC over the period
2030-2040 = 3GtC p.a. = 30GtC over the period
2040-2045 = 2GtC p.a. = 10GtC over the period
2045-2049 = 1GtC p.a. = 4GtC over the period
2049-2050 = 1GtC p.a. = 1GtC over the period
That's pretty radical, all right.  We'd need to drop emissions more to less than 50% of current levels by 2020, for example.  And even that's putting off the heavy lifting as much as possible.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Policing the Police?

Yesterday, a Grand Jury refused to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

This could have been predicted from past outcomes quite well.  Police Officers are rarely indicted, much less convicted, of offenses related to their handling of suspects, even when, as is not infrequent, the suspect ends up dead.  How many deaths are caused by police?  About 3% of all homicides.  Further, there is considerable evidence of racial and other biases involved regarding who ends up dead after an encounter with the police.


Monday, November 24, 2014

The next 300 years

Here's an optimistic version in a book I'm buying, "The Collapse of Western Civilization."  300 years from now a scholar looks back at what happened.

I learned about that book and more in this great blog…especially the comments section, and especially deep into the comments section where my perennial favorites Bruce Wilder (who should write books…as someone in this blog says...but since he blogs I read his writing) and Sandwichman get going back and forth along with a newer guy I like a lot, ZM, and others.  It's very much like the book above, but with Bruce showing how the collapse of civilizations went on back through history as well, and this new one fits right in, except for being global.

Here's Bruce talking about what I've thought similar things about many times…that we will not get out act together with regards to a renewable energy substitution program before it's too late.  He ends on the optimistic note that 300 years (or whenever) the survivors will get their act together, and plan a better kind of society even amidst the fossil fuel mass extinction event.  I share his entire view here…except that the part about the survivors is still very optimistic, and it may be more than 300 years before humans escape the collapse of global fossil fueled civilization reaches orderly planning, and the actual conditions for that may still be horrific compared to the world bequeathed us, which deserves mention at this point.

As you say, the most urgent issue is, do we use our remaining carbon budget and “cheap” fossil fuel production capacity to construct a renewable energy generation capacity (and I would emphasize an economical energy consumption infrastructure to match)? 
I think humans will not. Somethings will get built, but too little, too late. And, as things get rougher, the first instinct of collective panic will be austerity. More of the world will be cut off from access to resources, as elites substitute intensified administrative extraction to offset declining energy surpluses. Desperate and expedient measures will increase the pollution generated, will increase the critical depletion of fresh water and other vital resources.
Anything we do now that makes long-run sense will require short-term pain, which will fall disportionately on rentiers with a stake in existing systems. The preservationist impulse will inspire denial and forlorn hope. And, the pressure on incomes from declining industrial production and agricultural output will just make it harder to divert resources to investing in a viable future. 
It won’t be an “irrational” response. The ROI won’t be there, on a downward slope for the whole economy.
It is a kind of a race condition. The kick-in-the-ass catastrophe that would motivate getting control of the situation happens too late, after the capacity to respond has already been damaged and handicapped to much to permit a response of adequate magnitude.
I can imagine truly frightening catastrophes inspiring some truly horrifying and desperate expedients — wars and epidemics and mind-bogglingly ill-advised geo-engineering schemes — before orderly and well-planned re-structuring.

This is just one point of many interesting ones made in the long dialog.  ZM is hopeful that a "war time mobilization" of resources may be applied to building the renewable energy and sustainable transportation systems we will need for a sustainable world, and before the super-catastrophes.

A "war time mobilization" is a command economy in large part, but intended to have limited duration, and need not be anything like totalitarian.  With a command economy, you might have many worries, but ROI need not be one of them.

In our neoliberal world, ROI is a sacred Monolith, that we must keep building more of each quarter, even if it means ruining the basis of our existence.

Easter Island came to mind when I read the story about Google abandoning it's renewable energy transformation project.  Google's energy scientists were telling the story in a blog published by IEEE.  (BTW, I'm a member of IEEE myself, but am astounded by the large numbers of outspoken denialists, concern trolls, and the "forlorn hopeful" Bruce alludes to above among the ranks in IEEE, if not necessarily the publications, and quasi-denialism was in full force in the comment section.)  Forlorn hopes such as that substitution will save us, the market will get it right (even though common goods aren't included), and so on.  Well Google's scientists were taking up another (not new) forlorn hope: that some currently unforeseen technology will save us.  For the time being, the ROI isn't there, so Google isn't going to transform our energy future until that unforeseen technology arises.

They didn't actually use the term ROI, but it was clear that was what they meant, and what their analysis was about.  They didn't discuss any physical limitations.  I believe the science that says that we can meet the needs of every human on earth now quite easily with renewable energy.  The ultimate supply is comparatively endless, the only problem is capturing a tiny bit of it, which can be done using little more land, or even less, than we currently do.  We even still have the surplus useable carbon energy to make the transition, if we start right now.  We easily have the human power, the materials, minerals, etc., though with some special minerals there might well be and probably will easily be substations.  Substitutions like that are likely not a problem, and have already been seen in the past few years as we have already seen in renewable energy technologies.

The problem is, it can't be done right now mostly because of who owns the present.  Just as Bruce says so eloquently.

Eventually that will change, in one way or another, and either with only a minor extinction event, or a very big one.

We are Easter Island.

Easter Island Monoliths.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

States: No Substitute Has Been Proven Yet

Many leftists are anti-statists, often using the label Anarchist, but strongly distinguished from the rightist propertarian version of anarchism sometimes seen today.

Left anarchism, most often technically understood as anarcho-syndicalism, proposes collective ownership of the means of production through co-ops and collectives which themselves cooperate without an overlord.

Tribal collectivism (small scale anarcho-syndicalism) was the human way until the invention of Agriculture.  Since then, society became hierarchical then privatized--the opposite of collectivism.

So you can't say collectivism is unnatural to humans.  But it has been taken away by the arc of history, but restored in various ways in various places.  Adapted to modern circumstance, anarcho-syndicalism is the most complete modern form of anarchistic collectivism suitable for an industrial or post-industrial society, in which people work in complex organizations, which become the locus of medium to large scale collective ownership and control, but without higher levels of top down control, such as modern states.

Collectivism has only been attempted at state level in name only, such as USSR, or in limited forms, such as Social Democracy.  But I have no doubt that full state democratic socialism is possible, despite a few failed examples.  And I continue to believe in Marx's concept: first socialism, then communism.  The ultimate communism that Marx discussed was indistinguishable from anarchism, everything just happening so that all needs are met, and all abilities tapped.

Whether socialism comes first or not…the best world with anarcho-syndicalism is the one with anarcho-syndicalism everywhere.

Anarcho-syndicalism has been seen in scales up to regions of modern states, such as region of Mondragon in Spain.  It's not proven that it would work in even larger scales, where collectives themselves would have to cooperate.  The most detailed theory about how anarcho-syndicalism could work on larger scales is Participatory Economics.  I admire many concepts of Participatory Economics, which ought to serve as a compass for designers of the future, but likely not a blueprint--it's sufficiently complex and different from modern society that one imagines that considerable adaptation may be required to form an actual successful society, and the inventors of PE admit as such.

The same could be said of "true communism".   The thing commonly called Communism isn't really communism as Marx or most modern communists would define it.  (Noam Chomsky does the best job of disproving the claim that the USSR was actually socialist as it claimed.)  The "really existing communist states" of China (as it existed from 1949 until about about 1980 when it pivoted to capitalism), Cuba, and the former USSR were not communist other-than-in-name even by generous stretching of the definition (based on collective ownership of the means of production, and worker democracy on all scales).  The correct and yet polite way to refer to such states would be Social Fascist.  So the largest scale on which true communism has been demonstrated is identical to that of anarcho-syndicalism, because at the level of a single or small number of cooperating collectives they are identical.  So Mondragon is both the largest example of both anarcho-sydicalism and true communism.  The original Mondragon collectivist society was crushed by Franco and I'm not sure how much the current one (the Mondragon Corporation) is comparable.

Meanwhile, the human population of the world has continued to grow further beyond that scale, and at least since World War II bourgeois democracy (of, by, and for the capitalists) has reigned supreme, along with often forgotten tens of millions of deaths and other atrocities it has required to continue that reign amidst many challengers.

Socialist elements have by necessity and struggle been added to bourgeois democracy.  If these elements had not been added, likely Marx's forecast of the demise of capitalism would have already happened.  The resulting form is called Social Democracy (actually, social bourgeois democracy), which is now ubiquitous, but also highly variable.  The United States of America used to be a progressive leader in Social Democracy, with spirited leaders such as Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt, but at least since the 1970's it has been a leading laggard--tending mainly toward pulling the whole thing down.  Denmark and Norway are the best examples of Social Democracy, and not coincidentally states where poverty has most nearly vanished.

Thus, socialism as it best really exists today (and not in name only) is actually tied to capitalist states, an ironic but not unforeseeable development--in fact it was exactly predicted and encouraged by Marx as the way forward, even if he might not have foreseen it enduring so long.

So lets not throw out the baby with the bathwater.  Liberal bourgeois states, even the USA, have within them the some means for reform by and for the people, and those means, including representational voting mass demonstration, are the best available for the foreseeable future.  And not "Revolution," which has a proven tendency to go the wrong way.  One might hope for a good revolution eventually, under circumstances that are inconceivable today--such as mass awareness of the evils of capitalism and  universal understanding of their roots in property (property is theft, all forms of wealth are coercion, capitalism is atomized slavery ultimately to itself), and the withering away of the capitalist control apparatus to nearly if not entirely nothing.  But meanwhile, if you meet a Revolutionary today, the worst thing is to follow him.

I'm worried about the fostering of an anti-statism which precisely exists to remove the socialist elements from modern bourgeois democracy.  That's clearly the thrust of American Libertarianism, for example, which has broad appeal to a certain segment of US society (including most Republicans), and American Libertarianism is a great example of a movement with plutocratic backers and which serves plutocratic and oligarchic ends, despite rhetoric to the contrary.

Anarchists with left leanings should be wary of being used as tools by these people, or as tools of the many self-described Anarchists (anarcho-capitalists) who are really Propertarians.  As I see it, the ultimate ideal anarchist/communist society is so far away as to be hardly worth thinking about, and that won't change until such time as nearly everyone knows it has.  Meanwhile, the task at hand is restoring, maintaining, and improving social democracy, as well as illuminating the fundamental evils of capitalism.

States are now and for the foreseeable future the best maintainers and supporters of Social Democracy.  State power is the only useful (even if decreasingly so) power to counter the power of global capitalism.  Sure, the left wants to see global people power supreme, but many things are in the way of that, none the least the power apparatus of capitalism itself, now both state and global.  Global people power must continue as it has in the last 100 years, primarily as an influence, never correctly a wielder of state power.

Particular states, such as the United States of America, may be hated more for their imperial adventurism and authoritarian than their internal affairs--which still have a significant social democratic element.  The way to counter Imperialism is through direct anti-imperialism, not a universal anti-statism.  It's true that USA's imperialism backs global capitalism, and that opposing and ending that imperialism is one of the most urgent tasks today.  But how does that fit with a broad anti-statism that would apply to the many states that are not imperialist but more the victims of US imperialism?  Many conservatives believe that capitalism remains possible without US imperialism.  I actually suspect that is true, and just as with the rise of Social Democracy in the 1900's, it would be an improvement on the present day capitalism.  Anyway, why not work with those conservatives in the anti-Imperialism movement.  But not in any movements that roll back social democracy, such as the anti-statist ones.

Only when and as freed from capitalism first can we be universally anti-statist.

Friday, October 10, 2014

More Krugman on Limits to Growth

Contra Krugman's facetious claims, I suspect that Jay Forrester had some idea that Economists run their models on computers.

But the key difference is that Forrester ran Dynamic models, not Static Equilibrium models.

That's a very interesting and very different way of doing things.

In doing that, Jay Forrester was a pioneer far more significant to a real social science than any of the immoral philosophers following and including Adam Smith and mathematical scribblers.

Jay Forrester was actually looking at what economists claim to think about but never actually do--scarce resources.  You can't even think about Limits to Growth within a static model.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Krugman takes another foul swipe at Limits to Growth

Krugman takes another foul swipe at Limits to Growth.  No surprise that Herman Daly is not in Krugman's perch at the Times.

Slow steaming means less goods from same physical investment in ships and crew.  This is not a strategy for growth, but the reverse.  There is enormous energy embedded in the construction of ships, which limits the ability to employ this strategy, even with infinite capital pursuing negligible returns.

But the general problem with Krugman's unusually flippant dismissal of limits to growth is that we are up against many physical limits at the same time, not just energy.

Meanwhile, we can't eat virtual food or grow crops with virtual water.  There are limits as to how many real needs, not just hedonic utilities, can be met with real resources.  And if those real needs can't be met, there will be no hedonic utilities either.  In the end, we are not econocons who can live only on utility, we are people who need real stuff and whose wants usually (if not always or essentially) require more real stuff.  And the real measurements bear this out.  Krugman's world of ever growing "wealth" despite diminishing resources is an evil fantasy.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Rawls on Inequality and Redistribution

Another great discussion at Crooked Timber growing out of a oversimplified but interesting essay by John Quiggin.

I'm only a fraction of the way through the over 400 comments and already some are great, such as #121 by Plume--high corporate and personal income tax rates help encourage re-investment.  The current neoliberal low taxes on such income results in disinvestment, speculation, and conspicuous gilded age real estate.  James Galbraith makes the same point in his essential book Predator State.

Another great comment by Plume is #112.  The first part is clear.

We did, however, have a long period of time when the top marginal rate was above 90%, and that worked just fine. In fact, when it was in place, America had its one and only middle class boom.
The second part is, I concede, a bit opaque, and way beyond normal discourse on these subjects, but seems to be a fusion of something nearly like MMT and communism.  I like it, but a lot of details are left out, such as how spending is done, if one person's spending is another person's income in a market system, how does it work in Plume's system, if all income comes from "public sector."

And Plume's #101 is great, The Sophist's #95 great and funny.

Much discussion about Pareto Optimality, including a thread that it does not exist.  I won't try to say it doesn't exist (as a formalism or algorithm) but it is horrible and should not be used in political economic theory.  Calling it "Optimality" makes it sound good, but what it really means, as Bruce Wilder suggests, is rich people saying to poor people "What's mine is mine and what is yours is negotiable."  I accept what Thornton Hall says in #86.

Peter K. nails it when he says in #78:
The economy was better regulated, taxed, managed in the 50s, 60s, 70s, until the neoliberal-Reagan revolution of the 1980s. There was more prosperity and rising incomes. There wasn’t a concentration of wealth in the hands of the regulators as public choice theory(sic) would have it. 
A later commenter quips that public choice theorists created the world they described when neoliberals following their advice made corporations their own regulators (and then the wealth concentrates in the regulators hands--the regulators who are the corporations themselves).

Quiggen makes a good point (I like it better than his OP) in #48 that in the absence of strong redistributional or predistributional support (such as legal support for labor unions) a dispersion in capital ownership is unsustainable.  The big will eat the small all over again, as Marx observed.  So the idea of a society of small capitalists is Chestertonian romanticism.  I think this exposes the weakness in many utopian reform ideas (though I still favor land reform and such--it's not enough).

There's a long running argument about Utility.  That it's a useful concept was demonstrated or assumed by the OP.  But some claim such a vague notion can't be subject to mathematics, etc.  That argument is poor I think, but a much better argument is that Utility might be a vector and not a scalar.  If it's a vector, utilities can't simply be added up as scalars as economists do, yet another slap at completely collapsed intellectual edifice of classical economics.  However I'd like to hear what the vector of Utility is like such that it cannot be collapsed in some way to a scalar.  Why not simply use the magnitude of the vector?  What aspect of vectorial Utility cannot be scalorized?

Many commentors make the point that Rawls wasn't concern with Utility at all, and so the OP thesis that Rawls would choose the top of the Laffer curve is laughable.  Quotes are given in which Rawls clearly says that fairness is more important than how much is produced.  I found this to be a great weakness of the OP.  I had sort of decided a few years back that I wasn't that interested in Rawls either (though I'm impressed if he values fairness above total production).  However I looked at this blog as a Party, an excuse for a lot of smart people to talk about things related to inequality, with most of the meat in the comments, and it doesn't disappoint.  The first few comments I've read by my favorite commenter at CT, Bruce Wilder, don't seem up to his usual length and profundity (though #12 is a gem, the crucial observation that income may come from either production or usury).  But Plume has really stepped up to the plate with many good comments.

The elephant in the room in all conversations about economics or the economy is sustainability.  We've largely built both without any serious regard for sustainability, and have well overshot the mark in terms of use, production, or destruction of many natural things.  ZM in post #24 is the first to address this, but he doesn't do very well on my re-reading (I was cheering too hard the first time).

The key point from this is that all the incentives given by capitalism from the beginning have been exactly the wrong ones.  By doing well, people are well along the way to destroying the planet.  That is what the marvelous incentives of the "market" have done.

So given how bad this will ultimately be, exact equality of circumstance would have provided better ultimate outcomes than capitalist profit and inequality.

So when "solutions" call for more "growth" or suggest that more "growth" is a good thing, that's exactly wrong.

We must have less material consumption total per capita, but far more equally distributed, so there is prosperity for all.  That fundamentally means less money and power for those on the top.  We can't get to a desirable world otherwise.  Pareto Optimal outcomes are the least desirable ones.

Along with that, a large voluptuary reduction in child birthing would help make the sustainability crunch less painful.  Funny there's almost never any discussion of that anywhere.  It's a difficult thing to intellectualize let alone realize, so we ought to be talking about that a lot more.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

How the University of Illinois caters to the wealthy

Here's a key post (though now nearly a couple weeks old) on how rich donors called the shots regarding Steven Salaita's dehiring prior to the vote by the Board of Trustees (who are themselves just another bunch of rich people and rich appeasers).

Here we have one little example both of the power of the rich (of course, we live in a Plutocracy) and the costs associated with having people who are rich, along with the systems of law and property which enable people to get rich (which supposedly make us all better off by providing the right incentives--which is nonsense).  Those people will then destroy everything worthwhile in society (democracy, human rights, art, science) in order to maintain power for themselves.

The benefit to society for having a capitalist class are not as great as the losses.  The best example is Global Heating.  The rich are always ready to sink the entire ship so long as they will continue to be on top.

Krugman on Syll on Keynes

Very interesting.

Actually, if not an actual prophet, Keynes was at least the smartest economist ever, whose ideas have stood a long test of time (while competitors only crumble, even the great edifice of Smith, Ricardo, and Walras lays in ruins).

Some of his ideas were influential in economics, and therefore it is interesting to understand in particular the General Theory, the most influential part of his contribution to economics.  I would go beyond saying has the best economic ideas and theories--he has about the only good fundamental ones, and the only good way to start.

It is wrong to start with Adam Smith's rational baker.  Fundamentally wrong (and so, in a peculiar way which casts a good light on the misanthropes).  It tells you little about how the overall economy operates.

But since Keynes was such a smart man, it might be a good idea also to look at all the rest of the things he said about economics, and everything else.  Not only was he a smart man, but he put his intelligence to the benefit of his society, as much as his influence lasted and lasts.  So he was a good man, and a smart man, and therefore be of great benefit to know what he said publicly about most things.

As much so as doing, what I do far more often, as reading Krugman's take on things.  Another good and smart man, maybe not Keynes, but still worth reading.

Friday, September 12, 2014

College for All

I would like to see free college for all in the USA.  Free college in all public universities, including the best.  Free college along with the expectation that most will go to college, much as we have that expectation for High School today.

College should not be understood as job training, but as general education, "liberal arts" education to help train people to think and become self-educating, to become familiar with the arts and sciences of their civilization as they actually are, and not filtered through a private slant.  The word is complicated enough that schooling should continue to the 16th grade because people need that much education and they need to reach that age before education stops.  And industry is productive enough that we can get by without people in that age range having to work.  Having them not work also helps maintain good wages for labor.  There should not be workers for every possible job, but only enough workers to do what most needs to be done, and needs doing enough to command a high wage without question (even though there is never any guarantee that any wages will ever come close to the social value of work, and they especially don't for lower paying work, because wages are not set by a mythical free market but by conservative traditions).

But as long as college is not free, there should be no expectation that everyone should attend college, AND there should be no stigma or loss of the possibility of having a good career without attending college.  And no family should be so poor that kids or young adults of college age are unable to attend college because income is needed from the young adults to sustain the family.

Thus I would sort of agree with the kinds of things that Robert Reich says here, in the world as it exists today.  I remember Hedrick Smith making these arguments in the 1980's.

But we should remember that the better solution would be to have free college for all and a far more equal society.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Jews are active citizens

Regulars of my discussion group didn't at all agree with the idea the Israel promoted the Muslim Brotherhood, in order to keep it's neighboring states weak.  Weak is one thing, they already were weak, collapsing chaos is another, and that's not what a settler colonial states need.

I didn't find that argument very believable either, and, btw, I employ the least amount of self censorship here, in order to cover the deepest depths, though sometimes off target, and I apologize for some clearly anti-semitic concepts in earlier posts.  As a clarification, I believe it would be impossible for any religious group to create a settler state as zionists did and then have it become peaceful and democratic. It's a miracle Jews have done as well as they have in Israel.  As I claim below, Jews are good at making civilization.  However the concept, plan, and timing, and location were fundamentally flawed, and for that reason Israel cannot succeed.  It turns out also that the best nation is the one not tied to the baggage of state, etc.

One idea approaching anti-semitism, is a sort of superiority concept.  Jews culturally teach their children to be active citizens, resisting oppression (and the deepest judiasm also calls on Jews to fight the oppression of others…the basic deep rule of Judiasm is to do more for others than self…but I digress), and so on.  That makes them more politically effective than their numbers would suggest.  In the US they are 2% of the population, but most people believe they collectively have much more influence than that.  Maybe more like 10%.  And that's enough to have great impact on a centrist majoritarian government such as the USA.  And of course the military giveaways to Israel are really giveaways to US military equipment makers anyway, so Israel becomes to the US Congress an excuse for another exchange of gifts and bribes, an automatic 100% vote is assured.

Is it anti-semitic to say that Jews are excellent citizens?  The above argument doesn't relate to shadowy underground mafias and the like…just the ordinary rules of democratic political participation, which, sadly, many minorities and the poor generally don't take advantage of--though I am not saying that all the problems of the poor can be laid on their own doorstep for this or any other reason…but active political participation and better organization could help them.

Now, to be clear, there are also very effective lobbying/bribing organizations such as AIPAC, rich bribers, and so on, maybe even mafias as there are for other nations, and I don't approve of those things, though they are also a given in US politics, and Jews will have more impact than Palestinians due to lobbying clout rather than justice or public opinion.

Jews are smart (it isn't antisemitic to say that is it?) so AIPAC is an unusually effective organization.  The problem is not with AIPAC and it's Jews (well, necessarily) but rather that lobbying like that should be illegal, elections should be publically funded, anything else should be considered bribery.

Anyway, back to the argument that Jews are active citizens...

This also means that a fair settlement of the future of Palestine--including full right of return for all Palestinian refugees--wouldn't necessarily make IP (Israel/Palestine) unlivable for the Jews.  I think much Israeli/Jewish fear about this is unwarranted…I believe the Jews would ensure at minimum an IP state fair to them but probably even more profitable than the current one…as has happened in South Africa…though one does imagine in the wake of a Fair Settlement (which itself can be hardly imagined) many Jews would choose to leave IP, not necessarily allowing this fair multicultural state to be tested.  But in fact Jews, Muslims, and Christians lived in peace together under Muslim rule in Palestine for most of more than a millennium, notably the Ottoman empire.  So in fact the belief that this is impossible, that Arabs can't run a reasonable multicultural state is itself antisemitism toward arabs.

My discussion friends don't believe the full Chomsky argument, that Israel is mainly a US project, and it's incredible history of support in the USA stems from its importance to US military planners, and he discounts the usual conspiracy arguments and "unbelievable" effectiveness of Zionist lobbying on that.

My retired military friend didn't agree with that at all.  He said the US State Department has long been hostile to Israel, as have probably a majority of the US military establishment.  US Military do not see Israel as a dependable ally or client.  Previous Israeli actions, such as attacking a US ship, have reinforced that feeling.  He felt that Israel's success in maintaining US support had to come entirely from Zionist success in politics, as well as military industrial self-interest.

I think there may be more going on in the military than my friend concedes, but largely it is Zionist effectiveness in politics which has led to their success, as he says.  And it is not antisemitic to say that Jews are active citizens, as more others should be.  Nor that AIPAC is an effective briber, and there shouldn't be such things.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

ISIS--created by Saudi Arabia

Article in The Atlantic explains how the Saudis created ISIS and Qatar funded Jabhat al-Nusra with encouragement from the US while it supported the soon-to-be-doomed Free Syrian Army.  The reporter here, Steve Clemons, is a totally reliable source.

But why oh why was the US so committed to destroying the Assad regime in Syria?

One word: Israel.

And it gets crazier still in less substantiated but still believable comments.  Though it has predictably gotten out of hand, this was the US-Israel plan all along, to destabilize secular nationalist governments in the Arab peninsula with balkanized weak war lord states. As blogger Sarastro92 says in the comments to the article, this was part of Operation Clean Break to secure the realm for Israel by burning down the Arab neighborhood. Other comments go farther back, claiming Israel secretly promoted the Muslim Brotherhood to destabilize Arab states, as well as promoting Hamas to destabilize the PLO (which has been very well established).  It was the Assad regime's dedication to destroying the Brotherhood (Israel's secret weapon) which made Israel so dedicated to destroying Assad.  Further, Israel has long had secret cooperation with Saudi Arabia to foster radical Islam.  From Israel's standpoint, this serves to discredit and weaken all its neighboring Arab states.  Elsewhere I've heard that Israel wanted Iraq broken up into 3 states all along, and has long promoted a largely untrue narrative about Iraq's Maliki being a terrible sectarian.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Nobody says this

And for good reason.  We don't discount human lives lost.

But Israel's brutal Protective Edge assault on Gaza has destroyed far more homes than lives.  Something like 10,000 homes so far.

So here we have Jewish Efficiency, as contrasted with the Nazi version of Efficiency in which the number of lives lost were maximized.

(This is not to deny the deliberate inefficiencies either…shooting down children on the beach and so on.  Still, in a War (which this hardly is), more homes than lives lost is at one end of the spectrum.)

If the end achieved is genocide and dispossession, that matters more than the means.  We are not supposed to say this either.

 But is it genocide yet?  Have the Zionists and Israeli's killed enough for us to call this genocide?

What's their ultimate vision?  It's at best the total dispossession of a national homeland for the originals and the destruction of their society.  Social genocide.

And, incidentally, lives will continue to be lost until resistance is crushed.

It's at minimum an intent to commit genocide if necessary and likely.  Therefore: Intent to commit genocide, while struggling to convince oneself one is not doing this, is just as much intent to commit genocide.  The failure of people to resist the theft of their homeland is not to be presumed in determining one's innocence.

It's certainly more genocidal in character than South African Apartheid.

So Genocide is a pretty high bar for moral inequity, and Israel/US are at least at Intent.  There are many others huge crimes already committed and being committed by Israel/US.


That's my new name for Israel-Palestine, the state that finally grants full right of return to 1948 and since Palestinian refugees and their families and restoration of their property and full rights and citizenship.  We know the State of Israel has chosen that goal, the beginning of justice, to be inimical to it's existence.  So be it.  IP is an optimistic outcome for Israelis.

Both Israel and Palestine are three syllable words.  IP is like UK, US.

Of course, it might well just be Palestine.  Should there be protected religious rights for present Israelis?  Should there even be, as I suggested previously, a unique continued "right of return" for Jews to the "Land of Israel"?  Clever ideas, I have mostly thought, but I can't say they are the correct ones, nor what the people most involved would choose.

Many would say, in view of the facts, all the participants in Israel should face war crimes trials, and pay reparations for damages, and permanently lose right-to-citizenship in Palestine forever.

So IP is an optimistic future, from a Israeli perspective, and some Jews elsewhere.  I think I'm an optimist sometimes, maybe more than that.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Judiasm against Zionism

Reading the commentary on Finkelstein's calling the BDS movement a cult, I came across an astounding comment by Hadassah Borreman of Judiasm against Zionism.

Validating what I said about Orthodox Rabbis being opposed to Zionism, Borreman's website has a gallery of Orthodox Rabbis with their own words.  Borreman echoes that with on his websites:

His own words as a strict observing Jew are quite blunt also.

A Jewish domination (a fortiori a Zionist domination which is the highest physical achievement of the Zionist heresy) is prohibited everywhere, especially in the Holy Land. The Zionist entity was founded against the Torah; this Zionist entity isn’t a Jewish State. The question of Palestine can’t be solved only politically, she responds to spiritual laws.
The first Zionist settlers have captured Palestine, an Arabic land that was inhabited by the Palestinians that also the Zionists of today continue to disregard and ignore. This is injustice! Much worse, the Zionists are acting in our name, in the name of the Jews, since the beginning. The two-States solution is nonsense; it doesn’t solve any problem, because the root of the problem is the application of the Zionist ideology. We must uproot this root, not just cut the dead leaves of the weeds.
Zionists must give back everything they have stolen, they must leave Palestine and they have to be tried as war criminals.
The Palestinians have the right, and above all, they have the duty to defend themselves, the duty to protect their property and identity according to the rules they decide. Everything is permitted to end this Evil.
The Palestinians deserve our support, BDS and other actions will help to the disappearance of their misery that’s also ours. Yes to a Palestinian Islamic rule with only the Palestinian flag!

Finkelstein's Critique of "BDS Movement"

Finkelstein credits his political analysis to Gandhi.

But it seems to me a very shallow political/psychological analysis to me.

The first step in reaching people is honesty and openness.  So when someone asks what you think, the worst thing to do is to deflect the question.

I think the right thing would be for Palestinians to have their stolen country returned.  The whole thing, going back to before any zionist violence and aggression occurred.  That's obvious and the minimum degree of fairness because it's not even counting the death, pain, and suffering that has occurred as a result of zionist and Israeli violence and aggression.

Most people can understand and sympathize with people getting their land back.  It's the knowledge that it happened that's been delayed by cold war fears and hasbara distortions, including the basic distortion that somehow it was and is illegal and immoral for Palestinians to resist the original and continuing dispossession.

Now that those distortions are being debunked, and often by people like Finkelstein and Chomsky, it becomes apparent what happened and is still happening, and the fundamentally cruel and murderous character of the whole Zionist project.

If and when Palestinian lands are returned to their rightful owners, I don't care if that means a Jewish State couldn't exist there anymore.  I'm fine with a Jewish state existing or not, I don't care much about that specific fact, though I think all (including Jews) are better off without a Jewish supremacy State, and I especially don't think a Jewish State should exist on stolen land needing endless death (or worse) with USA military backing and deceit to continue existing

That's a dangerous and murderous business for my state--the USA--to be in…militarily and diplomatically defending both the morally indefensible theft of a country, and to be doing so to the hatred of a large fraction of the world's population, if not more.  I rue the day Truman got us into this mess by making the U.S. the first state to recognize the State of Israel on 78% of a stolen country.

So I support BDS.  Others can have their own reasons, like the notion that UN law must be applied.  Generally I think that's a good idea, but one can argue about the details, and here I can argue with all of them, going at least back to the unfair preallocation of 55% of the land (which grew to 78% and now more by aggression) including most of the coastline to a minority Jewish population by the UN in 1947.    That doesn't represent any fundamental notion of fairness.  It happened because of the power politics of the day.  Today the power politics occurs more exclusively in the Security Council, which has kept Israel free of UN sanction and peacekeepers.

Maybe because I know so much about this whole situation, the actual law has been far more fair to Jews than Palestinians.  Let alone the fact that none of what would have been good for Palestinians has actually been done (and maybe that would be correctible with existing states…or maybe not--I think.)

But even if you're not some kind of junkie on this issue, as I am, I honestly don't think that "International Law must be applied" resonates as much as all the various notions of fundamental justice, like that theft is wrong and what is stolen should be returned.

If there's an organization or proto-organization which wants to promote the International Law aspect differently than existing BDS organizations, I'm fine with them existing, in fact I'd love to see that too.  They could consider themselves part of the existing BDS movement or not.  Maybe they'd grow much bigger and ultimately win.

The fact they don't suggests that maybe the International Law aspect doesn't resonate with people as much as the fundamental justice one.

Now what actual Palestinians decide they are willing to accept is not up to me anyway.  The BDS movement creates the pressure for change, not the change itself.  No one should expect anything like fundamental justice can be achieved.

Many have felt that radical thinking and ideas make reforms possible.  Many of Marx's ideas did get adopted in 20th century USA.  Hardly all, of course.  Many credit the New Deal reforms to political success achieved by US Socialists and Communists as well as opportunists like Huey Long.  That created the need for the mainstream FDR to respond with mainstream reform.  If the pressure from the further left hadn't appeared, FDR's achievements would likely have been far less.

Chomsky seems to completely follow Finkelstein in his critique of the BDS movement.  But strangely in most other areas outside the Israel/Palistine war…Chomsky has been reluctant to tell people what to do.  He says something like there are many obvious things to do.

That is actually the correct thing to say, in every case I'd say.

So why is Chomsky himself, at one time at least believer in the one state with equality for all Jews and Palestinians (including when he lived there), so much fine tuning the required goal for action here?  Action occurs as people are moved, not as we would intend them to.

He does tell the compelling story of how once the 2 state settlement became possible, when Arafat of the PLO accepted the outlines of a 2 state settlement according to UN law in 1975…Israel and the US worked to make it impossible.  But it's still not entirely impossible, he says.  Others are not so sure.

Chomsky goes beyond just mentioning international law, but the international community, leading Palestinian authorities, etc.  Pretty much the main thing blocking UN direct action is the vote of USA in the Security Council.  No nation should have veto, and especially the USA.

Anyway, it does seem to me that Chomsky becomes uncharacteristically directing in his response to this issue for the same reason as Finkelstein.  He cares a lot about it, perhaps even personally, for Palestinians to have peace now, and not 100 years from now.  Strangely, however, Chomsky often suggests other issues in the world may be much more important, or at least involve greater death and suffering.

Friday, August 8, 2014

2 state settlement is existing and enforceable international law

According to blogger named Hostage at Mondoweiss, in a comment to this thread at Mondoweiss.

Hostage says:
i would support two states if israel would start by defining those borders. it won’t.
Israel did that when it signed the Armistice Agreements as a provisional measure under Article 40, Chapter VII of the UN Charter. The ICJ cited Security Council resolution 62 and the other relevant resolutions in determining the legal status of the territory. I’ve noted elsewhere that Israel admitted the status of the territory is unchallengeable in the absence of a new round of negotiations and mutual consent. Palestine is not under any obligation to accept any changes. link to
The international community adopted a consensus definition of the crime of aggression which included any military occupation that violates the UN Charter – and it has long-since applied it to the on-going occupation of the Arab territories captured by Israel in 1967. See for example UN General Assembly resolution 39/146 link to The ICC Assembly of State Parties adopted the consensus definition into the recent amendments to the Rome Statute. So Norman is actually correct. There is an enforceable consensus solution under existing Security Council resolutions 62 & 73 and international law.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Dual Right of Return

Though unusual, the concession to Jewish persecution should well be a highly unusual constitutionally guaranteed Right of Return (for Jews, meaning any Jew can enter, as under Israel) as well as the demanded by many international laws of Right of Return for all Palestinian refugees and their descendants.  A dual right of return state would be the only one imaginable which would be reasonably fair to all parties, and still maintain an extraordinary status as a Jewish haven.  Israel is not Gaza, there are large quantities of unused land in Israel, enough for all of those with a right to be there.

I have come to believe that USA's legitimacy should come from the realization of the inscription on the Statue of Liberty.  European descendants, such as myself, were initially welcomed by Native Americans in many places.  It was only when the white man started monopolizing things that there was violent conflict.  Still, many agreements and treaties were reached with Native Americans in the 1800's.  Fighting was relatively isolated.  By 1924, 20 years before violent zionism (and palestinian resistance to ethnic cleansing), native americans had full US citizenship and also tribal citizenship from which might come other benefits.  They had largely agreed upon tribal lands, which have not been useless.  US history is not free of violent and unfair aggression, and more recently the US has not been a perfect steward, and that's terrible and should be fixed, but I believe the situation is far different than in Palestine, contrary to suggestions by hasbarats.

To not allow in the "huddled masses yearning to be free" we are pulling up the ladder after ourselves.  And in so doing, we destroy our own legitimacy, as long as we monopolize the resources the Native Americans were willing to share with us.

Likewise, legitimacy only comes to Israel/Palestine only when there is right of return for all palestinians, and a single state.  Then the great theft of a national homeland for the indigenous Palestinians has been reversed.

[Of course I understand the difficulty of the current situations, and it may be better to accept a reasonable two state solution now to end the historic and punishing war.  It is for the locals to decide, not me.  I only stand in judgement as to what seems more fair by my lights, and attempting to follow universal standards as much as possible.  I am not an activist leader, though I have participated in free Gaza demonstrations.  Certainly the 2000 proposals at Camp David were ridiculously unfair to the Palestinians even by two state standards.]

About my Jewish friends…so giving

Thinking back upon all my Jewish friends, just all of my best friends going back to age 8.  They haven't necessarily the smartest (although some pretty close)  or the most exciting (though they have generally been more fun to me than others--same speed) but what has really set them apart from others has been how giving they have been to me.  Right away they invited for play, then dinner, and so on.

Now it might be different facing a Jewish lawyer under cross examination, or any other adversarial circumstance.

Israel was created by lying murdering ethnic cleansing extremists who set a deadly ball of murder and deceit in motion, and not surprisingly it is making the worst of the best of people.  Nationalism does that, and so does capitalism.  Both nationalism and capitalism empower the worst people in society the most, which is made worse by the strong extremist nationalist edge of Jewish society.  There is also no King or singular religious leader who could dial it back, as sometimes happens in traditional societies, though that just as often doesn't work.

The best idea is no Israel, no special country club for Jews, especially one built on the stolen land and broken backs of the earlier owners and occupants who were shoved off to make a Jewish majority and are now being squeezed into the margins of their previous state where it had been promised that they would finally get freedom from colonialism and self determination after World War II.

If Jews were to choose to leave a secular and liberal Palestine--with guaranteed equality for all--and full right of return for all displaced Palestinians and their descendants, I'm fine with them leaving.  Jews can live with full rights and little prejudice in many countries now.  I never thought my Jewish friends in the USA suffered prejudice, indeed some got special advantages it seemed to me--as a result of having the more cohesive society I wished I had.  Even if there is prejudice, the best thing is to fight it where it is, largely with kindness, which is what Judaism successfully promotes in diaspora if not in nationhood.

Getting to a secular and liberal Palestine is almost unimaginable via sustained direct conflict by the parties involved…but a regime of sustained international sanctions including blocking weapons shipments to and from Israel from all other states…would be the best tactic.  Another key strategy is educating people about the Nakba and the creation of Israel and the nature of it's role in Imperialism (Battleship Israel) and how that thwarted true local self determination.  I think if many Jews realized they were being used this way--as a force to block global democratization--they wouldn't want to be a part of this enterprise.

The fact that many Arab states such as Egypt support Israel more than Palestinian rights is not a measure of Israel's popular success, but rather a measure of how successful the anti-democratic strategy of having an Israel to block pan Arab democracy has been.  Along with other imperialist measures.  There could have been pan arab secular democracy if it had not been blocked at every turn, and the client dictators supported.  Islam became the only way permitted way to resist.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Dear Obama, stop sending military aid to Israel

We must stop sending military aid to Israel until it honors its obligations under international law, including not attacking hospitals, UN refugee centers, and civilians in Gaza.  Israel must  lift the blockade on Gaza--itself a brutal act of war, and the brutal occupation of the West Bank.

Until Israel honors its obligations, it should be considered a military aggressor towards Palestine, and all violent actions by Palestine toward Israel are justifiable self-defense given the limited means at their disposal.

Israel was a big mistake from the very beginning, when Harry Truman made the USA the first state to recognize Israel while ignoring unsettled issues, such as the forcible expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians in order to create a Jewish majority.  FDR had committed himself to seeking Arab approval before recognizing a Jewish state.  At minimum, the Palestinian state should have been simultaneously recognized.

Ever since, the brutality and bad faith of Israel has continued and become our brutality and bad faith.  As the supporters of state terrorism by Israel, we make ourselves legitimate targets for justifiable asymmetric warfare.

We are better off not supporting Israel, and the world would be a better place if Israel were abandoned.