Wednesday, December 23, 2015

What is Science? What is Truth?

Science is a lot trickier than most people imagine.

Modern physics anyway.  Such as String Theory, which is said to have made no testable predictions in 50 years.  (That's funny because I recall hearing 10 years ago that String Theory predictions were going to be tested real soon now.)  But This Is Not New!  Historically, it has taken decades or even centuries to test the most central theories.  Such as Galileo's cosmology.  Galileo himself could only show evidence by example, not evidence as proof.  It wasn't until hundreds of years later that astronomical devices could make sufficiently accurate measurements to prove that the earth moves around the sun.  It also took some thinking about this that Galileo himself hadn't done.

At cruder scales, things have been working better.  We can have a very very high degree of confidence in the existence of atoms, biological evolution through natural selection, and anthropogenic climate change.  Here we have numerous testable hypotheses and vast numbers of confirmations.  Our Bayesian confidence should be 99% or above.

Still, very very high confidence isn't absolute certainty.  If you want that, you'll just have to find it in theology or philosophy, and would probably find it isn't there either.

Statin Drugs

I have been prescribed to take 20mg Lipitor daily.  Honestly I think this dosage is too high, and when I am not subject to blood test within one month, I take half pills, or alternate, so as to bring my average usage down to 10mg daily.  I take 100mg CoQ10 supplements daily, to cancel out the effect of statins on lowering CoQ10.  I also take fish oil, which cancels out the effect of statins to reduce the beneficial effects of omega-3 fatty acids.

I think the official target levels for LDL/HDL are ridiculously hard to reach.  IMO and IME one should never use a correction factor to achieve some target level exactly.  Instead, correction factors should be used to split the difference between an uncorrected response (such as what my LDL is w/o statins) and what the nominal "ideal" is.  This is because a measured target is only one possible thing (out of gazillions of things) that could be measured, and correcting one thing often puts other things not-measured out of bounds.  That's the thinking behind why I try to approximate 10mg Lipitor daily.  But if my blood test isn't exactly at the "ideal" level for an at-risk person, my MD wants to increase the statins.  So I "cheat."  Even cheating I'm below LDL levels that are bad except for people "at risk."  I disagree that I'm an "at risk" person for heart disease.  My relatively high weight is accompanied by relatively more muscle than many people, and heart disease does not run in my family.

Here's just one of millions of pages telling about the "grave dangers" of statin drugs.  Is any of this true?  I suspect there is some level of truth in this, but some truth also in the official LDL targets.  FWIW I have never been aware of any ill side effects of statin use on me.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

The San Bernardino Shooting

One angle in the investigation of the San Bernardino Shooting was how the Farook's obtained the assault weapons.  It has been reported that they legally purchased the handguns.  But nothing much has been said about how they obtained the assault rifles.*

If this shooting was motivated by geopolitics and therefore terrorism, as now seems almost certainly the case on the basis of facts reported in news reporting, several things should be kept in mind.

1) This is one of the very few Islamist terrorist shootings to occur inside the USA since 9/11.  14 people were killed.  Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people are killed by auto accidents every year.  And I could go on with millions of other mostly preventable deaths.  There is no good reason for mass fear.  An average American's risk of death from terrorism is exceedingly tiny compared with other death risks which people generally ignore.

2) Since 9/11, and far before, the US has been killing people in the middle east.  The number is at least nearly 100,000 and possibly a million or more.  And that's not even counting deaths from chemical exposure to depleted uranium, excess deaths from water purification systems which were destroyed and/or subjected to sanctions, and so on.  Though senseless, this possible terrorist act is blowback on an exceedingly tiny scale.

3) Giving in to fear is exactly what "the terrorists" (and specifically ISIL) want.  They want non-muslims to overreact with fear and panic and lash out against ordinary non-extremist muslims, thereby radicalizing all muslims.  Above all we should not give in to fear and panic which only makes this situation worse.  The 1.5 billion muslims in the world are almost entirely peace loving people and want to have nothing to do with terrorism and are as unhappy about Islamic Terrorists as non-muslims if not far more.

4) The correct actions for western powers to take are all peaceable.  We should be trying to negotiate at all levels.  And also accepting all refugees.  And jawboning the Saudi's to cool down their Wahabi schools.

5) US action in Syria goes back to the 1940's when Truman's CIA got newly independent Syria's first democratic government overthrown and replaced by a US-friendly dictator.  Or perhaps you could go back further to count how we helped the Syrian independence movement defeat the French.  We're really responsible for much of went on during the Arab Spring because we supported and encourage opposition movements.  It is known that Syria did not use chemical weapons against rebels in at least one alleged incident, and quite possibly all such incidents.  Instead Syrian rebels got supplies through the "ratline" from Libya abetted by the US.  US is the party most responsible for chaos in Syria, and it is our moral duty to accept all Syrian refugees.  US has been trying to overthrow Assad for geopolitical rather than humanitarian reasons.  Precisely because Assad has been a client of Russia.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The long history of US intervention in Syria

It goes back to March 30, 1949, when the CIA assisted Colonel Zaim to overthrow the elected government of Shukri Quwatly.  Truman was alarmed by Quwatly having direct dialog with the Soviet Union.

Up until 1946, Syria had been a colony of France, and the USA pressured France to grant independence in the aftermath of WWII.

Zaim immediately did his master's bidding, approving the ARAMCO pipeline to pipe Saudi oil to the Mediterranean, banning the Communist Party, and jailing dissidents.  But Zaim was intensely unpopular, and was overthrown less than 5 months after his appointment.

And on and on it went.  The full story here.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Let Russia Defeat ISIL, all others go home

The genesis of the Syrian Civil War was in the so-called Arab Spring.  The Arab Spring should not be thought of as an entirely grass roots event.  It was backed by US and Gulf State support going back to  mid 2000's, backing rebel groups that opposed Assad for largely religious reasons.  The rebel groups wanted theocracy, as in Saudi Arabia, whereas Assad has continued the Baath tradition of secular pluralistic democracy.  We should put aside any notion of Syria as being any more "undemocratic" than, say, the USA--which itself is now declared by political scientists to be an Oligarchy.  Assad wins internationally certified elections with large majorities, large majorities that want Syria to remain a secular state.  Elections in the USA are not internationally certified and often called into deep question both inside and outside the USA.

Given that context, Assad's reaction was perfectly predictable and cannot be entirely--or even mostly--blamed on Assad but rather on the US and Gulf States who were the first actors.  Needless to say, the US has always wanted Assad to go precisely because he is a Russian ally and not a US client.

WRT chemical weapons, at least one (and probably more) uses of chemical weapons in famous attacks was not by the Syrian government but rather by an Islamist army, al Nusra, which was directly supported by Gulf states and indirectly supported by the US through it's support for the feckless Free Syrian Army whose soldiers and weapons often seem to end up in al Nusra.

So at least half of the fingers we point at Assad for being a tyrant or whatever who "must go" should instead be pointed right back at US.

Since we're not talking about forcible regime change in the US who was the largest actor in the start of this conflict, we should not be talking about forcible regime change in Syria.  Assad has never been a threat to any other country (very much unlike the US regime and others) and so it is none of the business of other countries.

But that appears to be the aim of all other actors in the region except Russia and Iran.  Only Russia and Iran are supporting the still sovereign government of Syria.  All other actors are invaders.

The genesis of ISIL was a direct consequence of several US actions, including the Arab Spring, the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and the de-Bathification of the Iraqi government.

There is no moral, ethical, or defense reason why western countries should continue their invasion of Syria.  Russia and Iran are perfectly happy to defeat ISIL without western "help" which is really imperial competition, and a proto world war.

A "moderate" friend of mine rationalizes it differently, though to the same end.  "Considering how much we've screwed this up from the very beginning, and then continued doing so until now, at this point the best plan would be to slowly back away and hope to be quickly forgotten."

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Comments on the newest violence in Palestine/Israel

I do not believe Israel is sustainable long term w/o imperial backing.*  Jews in the BDS movement feel similarly.  Zionists claim otherwise, but you can feel the fear.  And this is of course why they want to be surrounded by all friendly clients, as Egypt has become.  Not by friends but clients.  Friends may have concerns, Clients will move along.  That project isn't looking good (or maybe it is--for awhile).  (*I mean as a continuing Jewish Supremacy Colonial State continuing as it is--to the horror of all.)

Anyway it isn't going to have Imperial backing forever.  Eventually the winds will change in one way or another.  And many clients may flip to friends or even something else.

Changing those winds ought to be the hinge point for the peace movement in USA--the USA itself is behind this whole mess and continues to support it with resources and cover.  Second, and I realize this is fantasy now, but talking Zionists down out of the tree by talking sense about it.*  It is of course destroying Judiasm and Western credibility generally.  This has been our number one security issue since at least 1991, cost us Trillions so far.

(*Here is how I might put it.  The wrong path has been followed from the beginning.  Letting thugs instead of ambassadors do the work.  As the most educated and intelligent Americans and Europeans, Jews could have built a model multi-ethnic state, putting the USA to shame.  The end result of taking the low road is that the reputation of Judaism is destroyed in the long run.  Depending on how this works out, centuries to come Jews could be too embarrassed to admit they were Jews.  That is the likely long run outcome of a militaristic approach that endlessly grinds away at the indigenous population.  There is still time to turn back and do things the right way, following Jewish principles--treating their neighbor as best friend.  The USA did grant full citizenship to indigenous peoples in 1905.  Territories have been mostly stable (though some mining encroachment which has been awful).  Israel could do the same thing, and much more.)

So really what both sides should do, IMHO, is nothing.  Just wait it out.  Gradually work on the politics if possible in a positive way.  Or at least keyboard clicks instead of bullets.

For the Zionists this works like this: the cooler they are, the longer their Imperial backing will last.  And more perhaps is on the line than that, as I said above, the identity itself is at stake.

For Palestinians, job 1 is survival.  Intifada doesn't help that.

That's my chicken dove kitchen table opinion anyway, which I'm sure nobody will follow.  But otherwise, my feelings are not so "balanced" as this article.*  I believe that Palestinians have a right to defend themselves within their entire original territories, whose dispensation they never agreed to except in one agreement which was fraudulent (Camp David).  Meanwhile, until they withdraw from occupied territories and remove all settlements there and all blockades against Gaza, Israelis do not have a right to claim self defense as a justification for any violence they use.  They are an invading army/settler-colonial-state, and they have the right to peace only upon withdrawal and cessation of war activities including occupation and blockade at least to current international agreements (which were unfairly decided in their direction in the first place).  Or just give up the whole idea of a Jewish Supremacy State, that's now looking like the easier approach.  But meanwhile Israel kills far more Palestinians.

(*to be linked soon.  Typical mainstream both sides do it.  Or that was mainstream long ago.  Then it was those damn arab terrorists.  Now Israel itself is coming into mainstream US consciousness, more and more, not in a good way.  We've passed through both sides do it, and beyond perhaps.)

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Critique of Alinsky Method

I like this critique of the Alinsky Method.

I've always thought that it must go that way, and Staughton Lynd describes from his own experiences as an Alinsky teacher.

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.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Daily Laugh

I didn't feel good about Jon Stewart's The Daily Show from the very beginning.  Jamelle Bouie's postmortem sums up my feelings precisely.  I particularly detested his "Rally to Restore Sanity."  While I intended to watch it simply to keep up with others, I never got around to watching it by myself.  Many people I respect greatly preferred Colbert--despite completely disagreeing with Colbert's stage character.  I never got around to watching Colbert by myself either.  I have hardly had time to keep up with the real news on Democracy Now!

Of course there isn't much else on corporate TV that does anything better than Stewart either.  You just can't expect anything but disinformation from Oligarchy TV.  Stewart added a bit of fact and irreverent humor to his fake news show, which made it better than most.  But it was still disinformation.

Monday, April 20, 2015

affordable Care ?

A friend of mine is waiting to get a physical exam.  She enrolled in an ACA HMO policy this year, I think it was February.  She is having to wait until July.  She is worried about her heart.  She has been paying $360 per month and hasn't seen anyone yet, despite two attempts.  Last time she was down to the clinic in hope of getting seen, she saw lots of pamphlets about free tests for poor people.

Meanwhile, I have a reasonably good company policy, and I've been talked to about going through another battery of likely unnecessary tests to continue getting my statins refilled.  Last time, 8 years ago, I went all the way, from radiological treadmill to ultrasound to cardiac catheterization.  In the end the finding was squeaky clean.  I've never had any serious symptom (I complained once about multiple beats) and heart disease hasn't been the family problem (both of my parents died from cancer).  I am somewhat overweight but I avoid stress and have low blood pressure.  This year my doctor saw me in her office to tell me about getting more tests the very day I called about getting my statin refill.  I am grateful she let it pass this many years (I think she's been telling me to go back to the cardiologist several years in a row now).  I am not worried about my heart, though I think statins are helpful (they do improve my cholesterol numbers fwiw).  I have heard a lot of claims that statins are not even helpful, high cholesterol is a phony problem, and stents (what might have otherwise been the outcome of my cardiac catheterization) are less then helpful as a precautionary measure.  While I still think statins are helpful, I suspect they don't help very much.  I'm more worried about the downside to the escalating examination/treatment treadmill than losing the benefits of treatment which is not symptomatically demanded.  Last time, during the cardiac cathertization they used a newly approved metal closure--for which I gave permission as I was on the operating gurney.  If I had had a chance to check it out, I would have insisted on the old fashioned method.  That cardiac catheterization cured me of any desire to have any more testing or treatment that doesn't seem to me to be absolutely necessary.  On top of it all, my policy wants me to sign up for an additional "wellness coach," and I'm not responding to that.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Shut Down the F___ Barrel !!!

Poor people unable to pay initial small fines end up with escalating charges from private probation companies, even extended time in prison…at huge cost to the taxpayers that the new regime of fees based on "let-the-offender-pay" ideas concocted by libertarians in the 1970's was supposed to save.  So the taxpayer is loosing too, not to mention the general welfare when people loose their cars and jobs over such stuff--by which time they're surely never going to pay those fines--but oodles of private middlemen make out like bandits and try to get the rules and laws changed to make even more at the expense of the poor and defenseless.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Devil is in Lack of Thought

My response to this incident.

Self-pitying student playing the card my belief is better gets what she came for.  Further cause for self-pity.

French lady handled it about as well as possible.  Essentially, as someone suffering for your beliefs, you are Charlie too.  It was an inclusive dismissal.

Sad, but people like that student won't let go of their daddy (Mohammed, etc) even when he's a pig.

That's the problem with conservative religion generally.  The mighty Oz won't allow flash photography, afraid the wrinkles will show.*

No free pictures, no free thinking.

The devil is not in thought, but in lack of thought.

I am Charlie Hebdo.


What about the suffering of the people in the Middle East under US, British, Israeli, and other Imperial Oppression?

Yes, that is not good, but it is not a story about Islam basically.  Actually the Empires seeded religion deliberately to make people easier to control.  The US feared Communism, so crushed the entire secular left in the Middle East but funded religious crackpots like bin Laden.

So now those long suffering people suffer from two things: US Empire and Extremist Islam.

Of course the latter is for them to judge.  But not necessarily for us to obey.

We respect that people have made their choices.  But we don't need to respect those choices.

(*My deist says, across the All, the One, the Whatever, the very brightest lights are already shining.  Your puny satire of my beloved myth of Universal Oneness is part of the shading on the script that gives it more dimensions.  The days when taking offense was a necessary defense were those prior to permanent settlement.  Now, we should laugh, and respond more kindly.)

James Madison would be Horrified

James Madison would be Horrified how his clever system for enabling the better people--but not too few of them--has resulted in Giant Reptiles Consuming Us All, though still producing more of us to consume in the phase still running.

But that's also the inescapable result also of attempting to build the greater good from individual greed.

The sum of all mayhem is not peace.  Peace is something altogether different.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Grexit looms over the Eurozone, 6th Edition

It's 2012 all over again.  This heated argument over at NakedCapitalism in 2012 could have been written today. Read all the comments, it gives a great exposition of the context of how Greece was taken to the brink.  Commenter Hugh makes some of the best pithy analyses, like this one:

  1. HughHow is Greece that much different than Iceland? Iceland has even fewer resources than Greece. So how would an Icelandic solution for Greece be so beyond the bounds?
    Greece is in a massive depression precisely because it is in the eurozone and has kept the euro. An exit won’t be easy but even if things got worse for a while with an exit, they are already getting worse without one.
    And just to repeat, Europe of the eurozone has 6 problems:
    1) Lack of a democratic fiscal and debt union
    2) An insolvent predatory banking sector
    3) An ineffective central bank
    4) Mercantilist trade patterns with in the zone
    5) Corrupt political classes
    6) Rich kleptocrats calling the shots
    Varoufakis’ program for Europe addresses only partially the first 4 of these. All must be dealt with for any solution to succeed.
    Forward to this week, and the International Business pages of the New York Times paint a very Greek unfriendly view of the Grexit "threat."  Reading this made me very angry, and motivated to seek out alternative views like the above.

    Here's a very different take on Varoufakis from Counterpunch last month.  Is this the same guy Yves Smith was referring to in the top link?  Has he changed as much as comparing the two OP's would suggest?

    NakedCapitalism had an updated discussion of Varoufakis' latest, which is a must read.

    But there are even more problems with Euro.  And one of them is the lack of region wide military socialism.  Instead, there's client mercantilism, where under equipped Greece has to buy it's own equipment, from taxes on hotel staff.  In the US, many cities rely on military socialism, the returns to local industry and direct employment from national revenue.

    Capitalism not only starts from unpardonable theft, it continues unstable on it's own terms.  The US is actually stabilized somewhat by military socialism, and other systems of social democracy, including social security and medicare (also essential to some communities…).  It could be stabilized even more, and made more prosperous, with more social democracy.  The #1 missing element is a jobs guarantee.

    German and other bankers relying on "the market" either in amazing belief or cover for predatory practices should have known about the investments not going to go well in Greece.  If one looks at these things as a morality play…default would be what they deserve for their lack of total diligence.

    What Greece needed, was international industrial development, say, of the kind going on in Asia.

    But that kind of thing takes patients, the kind of patience that only governments can provide in their own currency, but what it may on the world market.

    Banks have taken on the role that really must be taken by social collectives.  The profit motive is not the correct way to guide industrial development.  It has to be shaped by social needs, abilities, and aspirations.

    The Euro itself is pure neoliberalism, the notion that a currency can be shared only on an economic basis, and not one of social trust and ultimate authority.


Monday, February 23, 2015

Property is Aggression, Coercion, and Threats

An excellent analysis by Matt Bruenig who is now being added to my blog roll.  He describes property as "violence vouchers" provided by the state.

American Libertarians (also known as propertarians and glibertarians by people I like) have long claimed that a society based on property and the ability to make money from it is non-coercive.  Nothing could be further from the truth, which Matt Bruenig explains.

Matt further links to his previous essays on the failed philosophies of property rights, including those of libertarians, which are also worth reading.

I discovered Matt while starting to read excellent commentary on Property and Government at Crooked Timber.  This starts from Quiggen's point that property rights, often seen as antagonistic to government, actually come from government, and are best enforced by government, and you can't have property rights without government.

Certainly it's true that Property Rights are not part of any real natural law (actually the very concept of Natural Law, as Jeremy Bentham quipped, is nonsense on stilts).  The natural state of affairs for independent actors in nature is the Rule of the Jungle, aka Might Makes Right.  Under Might Makes Right, anyone's "property" is fair game to be taken by someone else more powerful, and so on without end.  So at minimum, property requires collectivism, as Sasha Clarkson says in comment 30:

Any “non might” based private property right requires social organisation and protection of that that right/privilege by collective recognition and enforcement: whether you choose to call that organisation a “state” or not is a matter of choice.
That's definitely too strong.  Many informed later commenters would say this was well put except instead of "state" she should have said "society."  Then it would be unequivocally correct, as many commenters note, all "rights" come from society.

I'd argue this: If they're not coming from society, they're not rights, they're obligations.

Locally, at some times and places in the distant past, a mutualism might have been sufficient.  That's unimaginable now.  But at the scale of bands, in which humans existed for most of their time on earth, up to the past 10,000 years, property generally doesn't exist either, but rather a sort of communism.  So something like modern property (with strong powers to exclude all others) appears at a fairly large scale of organization…certainly state-like if not state, and not in all of them even.  Native Americans had very sophisticated civilizations without it.

An excellent comment to Bruenig's blog points out that propertarian arguments were debunked long ago by Proudhon.   And that the commenter sees property as a government regulation, at least alleged if not believed to produce a better society.  Breunig said he agreed with this view of property as a government regulation (he describes property as "violence vouchers" provided by the government).  But then it would be entirely up to government to decide how it worked, including how much of the proceeds an owner could take, and how much for the government to take.  Or how much one person could have.  In that regards, taxation of property is not a taking, rather what the individual takes  beyond their immediate needs, as in a wonderful letter by Benjamin Franklin, is the people's prerogative to dispose of first.

Many lists of authoritative books on the very subject are listed.  David Woodruff lists some authoritative books in comment 43.  One of the best of the best books is Jeremy Waldron's The Right To Private Property, according to Harry in comment 54.

Scholars and lawyers can whine on and on, but many many in the general public don't get it, they believe in the idea of property as natural, god given, or something like that, laments one commenter.  We should be talking about how to get the message out, that property is a social regulation implemented through laws by governments.  At least one commenter noted there would be better alternatives in many circumstances.

Jake comments that property as stuff you carry on you is very old.  Property as land only came about after the agricultural revolution, and then the State came into existence to defend it.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

My take on feminism

Posted to this blog at Crooked Timber.

I would mandatorily self-describe as "feminist."  On my own terms, which includes an absolute right for a woman to choose abortion.  I would take it as until natural childbirth, but Roe v Wade is a fine compromise.  Strangely, I suspect a lot of the feminists with whom I disagree on other matters might disagree on this also.

I'm a fan of Ellen Willis, and her notion of pro sex feminism, as compared with very common in USA anti porn feminism.  An anti porn stance in the broadest sense (which many well known feminists subscribe to, and some of my friends) is that any female image that men find erotic should be banned--could be a completely clothed model lounging on her own website, no matter.  This is not unlike how Islam bans human images.  I argue that objectification is the essence of human though, not some evil process, and anti porn feminists are simply using a rhetorical curse to selectively roll back liberty where in the historic traditional sexual compromise women were given absolute power.  Masturbation, and sexual images that were lewd, were prohibited.  But there were a lot of things where women gave up power--involvement in politics, participation in many careers, and, arguably, they were prompted to submit to men.

My second, and further out objection to a lot of feminism is how it essentially rejections the old traditional marriage model for all people.  Call it serfdom, but I think something like a traditional marriage model fits many people better than total subjection to wage slavery.  Perhaps even a majority if done on an appropriate basis (I suggest a very liberal basis, which actually is open to either sex as 'breadwinner', and unconditioned and guaranteed support for the homemaker, but there are also endless traditional models, and conservatism is very common in my country).  This was the norm until the 1970's, and what has happened since?  Not entirely coincidentally, median wage growth plummeted compared with earlier periods.  Doubling the potential labor force was not at coincidental--it helped make it possible.

In my vision, there are fewer wage slaves, but nobody lives in poverty, there is more time to devote to things other than work, activism is more sustainable, there is lots more sex and  more fun.  The downside is a loss in investment products and possibly some loss in consumer products.

Many women it seems, including my best friend, are dedicated to work as sort of self-proof.  No matter how much suffering and/or how little reward it delivers, it is worth it, to be free and independent of any single man.  Instead, the capitalist boss become the new ultimate boss, and he demands endlessly increasingly sacrifices in today's neoliberal wage slavery, ultimately leading to the death of all other relationships, each person with only a job and an a video screen.

My mother was actually a pioneer in this movement, despite being a lifelong conservative who had been an early admirer of Ronald Reagan, later a fan of Limbaugh.  She took advantage of the availability of work during WWII, and ended up spending far more time living away from my father than with him.  My sister opined how much materially better off she might have lived as a housewife of the time, and how much more she might have ended up with when my father, a senior manager, died.  Not even counting the possibility he might have been more successful or lived longer to make wiser investments.  She had lousy jobs--some of which probably long-term poisoned her--but economic freedom.

I don't understand it myself.  A life married to someone far richer than myself, in which I could pursue art, politics, and technology on my own terms, and get a healthy stipend so I have no material concerns, sounds like paradise to me.  And I have a great and successful career doing stuff I love doing, so I'm actually fine right now, not slaving away under a totally unreasonable boss demanding more and more time as I hear so many women complaining about.

The neoliberal capitalist disorder has been fine to me directly.  I have no complaints about how much material is available to me, or how hard it is to get.  The number one concern of my life is how little time I am able to spend with my love partner, and how most of my life I couldn't find one.  I trace that limited amount of time exactly to the neoliberalism enabling aspect of feminism that essentially abolished anything like traditional marriage in the the segment of society (not the most elite) I inhabit.

I don't want to say this as a curse, and I hope I'm wrong, but it seems to me that until there is a great improvement (and in part, a restoration) of our social and sexual lives, there is little hope, I believe, in any sort of social revolution of the kind needed, which would be back toward and increasing social democracy.  We face a spiral into global collapse of all kinds which cannot be stopped.  I continue to live as much as I can as if this is not true, I join movements, including many feminist ones.  But I fear that sexual neoliberalism, which is a core part of feminism for many feminists, has destroyed the future.  If people have no time to spend together, the bonds that it needs for social cohesion are never formed.  I feel that many in the Crooked Timber crown are protected from the lower social reality which I face--the one that exists for liberals and leftists who self identify as feminist, but aren't university professors or rock stars or hedge fund managers.

But this reality isn't necessarily so for many extreme religious conservatives.   Even the less than elite have with traditional models of marriage and sexual roles.  Not surprisingly, their influence on geopolitics has been increasing--in particular since the 1970's.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Food Overproduction: The Real Problem

This article debunks the idea that starvation in the world is caused by inability to grow enough food.  In fact, the world already has the capability to feed 14 million, and "food crisis" is marketed to sell more profitable industrial agribusiness and crush movements toward food localism (which can't compete in quantity-of-production with agribusiness, or at least so it is claimed).  Excess food production is now used to create biofuels, among other things.

What the article doesn't discuss is how starvation is actually caused by poverty.  Some people can't afford to buy even the cheap food.  And that problem in many places is ironically caused by low food prices (thanks to agribusiness and so-called-trade-agreements) which make it impossible for peasants to make a living in the traditional way--by growing food on a small scale.  So, ironically, many potential small scale farms lie in disuse, and are in danger of being taken over by plantations which will lead to even more poverty.

Long term, of course, the best path toward sustainable everything is a managed decline in human population through reduction of fertility.  Even though we "can" grow enough food to feed even a much larger population than we have now, that food production (as well as the people's other activities of course) has a huge negative impact on the natural environment, no matter how it is done  (though especially through the world domination of agribusiness--whose methods are the worst for the environment, and the least sustainable, despite having low prices today).

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Money should primarily be thought of as lubricant

Posted (under moderation now) to this post at Crooked Timber.

Somehow I don't share the belief that money is supposed to be a store of value.  I see it as an economic lubricant, and if the lubrication works a bit better if some value slowly vaporizes, I see that as a feature not a bug.  Typically currencies don't lose value very much in the milliseconds it takes to do EFT from my employer to my bank.  And then once in my bank, in principle, it can re-earn sufficient proportion of the social dividend through interest and with guarantee principal to compensate for the loss for economically justifiable inflation.  Haven't we seen long periods where inflation was lower than savings account interest?  And what is really the correct explanation of why it may not do so now?  I see grand disinvestment and financial gambling having upended the old order, and my animus is directed at them rather than government spenders (we need more of that government spending, IMO, lots more, to be a modern and progressing post industrial society).

Even in the store-of-value concern wrt money, it seems to me that the it's not how much nominal inflation there is, but what the difference is between interest in socially guaranteed saving accounts and inflation.  How did that do in the 1970's?  Not so bad as just looking at one number, I think.  As far as anti-social people storing money in mattresses, gold, or bit coins rather than becoming invested in society--the worse outcomes for them the better IMO.

But that is still very far removed from the importance of money as economic lubricant.

In the actual 1970's, I made my way into a successful career in a way that would have not been possible in a deflationary economy, as I lacked the usually required credentials.  So I gained from the inflationary economy that couldn't find workers fast enough, while meanwhile my fixed interest inheritance was ground into dust, so that indeed I had to live from my deeds and not what my father was owed.  It's complicated to figure whether the combined effect was salutary or not because there are so many possible counterfactuals, but it compared with many other possibilities it was very much so.

I think in part the populist anti-inflation fear really comes from a fear that elites will profit while the little people don't see any wage increases, and it has little to do with the actual store-of-value aspect.  In reality, the little people do better in a moderately high inflationary economy for many reasons, mostly having to do with jobs and wage growth which does reach farther down than it does in other times (e.g. 70's, mid-to-late 90's).   Also true that the value of debts decreases, which matter more to most people of lower income than interest on savings.  But they are constantly trained not to think that way but to think like bond rentiers.  Because guess who owns the media.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Zappa: Cool to be a Right Smart Ass

I siding with Dave…there is no evidence that Frank Zappa opposed the Vietnam War while it was happening.  He was known to be anti-hippie, anti-marijuana, anti-communist, pro-ridiculously-hard-work.  The best argument is for his having been pro-war also.  His whole stick was to make it cool to be a smart neoconservative/neoliberal.  Put down those stupid leftist hippies.  We righties have our own anti-authoritarian cred against all the stupid New Deal generation (Johnson and Nixon) while remaining fully anti-communist and pro-capitalist.  We can still be freaks while not getting lefty.  (This included me of the time…though I hardly knew of Zappa.)

No question, anyway, he is heavy on the attitude, with a heavy tilt toward the US style Libertarianism.  Which was not what Johnson or Nixon represented.  Nixon was brought down from the inside precisely because he wasn't sufficiently pro-private-capital, he was a New Dealer to the core, like Eisenhower.

When Zappa spares the vocals, I can enjoy his considerable musical talent and hard work.  At his best, he's a great classical and jazz inventor in the tradition of Varese…sometimes as good as Varese himself, and he can do decent rock also.  Otherwise…when vocals are present he's often far too preachy in a way I find disgusting.  He's the caffeinated cool smart ass observing the sick lazy populist-corrupted world.  Sorry, that's not a new thing in my experience.  A US Libertarian might have been new to someone in the 1960's.

Now it's true that by the 1980's, Zappa was becoming anti-some-of-Reagans-wars.  He might have had a shift toward the anti-war that hasn't been publicly recognized (to do so would be to recognize the pro-war beginning, which was deliberately ambiguous).  US Libertarians are often anti-war…especially since the 1980's.

Honestly, I made the switch from a childhood Republican (weakly pro-Vietnam war, if at all) to grown up Democrat (and later, a leftist Democrat) and strongly anti-empire.  But I was not selling smart ass record albums and did not have a public persona when I made the switch, so it's easier for me to be honest about the matter…in fact for me it's a bragging point I think that I was able to change my mind about various things as I grew up.