Archive for July, 2008

TAX, DRILL, AND THINK.

July 31, 2008

NOT DRILLING AT HOME, AND NOT AUGMENTING ENERGY TAXES SKY HIGH  IS IMMORAL, SHORTSIGHTED, SELF DEFEATING, IMPERIALISTIC, AND STUPID.
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Abstract: a few critiques of the energy conversation the USA is having with itself during the presidential campaign, in a somewhat broader perspective.
***

Some on the US “left” have recently discovered that the USA has 3% of the proven oil reserves, and uses 25% of the energy, and strangely conclude that the USA should not drill for oil and gas anymore. Supposedly that would feed the “addiction” (and then they say it would make no difference anyway: being from the “left” is all too often supposed to be about having the “right” emotion, not the right logic).

The numbers are correct, and outrageous. Still, axing one’s attitude on energy around “not-drilling” is more of the same old mentality of exploitation of others. Instead the correct attitude ought to be to get oneself into energetic shape. Not-drilling is rather like not-thinking, and it’s even emotionally and morally wrong.

Indeed, what’s the idea around “not-drilling”? We will not drill in our backyard, because drilling is dirty, and so we prefer drilling in other people’s backyards? And then go invade them if they get an attitude?

The USA gets more than 70% of its oil from overseas in 2008 (long time ago, all the oil used in the USA came from the USA). This percentage is augmenting quickly as US oil production collapses. In other words, the USA, to feed what president G. W. Bush called its “oil addiction”, DRILLS and EXPLOITS other countries. Ever more. The plan of the “left” is to to do more of the same (whether it understands that or not; probably not) . Soon one thing will happen on present trends: 90% of US oil will come from overseas (in France 99% of the oil comes from overseas).

So the so called American left’s main energy plan is to keep on digging down the same hole ever more. And that hole is overseas. The only thing new that will happen: $300 per barrel oil. And after that: $500 oil. And so on. And then what will happen when the foreigners ask “too much” for their oil, according to Mr. Average American Joe?

What will the so called “American left” then do? Go invade some more overseas? Military “solutions”, like in Iraq and Afghanistan? However unreal that sounds, why not? Imagine the US invading Iraq or the Middle East for oil. According to most people around the planet, it already happened…

To use less of a product, one has to augment the price of the product, that’s basic home economics. Clearly the USA does not understand basic economics, its economic pundits are too busy giving each other the Nobel prize in economics, to do some basic thinking.

Europeans have long organized themselves according to that elementary knowledge: higher price to use less. Europeans reduced their energy usage by inflicting onto themeselves enormous energy taxes. And guess what? This economic strategy rose their living standards. Because it turns out that sharing one’s life with belching trucks is less enjoyable.

France reacted to the latest rise in the price of oil in 2008 by rising further energy taxes on cars emitting too much CO2, and then rose energy prices all over (while compensating with massive subsidies for the poor). Of course, the USA should have been doing the same. But nobody on the so called “American left” thought of it (OK, the “American left” is led and advised by hyper billionaires).

Applying the rising pressure of ever dearer energy for decades has led to spectacular results. The French car fleet is by far the most efficient in the world. The Peugeot 308 currently holds the record of the most fuel efficient mainstream car, averaging 3.13 L/100 km (75 mpg in U.S. units) over a distance of 14,580 kilometers (9,060 miles). That’s much better than Toyota’s Prius and the car is much prettier too (Peugeot is going to commercialize cars above 83 mpg, and Renault has worldwide plans for electric cars, and explicit contracts with Israel and Denmark to deploy the infrastructure of electric service stations).

Curiously the USA reacted to the first energy crisis, in the 1970’s, with non free market solutions. It is often the case that the USA bellows a capitalist song to drown all intelligent conversations with foreigners, but, when it comes to its internal economics, the US, instead, applies completely bizarre economics (to serve the special interests that truly rule the country).

Thus, instead of augmenting the price of energy, and letting the free market handle that constraint, the usual free market strategy in a civilized country, a bunch of weird puritanical measures were taken.

President Carter, a democrat, spoke on TV wearing heavy clothing to resist the cold. It did not come to his puritanical mind that the higher housing efficiency standards of Europe could be imposed instead. Better to suffer in heavy wool, God prefers those who chose to suffer. It was decided that Americans were to crawl on the freeways at a maximum of 55 mph (90 kms/hour). Never mind the risk of falling asleep, and never mind the immense economic cost of wasting one’s life inside one’s car, crawling along! Besides, crawling along augments traffic jams, and that augments fuel usage. But never mind logic; it’s all about emotion, as found in the Bible. Flee mileage standards were imposed (except on trucks, that’s why so many US citizens drove trucks for decades, feeling really manly). Then fleet mileage was not touched for 30 years!

By contrast, European governments have been very motivated to augment energy taxes, since they are such good sources of revenue. So European energy efficiencies and technologies kept improving, with a lot of subsidies for the poor and money for public transportation (from the energy taxes), while the US fell asleep at the wheel.

US consumption of oil is now going down, hence so is the tax revenue, used for repairing roads and paying for public transportation. Thus giant cavities are developing on crude roadways, inviting people to negotiate them with giant trucks and starving public transportation some more.

Now the American right has proposed to make the situation even worse by “taking a vacation” from energy taxes outright. That’s the American style vacation: don’t do anything for yourself, or your fellow man (just help the oil companies, whose profit margins go UP as the price of crude oil goes DOWN, contrarily to what the “left” has been insinuating!).

The question one is led to is: how come US politicians are so stupid? Well, just as economic efficiency comes from free market competition, mental efficiency comes from competition in the free market of ideas. But the US has long used the MENTAL equivalent of trade barriers, blocking the penetration of exterior ideas. It’s the usual addiction to hubris (what Greek and Athenian democracies died of, before they reached enough critical mass to survive). First thing US opinion makers are anxious to express, is that the USA invented everything (hint: it’s basically completely false).

Whereas Europe, deeply shaken by the monster fascist wars and regimes of the twentieth century, has become humble, and has acquired a deep respect for philosophically correct thinking.

The European Union with its 27 countries (plus many more or less associated to the E.U., and on a steep learning curve, such as Turkey), has been mentally open. European politicians are often under heavy, aggressive  mental pressure to perform better intellectually (presently Ireland, Poland, France, and the U.K. are particularly causing and receiving mental pressure). But all US citizens start from the principle that their country is so superior, it has nothing important to learn from anyone. We are told constantly most thinking mankind ever made happened in the USA, and then the self satisfied critters go to church, and pray (just like in the Middle ages). Besides, the US vision of culture in other countries is wine, cheese, the occasional old castle, and Disney like stuff. No appreciation whatsoever for the existnce of alien mental cultural depth.

US superiority was, and is, a real thing. But a lot had to do with geography, it was nothing mental (although wealth allowed better education, so it ended up being mental superiority, at least until around 1970, when plutocracy hiding behind Christian right wing fundamentalism took over, and ever since praying has overwhelmed thinking).

If the distance between France and the USA had been a mere 34 kilometers, as it is between England and France, no doubt that, instead of supporting Hitler in 1939-1940 (as it strongly did, in practice), the USA would have been a good ally of France, right away, as Great Britain was (instead of waiting until it had no choice, and it was safe, 38 months after France attacked Hitler). But, being safely 6,000 kilometers away, the USA could leave the Brits and French to their own instruments, while amusing, and enriching itself, with massive dual use and military technology transfers to the Nazis. So the US became hyper rich, while France and Britain were getting devastated (and indebted to the USA, which was busy stealing all their colonies, while exciting the Muslim fundamentalists).

Another way the US was special has to do with oil. The USA had a lot of it, starting in Pennsylvania (smack in the middle of the industrial centers of the Northeast US). So much oil, it cost very little developing US industry with 100% US oil (by comparison, France has 1% of oil coming from France). So much oil, the USA could send plenty to Hitler, from Texas (old friendships spring eternal in these pages, sorry).

Now this is all over. A lot of the American geographical exception is fading fast. The USA cannot afford US stupidity anymore. Soon the US may have to adopt the French slogan: “we have no oil, but we have ideas”.

The simplest way to get ideas is by looking at what other people are doing. A lot of French politicians have been looking at what Denmark is doing to reduce unemployment and have a stellar economy. Never mind that France has 12 times the population of Denmark, Danish solutions are imported to France. And Danish politicians, reciprocally have been mulling joining the Eurozone. Better economics and society is all about freely trading ideas. That starts with humility and hunger for thinking. Forget the big Dog in the sky, He is not barking for you. 

Civilization is improving, because drilling for ideas is increasingly done all over.

Patrice Ayme,
Tyranosopher.
https://patriceayme.wordpress.com/
http://patriceayme.com/
***

Critical addenda: 1) Drilling will just provide with some relief for the next few decades, and, mostly, make it a bit less probable that the US will insist to invade and occupy the Middle East with as much enthusiasm as it has now, because it will share the pain with these countries it wants to invade so much. Drilling for oil is no panacea: it just buys time. The transforming factor for the economy will be to rise energy taxes, as in Europe. That will force the rise of new energy technologies massively, as in Europe.

2) Nobody has talked about a potentially lethal consequence of not drilling. Indeed, there are other forms of drilling, like exploring the possibility to extract METHANE HYDRATES. Not only those could provide (potentially, perhaps) with a lot of clean energy, but they are a AN IMMENSE REAL DANGER in case of runaway greenhouse. They would erupt in the later case, making a bad situation immediately abominable (super giant tsunamis, and horrid rise of temps). We may as well burn them before we get cooked by them (Japan has given the green light to search for them).

3) What are the “thinkers” on the left thinking? Do they really think that the presence of an absence of drilling will be transformative? Is their idea really to make anti democratic theocratic aliens overseas always richer and in charge of fixing the cost of energy inside the USA? Or is it that they are just weak, and do not dare defend the newer and better ideas?

4) French like solutions, such as very high speed trains or 95% of French electricity from renewables, non carbon sources, and recycled nuclear waste, cannot be developed overnight. They require enormous investment. The fastest electric trains could take only ten hours coast to coast in the USA, but such lines cost billions of dollars per one hundred miles, even on the flattest ground. Simply put, the USA does not have that kind of money. One more reason to rise energy taxes stratospherically (European high speed rail is self financed to a great extend, but that would take time the USA does not have anymore).

5) Another silly and immoral argument from the right has been that the US proportion of pollution is equal to its proportion of world GDP. But developing countries have to feed themselves first, and that requires a lot of cheap energy, and the cheapest way to make energy is to poison the rest of the planet. But they have an excuse. By contrast, since at least 25% of the US population is obese in the USA, feeding is more of a nuisance there, so the argument that Americans need more food can’t be used, except the other way: the cheaper the energy in the US, the more obese the Americans, so, to help Americans recover their health, they should go back to bicycles. More seriously, the USA should want to develop efficient energy technologies, otherwise it will have to buy them in Europe (this is already happening).

6) We did not mention coal as a solution in any way, because it’s not: the CO2 burning it creates cannot be re-injected into the earth, contrarily to the myth of “clean coal”.  The technology (which thrives in four special cases) simply does not exist in general (we do not know if it could exist, whereas we know that sea currents exist, and could be exploited; actually there are French companies deploying that technology further). The final outrageous number is that, per person, the USA uses emits more than three times as much CO2 as France (a rather big country arguably richer per person).

6) The strategic argument could be made that not developing the reserves of hydrocarbons the USA has is prudent, just in case. But if not used in the next 50 years, it is unlikely these reserves will ever be used. Indeed the Europeans are completely running out of old style energy, and developing very quickly new energies and efficiencies, so the USA is just left increasingly behind. Should this emergency unfold further, it is likely that the USA will become ever more aggressive in a military style way, a very bad example for others (such as the democratically challlenged China, Iran or Pakistan).

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ONE WAY PLUTOCRACY KILLS.

July 29, 2008

MORALITY WITHOUT ECONOMY IS ONLY RUIN OF THE CITIES.
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Abstract: Those who believe in money-power (plutocracy) love to say that all and any excess of the “free market” will self correct. And thus such excess will stay self contained to the economy. Not so. We give one class of examples.
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Two very severe quakes occurred in urbanized Japan during the last month (7 to 7.5 Richter). Nearly nobody was killed, and there was little damage. These miracles occurred because of the tough earthquake code in Japan, and reconstruction according to it. In California, similar quakes, centered on cities, could kill up to 100,000 people, or more. They are expected soon.

Why are so many deaths coming to California soon? Because, only in the city of San Francisco (a tenth of the Bay Area’s population) dozen of thousands of buildings are ready to collapse if the expected quake(s) occurred (a 7 to 8 Richter earthquake in the central Bay is predicted, within 30 years). The city of San Francisco has realized there is a serious problem, and that is what it says. It advises real estate owners of “soft buildings” to fix them, but it will not make the fixes mandatory, nor will it address the case of “non ductile” concrete buildings (there are thousands in the Bay). In case of severe quake, those are expected to “pancake”.

Why no mandatory fix? Why not prevent “pancaking”? Because there are not enough engineers to inspect and find out what to do, building by building.

This problem has been long in evidence (after a deadly quake in the LA area, the LA city council tried to make quake fixes mandatory in 1995, but rich real estate owners stopped them). Instead of directing economic activity that way, by morally correct legislation, it was directed towards speculation (Internet bubble, credit bubble, real estate bubble). The speculation made a few people much richer, and they were the ones pulling all the strings.

Thus the present US financial crisis it is not just a question of self correcting excesses in the financial sector. The financial sector directs the whole economy. By going crazy, it made the economy crazy.

By controlling the electoral process the financial sector and its attached plutocracy led the whole country in the wrong direction. A good example was the refusal to limit frantic consumption, energy waste, etc… Result: Iraq was invaded, but the USA did not get ready for quakes. Just as there is only a finite number of building inspectors, there is only so much capital. If most of the disposable capital, human or financial, is spent on the military, and “nation building” on the other side of the planet, among the haters, there is none for infrastructure, material or otherwise, inside the USA.

Senator Obama’s economic plan proposes a tax loophole for Venture Capitalists, supposedly to stimulate the economy. This makes little sense. Most of the economy does not have to do with improving widgets, and making the hyper rich richer is the Reagan way to go at it. This has been proven to be a disaster. Moreover, all the hyper billionaires will turn into “Venture Capitalists” overnight, to benefit from the zero percent taxation. They will probably all invent “new” financial “instruments”. No wonder they are all in love.

The preceding shows that gigantic infrastructure spending is not just a question of creating a real economy, but of basic morality. There are no mostly military solutions to socioeconomic problems, be it in Afghanistan or in the USA. There are no efficient financial markets without efficient law and morality to guide them, either.
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Patrice Ayme,
Tyranosopher.
http://patriceayme.com/

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Technical addenda: 1) To make an old building earthquake safe is not obvious, and requires highly technical assessments, which vary from building to building. The cost can be anywhere between 5% and 70% of total replacement by a brand new building.

2) The “financial engineering” found in the USA in recent years is a tail banging the dog around. So much so, the dog has lost its mind. The word “engineering” in this context is an abuse of a glorious concept. The late “investment bank” Bear Stearns used a leverage about 30 (the expression “investment bank” meant it went around all international regulations that banks have to respect, by law). It mostly “invested” in financial “products” of a type so obscure that more than one TRILLION dollars worth of it cannot be sold at any price. Meanwhile China is building the Bay Bridge piece by piece, in China; real economy for real (Chinese) people. That crucial bridge was broken in 1979, in a preceding quake. Excuse us if it’s so slow: we are spending all our money invading other countries, to justify spending more on “defense” than the rest of the world combined. In 1941, the USA was a country of engineers. That’s why it won the war in three years. In 2008, the USA has become a country of puppet masters pulling financial strings to nowhere, except decay, death and destruction. That’s why, even with Chinese help, it can’t repair earthquake damage in 20 years.

3) Japan can be said to be three times more egalitarian than the USA (using the RP 10% measure). Japan is actually (as measured by the Gini index) one of the most egalitarian countries in the world. Uniquely among the most developed countries, inequality has been rising considerably in the USA. (since 1970, leading to a decay of health and education).

4) The entire west coast of the USA (just like the entirety of Japan) is very exposed to earthquakes. There are many faults next or below Los Angeles, massive ones around Seattle, and no less than three major ones in the San Francisco Bay Area. The frequency at which segments shake is known, hence the predictions above. Four massive quakes occurred in the SF Bay Area in the last 170 years.

FRANKLY FREE.

July 25, 2008

WHEN FREEDOM FRIED FASCISM.

“Freedom” fries or “French” fries are synonymous. Indeed “Frank”, a word that gave “Imperium Francorum” abbreviated as “Francia” (modern “France”), meant FREE. Ferocious and free. The initial Salic law of the Franks gave more rights to them than to plain Roman citizens, reinforcing the meaning of “Frank” as free.

It was hilarious to see ignorant members of the US Congress submitting to their leader, the self described “Decider”, by trying to escape the concept of France while using the very conceptual root, freedom, which gave rise to the word French.

Talking without knowing is like breathing without air: an ominous fate.

The Franks were so free that they insisted their ancestors had escaped from the burning Troy. That made them as prestigious as Rome (supposedly founded by a Trojan). More importantly, it made the Franks born critiques and adversaries of the Greco-Roman civilization.

The Greco-Roman civilization was not conquered. It collapsed under its own errors, in the same way, at least three times. Three times it saw fascism rise, and was unable to stop it. Why? Because it was too fascist to start with. And it was too fascist because it had subhuman populations: the slaves and the women (today the US has the poor, those without health insurance, etc…).

The Franks would shatter the Greco-Roman founding principles of slavery and sexism. Troy was attacked by Greece because a woman had used her freedom of choice. To choose Troy rather than Greece as model and inspiration was to chose women as equal.

Indeed seven Merovingian queens soon ruled. One of them was one of the handful of the most important head of states civilization ever knew. Perhaps the most important, period. Her statue is in the Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris. Bathilde outlawed slavery (~ 660 CE). A US president, Lincoln, discovered that was a good idea around 1863 CE. Excuse us, we are the slows: not enough freedom on our fries…

Thus the Franks proclaimed themselves to be free of the Greco-Roman erroneous preconceptions that were too friendly to fascism, right from the start. Those preconceptions had perverted the Greco-Roman valuation system. That made the purely Greek version of that moral system weak and unable to overwhelm the rough fascist values of the Macedonians. And then unable to persuade the Roman elite either.

Rejecting sexism and slavery allowed the Franks to launch civilization with the very best foundations. They had not been seen since Crete (Crete was very anti sexist, with its female toreadors, and Crete was very equalitarian, as shown by its lack of walls and fortifications; instead archeology finds plenty of the crushed blend of materials characteristic of tsunami debris, followed by civil strife).

The concept of freedom for all had eluded both Greeks and Romans, and its absence ultimately caused their social, economic, and technological demise through mental stagnation. The remedy the autocrat Constantine, his son Constantius II and their successors found, the ultimate fascism they called Catholic Orthodoxy, brought the apocalypse of total mental fascism. The Dark Ages.

Aristotle claimed slavery was needed, because they, the ancient Greeks, did not have robots. But they sure had luxury.

Look at the Acropolis. Pretty, but it may have destroyed Athens (she diverted the Dorian League defense funds to build it, causing serious resentment that old fascists in Sparta used to their advantage).

Charlemagne lived very modestly for someone at the head of a giant empire of more than 300 counties (many dozens of times larger than the Athenian empire at its ephemeral apex). So it had long been, and would long be for all the Franks: they lived well, but without excess. That was the “cost” of freedom for all (Buddha would have said that was not a cost). We are far from the armies of slaves of the early Christian bishops, and the extravagance of the Roman urban centers of old.

But then there were millions of free Franks who were motivated to try to improve their conditions through technology. The Carolingian epoch was characterized by great advances in biotechnology (new breeds of horses, invention of nutritious beans), and engineering (deep furrows, and plenty of horse related tech, water and wind mills; by 1,000 CE, the Frankish economy was the most energy intensive in the world, etc…).

The Franks’ meta principle of more freedom for all thus (re)founded Western civilization as a hotbed of technical and philosophical innovation. That allowed civilization to advance again, by freeing it from social and ecological constraints that had bogged down the Greco-Romans.

So now we know the founding principle of Western civilization, FREEDOM, and that it gave its very name to the people who imposed it on Europe.

What was the founding principle of English speaking America? Some will say it did not need any, because, after all, it’s a descendant regime of the Franks (as is all of Europe, even Russia, when the main cultural flows are carefully traced back). So freedom would also be America’s founding principle, and indeed, US citizens often speak of their country as the “land of free” (in other words, the land of the Franks).

But is that truly true? We will see. Doubts are fed when one is reminded of the two groups that truly founded English America, and thus the fundamental principles of its mentality. Real freedom implies to be mentally fierce. It means not aspiring to be submitted to God or man. The Franks were neither. The Franks knew the Bible very well (Carlus Magnus’ nickname -and excuse for his Pagan and creative behavior- was “King David”). But, as would be descendants of the Trojans, they claimed to be of older mental stock, and they did not submit to that amusing, but much newer story book. Instead, they submitted the Bible to them. They embraced all of life to dominate it, and wore extremely colorful clothing.

 

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Patrice Ayme.

***

P/S: 1) The immense mass of the Roman urban population was fed (by giant agricultural businesses owned by the hyper rich senatorial class and manned by slaves), but it did not direct its own fate. So it was not motivated to improve it in any way. Apathy dominated all mental realms. By the sixth century, in Constantinople, the masses, the demos, were only excited by watching spectator sports. Truer democracy existed only in the West among the Franks (and that is why emperor Justinian left them alone as he reconquered the Western empire). 

2) The Greco-Roman civilization had subhuman populations: the slaves and the women (race, although exceptionally a factor (Sparta, that died off) was not dominant as a criterion of sub humanity: it was about how they talked, not the color of the skin). Today the US has the extremely poor under class, those without health insurance, etc; this has followed a tradition of exploiting various sub populations… Rome used torture only against slaves. Recently the US leadership proposed to use it even against citizens. What counts is using the principle of “sub humanity”. Not only does it make society unfair and fascist, it makes it mentally lazy, because those on top stay there, not because they are there because they strove to be better, but because they were born there.

TURNING CARE INTO GOLD.

July 21, 2008

IS US HEALTH CARE A MENTAL CONDITION?

As Paul Krugman points out in his blog, quoting liberally from your humble servant (“Does not compute“; 07/20/08):

“The basic facts on health care are clear: government-run insurance is more efficient than private insurance; more generally, the United States, with the most privatized health care in the advanced world, has a wildly inefficient system that costs far more than anyone else’s, yet delivers no better and arguably worse medical care than European systems… we don’t have a Medicare crisis, we have a health care crisis. Private insurance is collapsing as we speak.”

Indeed, the French health care system, a mix of private added value and public global basic net, costs 8% of French GDP, whereas the US system (which is public only for some restricted categories of indigents that use Medicare and Medicaid) costs 16% of US GDP. All European health care systems have cost below 10% of GDP.

Anybody familiar with gold plated US health care insurance and the French health care system knows that the later is vastly superior in all ways (including quality, state of the art, waiting times, 365/24/7 access, choice, etc…). It’s no coincidence that super star Angelina Jolie chose a standard hospital in Nice to give birth to twins: as UN ambassador of sorts, she has been around.

Why is this happening?

The basic principle of slavery is to use the lives of a class of people to maximize the profit of another class of people. The idea is to exchange lives against gold. For-profit health care is just a particular case of this. That is why it thrives in the USA. By allowing legal slavery inside its borders, the only developed country that did for the last millennium, the USA got ready for the health care system invented by Richard Nixon (the HMOs).

Slavery was an example of being stuck in the distant past. There are others examples of obsolescence on steroids in the US. The USA is also the only country in the world still using a system of units coming straight from the Middle Ages: the mile, the foot, the inch, the pound, the ounce, sometimes fluid ounces, sometimes solid ones, ice freezes at 32, and water boils at 212… Robots have crashed on Mars because their US programmers mixed up their units, using half of one system, half of another. 

Of course, universal health care already exists in the USA, many Americans would point out. Thanks to the Good lord, anybody can pray to God. 

It would seem that the USA is affected with a sort of mental paralysis, and, unsurprisingly, US health care is unable to treat it, since its further colossal profits depend upon that ongoing paralysis.

And it shall go on, at least for now, because Mr. Warren Buffet, the world’s richest investor, has Senator Obama’s economic ear (Mr. Obama confided on TV that Mr. Buffet has advice on taxes he intended to follow. Of course). Mr. Buffet is a specialist of turning health care insurance into multi billion dollar profit for himself. First things first. Let advice flow from serious money, it should turn into even more gold.

Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose…

***

Patrice Ayme.

http://patriceayme.com/

***

P/S: People-power (demo-cracy) could stop money-power (pluto-cracy). But not to worry. In the present US presidential campaign, it seems money will sacrifice two billion dollars of its precious self, by far the largest amount ever spent, besides providing a lot of volunteer time and advice to help see things through. There are no suggestions to imitate the public health care plans found in the 27 countries of the 500 million people European Union.

THE BEST WAY OUT OF IRAQ.

July 16, 2008

REPLACING US FORCES BY UNITED NATION TROOPS IS THE BEST WAY OUT OF IRAQ. ANY OTHER PROPOSAL IS A FAKE OUT.
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(Otherwise it will end like Vietnam: a painful and ignominious fate).

***

The world has become skeptical of strictly American solutions, here, there, and everywhere. The American people should be too.

The legitimate gripes many in the Iraqi population have with the USA will keep on feeding terrorist resistance as long as US troops are prominently all over Iraq (that is why it’s a trap to keep significant US forces in Iraq to protect US personnel in Iraq: it would create the problem it claims to solve). Another difficulty about any strictly American “solution” to the occupation, is that Iraq needs huge Foreign Direct Investment, and economic help. The US has no money for itself, and a fortiori none for Iraq.

The most crucial part of an Iraq withdrawal plan is to replace US troops by UNITED NATIONS TROOPS. This is the method that was used systematically in Africa every time France and Great Britain intervened. First they went in, then after the shock military treatment, the United Nations approved the French and/or British intervention, and the United Nations took over with its own military means (with the European presence in the background as overlord).

Organizing the same in Iraq is a necessity, and should be amenable to approval by the Iraqi government. Bringing the UN in would force the world to approve US behavior, looking forward, and would be a clean break from the present acrimony. It would also solve the military quandary of the withdrawal of elite US troops (that method of transfer to the UN has worked well in Congo, Ivory coast, Bosnia, and many other places). . . Iraq is an international problem more than ever

United Nations troops cost less than a tenth per soldier than European or US troops cost. It would be easy for the US to make many countries of Muslim background an offer about sending troops to Iraq, that they could not resist.

Senator Obama has suggested to use the United Nations and the European Union to help solve the Iraq crisis. This is the way to go. France has engaged in combat with fanatical Quranist Islam for 17 centuries, and has scored the largest victories (Toulouse, Poitiers, Narbonne; then delivering North Africa from Turkish subjugation; then enlisting vast Muslim armies to help crush fascism, and finally Nazism, etc…). French know-how should be appreciated (France has special, bicultural agents who immerse themselves inside fanatical groups for decades; the Franks sent special agents to spy on the Muslims as early as the seventh century).   

In truth, the only possible victory in Iraq for the USA at this point, is to hide in a few remote bases, with as low a profile as possible leaving United Nations troops to enjoy the limelight (ready to call residual US forces for heavy intervention if needed).

By inviting other powers inside Iraq, as stakeholders, the USA could pose as the ultimate guarantor of security in Iraq (just as France does in Ivory Coast, and in a number of other African countries).

After killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis directly or indirectly over the last 17 years, it is not difficult to find millions of young Iraqis who hate the USA. The present US forces in Iraq are made of more than 186,000 soldiers and 202,000 mercenaries paid by the USA (Source: Defense Department). If a comparable army occupied the USA in the same proportion, it would have nearly 6 million men.

Senator McCain wants “victory” with this gigantic force. McCain celebrates the “surge”. He is happy that this gigantic force is so successful. Would Senator McCain proclaim success if six million Iraqi soldiers and fighters occupied the USA, and the population was more subdued?

In truth, it seems that a lot of the success of the quote unquote “surge” was a victorious surge of money towards the appropriate hands, just as Saddam Hussein used to do. U.S. Army General Petraeus paid Shiite fighters as if they were US mercenaries, and ordered the US army to cooperate with them. Surely one could “win” over the Taliban, with the same trick.

During the Vietnam war, US presidents were listening to American generals. It was a disaster. During the Korean war, US president Truman fired ignominiously the general who headed the US forces (the extremely famous MacArthur), and brought the United Nations in. Ultimately that war, that could have gone extremely wrong, went extremely well.

Involving the international community, and keeping purely military solutions in check is a lesson to remember in Iraq and Afghanistan. And, by the way, it’s not one or two billion dollars in civilian aid that are going to be enough to change the tide in Afghanistan. Nor a brigade or two. The Afghan poppy trade needs to be made legal to start with (the poppy trade, highest income earner in Afghanistan, is unlawful there, although it is legal in many countries, from France to Turkey, for pharmaceutical purposes; so why not Afghanistan, since it needs it more than the three trillion dollars French economy? GDP per head in Afghanistan is half of one percent of the French GDP per head). 

At this point Serbia, after much threats, accompanied by Russian howling, is calming down, although she lost Kosovo. Why? Well, military intervention by 39 united nations, including all the important ones, was crucial, but so was, afterwards, an offer Serbia could not refuse: future integration in the European Union. That will bring a much better society, economy, and foreign investment, and the Serbs know it. (Besides, the EU will be the way for Serbia to be reunited with its much beloved Kosovo). This is a good way in international politics; crush the obdurate, but then make offers that people of good will cannot refuse.

The international community needs to be brought in as a stakeholder in Iraqi peace and prosperity. In a way, since the USA has no money for itself and borrows from Japan, China, the EU, and Arab countries, to finance all things American, the international community is already supporting the US occupation of Iraq. It’s time for them to share the burden, and the fruits. No choice. Any solely Americano-American attempt at a solution would meet an ominous fate.
***

Patrice Ayme
http://patriceayme.com/

***

 

Technical addenda:

1) Right now the USA is occupying Iraq under the cover of a UN mandate that expires next year. The Bush administration is trying to replace it by some sort of indefinite colonial arrangement (the Iraqi government vociferously disagrees, while knowing full well some foreign military muscle is needed). The plan suggested above is quite different. US bases in Germany are there in full agreement with the UN (for decades they were there with British, Russian and French forces). The UN was created during WWII (as a replacement for the French inspired SDN that failed because the USA stayed out of it, after co-launching it!). The basic idea of the UN is peace through force, and Iraq is ideally suited for it.

2) Another advantage of the plan above is that, when UN TROOPS are in, the US can stay in the background, flying drones, and stopping to be a major irritant, while contributing to the stability of the region (by facing theocratic Iran).

3) The sort of UN military intervention we are speaking about here has nothing to do with the pathetic, but hare brained mission of Sergio De Mello (ending in 2003 with his death and the destruction of the UN headquarters). Indeed Iraqi resistance fighters could point out that the UN then was just a cover for the USA (as per the mandate). When the full UN intervenes militarily fully, as we suggest here, it’s not a cover for the USA. On the other hand, having United Nations cover and legitimacy will allow the USA to advance its economic and cultural interest more than if it were all by itself, all naked, and accused worldwide of having its own personal agenda in Iraq. So UN troops and cover in Iraq is the best way for the US in all ways.

4) Any Americano-American withdrawal plan under sole US authority smacks of something bound to perpetual failure, hence would become its own mechanism providing an excuse for staying in Iraq indefinitely (or trying to). Or then would ultimately incite an exasperated US to lurch out of Iraq. Such a plan would not work any better than its predecessor in Vietnam.

SOPHIA: WHEN POLITICS GOES NUTS.

July 13, 2008

CULTURE INDUCES PHYSIOLOGY. CHANGING EITHER MEANS CHANGING BOTH.
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Overview: “OPPRESSION IS WORSE THAN SLAUGHTER.” (Qur’an.)
Oppression, apartheid and racism are not just cultural, they create biologically the very conditions they then exploit. Submission in people is not just cultural, it is also EPIGENETIC and hereditary. A symptom of this physiological condition is the irritation some minorities and leftists have towards Senator Obama. The Conventional Wisdom is that they are jealous, and afraid that an African-American president would deprive them of their main reason to ask for hand outs (i.e., whining that they are the obvious victims of racism).

Nietzsche believed there was something as slave morality, and that a lot of mentality had to do with physiology. We buttress this paradigm with recent science and illustrate it with the case at hand. Obama’s history, up to the point he went to the US mainland, had little in common with that of the average American “black”. His formation was instead that of a worldly Euro-American. The cultural difference between Obama and the rest of the “blacks”, and the left, is so deep that it may be physiological. Obama, from his genesis, has the physiology of a master, whereas cultural African-Americans from their sad history, have the physiology corresponding to slave mentality. When Obama calls for change, he is ultimately calling for a PHYSIOLOGICAL change.

The Reverend Jesse Jackson himself, hinting to all this, put the debate in a physiological context of dramatic historical relevance.
***

NO REVERENCE FOR NUTS:
Jesse Jackson finds Barack Obama’s manhood unbearable. In a call to custom, harking back to slavery in the USA, Mr. Jackson, one of the great historical figures of the Civil Rights Movement, suggested to do to Obama what the white masters used to do to uppity black slaves. Jackson confided his secret desire about Obama, in a whispery voice to a fellow guest on Fox News: “I wanna cut his nuts out”. He accused his fellow Chicagoan of “talking down to black folks” by giving moral lectures to African-Americans. This was accompanied by an evocative pantomime, complete with sharp slicing gesture, and wind blown out of the stomach.

What is going on there? Mr. Jackson, a companion of Martin Luther King, was a trailblazer. He ran for the presidency twice, long ago, winning South Carolina. After listening to Bill Clinton belittling these achievements, the ease with which the previously unknown Obama is sweeping, tsunami like, towards the presidency, protected by the Secret Service for more than a year, as if he were already president, can only slightly exasperate Mr. Jackson. (In a sharp contrast, not only Mr. King was not protected, but he was threatened by law enforcement.)

Whining that one is oppressed, and begging has become an industry. Measures have been taken, in the USA and Europe, to put everybody back to work. But there is much more to it. Senator Obama wants not to be taken care of, but to take charge, to go from the mentality of a dependent to that of a master, to be the agent of change from SLAVE MENTALITY TO MASTER MENTALITY. Whereas Mr. Jackson, and most of the non violent Civil Rights Movement before him, plus much of the left, whine and resent, Senator Obama advises and commands. He has different hormones, and Jackson wants to cut them out. Let me explain.
***

THE MAJOR RELIGIONS AS SLAVE MORALITIES:
Nietzsche observed that there were essentially two types of moral systems:

1) The moral system of the slaves. Christianity, applied to the people, is the arch example of this “slave morality”. Christianity asks to turn the other cheek, and love one’s oppressor. Islam means “submission” outright, says everyone is a slave, and the Qur’an gaily gives plenty of orders to make it so. The slave morality is typically resentful and weak. “Good” is whatever pleases the masters, and whatever makes normal the subjugation one is submitted to. Strength of character, the little there is, is limited to “ressentiment” (Nietzsche’s French). Sartre would later insist that “bad faith” allows to eschew one’s responsibility as a free agent (a related complaint: if people are no willing to use their freedom, they are slaves).

2) The moral system of the masters is that “good” is whatever works to subjugate the masses. The masters are bold and strong. According to Nietzsche, the practice of the masters is to dominate people, themselves, and even the universe, by gaily accepting it for what it is (there is a relationship with the basic psychology of Islam, and, of course the Buddhist “eternal return of the same”, symbolized by the wheel).

There is an obvious observation, that Nietzsche does not seem to have focused on. Slaves need masters. Any slave morality comes equipped with a master morality to administer it. So the same morality has two interfaces: one for the slaves, one for the masters. This Janus like characteristic is totally blatant in the case of Christianity. Christianity is not just a slave morality, it’s also the morality imposed by the emperors of the later global Roman empire (Constantine, Constantius II, Theodosius, etc…) who were masters of such frantic dominance, that they destroyed civilization itself. Or tried to. (Nero with his lyre, and Caligula with his horse, were just children relative to them.)
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HOW THE MAJOR RELIGIONS MASTERED THE SLAVES:
With Christianity, the master came first, and there was just one, the Roman emperor Constantine, who created God in his image. Emperor Constantine picked up the slave religion, Christianity, and he tweaked it to make his rule more personal, even more terrible (Uthman, creator of the Qur’an, followed a similar pattern, but was killed for it). That took Constantine more than a decade of inventive modifications. Although he viewed himself as the most important bishop, he converted to “Orthodox Catholicism” (his own invention) only on his death bed. Emperor Constantine was happy to use an army made of ferocious Pagans (Franks and adepts of Myrthra). Constantine and his successors knew not to fight wolves with Christian sheep (too Christian an empire, just as a too Buddhist an empire, being empires of slaves, could only be wiped out, and that is exactly what happened to Constantinople facing Turks and Franks and to the Tangut, facing Genghis Khan: totally wiped out).

Islam, a descendant of Judeo-Christianism born in the desert, is less of a slave religion than Christianity because it calls for killing “unbelievers” and strictly obeying one’s superior. If one adds recommended behaviors in the Qur’an such as plundering and raping slave girls ASAP, it becomes clear it is more the bare bones metaphysics of a seventh century army rather than an entirely submissive message.

Historical evidence shows that Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Confucianism and Buddhism were relentlessly used to subjugate the masses in the service of powerful aristocracies that did not live at at all as they ordered their priests to preach. The most racist, the most incredible cruel, and also the oldest, and the most effective, by far, has been Hinduism, let it be said in passing. It maintained genetic separation for more than 3,500 years.

Constantine and his successors used Christianity to buttress for their degenerate fascism. They quickly made a bad situation worse, as they themselves became slaves to their own idiotic Christian ideology (so they destroyed intelligence and learning, the only way out of the mess). The Franks though, being less degenerate, less superstitious, and having a lot of taste for the highest values (like intelligence and learning) were able to refurbish Orthodox Catholicism from a mind seizure, into a tool.

The Romans had tried, but failed to conquer, Northern and Eastern Europe. The Franks did this, using Christianity as a Weapon of Mind Destruction. Priests  negotiated and threatened ahead of the Frankish armies. This undermined the resistance of the Pagan Germans, and eased the ferocious military assaults that followed. That type of conquest worked, and made Europe. It went beyond that Mediterranean Union that had long been the  Roman empire. The added sense  of spiritual purpose Judeo-Christianism, now fully tamed into a tool to tell the masses what was “good” and what was “evil” was crucial. The superstitious mess the all too religiously tolerant Romans had lived did not make for a unified sense of “good” and “evil” (the later Roman empire, having many major religions and deities, did not provide one “good” and one “evil”, and the secular state was too weak, from the lack of education, to impose the sense of “good” and “evil” the law imposes; the imposition of imperial Christianity made the situation worse, because it fought knowledge and wisdom, and anything secular, as it organized its cherished Apocalypse).

The Carolingian mix of Christian mellifluous discourse to induce torpor, and relentless military terror to break everything in the way, was reproduced later during the European invasion of the world (and especially the Americas). A pope from the Middle Ages put out an order declaring that Africans could be enslaved (a Merovingian law of the seventh century had outlawed slavery in the Imperium Francorum, hence the necessity of the papal amendment).
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HOW ENDOCRINOLOGY MAKES SUBMISSION HEREDITARY:
Nietzsche was insistent that a lot of human general philosophical, and mental posturing had to do with physiology. Well, we now can support Nietzschean guesses with a lot more science and history than he was aware of.

After the initial shock of combat, torture, terror and extermination, subjugated people often stay subjugated rather peacefully. In India, the monstrous racial divide imposed by Hinduism lasted nearly four thousand years, in no small part because the lower castes accepted it. Horrible torture and deaths were inflicted for the smallest transgressions of the racial caste order, most people, throughout history, would have died rather than accepting that. But the lower caste Indians learned to accept it, and to welcome it.

People reproduce from one generation to the next a subjugated mentality where the apex of manly resistance is resentment. Nietzsche heaped scorn on this.

But it’s now easy to guess how the cultural patterns of subjugation can become so stable. It’s not just a question of reading the wrong books. Culture induces physiology. CULTURE ENDURES AS PHYSIOLOGY. And it’s hereditary. It’s now known that a stressed out, or subjugated rat modifies its own genetic (to endure the subjugation better; this was discovered in 2008).

Subjugated animals are stressed. They have higher levels of many “stress” hormones, of a type so intolerable that they incite to frantic activity such as fleeing or to fighting. Generally they succeed in this, or get eaten. In any case, their problem is solved, and the stress hormones go away. But subjugated humans cannot do any of this. They cannot either fight or flee, because they are in chains (literal, or mental). Even the deliverance of becoming lunch is not an option. Instead, they have to sit, submit and seethe. And forever bathe in their stress hormones, something the last 400 millions years of evolution did not anticipate (it’s so evolutionary unexpected that stress is one of the most important factor in heart attacks). So their health degenerate, except of course if they learn culturally to find the intolerable tolerable. And the way to do that is to modify one’s EPIGENETIC, and that is probably what happens (just like for the rats, but way worse). Thus, what Nietzsche was whining about is a physiologically healthy reaction to a politically unacceptable situation. Under oppression, humans turn into lower species, literally. Nietzsche guessed this. In his strident attacks against German anti-Judaism, he pointed out that it’s not the Jews who should be kicked out of Germany (as the anti-Semites had proposed to do), but the German anti-Semites themselves, because they were clearly the inferior race.

When Pavlov’s dog expected a meal, acid appeared in his stomach. When a human expects sex or combat, the appropriate hormones go up, sometimes over very long periods (days). And it is also known that just as muscle grow when they are exercised, so does the activity of glands. Long term sexual abstinence leads to long term testosterone decrease for example. Just a (purely theoretical, and long in advance) anticipation of girlie action leads to an increase.

Hence an emasculated culture will lead to emasculated males, full of resentment, and systematic whining but without the tougher qualities of the true masters.  Rev. Jackson resentment for his leader’s testosterone are somewhat justified. The testosterone (by mechanisms we do not understand yet) is related to brains being more assertive, more prone to risk taking, more masterful of the universe at large. And the relation goes both ways. Anticipating masterful action or competition, the testosterone prone brain favors the production of the hormone, so that its boldness will rise to the occasion. In some fishes, the master is a super male, with completely different epigenetics. If the super male dies, another male fish goes through the epigenetic transformation. In some species, if all males die, some females’ epigenetics order the change into males… 

In other words, masters have the hormones to go with their masterful behavior, and when males are not around, they have to be created. Mr. Jackson is the big fish who could not transform himself in a super male. he, and a lot of the American left, could not find the discourse that could change the culture to the point the epigenetic itself would change.
***

AMERICAN SLAVE MENTALITY VERSUS OBAMA’S CULTURE: 
American “blacks” are descendants of slaves, often with an appreciable genetic contribution from white masters. American culture reacted to this troubling fact by calling “black” anybody with any perceivable or known African genetic contribution. Some American “blacks” have colored hair and colored eyes, and some are more white than many “whites”. But never mind, “blackness” is the ultimate stain, don’t get a touch of it, nothing can remove it.

This extremism of white American racism harks back to the Bible and the theory of the “elected People”. In practice, in an important sense it means that white American racism was more racist than Nazism itself (Nazism recognized that race should be ignored if diluted enough, or if the individual and his family had proven superior enough). Crack Nazis prisoners in the USA were shocked by white American racism vis a vis their black GI guards. White American racism forced a total apartheid. A strong cultural apartheid was instituted.

The resulting black culture became a major world cultural contributor, superlative in music (jazz, rock) and pathos (blues). But one has to recognize that a lot of “black culture” has a lot to do with being a slave, and accepting one’s condition. Indeed, one of the main anchors of black culture has been Christianity, the slave religion indoctrinated by the white masters, a great conqueror, with Islam, of the true African spirit. Good black Americans are expected to embrace their condition by being submissive, resentful, and care free like children. Hence Obama’s reminder that “black folks” who chose to be parents have obligations.

Now who is Mr. Obama? Genetically speaking, he is exactly just as European as African. This does not make him so special, since some American “blacks” are mostly genetic Europeans. What makes Mr. Obama special is his cultural genesis. It’s mostly worldly, Euro-American, and masterful.

Indeed: Obama’s father was not a descendant of slaves, but of free Africans, first point. Second cultural point: genuine Africans do not live in awe of the Euro-American culture, they know the world is a bit more complicated than that. Third point: an African who travels to America will tower with contempt, as soon as he comes across American racism (not so much because racism is intrinsically “bad”, but, because there is often very little to justify it, and because American racism tend, or tended to express itself in the grossest, most unjustifiable ways). Mr. Obama saw his father enough to get these points across. Then Mr. Obama grew up in Hawaii, well known to be by far the less racist state in the USA. In particular, it had no black ghetto (Mr. Obama’s partly fictional memoirs feature some imaginary black characters. Eurasian would be more like it). Mr. Obama also grew up in Indonesia, where he could experience cultural shock, and that could only have made him stronger, like beaten up steel thrown in cold water. Mr. Obama was in great part educated by his white grand parents. Finally last but not least, he was educated forever in one the world’s most elite private schools, Punahou. Punahou instills the morality of mastery, and many leaders have been formed there.
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DID U.S. PLUTOCRACY CHANGE U.S. EPIGENETICS?
As the USA got into the disastrous invasion of Iraq, the protests of the US population were very far from shutting it down. Instead there was more than 80% approval for whatever the White House proposed to do. The population was eager to exhibit its submission to its masters in Washington. Part of the humiliation was to swallow cognitive garbage. US citizens submitted to an intense propaganda of lies and disinformation. It was not physiologically innocuous: as US citizens submitted to this mangling of their cognitive dignity, and capability, it is not excluded that they suppressed the entire part of their hormonal and epigenetic system in charge of cognition. So the incapacity to solve the problems of the USA may now be an epigenetic problem. There are plenty of indications of this. Very simple solutions to many problems have been found, and deployed, worldwide, but not in the USA. After all, it’s the only nation to have stayed stuck in the Middle Ages with units of measurement, clearly a deep failure of character and/or intelligence. Barack Obama pointed to this recently by saying all Americans could say going abroad was “Merci beaucoup”. He was immediately accused, once again to be an “elitist”. Strange accusation in a country where the elite of the hyper rich is widely admired and allowed to buy elections.
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Conclusion: POLITICAL SUBMISSION CAUSES GENETIC DEVOLUTION.
Many groups of people have been oppressed, and are oppressed. Women are a case in point. They obviously were more equal before the rise of agriculture and civilization (because their responsibilities were greater, to start with: most of the calories were brought by women). This is a grave situation. As the Qur’an puts it bluntly: “…And slay them wherever ye find them, and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out. Because indeed OPPRESSION IS WORSE THAN SLAUGHTER.” (Sura 2:191 of “the Cow”). The Qur’an is right on that particular point. Oppression can be worse than slaughter, or murder, because it changes people into SUBHUMANS, just as the obverse condition of opportunity changes normal fishes into SUPERFISHES.

After Nazism rolled by, and crashed, and colonialism was inverted, racism became an unpopular concept. But that does not mean that it does not happen nevertheless. If the preceding is mostly true (and everything indicates it is), INFERIOR RACES EXIST, BUT THEY ARE CREATED BY OPPRESSION. Often the oppression has to do with human oppressors, but not always. People living in bad surroundings are also oppressed. This says that the problem of racism is not all in the mind, but also in the body, that the situation is worse than thought, and that to fix things up, it’s not just a matter of chanting: “Give peace a chance”, as one lays in a five star hotel bed (a sneak attack on John Lennon’s naivety). 

People whose epigenetics is turned on so as to shut down a lot of what makes them human are made into practitioners of the baser instincts. It’s bad in all sorts of ways: because it threatens civilization, and because there is a compulsion in humans to oppress further, or destroy who is perceived as inferior, it’s an invitation to genocide.

This may help to explain why the Roman empire degenerated, and why plutocracies in general degenerate, maybe even why the USA has been degenerating. Plutocracy, the rule of the rich, submits the rest of the population, shutting down the full expression of their freedom, hence of their genes. The submitted become a genetically inferior race overnight. Extend this over the generations, and the problem is akin to creating a subspecies. During the European Middle Ages, the nobles and the commoners (“villains”, namely “ugly” in modern French) looked racially different, just as in India the upper castes looked (and genetically are) different from the lower castes.

Masters and slaves tend to be comforted in their situations by the biology induced by their social conditions.

Master races are not a myth, but they were designed. Hence we can use the process the other way, not to turn some into inferior beings and oppress them further, but to turn more people into superior beings.

The more free and superior people there are, the more we will be able to confront the many riddles that baffle us, and seize the opportunities hidden therein. Whereas in the past civilization, especially in the desert, needed armies of slaves, to set up superior irrigation, now it needs armies of superior minds, to set up superior thinking.
***

Patrice Ayme
https://patriceayme.wordpress.com/
Tyranosopher.

 

P/S: The term “epigenetics” refers to all and any machinery changing gene expression in ways stable between cell divisions, and sometimes between generations. The original idea, due to Lamarck (circa 1800), was ridiculed, because it contradicted the theory of evolution long established by breeders of domesticated species. Epigenetics, as originally conceived, does not involve changes in the underlying DNA of the organism. The idea was that environmental factors can cause an organism’s genes to behave (or “express themselves”) differently, even though the genes themselves don’t change. The epigenetic changes can be instantaneous (as in the fishes alluded to above). In a further twist, some now consider proven that direct DNA change can occur, by direct gene transfers between species (2008)).

The main theme above is that populations held in slavery may undergo epigenetic changes making them more accepting of submission. And that it is no coincidence that Obama does not behave that way.

WHY GENOCIDE IS INTOLERABLE.

July 10, 2008

ACCEPTING GENOCIDE IS ENCOURAGING THE REEVALUATION OF THE MOST FUNDAMENTAL VALUES, UPSIDE DOWN. AND IT’S METASTATIC.
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Nicholas Kristof is saddened by “The Pain of the G-8’s Big Shrug” in the New York Times (09/07/08). He points out that genocide cannot be measured by adding the number of people killed, and just comparing that sum to other causes of death.

The hierarchy of values is the deepest problem in philosophy, and the most influential for future behavior. Morality, deep down, is the set of all behaviors that (are supposed to) work. Morality evolves. The Aztecs and a few thousands other anthropophagic cultures thought it was the apex of morality to eat other people. Closer to us, the Qur’an recommends to ingratiate oneself with God by killing unbelievers. This guideline explains why killing Israelis is often OK with Muslim opinion makers, and why the genocide in Darfur is of little import to them. Indeed, it is not so clear that the non Arab Muslims of Darfur are not really unbelievers. Although they claim to be Muslim, after all, they are fighting Arabs, and the Holly Qur’an was written in Arabic for some good reason, best known to God. The Qur’an never warns us enough against people who claim to believe in God, but are not really believers.

“Genocide” is the deliberate and systematic destruction of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group (this is an abstract of the UN 1948 definition).

Thus the group destroyed in a genocide is selected according to criterions that are so superficial that the group is a priori innocent, per the very superficiality of these criterions, which are basically just pronounced enough to define the group. So it’s truly mere existence that has become a crime.

Accepting genocide is accepting the ultimate nihilism, the making of entire human groups into a big fat zeroes, for no good reason whatsoever. Moreover, generally, the individuals in the group have not chosen to belong to it, they happen to belong to it. So the existence of individual choices is denied. The individuals massacred are typically totally innocent, and genocide claims that does no matter, either, they deserve death, and, or, torture. One just does not like their face, so let them die.

Hence accepting genocide is accepting that some people have the right to decide to exterminate people for completely superficial values, overriding all of basic positive human values and considerations. Since all the positive human values are overridden, by definition, we are left only with the values of the Dark Side. Cruelty, oppression, the will to exterminate, are made into the only divinities worth worshipping. (Not that these compulsions do not have an evolutionary justification: see the addendum; the point is that now we control evolution, lest we disappear.)

In other words, when big powers accept “genocide”, they recognize the right to the reign of the Dark Side. Roughly, they accept that the Devil makes an acceptable God, to be respected by being left alone. And maybe they admit that they are a bit afraid, so why should not other killers notice this, get together, and profit by setting up their own genocide, too?

Because genocide is always profitable: once people have been killed, their property, their land, can be stolen. This was the main practical reason why the Nazis killed the Jews. This is also why, after the Black Death (that killed about half of Europe), survivors were much richer, and the economy bounded up. As the killers pile up the riches ever higher, they always want more, and foster criminality as the ultimate career. To forget their own monstrosity, they inebriate themselves by valuing ever higher their evil values.

So genocide tends to grow. And it’s a metastatic process. It cannot be stopped by flowers or lenifying discourses. The Dark Side lives by killing and terror. Nothing is stronger. Genocide knows goodness cannot stop it. Once goodness is dead, it’s the end of its story. So, in the end, genocide ultimately has to be opposed by a more advanced civilization (being more advanced, its balance of good and bad, will be more tilted on the good side). Genocide can only be stopped by the same method that give it strength, namely raw violence. Thus, the earlier genocide is stopped, the cheaper, morally and in all other ways.
***

Patrice Ayme
https://patriceayme.wordpress.com/
http://patriceayme.com/
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Technical addenda:
1) I suggested (June 30, 2008 ), that the present judicial set up of the UN (International Criminal Court and the International Court Of Justice) is insufficient, because it cannot suggest new laws. The UN needs advice from an Ultimate Crime Directorate, that would suggest various remedies and new international and global laws. That was the role of the Roman Senate relative to the assembly of the Roman People.

The UN has a general assembly (made of nations), but no equivalent of a senate (made of individuals). Indeed, although some cases of genocide are legally straightforward (Nazism, Khmers Rouges), others are not. For example, the case of Darfur is very complicated; similarly in Rwanda. In complicated cases, there have been legitimate grievances on both sides. To cut the vicious circle is, or was, not obvious. For example, the French military intervened unilaterally and massively in Rwanda (“Operation Turquoise”), and cut the circle of vice. Retribution was stopped, saving hundreds of thousands of lives, say some French leaders. That saved the lives of many Hutus (80% of the population) but of course the winners, a minority, accused France to have come to rescue the bad guys. Now French special forces have died in combat in Darfur, inside Sudan, and it would be better if the UN could determine once and for all what is precisely going on there, besides genocide. To determine causation in case of genocide should be a priority, and thus should be made independent of sanctions.

2) Genocide played a crucial role in human evolution. Literally dozens of species of various hominids were exterminated to make way for its majesty Homo Sapiens Sapiens. It is actually probable that genocide was such an advantage, and a necessity, that it was evolutionary selected as an inheritable sociobiological tendency. Indeed, the ultimate crime is not the extermination of other people, but the extermination of the environment. The later leads to the former, but not conversely (because, in the pre thermonuclear context, the killers survive). People hate in groups, because it helped the environment, and it was the only solution. But no more now.

In any case the probable sociobiological evolutionary selection of genocide makes it a formidable enemy, all too natural.

LOUSY MORALITY LEADS TO LOUSY ECONOMICS.

July 9, 2008

A FEW ALARMING BUT ENLIGHTENING COMPARISONS.

Professor Krugman mentioned the housing bubble, the health care disaster, and the commodities bubble as drags on the US economy that cannot just be entirely attributed to the Bush misadministration (New York Times 7/7/08).

A fourth factor Mr. Krugman did not mention is the lack of investments in infrastructure. It preceded the rest. A dearth of investments in infrastructure is directly related to the bubble economy. Basically, the USA decided to make bubbles rather than serious stuff. A child in a bathtub, playing with iridescent films.

Probably the most important law of physics, underlying all our laws, is the law of conservation of energy. It applies directly to the economy: if all you make is X, you can’t make Y. If all you make is bubbles, you can’t be serious. But not only is the USA not a serious country anymore, it has been losing all moral compass, and its economy on the way.

A micro economic case in point is what is happening in the San Francisco Bay Area, a prime location for the Internet Bubble, the Real Estate Bubble, and the Bubble of Admiration for Venture Capitalist Billionaires. In 1989, there was a strong, but distant quake, part of San Francisco caught fire (Marina district), some freeways collapsed, the eastern span of the Bay Bridge broke (but the shaking stopped seconds before the final collapse). Well, we are now eighteen years later, and the San Francisco Bay Bridge, crucial to the Bay Area economy, has not been replaced yet. It’s built in China, it will take another five years or so, to assemble it. Meanwhile housing codes were not reviewed upwards. In case of a strong local quake, dozens of thousands of local houses, with known architectural weaknesses, will collapse (engineers know this, and it’s regularly published in local newspapers). But never mind: it’s more important to send money and go do stuff in Iraq.

Meanwhile a quake centered on Kobe in Japan killed 6,400. The Japanese toughened up their already tough construction standards. In 2008 a huge quake hit north of Tokyo, creating giant landslides in the countryside, but the large city it struck had only half a dozen people killed, and mostly got through unscathed.

So what’s failing in the USA? Morality. There is such a collapse in morality, that people cannot distinguish truly obscene behavior, let alone do anything about it. The Bay Area is exemplary that way.

While the San Francisco Bay Area is scheduled for a huge quake very soon, it does very little to get ready. Nevertheless a local billionaire, one the richest men in the world (Oracle’s Ellison), thought he paid too much tax for his palatial house, a reproduction of a Japanese imperial palace. So Mr. Ellison talked to star mesmerized natives, and got a three million dollar yearly rebate in his tax, half of it coming from the bankrupt local school district (California is next to last in spending per student in schools, among all US states; it used to be tops). Let’s hope no school collapses in the next quake, for lack of financing reinforcements.

No inquiry about corruption was opened, to throw a light on how that arbitrary rebate was decided. Last week “Don’t-Be-Evil” Google decided that child care for two children would cost more than $57,000, a year (more than the average US family income). Last week, Sergey Brin from Google, a thirty something with a private jumbo jet to roam around private islands, worldwide, was explaining why only the rich need child care: it’s a question of fairness, of everyone carrying his burden, of “supply and demand”. Sergey allegedly said that “he had no sympathy for the parents, and that he was tired of ‘Googlers’ who felt entitled to perks…” When asked how do define “evil” in Google’s slogan, the company president Eric Schmidt told Wired magazine: “Evil is what Sergey says is evil.”

For Sergey, evil is childcare for less than $57,000 for two. In a country such as France, evil is no child care for children. In France, child care comes free, for all, a consequence of global taxes, and it’s provided by true state certified and trained professionals. In Google’s view of the universe, only multi millionaires should be able to afford child care. And that sort of belief and practice pretty much generalizes throughout US society: only US multi millionaires have full access to the rights Europeans take for granted, for the common person.

Economic neofascists believe that only the rich create wealth, so the wealthier the hyper rich get, the more money trickles down. Reagan and his advisers believed in this, but that theory reached its apex in recent years, by setting up a tax loophole (on capital gains) that allowed the hyper rich that so desired, to be taxed only 15% (on their income, that was made into capital gains through tricks). Thus US investment started to look more like Arab oil sheik investment of old: all for the hyper rich, little for the people, and no care for the country. Meanwhile the upper middle class got taxed at practical rates around 50% (of the total tax bill).

The US plutocracy is expert at setting up tax loopholes for themselves, and it is not done yet.

Obama’s tax plan on income, capital gains and dividends strikes the upper middle class at rates higher than any European country (and such rates have been found experimentally to be unsustainable there). Obama and his crafty plutocratic advisers, who know their true masters well, intend to create a huge tax loophole for the hyper rich: after giving a token tax rebate on seniors, they want to NOT tax Venture Capital (so Venture Capitalist such as Mr. Brin will be able to afford even bigger jumbo jets). California, with its broken bridges, broken roads, broken schools, etc., is the central headquarters to World Venture Capital. It’s full of people with a morality similar to Mr. Ellison and Mr. Brin: people who never have enough glittery stuff for themselves.

As the hyper rich advanced themselves and their servants, not only did they divert all too much of the economic activity towards their grandiose little selves, but, through their control of the media and opinion makers, they directed the country towards waste, in a subtly Machiavellian tactic of making the whole country so wasteful that it would hide their own sumptuous waste.

In the end, too little capital was directed towards infrastructure, physical or mental, from bridges, to transportation, to energy, to schools and social spending. The USA became old, and started to break down.

Instead of an arrogant hyper rich, hyper powerful overclass, and waste everywhere, what is needed is to mimic the European countries: big taxes on the TRULY rich and taxes on energy and consumption. But that would require moral courage, and knowing that Europe exists, what is going on there, and what was tried there, and found not to work. As Obama surrounds himself with Clintonistas (example: Rubin, the greatest financial bubble architect next to Greenspan) or Bushmen (example: Richardson, a fanatical Iraq attacker), this learning process seems unlikely.

Without copying France, or Germany, the USA could just mimic Great Britain. The United Kingdom, like most European countries, has copied the French tax inventions: it has huge taxes on energy, a large VAT (Value Added Tax) consumption tax, and it provides efficient health care and social care as government programs; its more aggressive capitalism and much leaner administration has left France and Germany behind in the last decade.

But, of course, Obama is now surrounded by members of the hyper rich billionaire class (Warren Buffet, his main fund raiser in Chicago, a forty something billionaire heiress, Penny Pritzker, the Crown family, and countless billionaires who are “bundlers”, in charge of raking in dozen of millions of dollars among the hyper rich for the Obama “grass-root” fundraising…). The plutocracy knows how to take care of those it advises (cf. the Clinton or Bush fortunes).

So now the US economy is seizing up, quite a bit as what happened in the ancient Roman republic. When the richest Romans became too rich, they made most of the Roman population into simple spectators in their own empire, getting impoverished in all ways, while the Roman GDP was still going up, and up, and up. To keep the People happy, bread was distributed. When the People grumbled, money was thrown at them (see the recent US distribution of money on all modest tax payers). Nevertheless, after three centuries of this bread and circus circus, the Roman army rebelled (in the third century, the appropriately nicknamed century of “barrack emperors”. Not Barack, barracks).

Although trains are the most efficient way to transport people and goods, the lack of investments in these has been astronomical. It would take much more than a trillion dollars to bring a significant part of the US infrastructure in railroads to European levels. But railroads get very little subsidies (whereas corporate jetting around is getting handsome subsidies). The general US economy is made more inefficient that way (the main line from California to New York, carrying all the lettuce and arugula from California, can be observed, going across the Sierra Nevada, on its nineteenth century single track, at ten miles an hour, taking half a day where a quick European train would take half an hour).

But, Americans are eternal optimists. On an upbeat note, the US GDP has been going up forever at an enormous rate, stuffing itself to make Mr. Brin and Ellison, and all their colleagues, the richest men in the world, by far, sometimes overnight. A true glorious miracle, and Americans love true glorious miracles. But they got helped by the little guy. That glory of the great free market, that amazing US GDP, has been boosted by driving ever more inefficient SUVs stuck in traffic jams, living in thermally leaky houses, and plenty of very small little jobs all over!

***

Patrice Ayme.

Tyranosopher.

***

Technical Addenda:

1) In the early Clinton administration, there was a debate between Mr. Reich and Mr. Rubin. Reich wanted to push infrastructure spending, Rubin wanted to push the financial bubble “economy”. Rubin won. Now Rubin, one of the main architect of the credit/subprime crisis, his clout mostly intact thanks to his position at the head of the Citigroup board (largest and very disastrous bank), is back as an advisor to candidate Obama (so is Reich).

2) We focused on Brin and Ellison, by pedagogy, and because those venture capitalists head huge international corporations, but they are typical in their morality, and since such people are the guiding lights of the American spirit, they are immensely influential on imposing their morality, namely that of totally unchained plutocracy.

3) Some people would say that taxing the truly HYPER rich around 50% may lead to capital flight. Well, where would they run? To France? Switzerland? Certainly not. Existing laws against tax evasion would just have to be applied . One could argue that big time tax evasion has so far been made possible by the (implicit complicity of the) USA. The big European countries are against it, and have the economical means to enforce it in their sphere of influence (namely the entire planet, except those few places where US influence is greater).

4) The Loma Prieta 1989 earthquake that struck the SF Bay Area was 95 kilometers away from the Marina district, and only around 7 Richter. The Japanese quakes mentioned here struck cities directly, and were around 7.5 Richter. Much stronger local quakes, around 8 Richter, are predicted for the inner Bay Area (on either of two giant faults), within thirty years.

TORTURE QUESTIONED.

July 6, 2008

Abstract: We analyze torture by learning from history, and even animals. We use the most severe definition of torture, to shred the reigning, obscuring hypocrisy. By our definition, some forms of torture are unfortunately necessary, others should be totally discouraged. Some forms of torture are more “human” than other practices that have not been questioned as much (and debates about torture have been organized to hide much more troubling practices). The historical argument against torture-to-extract-information is valid: civilization has made extracting information by torture relatively inefficient and very counterproductive (that was known in the Middle Ages, and apparently in republican Rome!). This is particularly the case when fighting homicidal martyrs. They want to be tortured, so they can torture too. We should not extend to them that invitation, and give them that pleasure.

Torture so as to extract information, should stay completely unconstitutional, contrarily to the Bush administration’s practice. This official prohibition is a showcase of a general will to improve morality, that the top civilization should maintain as long as possible. But ticking time bomb scenarios will always occur, in urban counterinsurgency, and people should remember that secret services are secret for good reasons (one of them being that you do not want to know what they are doing).

Inflicting pain as a vengeance or to terrorize miscreants is another form of torture entirely. That sort of torture is still practiced massively, because civilization needs repression (many legal sanctions involve suffering, and, in this essay, we call that torture, by logical coherence). Pseudo naive occupiers like the USA should remember that occupying someone’s else country, per se, is mass torture. (Sometimes such torture can be justified, as the occupations of Germany and Japan in 1945 were; sometimes not, and then it is unjustifiable mass torture).

In general torture avoidance should be viewed as a challenge, one of the engines of improving civilization: how can we improve people by persuading and modifying behaviors rather than using brute force and horror, treating people as vicious beasts?
***

DEFINITION OF TORTURE:
There is no better illustration of the devolution of the USA than the attempt to make torture legal. A few years back, the Bush administration and its employee, UC Berkeley professor, John Yoo, bellowed that torture was necessary. In their stupidity, they tried to make it a new constitutional right, the Right to Torture. Never mind that torture is forbidden by international law.

We will thereafter use the most general definition of torture we can think of: TORTURE IS ANY SEVERE PAIN OR SUFFERING INTENTIONALLY INFLICTED ON A PERSON (this toughens up the UN definition). Our reason for being so general is that major infliction of pain and suffering is often allowed, on the ground that it is not torture (according to the United Nations). In our sense, carpet bombing of German cities by the RAF during WWII was torture. Similarly the demolition of terrorists’ houses by Israel is torture. But, from our point of view, torture does not have to be avoided at all and any cost. There are worse things than inflicting torture. For example one could inflict death. Or lose civilization outright.
***

NO POTENTIAL SEVERE PUNISHMENT, NO CIVILIZATION:
With our severe definition of torture, clearly torture has been central to civilization. Just as the threat of being shot may hold back some criminals, the threat of torture-as-punishment can work wonders to instill the respect of the law. All major civilizations used deliberate, severe punishment. The USA has several millions people deprived of freedom, many thousands on so called “death row” awaiting execution. China executed criminals with the method of the 1,000 cuts all the way into the twentieth century (photographic documentation of this activity exists). The Roman republic used torture extensively. Just as some firms specialized in the capture of escaped slaves, other Roman firms specialized in providing with private torture. In Rome torture was viewed as entertainment, and particularly ingeniously cruel methods of executions were devised. With sometimes a large proportion of the population in slavery, Rome had to maintain legal terror: “Dura lex, sed lex” (The law is hard, but it’s the law). On the positive side, under Roman terror, a quarter of mankind lived in a state of law. The enforcement of law is the core of what makes civilization possible.

The modern, “politically correct”, attitude, relative to such horrors as Roman crucifixion, is to disregard the Roman experience as irrelevant to our times. But such is not the case. It was torture that made Roman law tough. And thus effective. Oh, by the way, torture could not be used against Roman citizens. It was a terrible offense, very severely punished.

***

HOW THE CHRISTIAN SUPPRESSION OF SEVERE PUNISHMENT CONTRIBUTED TO THE DARK AGES:
The Christian catastrophe called the “Dark Ages” demonstrated the importance of punishment. First, of course, the Christians burned all the books, killed all the intellectuals, and killed all the non “Catholic Orthodox”, except for a few Jews. But still some of the old order had resisted. So the Christians changed tactics. Maybe tired and bored after all of these exertions, they proclaimed loud and clear they did not want to live in the world anymore. According to Augustine’, there were two cities, one on the ground (bad), and one in the clouds (good). Eight hundred years earlier, Aristophane had used that imagery in a comedy to make fun of Athens’ colonization policies. But Augustine was not joking: Christians wanted the world destroyed in a process called the Apocalypse (then, and only then, their superhero, God and son of God, would come back). To destroy the world more thoroughly, the Christians decided to destroy law enforcement.

So super rich Christian bishops decided it was non Christian to torture or kill bandits and the like. This way they would make sure that whatever was left of society would crash and burn. Criminality became highly profitable and so high that the society of the later Roman empire totally broke down. For a while, the bishops, who formed a governing plutocracy, did not mind; they were living off their vast estates, fed by armies of slaves, protected by armies of mercenaries. But, in the end, it became unbearable, the hypocritical campaign of the bishops against torture and legal violence aggravated the collapse of civilization. Even the bishops understood that morality needed a sword. They found it in the double bladed giant battle ax of the Pagan Franks.
***

THE FRANKISH RENAISSANCE, OR THE FEROCITY OF CIVILIZATION:
When the Franks took power, they reestablished severe punishment, in other words, torture. An example: counterfeit currency had been a very severe problem of the later Roman empire (it created huge inflation and destruction of the respect for the state). Frankish justice solved this difficulty by instituting a standard punishment for this offense: slowly boiling the counterfeiters alive. The Franks were men of wealth and taste, so, sometimes, the boiling was in wine.

Interestingly, once the Muslims had been thrown out, and the frontiers pushed way back into Eastern Europe, the Imperium Francorum, the empire of the Francs, became very quiet (until the next waves of invasion). Severe punishment worked.

The European Middle Ages kept on going along those lines. Respect for the law was encouraged by imposing punishments as severe as those of Rome. This had nothing to do with “Dark Ages” and fascism, quite the opposite. The more ferocious the repression of the ultimate crimes, the more advanced the society. A few examples:

A fanatical Catholic (paid by the eminent fascist, the Spanish emperor Philip II) assassinated William (“The Silent”) of Orange, founder of the republic of the Netherlands. The assassin was executed by “execrable” tortures over several days (1584 CE). As the Dutch republic gained ascendency, the first powerful republic since Rome, it became ever more severe, following the republican Roman legal model, sometimes more ferociously. Corrupt Dutch officials were separated from their entire skin, before leaving this world, giving them time to fully recognize the disposable nature of their superficial ways. Something similar happened in 1610 CE, after the assassination of the good King Henri IV of France (a Protestant turned Catholic that had put an end to the religious wars, and instituted deep social reforms). The assassin, the giant Ravaillac, resisted quartering, the horses got exhausted, so the public came forth, and succeeded, all pulling together, where the animals had failed. (According to the contemporary UN, such examples do not constitute torture, since they were fully legal executions).

Thus LOCAL morally correct posturing is not necessarily GLOBALLY correct moral posturing. Many people, such as many Christian bishops around 400 CE, or people who take positions of principle against severe punishment, do not examine carefully enough the fact that “homo homini lupus est” (man is a wolf for man) as the Roman playwright Plautus put it shortly after the Second Punic War (~ 200 BCE).

***

TORTURE IS DOING WELL:
Let’s come back to the present for a moment. According to Amnesty International, 75% of states use torture. Now it is true that, in some circumstances, torture can be very effective, be it to extract information quick, or for punishment on the side.

Torture is much more ubiquitous than is generally believed. The advancement of technology has allowed for the advancement of torture. New forms of torture have appeared (not just electricity, but sleep deprivation, various forms of exposure, from cold to loud noises, to uncomfortable positions, all very delicately controlled). Using them allows modern torturers to claim they are not torturing because the new forms of torture are not on the official list of recognized historical tortures. Many states can now imprison people in an extra judicial way for more than a few days if they are suspected of terrorism (this assists the police, but sometimes suffering maybe the real objective).
***

GOOD TORTURE, COUNTERPRODUCTIVE POLITICS:
Terrorist networks have been dismantled by torture. Torture was used as an efficient counter insurrection technique by French paratroopers in the Battle of Algiers. With time very limited to find the next bomb maker, once one had been caught, and with very soft (non fanatical) culprits (who typically transported bomb elements), torture allowed to expose terrorist cells before senior terrorists could flee. This is a general observation; if police catches someone with a hidden ticking time bomb somewhere, and they know that the bomber will probably not resist to torture, they may be derelict not to use it. The police is indeed faced with a choice between violating one law protecting the criminal, and civilization, and an other law, somewhat opposite, protecting the innocent, and civilization. Not a nice choice, and a good reason for the legal systems to close their eyes SOMETIMES.

On the negative side, though, the usage of torture by the French military became an excuse by the general French opinion (that did not want to have anything to do with Algeria!) to turn against attempts of preserving some sort of French-Algerian commonwealth (although the Algerian population had voted massively for it in a referendum!).

So the public opinion struggle was lost by the very methods that won the military struggle. This case was thoroughly studied by the Pentagon and Israel. The Pentagon used torture lightly in Iraq, keeping the French example in mind. Israel uses a careful mix of scrupulous law abiding with extremely severe punishment akin to torture by association (such as the immediate demolition of terrorists’ houses). But the Israeli tactics make sense, to insure the survival of Israel. The family of the assassin of William of Orange was ennobled by the fascist Philippe II of Burgundy and Spain, and became instantaneously rich. Having the family dwelling demolished, probably makes the Qur’an theses about going to heavens by killing, significantly less attractive. Whereas the Dutch republic had an immensely powerful ally in France, also perpetually fighting Spain and Burgundy, Israel does not have anybody (sending weapons and money is one thing, sending soldiers, another).
***

WHY SHOULD TORTURE BE MADE ILLEGAL?
At first sight, it’s an argument that is hard to make. The present world is, globally, at peace, but in no small measure because of the IMPLICIT TERROR exerted by the five permanent member states of the United Nation Security Council. Each of them have the means of killing hundreds of millions of people, and have exhibited, as an alliance during WWII, their readiness to use the most severe methods to crush the enemy, without consideration for the squeamish side. So peace, quiet, and civilization are blossoming, but under the threat that any significant deviation will be corrected by Armageddon. The USA has declared it reserves for itself the right of first use of nuclear weapons. France has explicitly announced that, besides this, she reserves the right of replying to mass terrorism with nukes (so like the Israelis with the demolition of the houses, but on a somewhat more exalted scale). Iran took that French warning personally, for some reason. Russia, China and Israel don’t need to issue warnings (Israel is loudly deploying a second (nuclear) strike capability).

But of course the point is that, when fighting for survival, democracies will do whatever it takes (some French politicians called for a cease fire in June 1940, because France was fighting at the same time Nazi Germany, the USSR, and, basically, the USA; it was a bit too much, even for the French, so they decided to take a vacation from it all, while the USA figured out who it was that they wanted to be allied with). THE ULTIMATE MORALITY IS THAT OF SURVIVAL (Iran should contemplate this as it bellows for the destruction of Israel; Indeed, Israel may have noticed one of the lessons of Nazism: bellowing criminal idiots should be taken seriously in a timely manner).

So democracies or civilizations (China) fighting for survival NEED TO BE ATROCIOUS sometimes. But that means that if they are not fighting for survival, they do not need to be atrocious. Being more advanced in their human interactions than the (less democratic and less civilized) rest of the planet, they need to keep their moral superiority, so they have a good reason to eschew the unsophisticated tortures more primitive places have to use.
***

WHY THE EUROPEAN MIDDLE AGES WAS LESS TORTUROUS THAN ISLAM:
As we said there are two main types of governmental torture: torture to enforce the law, and torture to extract information. The first sort of torture can be more or less extensive, depending how demanding and twisted the law is. For example Allah encouraged slavery and torture (as confirmed by reading a non watered down version of the Qur’an). These are situations that are unnatural to animals, and the more unnatural, the more severe the violence. So there were laws in North Africa, up to the nineteenth century, to punish severely slaves who tried to escape. Impaling was standard. It’s severe torture: the condemned could survive days.

When the Turkish army marched into Europe, it was helped by impaling. After seeing victims squirm around a pole, the public was much more outwardly respectful of anything Turkish. This non sense stopped when Vlad (“the Impaler”) started to use impaling just as well, and various tortures, to discourage Turkish invaders and their collaborators. The Turkish army was thrown out by its own methods.

In eight century Spain (revered by bin Laden), many people who had converted to Islam by convenience tried to convert back to Catholicism, once they figured out that Islam was not nice (at the time Catholicism, broken by the Franks, was totally relax). Many were executed by horrible means, such as crucifixion upside down (the official line of some Islamist scholars, to this day, is that those Christians wanted to be tortured). In Islam, being an apostate (somebody one feels is renouncing Islam) is subject to the death penalty (the idea, as most things Islamist, comes from old Judaism). By contrast in Carolingian Francia, people could convert back and forth into whatever. Christians would become Jews, and thousands of Muslims were quietly left to do whatever (we know there were huge numbers of these, from blood and genetic analyses).
***

WHY THE EUROPEAN MIDDLE AGES QUIT TORTURE TO EXTRACT INFORMATION:
To understand what is wrong with using torture, for extracting information, one should look at what happened during the Middle Ages. By 1300 CE, the kingdom of France had the best torturers who ever were. The information they obtained were confirmed in excess of 90%.

Nevertheless, a suspect’s statements under torture could NOT be used in judicial discovery; any admission had to be reconfirmed in front of the judge, without torture being applied. Justice knew people would say whatever to get the torture to stop, and that whatever was useless in serious judicial proceedings. So, as far as justice was concerned, torture was a loss of time. Moreover it corrupted the image justice wanted to give of itself. When Joan of Arc was interrogated (1431), the judges decided to avoid using any torture to make the judicial process more believable.

By 1600 CE, though, the ratio of confirmation under judicial inquiry of facts admitted under torture had fallen close to zero. The tortures had become too nice to persuade hard core criminals to talk.

But what did torture in was that the judges did not need the hints torture would provide with. Why? Simply because, by 1300 CE, under Philippe IV, Le Bel, the modern police state had been created, with methods of inquiry and arrest much more advanced than the best imperial Rome ever had (examples: the Templar monks were arrested all over at the same exact time; when the French judicial system decided to arrest the Pope, it sent a commando to Rome). Torture-to-extract-information had become irrelevant.
***

DOES TORTURE WORK WITH MARTYRS?
Well, it sure does: few things real martyrs love as much as torture. That is why one has to laugh when the Bushmen thought torture would cure Islamist fascism. It is said all over the Qur’an that the best way to insure the good graces of Allah (the great fascist in the sky) is to kill and suffer in His name. So, when Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, “the main architect of 9/11”, was approached with a wet towel for his “water boarding”, if he was the genuine thing, all he probably regretted was the absence of something more spectacular, like red hot pincers. Ever since the  Bush administration had been busy to proclaim that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed talked really a lot after being “water boarded”, thus arguing torture worked.

That sounded strange: history is full of serious terrorists who resisted splendidly to terrible tortures (the assassin of William of Orange stayed calm over the days of terrible tortures he endured). As it turned out, this was more than strange, it was disinformation: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed succumbed not to torture, but to the sort of friendly interviewing methods already used during Joan of Arc’s trial.

Hard core terrorists have determined that their moral cause is so important that pain can be inflicted to the totally innocent (it’s the same moral reasoning that allowed carpet and nuclear bombings by the democratic allies over German and Japanese, or French cities during WWII). Terrorism overrides basic instincts. To make such people give valuable information, one has to taunt the moral gymnastics they have indulged in first. Those moral contortions are central to their cause, and they will defend, hence expose them, as they desperately try to justify themselves. That, in turn, is bound to reveal the mental networks behind them.
***

Conclusion: TO KILL TORTURE, LOOK AT IT IN THE FACE.

Animals come equipped with ethics. Hungry monkeys, or even rats would refuse to eat (at least for a while) if another of their fellow got shocked with electricity, each time they went for a bite. Morality is not just human, it’s deeper than that. Monkeys don’t need the rewards of God to be good. So man is not THE moral animal. All social advanced animals are moral.

Animals actually come equipped with a hierarchy of ethical systems. In ultimate circumstances, they switch to the morality of survival. Not necessarily the survival of the individual; it’s often the survival of the group. Human beings are different in degree; their switch to the group survival mode is much more ferocious. When a human being is fully persuaded of total moral righteousness, NO PAIN IS HIGH ENOUGH (this comes from humans being the most carnivorous of primates, so they ally primate care with predatory ferocity). There are examples of Roman officers calmly putting one of their own fists in a brazier until it got totally consumed, to impress enemies with their moral superiority.

The ultimate human group is civilization itself. For its survival, it’s crucial to produce ever more gentle human beings, because the technology of mass destruction is getting ever better (the ultimate one at this point being the greenhouse weapon). In that sense, it would be better if everyone acted to completely avoid deliberately inflicting pain and suffering on people. This is not an option, though, so all what’s left, as usual, is to mitigate.

Carefully observing what one is doing, and the others are doing, is a first step.

It would seem that people who let practice carpet bombing on children in their name, to fill up their truck with oil, are in a difficult situation, arguing for the immorality of bothering a terrorist with pliers. Still, many people who did not object that much against the “shock and awe” destruction of Iraq, are shrill about torture. In other words, when it’s deemed advantageous to them to use lethal cruelty and massive mayhem on millions, it’s OK. Then, in a nice ethical pirouette, to proclaim to the world they are good people nevertheless, they squeal when, “the main architect of 9/11”, is approached with a wet towel. In other words, a lot of the left (including the democrats) are hiding behind words and carefully nurtured obsessions, what they are truly doing. As soon as they allowed the invasion of Iraq, and, unbelievably, its destruction, in violation of the Geneva Conventions, American people allowed mass torture to be used in their name, and for their wasteful way of life.

The torture question is difficult. Still, one wants civilization to progress. The police state replaced torture, but it cannot work with too primitive a population (that is why Rome allowed torture of the presumably more primitive slaves, but not of citizens). That goes inside countries, but also between countries. Civilization has to cling to the official line, and the practice, of doing as little torture as possible. It is unlawful for a pilot to crash a plane. Nevertheless, sometimes, a pilot, having encountered some technical difficulty, may have to crash it, because that’s the best option left.

Torture is sometimes unavoidable, but it should be officially discouraged always, and should not be allowed to hide in plain sight, by calling it by other names. If people deny that what is happening is happening, one cannot change it.

Posturing is fun, but it’s not moral.
***

Patrice Ayme.

www.patriceayme.com/

Technical Addenda:
1) According to the United Nations Convention Against Torture, torture is “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person” to extract information. Torture, so defined, exclude lawful punishment (so slowly burning alive at the stake is OK, if decided by judicial process, according to the UN). The definition used by the UN also forgets that, people (are made to) love to hurt people (that happens in conflicts, but also out of the blue, from raw psychobiology unchained). That is why we used the more general definition above. It gives logical coherence.

2) Why did the USA revert to torture? Why such a reversion to the past? Because, in the last few years, the US mood has been to go back, clinging to the hope of reliving the past, the future slipping out of reach of the “American Dream” … As soon as the USA threatened to destroy Iraq, it was engaging in torture. Abu Graib and Guantanamo are just minuscule, but telling, details.

3) The American reversal to the past is general. In June 2008, the US Supreme Court found that US citizens had a Constitutional Right to shoot each other (guns are mostly used to kill family members). New York has had a ban on guns for nearly a century. But never mind, it’s morning in America. The Supreme Court decision was the first on the subject in seventy years. Reverting to the distant past has become fashionable in the USA, in a desperate attempt to believe that the “American Dream” and its associated benevolent plutocracy, make the world all it could be.  Thus California hopes to soon be the state with the lowest educational budget per child, of the entire 50 states (now it’s only 49th).

CONTRADICTION HAS NO MORAL FORCE.

July 3, 2008

IT WOULD HELP IF WESTERN CIVILIZATION DETECTED THE CRIMES OF ITS PAST, WHILE CONDEMNING CONTEMPORARY CRIMES.
***

“Mugabe must go, and Mbeki must consider the blood on his hands that tarnishes his legacy.” points out Roger Cohen (Passages, NYT/IHT, July 2, 2008). Mugabe is the dictator of Zimbabwe, and Mbeki the president of South Africa. South Africa could get rid of Mugabe in 24 hours if it wanted (and the UN would approve). Ladislav Nemec (from California) then cogently commented that: “The French did not mind the catastrophe of Napoleonic wars and [Napoleon’s] tomb in Paris is very elaborate, indeed. Glorious days, many of them still believe. And it all happened some 200 years ago and, no doubt, the French consider themselves VERY smart.” (Passages).

This is an excellent and crucial observation about protesting against fascist dictatorships: as long as some fascist dictatorships are admired, why to discriminate against others? What’s good for France would be bad for Zimbabwe? Why?

Was Mugabe as bad for Zimbabwe as Napoleon was for Europe? Certainly not. Certainly Mugabe did not come out of his country and destroy most of Africa, as Napoleon did with most of Europe (from Portugal to Moscow).

Recently millions of French people, expressing a revelation that came belatedly, loudly voiced their view of Napoleon as the enslaver, murderer and dictator that he really was. In particular, French people of mixed African descent have taken note of Napoleon horribly racist slave policies. Napoleon was opposed in his times, and he thought smart to murder, or imprison to death, several of his opponents, in ignominious ways. In modern times, the European Court of Justice would have Napoleon arrested and tried as a criminal. Napoleon’s guilt was clearer than the one of the ex Serbian president.

It’s philosophically intolerable that Napoleon is revered as much as he is (and not just by the French!). From the modern point of view, it’s hard to find anything good about him. He was a good general, true, but he had superlative troops, by far the best in the world at the time (and they made a huge difference, for example at the battle of Austerlitz, where the dogged defense, house to house of forced-marched-through-the-night, rushed-in soldiers held the center miraculously. Austerlitz is viewed as Napoleon’s greatest victory, but clearly, without superlatively experienced and motivated soldiers, he would not have won). After nominating himself “emperor”, he had become a casus belli all by himself.

Napoleon killed two million Frenchmen in useless wars, and few millions more other Europeans besides. Perhaps his most unique achievement was to have Cossacks parading in Paris after his fall.

So why the great Napoleonic cult? At first sight, because Napoleon destroyed the Revolution. That is what the French upper bourgeoisie and the exiled aristocrats wanted. Napoleon was their mindless little tool, as he idiotically went around seeking glory in all the wrong places and the most criminal ways.

In the aftermath of his ill fated reign, the plutocratic French upper class was able to reestablish a lot of the old order, even the monarchy (under a constitutional form). The Napoleonic cult has been a highly successful form of class propaganda. The lower classes were made to revere the one who had precisely reestablished their oppression and culled their numbers, besides mauling the ideals of the French revolution. This class analysis is far from the whole motivation for the cult, though, as we will explain.

Nowadays, if French intellectuals wanted to do something particularly useful, they could reconsider French history in a more critical way. It would make it easier for all of us to understand the mechanisms of the adulation despots bring forth in their subjects.

Another atrocious French dictator, astoundingly admired to this day, was Louis XIV. Louis destroyed lots of Germany, and organized horrible persecutions against non Catholics inside France (after violating the Edict of Nantes of his own grandfather, Henri IV, who had put an end to the religious wars). France lost hundreds of thousands of her best citizens (Some fled to Germany and their descendants would roll back in at general’s rank with the Nazi tanks in 1940! Some French Protestants fled all the way to South Africa, and planted grapes there). Millions more Frenchmen suffered twenty years of “Dragonades” (occupation of parts of France by the King’s “Dragons”, who lived on the land, oppressing, raping, stealing, terrorizing non Catholics, in the hope they would flee the country too). At the end of his life, after a seventy-two year reign, agonizing with gangrene over three weeks, Louis XIV confided that what hurt him the most was how much his subjects suffered (from poverty, famine, etc.). He accused bad advisers, we have to accuse the lack of democracy.

Why the admiration for Louis XIV? Differently from Napoleon, he accomplished some positive things. But, overall, it’s the grip of the fascist instinct that mostly fuels the admiration little men have for great, bad, mean, sun like leaders doing great, bad, mean, glorious horrors. Louis XIV played it like a violin, and some listen to his melody to this day.

Fundamentally men are glorified monkeys, and monkeys are conditioned to follow great, bad, mean, glorious leaders who allow them access to their daily water by the terror they inspire in all beasts alike, and the predators waiting in the shadows. People talk about “glory” to evoke that timeless feeling of being part of an all triumphant mob. It’s the essence of the fascist instinct. Napoleon has been loved throughout the world and history for that extremely wrong reason, and a few others, even worse. Time has come to expose those reasons, to get rid of them. Those same reasons help provide Mugabe’s goons with a lot of intimate pleasure. 

As long as a people as self admiring for their own smartness as the French cannot finalize a verdict of culpability about Louis XIV and Napoleon quite a bit in the way they did about Hitler, there is not enough enlightenment. All the more since there was a genealogy of ideas from Louis XIV, Napoleon, the Kaiser Wilhelm, and finally Hitler. The French admirers of Napoleon were, and are, Nazis at heart in the most important respect of the adulation for brute, overwhelming, lethal force. Amusingly, when Napoleon attacked Russia, a lot of his army was German (and included 20,000 Prussians sent by the Prussian state). The Nazis, self consciously, viewed themselves as the heirs of Napoleon, and tried to do better than him. 

Besides a deeper psychoanalysis, what is also lacking is some moral coherence in the analysis of history. Absent moral coherence, our civilization looks hypocritical and racist. Simply because, as proven by the facts behind this sort of incoherence, it is.
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Patrice Ayme.
Tyranosopher.