Archive for May, 2009

SUN COOLING, ICE MELTING…

May 31, 2009

THE SUN WAS COOLING, BUT STILL THE ICE SHIELDS WERE MELTING…

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TWENTY FIVE  METERS SEA LEVEL RISE ALL TOO SOON FROM MELTING OF ANTARCTICA’S ICE BASINS?

How to enlighten the conversation with one picture worth 10,000 words. Watch the red line below, and how much it dips lately: 

File:Solar-cycle-data.png

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Synopsis: More than 98% of scientific papers considering the subject opine that recent human activities have warmed up the climate. But the percentage of the public who believe that is only around 55% … in the USA. This disbelief, far from being healthy, is related to the propaganda of big polluters, allowing the later to avoid making the economy of the USA efficient (so they have less to do, avoid public inquiry, and make greater profits, while being beyond any suspicion).

One recent tactic of these sneaky types has been to talk about the sun and planets. The main argument they make is that the sun is acting up, thus allegedly causing the warming. Fair enough. Considering the sun is a must, indeed: there is plenty of evidence that the recent Little Ice Age was caused by a sort of Solar Winter. So let’s look at the sun: as the graph above shows, it is COOLING. The sun is cooling. The warming would have been much greater, had the sun not been so kind. Oopss.

Other climate deniers made some noise about a recent cover article in Science that computed that the collapse of the WAIS (West Antarctica Ice Shield) would rise sea level by only 3.30 meters. But this article sort of cheats: reading its fine print shows that the rise would be rather be 3.80 meters, and it brazenly ignores all possible melting of part of the Antarctica Peninsula (contriving to do so by the not so subtle artifice that said peninsula is not  semantically part of the WAIS; however, the peninsula is more north and warmer, so, one ought to suspect, it would melt even more, as it has actually started to do!).

The authors in Science also ignore other mountainous regions of the WAIS itself, using, once again the artifice that being on land does not make them part of the WAIS, formally speaking,  since the WAIS is a shield, and nothing inclined is, although, of course, having deep blue sea all around the present mountainous areas of the WAIS would warm them up.

I then turn this argument around. Looking towards the east, and I ponder what could happen with East Antarctica. Answer: very serious trouble.

By the way, the expression “climate change” is misleading. The biosphere is attacked in all ways by the rise in Greenhouse Gases, and not just by direct warming. It is losing the battle quickly. Changes that have happened before in millions of years are now happening in decades, so biological species cannot adapt through migration, and, or, biological evolution.

Half of the CO2 recently produced has sunk into the ocean, where it reacted with water to make carbonic acid. So millions of species of the plancton, many making oxygen, are dissolving in an acid prepared by the average American household and its refusal to endure a stiff carbon tax. Moreover entire zones within the oceans have warmed so much that they lost enough oxygen to support life as we know it (most sea species are highly sensitive to tiny temperature variations). And as evolution presently knows it. These gigantic zones are now dead: life does not have time to evolve species adapted to this new environment. What is going on is a BIOSPHERICAL CATASTROPHE, as a result of stuffing life’s environment with 400 million years of carbon deposits.
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SOLAR INPUT:
No climate change discussion can be considered complete without considering the sun. This is one point greenhouse deniers have been making. It is indeed extremely correct.

Greenhouse deniers have been loudly proclaiming, that because some planets (Mars, Pluto) are warming (perhaps), then the sun has got to be warming. This argument can be put to rest: Mars and Pluto’s climates are dominated by astronomical and peculiar factors (see notes).

And, unfortunately for greenhouse deniers, the sun output has been slowing down, as the graph below shows.

File:Solar-cycle-data.png

What does this mean? We should be cooling down, because the sun’s output has been going down as much as an astounding 6% in some frequencies. But, nevertheless, the lower troposphere has been warming up (while the stratosphere, robbed of heat by the greenhouse blanket BELOW it, has been cooling, a predicted effect of the greenhouse; this warming at low elevation accompanied by a cooling higher up shows that the observed changes of temperatures are due to a greenhouse, not just a global change in solar output).

Thus the warming of recent times is indeed caused by greenhouse warming, as humans augmented greenhouse gases by more than fifty percent in 150 years. Notice that in the graph above that we are reaching a local minimum of solar output, and that solar output should soon increase again in the next 11 years cycle.

Another tactic has been for some greenhouse deniers to turn into outright friends of the greenhouse, and claim that we were spared a new ice age from the human induced greenhouse. (That many people living in the Arctic will love the considerable heating the poles will experience is only natural though.)

Indeed, some scientists have speculated that herding augmented the production of methane during the Neolithic, thus preventing the cooling that would otherwise have happened. Methane is a very strong greenhouse gas. Basically Neolithic man killed the carnivores, and reduced the forests, so the herbivores would have plenty to munch on, and the herbivores became more numerous. As they did, the worldwide density of methane went up significantly, durably warming up the lower atmosphere. 

Maybe. But that is not the point. The point is that we are doing GEOENGINEERING on our own planet, haphazardly, driven by short term profit and hubris. In particular what would happen if Mr. Sun would wake up, and produce as much output as it used to a few decades ago? Well, the gentle warming up would turn into outright swift heating.

(This being said, a lot of people living in high latitudes can only be pleased by polar heating: an entire world is opening up, and many of the big polluters know there are significant fossil fuel reserves around the poles, piled up there in warmer eons past…)
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LUBRICATION, OR HOW TO LOSE AN ICE CAP:
A few years back, only the fringes of Greenland were melting in summer. The ice cap flowed majestically to the sea, at a sedate pace, through enormous flowing glaciers entering the sea. Greenland’s ice cap towers more than 3000 meters above sea level and the possibility of its melting sounded like bad science fiction.

In recent summers, though, up to half of Greenland has been melting, and “icequakes” have gone from about five a year in 1996 to around 30. In a typical icequake, a glacier the size of Manhattan, and 500 meters thick, slips by say ten meters in one minute (icequakes release their Richter 6 energy with lower frequency waves than the most destructive tectonic earthquakes, so one needs special seismographs to pick them up; although about half of the energy of the tsunami quake of 2004 was released that way, making the waves two-third as high as they would have been otherwise; hence that tsunami quake is viewed as 9.1 Richter, or 9.3 Richter, depending whether one counts the low frequency waves, or not…).

The reason for icequakes is undoubtedly lubrication by water gushing below the glaciers, having ended down there by what is called a moulin (a giant waterfall chute, up to twenty meters across and 3 kilometers deep). On the margins of Greenland, where the slope is strong, the glaciers avalanche down. Before 2000, glaciers on the West coast of Greenland had never done so. Now they do.

Interestingly, something a bit similar is found down south. Hundreds of lakes have been found under the main ice shield in Antarctica. They are most probably caused by geothermal heating, but they communicate with each other, and can propel (by appropriate swelling of their liquid mass) the ice shield above. That ice shield can be up to 4,000 meters thick. My point? One could imagine the same formation of moulins occurring down south (although there, right now temperatures, even in summer, oscillate between minus 50 Celsius and minus ten, so there is no dangers of lakes forming on the surface yet, as they now happen on the Greenland ice cap; such lakes can vanish into a newly formed moulin in minutes).
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WHY GLACIATIONS COME AND GO, AND WHY IT’S GOING TO BE WARM FOR 50,000 YEARS:
One thing to know about Antarctica is that it was long covered with the same forests found nowadays in Patagonia. Trees and even dinosaurs (!) had adapted to the long nights. Glaciers were only found in the numerous high mountain ranges of the polar continent. In the last four million years, after 70 million years of steady cooling, perhaps because of the closing of the bridge between North and South America, and the rise of mighty mountain ranges, plus the opening of a circumpolar ocean which insulated Antarctica from the rest of the planet thermally, earth’s climate became much cooler. The apparition of glaciated poles was, most certainly, itself an accelerating cause of cooling. Sea level dropped 135 meters below the present level, as water ice gathered in colossal ice shields. Glaciations oscillated, between the poles and the temperate zones, as the parameters of earth’s orbit varied.

Joseph Alphonse Adhemar (1797 – 1862), a French mathematician, was the first to suggest that glaciations occurred from astronomical dispositions, in his 1842 book “Revolutions of the Sea”. Then the self educated Scottish scientist Croll, using Leverrier’s precise math (which had allowed him to discover Neptune) revealed the relationship between ice, albedo (that is the measure of how much sunlight is reflected back to space), and the eccentricity of earth’s orbit.

Croll suggested the basic idea of orbitally forced insolation variations influencing terrestrial temperatures. This comes from a geographical oddity, the fact that the continents of Earth are gathered up in the North. That allows to support enormous ice shields.

The sea does not allow to support huge iceshields, kilometers thick, as it is too warm (except, well, in Antartica). Why the sea stays warm is another miracle, related to CO2 and volcanoes. Basically ice shields all over, as in “Snow Ball Earth”, lock up in the atmosphere CO2, bringing a strong greenhouse, which, in turn, melts the iceshields. A “Snow Ball Earth” related to the rise of complex life, is suspected to have occured a few times around 700 to 600 million years ago. So CO2, life, volcanoes, plate tectonic, active geology and temperature of the biosphere are tightly connected.

So, if not enough sun falls on those northern continents during summer, the ice from the preceding winter will not melt, and the continents will gather ice, and the ice will spread south, if it can.

This lack of sun exposure in summer will happen from celestial mechanics interacting with the inclination of the rotation axis of the earth. Croll’s work was widely discussed, but by the end of the 19th century, the theory was generally disbelieved. Much later, the Serbian Milutin Milankovitch further developed the theory that eventually triumphed in 1976, in modified form.

The bottom line is that the present astronomical calculations show that 65° North summer insolation should increase gradually over the next 25,000 years, and that no declines in 65° North summer insolation sufficient to cause an ice age are expected in the next 50,000 to 100,000 years.

Hence Earth should warm up for the next 50,000 years, an exceptionally long interglacial. [Berger A, Loutre MF (2002). “Climate: An exceptionally long interglacial ahead?”. Science 297: 1287–1288]

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A DAMOCLES ICICLE, READY TO CRUSH US ALL: THE WEST ANTARCTIC ICE SHIELD (WAIS)
The West Antarctic Ice Shield (WAIS) looks all white and solid from space, with a few huge mountains ranges coming out. Those mountains are in truth massive  islands coming out of a frozen mass of fresh water that stands in place of the ocean. The WAIS connects the Antarctic peninsula, which goes north towards Patagonia, to the main part of the polar continent. The WAIS is covered with ice, it is made of ice. The crucial point, though, is that most of the rock supporting the solid ice of the WAIS is below sea level. It is a giant ice cube resting on what ought to be the bottom of the ocean.

The sea is out there, lapping to the boundary of the WAIS, which rests so heavily on the continent, that it pushes it down. The rocky boundary has no ice pushing down, except a bit on the side, so it is not as low. Thus the rock below the WAIS forms a bowl that would be under water, if it were not under ice. That bowl is glued on its margin by ice. The surface oceanic water is salty, and would be below freezing if it were not so salty, thus it glues efficiently the margin of the WAIS, since the WAIS is made of freshwater, and thus freezes solid below zero Celsius. This system sounds contrived, and it is indeed a rather unstable arrangement.

Water has the curious property that it is denser at 4 degree Celsius (8 degrees Fahrenheit above the freezing point of pure water). Hence the sub freezing salty ocean water is above relatively warmer ocean water. If at some point some warm water can come in contact with the boundary of the WAIS, it could suddenly melt the sweet water ice of the WAIS at the margin, and then flow below the WAIS, melting it from below, and organizing some sort of satanic Carnot thermal engine with a strong circulation squeaking below, and accelerating the whole thing (it maybe how and why the ice shelves dislocate so fast, by the way: sudden circulation forming a thermal engine underneath, I would suggest).

From previous studies, it was widely assumed that the WAIS would cause a sea level rise of 5 meters if it melted. But an article in Science, May 15, 2009, claiming more precise radar telemetry, revisits the threat: “Theory has suggested that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet may be INHERENTLY UNSTABLE. Recent observations lend weight to this hypothesis. We reassess the potential contribution to eustatic and regional sea level from a rapid collapse of the ice sheet and find that previous assessments have substantially overestimated its likely primary contribution. We obtain a value for the global, eustatic sea-level rise contribution of about 3.3 meters, with important regional variations.”

The important regional variations have mostly to do with the rise of the local shores in West Antarctica: as the ice goes away, the continent rebounds. The authors count ONLY regions of where the bedrock slope is opposite to the glacial flow, a pointless restriction, in my not so humble opinion. Counting all regions below sea level, as they should have, the same authors find a rise of 3.8 meters. The authors also ignore the melting in the colossal mountainous islands that would be left, some as large as medium size countries.
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THE WEST ANTARCTIC ICE SHIELD (WAIS) IS ALL SET TO BREAK UP:
Temperatures have increased enormously in the polar regions (up to 5 degrees Celsius in some regions such as the Antarctica peninsula, although the overall planetary warming is only .75 C, less than one degree Celsius; some say only .4 degree Celsius!). This comes from the poles being the planet’s heat sinks: all the heat is sent there, as the greenhouse effect proceeds apace (another reason why little is being done about it, as temperate areas, where the deciders live, have barely warmed up; by the time they will have warmed up indeniably, the poles will be well into irreversible melting).

This warming up at the poles has a very practical effect: the surface waters in Antarctica are in danger of reaching zero degree Celsius, the temperature at which fresh water ice melts. That means that the margin of the WAIS could come unglued, and warm ocean water could flow below it. In other words, we are within an easy warming reach of a WAIS catastrophe. Something like this happened to the ice shield over Hudson Bay, which dislocated very fast a few thousands years ago, as warm ocean water slipped below it. (I just suggested a mechanism for this otherwise unexplainable  speedy break-up.)
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COULD THE EAST ANTARCTIC ICE BASINS DISSOLVE TOO?
As if this looming WAIS disaster was not enough, there is another Damocles icicle hanging above the carbon banquet. A mechanism is revealed with a new actor, that I am perversely pleased to introduce, the East Antarctic Ice Shield, allowing a sea level rise of 35 meters in one generation. I am not saying that it will happen, but that there is a mechanism that could make it happen, and political leaders who claim to be cautious will now to have to consider this.

In the same article in Science trying to minimize the danger posed by the WAIS, I looked at the pretty pictures, and looked again. And then looked again, and looked on the side, where East Antarctica, most of Antarctica, is found, as disbelief set in ominously all over.

Incredible. How interesting. There I saw a positively enormous area where the ice cap bottom is LOWER than 200 METERS BELOW SEA LEVEL. Yes, 200 meters below! Imagine the disaster when warm water is going to slip below that… There are actually two areas, next to each other, the Wilkes Subglacial Basin and the Aurora Basin, and they obviously communicate below sea level, and moreover front hundreds of kilometers of Antarctic ocean below 200 meters below sea level. They do this nicely by a pleasant 67 degrees of southern latitude, just under the Antarctic Polar Circle, about as close to the pole as Fairbanks, Iceland, and further than the Lofoten islands or the city of Murmansk, or Europe’s North Cape. (All those areas are free of ice, and Fairbanks is not under the influence of the Gulf Stream!)

The ambiance of that article in Science was reassuring in this typically reserved way scientists affect, in the hope of being taken seriously: “Collapse is considered to be a low-probability, high-impact event with, for example, a 5% probability of the WAIS contributing 10 mm per year within 200 years.” Of course, this is pseudo science, because “is considered to be” is not science. Science is about events that can be repeated at will. It’s not about getting consideration in a social setting.

Hence, if anything, I found the conclusions of that article scarier than ever. I want to see an article evoking not just the WAIS, but all the potential flash flood in EASTERN ANTARCTICA. Now. Methinks it’s got to be of the order of twenty meters of sea level rise, just looking at it the maps. So thank you science, thank you lord, and let’s get ready for real nomadism, running for the hills! A bad emotion (the melting of the iceshields can only be a multimillennial event) reinforced by a little bit of the wrong knowledge (speciously minimizing arguments on a fraction of the problem, namely the WAIS) often spells disaster.

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Conclusion: HELL NOW? If the poles melt, there is no coming back. The Earth’s albedo will be irreversibly reduced, the dark polar oceans and polar forests will absorb light and heat, instead of throwing it back to space. The planet will switch to its HOT REGIME. To its hot regime it is very familiar with. But the present biosphere is not. We would be back in a flash to Jurassic Park. But without the dinosaurs in Alaska and Antarctica (as they used to be!)

We used to have about 280 ppm of CO2 equivalent greenhouse gases, 150 years ago. Now we are around 450 ppm, and increasing fast (3 ppm a year in CO2 rise alone, which is itself at 385 ppm). The important concept, here, is “CO2 equivalent”. From long term geological records, we know that Antarctica covers itself with ice at 425 ppm of CO2 (in the non industrial era, non CH4, non CO2, CO2 equivalent gases did not exist).

Even an American politician should be able to understand what this means: the southern polar icecap is now unstable.

At the most extreme, adding to the preceding tipping points the “clathrate gun” (massive eruptions of frozen methane stores, apparently greater than all the other fossil fuels combined), a hellish scenario seems possible where this would all happen WITHIN A CENTURY. Massive melting within much less than that is also possible: in 2007 frozen methane in the warmest Arctic ocean ever erupted a bit. In 2008, the ocean was a bit colder, and methane came out of the tundra instead. Before, for an entire decade, methane’s density in the atmosphere had not augmented.

Methane, CH4 has 100 times the greenhouse capability of CO2; some fancy man made gases have 10,000 times the greenhouse capability of CO2, hence the difference between 385 ppm of pure CO2, and the 450 ppm of warming by CO2 equivalent gases I evoked.  

There is no doubt that at least 90% of mankind would die in the process of a massive flood (nuclear bombing of coal plants for ecological reasons may be an ironical twist, with a rare touch of ecological humor). The UN evaluates climatic refugees to be a minimum of 250 million by 2050.

That of course, was the bad side of things. On the good side, cynics will smirk, carbon addicts will be able to burn coal like there is no tomorrow, for a few years more, thanks to the antics of Mr. Sun conveniently truly going to sleep, as CO2 build up. A self fulfilling prophecy: there will be indeed no tomorrow, thanks to them.

Humankind, playing fast and loose with things it digs underground, where they have been buried for hundreds of millions of years, if not billions, burns those things in the atmosphere. The USA, apparently hoping to transmogrify itself through platitudes, is taking its sweet time to do nothing significant about climate change. Not only is the USA also culprit, indirectly, of a lot of Chinese emissions, but, as (still) the world number one industrial power, the USA, through competition of its products worldwide, has an unfair carbon advantage it is using to the hilt (most of the electricity of the USA comes from indigenous coal, cheap and plentiful).

Obama should have put a ten cents per gallon gas tax on his first day, but he found much safer to send more taxpayer money to Afghanistan, and his friends in high finance, so convenient, in truth, with financing him. At least, very short term, so it is: the sea has not reached the White House yet (when it does, it will be too late, as the greenhouse effect is highly non linear, as I described above).

Weirdly, and perniciously, Mr. Sun, which was supposed to be steady as a rock, has been cooperating with the polluters, in the last two decades. But we are at the bottom of the 11 year cycle, so this should be less of a factor for a while.

The Sun has slowed down for decades at least twice in the last millennium. This caused the Little Ice Age (which destroyed Vikking Greenland). Should the Sun persists in cooling down in the coming decade, the catastrophe would be even greater than if it did not. Indeed, temperatures would not rise as much.  Thus polluters would be encouraged to stuff the atmosphere with even more CO2, perhaps even arguing that they are sparing us an ice age. However, the CO2 would keep on building up, and half of it dissolves in the ocean, where it reacts with water to make carbonic acid. Thus the oceans would die even faster.

Ultimately, when the Sun wakes up from its slumber, all the heat would return, and more. Moreover a lot of CO2 would come out of the oceans, thanks to the temperature rise.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, a lot of knowledge is necessary to those who want to be morally right. Planetary engineering, as we are presently doing, without knowing enough, is the most terrible thing. When the hand of fate comes upon us, not only will the planet get hellish, but many of the vengeful ones in flooded countries will make sure that there is hell to pay.

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Patrice Ayme
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Notes: 1) Mars and Pluto’s climates are dominated by the enormous wobble for the former, and the amazing eccentricity of the second. Sometimes, Pluto is so far from the sun, its atmosphere snows down, and freezes on the ground. As it approaches the sun a century later, or so, the atmosphere goes back up, and puts a greenhouse around the planet, warming it up (right now Pluto is going away from the sun, but there is inertia to its greenhouse, so it keeps on warming).

Mars’ axis of rotation can be so inclined on the ecliptic plane (it oscillates between 10 and 45 degrees!) that then the poles get sun full on, once a year, and melt, and the Martian atmosphere is then thick with CO2 and H2O, two powerful greenhouse gases, so the planet warms up a lot (conversely, when the planet stands upright on its orbital plane, light grazes the poles, and the atmosphere freezes around the ice caps, the greenhouse effect goes way down, and the planet freezes.

2) The glory of SUBOCEANIC ANTARCTICA:

Figure 1

Fig. 1 Antarctic surface topography (gray shading) and bed topography (brown) defining the region of interest. For clarity, the ice shelves in West Antarctica are not shown. The brownish and yellow parts are the WAIS’ bed, and are all below sea level, and are why the WAIS will disintegrate.

Areas more than 200 meters BELOW SEA LEVEL in East Antarctica are indicated by blue shading. NOTICE THAT A LOT OF EAST ANTARCTICA, WHERE THE SUB SEA LEVEL BASINS ARE, HAVE THEIR MARGINS WELL NORTH OF 70 DEGREES (and actually just north of THE SOUTH POLAR CIRCLE).

AP, Antarctic Peninsula; EMIC, Ellsworth Mountain Ice Cap; ECR, Executive Committee Range; MBLIC, Marie Byrd Land Ice Cap; WM, Whitmoor Mountains; TR, Thiel Range; Ba, Bailey Glacier; SL, Slessor Ice Stream; Fo, Foundation Ice Stream; Re, Recovery Glacier; To, Totten Glacier; Au, AURORA BASIN; Me, Mertz Glacier; Ni, Ninnis Glacier; WSB, WILKES SUBGLACIAL BASIN; FR, Flood Range; a.s.l., above sea level.

(Illustrations from Bamber and al. Science May 15, 2009)

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P/S 1: We are just coming out of a solar minimum so pronounced that cosmic rays, less deflected by the sun’s weakening magnetic field, have become a problem… Sunspots had nearly completely disappeared for the first half of 2009, before reappearing violently in July… There are mysterious strong correlations between sunspots and Earth’s temperature (mysterious, because, although very strong, they inverted in the 1970s;Vincent Courtillot, 2009).

P/S 2:  Thus, we have had a sort of solar winter in the last generation, and we seem to have reached its nadir right now, in the spring of 2009. (That would explain why the lowest icepack in the Arctic was in 2007, and the second lowest in 2008, with 2009 the third lowest ever recorded.) 

Nothing says that the sun will not be even weaker in its next cycle. Maybe the greenhouse effect will save us!

Indeed… During the “Little Ice Age“, there was a considerable cooling, apparently originating from the sun’s reduced activity. After a slow start around 1300 CE which had, nevertheless, dramatic consequences in Europe (famines, and maybe a contribution to the massive war and plague that quickly followed; soon the Greenland Vikking colonies were decimated and had to be evacuated), the SOLAR cooling accelerated around 1600 CE. Galileo still saw some sun spots. But just a few. Soon they completely disappeared (the so called “Maunder minimum”). And they stayed disappeared for centuries. The glaciers in the Alps advanced dramatically, sometimes by several miles. In the late nineteenth century, sunspots reappeared, and the CO2 went up significantly, from industrialization (although warming itself extracts CO2 from sea and tundra). The result was an even faster retreat of the glaciers.

We cannot predict the sun (aside from its 11 year and 22 year, and an apparent 1,000 year cycles). We can only assume it will pick up, back up to what has been its normal activity over the last 5,000 years of civilized history. If it did, solar warming would combine with the greenhouse, and it is to be feared that the planet will switch SUDDENLY to the hot mode. It may be in a way even more violent than anything movies have imagined so far (because of the methane stores, and the dramatic changes their release would lead to: melting poles, CO2 bubbling out of the oceans). Good luck to us all…

WRATH OF GOOD: No Evil, No Good.

May 30, 2009

WHEN NICE DOES NOT CUT IT, NEITHER EMPATHY, NOR KNOWLEDGE ARE ENOUGH. ANGELS HAVE TO TURN INTO DEMONS.

No Wrath Of Good Means All Good For Evil.

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Abstract: Sheep are good, but, even when they bleat long and hard, they do not advance civilization, let alone goodness.  Sometimes goodness needs to use force, to enforce a higher good.

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Bob Herbert in the New York Times, following Elie Wiesel, courageously points out that: “The tendency to draw an impenetrable psychic curtain across the worst that the world has to offer is understandable. But it’s a tendency that must be fought.” (May 30, 2009).

“It is so much easier to look away from victims,” said Wiesel, an Auschwitz survivor, at the White House in 1999. “It is so much easier to avoid such rude interruptions to our work, our dreams, our hopes…. But indifference to the suffering of others “is what makes the human being inhuman… The political prisoner in his cell, the hungry children, the homeless refugees — not to respond to their plight, not to relieve their solitude by offering them a spark of hope is to exile them from human memory. And in denying their humanity, we betray our own.”

All very true. Feeling the pain of others helps to get going.

Still, seeing the humanity of others is not enough to address horror in full. The torturers can easily pose as victims. They whine that they have to torture, or they will not be safe. They have to bomb the world, because there, somewhere, there is that man, those terrorists, the bad ones who did such and such… 

Hence, even if we see the victim, and feel the pain, we have to see the torturer, and the executioner, for what they are, and then find the courage to ask the torturer, and the executioner, and the bomber, and those serious ones who send the flying robots, to cease and desist. And then if the torturer and the executioner do not stop, then what?

Some bring on even more empathy, and end up helping the executioners, as Hannah Arendt showed (enraging masses of treacherous, uncomprehending sheep). The passivity of Jewish organizations faced with Nazism, was indeed amazing: it often turned to collaboration. Mercifully, the oldest and strongest democracies had a better wisdom of history.

On September 1, 1939, France and Britain, the democracies, sent an ultimatum to Adolf Hitler: cease and desist within 48 hours, or we declare war. On September 3, 1939, around 11 am, the democracies, France and Britain, declared war to the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler. Within a few days several nations of the British empire followed: Canada, Australia, India… Within days 45 divisions of the French army attacked, while the Poles were fighting for their lives.

What did the USA do in all this? Good question: an impenetrable psychic curtain had come down across the worst of the American soul. Indeed, American corporations went in overdrive in their collaboration with Hitler.

For example, the Ethyl Corporation of America rushed air fuel additive supplies to Hitler’s Air Force, which had run out of them, and would have stayed on the ground, if not replenished. That would have been disastrous for Hitler’s army, which depended upon air power (Hitler’s Air Force would lose about 5,000 planes in the next year of war against France and Britain!).

Soon, Hitler’s ally, Stalin, attacked Poland from the east, and invaded. Meanwhile the Nazis air bombed flour mills, so that the Poles would starve during winter, which is rough under those continental latitudes. Just to make sure, the Nazis opened a huge concentration camp in the most insalubrious part of Poland, a swamp at Auschwitz. They stuffed it with Poles, and made it so that they would die in great numbers. The Nazis would kill six million Poles in the next 6 years.

A few months later, full of American technology and direct investment, fueled by the Soviets, Hitler got lucky, and, after a battle that killed a few hundred thousands people, invaded France.

And the USA waited… It was not clear whether the USA was waiting for the success of murderous racism, or the fall of Great Britain. The suspense lasted more than 2 years. Finally, dictatorial Japan attacked and then declared war to the USA on December 7, 1941. And what did the USA do? The USA waited some more. On December 11, 1941, Hitler declared war to the USA.

But what if Hitler and the Japanese military leaders had not been so stupid? Well, the USA did not intent to go to war in 1942. It was firmly intent to wait some more. Good things happen to those who wait. Let’s not forget that Hitler’s regime was racist (among other things, it sterilized Germans of partial African descent), and the USA was racist too. No doubt millions in the USA would have preferred a world racial order, and an alliance with those that tried to make it so.

In the same vein, although the holocaust of the Jews (and others) was known since the French government denounced it in fall of 1940, the Western Allies did not bother to threaten the Nazis about it (although the Nazis had made a big noise about the massacre of 23,000 Polish officers by the Soviets).

Morality of all this history? Arendt pointed out that: “Death begins its reign of terror when life becomes the highest good.” That’s deep.

Conscience without the will to use force is only devastation of a beautiful soul. To fight Satan, cognition is not enough. To fight Satan, empathy is not enough. To fight Satan, demonic minds is what it takes. Otherwise it’s all just about the pathetic whining of the weasel in the night.

Such is the paradox of ultimate goodness. To be truly good, it’s not enough to be good. It is even counter-indicated to be good all the time.

The wrath of good cannot be foiled by death. Goodness is what gives meaning to death, and death is its ultimate instrument. The devil is in the details of the goodness,  and the goodness rests in detailing evil as needed. Too much whining about the victims is just self serving fluff, it is not what righteous warriors do. Right and might is what goodness makes.

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Patrice Ayme
http://patriceayme.com/

http://tyranosopher.blogspot.com/

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Note: The necessity of evil in the realm of goodness was long guessed by Judeo-Christo-Islamism. Still, it’s hard to explain: in the Qur’an God angrily warns the faithful to never dare ask him this sort of question, and of his relation with the Djinns (demons made of light). God says it’s nothing they can understand, but whatever is said about it, it’s false.

BANKING CIVILIZATION

May 23, 2009

CIVILIZATION IS BANKING, SO CIVILIZE BANKING BEFORE WE CRASH.
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Abstract: The financial and economic crisis of 2008 is not just a case of an economic cycle gone rogue. It’s the old struggle of exponentiating wealth against the society that gives rise to it. What is new now is that wealth has been given one of the age old prerogatives of the state, money creation. Plutocracy has been given a weapon it never had before.

The FRACTIONAL RESERVE BANKING SYSTEM allows bankers to CREATE MONEY and GIVE IT TO WHOEVER THEY PLEASE (so called “lending”). This combines with the “SHADOW BANKING SYSTEM”, a set of unregulated friendships and conspiracies among the richest people in the world (sometimes, the taxpayer is outright asked to pay for these conspiracies (AIG-Goldman Sachs)). Letting banks also invest was flagged down, by the Banking Act of 1933, as an obvious conflict of interest, and forbidden (before being reinstalled by Obama’s economic mentor). But even the  Privately owned Fractional Reserve, by itself, violates the Equality Clause of the republic. 

A prerogative of the State, making the money used inside the State, has been privatized and is DEMOCRATICALLY UNSUPERVISED. This is a throwback millennia earlier, when the local lord reigned. It has created a money class whose increasing influence has bent to its liking society’s aspirations, cognition, and common sense.

A tension between wealth and democracy is natural, and probably even healthy. But this is different, because the State has given to wealth powers it did not have before. That is what the economic and financial crisis of 2008 is about: it is an attempted takeover of democratic civilization by plutocracy, straddling a money machine. Most of recent American anti state ideology is part of that coup. Time to get informed; cognizance brings resistance…

In this particular case, cognizance brings an obvious solution to the problem of wealth sucking all the power for itself: since modern banking has seized an age old function of the government, bankers, in a democracy, should be viewed as employees of the state, operating in a partial private capacity (like public notary, or doctors, or lawyers). They should be licensed employees of The People, mandated, under oath, to operate under a precise deontology. 

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WEALTH AS CHAIN REACTION:
Wealth tends to grow from a purely mathematical phenomenon, the exponentiation of capital: the more capital one has, the easier it is, in the average, to gather even more. But the more civilization, the more capital, hence the more exponentiation of capital, thus the more the need for control of capital.

Some have proposed to do away with capital, but capital is any set of value piled up, it could be a pair of shoes, so ranting against capital is as if howling to the sky against the concept of value.

Another idea has been to put capital in common, to remedy this. The later method has been used since ever, and did not wait for Marx. Villages in the Middle Ages pretty much allotted land according to work capability. Exploiting capital in common is used in most of modern economies: in transportation, energy producing, education, etc.

Neolithic men in successful tribes took the exponentiation of capital for granted, and redistributed wealth systematically, since it tended to concentrate too much (going all the way to human sacrifices).

The most successful civilizations learned to maximize both democracy, which brought ideas, and willing participants, while maximizing brute, fascist force (the army, and other law enforcement). The force brought power to the people against its enemies (such as desert raiders). As the economy got sophisticated, money appeared to facilitate exchanges and specialization, and the democratic state had to learn to control this more dynamic form of capital creation.
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THE STATE IS ANOTHER NAME FOR THE HARD CORE OF CIVILIZATION:
The State is, first, an army defending the city (“civilization”). To organize the army, there is the law, and it extends to the city (“polis”). Next, to feed the army, there is a need for house management (“eco nomy”). Economy necessitates trading of goods and services, best accomplished with money which represents value. So, bottom line, money is a set of contracts, a matter of trust that the full power of the law will come down hard if the trust is breached (that is why lawyers are so important). These are the core functions of the State. (Notice that none of this has anything to do with “capital” and “free market”.)

Democracy is people power. At its best, people control the State. Plutocracy is the power of those with so much capital it is called wealth. At worst, it controls the State. Plutocracy tends to always grow, for the purely mathematical reason of the exponentiation of capital.
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SPQR: PLUTOCRACY VERSUS PEOPLE:
The struggle of democracy with plutocracy was intrinsic to the (non written) Roman Constitution. (Rome was double headed: SPQR = Senatus PopulusQue Romanus: Senate & Roman People).

The second war against Carthage ruined the peasants and TARPed their money to the richest, while the old, more moral aristocracy died on the battlefield, killed by Hannibal’s army (about 80 Senators and 20 officers of Consular rank died in a few hours in just one battle, Cannae, and there were many battles, until Scipio went around, and landed in Africa to carry the war to Carthage; thus vile arrivistes replaced principled aristocrats).

Hannibal did not have siege engines, and tried to submit Rome by ruining the countryside. The peasants fled to the walled cities manned by the Roman army. The profiteers charged them with extravagant rent (the equivalent of the teaser rates American banks have used in recent years on what they hoped would be their captive homeowners, but, because Hannibal was not ruining the countryside, the subprime people fled back out of the reach of their tormentors).

Using the Second Punic war as a boost, the new rich, the war profiteers, got so rich, they reached a critical mass that tipped Roman society into plutocracy.

In general fascism and plutocracy do the same thing; they concentrate a lot of power in a few hands, they lower the mental dimensions accessible to command and control. Plutocracy is economic fascism. Thus everywhere, since ever, one sees generals and commanders hand in hand with the biggest capitalists. Financial capital and other forms of capital can all be traded, because they all convert to the common currency of power.

An obsession with plutocracy was not shared by Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, but still Athens was nearly completely destroyed. The Athenian democracy had piled up all the mistakes possible (including: “If you are not with us, you are against us, so we attack you”: such was the declaration preceding the Milos holocaust perpetrated by Athens). Ultimately, though, Athens was defeated by the Persian hyper plutocracy, which gave Sparta gigantic amounts of money to build a fleet that destroyed Athens’ fleet, and cut off its food supply, starving her into submission.
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THE FALL OF ROME IN A NUTSHELL:
The decline of Rome was the direct consequence of the victory of plutocracy over democracy (after centuries of apparently irresistible progression of democracy). Plutocracy buttressed itself by increasing fascism (first through wars overseas, then at home), and finally with the Catholic theocratic terror that burned through civilization.

Rome went down because the rich having got too rich, diverted too much of the economy, power and social servicing to themselves, depriving the rest. This is happening again in today’s crisis. For example, the health care system of the USA, the worst of the developed world, is also the most expensive (relative to GDP). Both facts are related.

In Rome, the rich had to reign with increasing terror, and bestowed stupidity. In the end, the hyper rich, protected by private armies, separated from society fiscally and psychologically, while using the Christian superstition to handicap the mental capability that would have allowed people to revolt. The feudal aristocracy was born thus.
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WHEN WEALTH TAKES OVER, CIVILIZATION GOES DOWN:
This is a recurrent disease: wealth combines with the army to break democracy, weakening the mental capability of civilization. Sumerian democracies turned into giant Mesopotamian fascist empires.

After Roman democracy had been smothered by its own plutocracy, the stupid Roman empire, ever increasingly fascist and lunatic, ended in a catastrophic Catholic terror. This in turn brought invasions by Germans, Huns, Persians and Arabs, within three centuries. The Persians had become mentally superior to Rome, because Roman intellectuals had flee to Persia, and Persia ended on the Mediterranean!

The decline of Rome lasted five centuries, and could have been reversed. But it was not reversed until the Franks assumed full power, because fascism is hard to reverse internally. It is no accident that the Franks took over. First, they had become the Roman army. Second, they had been present at the birth of imperial Christianity, having helped Constantine conquered the empire, they were  in an excellent position to know that Christianity had been a scam all along. Fiercely independent, and the only Pagan Germans, Franks such as Magnentius, Silvanus and Argobast, headed the Roman army, assumed imperial power, and tried to eliminate all the superstitious, fanatical Catholic imperial sons of Constantine (circa 350 CE). It may have been too much bad luck, or too early, and not crafty enough: Romans may  not yet have been ready yet to be submitted to Franks, and Christianity had not proven to be the anti democratic, plutocratic, dysfunctional abyss it revealed itself to be. Four generations later, the situation was much clearer.

Later, in Oriental Rome (“Constantinople”) the army and the church were the wealth, and they were the power controlling the people through Caesaropapism, with catastrophic mental and physical consequences for civilization. After a catastrophic attempt to bend most of the empire to its religious plutocracy, Constantinople kept on refusing to accept the Western model of underlying secularism, and so kept on seeing the West as an enemy, and died that way. This attitude has been faithfully parroted in Islam, complete with Caliphs as Caesaropopes, and the same consequence of global lack of mental sharpness that brought Rome down, has affected some of what used to be the richest regions in the world, ever since.
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FRACTIONAL RESERVE BANKING, OR HOW TO ESCHEW DEMOCRACY:
In a representative democracy an elected government represents the people and exerts the full power full governments have always exerted. Of course including first and foremost, the CREATION OF MONEY. BUT, the U.S. government has abdicated its most important function in peacetime, to a number of unelected, very rich individuals, the bankers and their shadows.

In the self proclaimed “Anglo-Saxon free market capitalist system” top bankers and their associates in the “Shadow Banking System” HAVE BECOME THE GOVERNMENT. This is not an accident, but the very nature of the “fractional reserve banking system”, which gives bankers, as a class, the power of CREATING MONEY, and also to decide who GETS THAT NEWLY CREATED MONEY, and who does not. Thus the richest decide who will get richer.

OK, let’s hear it from the horse’s mouth. According to the United States’ Federal Reserve, fractional reserve banking provides benefits to the economy and the banking system:

“The fact that banks are required to keep on hand only a fraction of the funds deposited with them is a function of the banking business. Banks borrow funds from their depositors (those with savings) and in turn lend those funds to the banks’ borrowers (those in need of funds). Banks make money by charging borrowers more for a loan (a higher percentage interest rate) than is paid to depositors for use of their money. If banks did not lend out their available funds after meeting their reserve requirements, depositors might have to pay banks to provide safekeeping services for their money. For the economy and the banking system as a whole, the practice of keeping only a fraction of deposits on hand has an important cumulative effect. Referred to as the fractional reserve system, it PERMITS THE BANKING SYSTEM TO CREATE MONEY.”

Now who operates the banking system? Bankers. So here you have it, black on white, from the central bank of the USA: BANKERS CREATE MONEY. SO ARE THE BANKERS COUNTERFEITERS, OR ARE THEY PART OF THE GOVERNMENT? Should be boil them in wine, or should we put them on a government salary?

(For the mathematics of how this works see the addendum.)

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POWER AND ITS SHADOW:

Money itself being power, BANKERS HAVE BECOME THE ADJUDICATORS OF POWER IN THE USA. There are taxes on money, there are NO TAXES ON POWER. Thus, the power of bankers feeds on itself non linearly. Bankers were able to create a gigantic financial system comprising hedge funds, tax heavens, derivatives, highly leveraged private equity (Cerberus), SIVs. This the SHADOW BANKING SYSTEM, unregulated, conspiratorial, only for the hyper wealthy, and a ward of the state (that it secretly control through worthies who are always wrong in the facts, as they are right by the plutocracy: Summers, Greenspan, Paulson, Geithner, Bernanke, and all the many officials from Goldman Sachs, an infection all over the government, etc…).

“Highly leveraged” means that your friends in the banks have given you other people’s money, initially starting with the little guy’s money.
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AMERICAN WEALTH AGAINST AMERICAN DEMOCRACY:
Democracy is in trouble in the USA. The usual unholy mix of army, para military secret services, wealth, and the military-industrial complex is festering. This is the old pattern. But there is new twist on the fundamental theme, that was never seen before. What Barack Obama calls “the old Washington ways of point scoring” is a euphemism for the struggle of plutocracy against democracy. An apparent technicality, Fractional Reserve Banking, is doing to democracy what the Second Punic war did before to Roman democracy.

Gangsters make gangs to steal banks, because that is where the money is. Bankers know better: they sit in the bank, and make the money, by giving credit. The (Democratically Unsupervised) Fractional Reserve Banking system allows unelected private individuals to create public money and to allocate it to whoever they please.

Now was not making money one of the central core function of the state? For millennia? So how come private individuals are allowed, under the Democratically Unsupervised Fractional Reserve Banking, to confiscate for their own benefit the awesome power of the state?

We are faced, not just with a violation of democracy, but of the state itself. Fractional Reserve Banking is at the root of the disastrous wars of the Twentieth Century. It allowed hyperpowerful plutocrats to cause the Great Depression, while supporting Lenin, Mussolini, Stalin, Hitler, Franco, as they tackled up the wind of democracy.

The democratic state is the natural enemy of plutocracy. So plutocrats will always be out attacking democracy, as they try to become the state That is why Hitler was continually attacking democracy, while being aided and abetted by American plutocrats, and why American “republicans” continually attack the “government” (another name for the state, and for taxes, taxes being the main way to control plutocracy, hence another thing plutocracy hates).
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REPUBLICAN NIHILISM:

In the USA, in the 1970s, a movement, starting in California, with an uneducated actor, Ronald Reagan, came to view the State as an enemy that had to be starved into inexistence. This, of course, is the aim of the plutocracy, because the plutocracy hates the democratic state.

Californians voted systematically to reduce their taxes. Conclusion: in many important objective measures, California went from being the best state in the USA to the absolute worst. Education and interest ratings are examples: California is now dead last on these two measures among 50 states, and forging ever lower. California is becoming a failed state. Once Reagan became president he turned the destruction of the state into a mantra, and did not think twice before giving enormous powers to bin Laden and the Pakistani ISI and other religious fanatics, in his will to destroy any organized state. Reagan, and other agents of U.S. plutocracy, did this splendidly in Afghanistan.

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WHEN GOVERNMENTS DO NOT CONTROL THEIR CURRENCY, THEY COLLAPSE:

A way to destroy the state is to take away its ability to create the money it needs. This was the proximal technical reason for the fall of the Roman empire: there was no money left for the regular army (that is how the Franks became the Roman army).

Under the most important empires of the past, Greco-Roman, Chinese and Frankish, governments made the money. Some of the currency, like the solid gold Roman “Solidus” was worth its face value. But, even after many gold rushes, and stealing all of America’s gold, all of the world’s gold is about 140,000 tons (equivalent to less than 5 trillion dollars, less than money in circulation in the USA alone).

In Roman times, there was not enough gold for the economy to function, so much coins had a face value much higher than their real value, although it was used simultaneously with the Solidus.

Some Chinese state just printed pieces of paper, and the  Mongols, and Han generalized that. Currency was a symbol of trust and a contract: money was worth whatever the government said it was worth.

As the Roman empire encountered serious trouble, so did its financial and currency systems. The rich escaped taxation so massively, they built a shadow economy and a shadow society (reminiscent of the “Shadow Banking System”, and private enclaves of the present USA). Desperate for revenue, the imperial administration debased the Roman currency to the point, at least in the Occident, that its usage became rare. (A bartering society replaced it.)

As the mightier Imperium Francorum, the empire of the Franks, replaced Rome, covering Western Europe with 300 counties, and boosting exchanges, money became again central to the economy. The Franks exploited great silver mines in Eastern Europe, to make their basic currency alloys (that is why to this day the French use the Latin word for silver to qualify both silver and money). The Imperium Francorum, although decentralized, relaunched serious business resting on a serious currency, that means on serious trust. To establish serious trust, the law punished counterfeiters in exemplary fashion.

A counterfeiter was a private individual who created his own money. Frankish law boiled counterfeiters alive.

Nowadays, private individuals, the bankers, are allowed to make currency. Technically, to the simple minds of the Franks, they would be counterfeiters. But, incredibly, they get invited to the White House. The Franks thought more civilized to boil them in wine, but now the commander in chief serves them champagne.
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THE MONSTER THAT DEVOURS CIVILIZATION, AND ITS SHADOW:
Propelled by the Great Depression, Hitler was elected in 1933, took office in January, promptly burned parliament, and accused foreign terrorists to have done so. Franklin D. Roosevelt took office in March. Instead of burning Congress, he closed all the banks on his first day. Why?

In FDR’s view, the people who he called the “banksters” had caused the Great Depression crisis (so, in FDR’s view, banksters CAUSED HITLER).

Roosevelt knew the banksters well: FDR was from the upper class. FDR cracked down on banking with the BANKING ACT OF 1933 (passed in June 1933, and now called Glass Steagall, to disguise its importance, and the indignity of its abrogation by Summers and Clinton). The Banking Act tightly regulated banking and separated it from investing (on the ground of obvious conflicts of interest). The economy of the USA expanded enormously in the next 50 years, allowing democracy to win W.W.II. FDR did it. Or, more exactly, his Banking Act, the one Summers destroyed.

Germany, of course, went the other way: Hitler was a creature of many of the world’s wealthiest men, and greatest corporations, who had financed fabulously the Nazi party, and its private armies (the SA, and the SS). In total contrast with the supremacist FDR, Hitler was a creepy crawly from the lowest reaches of society. FDR had high thoughts, Hitler base thoughts. FDR was a lord, Hitler an employee.
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THE RETURN OF THE BANKSTERS AS GOVERNMENT:
The abrogation of the Banking Act of 1933 in 1999 by Secretary of the Treasury Lawrence Summers, allowed bankers to use tremendous leverage again (and now Clinton is very rich, alleluia!). Bankers became masters of the universe again. It was back to the exact conditions that brought the Great Depression and Nazism. By 2008, the bankers had got so powerful, they organized the greatest transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich this side of the galaxy. In full view of everybody.

Some will say that I am a deranged extremist, so let’s the extremist right wing, pro-plutocratic “The Economist” do the talking (May 22 2009):

“COULD there be a better time to be a bank ? If you have capital and courage, the markets are packed with opportunities–as they well understand at Goldman Sachs, which is once again filling its boots with risk. Governments are endorsing high leverage and guaranteeing huge parts of the financial system, so you get to keep the profits and palm off the losses on the taxpayer.

The threat of nationalization has receded, reinvigorating the banks’ share prices. Money is cheap, deposits plentiful and borrowers desperate, so new lending promises handsome margins. Back before the crash, banks’ profits just looked big; today they might even be real. The bonanza is intentional. Governments and regulators want the banks to make profits so that they regain their health faster after roughly $3 trillion of write-downs. It is part of the MONSTROUS bargain that bankers have extracted from the state (see our special report this week). Taxpayers have poured trillions of dollars into institutions that most never knew they were guaranteeing. In return, economies look as if they have been spared a collapse in payment systems and credit flows that would probably have caused a depression.”

This from a magazine that used to support the bloody dictator Pinochet, because Pinochet saved plutocracy in Chili.

“MONSTROUS”: I have said it in the past, now “the Economist” recognizes it is plain monstrous. Various governmental guarantees and gifts are well above ten trillions. Notice too that taxpayers could have just seized said institutions to prevent equally well “a collapse in payment systems and credit flows that would probably have caused a depression”. And that taxpayers, having paid to prevent a collapse by paying much more than the “institutions” were worth, at the time, OUGHT to be the owners. Now, of course, since the government replenished them, the “institutions” are worth more. The government created the value, and then gave it to the very “institutions” that caused the crisis. And to the same people: for example, out of the twenty employees unit pointed by AIG itself as the most culprit, only two left, of their own volition. The other got more multi million dollar bonuses, paid by the taxpayers (AIG has cost nearly 200 billion, so far, to taxpayers).

Why so much rot? Why so much submissiveness? Where is the decency? Does this society have any rationality left? The terrible truth is fractional reserve banking gives maximum power to bankers. That, apparently cannot be confronted: politicians are paid, people are decerebrated.
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OBESE FINANCE HAS CRUSHED THE ECONOMY:
In recent years, the size of the financial system has become enormous relative to its historical proportion of GDP. This is especially the case in the USA and London. Anglo-Saxon financiers’ incomes have become gigantic relative to the incomes of the average citizens. Obama himself pointed that most of the rise of GDP of the USA in recent years was purely financial.

But finance does not create stuff and widgets. China does. Stratospheric finance creates stratospheric plutocrats, and stratospheric misallocation of resources, from the many to the few, and from basic necessities to fluff.

Here is the confusion the financial pirates have been busy entertaining: that GDP corresponds to economic activity, and, thus, that their piracy is a form of economic activity. In truth, it drains activity from reality.
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ENERGY IS CONSERVED, HENCE SO IS MONEY, HENCE THE BANKERS CONFISCATE THE ECONOMY:
Plutocratic propaganda claims that bankers create money, they give money to their friends, and then, well, if they keep on at it long enough, should not the money reach the little guy?

Answer: no. Because the total money created is finite. In appearance, the fractional reserve banking system allows to create money willy-nilly. But a second look at the math shows that this is not the case: although large, the money created is proportional to what is put in to start with. The multiplying coefficient is fixed, and depends upon the banks reserve requirement (fixed by the government, and the only thing government controls). It is called the “MULTIPLIER”.

That money is finite comes from THE LAW OF CONSERVATION OF MONEY. This says, basically, that there is only so much WORK all of humankind can do at any given point of technology (“work” here is used according to its meaning in PHYSICS). MONEY OUGHT TO EXPRESS WORK CAPABILITY OR WORK DONE (my theory). The later two, being bounded (form the law of conservation of energy in physics), so is the former (inflation, and deflation occur when currency deviates from work-as-defined-in-physics).

When bankers give most of the pie to themselves, their friends, theirs shadows, and hordes of politicians, there is not much of the pie left for everybody else. Since the pie is finite. This is the direct essence of the American economic crisis.
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SAVING CIVILIZATION MEANS CIVILIZING THE BANKS:
Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” is now the plutocracy and it is : “Shadow Banking”.

Giving credit for new, profitable, ventures is itself profitable to society (once “profitable” has been carefully defined as civilization compatible common good). Typically new technology is involved. But let’s notice that the Middle Age approach of having some plutocrats funding cutting edge technology and science on their own dime is past. Because that age was the age of plutocrats (wealth-power), grandly known as aristocrats (best-power), and even Americans may not want that back to that extent. Today’s science ideally cost at least 3% of GDP, it cannot be financed by selfish rich individuals.

Financial types, to justify all the money they lend to themselves, insist on claiming that they made great innovations. In truth there have been no financial innovations. Even sub prime lending is the traditional trick of ensnaring people who cannot pay with credit, so that they can become serfs.

Financial geniuses go around, saying they invented credit cards. In truth, it’s a French engineering company that invented the card technology, and all Wall Street did, was to graft on them interest rates so high that they were called in the past “usury”, punished by law.

If society wants to keep the fractional banking system, it will have to admit that bankers can’t lend to whoever they please, anymore than a science manager can fund whatever science project she wishes. Indeed, only that much money can be created, and then no more. If all the money goes to private yachts, planes, and mansions, ludicrous “luxuries”, and SHADOW BANKING, there is nothing left for the real economy and everybody else.

That is why the infrastructure of the USA is crumbling in all dimensions (roads, bridges, trains, schools, air transportation, education, ethics, health care). It’s high time to invest in alternative and renewable resources and productive human capital. The banks, instead have preferred to finance into toxic, self serving activities, or pseudo technology with high overhead.

The fundamental problem is that encountered in the Middle Ages, when the aristocracy became immensely rich. The feudal system started as a division of labor, and a private arm of the government. But then the powers of those who held the weapons and the capital kept increasing. As the poor got poorer, most people found themselves serving the rich instead of themselves.
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BANKERS AS OFFICERS OF THE STATE:

Banks create money, and if they did not exist, they would have to be invented, just for this purpose. But then bankers have an absolutely crucial governmental function. They are public servants.  Doctors, lawyers, police officers and public notary have great powers, but these powers are guided by the law and deontology. The deontology is enforced by putting these particular licensed professionals under oath.

The powers of bankers are even greater. Maybe they cannot kill their patients directly, but they can destroy the lives of millions just as well, in a more run about sort of way. So bankers have to be licensed, put under oath, and considered as part of the state, quite a bit like public notaries or lawyers are.

Another thing will be to tax finance massively. Indeed it should be a public utility, and taxation will make sure of this.

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Conclusion: TIME FOR A NEW PARADIGM: BANKING AS A BASIC RIGHT.

Health should not be a privilege. That it is so in developing countries, and in the last country to run a massive slavery system in modern times is no surprise. But enough with American primitivism.

Financing should not be a privilege either. It should be a basic right, on its own merit. Private banking as a function of the public state, the system we have now, is incompatible with the advancement of civilization. It is unfair, unstable, and strangle investments profitable to society, looking forward, long term.

When President Franklin D. Roosevelt introduced his concept of “banksters”, he neutralized them with his Banking Act of 1933. Now, thanks to Lawrence Summers, the banksters are back in force. So, either the biggest bankers, and their shadows, govern (the system we have presently), or The People decides to control the banks. We The People.

The solution is drastic, and conservative. To reestablish the state, let alone democracy, money making should again be the prerogative of the state, and only of the state. To reconcile this with the existence of “private” banks, bankers ought to be endowed with a fiduciary duty, and made basically into officers of the state, who would be punished in exemplary fashion, should they deviate from their fiduciary duty. Several other crucial professions are already in this sort of public-private mix, and nobody has been complaining. It is making a honor to bankers to recognize their fiduciary importance to civilization. The golden cage ought to be golden, but it still should be a cage.

A Hippocratic oath, and tight legal supervision so they will not be corrupt. Massive taxation to abate excess. This is the route of hope that audacity ought to chose.
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Patrice Ayme.

Patriceayme.com 

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Addenda:
1) THE BANKING ACT OF 1933 (so called “Glass Steagall Act”) WAS A FORMIDABLE BARRIER TO THE POWER OF BANKERS AND THEIR SHADOWS:

According to the Congressional Research Service: “In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, bankers and brokers were sometimes indistinguishable. Then, in the Great Depression after 1929, Congress examined the mixing of the “commercial” and “investment” banking industries that occurred in the 1920s. Hearings revealed conflicts of interest and fraud in some banking institutions’ securities activities.”

The Banking Act of 1933 determined that:

  1. Conflicts of interest characterize the granting of credit — lending — and the use of credit — investing — by the same entity, leading to abuses that originally produced the Act.
  2. Depository institutions possess enormous financial power, by virtue of their control of money.
  3. Securities activities can be risky, leading to enormous losses. Such losses could threaten the integrity of deposits. In turn, the Government insures deposits and could be required to pay large sums if depository institutions were to collapse as the result of securities losses.
  4. Depository institutions are supposed to be managed to limit risk. Their managers cannot engage in speculation.

I expanded vastly on point 2) above.
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2) MATH OF FRACTIONAL RESERVE: Let me explain in excruciating detail how this works. Before the recent financial insanity, the bank reserves’ requirement were about 10%. This means that if 100 currency units were deposited in Bank A, it could lend out 90 and keep just 10 in its coffers. Those 90 would go to bank B (bank B could be bank A, or a mix of banks, it’s irrelevant to the math). Bank B could in turn lend out (90 – 90/10) = 81, since it was required to keep a tenth of 90 in reserve. So notice what happened: at this point, 100 injected initially has resulted in 90 plus 81 lent out, for a total of 171: from 100 initially, banks A and B have created 171. And this goes on, for a while, before stopping.

At 10% reserve requirement, an initial injection of 100 million is thus transformed roughly in a billion. (That’s why I suggested in September 2008 that, instead of using the TARP as a subsidy, it should have been used to restructure and recapitalize banks; to use TARP as a subsidy was like giving money to a cocaine dealer, namely it costs a lot, and now he thinks you approve of his behavior, and wants more business from you.)

3) FRACTIONAL RESERVE BANKING AS CHERNOBYL: As reserve requirements are lowered, the multiplier effect is much multiplied. Multipliers of 50 were allowed under Bush (case of Bear Sterns). If one million dollars was deposited in such a bank, the bank could lend 50 millions to, well, friends. Far from being about conservatism, this was an amazing revolution, by the bankers, for the bankers. A coup d’etat.

As reserves go down to zero, the multiplier goes to infinity, at which point the bank has no capability to resist any bad loan. This is basically what Geithner has been trying to do (by being creative with the “stress tests”, that overvalued the reserves the banks have). The next step is to get the banks to lend (but they have been unwilling, because, now, they know the truth about themselves).

Lowering the reserves and forcing the activity: this contradiction is basically what happened to the ill fated Chernobyl reactor: per it’s abominable design, the nuclear reaction in that particular reactor was augmenting, the more it was shutting down catastrophically (SCRAM).

The analogy with present finance is great: such a system is unstable, and will explode, just like Chernobyl, and for somewhat similar reasons: the more one tries to restart the system, or shut it down, the more it becomes unstable. The government has been trying to restart lending by the banks by lowering the reserve requirements, since it augments the multiplier, but then the banks can be pushed into insolvency much more readily. The analogy with the Chernobyl nuclear bomb are great.

4) CHERNOBYL VERSUS FRACTIONAL RESERVE IN EVEN MORE DETAIL: The operators at Chernobyl removed all the safeties, because the reactor was trying to shut down completely, and the nuclear chain reaction was dying.

Because the operators had been trying to operate the reactor way out of its normal regime to start with: they were making an experiment to see if the reactor could shut down safely even if all went wrong!… But the reactor shut down on them early, so they tried to restart it, by doing every thing imaginable, with all the safeties out.

The operators pulled out all the boron control bars, in the hope of rekindling the nuclear fire (similarly to present desperate efforts of restarting banking just as it was before). By then, of course, operators had relinquished control of the reactor, and had no hope, if things went wrong, but for SCRAM (“super critical reaction abatement mechanism”)… And indeed, suddenly the nuclear reaction restarted, since there was no more boron to slow it down whatsoever.

(This is the equivalent of no more reserve in the financial system, which we may be heading towards as reserve requirements are lowered and enormous debts are piled up by the USA.)

Back to Chernobyl: the tips of the control rods were designed idiotically in the Chernobyl reactor, and they augmented the reaction considerably in the early portion of their emergency descent back down into the core (as SCRAM was initiated). So SCRAM made things worse as the nuclear power was exponentiating up, from second to second, and the reactor went down the path of  its lamentable destiny as the most massive, clumsiest nuclear bomb ever designed.

Similarly, the democratically unsupervised fractional banking system is the worst, most massive socioeconomic bomb ever designed, and its crazed operators, the bankers, and economists’ chorus behind them, are just as ignorant as the idiots at Chernobyl, who had absolutely no idea how dangerous their reactor was, had no idea that, instead of a properly designed reactor, it was a latent nuclear bomb, and that they had done all they could to get it to explode. The bankers now are not operating an atrociously designed nuclear bomb masquerading as a reactor, but an atrociously designed plutocracy masquerading as a democracy. It is worse.

The safe way out is for the U.S. government to control the excesses of all the big banks, by exerting power on the banks’ boards. To do this the easiest legal way is just to have the government buy common shares in exchange for recapitalization (as Obama has finally been doing lately). Other governments got a bit more cooperation from their bankers, so they do not need to go through this, but they all need to go through the next step:

Bring international legislation to destroy the Shadow Banking System, and make the rest of banking as transparent as science management financing, and as justified, and as economical as possible. Reducing the cost of finance management to society down to levels inferior to the cost of science management would be nice. After all, it’s less important a mission.
*

HOW A CARBON TAX WOULD HELP EMPLOYMENT IN THE USA.

May 18, 2009

INSTEAD ADMINISTRATION SAYS: IF YOU CAN’T WALK, THEN SKI!

Abstract: “Cap and Trade” is the most sophisticated way of controlling carbon dioxide emissions, the final touch in a vast anti carbon arsenal,  but it is neither the simplest nor the most efficient weapon. Even the French, who invented it, could not figure it out for the longest time. So why is Obama hell bent at starting with that? To fail? (As a pseudo non tax tax, it failed already, because even republicans figured that one out.)

Instead Obama should have kept things simple to start with, and kill two birds with one stone.

A straight WORLDWIDE carbon tax as France suggested a few years ago would do wonders, and not just for limiting carbon dioxide production. The idea would be to tax all and any CO2 used in production, including transportation. So it would be good for the planet, but also for EMPLOYMENT in advanced countries (such as the USA). No more cheating around by going to China to pollute the planet, and undermine the workers of the world! This is not just fair to the planet and advanced countries’ workers, but it would allow to introduce Americans pleasantly to ecological correctness.
***

IF I FEED YOU, YOU WILL BARK FOR MY CAP AND TRADE SIMULACRUM:
It’s funny how the human mind works: give it a bit of pride, and principle is out of the window. Thus Obama invited “Nobel” prize economists Stiglitz and Krugman over dinner at the White House. In consequence of what Krugman declared haughtily that the conversation was “off the record”, and he fell uncharacteristically silent on his usually hyper active blog.

Stiglitz and Krugman have been highly critical of subsidizing rogue bankers on the ground that otherwise the world as we know it would end (although not as vociferously, and not as early, as the present author). The opposition of Stiglitz to Summers is legendary. Stiglitz resigned from his hyper important international job during Summers’ preceding reign when Clinton was nominally on the throne. Stiglitz could not stand what Summers was doing to the world’s finance and economy (making it so that the world would become a plutocracy, rather than a democracy). Krugman opposed the invasion of Iraq, and is very familiar with Summers, because Summers was Reagan’s economic adviser for the interior, while Krugman, sitting on the same council of economic advisers of Reagan, was in charge of the rest of the universe.

We are talking establishment and great navigation here, among the masters of the universe. They all live very well, lords among the lords.

So, after dinner at the White House, Paul Krugman goes to China, and discovers the planet will “explode” (as Goshn, CEO of Renault-Nissan put it), if China keeps on its present course of one new coal plant a week, or so. Harmoniously forgetting to mention that, as the Chinese point out, they produce for America.

Obama being the change-you-can-believe chief, he has to deliver some change and belief towards mitigating planetary explosion, thus he came around with his “CAP and TRADE” plan.

You have to understand that “Cap and Trade”, like many concepts in economy and taxes, is a French idea. (Indeed: Adam Smith learned many of his ideas by the knees of his French “physiocratic” masters! And Colbertism, using the State to organize the socioeconomy, was blatant under Henri IV, and even as early as the 7C Imperium Francorum.) 

“Cap and Trade” is extremely convoluted and regulated, full of devils all over the details, the sort of thing French bureaucracy loves, to exhibit its own interpretation of what mastering the universe means. In other words, the dark side of France.

The carbon trade market is, naturally enough, based in Paris, and the European Union tried to make it work. Well, unsurprisingly, it worked very badly, for a very long time. Companies lied about their emissions to get bigger credits, the price of carbon pollution fluctuated wildly, and collapsed (so it came to cost nothing to pollute a lot), etc. (The latest news would be that it is working better, after manipulating it forever.)

Anyway, after dinner with the nominal master of the universe, Krugman comes up with an incredibly hare brained support of “Cap and Trade”: it’s the only way to control China, did he write in the New York Times. Says he: “Not to put too fine a point on it, think about how hard it would be to verify whether China was really implementing a promise to tax carbon emissions, as opposed to letting factory owners with the right connections off the hook. By contrast, it would be fairly easy to determine whether China was holding its total emissions below agreed-upon levels.”

This is completely silly: “China” could lie about its emissions, factory by factory, just as European industrialists did to European regulators when “Cap and Trade” became the law there. Sending an inspector next to all and any exhaust pipe would be a nightmare of economic inefficiency.

On the other hand, it’s impossible to lie on CO2 emissions by cars (China is saintly for cars, having simply adopted the EU regulations). And it is impossible to lie on the price of carbon fuel (if China put an enormous European style tax on fossil fuel, it would be in plain sight; and China just multiplied its gas tax by five fold). 
***

USA SHOULD LEARN FROM EU, BECAUSE EU KNOWS, AND USA DOES NOT:
Now Americans have to understand that France has basically no indigenous fossil fuel energy production anymore (1% of needs or so on gasoline, all the rest is imported). Can’t have everything. France, having defeated fascism after a series of exhausting wars, characterized by fascist Prussian generals occupying or trying to, the coal beds of north east France, was hyper conscious of the need to have energy.

Thus, after W.W.II, France unified its coal industry with that of Germany, to make war with Germany impossible looking forward. The coal beds were exhausted by the 1970s, and France developed conservation, efficiency, and nuclear massively. To develop the first two, France slapped enormous taxes on carbon (or more exactly energy, but it boils down to the same). The rest of Europe quickly realized that was the way to go, and high carbon taxes rose all over Europe (even in massive fossil fuel producers such as Norway, a country with a per capita income north of $100,000).

The French ways were pretty much followed, except about nuclear energy (countries that thought of themselves as more ecologically minded abandoned nuclear, and argued with France about that strenuously, France insisting that nuclear was ecologically correct; besides, the Chernobyl radioactive cloud respectfully stopped when it came in sight of Gaul).

Now many countries are re-nuclearizing, and many ecological fanatics have gone 180 degrees and are now pro-nuclear, having discovered that the lesser of many devils is better than the worse of them all. (The present author is extremely pro nuclear, when, and only when nuclear is GOOD, and fanatically against bad nuclear; the present U.S. nuclear park is pretty bad, by the way: it is open cycle and obsolete; this is an area in need of Obasmic change and belief; the worst nuclear is unsupervised nuclear, by the way, so we need a pretext to inspect the entire planet continually, since military nuclear can be evolved underground, the whole argument with Iran.)

Nowadays, to reduce carbon pollution, the European Union is using everything: CO2 emission caps on cars, cap and trade, and simple carbon taxes, starting with massive direct gasoline and fossil fuel taxes. These methods differ in complexity. The gas tax is the simplest, cap and trade the most complex.

Weirdly, the Obama administration starts with cap and trade, the most difficult, most sophisticated: baby has not walked yet, so we will start with downhill skiing, faster than the world’s champion. 

So it looks as if Obama was firmly determined to crash his entire carbon effort. Sure enough, Obama wanted to extract $650 billion from selling the permits, over ten years, but was told no by “Congress”.

The Americano-American argument, of course is that the USA is not ready for a gas tax. It already has had one for decades, but it was not indexed on inflation. So why not start by going back to the past, and charge the gas tax as intended, using constant dollars?

Some will say: very bad, there is a recession, it will get worse if we add a dime a gallon. But then a tax subsidy on the income tax could compensate, especially for the poorest. So a gas tax could be revenue neutral (but will force fossil fuels efficiencies). Initially.

“Cap and Trade” has created problems by subsidizing particular companies in Europe. But maybe now that the USA has discovered climate change, it is so much smarter than the European Union that it can easily make work the one and only European carbon limiting program that is highly controversial, and the less effective?
***

WORLD CARBON TAX = FAIRER EMPLOYMENT WORLDWIDE:
When steel is imported from India to the USA, the price of transportation is added automatically. But transportation comes from fossil fuels. And the cost of fossil fuels does not reflect the damage they cause to the planet. That later cost ought to be included for a full accounting. That would augment the price of imported carbon intensive products considerably. (Whereas nuclear civilian energy kills no one in the USA, year after year, the official number killed by carbon pollution is 24,000. The real number is probably much higher.)

Hence a carbon tax on the total carbon bill of any product would help both employment and the environment. (That was the essence of my critique of Cap & Trade versus straight carbon tax: the first is hard to compute, the later, easy.)

***

Patrice Ayme
patriceayme.wordpress.com

 

P/S: 1) But, true and very sad, a worldwide carbon tax would lower the profit margins of the international plutocrats, the world’s most important people, so much more worthy than simple steel mills’ workers. Something everybody recognizes, considering how well the enormous subsidies to the richest bankers in the world have been accepted by those who are nearly nothing, and will be even less tomorrow. Summers and his plutocratic brain trust have no doubt pointed this out: a carbon tax is democratic, and therefore an enemy of the self proclaimed best and brightest.

2) Air travel is subsidized: worldwide, jet fuel is not taxed. That may have to be reconsidered: if you want to travel, start with Internet. It is time to save oil, which is irreplaceable, precisely for air travel. Everything indicates we have reached “peak oil”. Hydrogen and electric planes are not a possibility: oil is much denser energetically. Biofuels have a greater future (from algae), but are far from here yet: too expensive.

3) OK, things are starting to move faster, as king Obama has discovered he had the power, and the old experts are not just clueless, but weirdly stupid. Obama just raised the fleet mileage to 35.5 mpg by 2016 (new car average in the Europe Union is 44 mpg, 2009). Obviously a good step in the right direction (now give high speed trains more than 8 billion dollars, please, since the government gives more than 100 billion a year subsidizing car transportation, and high speed rail, besides being comfortable, and hyper fast, is essentially CO2 free, because of extreme efficiency ). More could be done, such as yearly special taxes on gas guzzlers (as done in Europe).

But, in any case, cracking down on gas guzzling cars does not replace the WORLDWIDE CARBON TAX , especially in light of its effect in saving LOCAL EMPLOYMENT. Actually the Worldwide Carbon Tax is the next step in reducing CO2. Call it good protectionism. Which it is: protecting the planet. Remember this: it could become such an emergency, any time, that emissions may have to be enforced close to zero any time, because of the threat of the methane gun (see preceding post “Terminal Problem”…)

4) Question by “GameMusic”, from the Internet: “I think that a world carbon tax would be better, but how would it be established in the first place?  How can you verify that countries are using it any more than caps?”

Answer: Good question. The Carbon Tax can be unilaterally applied. France has been pushing the EU for the “go it alone” policy, or even to start all by herself. (So as not to be taxed of protectionism, while already cracking down on the world plutocracy, the French government has momentarily shelved the effort.)

It is easy to compute the tax. In the case of steel from India, for example, lower bounds on how much carbon per ton is used, both at the source and in transportation, are well known. (That ease of computation is one advantage of the carbon tax, especially in comparison with “Cap & Trade”.) 

***

TERMINAL PROBLEM, FINAL SOLUTION.

May 15, 2009

 

SAVING EARTH THROUGH PREEMPTIVE BELLICOSE PRESSURE AND NUCLEAR POWER.

Introduction: Paul Krugman, having visited China, concludes that “China cannot continue producing greenhouse emissions at an escalating rate because the planet can’t handle the strain.” OK, but China goes on, and so does the USA. The USA gets 71% of its electricity from fossil fuels. China, with supposedly one new coal plant a week, now emits more CO2 than the USA. What to do?

The Chinese argue meekly that they are producing for us, and, even more silly, points out that in the past, the Western countries did not limit their usage of dirty fossil fuels, so why should they now? (This is not a correct argument: pollution killed up to thousands of people in London in the early fifties. So strong anti pollution measures were taken, including an enormous improvement in efficiency.)

Well, one has to realize we are facing the greatest extinction and cataclysm ever. And it could happen suddenly, thanks to thousands of billions of tons of buried methane. Then the earth would switch to its hot mode, with only the polar regions inhabitable. War for survival would erupt all around. Most of the seven billion humans would die. Drastic, counter intuitive methods have to be used swiftly to mitigate this. Bellicose pressure, first in economics, should not be eschewed, right away.
***
Enough fossil fuels have been piled up in the last 400 million years to guarantee that, if we burn them all, the biosphere will cook, simmer and boil. If we leave the energy markets to themselves, this outcome is certain. It does not matter what the advanced countries do by themselves, as long as they restrict themselves to the market, because, if they become saintly and do not burn carbon anymore, the price of carbon fuels will collapse, making them all the more irresistible to the rest of the world’s markets. Thus there is no free market solution. It is not a free market problem, it is a survival problem.

Survival, in case you missed out on the last few hundreds millions years of evolution, is the best reason there ever was for war. 

The Principle of Precaution requires to consider the very worst case possible, stop, and think carefully about whether it could happen. In the case of climate, the worst case is a runaway eruption of frozen hydrates of methane. And it could happen. There are enormous quantities of frozen methane, of the order of all other fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas), it seems. (Just oceanic frozen methane is of the order of all known oil reserves; the methane hydrates in the permafrost not included, but there are a lot of these too.)

If the temperature rises, a bit more, it will become higher than any in the last three million years, plenty of time for more methane hydrates to have accumulated (from piled up organic sediments, say from rivers). The methane could, and will, bubble out catastrophically. Its greenhouse power over ten years is well above twenty times that of CO2. So if the eruption starts full on, the worldwide atmospheric temperatures would jump by at least ten times what they have risen so far. (We basically went up three quarters of one degree Celsius in one century, thus I am talking about perhaps seven degrees in a decade or two; it would be a heat cataclysm).

This has happened before, at least once in the last 50 million years: a brutal and enormous rise in global temperatures. Such swift brutality was long totally mysterious, until the gigantic deposits of frozen methane were discovered, all over the planet. These deposits are nasty, they can erupt, causing gigantic tsunamis (the last ones known in Europe were the 30 meters high Storegga tsunamis that occurred around 7,000 years ago, from warming post glaciation). There is audio, visual and seismological evidence that methane beds have been active in the last two summers off Siberia, releasing methane, with sound, bubbles and fury, an obvious forerunner of absolute disaster.

Most of the methane is up north, so the disaster may get in full swing one of these summers. It will be impossible to stop. It may happen this summer, or 50 years from now. On our present course, it will happen, that is the crucial point. And very soon.

On the positive side, the heat catastrophe would make the financial crisis look like absolutely nothing whatsoever. On the negative side, billions of human beings will die, and they will not do so without putting up a fight.

Even if methane does not erupt, other NON linear thresholds are coming closer everyday. (Non linear means here that the effect augments its own cause, a so called positive feedback loop)

For example, if temperatures rise significantly forests and oceans will become huge carbon sources, instead of huge carbon sinks (as they are presently). Here, too the process has started, it’s not just bad taste science fiction. The Antarctic ocean has turned into a CO2 emitter already (because it’s shaken too much by high winds and storms, like any carbonated beverage!) An enormous rise in sea level could be around the corner, if the ice shelves disintegrate. The new dark waters of the poles absorb sunlight snow previously sent back to space.

To prevent the methane catastrophe, the only solution is to bring the CO2 creation to zero, ASAP. How to do this? Somewhat delusional minds have proposed geoengineering, such as voluntarily polluting the atmosphere so much that light will not go through (high altitude sulfates, mimicking volcanoes). Another lunacy would be to put sun shades in space for the planet. Such solutions may work in the following centuries for Venus, once we have mastered great energy sources such as thermonuclear fusion or Quantum vacuum energy. But this is now, and this is Earth, not a place for a science experiment.

As it is, we are destroying the planet’s natural sun shades, the polar ice caps. Antarctica seems to be doing fine, so far, because the wetter and warmer clime down there accumulates more snow; but this is a dangerous illusion: in truth we have passed the threshold of Antarctica’s ice instability: there is too much CO2 EQUIVALENT gases up to allow for glaciation of the polar continent, so its ice cap is now unstable. Learn it here first. The threshold is at 425 ppm, we are above this (the CO2 itself is lower, of course, at 385 ppm, creeping up ever faster).

So what are we left with? According to the Obama administration, wind power and broadband. The problem with wind power is that it helps, but does not replace. Solar, of course has to be pushed, but it is still to expensive in photovoltaic form (in pure thermal, the problem is to transport electricity economically out of deserts).

So we are left with conservation and advanced civil nuclear power. To get conservation, one has to tweak the free market by making energy expensive. Since energy, at this point, means burning carbon (with the exception of nuclearized France), energy tax means carbon tax. That will make the renewable energy market much more profitable, so hasten its deployment.

For drastic, massive energy production, which is needed all around the world, we are left with nuclear energy. There 400 nuclear reactors, mostly obsolete, used around the world. Just as obsolete ecologists object meekly that we do not know what to do with the waste, and they forget to mention the millions of tons of extremely toxic waste that extremely deadly coal energy releases in the atmosphere and the oceans, from mercury to radiation.

There is a need for 8,000 nuclear reactors (no they would not been built with a positive void coefficient like Chernobyl, a type of reactor that can, and did, turn into a nuclear bomb, because of conceptual risks deliberately taken, and should be unlawful to build.)

True, there is radioactive waste, but mostly because wasteful methods were used 60 years ago, when a primitive form of nuclear energy was rushed during a nuclear arm race. The more active the waste, the more usable it potentially is. Radioactive waste is a terrible waste to waste.

And it’s concentrated, it does not permeate the entire biosphere as waste from coal does. It is actually easy to corral, since it’s made of heavy metals. True, unsupervised, unused nuclear waste could last a long time, infinitely longer than it will take for coal to kill us.

Advanced nuclear reactors can be made to be extremely efficient, extremely safe, with little waste, and can be made to burn preexisting nuclear waste (as it the USA has 60,000 tons of highly radioactive waste that we better find a way to reuse again someday). But, whereas the Obama administration spends billions to put broadband Internet in rural areas, the research on advanced nuclear reactors is minuscule. (The details about making technology work durably and economically at very high temperatures have to be ironed out; efficiency augments with the temperature. Some types of advanced nuclear reactors would be naturally cooled by cracking water, and producing hydrogen; as it is there is no ecologically clean way of producing hydrogen economically. So nuclear could go hand in hand with hydrogen.)

Paradoxically, advanced civil nuclear power would be a factor of peace. Indeed, it would give a pretext to inspect, and check, that military nuclear power is not being developed. (Nuclear weapons should be totally unlawful, because of their instantaneous holocaust, and first strike capability; a world civil nuclear inspection regime looking in every nook and cranny is the only way to insure this.)

We face the greatest crisis of the biosphere since the extinction of the dinosaurs. As drastic as this. Some will say that I exaggerate. I wish. Therefore it goes without saying that it is the ultimate casus belli. If countries to not limit their CO2 emissions, they will face war. Total war, destruction of their fossil burning plants. This could be reality within twenty years. Economic pressure should be viewed as a better alternative to start with, a mitigating factor to be implemented immediately.

Indeed, the European Union has decided to take separate action in order to achieve reduction of the greenhouse gas emissions (of the order of 20% very soon). This separate action, the so-called “go-it-alone” scenario, consists of, inter alia, the imposition of “border adjustment measures” such as a “Carbon Import Tax” on products imported into Europe. The idea, pushed hard by France, instigator of the project, is to evaluate the carbon burned to make a product, and tax accordingly. Products made from Chinese electricity, mostly from coal burning would be taxed proportionally, and the carbon burned in transportation would be added to the tax bill.

It would be excellent if the USA joined the EU. Better late than never. We may still avoid, or mitigate, a cataclysm. We do not want to surrender to the devil, before we have to.

***

Patrice Ayme
http://patriceayme.com/

***

 

Technical Addenda: 1) The warming potential of methane is 21 greater than that of CO2 over 100 years, which is already bad, but it is up to 62 over twenty years, which is really terrible. The half time of methane in the atmosphere is only 12 years.

2) One liter of methane clathrate, heated up, releases 168 liters of methane. Thus one liter of heated clathrate would warm up the planet over a decade more than 12,000 liters of CO2.

3) Studies of isotopic ratios have come out in recent years, and some apparently showed that OCEANIC clathrates did not contribute to preceding warming episodes during the last 50,000 years. Perhaps. But temperatures and the presence of CO2 in the atmosphere have been bounded, in the last three million years, below a ceiling we are breaching now. Thus it is to be feared that three million years of accumulated oceanic methane could be suddenly released (and it can be as the Storegga eruption showed).

4) According to the IPCC, methane has augmented 2.5 times since 1750, and now contributes about 20% to heating through radiative forcing.

5) Great is the power of methane. Some scientists have suggested that methane allowed to avoid re-glaciation in the last few millennia. Before herding, the world was crawling with many species of ferocious predators. North America, for example had three super cats (the smallest of which was the saber toothed Smilodon, a beast who would have made any jaguar or grizzly run for dear life) plus one super giant hunting bear, the short face bear, Arctodus Primus, 11 feet tall, and built for taking down bison at full speed. Plus dire wolves and American cheetahs

Thus the number of herbivores was kept in check, in harmonious balance with the environment. Technologically advanced man was not amused. He contrived to destroy the carnivores, and make the planet a garden. Meanwhile, on the island of Flores, Sapiens destroyed the last non sapiens species of hominids.

In any case, the numbers of herbivores climbed. That was all right with man: Homo is first of all a savannah dweller, the more big herbivores, the less forest, the harder for those deadly leopards.

And so did the methane. A lit bit more could have been what it took (we will now if this is the truth, or not, because climate models and computers are getting ever better). 

6) The enormous extinction at the end of the Permian (most species went extinct, including all the land megafauna) apparently saw an increase of temperature of 6 degrees Celsius (something we seem hell bent to achieve ASAP).

7) Shakhova et al. (2008) estimate that not less than 1,400 Gigatons (Gigaton = Gt = one thousand million tons), that is so one thousand four hundred billion tons of Carbon is presently locked up as methane clathrates under the Arctic submarine permafrost, where they are held by low temperatures rather than by high pressures (in contrast with other oceanic clathrates). warm up the ocean, then: BOOM!

Apparently 5-10% of that Arctic area is subject to puncturing by open internal thawed layers inside the permafrost. Shakhova et al. conclude that “release of up to 50 Gt of predicted amount of hydrate storage [is] highly possible for abrupt release at any time”. That would increase the methane content of the planet’s atmosphere by a factor of twelve, equivalent in greenhouse effect to a doubling in the current level of CO2.
[N. Shakhova, I. Semiletov, A. Salyuk, D. Kosmach, and N. Bel’cheva (2007 & 2008), Methane release on the Arctic East Siberian shelf…Anomalies of methane in the atmosphere over the East Siberian shelf: Is there any sign of methane leakage from shallow shelf hydrates?, Geophysical Research Abstracts]

 

***

SHARING EARTH TO FILL MINDS UP.

May 12, 2009

ECOLOGICAL REPLACEMENT TO TEACH US WONDER, HUMILITY, AND HOW TO SHARE.

Abstract: Is it a form of exploitation and hypocrisy, across the globe, for the most developed countries to ask the poorest to save their animal species, while not doing much effort themselves?

Well, there is a remedy, and a moral lesson therein: time to learn to share the planet with the rest of life, lest we want to keep on behaving as a malignancy. So let’s reintroduce megafauna all over, while alleviating the burden of the poor, by recovering some of their most threatened species.

***

MEGAFAUNA FOR MEGA MINDS:

The problem is this: species are disappearing. At this rate we are on track to the greatest extinction ever. How to stop it? There are basically four parameters to consider: land, sea, megafauna, and the rest of life. I agree that this may sound like a strange selection, but there is a method to it. The sea is crucial: if it shuts down, so does oxygen production. Conversely, entire zones of the ocean have become too hot to dissolve enough oxygen to support life and are dying off in vast expanses, down to enormous depths.

The megafauna is crucial, because that is the fauna one sees, the one that appeals to our poetical, ethical, childish and animal senses. A child will have empathy for a tiger cub, not so much for one of the countless stick insect species. Thus the megafauna creates a lot of the feelings conducive to save the rest. the megafauna is also the crown of evolution, the set of species furthest along in evolutionary complexity. That does not mean insects are not important: if pollinating insects disappear (as they have started to), their partners, most flowers and flowering trees, will disappear too.

Now of course, why to save the rest of life? Well, those who ask that question are generally of the lowly interested type, those who define whatever in terms of financial profits, those who have been controlling the planet recently. The lowliest greedy answer, the one these creatures can understand, is that life is all about NANOTECHNOLOGICAL SOLUTIONS. Life has found countless solutions for problems that we can’t even imagine. By studying life, we will augment our powers, GDP will grow, capitalists will be on the moon again, and bat their bloody wings anew…

The ecological answer is that all life is one, and that many species apparently related to nothing that makes sense are actually part of gigantic ecological dynamics on time scales we can’t fathom. The disappearance of some megafauna could well lead to diseases that would lead to the destruction of other species, and all the way down the line until the shutting down of the oxygen producing machinery (certainly the rise of acidity of the oceans could cause the later).

Eco-logy means the logic of home. It’s not just about fluff and puff. Not just about little flowers and profits. It means our life support system.

The most sophisticated answer for the need of a full ecology has to do with human neurobiology. FULL NEUROBIOLOGY IS THE ANSWER TO FULL ECOLOGY. An ersatz version of ecology thus gives an ersatz version of mind.

Take a young cat, rise it in a visually poor, or visually twisted environment, and the cat will not develop full capability to see; so it is for the entire nervous system; the mental system is built as a dialogue with the environment (“eco”). If the environment is poor, the growing mind will develop poorly. (That is the argument against Disneyland as an ersatz of nature and history. An exclusive diet of Disneyland and the like, in contrast with the real thing, will produce minds with really poor neurobiologies.)

*** 

REESTABLISHING MEGAFAUNA IN MIND AND PLACE:

The USA and France, the world’s largest holders of sea territory, have been pretty good at extending absolute protection to sea life (itself endangered by rising temperatures and acidity caused by CO2 reacting with H2O).

Remains the problem of land megafauna. Emblematic species are found mostly in the poorest countries (where the population density used to be low recently, but is now skyrocketing). The advanced countries’ attitude is to try to force, or help, those poor countries to save those species, and bemoan about the situation the rest of the time (although some ecological organization like the Nature Conservancy efficiently buy land to put aside as reserves, a method practiced in Europe for 1,000 years).

The fact remains that this is asking much more from other nations than the most advanced nations demand from themselves. It’s nice and cute to ask India to save its rhinoceroses. Indian peasants find it less nice and cute when they see a three ton rhino or two wading peacefully through the local rice fields. Tigers and leopards kill people. Leopard fur trade is forbidden for reason that do not make sense in the FULLNESS OF TIME (when very carefully analyzed). What Africans know is that leopards kill Africans. And Africans know they do not have the funds, knowledge, manpower and technology, nor do they have the economical machinery to manage leopards, a species made to kill primates, and especially Africans (once upon a time, a single leopard in India killed more than 200 people, just for fun).

If the leopards have no economic reason to exist, they will be charged with homicide, and executed. As a species. This is what has been happening all over. That is why there are extinct all over, because lions used to be all over. Leopards and cave lions used to be found in Europe, as recently as 20 centuries ago. The giant American lion, Panthera Leo Atrox, used to be found from the Yukon to Patagonia, 10,000 years ago, until man got rid of it.    

The megafauna of Europe and America are now very impoverished, although they are the richest places economically. So now Europe and America put on line vast means to conserve from a low mega fauna situation, while the mega fauna is getting finally exterminated where it still exists (there are plenty of tigers captive in Texas, true). In other words Europe and America stress out about still another species of tiny blue butterfly, while Snow leopards are disappearing from the Himalayas.

An approach not practiced yet, should be to reintroduce ecological-equivalent species where they have been destroyed, in the richest countries. American deserts used to have camels. Cheetahs used to catch American Pronghorn antelopes. Rare camelids and rare cheetahs (there are subspecies) should be bred in zoos, and reintroduced. At least these two species are not very dangerous. Reverse hereditary engineering in the future would allow to make the reintroduced species more similar to what used to be.

Reintroducing a megafauna would be an example to the rest of the planet, and would help to find sophisticated ways and technologies to live with dangerous fauna in general (all megafauna is dangerous: even deer kill a lot of people). Awe and respect for nature would grow in the richest and most influential places. A sea with a shark inside is a completely different sea than one with just sardines inside.

But there is a way to go, to change people’s mentality, in the arrogant upper reaches of the West.

One does not see too many Californian ecological fanatics demonstrating for the reintroduction of the state symbol, found on the California flag, and still in the wilds there a century ago … the occasionally man eating, bull fighting, golden furred California grizzly. The Spaniards used to organize fights between grizzlies and bulls, inspired by the Roman tradition that brought us corridas de toros. (Maybe if Spaniards had stayed in control, enough grizzlies would still be in California for the games?)

The Amur leopard, and the Siberian tiger, could perhaps be put in the wilds somewhere north (Yukon? British Columbia?)… They would be a handy, provisional replacement for Panthera Leo Atrox, Smilodons Fatalis (“Saber Tooth tiger”), and the other two huge and very ferocious carnivores of North America, who thrived up to 10,000 years ago.

Both the Amur leopard and the Siberian tiger are extremely endangered. So is the Snow leopard, another species that needs an expanded range, as its home has shrunk. Snow leopards would feel at home in some of the Rockies, up north.

Some will say; that’s too much. But then why to ask more from those who have less? One does teach just by example, but by sacrifice.

Ultimately it is a moral problem; how do you want to feel right, if the environment is not right?

***

Patrice Ayme

P/S: ANOTHER PLUS: GOOD JOBS FROM WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT:

The economist Keynes used to say that it would be better that the government get people to dig holes, rather than doing nothing. Amusingly, sort of, he was writing this lightly while Stalin’s government was forcing millions of slaves to dig his great northern canal (millions died, but the canal has been useful ever since).

Some of what Keynes wrote on this:

“‘To dig holes in the ground,’ paid for out of savings, will increase, not only employment, but the real national dividend of useful goods and services. It is not reasonable, however, that a sensible community should be content to remain dependent on such fortuitous and often wasteful mitigations… If the Treasury were to fill old bottles with banknotes, bury them at suitable depths in disused coalmines which are then filled up to the surface with town rubbish, and leave it to private enterprise on well-tried principles of laissez-faire to dig the notes up again… there need be no more unemployment and, with the help of the repercussions, the real income of the community, and its capital wealth also, would probably become a good deal greater than it actually is. It would, indeed, be more sensible to build houses and the like; but if there are political and practical difficulties in the way of this, the above would be better than nothing.”

I understand what Keynes is writing: better them digging holes for money, than graves for the plutocrats. And I disagree. Keynes forgets that people, and the economy, get tired. After people and economy have done a lot of purposeless holes, doing a lot of work with no long term utility whatsoever, they have no more energy to do useful work.

Thus the Iraq-Afghanistan-Pakistan war, which certainly involved digging a lot of holes in the ground, will prove ultimately just to be that, digging holes in the ground. A lot of work for no good reason whatsoever. Meanwhile work that needed to be done in the USA was not done.

This is a consequence of the Principle of Conservation of Energy, something apparently well above Keynes’ understanding (after all Keynes was just a very rich man and an economics professor who wrote a lot).

What I suggest above with MEGAFAUNA replacement is of great utility. We are made for this environment, we need it back, be it only to dream right. And also as a symbol of our determination to reestablish the ecology. As I said.

But extensive wildlife management would be necessary, and that may end up providing with millions of job (keeping that 800 pound tiger out of harm’s way will be a full time job with controllers behind screens, a bit like the USAF officers manning drones in South Asia!)

A lot of the unemployment crisis has to do with the most advanced countries refusing to be as advanced as they need to be, to keep the world economy in dynamic balance.

***

TORTURING THE CONSTITUTION, OR HOW TO KILL THE REPUBLIC.

May 8, 2009

SOME UNUSUAL COMMENTS ON TORTURE AND HOW REPUBLICS FALL.

Abstract: In the hope of deepening the debate on torture, I span three millennia of civilization, to exhibit little known, but very telling, anecdotical and general logics, supporting the case for the exemplary prosecution of American torturers.

*** 

FULL SPEED BACKWARDS:

In 2004, under Bush’s neoconservative propaganda, U.S. citizens were opposed, 2 to 1, to the torture of terrorists (although they knew it occurred). In April 2009, five years later, about half, or more, supported torture, and held that it led to interesting results.  In other words, American public opinion is going against the grain of civilization.

How come?  There is an intense propaganda to change the very emotions at the root of democracy.  It finds easy to occupy the terrain, because Americans know little about history. They think it’s all about themselves. So let me try to correct this by presenting some important, but little known perspectives.

***
EVEN THE NAZIS FEARED THE LAW:
During the Second World War there were about one hundred known cases when German military field police or soldiers refused formally and definitively to obey orders that they denounced as illegal according to the German military code. Not one of them was tried, because the Nazis were afraid to lose any such trial, and were afraid of the legal precedent that would create. They were terrified that such a trial would expose their torturous and homicidal practices to the entire German army and encourage enough Germans to resist Nazism, to the point the Nazi machine would collapse.

This would have certainly happened, because enough military officers were morally quartered between the moral of obedience to the legal government (the Nazis) and the moral obedience to their basic German humanity. (See addendum on the latent revolt of the German army, from 1938 to 1944.)

Such is the power of the idea of the law. If more Germans had insisted upon the law being respected, while the Nazis were in power, they would have been thrown out by the Germans themselves.
***

VIOLATING ALL LAWS, AND CIVILIZATION ITSELF:
The danger at this point, in the USA, is the opposite. The danger is to create a legal precedent where a lot of previously unlawful practices, namely torture and violation of the principle of the state of law, are tolerated, forgiven, ignored.

Now, of course, Obama has a serious problem: he is already fighting on all too many fronts. But he has no choice: on all and any of these fronts, so far, the battle was fully joined before he took office.

The legal front has not been opened yet. But it needs to be open.

Fighting the outlaws of some distant land in the mountains of central Eurasia should be harder to justify than fighting outlaws in the United States of America, after these later outlaws kidnapped the Constitution and submitted it to torture. In the first case some obscure Qur’an inspired “law” of some sort of Islamist republic is contested by some hillbillies, in the second case the law of the secular American republic, a prolongation of 3,000 years of Western law, got kicked around. We have seen that movie before. It was called the agony of the Roman republic. Or the death of the Weimar republic, too.

The situation is this: the Bush administration blatantly violated both International and USA laws. These laws were not technicalities, but extension, to this day of a fundamental principle of Roman law: TORTURING CITIZENS IS UNLAWFUL.

The United Nations extended this principle to the WORLD CITIZEN. (The concept and practice of universal citizenship is also Roman, having being made into law under emperor “Caracalla” (son of Septimus Severus); according to it, all free men were citizens.) So the UN made into international law the interdiction of torture. That, in turn, once properly signed and ratified, was buttressed by national laws saying the same. That was done in the USA; so by torturing, employees of the American people such as Bush, violated international and national law.
***

BUSH OFFICIALS AS NO BETTER THAN SADISTIC ACHAEMENID SATRAPS:
Ms. Rice has gone all over the media, trying to rewrite the law all by herself. Let’s quote the New York Times:

“Among the many absurd things Ms. Rice did was to offer this argument that torture is legal: “By definition, if it was authorized by the president, it did not violate our obligations under the Convention Against Torture.””

It is not just absurd, it’s criminal. Officials of the republic cannot just go about, claiming they confused it with a satrapy, when they were in power. To say the least, an inquiry is needed.

Rice does not just legalize torture, she even claims that the USA is not a state of law: Roman empress Galla Placidia explicitly proclaimed that the sovereign was submitted to the same law as everybody else. This is what the Athenians called “isonomia”: the equality in front of the law. It was viewed as one of the three pillars of democracy. That was twenty-five centuries ago: Rice knows the music, she has just succumbed to the heady hubris of being part of a so called “super power”. But there is nothing super powerful at being a vicious torturing idiot, however big.

Of course, Nixon made the exact same argument:’The president IS the law’. He made it in a famous series of interviews to a British journalist, after he had been forgiven preemptively for his crimes by Gerald Ford.

The “don’t ask, don’t tell method” of governing with horror, terror, torture and extermination is a modern art. It was used by Stalin and Hitler. It consists of lying through and through, and never giving full, discernible orders. Hitler did not order the holocaust distinctly, and Stalin did not order the Gulag distinctly. They would just express redoubtable dissatisfaction until their subordinates got it right. The uplifting psychological aura of being part and party to a “superpower” (Nazi Germany, USSR, USA) did the rest: people got carried away, just as Athens (although a democracy) got carried away, and committed war crimes (that cost her civilization, and most of her life, as it turned out, thus was Athens’ gloomy fate).
***

NO MORE LAW, NO MORE REPUBLIC:
The danger for the United States of America is to institute a precedent where torture is banal and where the president fabricates the law as he pleases and he and his subordinates are above the law as it exists.

The Romans were under their republic for five centuries because they were under the rule of law. When the leaders stopped respecting the law, the republic fell. During the republic the law reigned. Individuals did not reign. Thus the republic happened, and went on because the law was HARD. As the Romans proudly proclaimed: “Dura lex, sed lex”: the law is hard, but it’s the law.

Do we want the Obama presidency to become the turning point when: “The law is soft, and it’s not the law”?

Another historical perspective. It looks as if Rice believed in the divine right of kings, and Bush had it. That right violated isonomia, so it was highly controversial, and did not happen most of the time. It was an invention of the fanatical Roman Catholic emperors who viewed themselves, as Bush, and as leaders in Islam (see Qur’an S4, v59), as endowed with authority from God. As soon as theocracy was beaten back, as soon as the early Franks (Clovis), this was replaced by the absolute right of life and death of Roman commanders in chiefs (called “imperators”).

A vicious antijew as Saint Louis IX of France, could not kill the Jews anymore than he could kill disbelievers, although he described in gory details the fatal injuries he wanted to inflict to them. Why? Because it was against the law.

Hitler’s rabid persecution of the Jews happened because his Reichstag changed some laws (something neither Saint Louis nor Martin Luther could do against the Jews because they did not have a legislative machinery at their beck and call).

The new Nazi laws did not allow to torture to death or kill Jews, just to make their lives jobless and miserable (already a form of torture). But it was a psychological Trojan horse. After official persecution became legal, persecutors felt morally justified to persecute further, in secret. If one tolerates torture as part of the practical constitution of the USA, next time things get a bit difficult, then what?
***

OF THE SPITE TORTURERS SUFFER FROM:
I tell you what. In the fifteenth century, France had a great king, Louis XI. He defeated various ambitious aristocrats and Burgundy (which included the Netherlands; a generation later the Burgundy heir was elected Charles V, emperor of Spain and the Holly German empire). Louis XI intervened with the heaviest hand, so that the French Protestants would not be persecuted by the Catholics out there in the wilds (yes, Martin Luther was born the year Louis XI died, 1483 CE; Lutheranism was a late comer to Protestantism).

Louis also had to be severe with some of his opponents, and put some in cages, without due process. Thus, to this day, although, in truth, he was a good, just, prudent king who augmented France, Louis XI is viewed as the torture king. Just because of these notorious cages.

Interestingly, American forces did not just smother suspects to death, and break their spines (of these activities one does not speak much in the USA), but putting victims in tiny cages in the dark was one of the mildest tortures, extensively used. Precisely the one and only torture Louis XI is spited for (and, differently from the USA, it was applied just to two or three people, and for excellent reasons).

So does the USA want to be spited? And is not contempt from others for centuries to come, a national security threat?
***

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

Addenda:

1) Before World War One, Germany was the world’s most literate country, and a leader in physics, chemistry, and other hard fields. Still it succumbed to the appeal of fascism. This was plain obvious a generation earlier already, as anybody familiar with Nietzsche’s scathing criticism of the (absence of) German mind at the time, will know. It was no coincidence that the greatest philosopher, a German, who viewed himself as a “good European” detested what Germany was fast becoming. Even Bismarck, author of German fascism version 1.0, was alarmed by the incoming version 2.0 (Hitler’s was 3.0).

But still, Germany had long been part and next to the core of civilization, and many Germans, including Prussian military officers, were so civilized that they could not stand all what Hitler was and aimed at (although of course Hitler was a master of deception, they could see enough). Now, reflectively, the top Nazis, however crude and idiotic they were, knew this very well. So they were careful to NOT engage in direct confrontation with German law. Indeed the Army Chief of Staff, Colonel General Ludwig Beck, although he was forced to resign in 1938 (his plot having been revealed, probably by British traitors), kept on plotting with top generals. The reason the army did not strike was that the Nazis had not been painted with enough legal or moral wrong.

By banalizing torture as something which is neither here nor there, and letting the insufferable Ms. Rice maul the constitution of the USA to justify the unjustifiable, the Obama administration, a government of a republic, takes a great multigenerational risk.

2) At the Wannsee conference, top Nazis met each others and the super Nazi Heydrich had to make the (Nazi) justice minister understand that, maybe, Nazi laws of 1935 were not going to be respected, but so was the wish of the Leader, and therefore, eyes should be closed, from now on. It was going to be tolerance for extra legal methods, from now on. Top Nazis agreed to this don’t ask, don’t tell policy. Ignoring the law today would be the exact same strategy. Rice belongs in jail, and she knows it, and everybody knows it. That is why, faithful to herself, she is engaging in preemptive strikes.

3) Why did the Romans forbid torture? Because they wanted to force and define civilization as a search for the mind and its superiority, over the flesh and the animal. Conflict became something minds engage in, and therefore minds solve, not something where the howling of the beast foams all over the land.

4) Some did object that the preceding essay is “a bit melodramatic” because there were a lot of human right abuses in the past in the USA (internment of some citizens for cause of their ancestry, holocaust of Indians, slavery. etc.), and, relatively to these, torturing a few alleged terrorists seems small. My answers to this: a) the preceding problems were immensely painful. b) slavery was itself a violation of Merovingian law (which in theory applied to North America!). c) torture is a new violation of law. d) the very fact that breaking the law, major and fundamental civilizational law, is coolly neglected, breaks the meta principle of “Dura Lex, Sed Lex”. Refusing to break that meta principle is why Socrates refused to flee Athens: he thought the republic may fall otherwise (and that is exactly how Rome fell… although the case of Rome was complex, because the Gracchi had to break the law a bit first, to try to implement change… which of course was reproached to them… that is why Obama has to stick to procedure very carefully!).

5) Another objection to the essay above, from some who know a bit of history, is that torture was used in Rome. Yes, true. But only on slaves, during the first eight centuries. And slaves were not citizens. Things changed a bit during the Second century of the Principate (the fascist empire, 150 years after the death of the republic).

Above I precisely related lack of torture to the concept of republic. I agree fascist regimes have to legalize torture.

That slavery was crazy and self defeating is another problem entirely (and it was, I believe, one of the master causes of the degeneracy of the Greco-Roman world). The Franks outlawed slavery in 650 CE (for… all citizens, defined as Christians and Jews).

My essay above makes clear that the important notion is not to officially tolerate the implicit legalization of torture. If the police, in a republic, kills someone, there is an inquiry.

It should be the same with torture. Torture, like like deadly force by police, and like excrements, happens. Differently from the later, in a republic, torture and killings necessitate inquiries. In imperial Rome legal torture was under judicial review, case by case, and was not a blanket authorization as in the USA recently. 

6) For six weeks in Spring 1940, France lost more citizens killed, everyday, than the USA did on September 11, 2001. Relative to the population sizes, it was more like ten times more citizens killed everyday than the USA suffered on 9/11. Still the French republic, at war or not, and it was a total war of survival, never tolerated torture. Instead up to 40, 000 willing, particularly abject and homicidal collaborators of the Nazis were judged, and executed. A warning for future fascists. And an absolute condemnation of past errancies. Dura Lex, Sed Lex.
***

WHAT BANKS OUGHT TO BE FOR, FIRST.

May 7, 2009

 

BANKING CLARITY A MUST TO REPAIR THE ECONOMY.

Abstract: The basic functions of banking (deposits, clearing payments, extending credit) have little to do with the massive plutocratic rescue plan started by the Bush-Geithner administration and extended by Summers-Geithner.
***

Stiglitz and Krugman, who have been nearly as critical as the present author about the financial policy of the USA, had dinner with Obama. Krugman said he could not talk about it, because it was “off the record”.

What should be on the record is this: the banks have a primary function, a secondary function, and a tertiary function. Absent these three functions, it’s as if there are no lungs, and no heart: the corpse of capitalism can’t walk.

It is not clear that these three functions that define banking philosophically have been insured as much as they should have during the first four months of the Obama administration, while it was busy pursuing further the (disastrous) financial policies of the Bush administration.

Instead a great deal of attention was given to having the bank holding companies make good the very contracts that put in danger the very ability of the banks to conduct the three basic functions.

The three basic functions that should have been attended to are the following.

The first two are so fundamental that they were probably present in inchoating form in prehistory. They are the sanctity of deposit of capital (which is primary), and the clearing of payments (which I view as secondary, considering that payments clear from account to account, and that cannot happen if the accounts are busted). The financial system does not exist without these two functions. They thrived in prehistory (because long range trade did, archeology has shown, which means trusted intermediaries did).

The ability to extend credit is tertiary. Although the economy can work for a few hours without it, many small companies depend upon credit for going from paycheck to paycheck, month to month, especially small, often growing companies (small companies are around 80% of employment). Some will argue that lending is now the banks defining function, and capital (from deposits) is ancillary (see addenda).
***

Obama had to insure the three functions above. I am not sure about the third function, credit, because I have not seen authoritative studies (banks have been saying they lend plenty whereas professionals in other industries have been claiming the opposite). But for the first two it was easy: just do like the French republic. And do not let banks go bankrupt, which the French presidency also declared would not be allowed under its watch. Lehman Brothers, a huge, old and famous bank, a treasury bond market maker, was allowed to go chapter 11, destroying confidence in the banking system WORLDWIDE, a system that not only rests on trust, but, one could argue, is all about trust. At that point many payments could not clear.

In France Sarkozy decided that all deposits would be insured, in any amount, in any bank. (This can be done in two ways: either by boosting the insurance fund, the FDIC in the USA, or by preventing any banking failure by having the government step in as soon as a bank threatens to become insolvent, the later route being followed in France, so far.)

Insuring any deposit would provide any country with a lot of confidence. Since the currency system is a myriad of contracts in trust, this is crucial, as fundamental a measure to take for the economy as possible. Relative to this, the waste of toxic “assets” is completely irrelevant, just as irrelevant as it should always have been to daily banking.

Unfortunately Geithner proposed with his PPIP a plan that threatened to compromise the FDIC to death (a fully engaged PPIP would have bankrupted the FDIC). Geithner’s aim was to save the bank holding companies’ upper management, and various elements of the plutocracy connected to them, which he seems to view as the essence of the economy (too much socializing with the plutocracy will do that to you).

Instead, the Obama administration should have stuck with the INSTILLING TRUST IN DEPOSITS, the basic function of banking, the one prehistoric man understood, but Geithner apparently does not. His PPIP was another effort against it.

Just an example of the sort of difficulty the refusal of insuring all deposits led to: millions of small businesses may only find challenging to maintain balances below $250,000 (there are technicalities, see addenda). This is all the more silly, since the Obama administration made clear it viewed the 19 top banks as too big too fail (thus there was no risk insuring all and any deposits; in a huge contradiction, though, depositors did lose their money in smaller banks going in receivership!)
***

Patrice Ayme
http://patriceayme.com/

Technical addenda:
1) REPAIRING BANKS:
Stiglitz called Geithner’s PPIP a “robbery of the American people”. I agree (and already said this about TARP, calling it Transferring Assets to Rich Plutocrats, as soon as it appeared). But a week later, Obama repelled the mark to market rule, and that pretty much made the PPIP unworkable. The ways of Obama are not as mysterious as those of God: one week he makes a blatant gift to the hedge funds, delivered by his human poodle, and the hedge funds are all happy that the plutocrats are solidly in control, and the week after, Obama takes away their food, but they are too stupid to notice.

Stiglitz and Krugman opposed the conversion of preferred to common stock. Indeed the preferred route for cleaning the banking system would have been receivership (the bank fails, and is reorganized by the government, and then sold for a profit). The point being that the USA then takes ownership of the bank for the cost of recapitalization. The drawback is that severe disruptions to the financial system can happen as shareholders lose everything and bond holders can lose a lot.

The Obama administration had first followed the Bush administration policy (reimbursing indiscriminately losses on derivatives with taxpayer money, which I have long argued was unworkable: I valued the losses at 8 trillion, minimum; now the IMF is at three trillions in the USA alone). Thus I was satisfied by the conversion into common stock (which has the right of vote, that preferred do not have). It is as good as nationalization can get, once receivership has been excluded (for the reasons of the massive financial disruption that rightly bothered Obama).
***

2) BANKS AS CLEARING PAYMENT INSTITUTIONS:
Some will say that depositing money is the fundamental function, and that clearing payments is not a core function. In this view, prehistoric woman can walk to the bank, extract her currency (fancy shells), and go give it to who she wants to pay. True. But you will not build a bridge that way. Instead of building the bridge, you will have to run around paying everybody continually, because thousands of workers and contractors are involved. And certainly prehistoric women could not be expected to run all around the horizon.  

The “clearing of payments” is the ability to transfer, in the general case “currency” (value, liquidity, whatever one wants to call it) from one deposit to another (or one account to another, to use a different noun). In general the deposits (“accounts”) are in different banks. For that circulation of currency to occur at all, trust by one bank into another bank is necessary. The first bank needs to be sure the second bank it transfers the money to is solvent, lest the money disappears, and it gets sued by the depositor who asked his money to be transferred to start with. I do not know the official lingo too well, and I think the overabundance of lingo is made to be confusing. That is why I tried to stay close to the concept of deposit. It seems to me that if a deposit (=account) disappear, the bank has failed in its most basic function. The clearing of payments is from account (=deposit) to account, so it requires the sanctity of accounts first.

3) BANKS AS CREDIT INSTITUTIONS:
Banks are no longer banks in the sense of Rome, or the Italian Middle Ages. Historically banks lent from what they had in capital. No more capital, no more lending. Applied to central banks, that was the idea of the gold standard. It is obsolete. Indeed sticking to the gold standard prevented the growth of credit, hence investment during the depression of the 1930s.

Now credit creation is a Bank’s primary function, in the sense that most of the money from the bank is created that way. Capital allows to resist to unexpected withdrawals, without borrowing in despair from the central bank. So it is an anchor fixed at 8% of total lending.

***

ARRIVISTES SERVE PLUTOCRACY AND FASCISM.

May 3, 2009

 

AGAINST FERGUSON, GODWIN, BYBEE, YOO, AND OTHER SERVANTS OF EVIL. HOW TO DEFLECT MINDS FROM REALITY BY DENYING THAT FASCISM IS WORTH FIGHTING AGAINST. 

Abstract: Anti thinkers  are paid by the plutocracy to seed havoc and confusion. We skewer a few. Unwittingly, they demonstrate the association between plutocracy and fascism, by claiming outright that the later was no problem, just as, short of death, torture is nought (as judge Bybee has it, but similarly Ferguson and Buchanan point out that if fascism had not been fought, peace would have been eternal).

***

Propagandists and apologists of fascism are often esteemed, well paid and have beautiful careers. Why so? Because they serve the ultra rich, by keeping reality in line.

From the power of compound interest, wealth tends to gather in a few hands. To make society stable, wealth has to be redistributed. This has been true ever since material wealth became important, at least 10,000 years ago, in the most advanced parts.

But sometimes the particular nature of the socioeconomy makes it function best as a dictatorship. The arch-typical example being the hydraulic dictatorships of the Middle East (Hence the later developed huge fascist empires, and authoritarian religions such as Judaism and its well known heresies, Christianism and Islamism). Sometimes society falls into fascism from lack of timely brain power to prevent an excess of greed by an oligarchy (Republican Rome).

In any case, wealth is power, wealth has power to fight back, and wealth often escapes democratic control (this sorts of views are often lent to Marx, but are much older: the Greek historian Polybius had them 22 centuries ago, and his somewhat cyclical theory (which was not new, even in his time!) is superior to Marx’s in many ways). From this blossoms a close association between fascism and plutocracy.

Paul Krugman deplores (in his blog, May 2, 2009) “the most depressing aspect of the whole thing: further confirmation that we’re living in a Dark Age of macroeconomics, in which hard-won knowledge has simply been forgotten. What’s the evidence? Niall Ferguson “explaining” that fiscal expansion will actually be contractionary, because it will drive up interest rates. At least that’s what I think he said; there were so many flourishes that it’s hard to tell.”

In clear language, what Ferguson wants is not to spend government money to provide common people with jobs, but money to be sent to plutocrats, so that the elite, the plutocracy, that keeps him happy, and wealthy, thrives some more.

We are also living in a Dark Age of history. Out there, on the Internet there is something called “Godwin rule”. It works this way: mention Nazism and you have lost whatever debate you were in. At least, so it is, among stupidocrats. In other words, mention the holocaust, and you are a loser. It’s difficult to distinguish this from pure and simple holocaust denial and sheer Nazism.

Nobody was more eager to have everybody forget the holocaust than the Nazis. As their armies retreated, the Nazis spent years forcing thousands of their prisoners to disinter millions of their previously all too swiftly buried victims. Then they crushed their bones, burned the remnants in carefully designed pyres, to leave no trace that could be used in a court of law. 

But now that we have the Internet, it’s much better. Mental eradication of Nazism is one intellectual terrorist edict away. Malevolent idiots can be Hitler’s best friends, and everybody feels cute, because it’s so “cool” to have a brain cool as ice: mention Auschwitz, and those idiots will inform you that you used a false argument, and they will laugh as the devious souls they are: ha, ha, ha. Ironically, it all boils down to the old Hebraic religion: “You shall not take the name of the Lord (YHWH) your God (Elohiym) in vain, for the Lord (YHWH) will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.” (Ex. 20;7.) In other words, the adulators of Godwin mumble: “We don’t know much about history, but never shall we pronounce the name of Adolf Hitler in vain…” Does that mean Hitler is their Lord?

Mr. Ferguson, a Harvard professor, is just as cute. He wrote some sort of enormous book “The War of the World”, to say strictly nothing new, except, basically, that, well, good was bad, and bad was good. Let’s quote him:”World War Two, we have been told all our lives, was our greatest triumph, the moment when the forces of light, the Western democracies, prevailed over the forces of darkness, the Nazis… far from culminating in the triumph of the West, the struggle was part of the inexorable shift in the global balance of power toward the East.” Thank you, Fergie boy: this is, nearly word for word, the exact thesis of Adolf Hitler himself. It is the democracies that represented the darkness, the weakness, and they served the power of the East. Heil!

Niall Ferguson is a British born historian who makes no distinction between fascism and democracy. He is a partisan of the old thesis that Britain should not have entered the First World War. He did not invent that counter democratic thesis, either. Bertrand Russell was a partisan of it, and spent 18 months in jail during the war for promoting it, while British kids were dying in the trenches, fighting fascism.

Ferguson’s thesis is that basically the West went down, because it did not give in to German fascism. Although it had that opportunity twice. Because, Ferguson says, implicitly, fascism, and anything obsolete, like old time religion, is good.

Ferguson teaches the American elite at Harvard. Don’t be surprised if they sent storm troopers to a beach near you soon. Ferguson is just an arriviste. He has a political agenda of the most extreme nature that turns the average neoconservative into a leftist, relatively speaking. He is well rewarded for it.

A similar approach is defended by Pat Buchanan: Britain should not have entered the Second World War, and should instead have let Nazi Germany do its thing (killing all the Slavs, all the Jews, annihilate France, etc.). Such people, of the Buchana-Ferguson ilk practice, not just revisionism, but outright thought crime. Their eternal regret seems to be that German racially grounded fascism did not triumph, and that instead pesky Franco-British-American democrats won.

The pro-fascist theses of Ferguson and Buchanan are so incredibly wrong in all ways, it’s hard to know where to start. But I have to say a word, because many people know no history whatsoever, besides that there were wars and it was very bad, a psychological violin  that revisionists and holocaust deniers know how to play very well. (Connoisseurs of history will remember that Adolf Hitler used to play the violin of peace with vigor before the war; in his political testament written a few hours before he put an end to his despicable presence, he testified that he never wanted the war the Jews and their alter egos, the French, had imposed, according to him. Naturlich.)

In both cases, the fact that Germany was ruled by fascists is ignored by Ferguson or Buchanan. The fate of republican France, the “eternal lethal enemy” (Hitler said) of the fascist order in Germany is ignored. Also ignored is the fate of the rest of Europe: after all, the nation of Poland was under Germano-Prussian subjugation and oppression, not to say occupation and suppression. As the fascists that ruled Germany in 1914 and 1940 overwhelmed Europe, according to Ferguson and Buchanan, lives would have been saved if eternal peace, apparently another name for German fascism, came to rule.

On the contrary, German historians studying the period, firmly disagree and view the Second Reich as a dress rehearsal for the Third Reich, and the later as ultimate evil, as it was. Indeed, as the fascist led troops invaded neutral Belgium in August 1914, they proceeded to commit war crimes against Belgian civilians and civilization (none of the troops of any of the democratic allies committed such war crimes). The strategic fact that once (fascist) Germany was the world most powerful regime, it would have attacked the remaining democracies (mostly the British empire and the USA) is also ignored.

Ferguson ignores cultural touches representative of German fascism, and its attached racial hatred. Such as when Goering, the father of the Goering who was hanged at Nuremberg, was governor of Namibia. Goering engaged in a deliberate holocaust of the natives. That’s another proof that the fascist and racial extremism of German fascists had broken the bounds imposed by Western civilization. It was not Western civilization at all (but Ferguson insists it was, a courtesy he does not extent to Stalin).

People such as Mr. Ferguson are paid to present fascist extremism as middle of the road (by using “counterfactual” history, if need be). People such as Ferguson and Buchanan, with their fascism denying axiom (“there is no fascism, and they are its prophets, and democracy has no merit”), are further confirmation that we’re living in a Dark Age of macro history, in which hard-won knowledge, knowledge won with the death of more than 100 million people, has simply been forgotten.

What are Ferguson and Buchanan after? Who, or what do they serve? They serve greed, which is how, and why fascism is often brought up to this world to start with. Indeed greed without democracy to control it, requires fascism to keep on blossoming further.

That’s how the (Prussia and then) German empire engaged on its slippery slope, of ever growing fascism, that led it to its 1853 until 1945 dismal adventure visiting Armageddon. The failure occurred from a democracy gap itself closely related to a massive failure of the mind of the nation. There were too many German intellectuals thinkers and artists who, like Wagner, embraced the process of fascization and racial hatred, and too few who, like Nietzsche, deconstructed and denounced it. We do not want to repeat this, so the quacks should be denounced now for what they are: people who are paid, and advance themselves, by promoting fascism.

Such individuals, these creatures of Evil, do not differ in their motivation from Yoo and Bybee, lawyers to Evil itself who defined torture as “[physical pain that] MUST be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death”.

Short of killing you, Judge Bybee is not torturing you, or so he says, please note. That’s top American legal thinking, new wave. Of this mental trash some of the top judges in the USA are made.

It appears that Judge Bybee was promised an appointment to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, the highest type of judgeship there is, short of the Supreme Court of the USA. But first (White House Counsel) Gonzales wanted him to do a little bit of dirty work in the Office of Legal Counsel. Of course there was never an explicit deal, but the torture was approved, and the judgeship was granted.

Stalin, or for that matter Hitler, were always very hard to read, because they were careful to never say things explicitly. The contrast between their bourgeois mien, and the holocausts they were conducting is eerie. The art of not doing things blatantly has been central to the horrors of the Twentieth century. Banality is not just a pathology, it’s a method.

Now the USA is welcoming those who officialized torture into the world of banality. Bybee became a top judge because he decided that only torture to death was torture enough. Normal torture is, well, banal.   

Such people as Ferguson, Buchanan, Bybee and Yoo are careerists. They are what the French and British call “arrivistes”. Arriving to the top of society is their prime motivation, and obliterates all other considerations, and they organize their perception of possible knowledge just so as to pursue their brutish obsession with themselves, and their power.

The average Nazi in the Nazi hierarchy (or that of any fascist state) was an arriviste. When she discovered this, Hannah Arendt uttered her observation about the “banality of Evil”. But someone such as Elie Wiesel (who was in residence at Auschwitz) disagrees deeply with her. He thinks there is nothing banal about Evil. I agree with him. I think that what is banal, is to stay civilized when confronted to the destroyers of civilization, and that is precisely the angle they use to promote themselves, and that dirty work they are the only ones willing to do.

Civilization cannot be banal. Civilization is a most exceptional thing. It is time to strike back. Those of us who are rich enough to have more than a career a la Eichmann, can use their ethical arsenal to pulverize Evil masquerading as banality. It’s high time: if you are not going to fight for civilization, civilization will not fight for you.

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