Archive for July, 2013

Wealth Care’s Endless Summers

July 31, 2013

Abstract: Starting with Nixon, the Kennedy-Johnson welfare state became the wealthcare state. The rise of systematic failures such as Lawrence Summers, was instrumental that way.

***

Democrats point at Republicans all the time. In truth, they set-up the Wealth Care State just as enthusiastically. Ever since Nixon, all outwardly socially motivated programs grew that monstrosity. (With the exception of G.W. Bush’s senior drug program! Yes, W. the torture man!)

Nixon publicly funded the HMOs, to make a Kaiser richer. Now Obama has extended plutocratic care. Ever since Nixon, plutocracy has made failure into rapture. It did not start this way, quite the opposite: engineering made the USA rich and powerful. Most renewable energy is hydraulic. It’s symbolized by this dam:

President Hoover's Dam. Engineering, Not Plutophilia

President Hoover’s Dam. Engineering, Not Plutophilia

President Hoover’s dam is an astoundingly high 222 meters (like a skyscraper). The reservoir holds 35 billion tons of water (yes, 35 cubic kilometers). The Hoover dam was launched by Sec. of Commerce Hoover in 1922, and construction ordered, early, by President Hoover, mid-1931.

Imagine Obama built something that big… Instead Obama’s idea of bigness is big money from the wealthy, food from their big tables, sleep in their big beds.

The latest thrust towards the Wealthcare state is a frenzy to make Larry Summers chief of the Central Bank.  The usual suspects push for it: the Rubin-Goldman Sachs-Citigroup gang.

Larry Summers, plutocrat, plutophile, enabler of deregulation under Reagan,  fought to repeal the last vestiges of Glass-Steagall, which separated traditional banking practices and investment (very risky) banking. Summers  deregulated complex derivatives of the world-gobbling type under Clinton in the late 1990s. Summers, grotesquely sexist to the point of imbecility, hyper connected with the worst, the great whale that swallowed the world economy, and regurgitated the neoplutocratic order.

Under Obama, Summers was made chief economic adviser, and gave the worst advice imaginable. Irreplaceable. He is now inciting Obama to see ghosts. Says the President (July 2013):

“let’s make sure that we’re growing the economy, but let’s also keep an eye on inflation, and if it starts heating up, if the markets start frothing up, let’s make sure that we’re not creating new bubbles.

Obama is worrying about inflation?  What else? Little green men? Inflation? Which inflation? Obama is keeping an eye on non-existent inflation? What for? No new bubbles? Really? Is not that rich, Mr. President, after your administration gave about 8 trillion, half of GDP, to the biggest, nastiest banks that ever existed? And all this so those nastiest banks and their bankers could pay the immensely greedy Lawrence Summers, Robert Rubin and their ilk? And fit the vision of the world they have, where financiers know best about everything? 8 trillion dollars to replenish criminals, that’s not a bubble?

After the tragedy of the 1930s, we are now enjoying a farce (before it turns again to tragedy!)

Hoover, an engineer from Stanford U., was no idiot, far from it; and he was experienced: the Hoover dam was his baby. But as President he became an idiot by not understanding the extent of the crisis, and providing an insufficient stimulus program, while allowing banks to de-fund the economy.  Not that Hoover did nothing: look at his colossal dam above. He just did not do enough.

Now here is Obama: one would expect that he heard of Hoover’s meekness. But all he knows is basket ball, not engineering. Obama does not have a Hoover dam to point at: Obama’s stimulus was mostly a fake. He kept his eye on the ball, indeed, from basket to golf.

Obama could have done something to mark the future, as Hoover did, with the Hoover dam. To this day, most of “renewable” energy is symbolized by the Hoover dam (hydro, worldwide, is on its way to pass gas in electricity generation).

What could have Obama done to mark the future with more than basket or golf balls? Get himself genuinely brainy advisers, not just greedy chickens, pecking away (Summers style). An obvious little project would have been Very High Speed trains, where they nearly exist, along the North East corridor or where they are guaranteed to be profitable, as in California.

Much more pharaonic and futuristic would have been for Obama to preside over a massive solar project in the South West USA.

The South West USA is the world’s best place for solar energy (due to solar energy guaranteed & proximity of enormous California, and its two giant metropolises, plus great safety). But Obama did not notice: all he has, is his “eyes on the ball”. The basket ball, historically, and now the golf ball. That’s the balls he knows. Not ball-bearings, not an engineer, just a player.

Yes, Obama gave a bit of money here and there (Mostly to Elon Musk, because he is a tall, good-looking rich South African). Stimulus-wise, Obama is a dwarf Hoover that built dams never higher than a few meters high.

Some will scoff I am unfair to Obama. But I have been too generous: Obama is Hoover in full reverse. Hoover used the power of the government to build a giant dam (so did FDR, only more so). Instead Obama used the power of the government to give money to plutocrats.

A non banking example? Elon Musk and space X, and the like: NASA money has been detoured to give to that clique, to the point NASA does not have enough money to develop the successor of Saturn V… (Finally decided 40 years after Nixon buried it!… except Musk stole the money…)

We have a Great Depression, but Obama has not noticed, because he only listens to Goldman Sachs (historically his greatest source of funds to get elected)! Indeed, Goldman Sachs’s owners are doing great. Obama breathes Goldman Sachs and its ilk. Such as Citigroup.

Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, etc. were all broke. What did Obama-Summers do? Each of the broken banks got about 60 billion from taxpayers, but Obama failed to acquire those properties taxpayers had paid for. So the plutocrats that controlled those institutions still do, and that’s why Rubin’s Citigroup and its immensely paid creatures (such as Lawrence Summers) are resurfacing from the abyss, stronger than ever. Well fed by clueless, pathetic taxpayers.

Why do we have a great Depression? Because presidents of USA such as Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama thought small, supposing they thought at all. Nixon ordered the stupid Space Shuttle instead of improving enormously the fantastic Saturn V (as it was easy to do, and Von Braun wanted), and Nixon conceived the stupid HMOs crony capitalism (= plutocracy).

The corrupt (What else?) Summers is paid by Citigroup (founded by Goldman’s Robert Rubin, B. Clinton’s main minder.) According to the Wall Street Journal, Saturday July 27, 2013:  “Mr. Summers is getting millions from a number of other financial firms.

These include stock-exchange operator Nasdaq OMX Group Inc., hedge fund D.E. Shaw, venture-capital firm Andreessen Horowitz and asset-management and advisory firm Alliance Partners”

Making Summers central bank chief, reminds me irresistibly of the nomination of H. Schacht at the head of the German central Bank.

Schacht, a pawn of the American plutocrat JP Morgan, enabled Hitler. Was it under orders? Schacht was tried at Nuremberg, and rebounded nicely as a master world plutocrat afterwards (he was obviously protected; he was best silent, as he knew all about Hitler’s mighty financiers).

Quantitative Easing (QE) enthusiasts advocate the idiotic, but highly profitable to them, notion that the economy is all about money: just send enough money to the financiers, and they will make the world right for you (such is the main idea of QE).

Many “democratic” economists have advocated QE: send trillions to buy off the (unprosecuted) banking criminals. And thus most of what Obama did was to implement the notion of sending, according to the esteemed economist and lawyer William Black, and also according to the inspector of TARP, and evidence, trillions to the very banks that created the 2008 disaster. (This is not just my opinion anymore: even the Wall Street Journal agrees now, see below!)

(The banks used a bit of that money to “reimburse” TARP, enabling big reassuring titles in the Main Stream Propaganda: “Banks/Companies Reimburse Government Loans”).

Perfect for a world where the financiers in power decide who deserve money (namely themselves and their friends: why do you think Obama spent years calling Jamie Dimon, the daemon head of JP Morgan, “my friend”?)

Thus caring about the economy was straight WEALTH CARE: take care of the rich, they will do the rest. Reagan (“Ray Gun”?) got the ball rolling all over industry. Thanks to Goldman Sachs, Rubin, Summers, Clinton (in that order), it was extended to all financiers, drugged out on derivatives, in the 1990s.

Bush succeeded to out-Clinton by extending wealth care massively to defense contractors by engaging in carefully unwinnable wars: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, all over.

Nixon has started HMOs by giving billions to private companies for Health Maintenance Organizing (HMO). The idea had been suggested to him in the Oval Office by the head of Kaiser Permanente, the industrialist Henry J. Kaiser. (Recent profits of Kaiser are of the order of 2 billions, and its revenue 50 billion; it’s the largest HMO in the USA).

Just as Obamacare flaunts the notion that stock exchanges and turning patients into shoppers will be the royal road to health care. Just send enough money to private insurance companies and health care plutocrats, such as Warren Buffet, Obama’s self interested adviser, and, little people, they will take care of you, thanks to the benevolent (and ‘invisible’!)hand of the market.

QE enthusiasts are propagandists for plutocracy. Just like many of the health care advocates are just poorly disguised wealth care fanatics who see more government subsidies coming their way.

Fine. This is what a plutocracy (aka “crony capitalism”) is all about. What’s not fine is when conscientious liberals fall for these schemes and howl in their favor for years. If one wants a society that cares, one builds a society that cares, and one does not simply throw money at the problem. That latter scheme is not new: Roman emperors practiced it for centuries, until the flood of money had corrupted the entire civilization.

Money even corrupted the most basic intelligence of the elite. When society is exclusively organized by money, there is no room for true intelligence. Even the Wall Street Journal, July 27, 2013, is finally understanding (five years after I got alarmed by Obama’s seduction by Summers!):

Mr. Summers is a master at “failing up.” Screw up at one job, get a better one. He’s now considered a front-runner to replace Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke in January.

Mr. Bernanke’s response to the financial crisis has been to digitally print trillions of dollars and give most of it to the biggest banks that caused the crisis. This seems to have averted another Great Depression, but at what cost? Eventually, the Fed must ease this money out of the system…

Meantime, President Obama launched yet another campaign to help the middle class. “With this endless parade of distractions and political posturing and phony scandals, Washington’s taken its eye off the ball,” he complained last week in Galesburg, Ill.

He blames Washington, even as he leads Washington. One reason why the middle class is still suffering is because Mr. Obama has a knack for putting the same people who ruined the economy in charge of fixing the economy.

Well, it’s not a knack, it’s a system. There is constant commuting between the Obama administration and the institutions that got the most money from said administration. The woman who wrote so called Obamacare, a high level (VP) health care insurance executive, went back where she came from, after she was done. Single payer, American style: one woman, singularly paid.

But let’s look at the bright side. The Wall Street Journal’s broadsides against Summers are hilarious, and gratifying; the critiques above I put in bold letters I advocated for 4 years at least. At the time, most would have described my ideas as rabid, irrational leftism. In truth, it was only the truth.

The traditional method to deal with bank-ruptcy of banks is to nationalize them: stakeholders get wiped out, management thrown out, the state brings in what’s needed to keep the bank going, and then sells it back to the private sector. This is fair: banks have a monopoly on money creation, granted by the state. Although privately managed, they are still agents of the state. This is efficient: it punishes malfeasance. And it costs taxpayers, thus, We The People, nothing: all the money is brought by the wealthy, twice.

Faced with the bankruptcy of thousands of a type of banks, the S&Ls, Reagan and Bush Senior followed scrupulously the nationalization method.

Yet the American subprime/European malinvestment crisis of 2008 was dealt in the opposite way: money was just grabbed from taxpayers, and given to the criminals, the banksters. Why? So they could do it again? Bush, Paulson a steroid laden football player who was made president of Goldman Sachs, before becoming Treasury Sec., Nancy Pelosi, a plutocrat daughter of somebody, head of Congress democrats, Obama, the basket ball man, and Lawrence Summers took all the decisions, and gave no explanation, except that they saved the world!

Verily, they saved nothing, except an established order that had blossomed in an orgasm of over-exploitation. What they did, was to Transfer Assets to Rich People (TARP), and impoverish everybody else.

So why Reagan and Bush Senior behave fairly, and the politicians of 2008 so dishonestly? Because the world political class of 2008 was much more corrupt than that of 1998.

How did it get there? Under Clinton, that is the reign of Goldman Sachs-Rubin-Summers, corruption got away from any critical examination. That allowed it to reach a crtitical mass. Summers had a screaming fit against the lady heading the Futures’ Commission, insisting, as he did, that financial derivatives ought not to be regulated (under Harvard president Summers’ supervision, that University lost a billion dollars in derivatives trades, meaning students’ money was transferred to plutocrats).

The same lady, Sheila Bair, was unpopular in the Obama administration, just as the highly qualified Fed Vice President, Janet Yellen.

What’s the problem with those women? They are more careful that the men, being more emphatic. Somebody such as Summers believe that greed is the noblest engine of humanity, and government should serve greed. The welfare state is their enemy, the wealth care state, their solution. They have understood nothing to humanity. And even less to how Earth works.

Lawrence Summers helped ruin Russia (by giving Yeltsin terrible advice) and turned it away from democracy, and back to the KGB. Lawrence Summers made the economy of the West “derivative”. Worse than him, there is not. Thus, Summers is intensely attractive to those whose wealth depends upon ruining the rest of mankind.

Summers? Irresistible to the Obama administrators: that’s where the money is. Citigroup will reward them. Amen.

***

Patrice Ayme

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Uniformly Sprawling Atrocity?

July 29, 2013

Abstract: Sprawl has a long, multi century history in the USA. It’s at the core of inequality, inequity, and much worse.

***

It’s always astounding to see 16 year old children of the USA driving themselves 50 kilometers to a private school costing about the median family income of the USA. Seems like the road to hell. Not just for them, mindless cogs, but for the whole planet. Yet this folly is viewed as completely normal and reasonable for those unfortunate children’s parents in the professional class of the USA (the upper middle class of lawyers, doctors, etc.).

I have known (very well, over decades) American children who spent, everyday, three hours commuting inside cars. Three hours at the very least. More when traffic was bad. Their parents were offended when told that was wrong. (Could not Clinton/Bush/Obama just bomb more oil out of where it came from? I have to guess?)

To my eyes, this rabid commuting speaks of racism. As does the finally “balanced” California budget (balanced by cutting services viewed in the past as fundamental, such as schooling for preschool and kindergarten; turns out the children who can’t go to school anymore are of the wrong color. Mostly. Oops. Never mind. Change conversation, what about sport scores?).

I was happy to discover that a New York Times article has discovered sprawl and Paul Krugman now shares my long held opinion: “A quarter-century ago Mr. Wilson, a distinguished sociologist, famously argued that the postwar movement of employment out of city centers to the suburbs dealt African-American families, concentrated in those city centers, a heavy blow, removing economic opportunity just as the civil rights movement was finally ending explicit discrimination…

These days…traditional families have become much weaker among working-class whites, too. Why? Well, rising inequality and the general hollowing out of the job market are probably the main culprits. But the new research on social mobility suggests that sprawl — not just the movement of jobs out of the city, but their movement out of reach of many less-affluent residents of the suburbs, too — is also playing a role.

As I said, this observation clearly reinforces the case for policies that help families function without multiple cars. But you should also see it in the larger context of a nation that has lost its way, that preaches equality of opportunity while offering less and less opportunity to those who need it most.”

I sent the following to the NYT which published right away:

The recovery of the USA experienced now, the real one, not the fake one from financial engineering (zero interest rates, QE, Goldman Sacks and its ilk) rests mostly on fracking (and a low $/Euro ratio). Break the ground, get gas and oil. Plenty of it. In some places, the reserves have jumped by a factor of ten.

This plentiful of cheap carbon energy is doubly fraught; it allows the USA to keep on going the wrong way, wasting energy, and encourages urban sprawl, a segregation that does not need to say its name to be efficient.

Urban sprawl exposes the USA in case the fracking gets itself fracked. That could well happen from a combination of ecological reasons and bad Return On Investment: wells tend to leak as the concrete ages, and the cost of fracking itself is not clear. Or in case the CO2 crisis becomes so bad, that even the deluded government of the USA submits to the evidence, and cracks (fracks?) down on it.

In Europe, it’s different. Europeans have known for at least 700 years, that urban sprawl was worse than bad: it encroached on arable land, and precious forests, it increased the cost of transportation, it prevented the synergy of cities.

Not so in North America. It was just the opposite. Why? Because, modulo exterminating the natives, there was always a lot of land to misuse. Sprawling encouraged, and enabled, the extermination of the pesky natives, it was synonymous with it. When general Jackson attacked Cherokee land, in spite of contrary orders from Congress, he was imposing the superiority of sprawling over civilized behavior (the Cherokees had settled into european-like farms, to Jackson’s alarm).

How to do something about sprawl? First raise tax base of cities, and punish sprawling by putting a significant carbon tax/gas tax, while making public transportation irresistible in city centers (what Europeans have been doing). Otherwise? Strategic danger, long-term: one cannot de-sprawl overnight…

Ilene Bilenky of Littleton, MA, directly dared to contradict me. She said: “People lionize Europe for supposedly knowing better to live in towns/cities with trains, etc., while ignoring the fact that Europe developed centuries before cars existed, and the U.S. grew along with the coming of the car (and the space for them). I am not saying I like sprawl or favor the U.S. mess that we all live in- I am saying that Europe is different for historical reasons and circumstance, not superior assessment.”

And I answered in turn:

Ilene: With all due respect, you are wrong, it’s not about who is smart, and who is not. Laws against sprawl were passed in Europe 700 years ago, because sprawl caused very severe problems. So cracking down on sprawl was from superior assessment in full consideration of the facts.

(By the way, in case you ask, the government of Edward III, grandson of Philippe IV le Bel of France, passed laws against coal burning in London, around 1335 CE, because it made the air hard to breathe: another correct European assessment!)

By contrast, sprawl was intrinsic to the birth of the USA. No, I will not insist on a silly joke such as Uniformly Sprawling Atrocity (although it’s close to what happened!… So maybe I should…).

Seriously, (European!) settlers wanted to sprawl beyond the frontiers set by the French and British, into Indian lands, to dispossess, and generally murder and exterminate the Natives. It’s because of this precise point, more than about the cost of tea, that some colonists in the USA revolted.  

Those colonists made the (entirely correct, logically speaking) assessment that there was a continent to steal, “from sea to shining sea”, as long as the USA sprawled. The program was mostly implemented by Washington, Jefferson and Jackson who stole lands of the order of Western Europe itself.  

Please try to not underestimate the assessment of some enterprising citizens of the USA when it comes to fracking, fracturing and fricasseeing a continent. Sprawling is a mood that served them, and their descendants, well. Hence sprawling is perceived to be a victory, a success, just like the 5,000 square feet mansion that for the landscape of the suburban USA, at the cost of roughly everything else.

Sprawling is the fruit of a long, dark evolution. American sprawl struck the Nazis as eminently just, and they translated it into “Lebensraum”. The rest, as they say, is history.

***

Patrice Ayme

 

Why No English R?

July 27, 2013

A notion I advocate is abstracted by two neologisms, plutophilia and plutophiles. Plutophiles have an exaggerated respect for Pluto-inspired activities and proclivities.

It is important to realize that the conventional definition of plutocracy and its plutocrats, all about money, reflect only a small facet of those cruel and sinister occupations, and, certainly, the most benign one.

I will show in this essay that plutocracy embraces the most ridicule notions. Why? Because when one has embraced ridicule, when one has found solace in pride and prejudice, one is ready to embrace plutocracy itself, that grotesque outrage against humanity.

And so it was that the sound “R” itself was sacrificed as a vulgar Carthaginian first born child. Here is an early Briton, who died in York in 211 CE:

Septimius Severus Pronounced R

Septimius Severus Pronounced R

Under Septimius Severus’s son Caracalla, the Roman Senate passed a famous law, the Constitutio AntoninianaThat Constitution made all free habitants of the empire citizens, independently of nationality, origin, or religion. From Scotland to Mesopotamia, and Morocco to Armenia, Ukraine to Egypt.

The Romans were not savages (Want names for today’s savages? Well, say, today’s Saudis, a family that captured a gigantic country, even more roughly than Hafez El Assad in Syria).

Savagery is not just despicable, it’s a lethal danger to those who hold it dear.

Remember Carthage, indeed. Carthage: an immensely advanced civilization, with a modern alphabet, the best scientific agriculture, the very best ships, that allowed it to trade from Britain to Black Africa, for centuries. Carthage, that dominated all west of Syracuse, but for Marseilles’ Greek empire.

Yet Carthage had also an overwhelming satanic side.

Carthage burned children alive (it’s not just hearsay; a child-burning machine was found, complete with human remains, as the texts said!).

This was not an isolated case of Carthaginian cruelty and devotion to the Dark Side. Carthage was, for five centuries, a plutocracy in the full and darkest sense of the term. That abysmal cruelty goes a long way to explain Rome and Marseilles’ hatred against Punic civilization, and, ultimately, and regretfully, its eradication.

Carthage was an acute case of plutocracy and its attending plutophilia (I will not go in the details, but the general Punic plutocracy was excused, sort of, by nominally burning the first born of the best of… So the human sacrifices were tightly related to whom had power and money; that atrocious system thrived for centuries, in spite of being at war with the two western republics, Marseilles, and then Rome).

Carthage’s last minute embrace of serious democracy did not save her. (By then Rome’s mind was made up.)

Plutophilia is meant to sound related to zoophilia; but it’s less innocuous! Plutophilia is how plutocracies stay in place. Watch for example how Obama’s White House is trying to make Larry Summers, who did more for the present financial plutocracy than any other person, head of the USA Central Bank (“Fed”).

The “Royal Baby” show in England was troubling. Does Europe need these monarchies, those symbols of plutocracy? Can the Republic afford them? Is Britain a republic, or really what it is parodying, a plutocracy with funny hats?

The defense of European democracy depends directly upon only two countries, and one of them is a parody of plutocracy, complete with a queen nearly as old as the last empress of China, and a baby called “George” millions are drooling about.

Sumerian cities invented, 5,000 years ago, representative democracy based on a two chamber system, one a national assembly, in charge of legislating, the other an upper chamber, made to be more conservative, to exert a moderating influence, and, or, allow greater plutocratic control.

That system was adopted informally by the Roman Republic. However, the Roman Constitution was not written down, and, until the Second Punic war, the People’s Assembly (Populus Romanorum) acquired overwhelming powers, with the institution of “Tribunes With Consular Powers”. 

The near termination of the Republic at the hands of the vengeful military genius Hannibal, heading a Carthaginian-Celtic coalition, changed everything; too many of the best Romans died in combat, the worst rose to power by exploiting survivors, breaking the back of the glorious Republican mood.

Athens functioned with a “primacy of Parliament” system officially, but not really. This is the system installed in England since 1688 CE. The Athenian system failed miserably (first by betraying the spirit of the Delian league, and then during the Peloponnesian war, by giving hysterical holocausting orders).

The Roman Republic thrived for five centuries, before being laminated by the plutocratic phenomenon.  The Senate was the origin of that ruin. Even after two centuries of “Principate”, emperor Septimus Severus, dying in England, warned his sons that the Senate was the cause of all the troubles of Rome.

Election to the Senate was reserved to Patricians, the Roman aristocrats.

Similarly in Britain, the Chamber of Lords is reserved to… Lords. Britain is assuredly not a republic.

A friend of mine, Nathan Curry, called my attention to the following article:

Why Do Americans and Brits Have Different Accents? By Natalie Wolchover, January 09, 2012:

“In 1776, whether you were declaring America independent from the crown or swearing your loyalty to King George III, your pronunciation would have been much the same. At that time, American and British accents hadn’t yet diverged. What’s surprising, though, is that Hollywood costume dramas get it all wrong: The Patriots and the Redcoats spoke with accents that were much closer to the contemporary American accent than to the Queen’s English.

It is the standard British accent that has drastically changed in the past two centuries, while the typical American accent has changed only subtly.

Traditional English, whether spoken in the British Isles or the American colonies, was largely “rhotic.” Rhotic speakers pronounce the “R” sound in such words as “hard” and “winter,” while non-rhotic speakers do not. Today, however, non-rhotic speech is common throughout most of Britain. For example, most modern Brits would tell you it’s been a “hahd wintuh.”

It was around the time of the American Revolution that non-rhotic speech came into use among the upper-class in southern England, in and around London.

According to John Algeo in “The Cambridge History of the English Language” (Cambridge University Press, 2001), this shift occurred because people of low birth rank who had become wealthy during the Industrial Revolution were seeking ways to distinguish themselves from other commoners; they cultivated the prestigious non-rhotic pronunciation in order to demonstrate their new upper-class status.

Maybe they also wanted to distinguish themselves from the French. Certainly, at the time, the English establishment, heavily penetrated by the idea that Christian god held their plutocracy together, hated the French evolutionary theorists (Buffon, Cuvier, Lamarck, Latreille, Blainville, etc.). Actually go ask an Anglo-Saxon who discovered evolution, and they will answer Charles Darwin (who was born when evolution was taught in Paris)….

Wolchover concludes:

“London pronunciation became the prerogative of a new breed of specialists — orthoepists and teachers of elocution. The orthoepists decided upon correct pronunciations, compiled pronouncing dictionaries and, in private and expensive tutoring sessions, drilled enterprising citizens in fashionable articulation,” Algeo wrote.

The lofty manner of speech developed by these specialists gradually became standardized — it is officially called “Received Pronunciation” — and it spread across Britain. However, people in the north of England, Scotland and Ireland have largely maintained their traditional rhotic accents.

Most American accents have also remained rhotic, with some exceptions: New York and Boston accents have become non-rhotic. According to Algeo, after the Revolutionary War, these cities were “under the strongest influence by the British elite.”

So here you have it. Plutophilia can get, not just to one’s head, but to one’s speech centers, making oneself bereft of full human pronunciation… No wonder upper-class Chinese ladies could not walk. If one hurts one’s own, in the name of one’s great conceptions, one assuredly trains to hurt others.

***

Patrice Ayme

Economic Tech Wreck

July 25, 2013

Paul Krugman: “Both Steve Benen and Ed Kilgore get annoyed at fellow journalists complaining that there aren’t any “new ideas” in Obama’s latest. But why should there be?

It was clear early on that this was a crisis very much in the mold of previous financial crises.”

Well, sort of, but not really. True, the USA population had filled up to the rim in subprime mortgages, and could not afford anymore. True, the USA population ignore both mathematics and the fact that big bankers can conspire, big time (in jacking up interest rates after mortgages had been acquired: ARMs; or through securitization, selling lies to the unawares; or by hyper leveraging themselves against all of society through financial derivatives). Result? A Great Depression, probably the greatest of them all.

Comparing Two Great Depressions

Comparing Two Great Depressions

What triggered the crisis, though was a spectacular rise in the price of oil. People suddenly had to choose between paying for the house, or fueling the car. As the USA is car dependent, it was not really a choice: without a functioning car, there is no getting to work, or even food, let alone school.

Moreover, ever since, in spite of frantic fracking, the price of oil has stayed high in the USA, depression or not. California gets most of its oil from Texas now. It’s back to the past. Except for one important detail: all of this oil is fracked oil.

Now please observe that the world economy, and world food production, let alone trade, is completely oil dependent. Without oil, the world population would quickly collapse by 90%.

We do not have an acceptable mass energy replacement. We are in the situation of Europe (and Japan!) in 1300 CE: dependent upon a waning asset (then, wood, which was used for everything; although England switched to coal then).

So what’s the idea? The big idea is always missing from the loud economists who dominate the USA, and, thus, the world in general: they view the economy as just about money flow. According to them, if money flows, everything is fine (never mind all the money goes to the .1%!).

This was basically the reasoning Roman emperors wanted their economists to believe, and advocate, too. So I sent the following to Krugman who published it right away:

“What is new in present day economics is the possibilities new technologies offer that were not within reach before, and the problems old technologies are causing, as they become waning assets.

We are living in a science-fiction world, highly dependent on technology. Not to realize this is a lethal condition.”

To this, John from Hartford replied:

“I’m not sure this is true. If you look at the period in the 20’s and 30’s when people like Keynes were evolving their theories the world was being flooded with new technologies like radio, mass ownership of automobiles, silent/sound movies, aircraft, proto computers, etc. etc. which were probably greater in their affects than those were currently undergoing. What was much more important was that it was a period of intense global economic disruption which essentially provided real life laboratories for examining and testing economic hypotheses. And back then the consequences of economic mismanagement really were lethal on a scale we’ve never experienced since.”

In turn I answered to this very conventional reply with more of my advanced details (a condensed version of which was published by the NYT):

John: I do not dispute that the flood of new technologies getting in everyday life in the 1930s was not higher. Right now such a flood is very high in China. Yet, the technological flow has been deliberately slowed down in the West by a plutocratic conspiracy (as happened in Rome, when the government consciously paid inventors to NOT develop their inventions).

As I have explained in the past, plutocrats hate disruptive technologies. New technology introduces new ideas (witness the so called “Arab Spring”). It’s only natural to apply the “new ideas” mood to the established (plutocratic) order, as plutocrats and plutophiles, correctly, fear.

An example of technology not deployed is single payer health care in the USA (Germany introduced one more than 150 years ago!). Instead Obama introduced a new technology, Obamacare, friendly to plutocrats like the old one, but with even more subsidies from taxpayers. (For what the word “technology” means, see the comments.)

I just said the possibilities of higher technological disruption exists now… and that’s a good thing. And that proper economics, well done, would look into disrupting for the best the established economic order. At the governmental level (and not, as is done now, just at the Bill Gates level!… Bill Gates is financing new nuclear technologies.).

To claim, as Hartford John does, that “the consequences of economic mismanagement really were lethal on a scale we’ve never experienced since” is saying that devastating the entire machinery of the biosphere on a planetary scale is not “economic mismanagement”.

As I have long argued, we are in much more global danger now than in the 1930s. Fascism in Europe and Japan in the 1930s was a man-made disaster. Now we have much greater disasters waiting in the wings, driven not by human maniacs, but by physics, such a methane belch (that could turn overnight global warming into global heating!). ‘Massive methane eruptions’ is not a question of “if”, but WHEN.

Massive methane belching is actually already happening, in my not so humble opinion. How else to explain that the North Siberian sea route (“North East Passage”) is already now open for business? The topography makes it possible for much more methane to erupt there than in the North West passage… as observed!

(An interesting aside is that Total is investing many billions in a gas liquefaction  plant along the Siberian shore, obviously expecting the melting of the ice to accelerate! The idea is to send the liquefied… methane to China; Putin said it was OK with him, and he would remove the Gazprom monopoly…)

More prosaically, the ROI (Return On Investment) of fossil fuels is going badly, and the search for new mass energy is reaching emergency levels (however new energy technologies cannot be invented from one decade to the next!)

Europe knew a comparable situation twice: in the Late Roman empire, and then around 1300 CE. In the former case, civilization nearly crashed. In the latter case, European governments took successful, but drastic, measures (yet population collapsed by 2/3).

The only obvious new, potentially massive, technology we have is nuclear energy. By “nuclear energy” I mean all imaginable fission (there are about 100 of these) and fusion technologies. some will scoff. Yet, by 1330 CE, England had switched to coal to such an extent that Edward III’s government had to pass laws against coal, to limit the pollution of London.

This energy independence may help to explain that ‘England” was winning the war against “France” (for want of a better word) for a century… (Until the southern French developed the world’s first field artillery.) The abundance of coal with high ROI certainly explains the economic ascendency of England for the next six centuries… Until the age of oil. Oil with high ROI was in the USA, Arabia, and Mesopotamia.

Right now, many of the conventional, ignorant ecologists are certainly culprit not just of the impending ecological collapse, but also of the present depression. Jim Hansen, the ex-NASA scientist who did more than anybody else to provide the world with catastrophic insight on the degradation of the biosphere, shares this opinion:

“Can renewable energies provide all of society’s energy needs in the foreseeable future? It is conceivable in a few places, such as New Zealand and Norway. But suggesting that renewables will let us phase rapidly off fossil fuels in the United States, China, India, or the world as a whole is almost the equivalent of believing in the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy…

I think the only hope we have of phasing down emissions and getting to the middle of the century with a much lower level of fossil fuel emissions — which is what we will have to do if we want young people to have a future — we’re going to have to have alternatives and at this time nuclear seems to be the best candidate.”

Screaming against first generation, 1950s nuclear reactors, as those in Japan is entirely justified. The Japanese reactors use French-made recycled MOX for fuel. But for that, they are time-wraps. Let alone carefully installed in the way of a 30 meters (100′) tsunami… that had already happened 12 centuries before.

By now Fourth and Fifth, super-safe, super-efficient fission reactors should have been massively deployed. But the research was carefully not funded, because the reigning political class is fossil fuel fueled.

Survival, not just the economy, is all about energy.  

Patrice Ayme.

Consciousness I

July 22, 2013

Abstract: I tie in consciousness, incompleteness, the mind as multiverse, logic incarnated by high dimensional neurocircuitry, and various states of consciousness as their architects. Among other things.

***

Consciousness is a major mystery, blatant to all. Much boring stuff has been said about it. That does not mean we can’t progress in our understanding. We will. Here is a sketch of some of my ideas, and, as there is much more to be said, I will call this “Consciousness I”.

Are we conscious when sleeping? What’s the connection between intelligence and consciousness? I was pondering those questions while more or less sleeping (for want of a better description). That struck me as entirely appropriate: thinking about what happened when sleeping, while sleeping. Obviously I was conscious, and obviously, there are many levels of consciousness. (And, with modern technology, modulo the injection of drugs, aliens can come to control our minds and spy on our brains!)

Consciousness is a little bit like the light of a lighthouse: what it illuminates is visible, but the rest is still there. Like a lighthouse, it can be seen from afar.

An illustrative dream came up to help further my meditation. I was swimming in a rather cold sea, next to the shore, and then what I vaguely feared happened: my daughter was swimming too, somewhat in the distance, among the ominous waves. As she is only three years old, that was something to worry about: she swims very well, but in warm swimming pools. Not in this very black, frigid, undulating ocean.

So what was the point of this dream? Obviously to warn me that, were a body of water to be present, any body of water, even when clearly dangerous, there was a possibility that she would launch herself as boldly as when she jumps in a swimming pool. So I was forewarned. New logical circuitry connecting to the great danger center had been vividly forged.

No doubt that, should a somewhat similar context possibly arise in the real world, I would pay more preventive attention to what my daughter was doing.

A way to look at Quantum Physics is that the world is made of probabilities. Experiencing, and managing, the world as if it were made of probabilities is fully compatible with the vision, and experience, of the world prehistoric man had. There was no way to be sure that there was no venomous snake ready to strike below that rock, so better poke it with a stick, or give it a precautionary wide berth.

Meditation is a most precious, most human state of consciousness. Whereas sentience is shared with many animals on this planet, obviously, not so with the capacity for meditation. meditation allows to shut down most (over-) used neuronal circuitry, and engage more strategically important parts of the brain.

Action without meditation is as slavedom without wisdom

What does it mean to be conscious? Well, first, that we feel conscious. Clearly, in a sleep, quite often, we feel very much alive (“sentient” to put it in one word, meaning to have sensation, or sentiment), even though we can’t recall much of it when we wake up. This type of partial, but vivid, consciousness can happen under general anesthesia, as it did to me after an accident. I was waxing lyrical, doing poetry… I was told by the doctors, and even now, partly remember.

The key to logic, beyond what the Greeks understood, is the process of “meta”. It’s just the realization that, for all practical matters the world is uncountably infinite, whereas any language, hence traditional logic, is countable. This means that no logical process will exhaust the world.

That’s called logical incompleteness, and is associated to Gödel’s name. But the fundamental idea is very simple, I just uttered it. (Gödel went further than that, proving the logical process will get to a finite number of steps, where it will fail; related to this is my assertion that there is a largest number, the end-all, be-all of mathematics…)

If any logic is incomplete, how does one make do, and complete any logic? By adding dimensions, going meta.

We can’t go through the obstacle, so we jump over it. Consciousness is made to perform those meta jumps. How? By reconfiguring the inner mental universe in various states of… consciousness, and leaving memory traces of it.

I absolutely do not believe in the incredibly stupid interpretation of the Quantum according to the brainless “multiverse”. (Another case of human idiocy by types so arrogant that they do not understand how little they grasp.)

However, choosing an alternative or the other in a logic after a while, as Gödel says we have to do, is, basically, a choice of dimension. Here is the multiverse. But it’s neurobiological, not quantum.

Thus the capability to create multiverse within minds exists, it’s called consciousness in its various states. It’s between the two ears of a normally constituted human being. To go multiverse, various parts of the brains get more or less shut down as others are able to gain some ascendency. This is why getting drunk, and drugs in general are tied with some creativity (disclosure: I never used drugs because being arrogant, I think am a drug onto myself, and that I would best be trained by implementing the craziness myself!)

Notice that there are other ways to look at Quantum Physics (full of matrices for Heisenberg, full of waves in many ways for De Broglie, me, etc…). According to circumstances, the ways to look at things is more or less appropriate to the action at hand. Consciousness acts as a director, a decider choosing what ingredients one should throw in the reality our brain operates in.

Reality does not just depend upon what we perceive, but also upon what we decided to have perceived. Consciousness makes the decision to decide what’s the best reality one should operate in. and this goes all the way from the logical, to the factual, to the emotional.

One has to realize that, to start with, the brain is an extremely high dimensional object; each of the 50 known neurotransmitters or neurohormones can be viewed as a dimension. Different logical paths (neuronal paths, dendritic connections paths, etc.) can also be viewed as dimensions (I use the algebraic definition of dimension here: if each point of a space is determined by (x1, x2, x3,…, xn), the dimension of that space is n).

In normal operations, we favor some of these paths. (Be it only because some peculiar neurons, always the same control which part of the brain receive fuel and oxygen, and when.) However, when we shut down some preferred areas (from sleep, meditation, physical exercise, highly excited hormonal states, alcohol, etc.), and in particular those gateway neurons, other circuits and organs are then free to offered their alternatives. Hebbian reinforcing can do the rest, and new dimensions of thought then appear in everyday life.

***

Patrice Ayme

Hitting the Information Wall

July 19, 2013

In “Hitting China’s Wall.” Paul Krugman opines that “All the signs coming from the economic data show that China is in big trouble.”

He does not do a very deep job at explaining what he means. The latest China GDP growth number was an annualized 7.5%, down from a torrid, sustained, 10% (Brazil, recently a growth star, is hovering around zero growth, barely better than France). 

There is a French saying: “Quand le batiment va, tout va” (“when construction is doing great, everything is great”). And it’s true that the run-up in real estate prices in the West is directly related to a dearth of construction. Basically, the West is not building enough comfortable, modern housing where work is to be found. A failure of Biblical proportions.

By contrast, China is still building at a frantic pace, smbolized by super tall towers all over. This is a pretty typically Chinese scene in Shanghai, May 2013 (the slab poking over the palm trees on the right of the “Shanghai Tower” is the “World Financial Center“, a super tall skyscrapper, finished several years ago, adorned with the highest public observation deck in the world):

Is China Collapsing?

Is China Collapsing?

Krugman’s  explanation, for this alleged economic trouble, is that China is running out of peasants… A fine train of thoughts, except that there are 600 millions of them, Chinese peasants, out there (so, if the rate of peasantry approached that in the West, more than 500 millions should get urbanized in the next generation!).

Anyway, instead of sweating out the details, I wanted to deepen the debate, so, I sent him the following, and, kindly, the New York Times published it immediately:

Economy and politics are entangled. China’s economic problems are nothing relative to its political problems. 

The number one consumption in the developed world, most powerful, and most craved for, is information. That’s what Chinese consumers will really want in the end. That sort of consumption, the Chinese dictatorship cannot afford to let the People of China enjoy. Thus, it is anxious to avoid such a dismal situation.

Hence the leadership is reluctant to allow ever more base material consumption: once that has proven unsatisfying, as it is certain would happen, the lust for meaning, would lead to ever more questions, of a deep emotional, rational, and then philosophical, thus political, nature. This is basically the psychological mechanism that led the children of the elite to turn against their parents at the time of Tiananmen.

On the other side of the mountains, India has opted for democracy. Democracy depends upon openness and information. As time enfolds, India will be able to become increasingly the master of both, and that’s what people want. Worldwide. 

Thus the present Chinese political system blocks the long term production of the most advanced service, information. That’s what really hobbles the Chinese economy: getting ten dollars making a 600 dollar i-phone gets you only that far.

The Chinese surveillance apparatus, with its 50,000 Internet censoring goons, is only dwarfed by the American one, with its 1.2 million watchdogs. It’s an economy killer, be it there, or here.

And when it has too many goons in power, a state, any state, will collapse like the Soviet Union. Now the USSR is the so called Russian federation (Rossiyskaya Federatsiya). (Notice that “Russia” does not claim to be either a republic, or a democracy, this is important, just as it was important in Weimar!)

Having brutes, and brutish ideas, in power, a state cannot shake the habit of tyranny, or even plutocracy (Russia’s most prominent opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny was sentenced to five years in prison on Thursday, July 18, 2013, for daring to call Putin’s machine, United Russia, the “party of swindlers and thieves” ).

Ultimately, such states, states devoted to the sinister arts of the Dark Side, spend so much energy fighting those who have ideas, that they end up with none. Or at least  not enough ideas to support their society, let alone their economy.

***

Patrice Ayme

PHILOSOPHY Defined

July 16, 2013

Philosophy, well done, was, and is, the sharp edge of human culture. All of it. A civilization is as healthy as its ruling philosophies. So, contrarily to repute, philosophy is more at the core of thought, and is more practical, than any other human activity. Indeed all humans use an effective philosophical theory (cheaply offered by frantic adoration of the son of the boSS in the USA; and his name was Jesus, although nobody ever saw his face).

First of all, philosophy is the method of searching ruthlessly for (some) truth in an uncertain world.

Many people who think of truth, think of science.

Xenophon, Founder of the Dismal Science

Xenophon, Founder of the Dismal Science

Science is only about establishing truths so certain that planes can fly, and computers can compute. Science is all about nearly certain truths (hence the unease about Quantum Mechanics, which is only sure about probabilities of things happening).

Outside of the tiny realm of science, most truths are not that certain. (See the note on “Fuzzy Logic” and “Quantum Logic”.)

Philosophy is also the attitude of putting one’s brain in a state that puts investigating all and any truth high enough relative to normal values, that it happens only exceptionally to common people (thus Socrates, a bit carried away, claimed that the proper mood of man was to feel that the “unexamined life was not worth living”, an admission, or confession, that many emotional dimensions escaped him; thus Socrates had major pieces missing in his mental machinery, making him an unlikely contender as the philosopher par excellence!).

Philosophy, per necessity, investigates of how fuzzy perception, indistinct knowledge, and unimaginable worlds could be researched. Creative philosophy, well done, is guessing writ large, and in dimensions never imagined before.

In that sense, philosophy covers deep, creative, investigations in all fields, from possible logics to the meaning of surrendering to pleasure. Thus many philosophers founded many fields: Aristotle, biology (although the philosopher and scientist Lamarck named it). Xenophon, economics. Buridan, modern mechanics and the heliocentric system. Descartes, analysis. Less well known, Bruno and Kant did serious work on extraterrestrial, or even extragalactic considerations. Science is a flower rooted in philosophy.

Philosophy is about finding, or guessing, what reality is, or could be. To do this using all available methods, neurobiological or not, existing, or yet to be created by the imagination. New philosophy, when it is created, does not just use the methods of extant science, mathematics, technology, society and even poetry. instead, it creates, or guesses, new ones.

Some say philosophy ought to focus on living life well. Sure. However, to do so, one first has to determine what reality is. So we are back to examining.

Examination, critique, make one weight systematically the positives and the negatives in a spirit of equality. In some countries tradition insists that the proper mood ought to manage only the positives; this happens in the USA and Asia, for example. There people are more interested in speaking of the positive sides of life instead of about what’s wrong. That makes individuals much less eager to share their inner qualms and honest opinions. This is no way to get to truth.

In literalist Islam, “al-Taqiyya” dissimulation, concealing or disguising one’s beliefs, convictions, ideas, feelings, opinions, and/or strategies is made into a religious command when dealing with enemies (in a half dozen verses of the Qur’an). That, too is hostile to philosophy.

Dozens of famous philosophers, starting with Socrates, defended philosophy rather than their lives or comfort. Descartes, for example, fled to the Netherlands. Bruno was burned alive (by the Vatican). More recently several French philosophers were tortured and executed by the Nazis.

French civilization was founded by the Franks (who somehow changed, and improved the mood of the 97% of the Gallo-Roman population that was not Frank). Roger Cohen in “France’s Glorious Malaise” pointed out that: “Far from morose, the French attitude has a bracing frankness.” Frankness was always the defining character of the Franks, as indicated by their name.

Frankness is why the Franks refused, alone among the Germans, to become Christians for two full centuries (although Frankish generals were breathing down Roman emperors’ necks). They frankly disagreed with the Christian madness. (When they became Catholics, that was on their own terms, as they made their own leaders bishops, in their own special way!)

Frankness is the emotional core of the attitude that creates science, technology, or philosophy. Finding the truth, exposing and revering it as if it ruled, is the core principle of Western civilization (and was sorely missing in Rome: exposing truth in Roman science would have led to expose the truth of Roman plutocracy, namely, the deification of related criminal idiots.)

In any case, philosophy can influence the national character, and reciprocally.

Philosophy systematically focuses on creative interpretations of one-time events (whereas science tends to use mostly certain, that means, repeatable facts; science can use one-time events; for example the crash of an asteroid in Siberia, although a one-time event, is shaking a lot of established science). Once again, too optimistic (or too pessimistic, or too fatalistic) an attitude can skew the selection of these one-time events.

The philosophical method is not science, but it is how revolutionary science has always blossomed, and always will. The mark of the greatest scientists and mathematicians has always been, and will always be, that some of their work can be viewed as philosophical.

For example Newton casually declared that his own gravitation theory, with an instantaneous force at a distance, was so counter-intuitive on that point, that it could only be false; I have the same objection with the entanglement at a distance interaction in Quantum Physics; both Newton’s, and my, objection are grounded in a philosophical reasoning. (See Note.)

Thus scientists hostile to philosophy do not understand the birth of their own field of expertise. All and any serious scientific progress was born from philosophical methodology.

(There are many philosophy haters in a very loud field, High Energy Physics. That sounds strange, until one realizes that some practitioners of  this field of expertise have to take themselves for God, since much of QFT makes no sense whatsoever, and only Jihadist like certainty can make them forget that.)

Nor do philosophers hostile to science understand the aim of the philosophical method, which is science. Even if it’s simply the prosaic science of how to lead the best possible life.

Science shattered so much old philosophical errors, that, to this day, most thinkers do not seem to realize how revolutionary established fundamental science is. That’s one of the points I made in the essay “Revolutionary Science”.

Someone’s philosopher can be someone else’s devil. Kant, for example, was used massively by the Nazis to justify their blind obedience to order (Kant, like Confucius or Mencius, or the Qur’an made obeying blindly orders from above a basic moral principle).

Philosophy is a method, using whatever to get to truth. But it’s also a set of knowledge, fake or not. Debatable always. Naturally enough, the human species evolved into that method. The only difference between Philosophy with a capital P and common sense, is that the former is applied to questions esoteric enough to bring forth new ideas, and new emotions.

In any case, philosophy is, first of all, the ultimate quest for truth.

Philosophy, the ultimate quest for, and by, the essence of man, truth mastering reality, kneading it into making one’s bed really more comfortable is not just what made us, but what we are made from.

***

Patrice Ayme

***

Truth more or less true? Well there is full logical, mathematical and physical back-up behind this statement.

Fuzzy Valued Logic (name from 1965) was studied since the 1920s (notably by Łukasiewicz & Tarski) as infinite-valued logics. In it, propositions are more or less true. Interestingly, Quantum Logic is similar, but more general, as the values of reality are not real, but complex numbers (the set of Complex numbers, C, is made of pairs of real numbers; C = R + iR, where ii = -1, and R is the set of Real numbers; it’s the largest commutative field.).

France 14, USA 4…

July 14, 2013

France and the USA were always entangled. It’s not just that their Constitutions are from 1789. When the explorer Champlain visited New England in 1605 CE, at the head of one of his large military-geographic fur trading expeditions, going thousands of miles all over North-East America, his men climbed the exact same giant tree that the Pilgrims climbed fifteen years later.

So why is New England not French speaking? Because as Champlain reported, the land was full of people, the land was used up, and could not accept one French family. Epidemics at the opportune time cleared the land, after Champlain’s departure. If the epidemics had happened fifteen years earlier, English would be playing second fiddle to French.

Champlain Named Québec in 1608

Champlain Named Québec in 1608

Another occasion to colonize the continent had arisen a generation earlier, when French expeditions founded settlements along what they named the Carolines (“Carolinas”). However, France was in the middle of a 150 year war against Spain, at that point led by the fanatic Catholic fascist Philippe II. Philippe launched an armada which killed the French, down to babies, because they were Protestants. Biblical justice at its best.

Immersed inside the French war against Spain, was the 80 year war that ended with the liberation of the Netherlands. That, in turn, led to the conquest, aka “Glorious Revolution” (which proclaimed parliamentary sovereignty in 1688 England). The Protestant Netherlands hated Louis XIV (I don’t see why not). The result was the loss of New France.

Voltaire Told Louis XV Canada Was A Bit of Snow

Voltaire Told Louis XV Canada Was A Bit of Snow

101 years later, in 1789, the French and the American Constituent Assemblies imposed their Constitutions (England sorta Constitution, has turned into kinda Contradiction, more on that below).    

Krugman visited France recently, and found things to be better than he expected. So he ran in the last week a succession of posts vilipending the hatred against France professed in the Wall Street Journal and its ilk. Said he: “The French economy gets extraordinarily bad press in this country, and this attitude spills over into some allegedly serious economic analysis too. I don’t have time to dig up examples now, but not that long ago quite a few investment banks etc. were pegging France as the next crisis country, about to go the way of Italy or even Portugal any day now… In reality, however, France does not have a large structural deficit. And while it has an aging population, the demographic problem is actually much less in France — with its relatively high fertility — than in the rest of Europe, Germany in particular.”

The hatred against France also spills all over, in other domains, such as practical philosophy (after 9/11, I lost basically all friends and family in the USA, except for my spouse).

I pointed out that France, where it does really matter, long term, does better than Germany (and where it does bad, decades of austerian right wing with a touch of deliquescent left can be pointed at). France has a third more youth than Germany. In spite of an enormous immigration of one million workers (mostly from the rest of the EU), just in the last year, Germany’s demographics are so bad, Merkel announced a massive program to help births (she does not have children herself, although I won’t throw her any stone, as I discovered to my dismay that this is not a given).

The “white” population in the USA went down last year by 12,000 (the first time it goes down). In France, of course, everybody is color free, and the population is augmenting on its own (no immigration, Sarkozy, son of an immigrant, didn’t allow it).

Krugman: But hasn’t the French economy performed poorly in the crisis? Yes, compared with the United States or Germany. But it’s not in the crisis camp, at all. Here’s a comparison:

Gallic Shrug Stagnation

Gallic Shrug Stagnation

Most people, I suspect, think of the Netherlands as being like Germany — doing fine thanks to stern fiscal virtue and all that — while those self-indulgent French slide into economic decline. Actually, France and the Netherlands have basically the same performance.”

“Performance” here is measured by GDP. One has to be careful here, as the USA GDP, for example, can be artificially boosted by financial services doing their fake, derivative, or predatory economy.

A decisive, and very real boost to GDP in the USA is fracking. Fracking, with its cheap oil and gas, is calling back entire industries to the homeland, such as chemicals. But of course the Americans can afford to use the colossal vastness to devastate what they have at their merci (or lack thereof). It’s going to be interesting to see how Chevron is going to frack in Rumania (they got plenty of permits to go frack there)… Rumania has 60 times more inhabitants than Wyoming.

Krugman: “Just to be clear, I’m not saying that all is well with France. France is doing badly; so are we; so is almost everyone. The widespread notion that France is in big trouble is, however, not based on reality. And it’s hard to avoid the suspicion that it’s ultimately political: with their generous welfare state the French are supposed to be collapsing, so people assume that they are.”

***

WORLD REPUBLIC: INDEED PLUTOCRACY’S WORST ENEMY. 

By “people” here we have to understand the average American, fed a steady diet of thick propaganda, by billionaires’ owned press. I can’t even watch it anymore: instead of getting infuriated as I used to, I’m getting as bored as if I were looking down Nevada Falls: awesome, but uneventful in its own steadily cataclysmic way.

Wall Streeters, banksters, hedge funders, professional tax evaders, tax evading corporations, haters of the welfare state, and other plutocrats and plutophiles rightly view France as their greatest enemy. Why?

It’s not just that France is the leader of the “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” religion (the only viable one, in this day and age). It’s also that the French Republic is amplified by the entire European Union. The European Union is the nightmare plutocracy feared in 1792. It is precisely to avoid the rise of a European Union founded around republican principles, that the Duke of Brunswick, commander of the Prussian army, grandly declared that he would kill all Parisians in July 1792. (So much for Auschwitz being an accident!)

See the “Proclamation of the Duke of Brunswick” at the end of my essay “How Genocide Starts”. Thus, by heaping spite on France, the upper plutocracy in the USA follows a long tradition. Their worries are amplified by their ownership of the media thay have gulped down in recent years. (A long tradition: the famed West Coast press tycoon Randolf Hearst used to be paid by Hitler to say nice things about his Satanic Reich: big Plutos feed smaller ones!) 

So the advent of the European Union is, de facto, as if the First French republic of 1792 had taken over Europe. Revolutionary France has won that war. It took 220 years, but it’s a win. Plutocratically inspired fascism, from Brunswick to Hitler got crushed. It’s not the French Republic that became like the German Reich, but the Reich that became a republic (Weimar was a “Reich”, not a republic, officially speaking, a semantic problem that explains why it ended with a “Guide”-president).  

To symbolize all this, for Bastille Day 2013, not only did Malian troops parade (first!), and the troops of 11 other African countries with them. And Danes and Croats (Croatia is the 28th EU member state!).  And also the United Nations, saluted by the UN Secretary General, sitting on the right of the French president! But so did, of course German troops, German aircraft, including F22 munching Typhoons. Not to forget two Franco-German regiments armed with French FAMAS guns, and Tigre Franco-German attack helicopters. World Republic? 

Even Ms Merkel is won over. Her 2013 electoral platform looks as if it had been written by the French Socialist Party (opponents are reduced to claiming she can’t possibly pay for it).

Thus the revolutionary ideology “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” keeps on progressing and collides with greedsterism (aka “liberalism”), the official ideology plutocracy presents to the world, itself playing for broke.

This, of course enrages plutocrats. They know well the very concept of Republic is their enemy.

All the more as they are not winning. A case in point is the English parliamentary sovereignty, of 1688, according to which (Westminster) Parliament may pass any legislation that it wishes. That English sorta (lack of) Constitution is now contradicted by the membership in the European Union (which has a better defined Constitution that takes precedence upon the British one!).

That is ominous for the financial piracy outpost centered in London (and it goes a long way to explain lots of hostility in the plutocratically owned UK press against the European Union).

A few weeks ago, PM Cameron convoked the British owned tax havens and told them they would have to comply with the same orders as those given to, and executed by, Switzerland. Last week, the ex-president of Switzerland went to Paris, and signed the capitulation of Switzerland-as-a-tax-haven to France with the French finance minister.

Thus, intellectually, economically and strategically, France is, if not the apex predator of the West, the other one.  And it has very practical consequences, for the biggest decisions.

After all, it’s not the USA that declared war to Hitler, but France (Britain joined France on Poland, against Hitler and Stalin, only in the last week before WWII). The USA never declared war to Hitler (until after the fact; even then Prescott Bush stayed Hitler’s top military-industrial manager for more than 6 months, in 1942! And, among other examples, IBM, Hitler’s monopoly for computing, kept working for the Nazi dictator, managed from New York, through Geneva, throughout the war!).

***

LET’S MAKE A DEAL, REPUBLIC TO REPUBLIC:

Right now, in dual use military and civilian technologies, France is clearly on top. The USA government had to order 400 combat helicopters to Eurocopter based in Marseilles (reason: Eurocopter churns out new models, but the USA has built none in 20 years). Even Russia bought Tigre attack helicopters

Staying on top in military economy and technology is, of course, the most important part of the economy. It’s not measured by GDP; it allowed France to declare war to Hitler, as France was sure to win (!).

A superior military economy is what failed with Rome, after 10 centuries of superiority. By 300 CE the Germans, and foremost the Franks, were better armed. That’s why small German armies defeated the Romans, while, four centuries earlier, enormous Germans armies had been annihilated by small Roman ones.  

France is deficient in some military areas where the USA rules (drones), it’s also the case that France dominates in pure aviation (Rafales, active stealth, hypersonic missiles nuclear, or not). Hence, instead of hating France, it would surely be smarter to trade with France, starting with military technology.

But once again, this is not about smarts. It’s about greed confronting a more durable philosophy. Hating France defines a plutocracy, whose idea of beauty is a brownish landscape cratered by fracking wells.

In a way, this time, the West is lucky: instead of having just one power falling to plutocracy (as happened with Rome), it has two (the USA and the EU). But they have been falling differently, and, from that disagreement, from that division, one can hope that republican democracy can come back, and be reborn (preferably as a more direct democracy, as Switzerland).

Oh, how did France come to lose North America, and how did an opposition with her own creation, the USA, blossomed? It’s all about a choice of (French) philosophies. Montesquieu, Voltaire, Sade on one side, were followed by the Founding Fathers, in opposition to other philosophers, such as Condorcet.  

The American institutions went with the former lot, because they played a short, exploitative game. Just because they could play it. Still are. This short game is at the center of English America’s success. The long French game, under tight central government control (sending to New France only characters of the highest morality!) was too noble for its own good

Indeed, by necessity, sitting taut like a spider on the very compact European web, France was, and is forced to play a long term, and tighter game. France has existed as an independent entity for more than 14 centuries, whereas English America is just four centuries old. France 14, USA 4? Or maybe 26 versus 2? Indeed, republican Marseilles and her empire were founded (by Greeks) more than 26 centuries ago. (And the influence of the Greeks was pervasive, throughout Gaul, well before the Roman one.)

Marseilles’ republic stayed independent for 6 centuries. Marseilles’ independence was lost a century after Athens’, and most Greek cities’. As Marseilles was Pompei’s main ally, Caesar besieged it for months. The imperator made a description of the combativity, ardor and ingeniosity of the Marseillais that does not make it surprising that they adopted later the song that carries their name. French philosophy, not just French history, has a long memory. And that gives not just a different taste, a different mood, but different aims.

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Patrice Ayme

Better Thinking: Off Base!

July 12, 2013

I THINK, THEREFORE I JUMP:

Paul Krugman is not amused by those who want to box him in, and rightly so; say he in “Fields of Expertise”: “One of the more annoying kinds of comment that pops up sometimes on this blog is the complaint that I’m violating some kind of principle whenever I write about anything that isn’t strictly economics.”

The concept of “economy” and the coining of the word, was authored by Xenophon. Xenophon, a golden youth, a child of the rich, was a student and friend of Socrates. He took part in military campaigns, rather as a dilettante and detached observer (he admits). However, when a Greek army found itself leaderless and isolated in the middle of Mesopotamia, he was elected general (!) and did his job superbly.

The Greek army was surrounded by uncountable ferocious enemies. The Persians of Ataxerxes II had proven themselves treacherous beyond belief. After the Greeks had been victorious, during a negotiation, the Spartan overall commander Clearchus and all other Greek senior officers were assassinated by the treachery of the Persian satrap Tissaphernes. (Middle Eastern perfidy has a long history!)

It was high time to think different. General Xenophon did the unexpected; instead of heading west towards Ionian Greece, as Ataxerxes expected, he led the army north, across deserts and what is now called Kurdistan. The mountains were severe, and the Kurds, not amused. However, after treasures of ingeniosity, and ferocious combat, the Greeks pulled through and reached the Black Sea.

Xenophon wrote down this history in Anabasis. Ah, yes, because Xenophon was also a historian. Anabasis means: going up! Or literally; off base! Off base, that is, leaving behind lower dimensions, acquiring higher ones.

Anabasis got the Greeks thinking that maybe the problem of Persia could be solved by conquering the whole damned thing. (Something the fascist pseudo-Greek Alexander so called “The Great” would soon implement, after being taught by another Athenian philosopher from the same tribe, Aristotle: many of the greatest philosophers ever knew each other personally!)

After returning triumphantly to Athens, Xenophon thought of philosophical matters, at the creative level. He got the idea of economy: house (eco) management (nomy). Thus he formally founded a field that had been central to civilization for millennia. Xenophon saw the need. It detached, to some extent, a field of study, making the claim it was partly dimensionally independent  from politics and customs. The veracity of that axiom has been demonstrated since.

Xenophon was an immensely courageous, creative and intelligent man, as his military exploits demonstrate. That’s what it takes to distinguish a concept of importance, previously unobserved, or deemed unworthy. This is the essence of the philosophical method.

So what is philosophy? Guessing what was not guessed before. How? By thinking so broadly, or so extradimensionally that one can see, or imagine connections and concepts that were never seen before. Who is cut for it? The smartest. What are the consequences? Encouraging thinking to go across frontiers that were never even imagined before.

How did we get to have a house and manage it? How did we come out of the cave that way? Because we exerted off base thinking. So the title, of the seven book volumes of Xenophon of his adventures as a general, Anabasis, is actually symbolic of the entire civilizational condition. Charles Quint, another admirable leader of mankind (for the human, and far sighted way in which he treated American natives) may have been inspired when he chose the motto:“Plus Oultre!”

We are living in a science fiction world. Why? because anything is possible. not just technologically: watch the USA having secreted a secret surveillance court making so called “secret laws”. Watch the sulfur of the Secret State Police (GEheime STAat POlizei: Gestapo). Contemplate the consequences if the world economy, which is energy dependent, broke down: no more than two billion people, at best, can be supported by the local economies.

Reading Sci-Fi is relevant to understand what is happening, and, more importantly, what could happen. Specialists, like woodpeckers do what they do well, pecking an overspecialized field of expertise and their brains, or academic careers, are well insulated from shocks.

But geniuses they are not. So keep on broadly thinking, professor Krugman, economics is everywhere, even when we look up to the stars, as we have to. Where we have to go. Be it only if we do the math!

And let the ants do their special things, as they get crushed by the weight of what is for them incomprehensible wisdom on its way towards unimaginable horizons!

Economics is vast, vaster than has been guessed so far. It contains all of physics. And more; all of human behavior, all of human imagination.

Take a particular case: Krugman, and others, have been lamenting that the Republicans in the USA are self destructive, because they want to reduce programs for the poor. And poor, old, voting whites are the main beneficiaries of these programs. So Krugman thinks the danger is limited. However, doing so, he neglects a big chunk of human evolutionary psychology that has consequences, not just on the soul, but on economics.  

One should never underestimate the power of run-away propaganda to hurt those it seduces. There is, deep down in man, born in the evolution of domination, a self destructive streak. Neoconservatives or neofascists exploit it. They may be crazy, but that only reinforces their appeal.

Anabasis, freeing oneself of the base, is the symbol of the human condition, and, a fortiori, civilization. When the mind is flat, the world is flat. It takes more than eyes to see the world. It takes a mind. And it better look up, to make up what was not there before.

***

Patrice Ayme

 

No Public, No Brains, Crash

July 9, 2013

CRASHES (Examples: ROME, AFGHANISTAN) CAUSED BY LACK OF PUBLIC INPUT:

Abstract; Having a republic (“public thing”) is not just nicer to the public, in everyday life, it’s also a military advantage, when war comes.  The important concept here is the notion of “public”. Rome crashed militarily from too much fascism, for too long and for no good reason, bringing the dreadful consequence of lack of public support, let alone input.

The USA stealth war in Afghanistan (1979-2013) and the rise of the USA as a surveillance state were engaged secretly and pursued without public debate. Thus no real public support, or intelligence. Time to cut the secrecy, and bring back the public. If one does not want to kiss the republic goodbye, that is.

***

When the fall of Rome is evoked, old fashion historians focus on military events at the end of the Fourth and beginning of the Fifth Century. Or they brandish hundreds of entangled causes of decay. Superficially the empire cracked because:

Adrianople: Fascism Is From One Mind, & If An Idiot, Toast

Adrianople: Fascism Is From One Mind, & If An Idiot, Toast

The military crash of Rome blossomed at the Battle of Hadrianopolis, August 9, 378 CE, when the Gothic cavalry decisively annihilated  the extremely experienced Oriental Roman field army (including the emperor Valens, single-minded author of the disaster).

(Although the mysterious defeat and death of Augustus Julian in Mesopotamia (earlier, in 363 CE) was more fateful.)

The disaster at Hadrianopolis/Adrianople was a near fatal blow to the prestige, military, economy and tax base of the core of the empire. The empire was unable to recover for a number of reasons. In particular because plutocrats were too mighty to be taxed.

In 400 CE, the legions were ordered out of Britain and the Rhine Frontier. The Franks, shock troops and nation “infeodated” (under treaty and oath) to the empire were left in charge. Instead of having the defense of the empire staying a public thing, it was subcontracted!

However, during the winter solstice of 406 CE, the Rhine froze over, and an enormous coalition of savage Germanic nations charged through Gallia and Hispania, all the way to Africa (in the case of the Vandals).

That was the fatal blow to the Western empire, the “Occidental Part”. Population and economy collapsed. The Vandals, from their African redoubt, established an empire that reigned on the Western Mediterranean, cutting the grain trade, starving Italy, shutting down international trade, etc.

The Goths seized Rome four years later (410 CE). A century later, the Franks, in a full consultation with the Consul Anastasius (who reigned in Constantinople as Augustus for 27 years until his death at age 88), would finally destroy the Goths at the Battle of Vouillé, in 507 CE. Rome, that is, Constantinople, then made Clovis Consul.

Real Man: Clovis Killed King Alaric Himself

Real Man: Clovis Killed King Alaric Himself

Thus 101 years exactly after the savages broke through, the Romans (aka the Franks) turned things around militarily at last. True, they had been busy meanwhile, destroying the cause of all that turmoil, the Huns (who had pushed the Goths and other Germans west, to start with).

Vouillé had avenged Hadrianopolis. 129 years later. History can unfold slowly, although it goes faster these days.

But the most interesting question is what happened at Hadrianopolis.

And, even more fascinating, why did it happen?  Roughly, the defeat happened because the Roman system was fascist, with one single jealous man at the top. The intelligence of the collective was reduced to the intelligence of one.

Actually it was a bit more subtle: the top emperor, Valens, was jealous of the success of one of the top generals, Sebastian, who had defeated some Goths, and of his nephew, the young Gratian, emperor in Occident, who had also defeated fierce enemies, the Alamani (the Franks would finally destroy those “All Men” two centuries later).

Valens wanted his own victory. Although everybody in the Roman military structure, including the officers in his own field army, and the Frank Richomeres, head of Gratian’s guard, told him to wait for Gratian’s army, which was only 400 kilometers away. So Valens marched his army ferociously for 7 hours over difficult terrain in full sun, and when thoroughly exhausted and dehydrated, engaged battle, without even knowing where the redoubtable Gothic cavalry was.

One man had taken all the decisions, all the wrong decisions. The one-man-alone-in-command factor was the fundamental cause of the defeat.

One can compare with two other spectacular defeats, this time the defeat of famous Republics. At Cannae an enormous Roman army was annihilated by Hannibal. What happened? The Romans fell into a trap: Hannibal retreated to give the Roman center an illusion of victory, drawing it in, and then enveloping the entire Roman body with cavalry, squeezing it, similarly to what would happen, six centuries later, at Hadrianopolis.

At Cannae, the Roman army was unwise, imprudent, outsmarted. However the army was not engaged in a march of obvious idiocy because of one man’s folly, as it would be at Adrianople. If it had been, that would have been stopped right away (as happened say when the French army tried to defeat the Brits in Toulon; as France was a republic, Napoleon, then just a captain, was able to contest the strategy of his superiors, was supported by politicians, and won a great victory).

The same hold for the defeat of France in May 1940. Just like Hannibal at Cannae, but on a much grander scale, Hitler and his generals, thoroughly desperate to start with, decided to be lucky, as that was the only thing that could save them. It did. They conceived the phantasmagoric plan to draw in the army of the Republic, by smartly attacking the Netherlands first.

Just as the Romans at Cannae and Hadrianopolis, sure of victory, the French rushed in their elite armor and armies forward. Then the Nazis, undetected thanks to Lady Luck, and how crazy their strategy was, cut them from behind.

So the difference is subtle. It’s a question of degree. The mind of one, versus the mind of the many. At Hadrianopolis, the orders given to the army were outright insane. All top military officers begged emperor Valens to reconsider. He refused, because he could, being the head fascist. But his head was no good. It was permeated by Christianity, that is, superstition.

At Cannae and the Battle of France, the armies of the Republics, blinded by hubris, confronted adversaries who were desperate, in all logic, and thus could only try to be lucky. And they were.

Then, of course, luck carries only that far against the intelligence and character that a superior public brings. Rome took seventeen years to defeat Carthage (218 BCE-201 BCE), the French republic, thanks to its reluctant, or even initially hostile, but finally enthusiastic allies, six years to annihilate the Nazis.

Conclusion? War is always the most serious business. One has always to be ready for the worst. Hubris ought not to be invited. And the public is both the brains and hearts of war.

The USA started the war in Afghanistan by 1979, under Carter, to block the Afghans, Russians and… despised French to exploit the resources in Central Asia without profits for Washington/Wall Street, and to show all who was the boss (Brzezinski claimed it was just to destroy the USSR, but he is dissembling).

At the same time, to make war by proxy, the USA decided that Pakistan’s dirty work in Afghanistan was best complemented by others. So Washington recruited Bin Laden and other fanatics, in cooperation and collaboration with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, and its collaborator and enemy, the Saudi Inter Service directorate (notice all these people are alive and well).

That attack on Afghanistan was hubristic, greedy, full of imperial overstrech. Those adjectives count as three moral negatives. In Afghanistan, the USA had, at best, only one (fake) moral positive: namely the specious, devious argument that their rogue mercenary Bin Laden had attacked from there. (Yeah, and who made Bin Laden into a soldier of god, and armed him, to start with?)

Perhaps the most important asset in a long war, is moral superiority. Morality is the extension of war to the realm of the possible.

Moral superiority is why, ultimately, the Republics won against the fascists Hannibal and Hitler. Or why, ultimately, the Franks defeated the Goths (the Franks were tolerant, inclusive, more civilized, and supportive of the 97%; not so with the Arian, exclusive Goths).

Reciprocally, lack of Roman moral superiority is why the Romans were defeated by the Goths (both sides were Christian; but the Goths had made a peace proposition that was advantageous to Rome, and that Valens rejected hubristically).

A fourth moral negative in Afghanistan is that the USA made a cynical usage of a primitive superstition, precisely because it was primitive, hateful, and illogical. Right from the start, in 1979, the USA fought to establish, or re-establish, fundamental Islam in Afghanistan (as the USA had done in Iran, or Pakistan, let alone Saudi Arabia or Egypt).

Once again the prominent tactic was that superstitious people can be easily manipulated, as the CIA had done in Iran, by instrumentalizing the Shiites against PM Mosaddegh (culprit of oil nationalization, and general insolence). However, Afghanistan, as a republic, and the benign monarchy before that,  had been pretty much free of superstition and at peace, so the USA strived to re-impose, twice, on Afghanistan a fascist, sexist interpretation of Islam.

This is no way to win a war. Morality cannot foster, or tolerate, big contradictions. As it is, the West has nothing much to defend in the Islamist republic of Afghanistan. Best to negotiate directly with the Taliban. Or, barring that, to just withdraw.

One lesson of the Roman military collapse, was too much energy was spent fighting war in the Middle East without enough overall civilizational superiority to win once and for all. All this energy playing military Sisyphus was as much energy that was not spent on the crucial frontiers: the Balkans, and, especially, the Rhine-Danube gap. Or reacquiring civilizational superiority.

Instead, what we presently observe is that the USA is turning stealthily into a military regime, complete with secret supreme court of surveillance and secret laws. How can one have secret laws in a res PUBLICA? Are not laws the architecture? Are they not public, by definition, in a republic?

It’s time to stop that drift. Obama should yank the USA out of Afghanistan, after making to the Taliban an offer it can’t refuse. He should also remember that Rome rotted from inside first. The more secret the rot, the worst the gangrene. Industrial strength secrecy has no place in a Re-PUBLIC. Moral force is domineering for wars, and the survival of civilization, in the fullness of time.

History is not just complex. It has meta-layers of complexity, as psychology does, and because psychology does, on the grandest scale. Those who do not want to learn from history, do not want to learn from psychology.

***

 

Patrice Ayme