Posts Tagged ‘California’

Real Estate Rip-Off, Or Why California Is Full Of Little Trumps In Denial

July 11, 2020

There is excess in California real estate right now. It is driving the California inequality crisis. A cleansing collapse is needed. Extravagant real estate prices have driven enormous inequality… And that has nothing to do with Trump… Just the opposite.

Although the state is nominally, and stridently “democratic”, the average “democratic” voter behaves like a mini-Trump (that’s why they hate Trump so loudly: they are in denial of their true inner nature… they want to scream to themselves that they are not as they truly are… also Trump took away their tax rebates, and redistributed them to low lives).

The reality is this: by refusing the construction of low and middle income housing, a boom of real estate prices was created. Yesterday’s dumps, bought cheaply, became money making machines. The California middle-class strangled low income housing supply in a mix of greed and NIMBYism. This selfish enterprise started as an esthetic claim. A few decades ago, San Francisco congratulated itself for physically demolishing thousands of units of “ugly” low income housing (those thousands of apartments were replaced by a few multi millionaire houses). In other Californian cities, anything not multimillionaire houses is basically illegal to build.

1775 Broadway apartment #8 San Francisco, CA 94109 Pacific Heights 1 Bed 1 Bath
728 square feet 
$994,500… Est. Mortgage $4,759/mo

In San Francisco, a less than 1,000 square feet, one bath apartment, can be more than 1.5 million dollars. Below this, tents in the street, living in filth, is the official city policy. College professors have been known to live inside their cars. I know someone who has lived in his car for twenty years. In another Bay Area city I know all too well, some “democratic” (of course) officials are paid to do nothing, while California governor Newsom put at disposition of the city a small land surrounded by a freeway exchanger, all around, and the busiest railroad in the USA… to be used by the homeless (won’t they be happy surrounded by howling, belching machines?)

To turn this nightmare into a better reality, a good collapse in the existing real estate is what is needed. So as to replace it by something more progressive. Augmenting the taxes on billionaires some more, would help, as the diversity of thinking and initiative in California guarantees they are going nowhere…

The remedy is to build massively, cheap, earthquake-proof, modern, ecological apartments (single family mansions, as presently found in California, would be too ecologically devastating, and should be reserved to millionaires). Developers should be fiscally encouraged to do so.

The manipulated and manipulating have been going around, decrying the US as a systematically racist place full of white racists who have to destroy their inner Hitler.

Last month, the City of Seattle’s “Office of Civil Rights” sent an email inviting “white City employees” to attend a training session on “Interrupting Internalized Racial Superiority and Whiteness,” a program designed to help white workers examine their “complicity in the system of white supremacy” and “interrupt racism in ways that are accountable to Black, Indigenous and People of Color.

Seattle has also expensive real estate… And this is what low lives worry about… not whether all these “whites” who suddenly “care” are busy calling others racist.

The problem in the San Francisco Bay Area is that the minorities are a majority. Many, if not most, of these minorities are highly skeptical of the indignant “systemic racism” discourse. They feel something is wrong, and rightly so: the leader of the “anti-racist” movement is Nancy Pelosi, a thoroughly white woman of extreme privilege, whose Pacific Height house is probably worth around twenty-five million dollars. Her main residence is a gigantic Napa valley estate, complete with tennis court and twisty access road, where she throws lavish parties for her rightly thinking expensive friends. She also owns a vineyard, beside ownership of the Squaw Valley olympic ski resort. Now that she is done making money from scalps, Nancy will push to change the name… But I digress…

Nancy Pelosi is a plutocrat of the most nefarious type (the war criminal type). Like her California colleague Feinstein, she leveraged politics to build a fortune. Such people are systemic oligarch. To deflect criticism from their systemic colonialism those evil oligarchs are addicted to, they invented the notion of “systemic racism”, which accuses those that they exploit… to exploit them even better, by confusing them further by making them feel bad about themselves, and building a fake explanation of what is wrong in the US.

Although I have been victim myself of some form of racism, more than once, and sometimes dangerously so, and always a heartbreak… I must admit that I am significantly different and somewhat obnoxious, and the white US person in her, or his, purity, can’t tolerate by black heart. The worst racism and abuse that I have seen, though, was from… US intellectuals. “intellectuals” are curiously unappreciative in the US for anybody who comes out of the box of established thinking.

That incapacity to think what’s not supposed to be thought may explain why the fact of systemic real estate abuse being really a machine to make the wealthy wealthier has not been denounced. Chomsky speaks about US imperialism… What about banks, and real estate, and how they augment inequality? Above his pay grade at MIT?

From, say, European eyes, the preceding critique may seem strange: in Europe one cannot use real estate for considerable leverage, by having a bank buy for oneself something one cannot afford… lest it considerably augments in value. Trump cut down the amusement by reducing the interest deductibility down from 1.1 million dollars to $750,000. This is one of the reason why he is so hated by the upper middle class in expensive “Blue” states such as New York, California, Illinois, Massachusetts…

Do not expect this sort of introspection to strike those opinion makers as particularly smart. But this also explains why the angry demonstrations attacked even CNN (fanatically anti-Trump), and Ulysses Grant (US president who won the Secession War when he commanded the US Army), Lincoln (anti-slavery president whose election launch the Secession), or even Supreme Court Justice Douglas, a strong anti-segregationist… What the low lives are saying is that they are left out by the plutocracy, whose modus operandi is to present drastic inequality as a fact of life one can’t escape, and one should tolerate with benign neglect… hence the tent cities and squalor a few minutes from Nancy Pelosi 25 million dollar mansions in San Francisco (she has another eight properties…) This is what Nancy teaches; she is so incredibly concerned by the homeless, and it is the fault of that man in the White House… But one can’t do anything about it, although we try everyday.

Actually, nine years ago, a small peninsula within the San Francisco was occupied by hundreds of homeless, their tents, their dogs and their drugs. I called it then “Obamaville”. So, yes inequality reached a new squalor under Obama. And, no, inequality is not all Trump (inequality indices seem to have reached a peak at the end of Obama’s reign, and have stagnated since). Actually, rather the opposite: Trump loves to build housing… especially given subsidies to do so. In truth, it’s because the “democratic” upper middle class became incredibly wealthier by restricting the housing supply that it hates Trump so much: it recognizes in him the builder, the supplier of housing, its natural enemy…

Patrice Ayme

Burn California, Burn… The Price of Hypocrisy?

October 30, 2019

Obama (rightly) just lashed out at “purity”, observing that “casting stones does not get you very far”. Hopefully, I will dig in this opinion of the former Commander in Chief a bit more. However, casting stones on those ho cast stones goes only so far too: to be wise means to be more wise, and that addition of wisdom requires some demolition of old logic always. The following essay is about having a correct urban culture, but that requires to demolish the opposite mentality.

Some who believe they are clever and are believed to be clever, pose and deny the enfolding Climate Catastrophe: there is a lot of fame and money to be gathered that way. However, fires are happening all over, including in one of that pole of opinion, California… And it’s no accident my power was not cut: instead of living like a hog in a giant mansion (that could have been organized), I long opted to live correctly (not torturing the biosphere with extravagant energy spending… as the most successful US academics tend to do, with self-glorifying trips all over the planet…)

The problem in a nutshell: giant mansions and giant flames. California’extravagant lifestyle is greatly at fault, helping to cause the greenhouse calamity and making its consequences worse. [Malibu, 2018; but mansions like that are all over California, it’s not just a few celebrities getting roasted…]

California makes a lot of noise about “Climate Change”, and pretends to be leading the way, and, for the US, it is: 9.2 metric ton CO2 per capita per year (more than double France and the world average). 

https://www.chooseenergy.com/data-center/carbon-dioxide-by-state/

However considering the overall situation, this is rather mediocre. California has lots of advantages: an ideal Mediterranean climate covers most of the state, which gets lots of wind, lots of sun and lots of water falling down from high mountains which cover most of the state. Moreover, the state packs more intellectual, and engineering power than any other US state, and its semi-direct democracy and size enables it to behave as a semi-independent country, brain and engine of the USA, if not the world.  California’s CO2 production is not decreasing fast enough.

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So what is wrong?

California cities. They are too spread-out in the wilderness. California has three huge metropolitan areas. The San Francisco Bay, including Sacramento, has a population of twelve million and a GDP of the order of the Netherlands. It is also 250 kilometers across, and the public transportation system can only cover a very small part of it. OK, there are mountains, bays, parks, even two large national parks (Point Reyes and Marin Headlands/Golden Gate) in the middle of it all. 

But the fundamental problem is a flaw in the Californian character. It’s not that the Californian race is a bad sort: there is no such a thing. Minorities are a majority in California, and 25% of the population was not even born in the USA. However, as soon as aliens land in California, they wiggle their antennas, and immediately adopt Californian ways, some of which are not just ridiculous, but offensive to the planet.  

OK, now for a bit of comic relief:

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The Qur’an says Allah found fire to be the solution to hypocrisy:

Sura 9, At-Tawbah (Arabic: التوبة‎, “The Repentance“),

68. “Allah has promised the hypocrite men and the hypocrite women and the infidels, the Fire of Hell, to abide in it forever. That is enough for them, Allah has cursed them, and for them is a lasting chastisement.”

***

California talks big and lives even larger, hence the big flames. In the Golden State, to be inhabiting high density  living is generally viewed as low class, a failure, nearly immoral if pursued too long (except for a few luxury apartments in downtown San Francisco lots of them bought by Chinese who don’t know any better). A real Californian is supposed to move to the leafy suburbs, conducting there the Californian dream, a car life according to which a family has an entire fleet of electric cars plus a few gasoline SUVs for longer trips (60% of California CO2 emissions are from transportation).

Gigantic houses cheaply built in wooden planks among the chaparral. That’s the bottom of the problem: the highly flammable character of this life of debauch and luxury spread from horizon to horizon among desiccating hills prone to annual fires can’t go on, its ecological cost is too great.

Just look at the San Francisco Bay Area: its real dimensions are astounding: it’s 150 miles from Santa Cruz to Sacramento, and there are houses all along the way, often mixed with dry grass and trees. Most of the landscape is covered by large houses if not mansions, separated from each other by landscape which has evolved to burn over million of years… 

Only high density living is easy to defend from fire, and that’s a small portion  of this urbanism. A change of mentality is needed: instead of living from horizon to horizon, horizon after horizon, California has to learn to esteem high density living. I am living in a small sliver of relative high density living where power was not cut, precisely because there is nothing to burn very easily. Even if lines get buried as in Provence, where the winds are more frequent, and stronger, the fact is, Californians have to learn to live in high density living if they don’t want to burn (and stop being hypocritical in ecology)… Once again, as in Provence (planting more Redwoods would also help, as they stop fire.)

Don’t expect Californians to change their ways soon: laws proposed by politicians to encourage high density living were beaten back by the enraged mansion dwellers, in their luxurious wisdom.

However, the problems with power supply (as perhaps 5 millions were cut of it in the last few weeks), will probably help expand the photovoltaic and battery industry…. And that is an excellent development, so burn, California, burn…since I am in an area protected from cuts, I can run my air filters, even when visibility outside tank… And this is not the nice smell of African savanna fires; in California smoke carries a whiff of scorched plastic…

Patrice Ayme

California Is Sovereign, Not Europe

July 8, 2015

A sovereign state ought to be able to decide what its currency is, and provide enough to employ its citizenry. California does, not so Europe.

In 2008, bankers told the government of the USA that ATMs and all banks would shut down immediately, if the government did not provide banks with the hundreds of billions of dollars to keep money in the banks. The government  obeyed, and now the total aid to the American economy is said to be of the order of 13 trillion dollars, not far from the entire GDP of the USA. The European “welfare” states instead plunged into austerity, making sure that the value of the money of the rich would only augment, even if it meant European youth would have to immigrate to the USA to find work.

The USA talks one way, through its plutocrats, and the Main Stream Media they own. The reality is often the opposite of what they depict. Although the USA criticizes Europe for being too socialist, the truth is the opposite.

The California Republic Is So Sovereign, That It Decides Whatever Its Currency Is

The California Republic Is So Sovereign, That It Decides Whatever Its Currency Is

The fact is Europe is not socialist enough to provide its banks with money for We The People. At least, We The Greek People: from lack of liquidity, Greek banks have been closed for two weeks and counting.

What kind of a sovereign is Europe?

Knowing what sovereign means help. It comes from the Old French soverain “highest, supreme, chief,” from the quite Vulgar Latin *super-anus ” (literally, superior inferior opening of the alimentary canal; as contemporary American urban linguo would have it, on face value, “sovereign” means super bad ass). An economist from India who has long contributed to this site, Partha, has made the following cogent observation:

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pshakkottai Says, July 7, 2015:

“Hi Patrice:

Extinguishing Greek debt is equivalent to Europe being monetary sovereign which is what regarding all Europe as one country means. Greece would not be subject to austerity, wouldn’t have large debt payments and can grow. The created money will save banks and the investors in those banks. There will be no panic. At this point many banks can be nationalized. Which nation owns what is a question to be decided.

As it is Greece which needs energy will go with Russia and its own currency and will do well in a few tears. Energy was the only thing Greece was short of. This is a plus for Putin and a minus to EU.”

Well, I will not focus on Partha’s second point, where my perspective is different: Grexit, like Brexit, would mean a diminution of European sovereignty (thus a greater influence of other superpowers).

Although Britain can take care of itself, not so for Greece, thus Grexit is, de facto, an impossibility: kick Greece out, it will still be at the door (same problem with deluded England).

It’s easier to help Greece inside the EU, than outside. Moreover, Western Europe did not fight for Greece independence against the Ottomans to replace them by worse. Finally Russian methane is putting in danger Russia itself, the latest Russian numbers reveal. Solar PhotoVoltaics will make Greece energy independent: as soon as massive investments are done, existing technology allows this.

More saillant is Partha’s first point. European and World (IMF) authorities decided to led bankers escape punishment. Thus hundreds of billions of bad loans from banksters to plutocrats were reimbursed by the Greek state, itself borrowing from the so-called “institutions” (EC, ECB, IMF, etc.) AS IF this were a public utility.

In practice it meant reimbursing gangsters for their expenses. Thus, the behavior of authorities is tantamount to demonstrating that they have been captured by outlaw bankers.

Instead, a sovereign ought to have enough authority to decide what We The People are going to use as currency. Californians did not bat an eyelash, when they were told the State of California

***

Some say financial rectitude is everything. False:

Look at the USA. California is, by far the largest economy in the USA. The GDP of California in 2014, pulled by technology, was $2.3 trillion. The only states in the world with a higher GDP are Britain, France, Germany and Japan (in ascending order).

However, a few years back, California, which was bankrupt, was paying its employees with pieces of paper called IOUs. There was some grumbling, yet, so great is the awe of California in the minds of its 40 million denizens, that the Californian economy ploughed, right along. One of the reasons of California’s superiority is that it takes six hours, by jet plane to cross the continent, where some decisions centers are. Far away.

By a very long shot, the American state with the best finances is Alaska, giant in territory, tiny in population. What is its economy doing? It’s shrinking:

http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2015/07/08/alaskas-got-a-great-balance-sheet-and-a-shrinking-economy/

So much for deficit spending being the end all, be all.

***

True Speak Means Deeper Considerations:

Everybody speaks of the Greek debt, but not how it originated. Everybody speaks of the Euro and Greece, but not how the German government agreed to make Greece twice richer than it really was, by deliberately converting Drachmas into Euros at twice the real rate. Surely that does not have to do with some places in Greece having the highest concentration of German luxury cars, in the world.

One is never better served, than by oneself. Papandreou, a SOCIALIST Prime Minister of Greece, was asked to help clean up after Goldman-Sachs had cooked the books of Greece to underplay the amount of deficit Greece had. As if European “authorities” did not know that Goldman-Sachs had cooked the books (I could have told them; cooking and plotting, this is what Gold Men do).

But the truth is dire: Goldman-Sachs (largest private contributor to Obama 2008 presidential campaign), had “captured”: European decision making. Many European decision makers were connected to Goldman-Sachs and its ilk. All of them probably hope to be in the good graces of Goldman-Sachs, and its ilk.

Papandreou is from one of Greece’s top three plutocratic families. So most of the aid to “Greece” was actually an aid to private bankers, many of them, not Greek. That was accompanied by such propaganda that most Europeans think that common Greeks are “splurging” (yes Greek plutocrats, ship owners, Greek church and military are splurging… with the help of northern European banks; hopefully the Trotskyist PM Tsipras will fix that next week).

Iceland did not go that route, the route of welfare for bankers: Iceland jailed its banksters. France, instead, judged and jailed a trader. Wall Street was delighted to find its own French trader to accuse, judge and condemn. So two traders, both French were accused of everything, and the City of London also found some foreign born trader to accuse.

So what happened to the Peoples’ Sovereignty? It’s over: High Finance has captured not just democracy, but the mind of We The People, and is the real sovereign. At least, more so in Europe, than in California. Even though California is the America, of America.

Something got to give. (That may be why Tsipras caused a crisis, knowing full well only a crisis would provide the needed energy.)

Next we will study a bit “Germans and Their Lies” (to steal Luther’s title about Jews). I am happy to report that dear Krugman is finally catching up on that subject.

You want to change the world? Change the mood.

Patrice Ayme’

 

 

 

California Megadrought

April 4, 2015

“Climate change” is here now. Worldwide. How do we reconcile this with Obama’s boast “Yes We Can!” Yes we can adversely affect the planet?

Actually, poorly advised and mentally ill-equipped, Obama’s mighty efforts went in the wrong direction (he should have financed basic research, not commercial development of his friends’ industries). In the end, most of what Obama could do, was to raise money from his semi-criminal accomplices in the Silicon Valley (how else to call monopolists who escaped tens of billions of taxation, just in the last few years, thanks to their accomplices in Washington and Brussels? And also spy on everybody as a European Commissioner (EC) just admitted, recommending Europeans get off Facebook.)

It is true that the USA has reduced CO2 emissions. But Obama had little to do with it (economic crisis, expensive gasoline, switching to massive fracked methane gas, increased efficiency have more to do with it than Obama singing “Yes We Can!”, 100 times a day). Meanwhile, here is a chart from 2007, showing droughts in the Western USA:

West USA Megadrought During Warm Middle Ages. (Only To 2006.)

West USA Megadrought During Warm Middle Ages. (Only To 2006.)

[The graph stops in 2006, and we are now in a drought peak far surpassing anything depicted above; 2014 was the driest year in California for 1,500 years, and the four year period ending then was the driest in 2,000 years. We can now say that the 2014-2015 wet period is the driest EVER: the snow pack is eight percent of normal (8%)]

The megadrought of the Middle Ages correspond to the period when the Vikings decided that Greenland was green. The megadrought stopped just when the Little Ice Age started; after 1300 CE, the population of Europe collapsed into an ecological crisis, followed by extensive war (“100 year” war) and the Black Plague; severe cooling did not help. The last Vikings abandoned Greenland around 1500 CE.

The situation in California’ drought is a case of human induced global warming in action. So it makes sense to build an electric train (it is much more efficient, by an order of magnitude at least).

The California drought is caused by a high pressure ridge ashore, due to greater upwelling off the coast, itself caused by greater trade winds, in turn a worldwide phenomenon caused by the augmented greenhouse.

The present drought is already the greatest in several millennia. And it may be just the beginning: the oceanic waters are churning. Wait until sea level rise accelerates noticeably…

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CALIFORNIA WILL RESIST “CLIMATE CHANGE”:

The preceding paragraph brought various sheep to bleat in The Economist. My reply:

California is drenched with sun, and Solar Photo Voltaic is getting ever cheaper and more efficient. Cheap PV cells with efficiency as high as the expensive ones on satellites have been made in labs this year.

So California should not have an energy problem, long term.

The present accelerating upwelling off the coast is a momentary phase in global warming. When warming is considerable greater, El Nino ought to come every years, and California will become akin to Costa Rica. Costa Rica used no fuel this year (2015) so far, as the hydroelectric plants have been producing like crazy (El Nino like conditions; actually El Nino has just been declared)

Of course, when California will switch to a tropical climate, the snow will disappear from the Sierra Nevada, and the sea will be 40 meters higher.

But that should be OK: the Golden Gate will be closed by a dam and thermonuclear plants will lift the water above the dam. This way the Central Valley will not flood too bad. (Sierra water from Yosemite has long been brought directly to San Francisco; the drought has already stopped a further scheme to steal water from Northern Cal to Los Angeles.)

Twenty-one (21) desalination plants are been built. Including several in the greater Bay Area. It is not enough, yet, a beginning.

To parody Obama: Yes we can, make money! To parody Hollande (the president of the other mighty republic which is really a representative democracy): “Le changement, c’est maintenant!” (Change is now; it rhymes in French).

Climate change is upon us. California is one the places in the world best situated to resist it. Others (Bangladesh, countless islands) will drown.

***

YES WE CAN RESIST EVIL, IF WE EXPOSE IT:

Pope Francis decries the persecution of Christians. “We still see today our persecuted brothers, decapitated and crucified for their faith in you [Jesus], before our eyes and often with our complicit silence,” Pope Francis said, presiding over the traditional ceremony at the Colosseum.

The Pope also condemned the attack in Kenya, where non-Muslims were singled out and shot, as an act of “senseless brutality“. And the assassination of 22 Coptic Egyptians by Fundamentalists in Libya. Both seems to me to make a lot of sense, though. Islam built the greatest empire, by the sword, in a few years. And the Qur’an is full of that. When brutality brings dinner and territory, it makes sense, to a predatory primate:”Yes, We Can!”

The Vatican’s official preacher Raniero Cantalamessa denounced the “disturbing indifference of world institutions in the face of all this killing of Christians”.

Indifference and silence are meta-sins: they enable the enactment of brutality. Whether it makes sense, or not. Thus, should one want a better world, the word should get out, and the emotion allowed to run. High.

Word, sound, consideration and fury would certainly have prevented the rise of Nazism in Germany.

The first action to take about “climate change” is to talk about it. And to talk about the wars it brings: the Pope, correctly talked about the “Third World War” having started. Good people have to talk about these things, otherwise bad people will talk about them in their own perverse way: see Putin stirring trouble in the Carpathians.

Civilization has to be defended, and goodness too. Playing nice with evil is no good.

So slap heavy taxes on all fossil fuels (in developed countries), and a worldwide carbon tax. That may hurt a few people, but, overall, will help save the biosphere as we know it.

Freeman Dyson (an infinitely old permanent member of the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton and a co-discoverer of Quantum Electro Dynamics), long a climate change denier, has now changed tactics. (Who said an old horse could not learn new tricks?) His employers from the fossil fuel industry (just guessing) will promptly follow. The new argument is that CO2 is good for us.

I have long entertained that fancy myself. Albeit secretly. The argument is that the plants would grow more, the poles become hospitable, etc. However, that ignores the fact that present day life is adapted to 280 ppm of CO2, not 500 ppm. Besides the inconvenience of the sea being 80 meters higher, the latest news are that plants, after a growth spurt, are reacting poorly to excess CO2.

Patrice Ayme’

From Repression To Barbarization.

August 11, 2013

Tipping from one to the other.

From the Editorial of the New York Times Board on the California prison system (August 10, 2013): “The state claims that releasing any more inmates would be a threat to public safety, as if the problem were too little prison space. In fact, California’s problem is not excessive crime, but excessive punishment.

I could not agree more.

Is California Texas in denial? Or is it already beyond? California is a place of immense wealth and power. Silicon Valley reigns with its dozens of thousands of software engineers, mostly exploiting fundamental research done elsewhere.

California is also already quite a bit as in the science-fiction movie Elysium. The science may be fiction in Elysium, but the society is not. We are getting there, real quick.

Elysium: Already Here?

Elysium: Already Here?

Elysium came out August 9, 2013, and I went to see it. That was the first time I saw a movie on opening day; I was appreciative, although far from amused: the movie criticized what is already going on, medical care for the rich. And what is going to be institutionalized even more with the much vaunted, and grossly misunderstood, Obamacare.

I personally observed two cases of great police violence just in the last 2 months, within a few hundred feet. Perhaps it was justified in the first case (I saw only the final action, with a man in tank top thrown on the ground; there he was on his belly, writhing, handcuffed in the back, police in science-fiction gear all around). But I saw the second, from start to finish, and I know the brutality was completely unjustified.

In the movie Elysium I saw two or three eerily similar scenes.

Police hyper violence is part of a general strategy to terrorize the general population. This is why mass protests in the USA have been rare and far between, ever since 1968. When they happen, protesters die more or less mysteriously, and that’s it. The general population calms down mighty quick and goes back to counting the scores of sport teams, and the lives of celebrities, as they are encouraged to do.

It’s even considered unbecoming a citizen in good standing to mention any systemic trouble in the society at large (one is immediately labelled a “conspiracy theorist”).

That a law such as 3 strikes, & you are out could be passed and hold sway for years tells a lot of the (lack of) civilization in California, just below the silicon. That’s the law that, upon conviction of a third offense, whatever it is, one gets put in prison, forever.   

A place like California should be cracked upon, and for once, the Supreme Court of the USA (SCOTUS) is doing its job: it ordered California to free more inmates from prison.

At its peak in 2006, California had 163,000 inmates in prison. That does not count the inmates in county jails, such as those who spend one year in Los Angeles County jail before seeing a judge. Nor does this number count the thousands of California prisoners sent to other states to serve their sentences (as a “state of emergency” had been proclaimed! Now rescinded…).

By comparison the French Republic, with twice the population of California, holds 63,000 prisoners, total.

At some point someone went to jail for life in California for stealing a pizza slice. In some European countries (among them France) one cannot send people to jail for stealing food.

That’s because legislators there read Victor Hugo “Les Miserables”. The hero in that novel is sent to hard labor for 20 years, because he stole a bread. In California one can be jailed forever for much less. Extends that deterioration in the human condition over another century, and we will be back to the Middle Ages.

Although they were used by the United Kingdom even before the American Revolution, private prisons reappeared in the modern era under Reagan’s influence.

Inconceivably for civilized Europe, the prison system of the USA has been turned into a for-profit business. Shares in prison companies are bought and sold on Wall Street. In the well-chosen year 1984, the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) was awarded a contract to take over a prison. A whole industry has been created. Already a judge has been sent to prison, for creating clients for his friends in the prison industry. Just three of the prison companies hold more than 200,000 prisoners. Some overseas. “Guanatanamo” is just the name of a syndrome (of loving to put people in prison).

More than 3% of the adult (more than 18) population of the USA is presently emprisoned or under judicial supervision. This is the highest rate in the world. It’s nearly twice Russia, nearly thrice Iran, more than five times China. So why is  president Obama criticizing human rights in, say, Russia? Because it’s anti-American not to do so?

The New York Times article was accompanied by all sorts of advertizing for the private industry that gravitates around incarcerating people (“Save 80% on prison calls!”). In many American cities a whole system of making money from money lent to get out of jail exists. (Ah, yes, because if one has enough money, one walks out of jail; probably what the esteemed American “philosopher”, Harvard’s Rawls, called “justice as fairness”.)

The USA had largely ended solitary confinement at the end of the 1800s, when the Supreme Court almost declared it unconstitutional in 1890. However, cruel, long-term solitary confinement has been reintroduced in recent decades.

Winston Churchill said that one can best judge a society by the state of its prisons. In solitary, a prisoner is kept in a small cell for 22-1/2 hours per day without human contact, fresh air, or sunlight. A toilet and sink are in the cell, and food is slipped in through a slot.

“Exercise” consists in wandering in shackles in another solitary cell for an hour.

Nationwide, 81,000 prisoners are in solitary confinement. In California 2% of the prison population is in solitary. In Pelican Bay prison alone, 500 prisoners have spent more than a decade in solitary. 78 have been there for more than 20 years. Long-term solitary confinement ought to drive prisoners insane, and it often does. 42% of California prison system suicides are by inmates in solitary. For those who survive, rehabilitation and successful reentry in society is close to impossible.

This is indeed “America’s Awful Terrible No Good Very Bad Prison System”.

Solitary may be appropriate for limited duration with truly dangerous prisoners. But evidence shows that it is far too often being used to punish, or minor infractions.

Thus we may be already in a worse situation than in the Middle Ages. In the Middle Ages, indefinite detention was viewed as inhuman.

In an inhuman society where revolt is impossible, an answer is… drug addiction. That’s why drug addiction is so developed in California: methamphetamine labs are all over the huge tracks of California without police presence. Those in turn bring a lot of theft. Hence more savage repression. A vicious circle.

Freud famously said that:“Repression is civilization”. Right, in some ways. However, savage repression does not bring civilization, it brings barbarization.

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Patrice Ayme

Think, Or Sink.

November 9, 2009

 

CALIFORNIA, SINKING, CAN’T BE GOVERNED. THE USA, DREAMING, IS NOT FAR BEHIND.

Paul Krugman, in "Paranoia Strikes Deep (New York Times, Nov. 8), feels that the Californian global failure could propagate to the rest of the USA (part of his work in reproduced in the Annex below).

California used to be America’s America. California used to be the dream, the world’s dream, it’s turning into a nightmare, the world’s nightmare, where the hyper rich builds hyper yachts, and orders the government around to pay lower taxes, while the rest of society falls into a bottomless pothole.

When California elected one more republican disaster governor, the first, and defining move of that actor was to terminally gut California’s fiscal structure by removing a crucial tax on automobiles. As it turned out, that fiscal potholes was exactly big enough to have California sink into it in 2009. But never mind: the terminator-governor owned two dozen giant trucks for his own personal entertainment. Entertaining celebrities is big business in California. meanwhile, the gov and his republican cohorts gutted the budget of the University of California (whose Berkeley campus is one of the top three in the world, according to Shanghai).

California used to have the best school system in the USA, at a time when the USA had the top school system in the world. Now California has the worst school system in the USA, and the school system of the USA is in free fall. Some polls say that most Americans think that they used to share their lives with dinosaurs, and it sure increasingly looks that way.

How did California sink? Taxes (not enough). Expenses (too much of the extravagant, useless, feel-good, long term stupid type). I claim that the common cause of this has been the failure of the thinking process. Too much new Age, not enough Think Age.

Krugman does not analyze the causality behind the Californian mental collapse. That we will presently evoke.

Too many years were spent playing up the irrational side. They have led to poor schools, and an increasing inability to think enough to keep society on an optimal trajectory. Once that will is gone, where does the republic go? What holds it up?

The noblest and more characteristic function of human beings is thinking, and this rests on the capability and inclination to make logical arguments. But guess what? "To argue" is a sin in the USA, or at least so say the usage which is commonly made these days of the American language, something used all the time by Americans. it is as if, every day, Americans said to themselves, and others, that is bad to think.

So it is time to go back to the essentials, the exact opposite of what was instilled in recent decades. Those are taught at the age of two. Lesson number one at age two ought to be: thinking is good, and it rests on the capability of making cogent arguments.

The present government of the USA, went all out to save its "friends". Semantics matter; "friends" was the term used by Obama speaking of his self described "friends" Jamie Dimon, or Warren Buffet. So the government of the USA went all out to save its friends. The government did not bother to go through "Congress", the national assembly. The government of the USA saved the banksters, by throwing to them all the capital that could be found. Thus, there was not much more capital that could be borrowed, and the "stimulus", the capital to save the economy, was the object of a lengthy national debate, and came out much smaller. This enormous capital offered to banksters, as the rest of the economy was deprived of it is now paid at the cost of considerable unemployment.

In a way, feeding the most corrupt and incompetent bankers ever seen, and, so doing, starving the general economy was a sort of insanity of the leadership. This lamentable example, from the Federal government itself, does not help. Limbaugh or Beck, two showmen of the right, are not in power. Obama and his self described "friend", Jamie Dimon (Daemon?) are. And they have sunk the economy, forgetting that is the branch they sit on. how rational is that?

When California started to go down, Californians did not think that the abysmal decisions they were taking mattered, because, and they still think this, California could not, cannot go down.

So what to do? Try to explain to Americans what is happening to their country, and their minds. it is not easy: the hubris is considerable: the latest batch of Nobel Prizes, most of them "Americans" (born overseas, attracted by money).

Meanwhile, Europe has got to lead, in the realm of deep ideas, and correct emotions. After all, with its 18 trillion (real) dollar GDP, the European Union does not have to take orders from Washington, its wasting characteristics, and its decaying economy. It is ironical that France’s and Germany’s conservative governments are pursuing genuinely social policies, much more to the left, and much more to the right (in a good way) than the policies of the USA. It is also ironical that, although the preceding leadership of the USA violated international law (by using torture by ordering it from the top, something the Nazis never dare to do), it is the French leadership which is on trial, by French justice, for reasons American justice could never see (because American politicians are given immunity by their successors, one of the rare American traditions still in force).

***

Patrice Ayme

https://patriceayme.wordpress.com/

***

Annex. KRUGMAN’S FEAR OF CALIFORNIA DISEASE: "If the G.O.P. essentially shrinks down to a rump party across America, the country could become ungovernable in the midst of a continuing economic disaster… with the rise of Ronald Reagan: Republican politicians began to win elections in part by catering to the passions of the angry right.

Until recently, however, that catering mostly took the form of empty symbolism. Once elections were won, the issues that fired up the base almost always took a back seat to the economic concerns of the elite. Thus in 2004 George W. Bush ran on antiterrorism and “values,” only to announce, as soon as the election was behind him, that his first priority was changing Social Security.

But something snapped last year. Conservatives had long believed that history was on their side[…] After the Democratic sweep, however, extremists could no longer be fobbed off with promises of future glory.

In fact, the party of Limbaugh and Beck could well make major gains in the midterm elections […] they feed the base’s frenzy instead of trying to curb or channel it[…] So all the old restraints are gone. The Obama administration’s job-creation efforts have fallen short, so that unemployment is likely to stay disastrously high through next year and beyond. The banker-friendly bailout of Wall Street has angered voters, and might even let Republicans claim the mantle of economic populism. Conservatives may not have better ideas, but voters might support them out of sheer frustration… what has already happened in California could happen at the national level. In California, the G.O.P. has essentially shrunk down to a rump party with no interest in actually governing — but that rump remains big enough to prevent anyone else from dealing with the state’s fiscal crisis. If this happens to America as a whole, as it all too easily could, the country could become effectively ungovernable in the midst of an ongoing economic disaster.

The point is that the takeover of the Republican Party by the irrational right is no laughing matter. Something unprecedented is happening here — and it’s very bad for America."

***

And bad for the planet, because what is bad for America, is bad for the planet.

***


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