Posts Tagged ‘Law’

Death By Police State: The Case Of Dean Potter

May 24, 2015

HUMANITY WOULD NOT BE WITHOUT LOVE FOR RISK TAKING

Some pragmatic and biased partisans of the police state will immediately interject that the famous climber Dean Potter died from hitting the ground as he flew his wingsuit too low in Yosemite. The Guardian, though, saw a bit further: “Did rules, not risk, cause Dean Potter’s Base jumping death?”

Potter Above The Alps. Some Day, We Will Fly Better Than That, Because We Tried

Potter Above The Alps. Some Day, We Will Fly Better Than That, Because We Tried

See also: The Last Flight of Dean Potter by my friend Dan Duane.

Humanity evolved because it learned to enjoy ever greater feats, by taking ever more risks thanks to, and inciting to inventing ever more sophisticated technology.

Therefore risk takers have to be respected: they are animated by the essence of what makes us humans.

That does not mean one should make a cult of them. And the cult around many a climber has irritated me over the years. Yes, when risk takers go too far, and misrepresent the risks they take to the youth, thus making a lot of victims, they have to be cut down to size. In that sense Dean Potter, and other like him, some of them personal friends, have irritated me. I think climbing is dangerous enough to not overdo it. Most of my friends died climbing.

Wingsuit flying is even more dangerous: around 5% of wingsuit fliers die, every year.  However, the philosophy of wingsuit flying holds together.

Indeed, I am a climber too, and I have free soloed (mostly by force, during mountaineering, because it was safer than the alternative). I have observed, during a long climbing career, that those who solo too much, or at too high a level, die. They don’t necessarily die climbing: they get so used to cheat death free soloing, that they take inconsiderate risks in other activities such as driving, or BASE jumping (indeed). So I view the hard line taken by Dr. Paul Preuss, a fanatical free soloist and with hundreds of first ascents as stupid and criminal. A free soloing Preuss died in 1913, at 27, after falling off a thousand feet. Preuss was a genius, but he went too far.

I use to climb a lot in U.S. National Parks, especially Yosemite. However, over times, those parks turned into training grounds for the police state. Once, long ago, after a hard climb in Rocky National Park, Colorado, our ropes got cut by rock fall on the descent. We had to spend the night at 13,000 feet, freezing, and finished the descent the next day. By the time we made it out to the trailhead, hours away, a ranger was there to arrest us for staying out without an overnight permit (we had only a permit to climb that particular mountain).

In Yosemite, entire casual, or cheap campsites were closed, while the Valley itself became a city, complete with judge and jail. Rangers go about with infrared detectors to arrest those who would be out in the woods at night. And so on.

There is little doubt that forcing parachutists to jump with low visibility, or worrying first about arrests, is a factor increasing the probability of dying.

Why then have the National Parks, and a lot of the wilderness, in the USA, be transformed into a police state? Well, precisely because, so doing, people are trained to live in a police state.

A particularly comic aspect of this happened when the government of the USA ran out of money, and closed all the National Parks.

I came for one of my mountain runs, starting at the end of a dirt road where there is never anybody. For this sort of long, solitary runs, I get dropped somewhere, and run to somewhere else, where I get picked up (it’s more challenging than climbing, these days).

But that period, the Parks were closed. And to make sure that the Parks would stay closed, the government had sent plenty of supplementary law enforcement (so the government spent more money, because it wanted to spend less money!). A runner had to run in the woods to escape the Rangers’ SUVs, and then play hide and seek with a horse patrol, which had been especially sent in pursuit. Those days I saw plenty of rangers in places where one never sees anyone (let alone rangers), on access dirt roads to various Parks. Many people, even families, with children, got actually chased down and arrested for daring to penetrate their National Parks, on their habitual dominical hikes.

What was taught by Big Police by this barely credible repression? That in the USA, the law is hard, but it is the law, and humanity is nothing, if it stands in the way of the law. So Dean Potter died, flying at dusk, and many in law enforcement in the USA rejoice, and so do their fellow travelers. Because it reminds all that people are nothing, and orders, everything. National Park do not teach nature first. They teach the police state, first. That is considered much more important, nowadays.

There has been recently some indignation about the methods of the police in the USA. Racist allegations were made. However, those familiar with the police in the USA know that racism is not the fundamental problem. Some of the officers indicted for violence were actually “colored” (to use an old American expression). Police, in the USA, is very well paid, and associates with the rich, and the order they gave rise to. But not just that.

The Romans used to say: ”The Law Is Hard, But It Is the Law!” The Americans say the same. Brutal application of “justice” and the law is what holds the USA together.

(Obama himself has perceived this, and just cracked down, deciding to forbid the police access to some military equipment.)

325 million citizens of the USA are taught to toe the line, and there is no better place to do so, in a semi-playful way, than in National Parks. And it’s getting worse, in parallel, and related to, the mercantilization of the Parks. That’s why I don’t go there anymore.

Increasing authoritarianism is multifaceted: this week, all my comments to the New York Times, but one, were censored. I cannot even imagine why. But the general trend is clear: if one has something really interesting to say, don’t try to say it on the New York Times: this is the propaganda piece of the pseudo-fair. (Most interesting commenters have disappeared  from there. However, The Guardian, and other British publications publish my comments. So does the… Wall Street Journal.)

Increasing authoritarianism is a slow suffocation of the human spirit. Resisting it, our essence. As Jefferson, third president of the USA pointed out, when a law is bad, it’s not just our right, but our duty, not to obey it.

Patrice Ayme

Why Are Americans So Primitive?

July 1, 2014

Paul Handover, from Learning From Dogs, a commentator of this site asks: “Your essay, Patrice, clearly depicts your views towards Western religions but here’s a question: why do so many Americans embrace Christianity in what one might describe as almost a fundamentalist manner? For such a forward-looking nation in so many ways, this aspect has puzzled me for some time.”

Both aspects are related, the religious primitivism, and the charge forward. Metaphysics, like other things meta, is primarily to address down to Earth questions. Literally:

God Given! Let the USA Bless God. Alleluia.

God Given! Let the USA Bless God. Alleluia.

[Don’t You Ask How We Got All This.]

The USA is like a horse with blinds: it is forced by its masters to pull a heavy load, and devices around its head do not allow it to look sideways. Not looking around and questioning is fundamental. Sitting in a café’, and chewing the world for hours, is best done somewhere in Europe. Americans do not like to discuss the big issues as much: they are too close to “conspiracy theories”.

An all-encompassing philosophical attitude looks around too much, away from the task at hand. It would ask too many questions about the reigning plutocracy. The plutocrats do their best this not to happen. The USA functions like an empire driven by masters, and common people think accordingly.

The coming back of the Christian God in the USA, since the 1940s, corresponded to an enormous influx of cheap labor from (then) primitive areas of the world (say Mexico). The Latinos provided with cheap labor, but they have a strong family structure. Primitive Christianism is a proven recipe to keep them down (just ask the Conquistadores).

In 1954, “IN GOD WE TRUST” was made the motto of the USA, and enforced in public schools in many states (not Hawai’i).  So now we have a president who asks God to bless the USA, as if he were the Pope, urbi et orbi.

I have written numerous essays on the connection between the Bible, where God Himself conducts holocausts, and the barbarity of the first three centuries of occupation of North American by English speaking Europeans. Whereas in Spain, Charles Quint, as early as 1550 CE, ordered to stop holocausts in the Americas, such an order to stop the massacre, was never given in the territory that was going to become the USA.

The result can be contemplated in the Brazil football world cup: whereas the Central American football teams (Costa Rica, Mexico, Honduras) are genetically mixed with Indian genetic stock, there is not one speck of Indian facial trait in Team USA.

A successful holocaust is not conducive to introspection. Especially when one enjoys its fruits every day.

But let’s look at it from a different angle. Obama named a commission to look into the disappearance of the bees. Well, there is no need to do this: the factors are well known, including nicotinoid insecticides.

So the leadership of the USA is playing stupid, to gain time for those who make and use such nicotinoids: playing dumb has its uses to gain time. After slavery was officially outlawed at the end of the Secession War, in December 1865, racism kept on going strong in the USA. Obsessing about the Christian God, allowed not to notice that: how could people obsessed by becoming good, be bad?

After all, the Bible is racist enough to endorse any tribal excess: it’s all about the Chosen People (whom Hitler chose for a perversely inverted special treatment).  The myths of the Bible, such as the “city on a hill”, and, of course, the chosen people, in this case, the Pale Faces, was to rule what was obviously the Promised Land.

Naivety can be brutally effective. And it’s not always wrong.

Minds in the USA are concentrated on achieving practical tasks. Instead of remaking the world in their head, the world is God-given.

So citizens of the USA work, and work, and never, ever, contest the established order seriously.

That’s why you will never see Paul Krugman contest deeply the banking system. Quite the opposite: he wants central banks to send it ever more money.

Paul is practical: he camps on popular positions. That makes him the most popular blogger for progressives on BOTH sides of the Atlantic (so Americanization is progressing, even among self-proclaimed progressives!)

Popular now, sure, but a future dwarf, not to say flea, in the history of thought.

All and any Americans are deeply uncomfortable when one makes deep critiques against “their” system. I had a rich, highly successful architect with plenty of skyscraper under construction, become red in the face, when he accused me of wanting to change the Constitution of the USA, and that never, ever, any reasonable American would take me seriously. Never mind that dozens of European countries change their Constitutions continually. In the USA, it’s the proverbial “third rail”, where all the electricity goes through. He never invited me again, an experience I had too many times to bother counting them.

Challenging the system, in a country such as France, for at least three centuries (after Louis XIV croaked), has been seen as the most interesting exercise (except for when the humor-less Robespierre and Napoleon ruled). In the USA, it’s viewed as a personal threat (by all too many).

Americans come from all over the world. Only very strict simplifying principles keep their minds compatible with each other. At least, so all too many of them feel.

Yesterday I was swimming in a lake in California. It has a small official “Swim Area”, watched over by no less than four official would-be rescuers armed with loud speakers. Going outside is “Against The Law”, although deprived of danger.  Other arcane laws apply: a five year old child, going out of such and such a particular limit, within the “Swim Area”, exposes the accompanying parent(s) to a $300 fine.

Being “Against the Law” is even more important than God, in the USA. Some laws seem set-up, just to test whether one will respect the “Against The Law” Principle. Those who do not respect that Principle are “outlaws”, and definitively not felt to be socially acceptable.

As this happened in Berkeley, a supposedly rebellious, flower power town, if there ever was one in the USA, some swimmers braved the interdiction, and were soon yelled at through the loudspeakers by adolescents a third their age, threatening them with the long arm of the law.

(Unsurprisingly, old foggies from the 1960s tend to be more rebellious than the youth whose parents were raised by Reagan; so, all too often, the enforcers are young, the old disobedient.)

As in all good American movies, the cavalry was called to the rescue against the terrorists. Black uniformed police officers swarmed the edges of the lake. A police helicopter flew low overhead, barking out orders. Never mind the budget crisis. Never mind this is a narrow 300 meters deep valley adorned with giant eucalyptuses and towering redwoods.

What is important, is to demonstrate how important law and order is in the USA. “Shock and Awe” will be applied. If the helicopter crashes, the rogue swimmers will be no doubt charged with conspiracy to commit murder.

Order starts with God. The God that gave the “Promised Land” to the “Chosen People” is best. He has proven his worth by killing millions, emptying continents, and torturing David’s son to death, because his father had not respected the law of God. The law of God is now applied to European banks and Argentina, bankrupting them all, empowering and enriching Americans some more, proving how this metaphysics of brutal  primitivism is all worthwhile.

Let Obama conclude: “God bless the United States of America!” OK, children! Now that we are done with philosophy, back to work!

Patrice Aymé

Plutocracy Rising, Demos Sinking

December 13, 2013

Oligarchy: the rule of the few. What we have.  Democracy: the rule of the People. What Switzerland has, legislatively speaking.

Civilization is first rendered possible only by another type of organization. Civilization is an increasingly complex machine, that works only because of the nature of a sophisticated hierarchy of laws. This was known by the time of Babylon’s Hammurabi, 37 centuries ago. Thus the state of law is a necessary pre-condition for civilization. However, to have a state of law, one needs a state. That’s shrinking in the USA… just when it should be expanding:

If the USA Government Shrinks Enough, So Will Law

If the USA Government Shrinks Enough, So Will Law

[This covers all governmental spending as percentage of GDP: local, state, federal.]

In a related development, Obama’s own Food & Drug Administration, just woke up, and decided to do something about the feeding day in, day out, of all meat animals in the USA with enormous amounts of antibiotics, as I had requested, with my usual subtlety of crashing asteroid. See: “Fish Rots By The Head”

One has to explain the graph above a bit. The strong peak of spending at the time Obama took power (so to speak) was related by the failure of corporations, such as General Motors. Saving General Motors cost 50 billion dollars at the time, but saved 1.2 million jobs (because of all the car parts makers). Final cost was ten billions. The rescue of AIG cost 180 billion, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs 60 billion each, and so on. All these programs were started under GW Bush, Obama extended them.

Thus Bush was not just the self-described “decider”, but also the rescuer. (This emergency spending is not in the graph, by the way.)

To be taken ever more seriously, Krugman makes a point of lauding Obama always. However he says:” You can see that there was a brief, modest spurt in spending associated with the Obama stimulus — but it has long since been outweighed and swamped by a collapse in spending without precedent in the past half century.”

Krugman in :”Unprecedented Austerity” then draws the inescapable conclusion: “a strange thing has happened on the fiscal policy front. Intellectually, the case for austerity has pretty much collapsed, having been reduced at this point to the Three Stooges Theory: we’re supposed to consider austerity a success because it feels good when you stop, or at least let up. At the same time, however, austerity policies continue to be imposed, on both sides of the Atlantic.

And amid the punditizing over the latest budget deal, it’s worth considering just how unprecedented US austerity has been….to do this when the private sector is still deleveraging and interest rates are at the zero lower bound is just awesomely destructive.”

[Notice that this is the very respectable, very serious Krugman saying this, not the horrendous Tyranosopher.] What is going on? The Three Stooges?

No. The Wolf and the Lamb is the fable that depicts our times best.

An example of wolf-lamb interaction is the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). As Prof Krugman points out, the GDP impact of the TPP shall be infinitesimal. So why bother to negotiate it?

A hint about the TPP’s true purpose is that the Trans Pacific Partnership is negotiated secretly. This habit, secrecy, is not compatible with democracy. So the TPP negotiation is another trick to weaken democracy.

This is confirmed by the fact the corporations have 600 lobbyists negotiating the TPP, whereas each state has only three (3!) negotiators.

In other good news, the democrats, to make a budget deal, negotiated the cutting of unemployment subsidies to millions. The more rags dress the rabble, the greater the lords. Austerity for the rabble, is what the Wolves of our ages, our Lords, want. However, we are in a nominal “democracy”, where the “Demos” redistribute quite a bit of the Lords’ money, to itself. A way to stop that redistributive non sense is by imposing austerity to the government, that is, to The People (who theoretically rule in democracy). The hyper rich have never paid fewer taxes (relatively to their global income), on this side of the Middle-Ages. And that’s directly related to this will to shrink the government.

Why are the rich reducing government spending? Superficially, because it enables them to pay fewer taxes.

The fewer taxes the hyper rich pay, the more their wealth grow, and the more they can eat their way through representative “democracy” by buying influence among the few elected officials who are deciding our destiny.

It’s a vicious circle.

But, even deeper than this circle, the plutocrats want to return society to the law of the jungle. The more they transform society into a jungle, the more they justify their demonic tendencies, that is, themselves. Those who are vicious can only feel welcome in a vicious world.

It provides them with satanic social security.

It’s an even more vicious circle. Dante’s Inferno revisited. And down we go. In America, and in Europe.

Patrice Aymé

***

Note: A country cannot be a democracy without first being a state of law, an état de droit a Rechtsstaat. Athens tried it, and crashed. The USA and Great Britain before it, both following the orders of ther West Country Men, tried to do without, and it worked great so far (that’s why South Africa, the USA, Canada and Australia all developed Apartheid, under the guise of multiculturalism…).

In truth, the common ideology in the Anglo universe, revised by the West Country Men,  was relentless exploitation, of whatever could be exploited.

That’s why the USA Supreme Court is not really a Constitutional Court (see Bush versus Gore), and Britain added only a Supreme Court thanks to liar Blair.

No Law Up High, No Republic

December 22, 2011

ULTIMATE AUTHORITY OF THE REPUBLIC RESTS ON THE LAW.

Is Government Too Separated From The Authority That matters Most?

***

The planet we have is increasingly ravaged by several conflating crises. Burned by the carbonic acid created by excess carbon dioxyde absorbed by the oceans, young fishes die, go blind or become crazy, as bees do on land. The plancton, which fabricates the oxygen we need, is dissolving in the acid bath we used to call a sea.

But the fossil fuel polluters’ crimes are not even fiscally discouraged. Instead they are allowed to also spew lies, and persuade everybody that there will be plenty of air for ever (see the financing of the Tea party in the USA by the Koch brothers).

Meanwhile, the grip financial pirates have on the world has become obvious since 2008. After they seized the world economy, they asked for a ransom. And then again, And it was paid again. Now the serfs are asked to pay for distant banks by allowing themselves to become destitute (and this is happening even inside prosperous Germany, where old retirees discover they have to go back to work!)

Ever since the amazing financial crisis which grips the planet came to everybody’s attention in 2008, it has become obvious that a handful of men in suits take all the decisions with the money, and even the fate, of the public, allowing their class to thrive ever more, while, and because, the public deperishes.

The spirit of the law, if not its letter, has been denied.

I claim that this comes directly from the fact that the executive branch has eluded its responsibilities in implementing the spirit of the law. This is not just a question of the present leaders being plutophile  (lovers of Pluto, thus, wealth). Institutionally, the way executive powers are presently set-up, has less to do with wielding justice than it had under the Roman republic.

Western democracy, led by the English, American and French revolutions of the preceding centuries, consists of representative democracies with three branches of government: the legislative, the judiciary, and the executive. Legislation is established by a bicameral parliament of elected representatives (an inheritance from 6,500 years old Sumer).

In a purely parliamentary system, parliament also elects the executive. In the USA, France and Russia, a powerful president is elected directly (by a college of a few hundred special electors in the USA, by the people in France or Russia).

In any case, the judiciary is supposed to be separated from the executive. It is not clear what this exactly means: after all, most judges are nominated by the executive in the USA, and confirmed by the legislative. In other countries (e.g. France) the judiciary self nominates.

So the judiciary is a bit more independent in France: see the Dreyfus affair, where the independent judiciary forced the executive, the army and the anti-Judaists to eat crow. What I will contest here is not the independence of the judiciary, but its power: an ant may be independent, but it is easily crushed by a plutocrat.

In the USA no judge is powerful enough to judge the obvious, namely that the Federal reserve has no right to transfer arbitrary amounts of “monetary base” to the same old crooks, year after year (although a judge recently blocked an all too comfortable accord between the government and a major bank).

The difference in judicial independence between France and the USA shows: the popular Chirac, 12 year president, and Prime Minister before that, was condemned to two years in prison (suspended). For allowing City Hall finances as Paris mayor to provide supporters with somewhat fictitious jobs with real salaries. The offense is so puny, it would not really register on American radar.

The Roman republic was not organized this way. In Rome, the top executives, the two Consuls, were also viewed as the top judicial officers. Why so? It is very simple: the republic rested on the law.

No law, no republic. That had to make the law more important than anything else, including the army. Military power could be used if, and only if, it was legal. The law was the highest value, and thus the highest authorities took care of it. The founders of the Roman republic saw this clearly. Justice was not a department, it was the foundation.

The superpower of the Consuls was compensated by the shortness of their terms: just a year. But they could be re-elected. Gaius Marius was elected seven times Consul. Ex-Consuls were called proconsular officers. They were frequently nominated governors of provinces, and had many prerogatives, including being protected by lictors, special trained bodyguards carrying the axes of the fasces representing the union of the Populus around the power of the law.  

When there was war, it was made in the name of the law, under the eye of the law, as the Consuls often personally directed the operations of the main armies (many Roman Consuls died in combat, over a millennium).

Let’s remember that a mostly functional Roman republic lasted about 5 centuries. And arguably for much longer: after all, there were Consuls, and a Roman Senate, for more than 11 centuries! The founder of Francia, elected king and imperator Clovis, was also Roman Consul. Stretched to the max, a Roman state existed for 23 centuries (753 BCE to 1453 CE).

So where does the system we have presently come from? How come justice got separated from the executive? The break happened around the 13th century. In England, the French barons limited the power of the king through the Charter of Liberties (1100 CE) and the Magna Carta (1215 CE): their ancestors had joined William The Conqueror, a Duke, (that is a high commander in the Roman army of the Late Empire), to invade England, bringing with them most of the (French) army that invaded England. William had been recognized as first among equals, and the descendants of his acolytes intended not to forget that fact.

In France the break came later. Elizabeth de France, the ferocious intelligent and domineering daughter of Philippe IV Le Bel had become reigning queen of England (having visited an unspeakable end to the father of her four children, a Plantagenet, Edward II). When her brothers all died, she ought to have become (absolute) queen of France too. She, and her son, the war like Edward III, were blocked by lawyers (her father had already rested heavily on lawyers, in his hunt for popes and Templars: his closest executors were lawyers). This is how the 475 year long “100 years war” started.

So parliaments rose, ever higher, taking judicial power away from the executive. By the time of the French revolution, England, France and the Netherlands had long seen the judicial system become nearly completely autonomous of the executive. The Bastille was stormed in France to take away from the king the last shred of Roman like power the executive had on the implementation of the law.

After the English, American and French revolutions, too much of the new system has still more to do with the monarchies that preceded it, than with the Roman republican system. The chief executive was elected for longish terms, as if it were a monarch, and directly from the legislature. In other words, the parliament now elected the kings (and queens).

Here a comical aside. The USA elects its president as if he were the Roman emperor. The Imperium Romanum officially re-established by Charlemagne in 800 CE, made Holy under Barabarossa (German: Heiliges Römisches Reich, Latin: Imperium Romanum Sacrum) indeed elected its head from a college of “grand electors“. Thus in 2001, the People elected Gore president, but the plutophile Supreme Court selected Bush, instead. (Perhaps the point when, in the future, the USA will be seen has having given in to the Dark Side!)

The representative democracy, separation of powers system is viewed unanimously as fine and good. (Although Switzerland, the oldest democracy around, uses less representation, and more direct rule of the people.)

But the question remains: when a massive injustice arises, quickly and powerfully, who can handle it? Who is going to deliver maximum power in the name of the law defending the People? In other words, when executive power is needed to re-establish the law, how can the meek executives we now have, thoroughly checked and balanced, exert the required power? America’s Founding Fathers were obsessed by checks and balances, but, although Founding Father Washington became filthy rich (317 slaves in his Mount Vernon house!), the Founding Fathers had no idea what real plutocracy was like. The only plutocrats they knew were in England, and that was judged to be an ocean away.

President Andrew Jackson, one the fiercest generals ever, had a better idea. He hated the Rothschilds (great practitioners of fractional reserve banking, who considered themselves the real power behind the thrones in Europe). Jackson prevented their implantation in the USA. Next he disintegrated the Bank of the United states, and considered that, on his deathbed, to be his greatest achievement. If he was around, as chief executive, he would probably occupy Wall Street and Congress with twenty divisions, the next day.

There are still remnants of the old Roman power the Consuls had: Obama, executing Ben Laden, for example. That was well accepted, because that was overseas (and even below the sea).

Besides Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, Roosevelt Teddy, and FDR, another one who took himself for a Roman consul, was, of course, Abraham Lincoln. But all those powers they grabbed, as needed, were not really the appanage of the presidency of the USA. The water was boiling, so the frog jumped out. Right now, the temperature is slowly rising, and normal powers, in normal circumstances are not enough to address the various problems. That is made plenty clear with the European banking crisis, the on-going financial crisis all over the world (even… in China!), and the ecological crisis (which the USA resolutely refuses to consider, thus undermining everybody).

In the present financial crisis, and in the ecological crisis at some point, overwhelming power will be needed. The only question is to know if the power will be military, and extraordinary, Lincoln style, or civilian and legal.

The spirit of the law has to be defended. For example against the financial derivative universe (which has no collateral, which means the unsuspecting public is the collateral; see lower down).

Too many checks and balances for the power of the People, and all you end with, is the power of the plutocracy.

The arch-example: Geithner and Bernanke directed untold trillions of dollars towards the banks which had caused the crisis, but asked for nothing in return. At that point a strong executive ought to have stepped in and declare that this fabulous gift violated the principle of the law, which is that the republic does not make gifts to private parties, without compensation. Especially when the beneficiaries are the perpetrators.

(The gifts had started under Paulson and Bush II, when the daemon Dimon was offered 30 billion dollars by the fed, collateralized by what he was buying (!!!) to help him swallow Bear-Sterns, the “Jamie deal“. Thus, Dimon is viewed as a genius. When the state gives in to the daemon, crepuscule of goodness!)

The financial crisis has been allowed to roll on because a general laxity about the law. The laxity is fed even by videogames.

The Red Cross pointed out that in the world’s most popular, most sold videogames, the Geneva Conventions rules were not just violated, but gamers get rewarded for violating them. A whole generation is being raised, feeling that one gains 50 points by shooting on ambulances. The Red Cross wants to change this. The Red Cross is right. The plutocrats and their corporations facing them, making billions from a bloody obsession with an alternate reality, will beg to differ. Not only they make a fortune from violating the most basic morality. But those daemons know quite well that the games they sell preach violations of the law, and also violations of civilization itself.

The acceptance of barbarity, as a way to get ahead, the plutocrats meekly hope, will bring more of the abject world in which, and by which, they thrive.

The mood of the times is important: pathetic plutocrats have gone around, requesting the respect they have come to expect. Meanwhile the law is symbolically stepped on. In the last three years, both the French and American presidents, both trained lawyers, violated in public, the very first thing about the law, namely the presumption of innocence (this is not a good example for the inchoating republics of Ukraine and Russia, where the law is obviously used to hunt the loyal opposition!)

The presumption of innocence says that even suspects are innocent until proven otherwise by a proper legal procedure. The presumption of innocence protects freedom, every body’s freedom, not just the freedom of suspects or criminals.

President Sarkozy claimed that former Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin was “guilty”… although Villepin was later found completely innocent. President Obama, having maybe talked to Sarkozy too much, declared that soldier Bradley Manning, who is accused to have shown the truth to the public, had “broken the law”, as his trial started.

However, as commander in chief, Obama is the ultimate authority for the military tribunal which judges Manning. Constitutionally, he cannot pose as judge and accuser.

(Let’s note in passing that the Nazi government had given orders to not prosecute soldiers who had refused to obey orders, on the ground of violations of human rights. The Nazis were afraid that any official prosecution would shine a light on their violations of human rights, the Geneva Conventions, and German law! It is rather curious that the government of the USA is too arrogant to even be as wise as that…)

Methinks that it is not that Sarkozy and Obama have early Alzheimer, and forgot the very first thing about the law.

Instead I believe that they feel they live in times where anyone up high can get away with everything (witness the enormous transfers of wealth to the hyper rich under their reigns, transfers which threaten the very thrones on which they sit, but the establishments upon which they rule feel they could get away with it, and that there is no other way… Although Sarkozy may soon understand his error, especially when, after losing the next election, French judges start to investigate him in earnest…) 

Is a new age of connivance upon us?

Justice without the determination, or capability to impose it, is no justice.

We just had a beautiful example in Italy: Berlusconi, highest judicial officer of the Italian republic, if one looks at his job in the fullness of the authority inherited from Rome, as one should, refused to prosecute the Mafia energetically. He failed to arrest top mafiosi. Berlusconi was barely gone for a few days, replaced by Mario Monti, a former university president, that the head of the Camorra was arrested (after 15 years living in a bunker in Naples).

It cannot be otherwise according to the spirit of the French and American constitutions: the highest authorities of the state are, have to be, first of all, the highest judicial authorities. It is no accident that leech known as finance is so strong in London, where the Prime Minister has fewer powers (not being head of state, to start with; and according to Rothschild, circa 1820, not the real power in Britain.)

Such disregard for the basics, for the strict letter of the law, I suggest, comes precisely from a general mood which tramples the basics of republican civilization. Or then from having a plutocratic agenda. But to believe that, in the age of the Internet, plutocracy can win over democracy, is itself fiction of the highest order. As people get more and more informed, the transition to a military regime will have to take just a generation, and not five, as it did in Rome. 

To re-establish democracy fully, it will be primordial to realize that the highest authority of the republic is the law, or, more generally the spirit behind it: WE THE PEOPLE.

And the highest officials of the republic have to incarnate it. Maybe we want to have a second look at the institution of consul. Shorter terms of the higher officials (as in Switzerland), with more of a judicial mission may help in blocking the plutocrats. France is also going to imitate Switzerland and California, and make referenda possible, upon popular request. Switzerland has imposed on its banks twice the Basel III reserve requirements. And it is said that the Fed with impose Basel III to its financial daemons; that sounds technical, but, when the banks have not enough reserves, they find them among the unsuspecting public, and then the economy tanks. (It is amazing that not imposing Basel III on American banks was contemplated!)

The derivative markets use enormous leverage (say 25 trillion of net positions out of a notional 700 trillions total, at least that is what the industry claims, giving a leverage of about 30!) But the institutions using them have no collateral. Thus, in case of failure of one, the entire world financial system will come down (as exactly happened when AIG was 200 billion short in 2008). But nobody has had the authority mental, judiciary or political to stop the non sense.

How did Rome fall? The republic faded, Rome became increasingly a fascist empire where justice could not be visited on the mightiest. An intractable financial crisis developed. Its fundamental cause was the refusal of the plutocracy to pay taxes to the Roman state, while its agents were busy disempowering Rome and Italy (to avoid a revolt back to the republic). Since the plutocracy ruled, there was no way out.

Emperor Septimus Severus, a general of at least half Libyan ancestry born in Libya, knew the problem well, and hated the Senate (headquarters of the plutocracy). But he could not fight it.

A man, even an emperor, cannot fight a mood. Only philosophers can do so. But, by the time of Septimus Severus, it was too late for philosophy. All this, because it had become a self serving habit of the mighiest to not apply the law to those who had become too big to fail, too big to flail.

Ultimately, it was a new people’s philosophy, from Germania, which was to transmogrify the ruling mood, and the empire, three centuries later. In the new ruling mood, plutocracy and slavery were out. So the entire economy rested again on small farmers, just as it did in the early Roman republic (those new, northern farmers cultivated the rich heavy soil of the colder, wetter oceanic climes with the new technology of heavy steel ploughs pulled by oxen… or horse).

It would take a few centuries for Western civilization to reach higher than Rome ever did.

But we don’t have that kind of time, we don’t have centuries to change moods, and rebuild on a more sustainable basis: remember the methane bubbling in the arctic. And plutocracy is not that ingrained yet: it is nothing that a 90% tax on the very rich, Eisenhower style, cannot fix.

(In Rome, using the Trojan Horse of foreign wars of choice (around 146 BCE), the plutocracy was able to acquire private armies which were above the law. Right now, it is just short of that. Only its business practices are above the law, and the states have been captured to allow them. But a nasty war or two (say, starting with Iran) could fix the problem.)

Applying the law can change the world. As I said for years, mercury pollution from coal burning, kills tens of thousands of lives every year and causes birth defects, learning disabilities, and respiratory diseases among millions of survivors. And this in the USA alone (compare with the civilian nuclear industry, which did not kill one member of the public yet, in the USA: is the hysterical anti-nuclear crowd paid by fossil fuel polluters?)

Finally Obama, apparently remembering some of what he is supposed to do, has unleashed the EPA onto the coal burners. It remains, though, to do the same worldwide (worldwide carbon tax, worldwide mercury tax). And if the polluters in China can’t adapt fast enough, let’s tax them into extinction! Why should they be allowed to put mercury vapor in the air, and ruin our brains? Is not that a casus belli?

The mercury pollution is just a small example of the following. At this point justice, the republic, and the spirit of the law, is not just a matter of taste, but a matter of survival.

***

Patrice Ayme

Aphorisms Mid January 2011

January 14, 2011

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Violence And All That Blah Blah Blah: When Is The Law Not The Law? And Is Not A Government Which Ignores The Law Committing Violence Of The Highest Order? An editorial in the New York Times enjoined all Americans to act according to the law, in light of a shooting in Arizona by a crazed maniac who bought his weapon legally.

Obama talked well, at the memorial service, true. But did he act well, as non violently as possible in his quality of president? Out of magnanimity, we will momentarily ignore the dark angel of Afghanistan flying by, on automatic, its wings dripping with blood…

Is Obama part of this disrespect for law and decency he himself deplores? It is a trick question. One million Americans were killed by firearms since 1970. Sanctimoniously, the "left" is asking the right to tone down the political debate to respect the … law (see Krugman: "A tale of two moralities").

But did the Obama administration prosecute those who incited, advocated, ordered and practiced torture? No. Obviously some citizens are above the law. Some citizens are too big to fail. But that is doing violence to the law.

Did the Obama administration prosecute those who incited, advocated, organized, ordered and practiced financial malfeasance, in the greatest financial conspiracy ever known? No. Obviously some citizens are above any suspicion. More violence to the law. Granted a law that allows people to go around with concealed war weapons is itself violent, so this is getting a bit too much for logical processing.

The Roman republic lasted five centuries, because the Romans implemented ferociously their metaprinciple of putting the law above anything else: Dura Lex, Sed Lex! "The law is hard, but it’s the law!"

When the Roman republic deviated from this, a strict, constant, relentless application of the law, the richest and noblest of the rich stopped obeying the law. The republic became a violent mess, where money reigned, and then a tyranny, where Pluto ruled.

By refusing to apply the law on a massive scale, the Obama administration has done violence to the law, hence to the republic, hence encouraged the very atmosphere of violence it now condemns so eloquently.

***

My Baby Learns Through Emotions, And Emotions Money Can’t Buy:

The language of emotions comes first to baby. It is a continuous, multidimensional medium (dimensions through facial expressions, eyebrows, frowning, mouth and eye geometry, or tone of voice, and body language). That way emotional language resembles the mathematical set-up of quantum physics; the Quantum waves evolve continuously in often high dimensional "configuration space". Notice the word: con-figuration. It is not there figuratively speaking. Physics has logical poetry in its semantics.

Emotional communication with babies is more important than anything else, as it directs the rest of the mental development of a baby. Including speech. Let those who pay for care be forewarned. ***

President Obama Suggested That Americans Could Question Each Other’s Ideas Without Questioning Their Love Of Country.

And the New York Times to add:"We hope all Americans take that to heart." And then what? Which kind of heart is that? What if it is a heart of stone? The heart needs to be educated in the ways, and taste, of reason. As I just said, it cannot be purchased and provided in exchange for money.

The heart has its own mind, but it needs to go to school too. learning the multiplication table is not learning the calculus of emotions.

Learning to think well is done by learning to debate, and learning what a correct argument is. A correct argument deploys elaborated logic and vast, relevant knowledge. One learns to detect what is relevant. A correct argument is far removed from those crudest of analogies known as insults, and those violent remedies known as threats.

Learning to debate correctly is not only a body of knowledge. It requires more. The heart has to be engaged.

Learning to debate is also a body of appreciation, with sophisticated feelings to accompany it with the passion that good thinking needs as hope and propellant. There is work to do, to rearrange neuronal circuitry into the general love for arguments, and it ought to start by primary school. Read a complicated, explain the main points, learn to answer questions about it. I went through this kind of schooling. I continually come across Americans who obviously did not.

Instead, in the USA, an "argument" is known, by the common heart, as a dispute. It is high time to reorganize  the semantics seriously. How does one want to love debates if what debates are made of, arguments, are viewed and confused with aggressions?

The USA has a lot of work to do with the heart. Especially when one sees its incapacity to switch to the metric system (like the rest of the planet), its incapacity to chase money out of politics (as all other democracies are trying much harder to do), its incapacity to remove dangerous weapons from the public space, or going to a health care system which does not mix employment and insurance.

The incapacity to switch to a more rational mode is fundamentally a manifestation of an inability to think satisfactorily. For example, guns are first used to kill people the murderers are familiar with. What is the logic in that? Owning guns so one can use family for shooting practice?

Time to go back to school, big time.

***

Teleprompt Me Not:

Barack’s speech at the Arizona memorial was excellent. Very good ideas therein, and, for once, he talked with his heart. Why the heart suddenly? Why for once? Because, for once, Obama used NOTES, not a stupid teleprompter. So he immediately became much more intelligent. If he keeps at it, talking without doing the teleprompter robot, if he keeps at it, talking with its heart as his copilot, he will elevate the debate in the country. Americans will be reminded to talk with their hearts.

Notes are used just to recall what one wants to talk about (except if one is an old, mentally diseased Stalinist). After a glance at the notes, the reader uses internal memory recall. Then one lifts one’s eyes from the notes, and reconstitute the train of thought the notes pointed at. A good reader of notes has to reconstitute, and even relive with his or her heart, and that is much more than what is showing up on the teleprompter screen.

Why? The reader who has consulted notes remembers a few hard facts, animated together by software heavily depending upon emotional recall. Thus, the reader re-creates the discourse, reliving the entire logic of the discourse, including the emotional context it was communicated with initially. This is much more human; see the example of the baby above.

***

In the series about increasing American insanity…

Some US representatives announced that they will carry concealed firearms when meeting with their constituents. Don’t campaign, reload! A few constituents are still alive and kicking…

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Getting To Know People Is Getting To Know Minds, Hence The Importance Of Table And Landscape.

To get to know people, you have got to converse with them (or then live with them through extraordinary events, psychologically revealing… and harder to come by, by the definition of "extraordinary").

Ordinary conversation has diverse meanings in diverse countries. In the USA, in the traditional, male dominated culture, it’s all about exchanging sport scores, sport opinions, and sport prognostications. Obsessing about sport teams instead of politics is the way the Demos was kept quiet in the Roman empire. It has been taught to Americans, fostering the reign of their exploiters, because it is a heavy diversion from what is really interesting.

Proper conversation has both to be polite, nice, and deep. To allow depth, and the effort it necessitates, or the pain it causes, polite pleasure has to be traded in for the effort, pain and inconvenience of thinking. Hence the importance of proper manners, a good table, good hike, a good adventure.

Thus filling the minds best goes with filling the stomachs best, and sharing earthly pleasures.

***

Why Philosophy Matters Most:

Philosophy is first of all a method: how to reason best with fewer sure facts than science uses. Then, in second order, philosophy is a body of knowledge. Then, in third order, a history, then… in fourth order, a consolation.

Its first order definition, how to reason best on fumes, makes philosophy the most important human activity, and everybody has to master it more, the more civilization progresses.

Homo makes theories, and the first method to make a theory is the imaginary, tempered by philosophy.

***

It is not because one can say it, and it bites, that one ought to say it. Something for those who read too much Sade or Nietzsche to remember.

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Obamacare, or Machiavelliancare?

Obamacare is probably unconstitutional: you cannot force the People to purchase private services. Does it matter, in the fullness of time? No.

First for the unconstitutionality: As early as 16 centuries ago, Augustine proclaimed all of Christianity was a "Respublica". Respublica Christiana. Even Augustine, the Christian fanatic, used "Christian" as a qualifier. The memory of the full Roman republic, 450 years earlier, was still fresh. Even under the "Principate" (= "Empire"), the main concept was still the Republic, the Public Thing. Obamacare instead says the main thing is the for profit institution, and the People shall serve it, by being forced, by law, to pay for the profits of the rich health care industry.

I know this was not, supposedly, according to the nice little fable for children, the aim of the law. The crafty aim was to entangle the private companies in a maze of regulations that will force them to behave decently, after offering them enough incentives to do so.

Actually it is argued that the plan will cost one trillion dollars, in spite of a 500 billion cut in Medicare. Obama, in his progressive version, could hope for the following: people get used to expect the advantages of Obamacare. Everybody is covered, pre-conditions get insured, coverage cannot be discontinued, children are protected, etc. By the time people are addicted to what the Europeans have long taken for granted, it will turn out that Obamacare under the private system is not financially workable (and that is already transpiring as premiums escalate). Something will have to give, and it will not be the addiction.

Then a public health system, Medicare For All, will be the only solution. Actually Obama, a few years back, had announced such a Machiavellian plan.

The same Machiavellian approach to financial regulation is entirely possible. A good fisherman lets the fish swallow the bait.

Somebody who ought to know told me Obama was not that clever. Well I am not so sure. And even if he is not, he may have no choice than to become really clever.

***

It’s Spelled Banksters, Not Bankers:

The public-private fractional reserve banking system is intrinsically unjust, incompatible with democracy. Some (Simon Johnson) propose to institute a size cap on it. The present banking system would still be unjust, and incompatible with democracy, though.

It seems Obama is stuck too, even if he detests the system, there is not much he can do. The revolt has to come from the street. Common people have to understand the problem first. Somebody has to teach them. Probably not somebody from a top American university.

The European Union has put caps on bankers short term bonuses. They have to wait five years before getting their bonuses, which are transmogrified into stock in their bank holding companies. That is an independent solution from limiting bank size.

***

The Truth Often Sounds Shrill...Why? Because it often starts as an alarm call, and only great passion can overcome the exhaustion of establishing new neural connections, refurbished neurons, and, overall, genuinely new neurobiology.

That’s why Planck observed that the best way for the truth to come out was for old people to die and new ones to be born. But of course he said that before the Hitlerjugend became a mass phenomenon.

Truth always come out shrill, thus people who are too cool cannot generate really new thoughts: they just don’t have enough passion, hence enough energy to build inside themselves new structures. Show me a famous thinker, I will show you a passion. Show me a sheep, I will show you the munching. And the general jejune attitude.

We think, not because we are too cool to care, but because we are too passionate to stay indifferent.

***

Patrice Ayme

MORALITY AS PHYSICS

July 19, 2010

 

MORALITY AND HEAVENS ARE ANIMATED BY THE SAME LAWS.

Morality Is Revealed To Be An Application Of The Principle Of Least Action.

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Main idea: Not only is biology is a type of Quantum nanotechnology. So is morality.

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In an interesting albeit challenging essay, Peter Railton asks in the New York Times: "Moral Camouflage or Moral Monkeys? Is the great show we make of morality just a civilized cover for our selfish opportunism? [NYT electronic edition, July 18, 2010].

Railton, a salaried philosopher from an American university, makes an analogy with philosopher Bertrand Russel’s ironical verdict about the American university:“Remarkable. As near Oxford as monkeys can make.”

Having thus humbly confessed to an important insight, to keep in mind, professor Railton quotes Immanuel Kant on his amazement for morality: “Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe … the starry heavens above and the moral law within.”

Railton then points out that studies on primates and the influence of genes on behavior have brought a less heavenly aura on the moral law: "Today many who look at morality through a Darwinian lens can’t help but find a charming naïveté in Kant’s thought. “Yes, remarkable. As near morality as monkeys can make.”"

Science has basically already established that monkeys have evolved, and are made, from the same laws which give rise to the heavens. However, the laws of heavens are now known to be much more complicated than they were in Kant’s time. Laws of heavens include powerful and mysterious, all encompassing Quantum Mechanics, which sits prominently at the controls of the hearts of suns and the planets.

Indeed, does anything escape physics? What of the mind? I hold that: The laws of heavens, and the laws of morality, are, ultimately, of the same nature.

Why? For several reasons pertaining to what the Greek called "physis" (nature). Some of these reasons have to do with the deepest ideas in the foundations of physics, some with quantum physics, some with evolution theory (both biological evolution theory and spiritual evolution theory, both having to do with power).

The word and concept of "morality" comes from the "mores", in other words the traditional ways, the customs, the manners, those which perdure, in Latin. [Coined by philosopher Cicero, translating straight from the Greek; see note 1].

What is traditional is what has long worked, in other words, what is sustainable. Morality, by definition, is what survives, and thus what allows to survive. How did it work so long indeed? By managing power for the best. By surviving better than the alternatives. And survival means power, again. The virus that kills overpowered its host.

Now physics is all about energy. Modern physics as we know it, is a vast application of the Principle of Least Action [note 2]. Power is energy divided by time, in its physical definition. The laws of physics are the laws of biology, ultimately, thus making natural selection all about power, in a vast, but nevertheless, strict physical sense.

It was obvious all along that the laws of natural selection are all about power. The one being eaten transmit power to the eater (literally, in the form of stored energy known as fat, carbohydrates, i.e., fuel). The one being terminated surrenders its power to the terminator.

The same goes with ideas: ideas are not so much about beauty (as Paul Dirac had it). More precisely ideas are about power, and the beauty is in the power. The Dirac equation is beautiful, because, in a few symbols abstracting amazing spaces and concepts, it represents so much power (the behavior of electrons, the prediction of anti-matter).

Ideas are subject to natural selection, and so are all moral systems. The best survive, the worst get terminated, and it is this struggle which defines the meaning of "good", "better", "bad", and "worse".

Nazism was a set of ideas which got terminated after a mighty struggle of natural selection, because, well they were so weak, being so wrong. That struggle had been started by France and Britain, because they were offended by Nazi morality (or lack thereof, more exactly). France and Britain turned out to be super predators in the realm of ideas, who devoured Nazism, and reproduced mightily; all of Europe now being a vast republic along the lines of the revolution of 1789 and the principles of the Enlightenment.

Empathy and altruism allow the group to survive better, so they, too, find their root in power management.

Quantum Mechanics makes possible biological miracles such as photosynthesis and vision, using effects so subtle, they can be described, but not under-stood (nothing stands under). Quantum Mechanics is God-like, because it has many of the attributes of the legendary God: omnipresence, omnipotence, action at a distance, tunneling through matter, multiple reality, presence without existence etc. No wonder Quantum Mechanics can reach the moral law.

Morality, ultimately is a set of neurological structures which reproduce by concert and concertation. They are transmitted, as all ideas by speech, and example. At any given time, morality is a set of mental structures (abstracted digitally in books). Thus, morality is actually a physical phenomenon, just as real, but more complex and delicate, as the moon. Thus even more admirable. The moral law within is animated by the same laws as the starry heavens above.

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Patrice Ayme

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