Thursday, September 22, 2016

Hillary Clinton’s Health is Irrelevant

As all too often, we continue to obsess over things that just don’t matter, while ignoring things that do.

Hillary Clinton’s health problems are much in the news lately.  Is she really sick, or just having a bad week?  Who cares.  Forget what you read in the Tom Clancy novels: the next US president is not going to fight Vladimir Putin in single combat, or challenge the Chinese premier in a contest on the TV trivia game-show Jeopardy. 

Presidents set broad policy.  They don’t need to be healthy.  They don’t need to know the middle name of the under-secretary of defense of Uzbekistan.  They have staff for that.

If Hillary Clinton dies in office, her hand-picked corporate lickspittle Tim Kaine will continue the same pro-donorist, pro-war, pro-Wall Street, anti-worker policy that she would have.  If Hillary Clinton becomes demented, her staff will similarly ensure that the policies of her wealthy donors are dutifully enacted, the national interest be damned.  So it doesn’t matter.

Oh, you say, but what about her lying about her health?  OK, maybe that is of some relevance, but when you consider Hillary’s lies on not supporting TPP, and not being joined at the hip to Wall Street, etc.etc., who cares.  Frankly, if a public official tries to tough out an illness and act like they are healthier than they are, well, that could almost be considered admirable (or it would be if she was not in every other way a supremely disgusting person).

Similarly, the upcoming presidential debate is irrelevant.  Hillary supporters will claim she won, Trump supporters will claim he won, and it won’t matter either way.  As well have a swimsuit competition.  I don’t care if Hillary comes off on TV as assured or as a bitch, I don’t care if Trump gets off a zinger or looks befuddled.  That’s TV. It doesn’t matter.

Let’s go back to the record.  Just consider Libya.  Libya was the most prosperous nation in Africa, it wasn’t paradise but it was mostly peaceful, people had jobs and money and health care, and the government was an ally in war on terror (maybe reluctantly, but an ally nonetheless) and maintaining stability in the region.  As Secretary of State Hillary pushed to have the United States ally with Al Qaeda and other jihadist groups (yes you heard me right we are now allied with Al Qaeda.  You know, the nutjobs that blew up the twin towers on 9/11?  And people still say that Hillary Clinton is ‘qualified’ to be president??), and then we attacked a nation that didn’t threaten us, and killed God only knows how many people, and immiserated and uprooted God only knows how many more, and turned Libya into a post-apocalyptic wasteland like in “Mad Max Fury Road” (great movie but I wouldn’t want to live there), and now there are refugees going everywhere and ISIS and related fanatics are doing unspeakable things etc.etc.  And Hillary is apparently proud of this, and is certain, if elected, to do even more of it!!!

For this real, actual, substantial, and relevant actions, Hillary Clinton is scum.  And the Libya thing is just one of many (using her office as Secretary of State as a personal ATM selling out the national interest for cash, supporting a TPP trade policy that gives foreign corporate lawyers meeting in secret supreme legislative power over our nation, etc).  I don’t care about her style in pantsuits, or if she has fainting spells, or is mean to her staff, or throws heavy objects at her husband (confession: I do find this last prospect cheering), or can maintain her composure on national TV in the face of Donald Trump’s needling.  Focus on what matters, people.

As far as Trump, he is a wildcard.  He says a lot of sane and responsible things, like, we shouldn’t blow up countries that don’t threaten us, we shouldn’t pick a fight with nuclear-armed Russia, etc.  Talk is however cheap, and what he would do as president remains to be seen.  But Hillary’s track record is crystal clear: the Queen of Chaos, the candidate of Wall Street and War, she’s a bona-fide monster.

And this would be true even if tomorrow she set the world record for fastest time running the marathon.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Capitalism is not the problem. Capitalism is not the solution.

Always we hear the endless debate: does capitalism (that is, a market-based economic system) inevitably create poverty and inequality?  Or does capitalism inevitably create prosperity?  Should we attempt to ban capitalism, and find another economic system?  Or should we let capitalism run free, and unleash it from the shackles of regulation?

This is all rot.  Capitalism is irrelevant, and the people arguing both sides of this laughable ‘debate’ are – wittingly or not – distracting us from the real problems that we face.

Imagine that a tall building is erected, and it shortly collapses with significant loss of life.  How should we react to this?  One school of thought says that the laws of physics are to blame, that physics inevitably causes buildings to collapse, and that we need new physical laws.  The other side says rubbish, and physics is the answer, physics naturally makes tall buildings stay up, and we simply need to believe hard in physics and stop trying to regulate it.

This is, of course, insane.  Physics neither guarantees that buildings will stand up nor that they fall down.  Physics cannot be denied.  We do not have the ability to change the laws of physics (and likely never will), we cannot break them, but neither does physics lock us into a prison.  Physics sets the rules of the game, but within these rules we have broad latitude. If buildings fall down it is because of specific things that were or were not done, not because of the laws of physics per se.  Physics is as happy with buildings that stand up as with buildings that fall down.

And so with ‘capitalism.’  Market forces cannot be denied.  Things that are scarce relative to the demand for them, will command high values.  Things that are in excess relative to the demand for them, will command low values.  And people respond to incentives.

Now when a population grows rapidly, once there is no longer an open frontier, there are more workers than resources, and wages for the many will fall and profits for the few will rise.  And when a population is stable or grows very slowly, then more often than not there will be more resources than workers, and wages for the many will rise and profits for the few will be limited.  Both situations are completely consistent with the workings of the market. 

The poverty of Bangladesh, the prosperity of Switzerland – both are capitalist economies, and the market is working equally well in both places.  The outcomes are different because of specific decisions the people living there made, not because the market inevitably causes anything.  Capitalism can as easily produce crushing misery as widespread prosperity, depending on how we work it.

Trying to outlaw capitalism by either total regulation (i.e., communism) or no regulation (i.e., neoliberalism) inevitably results in stagnation, because without market forces and incentives people don’t work hard and resources are not allocated efficiently.

Now you may say, wait a minute: how can no regulation result in the same stagnation as over-regulation?  Because they are the same thing!  A capitalist system can only exist with moderate regulation.  No regulation quickly leads to the same over-regulation as communism. 

In the long run, Laissez Faire is Stalinism. 

OK, suppose we get rid of all government regulations.  Now the rich are free to do whatever they want.  Including buying up the government (or creating a new one if the old one was totally wiped out), and bribing public officials, and buying up the news media and the courts etc.  And the first thing they will do is enact onerous, regressive, and complex regulations that will soon come to rival or even exceed the late unlamented Soviet Union, and to wipe out all vestiges of market discipline for the owners of capital.

In the United States there was a brief period of deregulation starting around 1970 (ish).  Laws against conflict of interest, or bribing public officials and university faculty, and forming monopolies, and so on, where either repealed or not enforced.  And the rich progressively began to take over the government.  So now we have trade agreements that are thousands of pages long that regulate virtually everything one might think of.  We have rich bankers now guaranteed bailouts with public funds if they make bad investments.  We have private student loan organizations that are guaranteed their profits by the government.  We have a for-profit health care system whose complex rules would make any Byzantine official’s head spin.  And so on.  Which means that these brave capitalists are no longer doing their capitalist duty of evaluating risk and steering resources towards productive investments.  They are becoming an oriental despotism, ruling over the population in arbitrary fashion, immune to any sort of market discipline.

Capitalism requires moderate regulation or it soon disappears.  Laissez Faire is logically impossible.  An unregulated privately-owned monopoly soon becomes indistinguishable from a state-run collective.

So what’s going on in the world?  Many things, but the failure or success of capitalism is not one of them.  A biggy is the elite-encouraged global population explosion, which is filling up the world and increasing competition for jobs and resources and making wages lower and profits and social power for the rich higher.  But that’s something specific.  Talking about that might result in specific actions being taken to reverse the situation.  And that would never do. 

And so we have these sterile, pointless debates about whether capitalism is intrinsically good or intrinsically evil.  Because these debates will never ever lead to doing anything specific and functional that could affect the real world.  Which is, obviously, the point.

Friday, September 9, 2016

It’s The Enemy You Don’t See That Kills You

Fighter pilots often have a maxim like this one.  The idea is that while engaging in a  dogfight with an enemy plane is dangerous, it’s when an enemy plane you didn’t know was there gets behind you and starts shooting that you are really in trouble.

Similarly, when dealing with a society as a whole, it’s the threats we don’t see – or more accurately, the threats that we do not allow ourselves to see – that will bring us down.

I have long argued that the main problem facing humanity today is the policy of the rich to deliberately create a population explosion, which is making a few people even richer and impoverishing the rest of us.  It might seem that I am a bit of a one-note singer here: how can so many of the problems in the world be due to this one thing?  Isn’t the world complicated, and don’t we face many problems?  Why focus on just this one thing?

Yes the world is complicated, but right now there is one big thing that overshadows all else, and that’s forced population growth.  We might get all of a dozen other problems addressed, but if we ignore this one thing, it will cancel all else out.  Why?

1. Exponential population growth can and will and always has cancelled out all other factors.  This is beyond mere economics: we are talking physics here.

2. There is an almost complete ban on mentioning the fact that exponential population growth causes poverty for the many, and an even more total ban on mentioning that this population growth is in very large part being deliberately created by the rich.  Forced population growth is the thing we can’t allow ourselves to see, and that’s always what brings you down.

There are many ways that people can die.  They can be shot or stabbed or get cancer or starve or drown or fall from a great height or burn to death in a fire etc.etc.  All of these possibilities are potentially 100% fatal: in that sense they are all equally powerful.  But it’s the one that you are actually facing right now that is important.  Getting all the others right but drown, and you are still 100% dead.

Suppose that the population of the world had been allowed to stabilize at a billion or two, and population growth was not an issue.  Suppose also that there was a total ban on mentioning the bad health effects of lead exposure, and cars all used leaded gasoline, and our water and food were heavily contaminated with lead, and people were getting sick en masse from lead poisoning.  In that case I, being a true iconoclast, would be railing about the dangers of lead and I would not be talking about population growth.  In that case it would be lead that would be at risk of taking civilization down.

But that’s not what happened.  A few rich people did benefit from putting lead into gasoline, and they did try to suppress the information about its harmful effects, but most rich people didn’t have a stake in leaded products, and a public debate was possible.  It took a while, but the harmful effects of lead were defined, and lead was slowly removed from gasoline and paint and water pipes etc.  Lead exposure is still a public health risk, of course, but it has been reduced to a relatively minor one.  Today lead exposure is simply not a major cause of human misery.  Because we could talk about it, and because we could talk about it, we could take action.

And this is true of so many things.  The HIV/AIDS virus was an especially nasty disease, at one time a virtual sentence of slow and painful death and spreading rapidly through the population.  It remains a serious problem, it has hardly been solved, but at least in the United States great progress has been made, and I would say that HIV/AIDS is not currently amongst the great challenges that we as a society face.

The list goes on.  In the 19th century train and other industrial accidents routinely caused disasters that killed and maimed many people.   There were some vested interests that didn’t want to spend the money investing in safer systems, but nevertheless there were public outcries, and safety standards slowly brought into being… and today the intrinsic safety of commercial air and rail transport are at levels so high that they seem almost superhuman to me.

But forced population growth is different.  That tends to benefit all the rich, as a class.  And so public discussion of this has been effectively banned.  My current favorite example is Syria.  The government criminalized birth control (not just abortion, but condoms and birth control pills), and propagandized that everyone had to breed like a rabbit for the greater glory of Syria.  The population doubled every 18 years, and it hit the current limits, and the place collapsed.  And yet, while Syria has been in the news almost every day for many years now, there is a total ban on any mention of the Syrian government’s policy of maximizing population growth.  I have never seen a single mainstream corporate press mention of this fact.  Oh the data are there if you know the right keywords, and in specialist sociological texts, but it is banned from the public space.  And so nothing is done, not just in Syria, but everywhere.  And it is too-rapid population growth, variously caused or encouraged or at least allowed to occur without discussion, that will slowly crush the bulk of us into poverty and turn the world back into a stagnant and corrupt dark age.

Because it’s the problem that you cannot allow yourself to see that kills you.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Case for Pope Francis as an Evil Man and Whore to Power

I argue here the case that the current Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, the flesh-and-blood human being Jorge Mario Bergoglio (“Pope Francis”) is an evil man dedicated to serving the interests of his wealthy patrons in order to ensure his own luxuries and power, at the cost of global poverty and war.

I do not mean in any way to insult the Catholic church itself, or the Christian religion, or Christian believers in general.  Christianity, as is the case with all religions and philosophies, has often been used as a shield by those of ill intent, but overall Christianity is not the issue here.  The bible has many excellent moral teachings that all may benefit from. It is the specific individual person who currently calls himself “Pope Francis.”

Now the Pope has been much in the news lately, demanding that both Europe and the United States open their borders to the unlimited hordes of third-world refugees in the name of compassion.  There are two possible reasons for him to do this.

1. He is following in the footsteps of Christ, and urging everyone in the rich countries to selflessly sacrifice all that they have built up over the centuries to help others in need, even if many of these others are drug gang members or jihadists who want to kill everyone.

2. He is providing cover for cheap-labor immigration policies that will drive wages in rich countries down to third-world levels, thus making the rich even richer.  One notes that, while the finances of the Roman Catholic church are notoriously opaque, it is certain that they depend strongly on both donations from the rich, and also on their forbearance and subsidies (such as: preferential tax treatment, exemptions from public record keeping etc.).

The evidence is overwhelmingly clear that 1 is false, and 2 is true.   Consider:

- The Vatican City is surrounded by a wall and heavily armed guards.  There are lots of poor people in the world who would love to invade the Vatican City, and camp out in the streets and eat their food and loot artworks etc.  But should any such illegal immigrants attempt to trespass on the sacred grounds of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, they will be roughly ejected, and if they are insistent, they will be shot.

No man has the moral standing to demand that others sacrifice what they have to help the poor, when he himself refuses to sacrifice anything.  The Pope’s protestations of morality should be absolutely rejected.

It has been pointed out that the Vatican City is relatively small, and would be quickly overwhelmed by just a few tens of thousands of third-world refugees, while not even putting a dent in the poverty of the overpopulated third world.  And yet, that same logic also applies to larger nations such as Germany or even the United States.  India has 1.2 billion people, Bangladesh 300 million, Africa is slated to grow to 4 billion this century…  Open borders for even the largest nation will result in its being dragged down into the mud, just as for tiny Vatican City.  It’s just that the Pope lives in the Vatican City and he likes his peace and fine dining and nice quiet chapels etc.etc.  He just doesn’t care about forcing other people to live in squalor.

- The Pope says nothing about the incredibly racist and xenophobic immigration policies of Mexico.  So the Pope was recently in Mexico demanding that the United States open its border to everyone in Mexico (and everyone in Honduras and everyone in El Salvador and everyone in Syria etc.etc.etc.).  However, while Mexico is quite poor relative to the United States, it is still a bit richer than many other nations, and Mexico itself has a very restrictive immigration policy.  Illegal immigrants in Mexico have no rights, they are summarily arrested, often beaten and robbed and raped, and unceremoniously dumped back on their side of the border.  Mexico’s official language is Spanish, and they don’t provide free translation services for foreign nationals that have been arrested.  And even for legal immigration, Mexico only grants citizenship to ethnically pure Mexicans – no Asians or Africans or Gringos need apply!

So why didn't the Pope call attention to Mexico’s tight immigration policy?  Why didn’t the Pope demand that Mexicans give up what little they have to help those who are even worse off?  Logic suggests one answer.  It is in the interests of the rich to lower wages in places like the United States and Germany.  However, Mexico’s wages are already very low.  There is simply little profit potential in driving Mexico down to the level of Guatemala.  So Mexico’s restrictive immigration policy is OK with the Pope.

Note also that the Pope says nothing about the root causes of poverty in Mexico (or at least, not very strongly or very publicly).  He is apparently just fine with Mexicans being dirt poor, he only cares about making Americans and Germans etc. dirt poor so the rich can get richer.  But Mexican poverty didn’t happen by accident.  It is variously due to things like: previous policies aimed at maximizing population growth, government-sponsored cartels that raise prices for the many and create profits for a few, taxing the food and medicine of people making a dollar an hour and using the proceeds to subsidize wealthy bankers that made bad investments, entering into ‘race to the bottom’ trade agreements that make it impossible for Mexican wages to rise substantially above those of Vietnam and Malaysia, labor organizers being beaten and shot, and so on and so forth.  This, the Pope is apparently fine with.  It’s just the United States wanting to control its own border that the Pope has a problem with.  Because the Pope could give a damn about global poverty, he just wants to serve the current interests of the rich.  IMHO.

Sure, the Pope makes a lot of fatuous remarks about poverty being bad and the rich being selfish.  But the only SPECIFIC thing he demands is that the middle classes of the United States and Germany be crushed into poverty via massive third world immigration.  He never demands that someone like George Soros give up all that they have to the poor.  You don't see him standing around the walls protecting Mark Zuckerberg's mansion.  He'll give some lip service to the lust for profit being bad but never actually oppose any specific policy... It is only migration, and then only when it specifically serves the interests of the rich, where the Pope takes a stand of substance.

And then of course, there is the Roman Catholic Church’s opposition to birth control.  Now that’s something that wealthy landowners have always loved.  More and more cattle, cheaper and cheaper labor, higher and higher profits for the few.  I am not aware of any smoking gun, but I see an organization pushing policies that will make the average person poor, a handful of the rich even richer, and said organization depends strongly on the largesse of these rich.  I say the current Pope is – perhaps even unwittingly – an agent of evil, whose actions are to encourage the global population explosion, and to maximize the amount of human suffering and misery in the world.  Just saying “Oh you can’t say that” or “the Pope is holy just because” is not a valid counter-argument. 

The current President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, recently called the Pope a son of a whore, and is clashing with the Catholic Church over their policy of encouraging people to have more children than they can support.  I do not claim to support all of President Duterte’s policies, but it’s refreshing to hear a politician talk back to this sanctimonious hierophant.  Way to go, President Duterte!  Amen.