Notes Oct 31 2007

October 31, 2007 § Leave a comment

Feels like the war in Iraq (Iran) is a smoke screen to hide what is going on with the economy – many with real wealth taking it out of the system and then out of the country.

Our leadership is caught wanting to take over the ship and run the same course

This prevents us from dealing with the real agenda: energy, climate, wealth distribution, population, and related enabelers, such as the proper use of technology – IT, nanotech, and biotech..

From The Economists’ Voice

Summary

Joseph E. Stiglitz presents his plan for getting the United States and the Developing World to address global warming, and argues that by failing to address this problem, the United States is implicitly subsidizing energy usage and engaging in unfair trade practices.

From Informed Comment

The Democrats have been facing the dilemma that they are blocked from doing much about Iraq. This is something they can do. Cut off funding for the embassy and force most of the diplomats home. This is the way to start ending the war.

Brad deLong is discussing Hayak. Grasping Reality with Both Hands Brad DeLong’s Semi-Daily Journal 

I am a liberal Keynesian and a social democrat–but within economics even liberal Keynesian social democrats acknowledge that the Austrians won victory in their intellectual debate with the central planners long ago.

My understanding is that Hayak was right about central planning, but failed to take on the fact that corporations become the central planners, especially as they grow in size larger than states, and create alignments with politicians in order to control. Dos Brad see this?

By page 87 the reader is well-prepared to agree with Scott that the map is never the territory, and that what the state “sees” is only a very small slice of reality.

Scott’s critique of “high modernism” as a mode of urban planning focuses on Brazil’s capital, the now more than one generation-old planned city of Brasilia. As far as they possibly could, the designers of Brasilia tried to achieve the spatial segregation of different aspects of life–housing in a different place from work, recreation, traffic, public administration in different districts as well–as high-modernist guru Le Corbusier had commanded.

And, good sentences for GardenWorld

Scott draws heavily on the excellent work of Jane Jacobs to criticize this planned, surprise-free, every-apartment-building-looks-the-same high-modernist order of pre-planned Brasilia. Jacobs argued that rigid spatial segregation of functions made for visual regularity from the bird’s-eye view of the architect but made the city damn hard to live in. By contrast, it is the mingling of residences with shopping areas and workplaces that makes an urban neighborhood interesting–and livable. And this urban diversity of uses cannot be planned by the high-modernist architect. At best it can be planned for–by the government providing a framework and infrastructure for urban development instead of specifying land use down to the last square centimeter.

As Scott argues, even planners who recognize diversity will never plan it. You cannot spend your life at the office, and bureaucratic budgets are limited. Thus:

…the logic of uniformity and regimentation is well-nigh inexorable [in comprehensive urban planning]. Cost effectiveness contributes to this tendency. Just as it saves a prison trouble and money if all prisoners wear uniforms of the same material, color, and size, every concession to diversity [in the urban plan] is likely to entail a corresponding increase in administrative time and budgetary costs…. [T]he one-size-fits-all solution is likely to prevail (pp. 141-2).

He quotes scott’s analysis of anzania, another good GW resource.

Nyerere believed that Tanzanians should live in villages–rather than scattered across the countryside where agricultural resources were to be found–because:

… unless we [live in villages] we shall not be able to provide ourselves with the things we need to develop our land and to raise our standard of living. We shall not be able to use tractors; we shall not be able to provide schools for our chldren; we shall not be able to build hospitals, or have clean drinking water; it will be quite impossible to start small village industries, and instead we shall have to go on depending on the towns for all our requirements; and if we had a plentiful supply of electric power we should never be able to connect it up to each isolated homestead (p. 230).

And what if the farmers did not want to live in villages, or did not want to grow the crops that Nyerere’s bureaucrats back in The House of Peace thought that they should grow? Then: “[i]t may be possible–and sometimes necessary–to insist on all farmers in a given area growing a certain acreage of a particular crop until they realize that this brings them a more secure living, and then do not have to be forced to grow it” (p. 231).

The consequences of Nyerere’s policies were predictable. As Scott summarizes:

Peasants were… shifted to poor soils on high ground… moved to [houses near] all-weather roads where the land was unfamiliar or unsuitable for the crops… village living placed cultivators far from their fields, thus thwarting crop watching and pest control… the concentration of livestock and people… encourag[ed] cholera and livestock epidemics… pastoralists [found that]… herding cattle to a single [village] location was an unmitigated disaster for range conservation and pastoral livelihoods…. [Bureaucratic] insistence that they had a monopoly on useful knowledge and that they impose this knowledge set the stage for disaster… (pp. 246-7).

The only bright spots were “the Tanzanian state’s relative weaknesses… as well as the Tanzanian peasants’ tactical advantages, including flight, unofficial production and trade, smuggling, and foot dragging” which “combined to make the practice of villagization” less destructive than it might have been (p. 247).

Brad continues,

Hayek’s adversaries–Oskar Lange and company–argued that a market system had to be inferior to a centrally-planned system: at the very least, a centrally-planned economy could set up internal decision-making procedures that would mimic the market, and the central planners could also adjust things to increase social welfare and account for external effects in a way that a market system could never do.

Hayek, in response, argued that the functionaries of a central-planning board could never succeed, because they could never create both the incentives and the flexibility for the people-on-the-spot to use the immense amount of knowledge about the actual situation that only people-on-the-spot can know. As Hayek argued in his “Impossibility of Socialist Calculation,” the enormous amount of dispersed knowledge that individual producers know and act on in a market economy can never be mobilized by a central planner. That a central planner could–that he or she could ever “possess a complete inventory of the amounts and qualities of all the different materials and instruments of production” available to the manager of a single plant–is “a somewhat comic fiction.”

Still, the inability of Hayek to see that planning was moving to the corporations. Brad continues,

So how is it that Scott can see the trees and the overall forest so very very well, but does not see his own intellectual roots?

…An approving reference in a footnote to Hayek’s skepticism about the usefulness of economic theory (p. 427); a reference to the “curious unanimity” between “such right-wing critics of the command economy as Friedrich Hayek and such left-wing critics of communist authoritarianism as Price Peter Kropotkin” who call, in Albert Hirschman’s word, for “more ‘reverence for life’… less straitjacketing of the future… more allowance for the unexpected… less wishful thinking” in economic development (pp. 344-5).

and he quotes Scott,

As we shall see, the conclusions that can be drawn from the failures of modern projects of social engineering are as applicable to market-driven standardization as they are to bureaucratic homogeneity” (p. 8).

Now comes, from Brad,

How can market-driven standardization have the same consequences as the commands of architects who have never lived in the cities they design, or as the collectivization of Soviet agriculture, or as the forced “villagization” of Tanzanian peasants?

He then says,

Woven into the critique of agricultural development programs are asides about the destructiveness of DDT, the effect of sterile hybrid seeds in diminishing the autonomy of the farmer, the vulnerability of American monoculture farms to pests and epidemics, and the pre-packaged relatively-tasteless–but overwhelmingly cheap–rubber tomatoes developed to be machine-sprayed and machine-picked. However, people bought (and buy) rubber tomatoes because they are cheap–because relatively little social labor is required to produce them. Overall we have the “unparalleled agricultural productivity” of the industrial West, in which the U.S. is a major exporter of food products even though its economy now employs fewer farmers and farm laborers than gardeners and groundskeepers.

Then comes the startling quote from Scott (to which I agree but Brad?)

The destruction of metis (practical wisdom, gr.)and its replacement by standardized formulas legible only from the center is virtually inscribed in the activities of both the state and large-scale bureaucratic capitalism (p. 335).

But then , the argument is not drawn to it conclusion. It gets muddled. You have to read it.Grasping Reality with Both Hands Brad DeLong’s Semi-Daily Journal.

Then come comments: (…represent a new commentator)

You speak as if “high-modernist planning” and “market-driven standardization” were antonyms….No city in the world lays out its streets or collects its garbage without some form of state planning, and none – I imagine – would attempt it without someone actually taking a look at the lay of the land and dispersal of residents

……….Equally, as anarchists have also long argued the capitalist firm is organised like a dictatorship, and the bosses centrally plan the activities of the work force. Anarchists have stressed that this monopoly of power is not only inefficient, it produces oppression and exploitation (and so class conflict). Scott discusses this in his book, incidentally. In other words, the so-called “Austrian” critique of central planning is applicable to the capitalist firm. But, of course, those defenders of authoritarian social structures Hayek and Mises did not recognise that. Apparently, freedom stops at the workplace door…

………….I don’t have detailed knowledge and write subject to correction, but my guess that the philosophical underpinning of the New Deal agriculture programs was more like Deweyan pragmatism in a weakly democratic socialist / populist version than it was central planning. The attempt was to help small farmers stay in business, and over the decades market forces drove the smaller ones off, but IIRC the corporatization of agribusiness only began with Eisenhower and was a deliberate (though not quite open) program of his.Dewey explicitly proposed a two-way dialogue between experts and populace different than the top-down method even of Swedish social democracy, and as a democratic popular movement, New Deal Democrats couldn’t refuse to listen to small farmers — some of their core voters.

…To go further, at the level of high-level finance, “market forces” function much like central planning. Usually they operate in collaboration with government and central banks, but this is more because finance controls government than the other way around. (I am also convinced that the control of media by finance has a lot to do with the “why oh why” questions Brad always asks. We have stupid reporters because the media market wants stupid reporters, and selling advertising and manipulating elections are important goals). Whenever there’s a disaster, I look for sophisticated new financial innovations: Enron, LTCM, and now the housing crisis (subprime loans).

…. opening an essay about the perils of central planning with an example of failed private sector planning in the forestry sector seems odd. Rather like Friedman (not Milton) using “Lexus” as an example of heroic entrepreneurial thinking in a book in which Japan is held up as an ossified hierarchical society.

…. I think that you have severely misused or even misunderstood the supermarket tomato. I know that you have a major weakness for rhapsodizing the plenty of industrial agriculture, and I would agree that a world that contains shippable tomatoes is a better one than one in which tomatoes are a 3 month/year treat for most Americans. But I would not agree that the “rubber tomato” exclusively is a preferable substitution – and thanks to centralized capitalist planning, that’s what we had in American for close to 50 years. Americans, with their metis, did not _choose_ cheap rubber tomatoes to the exclusion of local, ripe ones (which are scarcely more expensive when in season) – they had rubber tomatoes forced upon them, even in high summer.

…….. Libertarians and free-market conservatives want private automobiles, suburbs, minimal or no zoning, and more highways. But road building is state activity, and it’s planning.

……   Scott started his career as an anthropologist interested in the Southeast Asian peasantry. His best known book, and it is good, is The Moral Economy of the Peasant. Scott has been very interested in how peasants resist modernization, particularly in colonial societies. Among the things that he has seen as imposed by the center are individualized systems of land tenure and resource allocation as opposed to traditional village communal allocation of land and water resources.

My guess is that the people who drove that system were basically corporate types, or rather agents of wealth who use government or corporations depending on advantage.

If centralized planning always fails, then why are the most successful corporations in the world so damn big? And why are they so hierarchical? In the world of market competition, why don’t they run aground and fail once they get to be larger than a few hundred employees?

I would argue that they do fail, and they suboptimize.

Hayek’s arguments about dispersed information are usually dumbed down by the right to use as a knock against any form of state planning. But the same knock can be made against centralized planning in the private sector in a market economy. It’s not impossible to overcome these problems in either sector, just difficult, especially if too much power is concentrated in the center.

….Scott has Lenin say:

“We must learn to COMBAT the public-meeting democracy of the working people–turbulent, surging, overflowing its banks like a spring flood–with iron discipline while at work, unquestioning obedience to the will of a single person, the Soviet leader, while at work.”

Progress Publishers, Moscow 1970 (reprinted from Volume 27 of his collected works) p36 has him saying:

“We must learn to COMBINE the “public-meeting” democracy of the working people–turbulent, surging, overflowing its banks like a spring flood–with iron discipline while at work, unquestioning obedience to the will of a single person, the Soviet leader, while at work.”

These comments are so interesting:

The information deficit Hayek based his critique on seems to be vanishing around us as we speak. Why do we need competition to convey information when computers do it for us? Why is local knowledge necessary when so much of our productive plant is run by almost infinitely flexible robots that drawn on computerized databases to perform increasingly complex tasks?

I added the following comment –

Hayek was against state planning
Corporations have become bigger than some states
The economists continue to criticize the central planning of governments but not of business.
Business is treated as  still in the category of local, but only because its aims are so narrow.
The problem is not really markets (which however cannot plan cities), but corporations which are organized to control markets.
The dichotomy between state and market is a false one. The crucial player we need to critique is the planning dominated monopoly seeking corporation.

From Interesting Times George Packer Online Only The New Yorker

Democrats drawn to Obama’s camp project onto him the sense of politics as a higher calling that Stevenson pioneered in the early nineteen-fifties (whether there’s much substance to it in Obama isn’t completely clear). In the American liberal tradition, this means almost certain defeat. Clinton, on the other hand, appeals to those liberals who want to sleep with power and its compromises and have made their peace with it. For this reason, she will always be despised by a significant minority of people on her side of the partisan line, in addition to everyone on the other side.

And do take a look at http://www.drawger.com/stevebrodner/

Notes oct 30 2007

October 31, 2007 § Leave a comment

I was struck dumb by the zogby poll. Zogby International

A majority of likely voters – 52% – would support a U.S. military strike to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon, and 53% believe it is likely that the U.S. will be involved in a military strike against Iran before the next presidential election, a new Zogby America telephone poll shows.

I was feeling that the country has really taken on a head f steam that is just stupid. I don’t mean just now, but starting with its earliest wars. It gets worse.  At the time of McCarthy the feds did not have the surveillance capacities they have now.

Then I noticed that the poll also had

Nearly two in three (65%) are opposed to a current proposal in Congress to have the Food and Drug Administration regulate tobacco products, with nearly (47%) who say they are strongly against to the proposed change, a new Zogby International telephone poll shows.

“These poll results show Americans want the Food and Drug Administration to concentrate not on tobacco, but rather on policing our food supply and our medicines,” said Pollster John Zogby. “This is even more evident given that these poll results came before FDA Chairman Andrew von Eschenbach reiterated his opposition to FDA regulation of tobacco. At a time when a significant majority of American adults say they are unhappy about the direction of the nation and are questioning the competence of the federal government to carry out its current responsibilities, the poll shows little appetite among informed adults to make big changes to the tobacco regulatory scheme.”

But those taking the poll were told how tobacco is regulated now, which is not by te FDA, so the choice of not letting FDA do it is motivated by a desire to regulate food better. Interesting. Is there a similar quibble in the Iran results?

There is considerable division about when a strike on Iran should take place – if at all. Twenty-eight percent believe the U.S. should wait to strike until after the next president is in office while 23% would favor a strike before the end of President Bush’s term. Another 29% said the U.S. should not attack Iran, and 20% were unsure. The view that Iran should not be attacked by the U.S. is strongest among Democrats (37%) and independents, but fewer than half as many Republicans (15%) feel the same. But Republicans are also more likely to be uncertain on the issue (28%).

As the possibility the U.S. may strike Iran captures headlines around the world, many have given thought to the possibility of an attack at home. Two in three (68%) believe it is likely that the U.S. will suffer another significant terrorist attack on U.S. soil comparable to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 – of those, 27% believe such an attack is very likely. Nearly one in three (31%) believe the next significant attack will occur between one and three years from now, 22% said they believe the next attack is between three and five years away, and 15% said they don’t think the U.S. will be attacked on U.S. soil for at least five years or longer. Just 9% believe a significant terrorist attack will take place in the U.S. before the next presidential election.

Which gets a little more interesting and less inflammatory. There is lots to question. The obvious paring of attacks on the US with doing something about Iran suggests creating a frame where hitting first makes some sense. The logic of why Iran is not gone into. Nor are the responders reminded of the problems in Iraq..

Another side of culture, Lewis Carroll’s Little Girls – ChronicleReview.com

In recent years, scholars including Morton N. Cohen, Roger Taylor, Edward Wakeling, and Douglas R. Nickel have persuasively argued for the artistic merit of Dodgson’s photographs of Victorian notables and little girls as well. Yet the lives of the child-friends whom Dodgson entranced with stories and photographed in various states of exotic undress — Alice Liddell, Alexandra (Xie) Kitchin, Irene MacDonald, and Evelyn Hatch, among many others — have yet to get their due. Who, exactly, were these little girls, and why was Dodgson so besotted with them?……In our time, people are arrested just for getting such photographs in the mail. We live in an age of paranoia, and to our millennial eyes, Dodgson’s photographs of his girl acquaintances seem like evidence used against Pete Townshend — although some of Townshend’s photographs would probably seem too chaste for the English professor Ellis Hanson’s “Sexual Child” class at Cornell. While Dodgson’s cartes de visite would not necessarily have titillated or disturbed in the Victorian era, they look like kiddie porn to us.

A very balanced review among issues that unbalance us too easily.

Notes oct 29 2007

October 29, 2007 § Leave a comment

Back from Pediatrics convention.

Book out to readers. Some interesting responses. More soon.

Karzai To Bush: ‘Roll Back’ The Use Of Airstrikes In Afghanistan

On 60 Minutes last night, Afghan President Hamid Karzai described his efforts to get President Bush to “rethink…the use of air force” in Afghanistan, which has killed more than 270 civilians in 17 air strikes in 2007 alone. Karzai says he delivered that message “privately” to President Bush in August using “clear words“:

HAMID KARZAI, AFGHAN PRESIDENT: The Afghan people understand that mistakes are made. But five years on, six years on, definitely, very clearly, they cannot comprehend as to why there is still a need for air power.

PELLEY: You are asking the American government to roll back the air strikes. Do I understand you?

KARZAI: Absolutely. Oh, yes, in clear words.

PELLEY (voice-over): Karzai told us he delivered those words privately to President Bush in August.

On the candidates and the Middle East.The Washington Note

I have to give credit to Senator John Sununu. He showed up at the Arab American Institute’s National Leadership Conference in Dearborn, Michigan this weekend and openly talked about his search for his Palestinian grandfather’s home in old Jerusalem.

Hillary seemed genuinely interested in the importance of Arab Americans and sent one of her National Campaign Co-Chairs Lebanese-American William Shaheen (husband of Jeanne and a legend in New Hampshire Democratic politics) to represent her at the conference.

Shaheen was great and connected with the audience and did a great job trying to assure the Arab Americans there that she really does care about the rights of Palestinians and the value of Arab and Arab-American lives as much as she does about Israeli security.

But odd thing about Hillary’s commentary — unlike Sununu, Hillary just did not say "Palestine" or "Palestinian state" in her taped message.

But unlike the clamor of candidates to speak at the annual AIPAC conference or to appear at various national security forums in Israel, this important Michigan-based conference of the great and the good among Arab Americans was given a frosty shoulder by leading candidates of both parties, and I think that is outrageous.

As a comparison of how things are today, his staff shared a quick history of rejection of Arab Americans in national level politics that included:

In 1984, Democratic presidential nominee Walter Mondale "returns contributions" to a group of prominent Arab American businessmen.

In 1988, despite Republican nomination candidate Bob Dole speaking at the Arab American Institute’s annual leadership conference, Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis rejects an endorsement from the Arab American Democratic Federation

In 1996, Republican nominee Bob Dole refuses to meet with Arab American Republican leaders

After 1996, the situation improved somewhat in that Al Gore and John McCain both addressed the summit in 1999 via satellite — and now Arab Americans are part of the campaigns in both leading Republican and Democratic presidential races — so the story isn’t all bad.

But the sense of imbalance I have from having attended AIPAC’s annual conference and this meeting is strong. First of all, I want to applaud the fact that Ron Paul, Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, and Bill Richardson took the time to be at this important assembly of Arab Americans.

The exchange in the comments that follow are instructive on the current sate of the arab-isaeli discussion in the US.

The following is an excerpt, the whole is very important to read. It will have consequences.

Simon Walters writes in the Daily Mail: "Tony Blair was too worried about falling out of favour with George Bush to warn him of the perilous consequences of war with Iraq.

"That is the damning portrait of the former Prime Minister that emerges from the highest level of the British and American governments in the latest extracts of a new book by political biographer Dr Anthony Seldon.

"The attacks are led by former US Secretary of State Colin Powell who, according to ‘Blair Unbound’, secretly plotted with ex-Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to restrain Mr Bush and Mr Blair.

"They will do little to help Mr Blair shrug off claims that he was Mr Bush’s ‘poodle’"

Said Powell: "Jack and I would get him all pumped up about an issue. And he’d be ready to say, ‘Look here, George.’ But as soon as he saw the President he would lose his steam."

Walters writes that "in 2002 Mr Blair resolved to write to Mr Bush and tell him of his fears that the momentum for war was growing too fast in America.

"But he ‘faltered and pulled his punches’ and effectively told the President: ‘You know, George, whatever you decide to do, I’ll be with you.’

What about Rice in all this?

An articel on cars re gardenworld.  Running on Fumes Books The New Yorker

The project was formally known as the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles, and early reports from those involved were promising. By 1997, participants had settled on the specs of the “super car,” as it became known: the sedan would be a lightweight, diesel-electric hybrid. (Diesel engines, because they use a higher compression ratio, consume less fuel per mile than gasoline engines do.) By 2000, the Big Three had all produced concept cars, which were unveiled with much fanfare at the North American Auto Show, in Detroit. G.M.’s car, which was called the Precept, came equipped with two electric motors, one mounted on each axle. Ford’s Prodigy featured an aluminum body and rear-facing cameras in place of side-view mirrors, and the Dodge ESX3 was made in large part out of plastic.

The concept cars were wheeled out, then wheeled away, never to be seen again. In January, 2002, just months before the prototypes of the vehicles were supposed to be delivered and after more than a billion dollars of federal money had been spent, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham announced that the Bush Administration was scrapping the project. When he delivered the announcement, Abraham was flanked by top executives from the Big Three, at least one of whom—G.M.’s chairman, Jack Smith—had stood next to President Clinton when he launched the program, eight years earlier. Abraham explained—and the auto executives seemed to agree—that the program had been based on a fundamentally flawed premise. The future of the car didn’t lie with diesel hybrids or any other technology that would allow vehicles to get eighty miles to the gallon. “We can do better than that,” Abraham declared. The Administration and the automakers, he said, were undertaking a new, even more ambitious venture, called FreedomCAR. The goal of this project was to produce vehicles that would run on pure hydrogen.

Pure dodge?

Consider what’s happening in India and China. As Carson and Vaitheeswaran point out, car ownership in both countries has been and still remains, by U.S. standards, almost absurdly low. There are nine personal vehicles per thousand eligible drivers in China and eleven for every thousand Indians, compared with 1,148 for every thousand Americans. But incomes in the two countries are rising so rapidly—the Chinese economy grew by eleven per cent last year and is expected to grow by the same amount this year—that millions of vehicleless families will soon be in a position to buy automobiles. Assuming that incomes continue to rise, in a few years tens of millions of families will be buying their first cars, and eventually hundreds of millions. (To satisfy increasing demand in India, the country’s second-largest auto manufacturer, Tata Motors, is set to start producing a four-door known as the one-lakh car—a lakh is a hundred thousand rupees—that will sell for the equivalent of twenty-five hundred dollars.) Were China and India to increase their rates of car ownership to the point where per-capita oil consumption reached just half of American levels, the two countries would burn through a hundred million additional barrels a day. (Currently, total global oil use is eighty-six million barrels a day.) Were they to match U.S. consumption levels, they would require an extra two hundred million barrels a day……

In 1921, a team of G.M. researchers looking for a way to prevent knock discovered that by adding small amounts of tetraethyl lead, or TEL, to the fuel supply they could solve the problem.

By that point, the toxicity of lead was already well known. Indeed, one of the G.M. researchers behind TEL, Thomas Midgley, very nearly poisoned himself while working on the additive, and several workers at a plant experimenting with TEL died gruesome deaths as a result of exposure to it. (Midgley went on to invent Freon, which was later discovered to be destroying the ozone layer.) In response to an outcry from public-health experts, G.M. and Standard Oil, which had formed a joint venture called the Ethyl Gasoline Corporation to manufacture leaded gas, launched a P.R. campaign. Among the arguments the companies made was that there simply were no alternatives to TEL, a claim that, according to McCarthy, there is reason to believe they knew to be false. ….

It is estimated that by 1996, when the sale of leaded gasoline for use in cars was finally banned in the U.S., seven million tons of lead had been released from automobiles’ exhaust pipes into the air, and nearly seventy million American children had been exposed to what would now be considered dangerous blood-lead levels.

Talking up the car of the future, McCarthy suggests, is just another way Detroit has found to insure that it never arrives. It’s worth noting that the average new car sold in the U.S. today gets twenty miles to the gallon, which is virtually the same as it got in 1993, when the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles was launched, and—remarkably enough—less than Henry Ford’s Model T got when it went on the market, ninety-nine years ago last month.

notes October 26, 2007

October 26, 2007 § Leave a comment

What is most on my mind is the way we are entering a perfect storm of water problems, climate problems, an economy that cannot deal with distribution and is skewed by the American debt and the conditions of war out of the control of any ensemble of governments.  This is a common condition for humanity.  The first and second world wars show that people were aware but powerless.  Kings and presidents, acting like high school football quarterbacks, get carried away with what they think is " ours".

But the failure is deeper.  Things like last Sunday’s New York Times magazine article on the decline of water in the west shows that local jurisdictions are not nearly capable of handling the complexities of the issues, issues that Starwood is increasing population, decreasing water, and lack of jurisdictional authority.  How will government respond?

The inability of the economy to take on the issue of distribution is really an issue of the failure of Congress to be able to represent all the people, because they are so closely tide to financial assets.  The current struggle and Congress over retroactive immunity to the telephone companies for probably illegally providing information on customers to the fed’s is one symptom of this.

The intractable – and apparently -intersection of climate and energy problems highlights that short-term institutional advantage takes precedence over long-term health of the species – and the economy.  The lack of leadership from either bush, or the democratic candidates illustrates that something here is clearly broken.

 

From Walter Lippmann, Remembered by Scott Horton (Harper’s Magazine) quoting from the intr by Bluementhal.

“For in an exact sense the present crisis of western democracy is a crisis of journalism,” Lippmann wrote.

“Everywhere today,” Lippmann wrote in Liberty and the News, “men are conscious that somehow they must deal with questions more intricate than any that church or school had prepared them to understand. Increasingly they know that they cannot understand them if the facts are not quickly and steadily available. Increasingly they are baffled because the facts are not available; and they are wondering whether government by consent can survive in a time when the manufacture of consent is an unregulated private enterprise.”

Lippmann had witnessed firsthand how the “manufacture of consent” had deranged democracy. But he did not hold those in government solely responsible. He also described how the press corps was carried away on the wave of patriotism and became self-censors, enforcers, and sheer propagandists. Their careerism, cynicism, and error made them destroyers of “liberty of opinion” and agents of intolerance, who subverted the American constitutional system of self-government. Even the great newspaper owners, he wrote, “believe that edification is more important than veracity. They believe it profoundly, violently, relentlessly. They preen themselves upon it. To patriotism, as they define it from day to day, all other considerations must yield. That is their pride. And yet what is this but one more among myriad examples of the doctrine that the end justifies the means? A more insidiously misleading rule of conduct was, I believe, never devised among men.”

second hand from Open Left

It’s been all over the news that in 2007, executives at Verizon and AT&T donated over $42,000 to Senator John D. Rockefeller, IV, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Prior to 2007, Rockefeller wasn’t getting any significant contributions from telecomm executives. But of course, prior to 2007, Rockefeller wasn’t pushing his committee to grant retroactive immunity to phone companies that helped the NSA with its secret, warrantless surveillance on America’s telephone calls.

There are so many reasons to be enraged by this.

As CEO of Working Assets, the socially responsible mobile and long distance company, I have watched for 15 years while big telecomm "bought" monopoly power from Congress, from the White House and from the FCC. This is how they do business. Instead of building the best phone company, they buy politicians.

This is extraordinary. A poster man for militarism that udnermines its own country. DADDY’S $10M ‘BAD’ MITZVAH

October 26, 2007 — The former CEO of the leading supplier of body armor to U.S. soldiers in Iraq was charged yesterday with looting the company to bankroll a lavish lifestyle that included a $10 million bat mitzvah for his daughter.

In addition to the bat mitzvah – which included performances by Aerosmith, 50 Cent, Tom Petty, Kenny G and the Eagles – prosecutors said David Brooks got the firm, DHB Industries, to pay for other goodies.

Among them were a face lift for his ex-wife; vitamins for his stable of 100 horses; pricey vacations; fancy jewels; an armored car; a $194,000 Bentley; and a $100,000 diamond-studded belt buckle.

The elaborate scheme exploded yesterday when federal prosecutors unsealed a 21-count indictment accusing Brooks, 53, of securities fraud, insider trading, tax evasion and obstruction of justice. If convicted, he could spend the rest of his life behind ..

Very helpful. Amazon has stats on books. try Amazon.com Escape from Freedom Books Erich Fromm and go down to"inside this book" an click on text stats. Number of words and sentences and comparables to other books in categories. Amazing.

Notes oct 25 2007

October 25, 2007 § Leave a comment

From analysis of the Putin trip to Iran. Asia Times Online  Middle East News – Attack Iran and you attack Russia.

As if anyone needed to be reminded, the buck – or rial – stops with the Supreme Leader, whose last wish on earth is to furnish a pretext for the Bush administration to launch World War III. If Ahmadinejad now deviates from a carefully crafted strategic script, the Supreme Leader may simply get rid of him.

and, as we know, sort of

Oil: The sovereignty showdown in Iraq
By Jack Miles
The oil game in Iraq may be almost up. On September 29, like a landlord serving notice, the government of Iraq announced that the next annual renewal of the United Nations Security Council mandate for a multinational force in Iraq – the only legal basis for a continuation of the American occupation – will be the last. That was, it seems, the first shoe to fall. The second may be an announcement terminating the little-noticed, but crucial companion Security Council mandate governing the disposition of Iraq’s oil revenues.
By December 31, 2008, according to Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, the government of Iraq intends to have replaced the existing mandate for a multinational security force with a conventional bilateral security agreement with the United States – an agreement of the sort that Washington has with Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and several other countries in the Middle East.

The game will be up because, as Antonia Juhasz pointed out last March in a New York Times op-ed, "Whose Oil Is It, Anyway?":

Iraq’s neighbors Iran, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia … have outlawed foreign control over oil development. They all hire international oil companies as contractors to provide specific services as needed, for a limited duration, and without giving the foreign company any direct interest in the oil produced.

By contrast, the oil legislation now pending in the Iraqi parliament awards foreign oil companies coveted, long-term, 20-35 year contracts of just the sort that neighboring oil producers have rejected for decades. It also places the Iraqi oil industry under the control of an appointed body that would include representatives of international oil companies as full voting members.
The news that the duly elected government of Iraq is exercising its limited sovereignty to set a date for termination of the American occupation radically undercuts all discussion in the US Congress or by American presidential candidates of how soon the US occupation of Iraq may "safely" end. Yet if, by the same route, Iraq were to resume full and independent control over the world’s third-largest proven oil reserves – 200 to 300 million barrels of light crude worth as much as $30 trillion at today’s prices – a politically incorrect question might break rudely out of the Internet universe and into the mainstream media world, into, that is, the open: Has the Iraq war been an oil war from the outset?
Former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan evidently thought so, or so he indicated in a single sentence in his recent memoir: "I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil." When asked, Gen John Abizaid, former CENTCOM commander who oversaw three and a half years of the American occupation of Iraq, agreed. "Of course it’s about oil, we can’t really deny that," he said during a roundtable discussion at Stanford University. These confessions validated the suspicions of foreign observers too numerous to count. Veteran security analyst Thomas Powers observed in the New York Review of Books recently:

What it was only feared the Russians might do [by invading Afghanistan in the 1980s] the Americans have actually done – they have planted themselves squarely astride the world’s largest pool of oil, in a position potentially to control its movement and to coerce all the governments who depend on that oil. Americans naturally do not suspect their own motives but others do. The reaction of the Russians, the Germans, and the French in the months leading up to the war suggests that none of them wished to give Americans the power which [former National Security Adviser Zbigniew] Brzezinski had feared was the goal of the Soviets.

Apologists for the war point out lamely that the United States imports only a small fraction of its oil from Iraq, but what matters, rather obviously, is not Iraq’s current exports but its reserves.
Before the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, media mogul Rupert Murdoch said, "The greatest thing to come out of this for the world economy, if you could put it that way, would be $20 a barrel for oil."
In the 21st century’s version of the "Great Game" of 19th century imperialism, the Bush administration made a colossal gamble that Iraq could become a kind of West Germany or South Korea on the Persian Gulf – a federal republic with a robust, oil-exporting economy, a rising standard of living, and a set of US bases that would guarantee lasting American domination of the most resource-strategic region on the planet.
The political half of that gamble has already been lost, but the Bush administration has proven adamantly unwilling to accept the loss of the economic half, the oil half, without a desperate fight. Perhaps the five super-bases that the US has been constructing in Iraq for as many as 20,000 troops each, plus the ill-built super-embassy (the largest on the planet) it has been constructing inside Baghdad’s Green Zone, will suffice to maintain American control over the oil reserves, even in defiance of international law and the officially stated wishes of the Iraqi people – but perhaps not.

On October 17, the Maliki regime flexed its supposedly non-existent muscle yet again by awarding $1.1 billion in contracts to Iran and China to build enormous power plants in Baghdad’s Shi’ite Sadr City and between the two Shi’ite holy cities of Najaf and Karbala.

Notes oct 24 2007

October 24, 2007 § Leave a comment

From Asia Times three Iran Kurd articles.

Iran looms over Turkey crisis diplomacy

Feverish diplomacy is under way among major players in the Middle East, including the US, Turkey, Israel and Britain. Even as a large-scale Turkish invasion of northern Iraq grows daily more imminent, Turkish Prime Minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan is away from his country for talks in London. Looming over this extraordinary diplomatic activity is a shadow bigger than Turkey’s Kurdish crisis: that of Iran. Erdogan may have jetted to London wondering if the world war that George W Bush recently warned about had already begun. – M K Bhadrakumar (Oct 24, ’07)

Bush teeters on Turkish-Kurd tightrope
President George W Bush has devoted considerable energy to delaying a potentially explosive referendum on whether oil-rich Kirkuk should be absorbed into Iraqi Kurdistan. Yet if Bush is to get the Kurdish authorities to clamp down on militants engaged in cross-border activities in Turkey, this referendum is the price he might have to pay. – Jim Lobe (Oct 24, ’07)

No end in sight for the Kurdish fight
Drawing revenue from Kurdish businessmen and narcotics trafficking, and sourcing weapons from around the world, Kurdistan Workers’ Party militants have sustained terrorist operations against Turkey for nearly three decades. When they talk of a ceasefire, therefore, Ankara has reason to be skeptical. – Sami Moubayed

And on money

The red herring
of dollar decline

The Fed and the Treasury have decided that they are going to set up a huge special fund, with untold billions of pretend dollars, drawing in more investors to which the banks will sell short-term paper to finance the bailout, so that the banks can trade derivatives around amongst themselves, thus establishing their "market price". This remarkable innovation has given me a terrific business idea!

From Juan Cole

It is, however, not clear why exactly US troop deaths have fallen so much in October. It is possible that they are being given few military missions and spending more time on base.
Indeed, the sort of ground missions that might involve hand to hand fighting and high US casualties may have been replaced by air strikes against suspected insurgent targets. US air strikes on Iraq are up by a factor of four in 2007 over 2006, according to Newsay. The US launched 1,140 bombing missions in 2007 through the end of September, as opposed to 229 in all of 2006. The US has flown as many as 70 such air missions a day this October, more than at any time since the November, 2004, assault on the Sunni Arab city of Fallujah.

Obviously, for an Occupation military to bomb a densely-populated city that it already largely controls is a violation of human rights law. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq has just condemned the US for using this tactic, which inevitably kills children, women and other non-combatants. You can’t drop a bomb on an urban apartment building without killing lots of people, not only inside the building but also all around it.

So the obvious: the way to "win" is to pull out US troops, increase bombing, and note that a large part of the population has left or is dead. This gives good statistics.

The failure of the Democrats in the campaign and congress is the major political event of the summer/fall.

From Agonist

NYT – President Bush is planning to issue a stern warning Wednesday that the United States will not accept a political transition in Cuba in which power changes from one Castro brother to another, rather than to the Cuban people.

As described by an official in a background briefing to reporters on Tuesday evening, Mr. Bush’s remarks will amount to the most detailed response — mainly an unbending one — to the political changes that began in Cuba more than a year ago, when Fidel Castro fell ill and handed power to his brother Raúl.

The speech, scheduled to be given at the State Department before invited Cuban dissidents, will introduce the relatives of four Cuban prisoners being held for political crimes. A senior administration official said the president wanted to “put a human face,” on Cuba’s “assault on freedom.”

The "opportunity" to enter into Cuba would be a natural ideological move for this administration, even though it would be very stupid.

From Scott Horton

Sed iniustitiæ genera duo sunt, unum eorum, qui inferunt, alterum eorum, qui ab is, quibus infertur, si possunt, non propulsant iniuriam. Nam qui iniuste impetum in quempiam facit aut ira aut aliqua perturbatione incitatus, is quasi manus afferre videtur socio; qui autem non defendit nec obsistit, si potest, iniuriæ, tam est in vitio, quam si parentes aut amicos aut patriam deserat.

But with respect to injustice there are two types: men may inflict injury; or else, when it is being inflicted upon others, they may fail to deflect it, even though they could. Anyone who makes an unjust attack upon a fellow human being, whether driven by anger or by some other perturbation, seems to be laying hands, so to speak, upon another human being. But also, he who fails to defend a fellow human being, or to obstruct injustice when it is within his power to do so, he is at fault just as if he had abandoned his parents or his friends or his country.

Marcus Tullius Cicero, De Officiis lib. i, sec. 23 (44 BCE) (S.H. transl.)

From Think Progress

$2.4 trillion: The potential cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through the next decade, “or nearly $8,000 per man, woman and child in the country, according to a Congressional Budget Office estimate.” “The number is so big, it boggles the mind,” said Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL).

from Dan Froomkin – Star Wars, the Sequel – washingtonpost.com

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman explains: "They’re afraid to take on Bush, even though this is a massively unpopular war, because they’re afraid that it will somehow, you know, backfire on them. . . . They’re basically trying to keep possession of the ball, and they’re afraid to do anything that might upset things. They’re afraid that, one last time, Bush will pull the national security thing on them. . . . It’s unforgivable, I would say."

Watched Tom frm comments:of the larger frame. He protects his market well. Worth watching

TED  Talks  Thomas Barnett The Pentagon’s new map for war and peace (video)

The problem is, how do we downsize the military-industrial complex, and Barnett appears to have a reasonable sounding backdoor solution. Ultimately, it will be necessary to not only have a Department of Peace, but we will have to convert the military industrial complex into the environmental industrial complex.

And don’t miss TED  Talks  Kenichi Ebina Hip-hop dance and a little magic (video)

 

Notes oct 23 2007

October 23, 2007 § Leave a comment

The Chalmers Johnson review in the previous post is extremely helpful – and difficult.

his final paragraphs are

With this book, Stephen Holmes largely succeeds in elevating criticism of contemporary American imperialism in the Middle East to a new level. In my opinion, however, he underplays the roles of American imperialism and militarism in exploiting the 9/11 crisis to serve vested interests in the military-industrial complex, the petroleum industry, and the military establishment. Holmes leaves the false impression that the political system of the United States is capable of a successful course correction.

Chalmers Johnson is the author of the bestselling Blowback TrilogyBlowback (2000), The Sorrows of Empire (2004), and Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic (2007).

From science (subscription), but you’ll get the point. 7 sept 07

image

From  a friend

Turkey is about to send troops into northern Iraq (Kurdistan), Cheney is threatening to bomb Iran, and Bush’s popularity has hit an all-time low so he needs a new war to revive it — do we have some of the same conditions as late in Vietnam when Nixon promised peace but then went to a new war in Cambodia, "acting tough" to revive his falling popularity and his masculinity?

From this year’s Nobel the Prize in Economics 2007 – Press Release

The theory allows us to distinguish situations in which markets work well from those in which they do not. It has helped economists identify efficient trading mechanisms, regulation schemes and voting procedures. Today, mechanism design theory plays a central role in many areas of economics and parts of political science.

This is part of the trend of treating the entire world economy as a single machine, as explored  in

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You are currently viewing the archives for October, 2007 at Reflections on GardenWorld Politics Douglass Carmichael.