Sunday, December 12, 2010

Advanced forms of slavery

Version 0.4

The key here was actually combines the WikiLeaks release of the 250,000 US government documents with the results of last month's election. The insight took the form of:

"The truth shall make you free? But what if the truth is that you are a stupid slave?"

In theory, the main value of the so-called Fourth Estate is the exposure of government corruption so that democracy can function.

What has actually happened is that news has devolved to the best propaganda that money can buy. Since the rich people have more money, they can afford to hire the best propagandists, and the result is that they can distort the reality to the point where their mindless greed is probably going to to lead not only to the destruction of the economic system that made them rich, but quite possibly to the destruction of the human race.

For most of history, most of the people have been slaves, though most of the written history has focused on the adventures and exploits of the few non-slaves. I'm not just talking about the officially recognized slaves who had the title. Almost all people lived their lives with little or no freedom. The largest obvious category is women, who were basically treated as property, and though many women have more freedom now, there are still large numbers for whom nothing has really changed. However, there are so many other categories of quasi-slaves and semi-slaves that I argue that most people have lived most of their lives as slaves. Another large categories is the serfs and peasants and various other impoverished farmers who were more or less firmly bound to the land of their peasant ancestors. In spite of the free exploits of the generals and admirals, most of the actual soldiers and sailors lived in disciplined conditions of de facto slavery. Even most of the hunter gatherers lived effectively without any choices but to repeat the lives of their parents. that's already covered most of the people who've ever lived.

Nowadays we've largely moved to economic forms of slavery. We even recognize them as wage slaves. The new chains are not made of steel, but of legal barriers to bankruptcy for the average people and improved law enforcement systems, even to the international scale. I'm not sure the slaves of old lived in greater fear of their masters than the indebted middle class now lives in fear of losing their jobs... In relative terms, being sold to a different master probably feels like the same thing as before. In contrast, if you start by living in a good house, and then you are forced to start living under a bridge, or are driven to criminal acts while trying to feed your children and winding up in prison... Well, those are big steps down, and plenty to be afraid of.

There's yet another form of modern slavery that may be the key to the destruction of humanity. That's in the form of national restrictions against migration combined with increased knowledge of the national differences. In brief, nowadays almost everyone in the world knows about advanced and wealthy life styles, with America having the wealthiest and at least one of the more advanced forms. However, for essentially all of the people living in poor countries, they are as unfree as the slaves of old when it comes to changing their lots in life. Most of the adults probably accept that they could never become wealthy doctors or lawyers--but they still believe their children would have much better chances at such lives if only they could live in rich countries. They also know that the lives of relative poverty in those rich countries would be no worse than their current lives, but with that enormous difference for their children...

Why the key to our destruction? Because the existing rich people and the increasing numbers of newly rich people can only sustain their wealthy status by squeezing more blood from the poor turnips. In other words, the rich don't only get rich and the poor poorer, but the rich people must translate more and more of their wealth into the wasteful military tools of oppression to keep the increasingly desperate poor people in their places. The asymmetric so-called war on terror is NOT going to go away, but only become more and more vicious and desperate. The natural and probably inevitable outcome will be a true doomsday weapon (probably a super bioweapon) in the hands of people who are willing to use it...

The punchline? It's that "Live free or die" is an American slogan. The Americans are both leading the modern forms of slavery and proud of claiming that they would rather be dead than enslaved.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

WikiLeaks Realities?

Version 0.3

Though I have been following the general topic for a while now, I haven't seen anything like the following obvious analysis.

First, the minor conclusion is that the terrorist win again. Okay, so this line of analysis probably isn't "intuitively obvious to the most casual observer", but follow along. What we know suggests that most or perhaps all of this large document dump originated with a single private in the American military. How is that possible? How could one amateur spy acting alone possibly gather so much sensitive material?

It actually goes back to 9/11. Though the so-called investigations were highly fractured and mostly focused on protecting the incompetent, one of the main conclusions was that our intelligence services failed to connect the dots. In response, we created a system that enabled a lowly private to harvest 250,000 jumbo dots. We already know that a partial response has been to isolate some of the major databases--but that is flopping back towards the situation that allowed the 9/11 attack to succeed. America's so-called homeland security apparatus continues to respond with wild spasms targeted against the LAST perceived threat--and the terrorists win. (At least the last counter-terror spasm required them to buy a couple of cheap printers, but we are handling this one all by ourselves.)

Second is actually more serious. Remember that this rather massive information leak was the action of one low-ranked minor clerk. It's hard to even regard him as a spy. Now if this amateur could harvest so much information working on his own, imagine what must have been going on with the professional spies with the backing of their respective national governments. The two differences are that they probably harvested much more information and that they didn't send any copies to WikiLeaks. I have no evidence--but I bet the damage is vastly more serious, and it would certainly explain a lot of what has been going on recently, including some of the Chinese government maneuvers that had seemed somewhat mysterious.

Third, we get to the minor topic, but the main aspect if you look at the actual mainstream news. That's the aggressive, vindictive, and personal attacks on WikiLeaks, especially on the person of Julian Assange, who I predict is about to become a non-person. Actually, there is a significant aspect here, though you wouldn't notice it from the mainstream media news coverage. That's the determination to attack journalism and freedom of speech. Little late there, since they're both already essentially dead spirits, especially in America.

One more compound prediction. When they finally get around to analyzing it, almost all of the information that WikiLeaks has exposed will be judged harmless and mindlessly overclassified, with a small fraction that had legitimate grounds for secrecy and a much tinier fraction that was legitimately dangerous if revealed. My guess would be something like 99% to 1% to 0.1% based on the discussions so far. They've been desperately fishing for that tiny fraction of really dangerous stuff. I would be utterly astounded if the first category was less than 90%.

Maybe there's a solution down the road. Maybe the entire notion of secrecy is collapsing. There is some technical evidence that it's becoming more and more difficult to control information. However, an alternative outcome will be privacy as the ultimate privilege of the rich and powerful. The rest of us peasants may spend our entire lives under the microscope...

Friday, December 03, 2010

Campaign Finance Reform in the Lame Duck Session

Version 0.3

The minor lesson of the recent election was that visible money gets discounted, and heavily. Even with $140 million of her own money, the voters knew exactly why Meg Whitman was saying all those bad things about her various opponents, and she got discounted down to zero and lost badly.

However the main lesson of the election of 2010 was that invisible and anonymous money works rather well, as clearly shown by the large bulk of the election results. Not all of the voters select political leaders the same way they select laundry soap, based on the last ads they were exposed to on TV, but enough of them do that democracy is pretty much nonfunctional in America. (Remember that the largest voting bloc is the non-voters, who quite rationally understand that their votes have been gerrymandered away in advance.)

In the big picture, it's worth thinking about why McDonald's doesn't run attack ads against the other fast food restaurants such as Burger King and Wendy's, and vice versa. Obviously because they would be hurting their own business, shrinking the pie, so to speak, which is exactly what has happened to the value of the professional politicians as perceived by the citizens. About the only thing that all Americans agree on at this point is that we need far more high-quality political leaders to replace the current crop (but who quite often cling to power right up to their dying days).

The most obvious solution is campaign finance reform, and it's even conceivable. All it would take is for a few of the outgoing Republican senators to decide that they wanted to go out as statesmen who tried to save democracy in America. It's clearly in the interests of the less wealthy Democratic politicians to go along with the idea, and it's clearly what most of the people want. Unfortunately, there is absolutely no public discussion of the topic or any evidence that Congress is considering it. In the month since the election, I've only seen two public mentions of the topic. One was a letter to the editor from a defeated Democratic candidate suggesting he had been defeated because he had almost no money, which was probably true, and the other was a report that the supporters of the so-called Tea Party were determined to block any consideration of campaign finance reform, though they haven't had to lift a finger or spend a nickel on it.

Anyway, the hope would be pretty slim. The Supreme Court created new law to undo the McCain-Feingold law, and the same five so-called justices are still there and just as eager as ever to destroy democracy in America. The flood of secret money will eventually be exposed, but it's already too late to worry about it, though the full force of the damage won't be in place until next month... (I'm reminded of a law student with whom I corresponded at the time of Bush v. Gore. He said America was becoming a judicial dictatorship--and that was exactly why he was in law school.)

As it stands, the last chance for campaign finance reform is rapidly slipping away, though I wasted the last month doing what little I could to try to stimulate a public discussion of the topic. I'm convinced that if they don't pass it NOW, in this lame duck session, it will never happen. America has already suffered from one experiment with a so-called permanent Republican majority, but I don't think the country can hope to be lucky enough to get another Teddy Roosevelt.

Perhaps some of the problem is the demeaning label of "lame duck session" for the last session of the outgoing Congress? Maybe it would help if we called it the "retiring statesmen session"? Ha ha.

For my next joke, did you hear the one about the gerrymandered term limits?

(The effective discounting of votes by such practices as gerrymandering and the general abuses of professional lifetime politicians are also very important, but those problems are much more difficult and even I am unable to imagine them being tackled in a lame duck session. Congress has NEVER had that many statesmen at one time, even without regard to the consideration of extra ethical freedom for imminent retirees.)

P.S. This is really just a kind of outline post, but my new blogging policy is not to spend much time on a theme unless there are some comments suggesting someone is at least slightly interested in the topic. I will probably limit my responses to comments in responses, but if there is enough interest, I may do a full-scale consolidate rewrite, presumably as a new post.


About Me

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As a blogger from before there were blogs, I've concluded what I write is of little interest to the reading public. My current approach is to treat these blogs as notes, with the maturity indicated by the version number. If reader comments show interest, I will probably add some flesh to the skeletons...