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The US election: perspectives from an ear of grain

The US election: perspectives from an ear of grain

With an important election looming in the USA, let’s talk for a change about politics. But since this is primarily a farming blog, I thought I’d approach it obliquely from the agricultural angle of cereal breeding. It’s obvious when you think about it…

Actually, before we even get to the cereal breeding, we need to take a step back and talk about systems of classification. Because to make any sense of things, people inevitably need to divide up their perceptions of the world, grouping like things together. But our taxonomies can rarely if ever capture the complexity of existence perfectly. Anomalous cases, fuzzy boundaries and alternative reckonings abound.

One way these imperfections manifest is in the distinction between ‘lumpers’ and ‘splitters’. Take two palaeontologists arguing over some fragments of fossil bone. Professor Lumper thinks the small differences between like bones aren’t enough to justify classifying them as belonging to different species, whereas Professor Splitter takes the opposite view. Their argument is potentially endless and irresolvable – unless there’s some agreed objective standard against which to judge their claims. In the case of evolutionary biology, that standard arguably exists in the possibility of tracing descent from a common ancestor, though that’s not going to help the professors resolve this particular dispute.

The advantage of lumping is that it enables us to see big picture stuff, the broader patterning in the world. But push it too far and it becomes overly simplistic, and ultimately vacuous – and the grounds for the lumping can usually be questioned. The advantage of splitting is that you can grasp the fine-grained detail of things. But push it too far and you get lost in pettifogging specifics that prevent an appreciation of deeper underlying patterns.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Corruptocracy

The Corruptocracy

Most political philosophy is just an elaborate justification for theft and fraud.

What’s called the silent majority is really the ignored majority, who for the most part are happy being ignored. Their lives revolve their families, jobs, friends, and community, not the media, publicity, polls, or politics. They’re sick of elections well before they’ve seen their hundredth campaign ad, received their hundredth mailer, or ignored their hundredth telephone call. They know that politicians are phony and corrupt and make jokes about them, but hope that their rulers don’t screw things up too badly, cross their fingers, and vote for the perceived lesser of two evils.

There’s a shortage of blue-ribbon pedigrees, Ivy League degrees, and gold-plated resumés among the ignored majority, but a surfeit of hard-knocks wisdom and common sense. Benjamin Franklin said, “Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other.” Everybody does foolish things, but by and large, the ignored majority learns from the dear school and puts its lessons to good use.

The gilded class denigrates those outside it: Hillary Clinton deploring the “deplorables,” Barack Obama saying working-class voters, “cling to guns or religion,” and Obama telling entrepreneurs, “you didn’t build that.” Yet, it consistently, almost invariably, demonstrates a complete lack of the common-sense street smarts found in abundance among those it disparages.

The quotes’ condescending arrogance rankles, but at a deeper level illustrate the real division in American politics—between the productive class and those it supports. At the intellectual level it’s the irreconcilable difference between those who believe that value can and should be conferred by the government, and those who know it must be created and produced. It’s believing or not believing that something can be had for nothing.

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Five ways to ensure that models serve society: a manifesto

Five ways to ensure that models serve society: a manifesto

Pandemic politics highlight how predictions need to be transparent and humble to invite insight, not blame.
Cartoon of scientists and policymakers inspecting the inside of a black box that is outputting a policy document

Illustration by David Parkins

The COVID-19 pandemic illustrates perfectly how the operation of science changes when questions of urgency, stakes, values and uncertainty collide — in the ‘post-normal’ regime.

Well before the coronavirus pandemic, statisticians were debating how to prevent malpractice such as p-hacking, particularly when it could influence policy1. Now, computer modelling is in the limelight, with politicians presenting their policies as dictated by ‘science’2. Yet there is no substantial aspect of this pandemic for which any researcher can currently provide precise, reliable numbers. Known unknowns include the prevalence and fatality and reproduction rates of the virus in populations. There are few estimates of the number of asymptomatic infections, and they are highly variable. We know even less about the seasonality of infections and how immunity works, not to mention the impact of social-distancing interventions in diverse, complex societies.

Mathematical models produce highly uncertain numbers that predict future infections, hospitalizations and deaths under various scenarios. Rather than using models to inform their understanding, political rivals often brandish them to support predetermined agendas. To make sure predictions do not become adjuncts to a political cause, modellers, decision makers and citizens need to establish new social norms. Modellers must not be permitted to project more certainty than their models deserve; and politicians must not be allowed to offload accountability to models of their choosing2,3.

This is important because, when used appropriately, models serve society extremely well: perhaps the best known are those used in weather forecasting. These models have been honed by testing millions of forecasts against reality.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Civil War Two

America has a new manufactured crisis, ElectionGate, as if all the other troubles piling up like tropical depressions marching across the September seas were not enough.

America needs a constitutional crisis like a hole in the head, and that’s exactly what’s being engineered for the holiday season by the clever folks in the Democratic Party’s Lawfare auxiliary.

Here’s how it works: the complicit newspapers and cable news channels publish polls showing Joe Biden leading in several swing states, even if it’s not true. Facebook and Twitter amplify expectations of a Biden victory. This sets the stage for a furor when it turns out that he loses on election night.

On cue, Antifa commences to riot all around the country. Meanwhile, a mighty harvest of mail-in votes pours into election districts utterly unequipped to validate them.

Lawfare cadres agitate in the contested states’ legislatures to send rogue elector slates to the electoral college. The dispute ends up in congress, which awaits a seating of newly-elected representatives on January 4, hopefully for Lawfare, mostly Democrats. Whoops…!

Turns out, the Dems lost their majority there too. Fighting in the streets ramps up and overwhelms hamstrung police forces in Democratic-run cities. January 20 — Inauguration Day — rolls around, and the Dems ask the military to drag Trump out of the White House “with great dispatch!” as Mr. Biden himself put it so nicely back in the summer.

The U.S. military breaks into two factions. Voilà: Civil War Two.

You didn’t read that here first, of course. It’s been all over the web for weeks, since the Democratic Party-sponsored Transition Integrity Project (cough cough) ran their summer “war game,” intending to demonstrate that any Trump election victory would be evidence of treason and require correction by any means necessary, including sedition, which they’d already tried a few times in an organized way since 2016 (and botched).

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Canadian Protesters Cheer Trump Against Justin Trudeau

 

Poltics & the Decline & Fall of America

300 people. There have been allegations that Biden’s speech was prerecorded and masterfully edited. The Democrats insist it was live. There were some journalists who claim to have been present. ABC’s Johnny Verhovek, BuzzFeed’s Ruby Cramer, the Washington Post’s Annie Linskey, the New York Times’ Katie Glueck, the Wall Street Journal’s Ken Thomas, the Daily Beast’s Hanna Trudo, CNN’s Sarah Mucha, the Atlantic’s Edward-Isaac Dovere and CBS’s Bo Erickson. Of course, they did not invite anyone who was not promoting the Democrats against Trump so claiming these journalists are proof is by no means trustworthy.

What is far worse is the sheer hatred that is being unleashed and Pelosi is maintaining this same posture that anyone who voted for Trump is unworthy of their consideration. Biden claims he will bring the country together. They are fanning the very flames that are tearing it apart. But this is what Socrates has been forecasting. The United States is self-destructing and this is typically resolved only in a civil war.

Nancy Pelosi claims that Trump is not worth of debates which she is saying 50% of the country does not have any rights whatsoever. She accuses Trump of having no respect for the Democratic process, yet then refuses to allow debates. This election is anything but normal, and to refuse to have debates only increases the concerns that Biden is not competent to even debate. Hillary is advising Biden if he loses, do not concede, and turn this into sheer chaos.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

A Lesser Evil: Notes From The Edge Of The Narrative Matrix

A Lesser Evil: Notes From The Edge Of The Narrative Matrix

I really don’t mean to be a pest about this but we are still trapped on a planet where people without functioning empathy centers are waving literal armageddon weapons around in the name of a made-up concept called unipolarism. We should probably put a stop to that.

~

If you see two separate mainstream political parties, it looks like one is the lesser evil. If you see two oligarchic sock puppets held by the same oligarchy, it looks like they’re both being used to bully you into consenting to an entire system which isn’t designed to serve you.

If you see the latter, what is the correct response? What is the correct response to someone saying you must beg them to punch you with their left hand or they’ll punch you a bit harder with their right? Is it to beg for the left fist? Or is it to knock your abuser the fuck out?

When the oligarchy tells you “Vote for my left party or my right party will take away your civil rights”, the correct response is not bowing to its demands, nor voting right-wing out of spite, nor even merely voting third party. The only correct response is to tear down the oligarchy.

~

Democrats: Here’s a half-dead piece of beltway flotsam held together by nothing but Aricept and crazy glue who’s been pushing for wars, austerity and the erosion of civil liberties since before most of you were born.

Progressives: I bet we can move him to the left.

~

Q: What is the Republican Party?

A: An organization which assures Americans of conservative sensibilities that the status quo is working fine.

Q: What is the Democratic Party?

A: An organization which assures Americans of liberal sensibilities that the status quo is working fine.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Whatever Happened to the Green New Deal?

Whatever Happened to the Green New Deal?

The Green New Deal was the signature issue of the Green Party in the 2010s. Howie Hawkins was the first US candidate to campaign for a Green New Deal in 2010 running for New York governor. The Green Party’s presidential candidate in 2012 and 2016, Jill Stein, made “A Green New Deal for America” the theme of her two campaigns.

The ecosocialist Green New Deal proposed by the Green Party’s 2020 presidential candidate, Howie Hawkins, is a 10-year, $27.5 trillion a program to achieve zero-to-negation carbon emissions and 100% clean energy by 2030. It also includes an additional $1.4 trillion a year for an Economic Bill of Rights to a guaranteed job, a guaranteed income above poverty, affordable housing, Medicare for All, lifelong tuition-free public education, and a secure retirement by doubling Social Security benefits.

This ecosocialist approach features extensive public ownership and planning, particularly in the energy, transportation, and manufacturing sectors, in order to achieve its goals in a decade. To support the conversion of industrialized, pesticide-dependent corporate agriculture to organic farms owned by working farmers that rebuild carbon-capturing living soils, the ecosocialist Green New Deal provides income guarantees, parity pricing and supply management for all agricultural products in order to ensure that working farmers and farmworkers have decent incomes and economic security.

The ecosocialist approach recognizes that capitalism’s destruction of the climate and exploitation of people are part of the same process. It recognizes that in order to harmonize society with nature we must harmonize human with human by ending economic exploitation and all forms of oppression. It calls for an ecosocialist economic democracy that meets the basic needs of all within ecological limits.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Localism in the 2020s (Part 3) – Scaling Politics

Localism in the 2020s (Part 3) – Scaling Politics

Today’s post will outline a framework through which I’ve come to view politics, as well as life in general. It will identify and examine various units of sovereignty as they exist in the contemporary U.S., since that’s the political system I’m most familiar with. Nevertheless, the overall framework should prove useful to people living all over the world.

Let’s start from the beginning. The most basic and meaningful unit of sovereignty is the individual, followed by the family, the municipality/county, the state (California, New York, Texas, etc) and finally the federal government (Washington D.C.). It’s my view that within a healthy society the scope of governance should decline as you add more and more individuals to the mix. It’s at the most basic unit of sovereignty (the individual), where authority over most of life’s decisions should reside. This runs the gamut from the really big decisions, such as what sort of work to do, who to marry, what religion (if any) to believe in; to the completely mundane, such as what to eat for breakfast.

As a person starts to add more members to their daily life in the form of a family (spouse and children), a wide range of complexities are added to the equation which call for a more expansive approach to individual agency. You suddenly find yourself sharing an intimate existence with people who are not you, and who’ll invariably have conflicting views on a wide variety of subjects, both significant and trivial. Compromise becomes necessary in the pursuit of a harmonious coexistence amongst spouses, as well as within the larger family unit, and you start to relinquish a certain degree of individual sovereignty.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Serious Advice

SERIOUS ADVICE

Given all this, what do MPs do all day? Media manipulation, not operational planning on priorities.

“Unsurprisingly, most senior MPs in all three parties are locked into a game in which they spend most of their time on a) launching gimmicks, and b) coping with crises. These two forms of activity are closely related. The only widely understood model of activity in Westminster (and one which fits well psychologically with the desire for publicity) is a string of gimmicks aimed to manipulate the media (given the label ‘strategy’ to make it sound impressive) which are announced between, and in response to, media crises, some of which are trivial and some of which reflect structural problems. Many, drawing perhaps only on the bluffing skills rewarded by PPE, have no idea what else to do.

“Powerful people rush from meetings about the latest gimmick they are to announce, to meetings about the latest cockup for which they need to try to dodge the blame (possibly caused directly by a previously announced gimmick), to the TV studio, to dinner parties, where they gossip about either a) the daily crisis, or b) vague speculations about the distant future (and give overconfident predictions that are usually wrong but which they later reimagined to have been right – ‘as I’ve always said…’). Ministers’ time is dominated by unfocused panic about the media environment – not focused urgency about the most important problems.

“These gimmicks have obvious costs in the form of money wasted and the ostensible goal unfulfilled. They also have indirect costs that are often higher. 1) They divert the bandwidth of senior people from serious issues. (For example, dealing with No10 gimmicks diverted DfE ministers, spads, and officials from focusing on serious issues such as child protection.) 2) Once announced, they can easily trigger a set of further stupid decisions as the system attempts to evade the humiliation of the gimmick failing. 

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Politics and Algorithms

Politics and Algorithms

Edward Hopper Sailing  1911

It’s a development that has long been evident in continental Europe, and that has now arrived on the shores of the US and UK. It is the somewhat slow but very certain dissolution of long-existing political parties, organizations and groups. That’s what I was seeing during the Robert Mueller clown horror show on Wednesday.

Mueller was not just the Democratic Party’s last hope, he was their identity. He was the anti-Trump. Well, he no longer is, he is not fit to play that role anymore. And there is nobody to take it over who is not going to be highly contested by at least some parts of the party. In other words: it’s falling apart.

And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s a natural process, parties change as conditions do and if they don’t do it fast enough they disappear. Look at the candidates the Dems have. Can anyone imagine the party, post-Mueller, uniting behind Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders or Kamala Harris? And then for one of them to beat Donald Trump in 2020?

I was just watching a little clip from Sean Hannity, doing what Trump did last week, which is going after the Squad. Who he said are anti-Israel socialists and, most importantly, the de facto leaders of the party, not Nancy Pelosi. That is a follow-up consequence of Mueller’s tragic defeat, the right can now go on the chase. The Squad is the face of the Dems because Trump and Hannity have made them that.

The upcoming Horowitz and Durham reports on their respective probes into “meddling into the meddling” will target many people in the Democratic Party, US intelligence services, and the media. In that order. Can the Dems survive such a thing? It’s hard to see.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Politics, Democracy and Environmental Rebellion

Politics, Democracy and Environmental Rebellion

Pulp Mill, Longview, Washington. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

A question worth asking is: what conceivable national electoral outcome would resolve the political dysfunction that currently prevents much-needed programs such as solving climate change and mass extinction, national health care, and an end to militarism from being enacted? While setting aside for a moment the national / international divide that facilitated post-War liberalism, class struggle has reemerged to redraw political alignments that lack formal institutions from ‘below’ to move them forward. Would a Democratic sweep in 2020 really change this political landscape?

Focus on elected officials rather than the systemic levers of class control support the carefully crafted posture of great difference between the governing Parties. Political marketing posits the locus of power within personal traits that suborn the class relations the candidates support to a passive role. In the realm of diversions, the passion of anti-Trumpism has been temperedsomewhat since the 2018 mid-term elections by actual Democrats regaining control of the House. As enthusiastically despised as Mr. Trump is, all it takes is a gander at the ‘opposition’ to illuminate the political role that manufactured constraints play.

The near-term political success of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is likely attributable to the distance she has kept from the much-despised political establishment. She said so herself. To paraphrase, her constituents are the people who elected her, not her colleagues in congress. This return to politics, to taking one’s case to the people, 1) is the only way forward for left politics and 2) illustrates how institutional constraints are political in the sense that they preclude only those acts and policies that are inconvenient to official interests. Radical policies that benefit the rich are normalized as necessary— e.g. the U.S. war against Iraq and the Wall Street bailouts.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Name the State

Name the State

The number one problem of all public debate about politics and economics is the failure to name the state. If this would change, so would public opinion. 

There is no shortage of examples. People talk about health care for all, solving climate change, providing security in old age, universal educational access, boosting wages, ending discrimination, and you can add to the list without end. 

That’s one side. 

The other speaks of national identity, protecting jobs, making us more moral, forming cultural cohesion, providing security against the foreign enemy, and so on. 

Obfuscation

All of this, no matter how fancy the language, is obfuscation. What all of this really means is: put the state in charge. What’s strange is the unwillingness to say it outright. This is for a reason. The plans the politicians have for our lives would come across as far less compelling if they admitted the following brutal truth. 

There really are only two ways to allocate goods and services in society: the markets (which rely on individual choice) and the state (which runs on compulsion). No one has ever found a third way. You can mix the two — some markets and some state-run operations — but there always is and always will be a toggling between the two. If you replace markets, the result will be more force via the state, which means bureaucratic administration and rule by force. If you reduce the role of the state, you rely more on markets. This is the logic of political choice, and there is no escaping it. 

Diversity in Markets 

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8 Historic Cases That Show the FBI and CIA Were Out of Control Long Before Russiagate

8 Historic Cases That Show the FBI and CIA Were Out of Control Long Before Russiagate

The survival of liberty depends on skepticism of government power—and make no mistake, that includes President Trump.

Conservatives tend to have two bad habits. First, they’re prone to viewing the past through a nostalgic lens. Second, they tend to instinctively give law enforcement the benefit of the doubt.

These tendencies help explain why conservatives for decades have been able to overlook the many abuses—constitutional, legal, and moral—of US intelligence agencies.

Government bureaucrats were out of control long before the 2016 presidential election.

Unlike some more seasoned media, conservatives have appeared genuinely shocked by revelations of the Trump-Russia saga: abuse of FISA warrants, classified leaksfrom top FBI brass,corruption, campaign moles, and an apparent plot to remove an elected president through undemocratic (and likely extra-constitutional) means.

These revelations are unique in that they have become highly public and involve a sitting president. However, an examination of the history of US intelligence agencies reveals government bureaucrats were out of control long before the 2016 presidential election.

1. That Time the CIA Considered Bombing Miami and Blaming It on Castro

It’s no secret that the US government sought to assassinate Fidel Castro for years. Less well known, however, was that part of their regime-change plot included a plan to blow up Miami and sinking a boat-full of innocent Cubans.

The plan, which was revealed in 2017 when the National Archives declassified 2,800 documents from the JFK era, was a collaborative effort that included the CIA, the State Department, the Department of Defense, and other federal agencies that sought to brainstorm strategies to topple Castro and sow unrest within Cuba. One of those plans included Operation Northwoods, submitted to the CIA by General Lyman Lemnitzer on behalf of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Bruno Latour on Politics in the New Climatic Regime

Bruno Latour on Politics in the New Climatic Regime

Why are so many zones of the world descending into chaos and confusion? There is no single reason, of course, but the French scholar of modernity, Bruno Latour, has a compelling overarching theory. In his new book, Down to Earth: Politics in the New Climatic Regime (Polity), Latour argues that climate change, by calling into question the once-universal dream of “development” and globalization, is leaving a huge void in our consciousness. 

This has resulted in an “epistemological delirium.” As the ordering principle of “the modern” dissolves into thin air, we don’t know which way is up or how to proceed. Hence the title of the original French version of the book, Où atterir? Comment s’orienter en politique – “Where to land? How to orient yourself in politics?” 

Humanity no longer has a shared framework of “becoming modern,” says Latour. It is hard for everyone to believe that globalized markets, “development,” and consumerism will yield a steady march toward civilization and progress. Corporations have proven themselves to be consummate externalizers of cost and risk. And climate change among other eco-crises suggests that relentless economic growth is simply preposterous — and grossly mal-distributed in any case. 

Hence our profound disorientation. It’s hard to deal with the slow-motion collapse of a once-universal story of human aspiration. 

The rich nations, or at least the US, remain mostly in denial about climate change, if only because acknowledging the truth would upend so much. The remaining nation-states of the world, meanwhile, have no clear path in a fractured, divided world for constructing a shared vision. 

Without the unifying normative framework of “development” and its claims of infinite growth and progress, how can we figure out a new consensus narrative for humanity, one that acknowledges the existential reality that we live on the same, finite planet? How can we find a way to share and co-manage our only habitable space?

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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