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HUMANITY DOOMSDAY CLOCK - Moves forward to 2125 due to election of US President trump.

Estimate of the time that Humanity will go extinct or civilization will collapse. The HUMANITY DOOMSDAY CLOCK moves forward to 2125 due to US President trump's abandonment of climate change goals. Apologies to Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists for using the name.


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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Counterbalancing Free Market Fog

Barry, My Liege:

It seems an appropriate time to discuss the purpose of this column: the philosophy and method which underlie my comments in this space.

My intent here, My Liege, is to produce an alternate structure of ideas which will lead to conclusions opposite to the current fog of ideas. Since this different structure is opposed to the current Free Market Fog of ideas, on occasion this fundamental, basal structure of ideas has to be presented in a dramatic manner in order to produce any reaction. On other occasions, parts of that structure can be presented more or less straightforwardly.

Be aware that some of the ideas herein are extrapolations from current real world events while other ideas are designed to create a response in folks who have endured the Free Market Fog of rhetoric for many years.

This space does not purport to present scientific, evidence based discussions of real world events; it is instead a political discussion of ideas which affect the national security of the United States of America.

In the USA today there is a constant outpouring of a Free Market Fog of wrong ideas about how the world works and the best methods to secure peace and stability. But, the current discussion is heavily one sided - much of the political discourse leads to a predetermined political conclusion.

And, My Liege, that conclusion is RUBBISH.

Make no mistake, much of the received wisdom in the United States about how the economy works and the proper role of government in the economy is demonstrably incorrect inasmuch as it produces real world results opposite to what it predicts.

The purpose of this space is to provide a counter weight of ideas based on economic theory so that the received, conventional wisdom has another challenger to its hegemony. While there are such counterweights provided already, the field is vastly under-populated as compared to the Free Market Fog of ideas we see today.

Even more disturbing to me personally is that my discipline of economics provides much of the rhetoric which supports these WRONG ideas.

Here is a specific example of how economic thought is distorted for political ends: traditional economic thought proposes the idea that the laws of supply and demand, when they are left to operate without interference, will provide the best outcome for society. Buyers will buy the quantity of products they want at the price they want to pay and suppliers will supply the quantity of products they wish to sell at that price. With this principle, the Invisible Hand ensures that both parties receive the maximum benefit possible and society at large is well served.

This idea is used to support an economic theory where any action of government which affects the laws of supply and demand reduces the welfare of society. Therefore, under this misguided philosophy, that government is best which governs least.

My Liege, you may have heard that canard before.

John Maynard Keynes effectively refuted that idea in the 1930's with a detailed critique of how that economic philosophy gave us the Great Depression and intolerable levels of human misery.

This space is inadequate to reproduce Keynes' critiques in detail, but there is one criticism which bears repeating here.

That is this: When markets are left to their own devices with little or no controls, they inevitably produce winners and losers. The winners then change the rules so that the laws of supply and demand can no longer operate effectively and the losers are destroyed.

In effect then, any call for free markets with no regulation becomes a smokescreen for allowing the winners to rewrite the rules and ensuring that the losers stay poor.

And that is precisely the fog of ideas which permeates American thinking about the proper role of government.

This fog is perpetuated by a loosely organized band of pundits and politicians who, wittingly or not, serve the interests of the moneyed elite and harm the interests of the general population.

My positioning among all the counter balancing efforts is that this particular effort is rooted in economic theory and that many of the alternate ideas presented in this space will resonate with people's perceptions of everyday experience: they will just 'feel' right because they correspond closely to reality. The Free Market Fog, on the other hand, produces ideas which resonate primarily because they are familiar and for those who benefit monetarily from them.

My goal is to stand against the volume of intellectual, Free Market Fog rhetoric to the best of my ability; by so standing, perhaps I can help change the direction of public policy toward more realistic policies and more even handed results.

I pray that you will find these musings helpful.

Your faithful servant,

Friday, February 3, 2012

Constitution and Dissent

Barry, My Liege:

One question for our time is this: How can the USA avoid sliding toward societal polarization with extremes of poverty and wealth concentration?

Other countries have done it successfully in the past. That gives rise to the hope that we can also.

Both Sweden and Norway had polarized societies at the turn of the 20th Century with massive poverty and a rich class that controlled the country.

In both countries, workers formed unions and cooperatives that called general strikes and challenged the existing system.

Troops were called out and the strikes and cooperatives were broken. But, the movement toward equality continued on a non-violent path and ultimately won power away from the one percent. Here's how George Lakey says it in '': "Not until three decades later could the Conservatives return to a governing coalition, having by then accepted the new rules of the game, including a high degree of public ownership of the means of production, extremely progressive taxation, strong business regulation for the public good and the virtual abolition of poverty."

My Liege, you may be wondering what this has to do with the USA and our Constitution. Put very simply, the Swedish and Norwegian governments did not have anti-terrorist secret police in place at that time. There was no procedure to arrest, torture or kill strike leaders in secret. Any police or military action had to be public.

The inability of both governments to arrest and detain or kill union leaders in secret allowed unions to continue striking and pressing for equality.

If we come forward to the USA of today, we find a Constitution which has been compromised in response to terror threats to the point that procedural protections against criminal or violent acts by government agents acting in secret appear broken. Plus, we have a vast array of technology directed toward identifying terrorists and troublemakers.

My personal experience with No-Fly lists and terrorist screening databases involves a very close relative who is a business man and father and a completely upstanding citizen. Because of business obligations, he travels frequently with short notice and an undetermined return schedule. He is routinely selected for extra screening and has missed flights because he is on some list. He cannot find out which list or why he is there, nor can he find a procedure to remove his name from that mysterious list.

My Liege, I am pretty sure that both the Swedish and Norwegian governments of the time would have used those extra legal powers to crush dissent, if the technology and the laws were available.

Here is the conundrum we face in the United States: We need protest movements to continue pressing for more equality, but we have police and legal structures in place with the ability to neutralize those protest movements.

Forgive me, My Liege, if I am restating the obvious. But, the problem is compelling.

Of course, I would like to point a way out of the maze and will try to do so.

Let us recognize this fact: Some rich and powerful among us do not want change for they fear losing power. That fear will likely compel them to press for suppression of dissent. If they succeed in mobilizing government resources against protest, the USA will likely continue its slide toward polarization.

The remedy is simple, My Liege. This is the remedy: Install a new procedure or Court that must review and approve any action taken to monitor, detain, arrest or kill any American citizen involved in dissent or protest. Such a procedure is likely to be a review court composed of elected or appointed experienced legal scholars and judges.

The intention of such a Court is to prevent monied powers from perverting secret police powers and using them to suppress dissent and the peaceful seeking of redress of grievances.

My hope, My Liege, is that such a procedure can conform to the spirit of the Constitution which trusts no man, but trusts only processes.

With such a process in place, then we will have the ability to secure a more just society. Of course, perhaps such a process already exists and I am simply unaware of it.

Your faithful servant,

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Rearing CEO Criminals

Barry, My Liege:

This is a true story which illustrates one theory of how sociopathic or criminal behavior is created.

An acquaintance teaches elementary school at an exclusive private school. Recently she had occasion to tell a child of maybe six or seven years that he could not do something he wanted to do.

He reacted very badly and proceeded to call his mother on his cell phone and complain to her that the teacher told him 'No'.

That day, the mother drove to see the principal to complain.

The principal told the teacher that if she did that one more time she would be fired.

In an under privileged community, the child would probably end in jail.

But, where will he end in a privileged community?

Your faithful servant,