Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Cloud Silver Linings Corporation Says Global Warming And Climate Change Won’t Be Bad As Was Feared Provided It Engineers Expected Benefits

Cloud Silver Linings Corporation man-made clouds to counteract climate change?
You were feeling glum about climate change?  You feared your grandchildren would grow up on an earth with nary a resemblance to the one humankind has inhabited over the millennia? . . . 

. . .  Your worries are over.  Cloud Silver Linings Corporation says it has perfected an answer: With a little ingenious engineering coupled with what it refers to as the “elbow-glitz” of some good old Madison Avenue know-how, it’s rising to the challenge and some obvious market investment opportunities presented.  It says it can guarantee that global warming and climate change won’t be anywhere near as bad as many nay-sayers were predicting.  In fact, for the luckiest who get in on the ground floor and buy in early, there is a chance to participate in some real profit.

Cloud Silver Linings started with the pertinent observations that clouds have always had some “really important benefits that those who think simplistically readily tend to overlook,” according to spokesperson Peter Strasser.   What's often overlooked?: The significant cooling effect clouds provide.
After 9/11- No contrails results in no clouds formed as a result
Contrail formation of clouds over Europe
Strasser, who eccentrically wears a small Belle Époque goatee and mustache, tends to finger his beard when he talks.  He noted how, with the 9/11 attacks, climatologists realized they had an unprecedented opportunity to scrutinize how the contrails from jets form clouds and lower global temperatures by dimming the light of the sun actually reaching the earth.  When for several days no planes were allowed to fly over the continental United States after 9/11, cloud formation from contrails ceased and the temperature of the United States consequently rose.
Scientist Beate Liepert in “Dimming The Sun” researching records relating to climate change in a library
The effect of clouds to reduce sunlight and accordingly reduce temperature has been proved.  Overall, in recent decades there has been an increase in clouds across the world that has been preventing sunlight from reaching the earth and that’s known as “global dimming.”  See: “Dimming The Sun” (video here).  To date, scientists are reasonably certain that “more than half the warming effect of our greenhouse emissions has been masked by the cooling effect of particle pollution.”  But, as Strasser points out, that’s only half the job needing to be done, and, what’s more, scientists predict the masking effect is temporary because when the man-made pollution resulting in the global dimming clears up the counteractive effect will end.
Dimming The Sun” research records relating to climate change in a library
Cloud Silver Linings Corporation is ready to close the gap with man-made clouds.  The clouds would be permanent fixtures in the sky and carefully designed to be more highly reflective of sunlight than the ordinary clouds that come courtesy of Mother Nature.  The `Silver Linings' part of our name isn’t just metaphorical,” says Strasser: “Because of the of the high degree of reflectivity of the clouds we manufacture the edges of our clouds will literally glint with a pleasing silvery brilliance.”  

The chemicals that were finally decided upon as being best to ensure cloud brilliance were actually discovered accidentally when experimenting with retardants to find what might make the clouds fire resistant. Maintaining brilliance is important because clouds tarnishing and turning brown will not only look like trouble on the horizon, they will actually absorb heat and put into the atmosphere.

Strasser said ideas for "geoengineering" solutions of this sort go back decades and include ideas like reflective films that would be let out in outer space, or sulfur, aerosols, or particulates that would be pumped up into the upper atmosphere.   (See: Scientists Dream Up Bold Remedies for Ailing Atmosphere, by William J. Broad, August 16, 1988, The Energy Challenge-Exotic Visions- How to Cool a Planet (Maybe), by William J. Broad, June 27, 2006 and Engineering a Cooler Planet, by Eric Etheridge, October 21, 2009.)

“Our solution is much more natural,” says Strasser.  “For instance, it doesn’t engender any changes of the sky color to purple or white as some proposals would.  Mankind was meant to live under a blue sky and it's probably evolutionary that blue skies make people feel happy.  People would just see more clouds in the sky, but the new clouds would be of a more beautiful variety.”

Furthermore, the clouds could be provided where most desirable and would be provided free.  The clouds could be steered away from areas designated by agreement for solar power collection. 
Silver Linings’ clouds technically wouldn’t be true clouds.  Engineered with a structure of ultralight nanotubes and nanofibers based on the chemical composition of spider silk (stronger that steal) the clouds would be able to retain shape.  Additionally, they would retain the positions in the air or navigate to new ones by integrating nanites or nanobots, microscopic solar powered flying machines that would cooperate, working together using simple swarm technology algorithms.  According to Silver Linings’ press releases the flying nanobots have already been largely developed by another company, Parthenogenic Solutions, which is readying the small flyers to replace bees for pollination when colony collapse disorder has done its worst.

To provide the clouds absolutely free and without cost to the public Cloud Silver Linings will produce them in the shape of advertisements that spell out the names of sponsoring corporations.  Cloud Silver Linings already has an exclusive contract for its first decade of operation to fill the skies with names of some biggies: Exxon Mobil, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, Conoco Phillips and Gazprom.  The smallest sponsor whose name you’ll see above?: An early investor in the corporation, T. Boone Pickens.  Pickens, a heavy promoter of hydrofracking who has also recently been making a name for himself by investing in the water resources that fracking makes much more scarce.

Pickens says he stands willing to invest in everything and anything, “it's all a matter of supply and demand” and on this, “the sky isn’t the limit, but the starting place to invest.”

Cloud Silver Linings’s claim to the sky space is already legally firmly locked up.  It litigated the matter under the provisions of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Treaty’s provision that allows foreign corporations to seize natural resources for corporate purposes like mining.  For those who where unaware that it is already possible to litigate these matters in secret tribunals prior to actual passage of the TPP, Strasser points out that since the provisions of the TPP under negotiation are being treated as “classified” there is a lot that people don’t know about the TPP, including its retroactive provisions.  “I can say no more,” said Strasser. (Working as a subsidiary of HD 'n Burg technologies Cloud Silver Linings has been structured to operate as a foreign corporation no matter where it is doing business in the world to ensure treaty protections.)

Bitcoin dividends?
Cloud Silver Linings is taking one other innovative leap into the future.  Its stock will be issued in exchange for U.S. dollars, but its dividends will be paid in bitcoin.  Borrowing a page from Bitcoin’s playbook using artificial scarcity to generating perceived value, Cloud Silver Linings will restrict issuance of its stock, issuing only annually on the same day of every year (provided it’s a weekday), April 1st.
Same clouds twenty minutes earlier
Dated on upper right hand corner of sky

Thursday, October 17, 2013

If the Government Shutdown Wasn’t About Obamacare (And It Isn’t), Then It Was About?. . . Ready To Be Hot Under The Collar?

Montage above: Koch funded anti-healthcare creepy Uncle Sam ad, David and Charles Koch from Forbes 400 and from a story about  Koch funding of climate change science denial.
After a national election in which the Republican Party substantially lost the presidential election, lost the U.S. Senate, and lost the popular vote for the U.S. House of Representatives, the Republican Party has been deferring to a fractional extremist fringe within its ranks, allowing that faction to steer the whole country into a government shutdown and near default on all its financial obligations, theoretically to prevent the enactment of “Romneycare” (now renamed “Obamacare”).  Really?  Romney/Obamacare is a healthcare plan that was originally developed by and sought by the Republican Party.  It was ultimately adopted by President Obama as a concessional compromise that gave the Republican Party what it once said it wanted.

This is really why the government was shutdown and we went to the precipice of default at huge financial cost to the country?  That’s why we risked complete and total chaos in the economy?

Really and truly?

Absolutely not.  Think again.

There are quite a few theories about why the Republicans, chose to prostrate themselves before their Tea Party faction, shutting down the government.  None of them actually accurate.  They are:
    1.    Republicans believed that the Romney/Obamacare would be a complete and total disaster so damaging to the country that it was worth bringing the country to its knees, incapacitating it and threatening the very worst in order to prevent its rollout.

    2.    Republicans actually believe the opposite, that Romney/Obamacare will be a tremendous success, that Americans will wind up loving it and will become (as predicted by Republican Senator Ted Cruz) addicted to its “sugar” when implemented, making it impossible to repeal.  Since even Republicans, including very possibly subcategory Tea Party members might, when actually experiencing the law, decide they sincerely like the result of having healthcare, it is important to nip this in the bud . . .  because, if the Republican and Tea Party constituency realize that the doctrinaire lies they have been fed about Romney/Obamacare aren’t true, it could, among other things, undermine the future credibility of the Republicans and the Tea Party on other matters was well as this.

    3.    Republicans believe that being generally obstructionist will always benefit them in the polls.  (Not exactly the way things are working out.)

    4.    As expressed in a recent Paul Krugman column, Republicans are “deeply incompetent,” so much so that they “can’t even recognize their own incompetence.”  (See: The Boehner Bunglers, October 6, 2013.)

    5.    Shall we, for the sake of a more profound debate, stay away from the perception, often expressed by comedian-commentator Bill Maher (however much unfortunate truth may actually be in it) that Republicans oppose everything Obama does simply because Obama is black?
What is really going on?

Sometimes things in this world turn out as no one could expect, chance having its way, and unexpected results coming out of the blue.  But there are many other times when it is instructive to look at outcomes and assume they were intended from the start.  In this regard, it is valuable to note the recent and well-documented New York Times report that orchestration of the current shutdown crisis was planned way in advance, going back to at least January/February of this year.  According to the Times, “The billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David, have been deeply involved with financing the overall effort.”  See: A Federal Budget Crisis Months in the Planning, by Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Mike McIntire, October 5, 2013, accompanying timeline graphic here: House Republican Efforts to Repeal or Weaken the Health Care Law, October 5, 2013.
So, are we to believe that the number one priority of the Koch brothers for which they would shutdown the United State government is denying healthcare to American citizens?

Within days of the Times article the Koch brothers through their chief corporate spokesperson issued a denial of involvement in the shutdown as part of an attack on the healthcare program with an October 9, 2013 letter.  Notwithstanding, when that letter is read carefully against the documented facts it is really not much of a denial.  See: Kochs Deny Pushing for Shutdown Over Health Law, October 9, 2013.

One hint that the manufactured crisis was never really truly about opposition to the Democrats’ passage of a  Republican-formulated healthcare law is that in the waning days of the crisis, as an immediate default on government obligations was about to be avoided, the dialogue had readily shifted from being about the healthcare bill to being about other things, mainly broader government spending and general budget matters.  Like defense spending?: No, that wasn't talked about. . .   One of the problems for the Republicans when they tried to halt the roll-out of Obamacare by defunding the government is that Obamacare is self-funded and therefore rolled out nonetheless.  The other indication of what all of this craziness this is really about is that resolutions sought by the Republicans involved kicking the can down the road with deferral of dates so that the nation will potentially be kept in a state of constant crisis with more of this craziness almost guarnteed to transpire again in the future.

If all this drama and damage to the country has not actually been about the Koch brothers wanting to block a healthcare program, what is it really about?   . . .   Instead of believing that the Koch brothers have an intense, burning and paramount desire to deny healthcare to Americans (which seems rather absurd), let's think about what the Koch brothers are really interested in and where they direct most of their other political spending: They direct that money to climate change science denial and to the frustration of any efforts to societally address the issue of global warming.

The Koch brothers are vastly wealthy and their wealth comes principally from the extraction of fossil fuels.  With an estimated personal wealth of $36 billion each this year, Charles and David Koch are now tied for fourth place on September’s Forbe’s 400 list.  If we think of them as a single united unit of family wealth then the Koch’s jump to the head of that Forbes list alongside of Bill Gates and place well ahead of the $58.5 billion that earns Warren Buffett his Number Two status on this list. Lesson to us all: The Koch’s wealth has been rocketing up concurrent with their involvement in politics.

Would American industrialists really do something as outrageous as wrecking the government for the sake of advancing their personal wealth and private industrial pursuits?  Is that so very different from putting the fate of the entire human race and the rest of the planet at risk with climate change— or simply a mere subset of such behavior?

How is the attack on healthcare and the government shutdown connected with efforts to fend off people doing something about climate change?  Just think what would be happening if we had not been embroiled in this silly mess about preventing Romney/Obamacare from going into effect: With a working government we would very likely be proceeding to the biggest priorities at hand.  We might therefore be taking measures to deal with climate change at this very moment.  Even if we weren’t dealing with climate change right now we’d certainly be getting to it considerably sooner.

For how many weeks and months has the issue of the pending government shutdown been consuming all the oxygen in the media for any discussion of anything else?  Attention everywhere has been diverted as we heard about this silliness 24/7 in ad nauseam detail.

It goes further than that.  At the same time that we haven’t we heard anything about what the government ought to be doing about climate change we also haven't heard about the reverse: We haven’t heard anything about the Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty (TPP) which will go a long way to prevent government from doing something about climate change.  In fact, most Americans are probably unaware that the TPP exists at all or that it is a stealth corporatist attack on government regulation, including government regulation of such fossil fuel climate change game-over business activities as hydro-fracking.  It is, if you will, another envisioned form of government shutdown, intended to replace government control of corporations with corporate control of governments.  See: Saturday, October 12, 2013, The Other Government Shutdown Now In The Works (One You Are Not Hearing About): A Corporate Replacement Of Government Via The Trans-Pacific Partnership Treaty.

At first blush it might seem odd that John Boehner, Speaker of the Republican House, would have sacrificed so much of the Republican Party's reputation, deferring to the Tea Party faction, the extreme end of his party financed by the Koch brothers, rather than letting majority rule solve the problems.  Of course, the analysis is offered that with such things as gerrymandered districts, average and middle-of-the-road Republicans are more afraid of being ousted in primaries than in being perceived by the general electorate as extremist, but it is important to know that the Kochs don't just finance the Tea Party.   The "moderates" are beholden to the Kochs as well, even before you consider whether Koch brother money can be used to threaten in primaries.

The visuals below are for the purpose of illustrating something the last set of election results have probably not significantly changed: How the Koch brothers have contributed to over half the members of the House and half the members of the U.S. Senate.  They are from the one-hour Alex Gibney (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer) 2012 documentary “Park Avenue: Money, Power & the American Dream” about income inequality in America, including very particularly its corrosive effect on politics.

The Zeitgeist of the Tea Party, and now the Republican Party as well, is an extreme refusal to allow the government to work.  One can't help but notice that for the Koch brothers and their fossil fuel industries gridlock that preserves the status quo is a win.  So, yes, in this regard, those who perceive a working healthcare program as a threat to Republicans are in a sense right: Because if your goals is to have a dysfunctional government you want the public to see as few examples of successful government programs as possible.

But, I suggest to you, in the end, crippling the government is only an intermediate goal:  The end goal is to defer the day of reckoning for the industries like the Kochs' that are fast and furiously bringing us climate change that, unaddressed, we are less and less likely to survive.  Feel any heat under your collar?

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Other Government Shutdown Now In The Works (One You Are Not Hearing About): A Corporate Replacement Of Government Via The Trans-Pacific Partnership Treaty

It sounds like a science fiction vision of a futuristic dystopia, the kind of story whose horrific elements have been slathered on thickly to emphasize the “cautionary tale” a creative writer has dreamed up, one of those, not now, not here, not just yet, but “could be” essays commenting on what might go wrong in the future given the seeds we can observe in today’s society:
A select army of coordinating and elite-trained corporatist operatives, 600 strong, deploy around the world planning to replace government control of corporations with corporate control of governments.   Having found their more nefarious goals stymied by democracy and public debate, the corporations plan a secretive end-run around public process to supplant government with corporate supremacy and, in one fell swoop, enact, unfettered, their long wish list of desires, even at the cost of public health, welfare and the environment.  In the end, even the earth itself may be doomed as a result of this power grab.
The only problem is that this is not science fiction.  It is actually happening.  What I have just described is the move toward passage of something called Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty (“TPP”) and though it may sound like pure paranoia, the fact that political adversaries Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Occupy Wall Street are both among those very concerned about its effects should be a pretty good indication that the nightmare threats are very real.

The TPP gives corporations the right to tell governments to stand down from their functions of protecting the public.  That’s because, in the corporatist view, governments should not be allowed to interfere with the expectations that corporations and their investors have of receiving profits.  It has been described as giving corporations a new “corporate bill of rights” to make profits notwithstanding public detriment.

So, for example, in August New York’s Mayor Bloomberg wrote an Op-Ed published in the New York Times fearful that one result of the TPP’s passage would be that New York City could no longer regulate smoking the way it does because doing so would interfere with the profits the tobacco companies want to make.  The NYC Bloomberg era ban on smoking is considered a signature and, in retrospect, very popular (82% approval) achievement of the mayor’s administration, copied elsewhere around the world.

The TPP’s provisions are actually secret from those who are not among the 600 corporatists working on it, a problem we will get to in a moment.  Mr. Bloomberg, who apparently knew something about what was actually in the TPP about regulating smoking at various times, commented:
The early drafts of the agreement included a “safe harbor” provision protecting nations that have adopted regulations on tobacco — like package warnings and advertising and marketing restrictions — because of “the unique status of tobacco products from a health and regulatory perspective.” This provision would have prevented the tobacco industry from interfering with governments’ sovereign right to protect public health through tobacco control laws. 
(See: Op-Ed Contributor: Why Is Obama Caving on Tobacco? By Michael R. Bloomberg, August 22, 2013.)

Unfortunately, as Mr. Bloomberg was also aware, the tobacco industry successfully lobbied to have the provision removed.  Mr. Bloomberg complained about the agreement's alternative:
weak half-measures at best that will not protect American law — and the laws of other countries — from being usurped by the tobacco industry, which is increasingly using trade and investment agreements to challenge domestic tobacco control measures. 

    . . .  not only will cigarettes be cheaper for the 800 million people in the countries affected by the trade pact, but multinational tobacco corporations will be able to challenge those governments — including America’s — for implementing lifesaving public health policies. This would not only put our tobacco-control regulations in peril, but also create a chilling effect that would prevent further action, which is desperately needed.
There is actually something wrong with this picture of Bloomberg championing protection of the public health: It is Mr. Bloomberg’s very narrow focus about what is wrong with the TPP.  Tobacco is certainly an addictive poison the use of which governments would do well to curtail, but under the TPP it is not just anti-smoking measures, but virtually all public health protections that would be sacrificed or in jeopardy if they conflicted with a desire for corporate profit.

Elsewhere in his Op-Ed Mr. Bloomberg commends that (in his view):
The pact is intended to lower tariffs and other barriers to commerce, a vitally important economic goal.
And later he says:
I could not be more strongly in favor of trade agreements that expand economic opportunity here and around the globe.
In actuality, most of the TPP does not concern itself with these issues of trade.  The current version of the TPP has 29 chapters.  Of these, only five reportedly have to do with trade. The other 24 chapters involve a wide range of grabs by the corporations. Days ago Naked Capitalism commented that the TPP has been mis-branded as a “trade deal”:
The reason the label is misleading is that trade is already substantially liberalized; the real point of the TPP and its cousin, the pending EU-US trade agreement, is to weaken the power of nations to regulate, which will allow multinationals to lead a race to the bottom on product and environmental safety.
(See: Thursday, October 10, 2013, Will China’s Gambit to Undermine the Trans-Pacific Partnership Succeed?)

In this race to the bottom, what else would the TPP override in terms of public protections?  That’s where the problem of secrecy comes in.  Discussion of the treaty’s provisions is very difficult because the provisions under negotiation are being treated as "classified."  The army of 600 corporatist soldiers working on the document may be intimately familiar with the wish list items they are inserting, but the public is not allowed to know anything about them.  A good starter guess though is that anything that has to be secret is not good news for the public.

Said Senator Elizabeth Warren in September:
For big corporations, trade agreement time is like Christmas morning. They can get special gifts they could never pass through Congress out in public. Because it's a trade deal, the negotiations are secret and the big corporations can do their work behind closed doors. We've seen what happens here at home when our trading partners around the world are allowed to ignore workers rights, wages, and environmental rules. From what I hear, Wall Street, pharmaceuticals, telecom, big polluters, and outsourcers are all salivating at the chance to rig the upcoming trade deals in their favor.

Why are trade deals secret?  I've heard people actually say that they have to be secret because if the American people knew what was going on, they would be opposed.  Think about that.  I believe that if people would be opposed to a particular trade agreement, then that trade agreement should not happen.
Congress, which has exclusive authority to approve treaties (in this case both houses), is being asked to “Fast Track” the approval of this treaty  “But until this June, they were not even allowed to see the draft text,” according to Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, who explained that, after 150 members of Congress made a tremendous fuss, the situation now is that:
    . . members of Congress, upon request for the particular chapter, can have a government administration official bring them a chapter. Their staff is thrown out of the room. They can’t take detailed notes. They’re not supposed to talk about what they saw. And they can, without staff to help them figure out what the technical language is, look at a chapter.  This is in contrast to, say, even what the Bush administration did. The last time we had one of these mega-NAFTA expansion attempts was the Free Trade Area of the Americas. And in that instance, in 2001, that whole draft text was released to the public by the U.S. government on the official government websites. So, this is extraordinary secrecy, and members of Congress aren’t supposed to tell anyone what they’ve read. So, for instance, you know, Alan Grayson, who was one of the guys who helped to get the text released, Alan Grayson said, "I can tell you it’s very bad for the future of America. I just can’t tell you why." That’s obscene. 
(See: "A Corporate Trojan Horse": Obama Pushes Secretive TPP Trade Pact, Would Rewrite Swath of U.S. Laws, Democracy Now October 4, 2013.  A full Democracy Now transcript of the video below is available.)

The Obama administration reportedly wants to push through the “Fast Track” authority that would delegate Congressional authority for the treaty review to get it adopted by the end of this year-. . . That’s just months, practically a matter of weeks away, and yet the public knows virtually nothing about what that would mean.  “Fast Track” authority would limit the congressional lawmakers to an up-or-down vote on the TPP.  BTW: The current government shutdown may be a distraction from what is going on but it reportedly isn't slowing down the efforts to bring about this other envisioned shutting down of government functions via the TPP.

What kinds of things are crammed into the TPP?  TPP has been referred to as “son of SOPA” because it contains most of the intellectual property rights restrictions that corporations tried, and ultimately failed, to lobby through as part of “SOPA,” the “Stop Online Piracy Act.”  Remember that fight?  That was when Wikipedia and other internet sites shut down for a day to call attention to that law's proposed Draconian provisions (See: Wikipedia Blackout: 11 Huge Sites Protest SOPA, PIPA On January 18.)

The hotly debated SOPA amounts to 38 pages coming out of my printer.  Think of that as just one of the 25 non-trade related chapters of the TPP!  The money and the corporatists wanted to see that law passed but the public was against it.  Listed on Wikipedia 125 organizations supported the law while 222 opposed it and many others refused to support it: List of organizations with official stances on the SOPA and PIPA.

Here is a list of the corporate end-runs presently understood to be in the TPP that will give you an idea of why the TPP is often referred to as “NAFTA on steroids.”  Note that although there are 25 chapters full of non-trade related provisions, the list below doesn’t approach that number:
    1.    Limitations on food quality and food safety regulation.
    2.    Limitations on regulation of agriculture and forestry practices.
    3.    Limitations on environmental standards, and environmental protections (including provisions whereby corporations expect to be able to avoid having to pay for environmental damage).
    4.    Limitations on the regulation of toxins and poisons.
    5.    Limitations on climate policy measures.
    6.    Limitations on regulating energy markets.
    7.    Establishment of corporate rights to seize natural resources, including for such things as mining.
    8.    Protections for corporations to charge high and unregulated prices for such things as water, gas, energy, transportation and other utilities (unless government provides them to the public entirely without a fee).
    9.    Limitations on regulation of banks and the financial industry, including back doors for those institutions to get around what presently exists.
    10.    Restrictions on taxes such as a ban on the proposed “Robin Hood” tax on speculative Wall Street investments.
    11.    Restricting measures governments undertake to make medication affordable, including limiting generics and affordable medicines.
    12.    Limitations on other consumer health laws like those that deal with cigarettes. (Prevention of gun control regulation Mr. Bloomberg?)
    13.    Restrictions on internet freedoms and intellectual property rights (The “son of SOPA” provisions).
    14.    Effects on labor unions (see discussion below).
    15.    Give corporation new rights to sue governments that try to regulate them and entitle corporations to taxpayer-funded damages for such unpermitted regulation.
    16.    Elevate rights of corporations to a higher level equating them with governments.  It looks as if foreign corporations would thereby wind up empowered with greater rights than U.S. companies in the United States. 
    17.    Turn adjudication and resolution of these corporate rights matters over to new pro-corporate international foreign courts outside of and not bound by the existing legal systems.  The idea is that the those representing corporations seeking to assert their rights would rotate through taking their turn as the adjudicating judges.
Full-fledged world-wide dystopia as was described at the outset?  The twelve countries negotiating to put the TPP into effect (Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam) comprise about 26 percent to 30 percent of world GDP), but that overall reach can be expanded, partly, as Naked Capitalism points out, with the implementation of other parallel treaties.   The exploits of the James Bond super-villains, most of whom all had their own super-corporation empires, once seemed satisfyingly fantastical in scale, but most of them would have picked more sparingly from the above menu in concocting their world-domineering schemes. (In 2008's “Quantum of Solace,” my candidate for the most disappointing of the Bond franchise films, you had a fairly exact match for just one of the schemes above: The villain was a counterfeit environmentalist named “Greene,” whose goal was to monopolistically corner the market for water in Bolivia so as to be able to charge the populace higher prices.)

The above list, generically covering all the bases, manages to be automatically comprehensive about protecting all the worst possible corporate behaviors.  So, for example, those who perceive hydro-fracking to be a threat to our health, water, and with climate change the survival of much of the life on this planet, would lose all possible tools to address the practice.  The hard-fought fight to prevent fracking in New York State?: The industry would have achieved an end-run around it.

When I and others write to say that the TPP contains such disturbing provisions, are we wrong?  If they’d only make the TPP provisions public we’d know exactly what to worry about with accuracy and specificity.  Otherwise we just leave it to those working for Halliburton and Monsanto to assure us that the unpublished provisions they are stuffing into the bill will be as good for us as they will be for them!

Would foreign corporations doing business in the U.S. gain greater rights than domestic corporations?  Days ago, without bring up the advent of the TPP as a possible contributing reason, the New York Times was reporting:
From New York to Silicon Valley, more and more large American corporations are reducing their tax bill by buying a foreign company and effectively renouncing their United States citizenship.
(See: New Corporate Tax Shelter: A Merger Abroad, by David Gelles, October 8, 2013.)

The effect of TPP on jobs and labor unions in the United States under the TPP is not a simple discussion.  Many blame NAFTA for draining jobs out of the U.S.  It is true that when jobs go overseas other jobs can be created here in ways that are complicated and not easy to measure.  Many economists believe a liberal approach to free trade usually results in a net plus.  However, when our domestic labor unions compete with workers in other countries where workers rights are not enforced or don’t exist there is a serious race to the bottom problem.  The subject is too long and complex to debate in this short article, but that complexity too is another example of why passage of this secretly formulated corporate wish list cannot be rushed through without due and proper discussion and airing.

What then might the concerned citizen want to do about the TPP?    Contact your senators and congressmen.  Tell them you are concerned and that, at a minimum, the TPP should not be "Fast Tracked."

Here are sites at which to further educate yourself:
 •        Expose the TPP

 •        Public Citizen’s TPP Trade Watch site

 •        Sierra Club TPP page

 •        Occupy Wall Street TPP page

 •        Citizens Trade Campaign TPP page

 •        Amnesty International TTP information
 •        Public Knowledge TPP page 
 •        Electronic Frontier Foundation TPP webpage and petition
 •        Infojustice.org
 •        Food and Water Watch TPP page
There is a MoveOn Petition you can sign calling for no "Fast Tracking" of the the TPP:

  •        MoveOn Petition: Congress: Don't renew "fast track" authority

Here is a short, simple video to send around through social media: "Why you should care about the TPP."

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Power Issue: Does Beyoncé Rule The World? Or Just Put On A Nice Face For Those Who Do?

Here is a question that should be in vogue but isn’t sufficiently yet. . . It’s an issue about power: Does Beyoncé rule the world or does she just hire out to put a nice face on some not-so-nice things for those who do?

I ask the question because Ms. Beyoncé Knowles, the wife of Sean (Jay-Z) Carter (together the richest celebrity couple in the world) showed up on the cover of my Vogue magazine this month, an issue deliciously dubbed “The Power Issue.”  And that Vogue cover certainly does raise “The Power Issue” when it proclaims “Beyoncé Rules The World.”

If Beyoncé does rule the world then it would be expected that things in the world are the way Beyoncé wants them to be, but the evidence is quite the contrary (or maybe Beyoncé is in favor of some pretty objectionable things).  The evidence is that things in the world are really the way those in power want them to be and that Beyoncé and her husband Jay-Z are just in the business of hiring out to put a face on things that makes all of that more acceptable.

Accordingly, there has been much discussion about the moral choices that Ms. Knowles and her husband Jay-Z have made.  See: Tuesday, January 29, 2013, Tsk, Tsk: Criticism of Beyoncé’s Lip Syncing . . A Distraction From More Serious Issues And Moral Choices and Tuesday, January 8, 2013, Tsk, Tsk: More Criticism of Beyoncé’s Moral Choices In a New York Times Op-Ed Piece.

This is not the first time Beyoncé has appeared on the cover of Vogue but maybe it is the most troubling in the message being offered.
The article and photographic layouts inside this March issue of Vogue (Beyoncé Knowles: The Queen B, by Jason Gay, photographed by Patrick Demarchelier, February 11, 2013) continue the theme that Ms. Knowles has power, asserting that she writes her own script.”  Here is the feature’s subhead leading into the article (emphasis supplied- visual above):
Chart-topper, glamour wife, style icon, filmmaker, new mom, business mogul—Beyoncé is at the height of her powers and writing her own script.
If Beyoncé Knowles is writing her own script then she is responsible for those things she is endorsing and for what she has thereby helped bring about.  That's exactly what those (including me) criticizing the moral choices that she and her husband have made have been concerned about.

One of those ill-advised moral choices comes up in the article with some promotional hoopla about the so-called “Barclays” arena in Brooklyn, owned by a real estate subsidy grabber, Bruce Ratner of Forest City Ratner, and a Russian oligarch, Mikhail Prokhorov.  The Vogue article mentions the celebrity couple’s connection fronting the arena for those two men right after some chit-chatty language certifying their moral credentials.  (Jay-Z is often promoted as a moral philosopher credited with such supposedly honesty-inspiring remarks as: “You can say what you say, but you are what you are.”)

This is the excerpt from the article about the Brooklyn arena:
Here she credits her husband, another entrepreneurial superstar who has proved to be disciplined at navigating celebrity. “Just knowing someone’s always going to be honest and tell the truth,” she says of Jay-Z, “[who] can understand exactly what I’m going through—and I can understand exactly what he’s going through.”

They have figured something out. If you spend time in New York, there’s a chance you will encounter Mr. and Mrs. Carter. There they are, courtside at the new billion-dollar home of the Brooklyn Nets, in which Jay-Z is a stakeholder.
That “new billion-dollar home of the Brooklyn Nets, in which Jay-Z is a stakeholder” took a page from the George W. Bush playbook of abuse of the public trust.  Bush personally took home  $17 million (in the preferential form of capital gains) for fronting for the Texas Rangers stadium in Arlington, Texas.   The Arlington taxpayers publicly paid for that stadium to make Bush and his friends their private profit.  In addition, Bush and his friends needed only 17 acres to build the Texas stadium, but 200 acres were condemned in an associated land grab calculated to boost their profits.  With Jay-Z and Beyoncé fronting for them, Bruce Ratner and Mikhail Prokhorov did the same thing, including the land grab, in Brooklyn and to Brooklyn.

Beyoncé and Jay-Z may nominally support the more populist agenda of the current man in power, Barack Obama, but they've make their money fronting for these George Bush style abuses.

So: Beyoncé Rules The World?  Does she really now?
Above, Jay-Z on the cover New York Times Style Magazine in another promotion of  the "Barclays" arena

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tsk, Tsk: Criticism of Beyoncé’s Lip Syncing . . A Distraction From More Serious Issues And Moral Choices

President Barack Obama’s second inaugural speech last week had a lot in it that ought to have commanded serious attention, like the fact that he said, “We will respond to the threat of climate change” and his calls for equality with his alliterative allusions to “Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall.”  He spoke of protecting the young and future generations including those of Newtown.  There was his proclamation that a “rising middle class” is imperative and that the “patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob.” Significantly, he spoke out against believing that in America “freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few” while asserting that the commitments Americans make to each other through “Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security” do not “make us a nation of takers” but strengthen and free us “to take the risks that make this country great.”

It’s unfortunate then that so many people want to come away just talking about whether Beyoncé lip-synced her singing of the National Anthem.  Admittedly, comment on the subject is hard to resist. . .  Right after Ms. Knowles concluded the soaring notes of her rendition Gwen Ifill, moderating PBS’s coverage, said: “As we have seen many, many times in the past, that is a tough song nail and Beyoncé managed to find a way to do it today.”

Yes, indeed, but little did Ms. Ifill know that the way that Beyoncé had managed to find to deliver her otherwise pitch perfect performance was for what was piped out to the national audience to be a prerecorded version.

With wealth of around $775 million Beyoncé and Jay-Z are the richest celebrity couple in the world, which adds to the feeling that they ought to really deliver when they perform (the way that Kelly Clarkson did when she performed “My Country, 'Tis of Thee” moments before Beyoncé performed.) 

As it turns out, even though the national audience only heard Beyoncé’s prerecorded version Beyoncé was probably not lip syncing in the truest sense but singing along live to the prerecorded tape people were hearing over the speakers.  That’s the verdict of a British sound engineer after listening to an alternative feed and he opines that her actual live performance “was every bit as good as the `safety’ pre-record – in fact it was so close that it’s hard to tell them apart” (See- and hear: 'She DID sing live': Now sound expert delivers verdict on the curious case of Beyoncé's national anthem... as new audio of her performance emerges, by Chris Johnson, 24 January 2013.)

People like Jon Stewart on the Daily Show have taken humorous advantage of the distraction of this faux scandal concerning Beyoncé’s performance ethics to make serious points.

One of the quips making the rounds gets expressed thus: “As if Beyoncé were the only person in Washington to move their lips and say nothing.”
Bill Maher opened his HBO program last week with a more pointedly appropriate variation on the above, telling the cheering audience that greeted his arrival on stage:
I know why you're happy this week: Obama got reinaugurated.  That was a big thing for liberals.  But I have to say, the Republicans were right . . . He's been in office less than a week now in the second term and already the administration's rocked by scandal . . .  Beyoncé lip syncing!

    * * * *

Let that be a lesson: If you are in Washington, D.C. and you open your mouth and another voice comes out it better be the NRA, an oil company, or a bank.
Maher may have been more on target than he knew.  The attendance of Beyoncé and Jay-Z at the inauguration provided a ready-made distraction for those who were looking for one and there were, indeed many, like Rupert Murdoch, owner of the media empire that includes Fox New and the New York Post, who would prefer that Obama’s message on the historic day not get through.  So, for example, the Post ran a full front page on its edition covering the inauguration that was nothing but a photo of  Beyoncé and Jay-Z with a tabloid-size headline proclaiming these two to be the real first couple.

What makes the distraction the celebrity couple was conveniently providing less funny and also makes the misguided fixation on Beyoncé lip syncing as `scandal’ less innocuous are the much more serious distractions that Beyoncé and Jay-Z provide, obstructing the messages Obama needs to get across.  No, I don’t refer to the fact that Beyoncé has been chastised for the promotion of sugary soda because it conflicts with Michelle Obama’s efforts to encourage healthy diets for American children as she seeks to combat the obesity epidemic.  There are other moral indicators and choices that concern me more, things that do greater damage to and greatly confuse the message Obama seeks to get out. . .

. . . Beyoncé's high-paid special performance for Libya’s Gaddafi family. .

 . . Jay-Z saying that he doesn’t understand what Occupy Wall Street is about while he himself buys into a system that perpetuates unfair privilege . .

. .    And yes, my concerns involve the moral laxity Bill Maher chided in his joke of people opening their mouths to give voice to words a disreputable organization has paid them to say. .  This extends to Jay-Z and Beyoncé, hiring out as fronts for a monopolisticly predatory real estate developer and public subsidy collector looking to neuter the rights of a community and the effectiveness of their community organizers mustering a defense.  (For more on all of this see: Tuesday, January 8, 2013, Tsk, Tsk: More Criticism of Beyoncé’s Moral Choices In a New York Times Op-Ed Piece.)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Teachable Moment: Bloomberg Veers Off Course In Gun Violence Prevention Debate

From the New York section of Monday's New York Times
Just as the discussion concerning gun violence prevention was receiving crucial national focus in the wake of the Sandy Hook school killings, gun control advocate New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has cheapened the debate by likening New York City’s United Federation of Teachers to the National Rifle Association.  (See: Teachers Irate as Bloomberg Likens Union to the N.R.A., by Al Baker, January 7, 2013.)

Yes, that’s the NRA that in response to school shootings has suggested that the solution to too many guns is more guns, including lots of guns sent into schools so that problem of too many guns can be mediated via shoot-outs on school terrain between the good guys and the bad guys.  May the purchaser of the biggest, most recently purchased technological marvel in firepower win!  (See: Monday, December 31, 2012, Guns As The Solution To Guns? A Meditation on Corporate Solutions In General.)

True, Bloomberg in maligning the teacher’s union was wanting to make the point that the NRA doesn’t represent its rank and file members and true, that same point was made by me in the article I just linked to above.  In that article I went on to observe that the policy positions of the NRA leadership objecting to multiple very sensible proposals to prevent gun violence, while they may be attuned to the manufacturer’s interest of selling a maximum number of guns, diverge from what most Americans want.  In the end the policy positions of the NRA leadership actually represent the views of a very small fragment of the population found only at the extreme ends of the spectrum.

All of that, while true, does not make it appropriate for Bloomberg to make his point by suggesting that the teachers union leadership cares as little for the children in our schools or for protecting general welfare as the NRA.  Notwithstanding such inappropriateness, Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson dug in, defending the mayor with a statement reiterative of this exact theme just two days later:
“As the mayor has said before, the union is a special-interest group focused on advancing its agenda, whether it’s in the public interest or not. . . Their refusal to agree to a fair evaluation deal is just the latest example of this.” 
It's really not fair to suggest the teachers union doesn’t care about our public interest in teaching our children, to set it up oppositionally, virtually as if it were a dichotomy.  Even if the teachers union does have its own special interests to advance which likely creep up in the priorities they set forth in their agenda:, the fact is that if the children of New York are well taught and enthusiastic about their education it strengthens the teachers union by making the union look good and giving it allies amongst the parents.  It also means that much more often teachers will enjoy the kind of meaningful experiences in the classroom that most of them probably factored in as compensation when they chose a profession that is not very financially rewarding.

By the same token it would hardly be fair to say that Bloomberg cares nothing about the welfare of New York’s schoolchildren or how well the city school system works to teach them because, similarly, when the system actually works to give children good educations it helps Bloomberg look good.  But to acknowledge this is not to say that Bloomberg doesn’t have his own special interests prevailing in his agenda for the school system.  Bloomberg is notorious for favoring the marshaling of statistical numbers that can make him look good as mayor irrespective of underlying substance.  Also, of course, he would like to spend less on education than the teachers union would advocate.

Bloomberg has introduced into the school system a destructive focus on teaching to the tests when, in actuality, education is about having an enthusiasm for learning. . . . . .  Most of the facts we learn in school when we drill to take tests of debatable relevance wind up being forgotten.  What can stick with well-taught students is something less measurable, the enthusiasm for learning with which they can become imbued and the self-motivation they develop to keep building upon their skills.

Bloomberg’s pursuit of a shift to charter schools to privatize and profitize education also does not speak well of a commitment to public education on his part.  One can easily argue the abstract merit of creating new schools and allowing them to compete with each other in a quasi-marketplace structure that embraces consumer choices that informed parents can make, but with charter schools the devil is in the details and if charter schools can cherry pick the best students out of the system, determine their optimal class size when public schools can’t, and procure superior funding and facilities, then they are a discriminatory drain on the rest of the system.  They are also, of course, an ill-concealed effort to sidestep the teachers union.

It is disconcerting that when Joel Klein, Bloomberg’s long-term Chancellor of Education, left his post he went to work for Rupert Murdoch.  Murdoch (whose vast empire includes the “fair and balanced” Fox News) promotes charter schools and Murdoch hired Klien, a champion of charter schools, to oversee Murdoch’s branching out investments into education (according to the Times, he was being “charged with pursuing `entrepreneurial ventures` that cater to the educational marketplace”).  More recently, 2012, Klein’s work for Murdoch has consisted of efforts to soothe the Murdoch’s wire-tapped and politician manipulation scandal.

There was compounding confoundment when Klein’s departure was followed up by Bloomberg’s appointment of  Cathie Black, whose very brief 95-day tenure ended with a forced resignation.  Whatever Bloomberg’s intent was when he hired Ms. Black for her private sector media-company salesmanship expertise, she was not up to the job of running an education system.

I could argue that the teachers union, whatever its special interest concerns, still has a deeper and broader commitment to the core values of public education than Bloomberg, given the mayor’s inclination to get distracted with the competing matters he makes his priority.  Instead, I will just say that, whether or not such an argument would carry the day, it is good that we have the teachers union as a counterweight to Michael Bloomberg considering the inevitable pitfalls of self-interest on both sides.

I do not question Bloomberg’s commitment to quelling gun violence.  Unlike other issues (like protecting the environment) where he has acted inconsistently and swung with the polls, Bloomberg has been consistent from the very first about regulating guns.  However committed he may be to making a strong case for this cause, dragging in the subject of public education and the teachers union for such careless pot-calling-the-kettle-black mud-slinging has undermined his efforts.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Guns As The Solution To Guns? A Meditation on Corporate Solutions In General

Brilliant!  In quintessential arms-industry fashion the gun lobby as embodied in the National Rifle Association (NRA) has offered to supply both sides in an escalating arms race: More guns is the industry’s proposed answer to too many guns!

American crazies can obtain and walk the streets toting arsenals unimpeded by any legal challenge or rules and the gun lobby’s proposed remedy is that our response should be to expend taxpayer money to publicly equip and position sentries with the industry’s newest designs and latest ideas in terms of achieving superior force so that both fabulously equipped sides can shoot it out Wild West style with rapid fire multiple bullet high capacity magazines spraying large caliber armor-piercing bullets through our schools, movie theaters, shopping malls and churches . . .

Who wins such a shooting match?  Let’s send an award out to the fastest to draw . . .  the obvious conclusion: The only sure winner of such a plan is the gun manufacturing industry.

We all know the debate can get rather silly when people struggle to assert that guns are not the problem when you don’t responsibly regulate guns. . .  Remember the discussion of assault gun violence during the last presidential debate?: Republican candidate Romney came up with the idea that the solution to gun violence was for government to get involved in ensuring that the nation is populated by two-parent households.  No kidding: He did!  That was his version of how to cling to the notion that “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” although the statistics make it perfectly clear that people kill people (with guns as it turns out) much more frequently when they have guns.

The gun industry’s plan for America comes across a little like the proverbial vacuum cleaner salesman who elbows his way through your front door to spread dirt on your carpet so the salesman can endeavor to show you how well the machine they want to sell you will clean it up; the only thing is that this isn’t like the real version of that rigged sales pitch where the fluffy mix spilled on the customer’s floor is especially easy to suck up with the machine. . .  The gun manufacturers gambit works out more like an spectacular unfunny version of those spoofing burlesque skits where the mud stains leave a very real and very uncleanable mess.

The absurdity of the NRA’s sell more guns to address the gun problem is understandable when you realize who the NRA represents when it is promoting gun policy.  The evidence is that it doesn’t represent its own membership: It instead represents the industry selling the guns.  A New York Times editorial on the subject makes the point:
 . .  surveys that show a majority of N.R.A. members and a majority of American gun owners often support restrictions on gun sales and ownership that the N.R.A. has bitterly fought.

For instance, a 2009 poll commissioned by Mayors Against Illegal Guns found that 69 percent of N.R.A. members would support requiring all sellers at gun shows to conduct background checks of prospective buyers, which they do not have to do now and which the N.R.A. has steadfastly argued against.
Whatever reputedly huge amount of spending the NRA puts into political campaigns its actual membership is relatively small.  In our country of 315 million people the NRA with its low dues rate claims membership of only 4.3 million.  According to YouGov survey statistics recently reported in the Washington Post about 35 percent of Americans had a gun in their household (either owning a gun or living with a gun owner).  NRA membership among gun owners (mostly men) was 24 percent.  Obviously, surveys depend on the questions you ask (i.e. The Times cited survey above about background checks for gun shows NRA members favoring stricter law) but of the very much more substantial majority of gun owners who are not NRA members 25 percent supported stricter laws and 45 percent want no change.  Of the smaller 24 percent group of gun owners who are NRA members 54 percent wanted to make gun laws less strict.   Interestingly, a plurality of those who did not own a gun but lived with a gun owner (40 percent) want to make gun laws “more strict.”

While it may come as a surprise that the NRA membership is more supportive of gun restrictions than the NRA itself (despite NRA supported policies almost everyone is in favor of keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill and half of the NRA members supported requiring a five-day waiting period for gun purchases), consider that particular surprise against the background of how much more conservative NRA membership is compared to the rest of the American public.  The New York Times recently published survey information that not only are Republicans more likely to own guns than Democrats, but:
Whether someone owns a gun is a more powerful predictor of a person’s political party than her gender, whether she identifies as gay or lesbian, whether she is Hispanic, whether she lives in the South or a number of other demographic characteristics.
The NRA membership as opposed to gun owners in general is likely not just to be Republican but conservative as well: According to the survey figures in the Washington Post story:
70 percent of [that small percent of] gun owners who were NRA members called themselves “conservative” or “very conservative.”  Only 44 percent of gun owners who weren’t NRA members said that. 
In other words, the NRA being more extreme than its relatively small membership does not just mean it is more extreme than typical gun-owning Republicans; it means that it is also more extreme than a much smaller segment of the population (actually outnumbered by the rest of the gun-owning population) that self-identifies as especially conservative.

Here are a couple of things I found surprising to learn: First, the NRA’s stance on gun control was originally diametrically different, until relatively recently (1920s and 30s) it pushed for gun control legislation and, secondly, those positions now advanced by the NRA when it says it represents its highly conservative membership are positions it derived from the country’s radical left.  We may tend to associate guns more with the South than the North but the NRA was started right after the Civil War by two former Union soldiers. The change to the current politics of the NRA came with a May 1997 coup that changed its leadership.  More on this background is available via a WNYC On The Media interview with UCLA law professor Adam Winkler, here: The Untold Story of Guns, Friday, December 21, 2012.

While we may strongly associate the NRA’s current views with right-wing  conservatives Winkler suggests that the heritage of the NRA’s current views, including demonization of the government as a threat (used as a justification to incapacitate government’s ability to regulate the industry), hearkens back to a precipitating NRA endorsement of and alliance in support of the radical left Black Panthers view that gun ownership is a critical protection against hostile government that can be  “tyrannical and disrespectful of people’s rights.”   Winkler has written a 2011 book on the subject (Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America) extracts of which became an article in the Atlantic: “The Secret History of Guns,” September 2011.   Another interesting tidbit therein: Ronald Reagan, who tenaciously continued to oppose gun control even after he himself was shot in an assassination attempt, started out on the other side of the fence as a governor who fought to curtail gun ownership.

When it comes to gun control I consider myself to be somewhere in the middle, recognizing that there is a very big middle to be in.  Living in New York City I see little reason to want to own a gun and plenty of reason I don’t want lots of them floating around the city, but having had family in Montana where they reported being stalked by cougars (who I was told are especially attracted to child-size human beings) I can see why one might want to take a gun for a walk in that area of the country.  Still, I can’t readily imagine how a concealed carry permit would assist in warding off the big cats. On the other side of the equation, my father’s cousin wound up owning his own World War II Howitzer for a while, you know those artillery field guns that are so big they travel on their own two wheels pulled around behind jeeps?  This gun was one of the smaller of such species.  If you have your own mountainside devoid of humans in the winter as my father’s cousin did you might actually be able discharge such a gun without too much mayhem but do we really want average citizens deciding where they want to point guns of such caliber and just when they want to set them off?

What do I think should be done in terms of gun control?  There is a lot that could be easily done that I would view as relatively middle of the road:
    •    I am hardly the first to wonder why guns whose primary purpose is to be deadly shouldn’t be at least as well regulated as automobiles which are only deadly if not used with the proper care.  The U.S. Constitution actually speaks in terms of regulating guns (the Second Amendment addressing guns speaks of a “well regulated Militia”) but the Constitution’s other direct mentions of possible government regulation (regulation of federal military forces, ports and commerce, currency, the federal courts, the manner of federal elections) doesn’t immediately bring to mind measures to ensure that other potentially deadly things like automobiles, chemicals or drugs be responsibly handled.

    •    Not only are car drivers required to have licenses but the cars they drive around also display license plates so that their improper use can be accountably traced back.  (The minimal cost to this system of licensing cars is far less than the alternative.)  I rather like the proposals that have been put forth to make bullets traceable in various ways so that law enforcement can identify where bullets were bought as well as the gun used to fire them.  A national registry to make the all of the tracking jobs a lot easier makes sense.  (See: Lawmakers Consider Stamps on Bullets, Published August 03, 2005, FoxNews.com, The Year in Ideas; Traceable Bullets, By Margaret Talbot, December 15, 2002, US Needs Traceable Bullets - Not More Marketable Guns, By Josh Sugarmann. Josh Sugarmann is executive director of the Violence Policy Center. / December 13, 1993, Make Bullets Traceable To Affect Accountability, July 17, 1999, Mon Jul 12, 2010, How to track Gun Crimes, 'Tags' to Help Catch Bombers, May 30, 1995.)

    •    I was stunned when I learned in 1999 that it was possible to trace back half of all the crime guns to just 1 percent of federally licensed firearms dealers and that, with most crime guns being guns that were legally bought, all of the legally bought crime guns were sold by only 20 percent of the dealers.  From this you can infer that a lot of repetition of consciously intended bad acts.  We know that straw buyers make repeated purchases for organized rings of gun traffickers.  It hardly seems that, unfettered by the gun lobby, that this would be hard to stop.

    •    The list of possible sensible restrictions can easily be lengthened.  I don’t think that there is reason that most people should be permitted to own either a Howitzer or the assault weapons designed for mass mayhem even if I am not the sort to dismiss out of hand the notion endorsed by the Black Panthers that government can be tyrannically disrespectful of individual rights (Disquietingly, gun control advocate Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York City, is one of the ones who must be watched in terms of the potentials for government abuse). 
But what is the logic of fighting the plethora of guns with an escalating investment in more guns to keep pace?

What is this predilection we seem to have developed in this new era now dubbed the Anthropocene* for attacking all our manmade problems (I should say masculinely manufactured problems) with an escalating piling on of the same?
(* the new epoch where human beings are changing the planet)
I find myself thinking of the disappearance of bees around the world due to colony collapse disorder.  One reason colony collapse disorder is likely occurring is because genetically modified crops are producing a new class of neonicotinoid pesticides (produced by companies like Monsanto). How are companies like Monsanto dealing with the fact that the world is dependent upon bees for fertilization of most of the world’s crops, about 40% of what we eat? Not by eliminating the genetically modified crops threatening the bees. Like Zeus when he decided he needed no female partner and could masculinely give birth to Athena without Hera, these companies are prepared to go it alone without any partnering or balance with nature: They are hard at work genetically reengineering almond and soy crops so they won’t require fertilization by bees.  How parthenogenetically pathological: To banish forever the utility of flowers!

Similarly, the same companies that sell powerful herbicides (like Monsanto’s Roundup) and pesticides are patenting new crops that they are genetically modifying to be resistant to increasingly high doses of such chemicals.  As weeds found in the fields naturally evolve to become herbicide tolerant and insect pests likewise evolve the companies escalate the strength of their poisons and the artificially created GMO crops that can co-exist with them.  It’s the rest of nature that can’t keep pace to stay in balance.  Those who think that the horror GMO “Frankenfoods”is their mere unfamiliarity probably have it wrong: What we really have to fear most is likely this kind out-of-balance arms race of man inventing alterations to the natural environment to stay ahead of man-made alterations to the natural environment.

We could be cutting back on the greenhouse gases we pour into the air that cause global warming and climate change but instead it is likely that we are going to be more content simply to take extraordinary measures to deal with its effects.  The center of the country (62 percent of the continental United States) is drying out.  The Colorado River, supplying seven states including Arizona and California and 25 million people with water, is drying up so the Federal Government is looking at a new pipeline to annually divert 600,000 acre-feet of water from the Missouri River.  But the Missouri River feeds the Mississippi River and right now because of the unprecedentedly severe drought the Mississippi is becoming increasingly less navigable.  If the river is shut down as a navigation waterway it will necessitate a huge reconfiguration of the nation’s existing infrastructure, including the relocation of towns and population or their reassignment to new industries and livelihoods.

Meanwhile, the Ogallala Aquifer, instrumental in keeping a return of 1930s Dust Bowl conditions in the region at bay, is is being drained at an unsustainable rate.  At the same time, the acquirer which supplies drinking water to 82% of the populace in the region is threatened by the proposed new Keystone pipeline which, probably more importantly, will lead to a significant increase in greenhouse gasses, global warming and thus, full circle, the aquifer’s replenishment problem.

Other things we are looking at doing to adapt to climate change: moving infrastructure, homes and industry away from the changing coastlines, rebuilding coastline structures to make them less vulnerable to storms, rebuilding subways and waste management systems, pumping sand to the beaches, building surge barriers in our harbors and paying for storm recovery.  As sea levels rise, substantial amounts of potable water sources near the coastlines need to be replaced.  We are even considering more extreme schemes to reverse the climate change like spewing iron into the oceans to spur algae production to recapture carbon and spewing reflective dusts into the sky to repel the heat.  With dust above our heads the skies might no longer be blue and solar power installations might be less effective but it would be consistent with piling on to take active measures to try to stay ahead of ourselves.

Why is the silliness of these compounding races to keep pace with our own unbalancing reinventions of the environment accepted by any of us as making sense when they get proposed?  Maybe they don’t actually make sense to us, at least not as we inhabit the world as human beings, citizens of the world or parents of future generations.  Maybe these ideas only make sense to the corporations that propose them in order to continue making profits.  Is acceptance of these ideas, such as that acceptance may be, only just the way that corporate thought pervades into the general culture at large?

My respect for former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer has been somewhat circumscribed at times, but maybe Mr. Spitzer has the right answer about how to address the problem with government’s spinelessness in taking on the proliferation of guns and their irresponsible use.  Spitzer found good answers in tackling Wall Street before.  Now he is suggesting that we need to take the profit out of the gun industry’s promotion of irresponsibility. 

He says it is time to bring pressure to bear on the owners of the gun companies, time to look at major union pension fund and university endowments investing in the industry because they sure don’t want to be;
tarred as a passive owner of the company that sells semi-automatic weapons with no background checks or concern for the use of the weapons. Those investors have enormous leverage over the [companies that own the gun manufacturers]
He suggests they “could wield vast power” if they spoke with one voice.  (See: It’s Time To Target Cerberus, the Private-Equity Firm That Dominates the Gun Industry, by Eliot Spitzer, Monday, Dec. 17, 2012 and December 22, 2012, Public pressure and guns, by Eliot Spitzer.)

It’s an idea worth expanding upon.  The world could be made better in a lot of ways if we took the profit out of a lot of things.  It would be a nice way to clean the slate for the New Year.

Happy New Year.