Thursday, 6 September 2012

911 weighs heavy on our history

What I was thinking  a decade ago.

With an unimaginable rudeness on Sept 11 history revealed it was not over.  Unfortunately we have an administration that while speaking in Churchillian rhetoric about those lessons, have Henry Ford’s eye for history.  “History is bunk,” declared that American icon. Generations of MBA’s, accountants and lawyers have heeded that Buffetian advice as the canyon between rich and poor grew ever larger. In the world trade centre people became the victims of repeated historical mistakes.

Most have seized upon the obvious, “be prepared”. The US spends 1000 times more on security than any other nation. Networks sizzle with retired military types linking Sept 11 with under funding or limits from liberal handcuffs.  Sept 11 should have proved that just like love, security couldn’t be bought at any price. Therefore devoting our scarce resources to building walls and punishing offenders will bring little more success than the war on drugs. The law of unforeseen consequences tells us operation Infinite Justice will bring surprises. Short term they are likely to be unpleasant but in the long term history assures us they will be beneficial. The unlearned lesson, the historical trap we spring upon ourselves time and again is ideological.

As Sting said “ I hope the Russians love their children to”. Our similarities are so great.  A basic ideological failure to manage our differences is the historical mistake that keeps on bleeding.  History is littered with failure, but the last century drew to a close with most of the first world on the verge of success. Satisfy the basic needs of humans, and most will follow that ideology into the jaws of death. To loud applause every president has given the answer; freedom. Realpolitic has forced American presidents to take freedom “a la carte”. While every president has understood that freedom must be earned, Republicans in general refuse to understand that every man must be unconditionally be given the tools of freedom. But even more they need a secure place to practice and develop until they are capable of survival. Dont get hung up on the fact that a few that never leave the nest, but celebrate the universal human spirit that spurs the majority to seek more.

Everyone needs, freedom from hunger, freedom from the elements, and freedom to learn and express opinions without fear. The first world has taken different routes to achieve these basic needs, with varying success. In every case a veneer of democracy was the prerequisite for success.  The stronger the democracy the greater the success. If you measure a society by its ability to provide for its citizens, a good argument can be made that European democracy is stronger and more effective provider than the Anglo-Saxon brand. However semantic arguments are not going to stop wide body jets from coming through the window. Truly applying democracy to the bleeding hatreds that are the third world is our only hope.

We had a chance in Kuwait, maybe in Saudi as well. It was to be expected that in an oil war, that gas consumption would be the calculus of freedom. In Pakistan and Afghanistan, America should not make the same miscalculations. Iran shows the promise of the future, and the beauty of mans best idea in action. What’s needed is not NMD or MADD but TD (turnkey democracy). A social democratic model designed for the people, not for the corporations.

The failure of American democracy to provide for all citizens is complex.   Nevertheless American democracy is by many measures is unbeatable. In the third world the American way is a prescription for disaster. Democracy and the third world seem incompatible. Fighting ingrained nepotism, tribal loyalties and massive ignorance would tire even Hartio Alger. Afghanistan and other third world countries will never develop a true democracy under a two-tier system. These factors have outflanked democracy in most of the world. What if the problem has not been with democracy but with the application of the Anglo-Saxon model of democracy?

In Afghanistan the people are open to anything better. Lets learn from history and give them a real chance to succeed, unbridled by our own ambitions and ideology. Bind Afghani citizens to a powerful constitution.  The US constitution is certainly the starting point. Let the mullahs and tribal elders make it more their own without diluting the essential elements.  Integrate this strong constitution with strong district governments like in Switzerland or to a lesser extent Germany and Austria. The goal of these fledgling governments should be to feed their people, not expand GNP. As in Europe economic growth and prosperity will flow when every citizen has attained basic freedoms. After these baby democracies have been force fed into achieving a  “nanny state” they can find their own democratic destiny.

The answer is be prepared, be democracy.

The horror perpetrated on the US and by extension the civilized world by the fanatic Islamic deviants is beyond the imagination. Now after a month of bare emotions it is time to calmly reformat America’s worldview, and vice versa.

No other nation has ever held such a potent combination of, cultural influence, economic power, scientific discovery and raw might. Compared to other unbridled empires the US has behaved in an exemplary fashion.  The problem is the world does not view America in historical context. We see a blizzard of enticing but contradictory snapshots. From the torrent of information we build our own distorted pictures of America. Conversely Americans view the world with an American prism that mostly reflects the incorrect message.  It’s not true that most would rather be like, live in, or actually be Americans given the chance. The success of Pokeman, does not mean we wish to become Japanese. Compounding the misunderstanding is the blending of the actions of the American people and the actions of the government of the USA. There are very few actions of the American government that are supported by the majority of the American people. Now is the time for the world and America to respect each other.

First, America is not always first.  There is more to being number one than GNP or force projection. The UN evaluates top spot by trying to include measures like infant morality rate, life expectancy, and the ever intangible “ quality of life”. By these measures the US is often in the top ten, but never the winner. Given this is about as accurate as reporters picking the top college football team, but it would be helpful for Americans to step back and question why their self perception runs counter to the rest of the world. The pre 911 tensions between the US and the first world were similar to arguments between sports enthusiasts. All love the game; they are only debating about the best way to play. The third world and in particular the Moslem world does not accept our game, or due to USA support of autocratic governments can not even play.

Doubtless hard power states like France, England and America are essential. The rest of the first world is happy to support the USA lead and play a soft power game. Fundamentally Americans should understand like the USA does, that the first world admires respects and relies on the USA to be the leader in supplying the infrastructure that keeps civilization moving forward. Problematically the USA often does not respect the cultures and societies that form the alliances so necessary for Americans and the USA. It is this lack of respect, this ignorance that infuriates non-Americans. Hopefully 911 will open American minds to the possibility that some other countries can do things better than in the USA.

For example most the first world uses about 50% energy per capita than the USA. There would be a minority of Americans that would respect the achievement of living with a smaller footprint. Due to taxes energy prices are double the USA. A vast majority of Americans would be fundamentally convinced that taxing energy to reduce consumption was un-American. Looked at from the European or Japanese perspective the USA’S gluttony and waste are at the least impolite and at worst a planetary death sentence. Americans should be grateful and respect that at least temporarily some of the most indefensible positions are forgotten as its under appreciated friends heart fully offer unlimited aid.

It is the third world that the government of the USA, and the all the peoples of the first world face an unfulfilled challenge. 911 raised to new levels the amount of astonishment humanly possible. Perhaps most disturbing is the middle class, well educated terrorist’s ability to live amongst us for years without being affected. No hearts and minds program is going to reach these people. USA has poured more than $50 billion into Egypt. Given the feeling on the streets, there is scant appreciation.

President Bush is desperately trying to walk the tightrope between anti-terrorism and anti Moslem.  Islamics are going to be no more convinced than IRA supporters in America were. The muted reaction of the Islamic world is the first sign that we have a failure to communicate. Che  Gevarra is a good example from our past of what to expect Osama to become in the future. However by any measure Che was a largely ineffectual figure when compared to the Al Capone of terrorism.  Therefore Osama’s impact will be cataclysmic among the next generation Muslims. Nothing the west does now will change that. Victory can only come by reaching Moslems not yet born.

To do this the Palestinian question must be answered. The peace treaty must be viewed as a win or at least justice for the Palestinian. Democracy has to be forced upon the new state. Whatever the Koran says about infidels in Arabia will have to be followed.  Egypt, Saudi, Iraq and others will have to follow the lead of Iran. Therefore the west has to be willing to let new versions of Iran develop. If the USA tells Saudi, Iraq and Egypt to go democratic now or else, it would be true to our principals, and is the only way to solve the long-term problem of Osama watabees

No one questions the $50 Billion per year expenditure to secure Middle East oil supplies. Knowing this there is  no bigger hypocrisy than a politician using America dependence on imported oil as a reason to despoil more of a diminishing environment. Under the Bush energy plan use of imported fossil fuels can only increase. Even though most pollution leaks from poorly maintained refineries, the Bushies want to do an end run around the clean air act. The only significant reserves are under OPEC control or in politically or environmentally fragile areas. Unless radical action is taken America will have no choice but to become further embroiled in messy alliances. American wealth will continue to flow to regimes who to say the least do not embrace democratic ideals.  Cheney said, “ we like oil at $25 a barrel, if it gets to cheap we stop exploring for more.” If another well was never drilled current reserves of oil will last for a hundred years or more. My question is why waste resources with any more risky exploration? Instead of working to further damage the planet, initiate a revolution that will give the world, as we know it a chance to survive. America is the only country in a position to speed the solution into action.

Americans consume about 30% of the energy used every year. This buying power can transform the globe. Like anyone addicted to a destructive substance the first step is to acknowledge the danger. A majority of Americans including some of its finest companies accept global warming is a real phenomenon.  We are about where tobacco was during the 1980s. By that time the majority had enough data and common sense to realize that inhaling clouds of smoke was not healthy.  Bodies may be resilient but now even the tobacco companies admit sickness and death are by products of smoking. A critical mass of common sense is coming to recognize that even a wonderful ecosystem like the earth has limits to the amount it can inhale. Like the tobacco scientist the greenhouse gas debunkers motives are transparently oily. Hopefully a rash of class actions will signal the start of a serious intervention. Cheney dourly attempts to convince the public there is no alternative. As it was before so it shall be in the future. The truth is what happens next is only a matter of political will.

How can America, save the planet, ignore OPEC, tackle the trade deficit, reduce fuel costs, increase rural income, and return the favour to big oil? The shocking answer is to raise gasoline tax by $.50 per gal. Due to the importance of trucking the tax should not apply to diesel. Also this would encourage car owners to switch to proven green diesel technology.

Assume a gallon of bio-fuel can be profitably sold at $1.50/gal. The revenue earned from taxing the 8.2 million gallons used daily could be used to buy bio-fuel. This would cost about $50 billion per year. Through this action one third of gasoline needs could be grown on American farms. Combining this new domestic source with existing secure reserves would free America from the OPEC yoke.  Bio-fuel can be made on a relatively small scale without huge refinery like investments. The risks of spillage, and costs of transport are eliminated.  Once the benefits of burning pure bio become obvious the market will spur further production. A virtuous snowball will roll across America leaving cleaner air, better jobs and significant energy self-sufficiency.

A paradigm shift will leave the US without the need to defend Middle East oil. That should provide an annual $50 billion dollar dividend. This can be used to further increase efficiently and reduce dependency.  Market forces will react to a 30% decrease in gasoline demand. The net price of gasoline will fall below $1.00/gal. Therefore even with the tax the price will be less than we pay today.

For this proposal to work there is no need for new technology. Bio-fuels are a proven boon to the environment and the farmer. If the existing clean diesel technology employed in European cars were used in American fuel use could decrease by another 50%. Jimmy Carter had the answer 20 years ago. How much longer can it be ignored?
Remember when gas was under a dollar a gallon? If congress had imposed a $0.50/gal tax at this time, the price of gas would be still be hovering around the $1.40 level. More importantly billions of dollars would be actively fighting the energy usage crisis.  Big oil is the schoolyard bully stealing the lunch money of the feeble consumer. Why is the American consumer a powerless pawn in the “great game” that has fuelled modern history? Mostly it is a selfish lack of self-control.

Europeans have long understood that without the discipline to pay yourself, big oil will pipe all the funds into it’s overflowing coffers. Europeans and Americans will soon be paying roughly same price for gasoline. In Europe 80% of the revenue is returned to the people. Americans will send it to those individuals who know how to spend it more wisely.

Demands for oil drilling in fragile costal Alaska will test the American public. The higher the oil price the more support such shortsighted wasting of the environment gathers.  It is a vicious circle; increase the price of oil so that expensive recovery is possible, because oil is so expensive exploration becomes cost effective. The only losers are the people who are addicted to oil.  Because it is the world’s energy glutton the solution must be found in America.

Bush and the Republicans make no secret of their love of big oil. Democrats have read the polls and realized that only market forces can support high gas prices. Now with gas prices ready to break the $3/gal barrier people might listen to a common sense approach. If Clinton had gradually imposed the $.50 a gallon gas tax over the last 8 years, prices could now be at least $1.00/gal less. Oil addiction could be treated with a gusher of well-funded actions. The price at the pump would still be less than half of first world average.  Greener, leaner and leading, America would be the undisputed environmental champion.

With gas prices at all time highs new fuel taxes have no chance. However in 2001 congress has $100 billion surplus to dispose of. Whether your politics support the case for energy shortage or global warming, everyone agrees there is some kind of crisis. Someone please wake up the Democrats. Instead of giving the money to the rich, invest the money. Global warming may not be as immediate a threat as rolling blackouts. However $100 billion spent wisely can greatly diminish if not eliminate both problems.

First invest in bio-diesel. It can be made on a relatively small scale almost anywhere using canola or sunflowers. Even with the industry in its infancy a gallon can be produced for around $1.50. Twenty-five Billion could subsidize enough bio-diesel oil to drive 40 million trucks 10,000 miles a year. Due to decreased fuel demand gasoline prices will drop under $.75 per gallon. Then tax oil to fix the price at $1.25. The windfall can be used to fund the continuing subsidy of bio-diesel. The environment would be instantly relieved of millions of tons of economically depressing pollution. The frightful balance of trade and the cloudy future of the American farmer are both decisively attacked.  The strategic oil reserve would be in surplus. This surplus could be used in a one-time strike to bring down prices immediately. Worldwide, inflation free economic growth would explode. A huge affordable wallop can be made against both high costs and green house gases. Imagine America really leading, not squandering.

Spend $50 Billion to buy solar panels for every federal building and army base. Federal scientists have already documented the incredible 40% savings available by investing in heat pumps, so keep the momentum going. The economies of scale will bring the price down and efficiency up for all solar systems. Furthermore this is an investment that will pay far more than $50 Billion in dividends.

The last $25 Billion should be spent on a hydrogen-generating infrastructure. LA, Washington and NYC could switch their taxis, buses and police cars to hydrogen power. The American auto industry could jump to the front of the hydrogen revolution.

The catalyst of this spending will lead to energy self-sufficiency. Annual expenditures of $50 billion needed to defend the Middle East oil could be returned to the taxpayer. A single investment of $100 Billion now, can bring annual returns far in excess of the initial investment. Overall the benefits are immeasurable. Tell your representative to support a bold but simple plan to let the people win the great game.

Imagine a country uncontested in military or economic might.  There is a budgetary surplus of a $100 Billion. Alone amongst first nations it does not have universal health care, or a prescription drug plan. All parties agree the education system is in a death spiral. The public school system is becoming a crumbling holding cell of lost opportunity. Two percent of the population is locked up, mostly for victimless crimes. The middle classes have stagnated, while the manager’s wage has risen to 400 times that of the workers. A shortage of energy threatens to cripple the economy. Gasoline is set to reach levels triple that of a few years ago. Meanwhile the country has only 4% of the world’s population but creates 25% of greenhouse gasses. 
What the opposition proposes. Not much, Nader was right!

Logic dictates the surplus be used to solve any problems that $100 Billion can cure. There are not many problems $100 Billion cant cure.

1)   Taxes are ideology and if the truth is ever seen, it is only by historians. We can see that in the last 8 years all Americans enjoyed a vibrant economy. If its not broke, don’t fix it. Therefore until other crises are solved don’t touch taxes. Lower energy costs and the Keynesian effect of spending $100 Billion will do more for the economy than buying more T-Bills for the Ross Perot's of the land.
2)   You can never have too much protection. The money is there so why take a chance, build the missile shield, research wonder weapons, but take the axe to conventional and nuclear forces.
3)    It costs $20,000 a year to keep a man in prison. Spending a fraction of that on children, will keep adults out of jail. Furthermore through Headstart the essential skill of literacy can reach world levels. Encouraging consumption cannot solve an energy crisis. While energy efficient appliances may cost more, they more than pay for themselves due to lower electricity bills. Everybody but the power company wins. Do not adopt oxymoron standards. The health care crisis cannot be solved with 100 Billion. The least harm is to train more doctors and hope supply and demand make capitalistic medicine work. Both sides agree a prescription drug plan is affordable, make it so.
4)   The dawn of the 21th century should not see a mandate to renew 18th century coal technology. Fortunately the Federal Academy of Science has just released a report detailing how conservation can take us more than half way to energy nirvana. So whom do you trust non-political scientists, or an extreme conservative bunch of carbon fuel entrepreneurs. New nuclear plants do not compute. Assume infallibility was granted and all the Chernobyl like concerns can be eliminated. Nuclear reactors are not financially viable. Nuclear projects will not fly without huge government incentives. Large amounts should be used to seed alternate fuels. Wind power, solar power, fuel cell, bio-fuels, and hydrogen infrastructure are the only way forward. Blow a large wad on these bets. America can be self sufficient on clean fuels; it is only a matter of political will.
5)   Education also defies a pure monetary cure. The infrastructure problem is local and therein lays the solution. Perhaps education or highway money could be withheld from states with substandard schools. We all know Johnny can’t read, why more money for testing?  America is a competitive place, schools should reflect that. 

Racism is a senseless activity, yet it continues to wreak havoc. In the worst cases ethnic cleansing is justified. At a minimum discomfort and dehumanization are inflicted on both sides.  Like beauty racism is in the eye of the beholder. European racism has a rainbow of colours. Whites are against blacks, browns and other whites.  Asians also practice racism against their own genotype. In America white on white racism has become virtually non-existent. But shades of black on black racism are very real. Within Asian cultures there is also a shades of white racism existing. The question then becomes why, and can the American selectiveness provide answers to eliminate racism?

European and Asian racism is more understandable than American racism. In much of Europe or Asia it is very difficult for people from one village to integrate into another village only a few hundred miles away. This negative response grows more extreme the farther from ground zero the offending newcomer is. Europeans and Asians have sophisticated and unique cultures developed over thousands of years. Europeans and Asians share sedimentary cultures that take strength from their solidarity or sameness.  Immigrants to America brought these prejudices with them, but the roots of American culture are so diverse and so shallow that Europeans have come to exist as a single group. Thus white on white racism could not be sustained. Meanwhile back in Europe, all outsiders are still seen as threats to a highly successful social framework. No one likes change, nice place to visit but I would not want to live there is a universal feeling. Like Europeans Asian racism is strongly fuelled by feelings of cultural superiority and centuries of conflict. To settle and survive the Americans were forced to embrace change, and it has become a centrepiece of American cultural success.

There is something about a whiteness preference that transcends the European rooted cultural victory of the past few centuries. It existed in China while Europeans were still carrying clubs and wearing skins. Somewhat astonishingly Blacks have come to regard lightness with superiority. Ironically most whites see themselves better brown. Asian Indians would seem to have the complexion most Europeans desire. So in summary it is very clear that racism according to skin colour is an abstract notion.  Therefore as the world grows evermore intertwined and cultures mix, colour based racism will disappear like bad sunburn. Inevitably countries like Canada, America and Australia will be the first to become truly colour blind. Then the question becomes is politics a form of racism?

America is now coming to grips with minorities who think like Attila the Hun. Clarence Tomas and JC Watt spring to mind. They fear the liberal more than the white suburbanite fears the upwardly mobile black. The republican right practices a discriminatory campaign against all types of liberals. While on the left no organized biased cabal exists.
However do you think liberals would find any protection from a conservative supreme court? No way! The right control is so complete; the right to vote can be massaged. Where is the outrage? It has been consumed by the WWF, and misdirected by talk radio. Politics is being played as the weather, why complain, it wont change.

 It is clear that liberals are dying in America. They cannot survive in the sun and the conservatives prevent all light from shinning. So when the message and the messenger can be condemned with only a simple bromide, how can any progress be made? Good examples are the tax cut, health care, campaign finance reform and global warming.

Lets examine each one in detail. The tax cut. It’s your money not the governments. Who can argue with that? Death Tax, surely that must be nonsense. Double taxation, they taxed us once when we were alive and now when were dead they wont stop. Great words, but highly deceptive if not untrue.  No one pays taxes on capital gains until the asset is sold. They are only taxed once.  The rulers and the ruled have always had a social compact. Traditionally the rulers got what they wanted from the ruled. This was mainly men and material to fight wars and expand power. The divine right can see no further benefit to the social contract. Millions have died and suffered to expand the social contract. But with a few million dollars spent on think tanks the right has turned the imperfect nature of government into a well resonating condemnation of any attempt to rule on behalf of the majority of people. This racism of power is not obvious to the majority. There is nothing easier to hate than rules and regulations. Market this natural hostility as a product and you have 60% of the people thinking in step with the 4% who actually own 60% of the country. Otherwise the surplus would be returned to the majority of the people, or used in a way that would benefit the majority.

Campaign finance, what is the scam here? Free speech. Dollars speak larger than words. Again we see that even if soft money is eliminated, the right still holds the advantage. Who gives the hard money, again 4% of Americans make 80% of political donations. The right creates an atmosphere of helplessness. When there is no solution, nothing will ever change.  In a battle between the unarmed voter and the marketing genius who will win time and again?

Health care or the lack therein off is a fundamental triumph of racism. Bill and Ted raised every fear ever placed in the mind of the voter. Fact is universal health care reduce the care for the rich. Its supply and demand. They will no longer get organs first, and 5 star hospital rooms. This is what the rich fear, and why the poor will continue to die young.

Global warming is so abstract, but I compare it to smoking. Logically if you inhale smoke over time it will not be good for your body. Therefore it should be clear that the earth can only absorb so much smoking and it to will become unhealthy. Without political racism coal fired plants would have disappeared 20 years ago. The rich would not accept health care that let them die young, but they feel they can move to healthy parts of the country or planet. Spending the money they made causing the world to die, to convince everyone not to stop smoking.

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