Archive for July, 2012

Stop Calling These Consequences “Unforeseeable”

I tend to err on the side of believing those who claim ignorance. We live in a world chock-full of narratives. It’s possible, in some cases, to go through a large part of one’s life without hearing a particular counter-narrative to a given belief–even if the counter-narrative cleaves more closely to reality. As humanity advances, and reality wins through, claims of ignorance become less believable. At some point, we have to accept it as evident that someone is either willfully ignoring a fact, or that they do not feel compelled to act on it.

As an easy opening example, take the practice of hitting (a.k.a. spanking) children as a “teaching” tool. This was a universal practice for . . . well, ever–”spare the rod, spoil the child” is 2500+ years old. Fast forward to the enlightenment and you get the first people hypothesizing that it might not be a great idea, based on the premise that children are humans and stuff. Fast forward to the mid-late 20th century, and observational evidence begins to accumulate that the best outcomes are associated with peaceful parenting. In the current day, the evidence appears overwhelming. The only remaining advocates of hitting children “for their own good” cite the Bible as their principal authority.

Whereas the parents of the 60s and 70s could perhaps claim never to have heard the position against hitting their children, today’s parents can’t say the same. A parent who hits a child today can’t reasonably claim to be doing so in the child’s interests. He or she wants to inflict abuse[1]

There’s a similar lesson that should have been learned, amply, in 10+ years of public access to full-spectrum information: when you send agencies whose existence depends on violence to carry out your social agenda, awful things will happen. In political and economic science, these were once called “unforeseen consequences,” but given the premise of this article, we should change that to “entirely foreseeable consequences.”

In 2008, the EU decided “to obtain 10% of all transport fuels from biofuels by 2020.” I assume in pursuit of the laudable goal of taking some heat off the environment (pun intended)–something we can all get behind. According to the Guardian, “the total land area required to grow industrial biofuels . . . has been estimated as 17.5m hectares . . . more than ½ the size of Italy.”

In a world of equals, should the EU be serious about meeting this goal, there would need to be a lot of exploration in pursuit of uninhabited regions suitable for growing biofuel crops. In light of the scarcity of such land, there would probably also be alot of “wheeling and dealing,” trying to make it worth the while for the world’s farmers to grow biofuels and/or offering them buy-out levels of wealth in exchange for their land.

Luckily for the EU and their corporate creatures, no such equality exists. The lands were simply seized from their rightful, mostly indigenous, owners by the various puppet states around the world, and handed to the corporations seeking legistlated profits susidized and protected by the western armed militaries of the 3rd world.

A parallel land grab is on to depopulate indigenous farmland to grow forests for carbon credits, which, apparently will be worth alot in the future.
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The Guardian continues, “The latest data suggests that up to 203 million hectares of land has been acquired by companies in land deals and two-thirds of that is for biofuels.” By my math, that’s just short of 4 Italies’ worth of arable land moving out of the hands of its actual owners, those who live on and work it and into the hands of multi-national corporations.

This is the result of demanding that government, “do something,” about a problem. It is an inevitable result and it has countless parallels in the modern world as well as throughout history. This does not mean, by any stretch, that there aren’t myriad social problems that must be addressed; anybody who votes to hand them over to the corporate-state, or worse yet, collections of multi-national-corporate-states, is either wilfully blind, or evil.

  1. [1] with the possible exception of a few religious folk who really can hit their children thinking that they’re carrying out God’s plan.

Those Crazy Egyptian Infowarriors!

I’ll try to keep this one quick, though I could really go on for hours about it.

Apparently, Hillary Clinton was recently in Egypt, where her motorcade was the target of tomatoes, shoes, and other signs of “anti-american” behavior.

The New York Times (blog, I think) and Rachel Maddow (citing the Times), blame American right wing “conspiracy theorists” (Glen Beck, Michelle Bachman, two other people I’ve never even heard of) for riling up the Egyptians. Said riling took the form of said theorists claiming that the United States meddles in Egyptian politics.

You can watch/read if you want a reasonably convincing argument, source to “several protestors,” in support of this supposition. I’ll offer the following arguments against it.

The government of Egypt has been a creature of the United States for almost 60 years. The series of long ruling dictators were less than beloved by the Egyptian people who were well aware that the United States was providing the arms and intelligence that prevented them from any degree of political self-determination.
The Egyptians have watched several hundred thousand of their co-religionists starve to death, die from embargoes of medical goods and be vaporized and disappeared to concentration camps by various US lead coalitions. These atrocities happened in countries in extremely or relatively close proximity. Somewhere north of 30,000 were killed in a neighboring state just a less than a year ago. Outside of the US propaganda sphere and a handful of particularly callous western european commentators, these deaths are rightly seen as cold blooded murder by an invading empire.

I have less evidence for this last point, but I just can’t imagine too many Egyptians watch Glen Beck. I didn’t even know Michelle Bachman was still in congress.

Now, every person living in Egypt is, of course, an individual. I’m sure there are a couple who believe that Obama is secretly a Muslim bent on the creation of a neo-caliphate because Michelle Bachman told them so. Who knows, this entire protest could actually have been peopled by an unlikely seeming Egyptian Glen Beck meetup group.

Allow me to assure you, though, that the average Egyptian is not indulging in conspiratorial thinking along the lines of lizard people and alien visitations by thinking that the US might–just might–be fucking with their political system. It’s akin to one of us hypothesizing that Exxon or Goldman Sachs might be, in some way, trying to influence the outcome of American elections.

There’s a good deal of really, really well founded anger directed at the American ruling class by a whole world of victims of American foreign power. The anger would be universal except for soothsayers like Maddow and the New York Times (and the rest of the media establishment for that matter) insisting that everyone else in the world’s anger is directed at our government because of “our freedom,” “our prosperity,” or because they’ve fallen victim to zany tinfoil hat conspiracy theories.

Update: Jon Stewart makes the point funnier.