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Silicon Valley investor Tim Draper wants to break California into six states.
This 2013 excerpt of the Los Angeles Times, Dec 21, is by Jessica Guynn.
Technology investor Tim Draper is drumming up support to create six states in California, one of them being Silicon Valley. He’s looking to get an initiative on the California ballot.
His argument for redrawing the California map: The state is underrepresented in Washington. “It is about time California was properly represented with senators in Washington. Make our number of senators per person about average.”
In October at Y Combinator Startup School, one tech entrepreneur called for Silicon Valley to secede from the United States altogether.
Balaji Srinivasan, co-founder of San Francisco–based genetics company Counsyl, gave a talk to aspiring entrepreneurs about “Silicon Valley’s ultimate exit,” saying, “We need to build opt-in society, outside the U.S., run by technology.”
Google CEO Larry Page spoke of his desire to set aside a place in the world where technological experimentation can be conducted unfettered by regulation. (“There are many exciting things you could do that are illegal or not allowed by regulation,” Page said.)
Investor Peter Thiel has championed the “seasteader” movement, which would create floating societies off the coast of California just beyond the clutches of the U.S. government.
And the Blueseed project wants to put foreign-born workers on a cruise ship off the coast of Northern California in international waters to evade immigration laws.
Ed. Notes: Couples get divorced all the time. Should counties be allowed to likewise secede? OOH, we do need to be free from unwarranted interference in order to express our true selves, yet OTOH we also need to mesh smoothly and respectfully with the larger society.
In this case, Silicon Valley owes a lot of its success to the proximity of Stanford University and to the “anything goes” attitude of California, but have techies paid back the valley? Not really, altho’ they could by paying Land Dues — which they should do to their own jurisdiction even if they do secede.
Redrawing the map is something going on right now; politicians always gerrymander boundaries for their own corrupt purposes. And now that people are so mobile and economies so extensive, political borders are relics that no longer reflect anything meaningful.
Perhaps it’d be better if there were some principle in place that would automatically redraw boundaries according to factors like topography, population size, and settlement pattern; coincidentally, such a region often matches the footprint of a major daily newspaper — a map of where its subscribers live. The reach of a major daily newspaper is also the area where land values are pulled up by the major central city. Hence in a geonomy, residents would pay their Land Dues to the regional government whose capitol is in that city.
Finally, must borders be hard and fast or could they be broad swaths like the transition zones between ecosystems? Perhaps we could let people living near the edge be the ones to choose which jurisdiction to whom to pay their Land Dues. If we weaken small group identity, maybe that’d strengthen species-wide identity … even universe-wide!
The petroleum industry wins one in Alberta and loses one in Pennsylvania.
These two 2013 excerpts about government oversight of oil extraction are from (1) Common Dreams, Dec 24, on Alberta by Jacob Chamberlain, and (2) PennFuture, Dec 20, on Pennsylvania.
In Alberta, Environmental Regulators Now Funded by Fossil Fuel Industry
Alberta, home to massive tar sands reserves, has a new environmental regulator in town. Roughly 150 publicly funded environment department staff including fish and wildlife officers, forestry officers, biologists, rangers, and others who watch over the oil industry’s activities in the province are expected to move over to the new Alberta Energy Regulator. The new organization will get all of its funding from levying fees on oil and gas companies; employees’ salaries are to be paid by the industry they are monitoring.
Gerry Protti, who helped found the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, an oil industry lobby group, has been chosen as chairman of the board of the new tar sands regulators.
Chief executive Jim Ellis, a former deputy minister of environment, has criticized environmental groups for publishing “negative media on the oil sands” and also attempted to bar environmental groups from taking part at a recent tar sands hearing.
Pennsylvania Supreme Court Strikes Down Key Portions of State’s Oil & Gas
In a 4-2 decision, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed a 2012 Commonwealth Court decision striking down controversial portions of Act 13, under the Pennsylvania Constitution. Most notably, the Court struck down parts of Act 13 that would have created a statewide zoning scheme for oil and gas activities, and required municipalities to allow those activities in all zoning districts, including residential districts.
PennFuture opposed Act 13 because of the issues relating to local preemption raised by Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille, insufficient regulatory safeguards to protect natural resources and communities, and an inadequate impact fee.
The decision is a substantial rebuff of attempts by the legislature and governor to treat the new shale gas industry differently in Pennsylvania than other heavy, industrial land uses.
Act 13′s evisceration of local land use powers was unprecedented — a “blanket accommodation of industry and development,” the Supreme Court wrote.
Chief Justice Castille articulates a new framework for evaluating government actions under Article I, Section 27, which guarantees each citizen the right to “clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment.” Those environmental rights are “presumptively on par” with other civil liberties found in Article I’s Declaration of Rights, writes Castille.
Ed. Notes: While Big Money got what it wanted in Alberta, its grab in Pennsylvania was way to audacious for at least one judge, a judge who nicely spelled out our rights to a healthy natural world. Hopefully, his point of view will prevail but in the real world, money rules, and most of that ruling money is unearned “rent” from nature, the money society spends for oil, land, and other aspects of the natural world. The favors that insiders buy with such money are items like limited liability and a stacked deck.
If we don’t want oil corporations to use that money to rule us, then we have to capture that money for ourselves. And why not? It already belongs to us. The money is spent for things like oil, which none of us created, and the value of oil is set by demand, which is something we all create. So let us use taxes, fees, leases, dues, etc, to redirect our spending for resources into the public treasury, so the funds can benefit us all.
Until we do, we must expect the petroleum industry to spend our common wealth any way they want. But once we do share what is already ours, then we can get government on our side. It’d quit limiting the liability of the culpable and start defending the health of both people and planet.
Ed. Notes: During scary times, many people get rid of currency and stock up on gold, behavior that bankers don’t like, since they make their money off people borrowing and remaining dependent upon currency. While gold did rise this recent recession, it did not rise as high as perhaps it should have during a downturn labeled “the Great Recession”. What kept the price of gold from soaring thru the roof was the above sale of tons of gold by the IMF, ostensibly to have cash for poor nations, but could the real motive have been to keep gold from displacing the official currencies of nations?
Also, does creating debt, even at zero interest, create prosperity? Or, does it merely distract attention from the real causes underlying endemic poverty and from the real solutions? The real problems are lack of owner occupancy and of honest dealings. How is lending to corrupt elites supposed to fix that? It never has before.
If rich nations really wanted to help poor nations, they’d allow true free trade and set a better example at home, a model of economic justice that could be copied everywhere — a geonomy of no corporate welfare, no taxes on our efforts, no privatized “rents”, and a total and equal sharing of the worth of Earth. Then hello prosperity, bye-bye debt, gold, and the rest of distracting non-solutions.
This 2013 excerpt of IRIN, Dec 11, is by Elizabeth Blunt.
Daniel Runde, aid worker at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), asked donor countries to shift their focus away from alleviating poverty and concentrate on helping developing countries reach a position from which they can end poverty and deliver social goods for themselves.
Economists Francois Bourguingon and Stefan Dercon found a significant relationship between economic growth and people who live on less than a dollar a day, but they found no little or no correlation between growth and any one of the non-income Millennium Development Goals, such as child nutrition, girls’ education, or the number of children in school.
“So the role of assistance and expertise is going to change,” Runde said. “It’s not going to be about the most money on the table but about the best ideas, the best solution to a problem.”
The help that is needed now, Runde thinks, is in the fields of economic growth and governance. At the moment, these areas receive a very small part of the aid budget from his own country, the US. What little money is available for growth and governance goes largely to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Going forward, Runde says there should be more focus on issues such as tax collection, commercial law, contract enforcement, and secure land tenure. These ideas were greeted politely at the London meeting, but with considerable reservations by many attendees.
Ed. Notes: Given that land tenure and taxation (or community dues) are so important, the best help the North could give the South is the power of a good example. The North could lead the way by following the dictum “pay dues for what you take, not taxes on what you make.” The dictum to follow regarding property in land is to: claim publicly, occupy privately, pay rent neighborly (as they’ll pay you), and use sparingly. If the North were to adopt these powerful reforms, the South would not be far behind. Then the whole planet could enjoy prosperity, and sustainable prosperity at that.
This 2013 excerpt of OtherWords, Oct 9, is by Sam Pizzigati, author of The Rich Don’t Always Win: The Forgotten Triumph over Plutocracy that Created the American Middle Class.
Those janitors who clean Smithsonian museums? Those cooks at military bases? Those programmers writing software for Medicare? More and more of the workers who keep our government running work for private contractors. And many of these workers don’t make much at all. About 560,000 Americans employed by contractors have jobs that pay $12 an hour or less.
Meanwhile, the federal government reimburses private firms for up to $763,039 of the compensation they pay executives, a figure that will shortly rise to $950,000 under federal law. The federal government is now spending $20.8 to $23.9 billion annually, overall, for the compensation of top private contractor executives.
The government pays the President $400,000, the Vice President $230,700. If government reimbursed CEO salary at $230,700, it could give a $6 an hour raise to the 560,000 federal contractor workers who currently make $12 or less an hour.
Contractors like Lockheed Martin and other weaponeers owe their robust profitability to federal contracts. This profitability keeps corporate share prices high. Stock options and other stock awards translate these high share prices into whopping executive windfalls. Lockheed’s CEO Stevens took home $23.8 million last year.
The federal government already denies our tax dollars to companies with employment practices that discriminate on the basis of race or gender. We’ve decided, as a society, not to subsidize racial or gender inequality. Why should we subsidize economic inequality?
Ed. Notes: Bigger picture, why subsidize anything? We could forget about padding the wages for low-skilled work if instead we shared the worth of Earth. If everyone got an extra income from the value of land and resources — a la Alaska’s oil dividend or Singapore’s land dividend — then people could directly negotiate higher wages without having to have government intervene. People could also afford retraining. Or maybe even start their own business. All those futures sound brighter than being locked into an undemanding, tho’ better paying, job with a boss.
Even better, if we not only paid ourselves a Citizen’s Dividend but also axed the counterproductive taxes on earnings, purchases, and houses, why would we subsidize anything, even schools and clinics? Costs of living would be lower and with income higher, we would have the wherewithal to choose our own teachers and doctors, again without having to have government intervene.
Let our concern for struggling workers, and our distaste for income inequality, blossom into a campaign for geonomic justice.
China’s doctors are beginning to speak of a link between air pollution and lung cancer. Children as young as 8 have been treated.
This 2013 excerpt of the Los Angeles Times, Dec 24, is by Barbara Demick.
Back in the 1970s, the textbook lung cancer patient was a chain-smoking male in his 60s. Nowadays, Dr. Bai sees so many who are still in their 20s that the cases blend together. “When I see patients who are not smokers with no other risk factors, we have to assume that the most probable cause is pollution,” said Bai.
Increasingly, other Chinese physicians are reaching the same conclusion. At a time when cigarette smoking is on the decline in China, the nation is facing an explosion of lung cancer cases. In the last three decades, an era in which China industrialized, deaths from lung cancer have risen 465%.
Microscopic particles from exhaust, coal smoke, and vehicle fumes burrow their way into lungs. The World Health Organization classifies particulate levels between 300 and 500 micrograms per cubic meter as hazardous. When readings approached 1,000 in Harbin city, residents said they couldn’t see their dogs at the end of the leash.
The Harbin “airpocalypse,” as it was dubbed, was caused mostly by coal, which remains the major heating source in China.
Ten years ago, it was sensitive to talk about smoking because the tobacco industry was so important to the Chinese economy. Now it feels safe to talk about smoking. But for pollution, people are not prepared to talk about it. The doctor who first disclosed the case of an 8-year-old girl with lung cancer appears to have been publicly silenced.
Ed. Notes: If only rulers would demand solutions as much as they demand acquiescence. There are technical solutions awaiting on shelves. But governments won’t find them, thinking inside the box. They’d have to become open to what works. Besides treating the symptom — the exhaust — there are cleaner fuels, more efficient engines, less wasteful modes of heating and transportation, and better urban settlement patterns that don’t need as much energy intake. But to enjoy these benefits, the Chinese rulers would have to geonomize, and to that they’d have to quit relying on force and just give the people the opportunity to do the right thing, something Confucius might’ve said. To date, the Chinese rulers have made many rational decisions, so there is hope.
This 2013 excerpt of Gizmodo, Oct 09, is by Ashley Feinberg.
In China town planners accidentally built new apartments right where they’d already planned to build an eight-lane highway. The town council asked the new tenants if they would move out of their brand new homes. But since it could offer only meager compensation, the tenants refused. So the council built the highway around the new building, bringing an eight-lane highway to four. Ironically, the highway hasn’t done anything to help the horrible rush-hour congestion.
Ed. Notes: If a society enjoyed a true democracy, wouldn’t a planner error like this be avoided, instead of just blindly plowing along once some official’s decision had been made. Too often people don’t suffer the consequences of their choices; responsibility for our actions is something we humans need constantly to learn. That said, I bet if land values were the source of public funds and/or the source for a Citizen’s Dividend, then mistakes like this would be impossible or exceedingly rare.
This 2013 excerpt of Business Insider, Dec 23, is by Christina Sterbenz.
As the years pass, secrets surface. Government documents become declassified. We now have evidence of certain elaborate government conspiracies right here in the U.S. of A.
Parts of the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, which led to U.S. intervention in Vietnam, never happened. Talk of Tonkin’s status as a “false flag” for U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War has permeated public discourse almost since the time of the attacks, especially after the government admitted that the second incident may have involved false radar images. But after resisting comment for decades, the National Security Agency finally declassified documents in 2005, admitting the incident on Aug. 4 never happened at all.
In January 1973, then CIA Director Richard Helms ordered the destruction of all documents pertaining to MKUltra, the government use of hypnosis, sensory deprivation, isolation, torture, and most memorably, LSD, on unwitting U.S. and Canadian citizens, one of whom committed suicide. To conduct these experiments, the CIA paid prisons, hospitals, and other institutions to keep quiet; over 30 universities became involved in various studies. When Congress looked into the matter, no one, not even Helms, could “remember” details. Through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, more documents were located, but the full timeline remains incomplete. The events inspired investigative journalist Jon Ronson’s best-selling book, “The Men Who Stare At Goats,” now a movie of the same title starring George Clooney.
Investigating Iran Contra, Congress subpoenaed government documents as early as 1981 and forced declassification of others. It turns out senior officials in the Reagan administration sold arms to Iran, then under embargo. The government, with the National Security Council’s Oliver North acting as a key player, later used the profits to fund the Contras in Nicaragua. The hearings never labeled the sale of weapons to Iran a criminal offense, but some officials faced charges for supporting the Contras. The administration, however, refused to declassify certain documents, forcing Congress to drop them.
In 1990, a 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl identified only as “Nayirah” testified before Congress that she witnessed Iraqi soldiers pulling infants from their incubators at a hospital and tossing them to the ground to die. PR giant Hill & Knowlton arranged her testimony for a client, Kuwaiti-sponsored Citizens for a Free Kuwait, and furthermore that Nayirah was the daughter of Kuwait’s Ambassador to the U.S. Rep. Tom Lantos coordinated the whole thing. Nayirah’s testimony helped build support for the Persian Gulf War, though Congress would have likely pursued involvement without her words.
Ed. Notes: So people in power do conspire to do things they hope you never find out about. Some theories about their conspiracies do turn out to be true; conspiracy theories can not be dismissed out of hand.
Since it’s hard to know which ones will turn out to be true, which to be false, perhaps the wisest course is to suspend judgment of the claims of both the theorists, and of the government, especially when the government claims push buttons designed to sway people and win their acceptance of a controversial policy.
And keep reading sites like this to learn the facts that, for whatever reason, don’t see the light of day in the mainstream media, announcers who just parrot the official line.
This 2013 excerpt of OpEd News, Oct 8, is by William John Cox, author of the Policy Manual of the Los Angeles Police Department and of the Role of the Police in America for a National Advisory Commission during the Nixon administration.
Unstable and undemocratic countries are usually controlled by individuals and cabals against whom military force ends up harming their own domestic victims more than the entrenched leadership, and new regimes offer little improvement.
Destroying the infrastructure of a nation to turn its people against their “leadership” fails, as in Iraq, resulting in the deaths of thousands of innocent children. Targeting “insurgents” using drones and violent nighttime home invasions fails, as in Afghanistan, resulting in “collateral” deaths and injuries to bystanders. Imposition of economic sanctions fails, as in Iran, resulting in the destruction of the middle class and small businesses that are essential to a free society. Support of “rebels” against their government fails, as in Libya, when the new government is controlled by hostile and undemocratic forces. Continued use of aggressive war by the United States to bring about regime change will fail, as in Syria, for all of these reasons.
The use of war as an instrument of foreign policy fails in all of these situations because it does not produce the desired change; it injures the innocent victims of their unrepresentative governments and results in their hatred of the aggressors, rather than their oppressors.
In addition, the use of war by the United States also harms its own people through the wasteful diversion of scarce tax resources to the military-industrial complex, the compiling of massive and unsustainable public debt, and a reduction of personal freedoms by the intelligence-security complex.
Moreover, the use of aggressive, yet undeclared war by the United States has resulted in an undemocratic shift of power from the legislative branch to the executive branch of government. For the past 50 years, it has been the president, rather than Congress, who has repeatedly unleashed the greatest military force in history against far weaker nations and their people, who do not have the means or ability to fight back, except through acts of terror.
The aggressive use of war in most of these situations has been illegal. The United States signed the General Treaty for Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy (Kellogg-Briand Pact) in 1928. Along with other nations, the U.S. promised to not use war to resolve “disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be.” That treaty is still binding on the United States.
Moreover, the U.S. ratification of the United Nations Charter in 1945 incorporated its provisions into the “supreme law of the land.” Article 2 of the Charter provides, “All members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered [and shall] refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.”
In addition to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria, the United States is also currently conducting aggressive wars in Somalia and Yemen. Not only are these wars undeclared by Congress, their extent is largely concealed from the American people. Moreover, in “fighting” these wars, the president, as Commander in Chief, claims the right to kill and detain “unlawful combatants,” including American citizens, anywhere in the world without trial.
Yet the American people no longer want to militarily intervene in other countries as a matter of foreign policy. A recent CBS/NYT poll found that 72 percent of Americans are opposed to removing dictators where it can, and a CNN poll found more than six in ten Americans desiring a more “non-interventionist” foreign policy.
There is violence and repression in the world, some of which threatens the security interests of the United States, and it would be naive to deny it; however, it is equally foolish to believe that undeclared aggressive war against nation states and their people can resolve each and every one of these threats. There has to be a better solution, one that is both legal and effective.
Assuming that the Obama administration can make the case that Bashar al-Assad and his regime poses a risk of danger to the people of the United States, shouldn’t the president present the evidence to Congress? Rather than an authorization to launch “limited military strikes” on Syria, which is tantamount to a declaration of war, the president could request a resolution along these lines:
“The Congress of the United States declares that Bashar al-Assad and his administration of the government of Syria pose a danger to the United States and directs the President of the United States to file an action against the government of Syria in the International Court of Justice and to take all necessary and reasonable steps to compel the personal attendance of Assad at The Hague to defend his government.”
The resolution is directed against Assad, personally, as the dictator of Syria, instead of the people of Syria. It is narrowly designed to compel him to leave the country to attend the trial, thereby forcing him to hand over the reins of his government to other, hopefully more moderate, factions. As a practical matter, once Assad leaves Syria, the chances of his ever returning are very slim.
In many respects, the congressional resolution would act like an arrest warrant in a domestic criminal action. There, a judge finds probable cause for the arrest and directs the police to take the suspect into custody and deliver the defendant for trial. In doing so, the police are authorized to use all necessary and reasonable force to take custody of the accused.
While a congressional resolution directing the U.S. president to secure the presence (consent) of the Syrian president at the International Court would be coercive, it would be far less violent than the unleashing of bombs and cruise missiles on the Syrian people.
The “arrest” of Assad has a valuable double meaning. One is the actual taking into custody or securing his appearance at The Hague; the other is that he is arrested or stopped from performing the dangerous acts he is accused of.
While the use of reasonable force personally directed against Assad to “arrest” him might result in his death, the use of force would not have political assassination as its purpose. To the contrary and much like hostage negotiations by professional police officers, every attempt should be made to negotiate his voluntary surrender. Reasonable rewards and incentives might also be offered for his delivery by members of his own government or military.
In matters such as Libya’s Muammar Gadaffi or Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, the harm done to the people and societies they governed would have been far less violent under a congressional arrest warrant than the actual war launched upon them by the United States, ostensibly for the same purpose.
Given the fact that societies in nations such as Iraq, Libya, or Syria are tribal in nature, the death and injuries suffered by the individual innocent victims of the violent and aggressive wars launched by the United States results in hatred and condemnation from generations to come. To the contrary, however, limited and effective action directed against their native oppressors would rebound with the respect and appreciation of the people, both now and in the future.
President Obama wants to bomb Syria to send a message that the use of chemical weapons against rebel forces is unacceptable. To the contrary, he should send a message to the world that the United States has the wisdom and power to achieve its foreign policy goals in a manner that is consistent with its constitution, legal obligations, and the will of its people.
Ed. Notes: Citizens have little control over government officials. Government officials get to spend public dollars almost any way they want, whether pouring the funds into the war machine or into Wall Street banks or whatever. Such power enjoyed by politicians makes it easy to ignore laws, treaties, constitutions, and even common sense.
If we want governments to be law-abiding and rational, we need to make governing less profitable, indeed, non-profitable. To shift the discretionary power of spending from politicians to people, we could replace social programs with a Citizen’s Dividend and require all military action to be funded by the income tax or Citizen’s Dues and use that tax or dues only for war. Tie war directly to taxation; when citizens get tired of one they’ll reduce the other.
Even deeper, reduce the economic reason for waging war. Many wars are turf battles but the issue of territory could be settled fairly and efficiently. What society must do is accept the notion that the worth of Earth belongs to everybody, not just the 1%. We should all pay in Land Dues proportional to the value of the part of Earth we claim, and get back rent dividends equal to the amounts everyone else gets back, de-motivating the turf reason for waging war, by nations big and small. Then the poor suffering people around the world will suffer less at the hands of the US military/industrial complex.
This 2013 of Popular Resistance, Dec 20, is by Kerry Drake.
End Homelessness: It is cheaper to give people an apartment than hospital visits, arrests and incarceration.
Give them an apartment first, ask questions later.
Utah has reduced its rate of chronic homelessness by 78 percent over the past eight years, moving 2000 people off the street and putting the state on track to eradicate homelessness altogether by 2015.
How’d they do it? The state is giving away apartments, no strings attached.
In 2005, Utah calculated the annual cost of E.R. visits and jail stays for an average homeless person was $16,670, while the cost of providing an apartment and social worker would be $11,000. Each participant works with a caseworker to become self-sufficient, but if they fail, they still get to keep their apartment.
Other states are eager to emulate Utah’s results. Wyoming has seen its homeless population more than double in the past three years, and it only provides shelter for 26 percent of them, the lowest rate in the country. City officials in Casper, Wyoming, now plan to launch a pilot program using the methods of Utah’s Housing First program. There’s no telling how far the idea might go.
This 2013 excerpt of National Geographic, Oct 8, is by Virginia Hughes.
By comparing the relative lengths of certain fingers in eight cave sites in France and Spain, archaeologist Dean Snow determined that three-quarters of the handprints were female.
Because many early cave paintings showcase game animals —- bison, reindeer, horses, woolly mammoths —- many researchers have proposed that they were made by male hunters, perhaps to chronicle their kills or as some kind of “hunting magic” to improve success of an upcoming hunt.
“In most hunter-gatherer societies, it’s men that do the killing. But it’s often the women who haul the meat back to camp, and women are as concerned with the productivity of the hunt as the men are,” Snow said.
The hands in the caves were much more sexually dimorphic than modern hands, meaning that there was little overlap in the various hand measurements.
Several years ago, evolutionary biologist R. Dale Guthrie performed a similar analysis of Paleolithic handprints. His work—based mostly on differences in the width of the palm and the thumb. He found that the vast majority of handprints came from adolescent boys.
For adults, caves would have been dangerous and uninteresting, but young boys would have explored them for adventure, said Guthrie. “They drew what was on their mind, which is mainly two things: naked women and large, frightening mammals.”
Was most of the art made by shamans who went into trances to try to connect with the spirit world? “If you go into one of these caves alone, you start to suffer from sensory deprivation very, very quickly, in 5 to 10 minutes,” archaeologist Dave Whitley said. “It can spin you into an altered state of consciousness.” In some hunter-gatherer societies shamans are female or even transgendered.
Left answered: Why would women be the primary artists? Were they creating only the handprints, or the rest of the art as well? Would the hand analysis hold up if the artists weren’t human, but Neanderthal? Why did these ancient artists, whoever they were, leave handprints at all?
“A pretty good hypothesis is that this is somebody saying, ‘This is mine, I did this,’” Snow said.
Ed. Notes: You think prehistoric artists needed subsidies or patrons? Or was art a normal and integrated part of life that everyone practiced, like today we might all send an email? And whose caves were they? Did artists need permission or pay rent? Or were caves the commons? Maybe the handprints belonged to the landlady! Or were left by taggers! Hopefully not. And hopefully art will make a comeback and moderns will regain a love for esthetics. For that, tho’, we need leisure, security, equality, and freedom. All are things that economic justice can deliver, specifically by following geonomics.
These three 2013 excerpts on unaffordable housing in the San Francisco Bay Area are from: (1) Think Progress, Dec 18 on frost death by Scott Keyes; (2) Pando, Dec 20, on attacking a Google bus by Carmel Deamicis; and (3) Boing Boing, Dec 21, on a dormitory by Cory Doctorow.
In The Wealthiest Area Of The Country, 7 Homeless People Have Frozen To Death This Winter
A homeless man was beaten up and robbed by multiple men, who took the new winter coat White’s sister had given him. He was wearing just a hoodie and shorts. He was the seventh homeless person in the San Francisco Bay Area to die in the cold since November 28.
Approximately 700 homeless people die from hypothermia every year. Those deaths tend to occur in the East Coast and Midwest, not California. But temperatures in the Bay have repeatedly dipped below freezing in the past few weeks, an uncommon occurrence in a region generally known for its lack of inclement weather.
The Bay Area has one of the highest homeless populations. The San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose metropolitan area is the wealthiest in the country, even outpacing New York-Connecticut and Washington DC-Maryland-Northern Virginia. This influx of money has brought higher housing prices and more evictions in the past few years.
Bay Area housing protestors in West Oakland attacked a Google bus taking employees to their Mountain View headquarters, smashing the bus’s rear window while Google employees were inside. For the SF protest, roughly 100 people showed up and blocked an Apple bus for 30 minutes, organized by Eviction Free SF, Our Mission No Eviction, and Just Cause.
“Rents are going through the roof in both cities, we’re seeing massive levels of eviction,” an organizer said. Another said “it’s important to link gentrification in the East Bay to gentrification in SF.”
As the tech industry grows in size, wealth, and power, it attracts more people to the SF Bay Area and decreases the amount of available housing. Some San Francisco and East Bay residents are getting pushed out of the cities they live in because they can no longer afford rent. Some landlords sell their property for high rates.
Many employees who work for Google, Apple, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other tech companies based on the Peninsula live in San Francisco or the East Bay. They take shuttles run by the corporations from these locations down to work in Menlo Park, Palo Alto, and Mountain View.
Protestors have blockaded tech company buses on previous instances, most notably a few weeks ago when a video went viral online. The clip showed a supposed Google employee shouting back at protestors, “You can’t afford it? You can leave.” The man turned out to be a union organizer.
The smashing of the Google bus window today marks the first time the anti-eviction movement has used physically aggressive tactics, although in May between 30 and 40 protesters in San Francisco’s Mission district attacked a piñata in the form of a Google bus.
Live in a San Francisco Ikea Bunk-bed in a Mass Hacker Dormitory for a mere $1k/mo
A Craigslist ad for a “hub for entrepreneurs” who come from all part around the world offers a barracks of dozens of bunk-beds ranked in rows for a mere $999/month. But for productive collaboration you also get access to plenty of whiteboards and brainstorm areas as you seek to launch your tech business. Space is shared by entrepreneurs of all sexes.
The building hosts events, meetups, and parties for the tech community. “Our goal is to facilitate the idea exchange and support an entrepreneur so that you don’t have to worry about housing and a place to work from. No need to hop from coffee shop to coffee shop – create meaningful relationships, work with people who will help you in the long run. We host events and workshop to which you’re welcome to attend as well.”
When I moved to San Francisco in the late nineties, I lived in half an illegal sublet for about $2K/month, and that was a deal by the standards of the day. But I had it better than the guy paying $800/month for the Sears shed in the back-yard — I got a toilet!
Ed. Notes: Bunk beds are bad but it’s even worse in Tokyo where traveling salesmen sleep in drawers. While there may be over population in some metro areas and too little shelter, there is also wasted land — vacant lots and under-used lots — and abandoned or near-empty buildings.
Why do owners do that? Many are speculating, waiting to get an even higher offer. But there is a way to prod them to put their land to best use. It’s a method Pittsburgh used when it had the most affordable housing of any major US city (and the by-far lowest crime rate) and even closed its homeless shelter not from lack of funds but from lack of guests, housing was so affordable.
What Pittsburgh did and any city, state, or nation could do is shift their property tax off buildings, onto land. To afford it, owners get busy developing. That increases the housing stock and decreases the housing costs.
That was in the old Steel City, in the Rust Belt, but in the Sun Belt this property tax shift could work even better, precisely because location values are higher. The local government would recover those socially-generated values and distribute the lion’s share to residents. As site values climbed, one’s share of this pie would grow. People could always afford to live where they love, and love where they live.
Shuttle vandalism is mindless. Shelters are helpful but still dealing with symptom, not system. Better than vandalize buses is to geonomize localities.
This 2013 excerpt of BBC, Oct 7, is by Roger Harrabin.
The world’s governments agreed — after long negotiations in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) — that all airlines should join a global scheme to cut carbon emissions. But details will not be negotiated until 2016. It ends for the first time the notion of exceptionalism that has been cultivated by the airline industry.
The aviation sector will attempt to negotiate by 2016 a market-based mechanism (taxes, tradeable permits or carbon offsets) to tackle emissions from flying.
The EU’s own aviation emissions tax is on hold pending a global deal
There is still pressure on the EU to delay imposing its Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) on aviation.
This agonised process for just one sector indicates just how hard it will be to get a global deal on greenhouse gas emissions.
Ed. Notes: Politics does not reveal humans at their best but at least it appears progress is being made, that the principle of pay for what you take is being followed. Next, perhaps, the principle of don’t pay for what you make — no tax on earnings and ownings — will be followed.
Then, finally, humanity may follow the principle of reap as you sow, including society as a whole reaping what it sows, which is the annual rental value of land and resources, since it is the presence of community which generates the rent or price for a location.
This geonomic policy would help airlines minimize their emissions. De-taxing our efforts while sharing out recovered rents to everyone, even to presently unheralded basement inventors, both speed up techno-progress, including development of alternative fuels and alternative engines — economic justice can be that powerful.
This 2013 excerpt of Business Spectator, Dec 9, is by Steve Keen, University of Western Sydney and author of Debunking Economics and the blog Debtwatch.
Eight years ago, in December 2005, I began warning of an impending economic crisis that would commence when the rate of growth of private debt started to fall. Journalists throughout the world picked it up and publicised my views – as well as similar arguments from Nouriel Roubini, Dean Baker, Ann Pettifor, Michael Hudson, Wynne Godley, and a few others. But our arguments were ignored by the economics profession. Numerical evidence of what caused the crisis was and still is ignored by mainstream economists, while less numerate journalists latched onto it.
When an issue is politically neutral, a higher level of numeracy does correlate with a higher capacity to interpret numerical data correctly. But when an issue is politically charged – or the numerical data challenges a numerate person’s sense of self – numeracy actually works against understanding the issue. The reason appears to be that numerate people employed their numeracy skills to evade the evidence, rather than to consider it.
So much for democracy: both evidence and intelligence make precious little difference to how people will vote on contentious issues. The need to preserve a sense of identity matters more than the evidence – and this can’t be treated as “irrational” behavior either, because it’s quite rational to want to retain membership of a group that is immediately important to you.
Max Planck – the father of quantum mechanics – found it near impossible to convince his fellow physicists to accept his new – and empirically far more accurate – characterisation of the nature of energy. He ultimately concluded that: “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”
In social conflict over empirical issues, each side tends to deride the other as lacking the ability to interpret the data – thus thinking they are more numerate than their opponents.
Ed. Notes: While Keen is better than the economists winning so-called “Nobel” prizes (no such thing in economics; the money actually comes from banks), he’s still not as penetrating and scientific as the topic requires. For instance, it’s not just private debt in general that triggers recessions but private mortgage debt or, more precisely, our spending for land (under houses). When that gets out of hand, it sucks up our spending that no longer can go to purchasing the goods and services produced by our neighbors, so they cut back, a vicious spiral ensues, and recession is under way. Not grasping the deeper phenomena at work, economists (even the nice ones) can’t see the deep policy shift that’s needed to correct economies — which would be geonomics.
These two 2013 excerpts on rent-seeking are from (1) the Seattle Times, Oct 7, by Jon Talton and (2) Telefriden, Dec 17, by Rob Frieden at Penn State U and author of Winning the Silicon Sweepstakes: Can the United States Compete in Global Telecommunications.
The McCutcheon Case is Bad for the Economy, too
The next big campaign finance case, McCutcheon vs FEC, is at least as bad as 2010′s Citizen’s United, which struck down more than a century of restraints on corporate and union money in elections and affirmed “corporate personhood.” With McCutcheon, the plaintiff is asking that limits on individual contributions to candidates be struck down. Even under current law, an individual could spread up to $3.5 million among candidates.
Both Citizens United and McCutcheon carry economic consequences. They ensure that America will be less fair and capitalism will be less competitive.
Today’s inequality was purchased by the already unprecedented money in politics. The increasing phenomenon of “rent seeking,” where giant corporations use their power to extract government subsidies and laws that allow for massive executive compensation, is a near free ride while profiting from environmental destruction, taxpayer backing of a risky financial sector, and thwarting competition.
Rent-seeking, which happens in myriad ways and on a vast scale, is the redistribution of income from one part of society to another. Thus vast sums are gambled in world capital markets rather than be used to expand existing companies, seed new ones, and create jobs. It mostly comes at the expense of wage earners and lower-income Americans. Think of the big banks and the recession: They are more profitable (and bigger) today than ever, while the median household makes less than it did in 1989.
Joseph Stiglitz: “Rent seeking makes nothing grow. Efforts are directed toward getting a larger share of the pie rather than increasing the size of the pie. But it’s worse than that: rent seeking distorts resource allocations and makes the economy weaker. It is a centripetal force: the rewards of rent seeking become so outsize that more and more energy is directed toward it, at the expense of everything else.”
Big money in politics has also helped create highly concentrated industries in numerous sectors, from finance to media. For them, it is a profitable loop: Money buys lax antitrust enforcement which allows for greater size which infuses ever larger amounts of money into passing legislation favorable to these quasi-monopolies, cartels, and oligopolies. The price of entry for new competitors is prohibitive. Business formation suffers. And it’s much easier to hold down job creation and keep people desperate just to hang onto their stagnant-wage jobs if they have them.
Inequality and a fixed market will only grow worse if McCutcheon becomes the latest piece of judicial activism from the Roberts court.
Stakeholders keen on working less hard and earning greater returns will resort to any political, legal and economic ideology and philosophy to support the desired outcome.
It is quite fine when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) granted incumbent wireline telephone free spectrum for mobile services, but now denying these carriers the opportunity to bid for any and all spectrum is an abomination.
Let’s not underestimate the power of sponsored research where esteemed scholars grab lots of dollars for embracing a specific ideology and explaining how it serves the public interest. In a matter of days the very same economist might rail against the Herfindahl Hirschman Index (“HHI”) of market concentration as flawed and not predictive of anything. But when presented with an assignment and a generous retainer to show how robustly competitive a market is, that economist might quickly invoke the HHI to “prove” how competition can exist in a concentrated marketplace.
Ed. Notes: It’s encouraging that this sort of corruption gets covered by professors and in the biggest paper in the Pacific Coast Northwest. However, as usual, it’s almost all problem and no solution. The solution is not just to say “no” to rent-seeking but something far more fundamental. It’s as Abraham Lincoln said: “Nothing’s fixed until it’s fixed right.”
This sort of rent-seeking above won’t end until the classic sort of rent-winning — that is, absentee owners and lenders getting paid to permit others to use land — gets corrected. The correction to that basic injustice is to not pay them for a site or a resource but to pay your community. Nobody made land, everybody needs land, and all of us — the presence of community — is what gives locations their value.
We need to pay Land Dues into the public treasury and get Rent Shares back. But we don’t need to pay taxes on earnings, purchases, and buildings while getting bureaucratized “services”. Letting politicians decide how to spend public money only opens the Pandora’s Box of rent-seeking. Better to follow the basic principle of sharing Earth’s worth while de-legitimizing capricious taxation and subsidization — the geonomic reform.
a manual. The world did not come without a way for people to prosper, and the planet to heal and stay well; that way is geonomics. Economies are part of the ecosystem. Both generate surpluses and follow self-regulating feedback loops. A cycle like the Law of Supply and Demand is one of the economy’s on/off loops. Our spending for land and resources – things that nobody made and everybody needs – constitutes our society’s surplus. Those profits without production (remember, nobody produced Earth) can become our commonwealth. To share it, we could pay land dues in to the public treasury (wouldn’t oil companies love that?) and get rent dividends back, a la Alaska’s oil dividend. Doing so let’s us axe taxes and jettison subsidies. Taxes and subsidies distort price (the DNA of exchange), violate quid pro quo by benefiting the well-connected more than anyone else, reinforce hierarchy of state over citizen, and are costly to administer (you don’t really need so much bureaucracy, do you?). Conversely, land dues motivate people to not waste sites, resources, and the ecosystem while rent dividends motivate people to not waste themselves. Receiving this income supplement – a Citizens Dividend – people can invest in their favorite technology or outgrow being “economan” and shrink their overbearing workweek in order to enjoy more time with family, friends, community, and nature. Then in all that free time, maybe we could figure out just what we are here for.
shaped by reality. In the 1980′s, the Swedish government doubled its stock transfer tax. Tax receipts, however, rose only 15%, since traders simply fled to London exchanges. Fearing a further exodus, the Swedish government quickly rescinded the tax altogether. (The New York Times, April 20) That willingness to tax anything leads us astray. Pushing us astray is that unwillingness to pay what we owe: rent for land, our common heritage. Assuming land value is up for grabs, we speculate. We cap the property tax on both land and buildings and the rate at which assessments can go up; while real market values rise quicker, assessments can never catch up. Our stewards, the Bureau of Land Management, routinely sell and lease sites below market value, often to insiders, says the Government Accounting Office. Once we grasp that rent is ours to share, we’ll collect it all, rather than let it enrich a few, and quit taxing earnings, which do belong to the individual earner. That shift is geonomic policy.
a discipline that, compared to economics, is as obscure as Warren Buffett’s investment strategy, compared to conventional investment theory, about which Buffett said, “You couldn’t advance in a finance department in this country unless you taught that the world was flat.” (The New York Times, Oct 29). The writer wondered, “But why? If it works, why don’t more investors use it?”
Good question. Geonomics works, too. Every place that has used it has prospered while conserving resources. Yet it remains off the radar of many wanna-be reformers. Gradually, tho’, that’s changing. More are becoming aware of what geonomics studies – all the money we spend on the nature we use. Geonomics (1) as an alternative worldview to the anthropocentric, sees human economies as part of the embracing ecosystem with natural feedback loops seeking balance in both systems. (2) As an alternative to worker vs. investor, it sees our need for sites and resources making those who own land into landlords. (3)As an alternative to economics, it tracks the trillions of “rent” as it drives the “housing” bubble and all other indicators. And (4) as an alternative to left or right, it suggests we not tax ourselves then subsidize our favorites but recover and share society’s surplus, paying in land dues and getting back “rent” dividends, a la Alaska’s oil dividend. Letting rent go to the wrong pockets wreaks havoc, while redirecting it to everyone would solve our economic ills and the ills downstream from them.
People must learn to stop whining so much and feel enough self-esteem to demand a fair share of rent, society’s surplus, the commonwealth.
the annoying habit of seeing the hand of land in almost all transactions. In geonomics we maintain the distinction between the items bearing exchange value that come into being via human effort — wealth — and those that don’t — land. Keeping this distinction in the forefront makes it obvious that speculating in land drives sprawl, that hoarding land retards Third World development, that borrowing to buy land plus buildings engorges banks, that much so-called “interest” is quasi-rent, that the cost of land inflates faster than the price of produced goods and services, that over half of corporate profit is from real estate (Urban Land Institute, 1999). Summing up these analyses, geonomists offer a Grand Unifying Theory, that the flow of rent pulls all other indicators in its wake. Geonomics differs from economics as chemistry from alchemy, as astronomy from astrology.
the study of the money we spend on the nature we use. When we pay that money to private owners, we reward both speculation and over-extraction. Robert Kiyosaki’s bestseller, Rich Dad’s Prophecy, says, “One of the reasons McDonald’s is such a rich company is not because it sells a lot of burgers but because it owns the land at some of the best intersections in the world. The main reason Kim and I invest in such properties is to own the land at the corner of the intersection. (p 200) My real estate advisor states that the rich either made their money in real estate or hold their money in real estate.” (p 141, via Greg Young) When government recovers the rents for natural advantages for everyone, it can save citizens millions. Ben Sevack, Montreal steel manufacturer, tells us (August 12) that Alberta, by leasing oil & gas fields, recovers enough revenue to be the only province in Canada to get by without a sales tax and to levy a flat provincial income tax. While running for re-election, provincial Premier Ralph Klein proposes to abolish their income tax and promises to eliminate medical insurance premiums and use resource revenue to pay for all medical expense for seniors. After all this planned tax-cutting and greater expense, they still expect a large budget surplus. Even places without oil and gas have high site values in their downtowns, and high values in their utility franchises. Recover the values of locations and privileges, displace the harmful taxes on sales, salaries, and structures, then use the revenue to fund basic government and pay residents a dividend, and you have geonomics in action.
a study of a phenomenon David Ricardo noted going on two centuries ago. When wine grapes rise to $10,000 a ton from the very best land (last year, cabernet sauvignon commanded an average of $4,021 a ton in the Napa Valley), then vineyard prices soar from $18,000 an acre in the 1980′s to $100,000 an acre five years ago and now for a top pedigree up to $300,000 an acre (The New York Times, April 9, via Wyn Achenbaum). Pricey land does not make wine pricey; spendy wine makes land spendy. While vintners make their wine tasty, nature and society in general – not any lone owner – make land desireable. Steve Kerch of CBS’s MarketWatch (April 5) notes that much of what a home sells for on the open market is a reflection of intangible factors such as what school district the house sits in. The price the builder has to pay for the land also tends to be driven by the same intangibles. Because the value of land comes from society, and because one’s use excludes the rest of society, each user owes all others compensation, and is owed compensation by everyone else. Sharing land’s value, instead of taxing one’s efforts, is the policy of geonomics.
not exactly Georgism, the Single Tax on land value proposed by Henry George. He did, tho’, inspire most of the real-world implementations of the land tax that some jurisdictions enjoy today, and modern thinkers to craft geonomics. While his name and our remedy both begin with “geo” since both words refer to “Earth”, the two have their differences. (a) George pegs land monopoly as the fundamental flaw while geonomics faults Rent retention. (b) To fix the flaw, George was content to use a tax, while geonomics jettisons them in favor of price-like fees. (c) George focused on the taking while geonomics headlines the sharing. George envisioned an enlightened state judiciously spending the collected Rent while geonomics would turn the lion’s share over to the citizens via a dividend. (d) And George, as was everyone in his era, was pro-growth while geonomics sees economies as alive, growing, maturing, and stabilizing. Despite these differences, George should be recognized as great an economist as Euclid was a geometrician.
more transformation than reform; it’s a step ahead. Harvard economics students this year did petition to change the curriculum, in the wake of the English who caught the dissension from across The Channel. French reformers, who fault conventional economics for conjuring mathematical models of little empirical relevance and being closed to critical and reflective thought, reject this “autism” – or detachment from reality – and dub their offering “post-autistic economics”. Not a bad name, but again, academics define themselves by what they’re not, not by what they are, unlike geonomists. We track rent – the money we spend on the nature we use – and watch it pull all the other economic indicators in its wake. We see economies as part and parcel of the ecosystem, similarly following natural patterns and able to self-regulate more so than allowed, once we quit distorting prices. To align people and planet, we’d replace taxes and subsidies with recovering and sharing rents.
of interest to Dave Lakhani, President Bold Approach (Mar 8) and Matt Ozga (Jan 29): “I write for the Washington Square News, the student run newspaper out of New York University. Geonomics seems like it has great significance, especially in this area. When was geonomics developed, and by whom?”
About 1982 I began. Two years later, Chilean Dr Manfred Max-Neef offered the term geonomics for Earth-friendly economics. In the mid-80s, a millionaire founded a Geonomics Institute on Middlebury College campus in Vermont re global trade. In the 1990s, CNBC cablecast a show, Geonomics, on world trade as it benefits world traders. My version of geonomics draws heavily from the American Henry George who wrote Progress & Poverty (1879) and won the mayoralty of New York but was denied his victory by Tammany Hall (1886). He in turn got lots from Brits David Ricardo, Adam Smith, and the French physiocrats of the 1700s. My version differs by focusing not on taxation but on the flow of rents for sites, resources, sinks, and government-granted privileges. Forgoing these trillions, we instead tax and subsidize, making waste cheap and sustainability expensive. To quit distorting price, replace taxes with “land dues” and replace subsidies with a Citizens Dividend.
Matt: “This idea of sharing rents sounds, if not explicitly socialist, at least at odds with some capitalist values (only the strong survive & prosper, etc). Is it fair to say that geonomics has some basis in socialist theory?”
A closer descriptor would be Christian. Beyond ethics into praxis, Alaska shares oil rent with residents, and they’re more libertarian than socialist. While individuals provide labor and capital, no one provides land while society generates its value. Rent is not private property but public property. Sharing Rent is predistribution, sharing it before an elite or state has a chance to get and misspend it, like a public REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust) paying dividends to its stakeholders – a perfectly capitalist model. What we should leave untaxed are our sales, salaries, and structures, things we do produce.
a way to have everybody pulling on the same end of the rope. Last summer’s expansive forest fires shed light on growing class resentment in the West. Old loggers and ranchers rankled at the new urgency to stamp out the blazes that threatened the recent Aspenesque settlers. The newcomers expected working class firemen to make protecting their expensive homes top priority. (Chr Sci Mntr, Spt 7) The tinder for this envy? Rich people moving in bid up the price of land, making it hard to afford by people on the margin. The fault really lies with our system of privatizing land value. If this rising value were collected by land dues and shared by rent dividends – the essence of geonomic policy – who’d complain? The more people move in, the higher the land value, and the fatter the dividend paid to residents. Then people on the margin might go out of their way to invite rich outsiders in.