Monday, October 22, 2012

Charter Cities and Seasteading

The more people all over the world are geting sick of fake democracies, excessive corruption, political sleaze and an intolerably wide gap between the rich and the rest, the more diligently people are looking for ways out, either way. Some try to improve socio-economical conditions, others try to further corrode them. Just in one edition of German educational magazine GEO (October 2012, cf. p. 22, pp. 80-92, p. 150.) I found three articles dealing with different approaches.

Charter Cities
"Chicago Boy" economist Paul Romer's suggestion to establish city states (in host states like Honduras) governed by their own laws of pure market belief (see

Unconditional Basic Income (Basic Income Guarantee (or Grant, abbr. BIG)
Funded by a coalition of churches, labour unions and aid organizations, the inhabitants of the Namibian village Otjivero (Omitara) received monthly 700-800 Dollar per person, from January 2008 to December 2009 (see Global Basic Income Foundation, Basic Income Grant Coalition)

Floating Free States (Seasteading)
Kind of social labs at sea (sometimes called seasteads), outside the territory claimed by the government of any nation; autonomous ocean communities designed for performing social experiments with volunteers to find out the best way of government (see The Seasteading Institute). Proponents: PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel and Patri Friedman (grandson of economist Milton Friedaman)

Unfortunately, none of these projects were designed to run under scientific rules of experiment. Comprehensive data of the outcome of the BIG project in Namibia are missing.
Based on a totally different mindset, Charter and Floating Cities look like the ultimate outsourcing projects. Details regarding the living conditions of workers do no exist and those available are rather scary (it is half-way instructive to read both FAQs, e.g. in Paul Romer's vision of recruiting unskilled workers directly out of slums:

"Q: What kind of apartments could these workers afford?A: Small apartments. We know from existing data that living space varies linearly with income. As income grows, people will rent larger, nicer apartments. A city that starts by catering to people getting entry level jobs would start by building small, minimalist apartments and add larger ones with more amenities as incomes rise."

And in the Seasteading FAQ section, the question

"Are seasteading enthusiasts just a bunch of rich guys wanting to escape paying taxes?"

is already telling. Considering the lack of data in both projects, one has to rely on guessing, and my guess is that both are designed to acquire cheap labor slaves through a new legal back door, and yes, trying to create a new systematic loophole for escaping the so-called "regulators" - a term which the plutocracy likes to use for "legislators" and "executive authorities". (My guess is only based on what I found on their websites - which is very unspecific, leaving one with the suspicion that dubious reasons might be behind the lack of details.)

It's funny how well this mechanism of corroding modern democracies is working: first you do everything against the state (the bad regulator) and then you say it's the state that is responsible for the mess and that we have to minimize government (further corrode it). First you create international trading laws which favor large international corporations so that they can easily blackmail governments by threatening to move abroad where production costs and taxes are lower. At home, you proceed by corroding values like consumer and worker protection and introduce subcontracted labour. You reinvest your gains by employing lobbyists, think-tanks and mass-media infotainment who spread your gospel of the entrepreneurial saviour. Further you go by introducing outsourcing techniques - another blackmailing instrument. Finally, you end up by destroying millions of jobs in your own country by outsourcing to other countries, producing products with the help of cheap labor slaves abroad and selling these products overpriced back home, while at the same time tranferring technology to tother countries for free. Your own country is left to pay the price by being forced to pay all kinds of subsidies in order to save society from further disintegration and debt. And then you say the government is incapable of housekeeping.

If you firmly believe that such a downward spiral is good, it is only natural to assume that the final goal can only be your own entrepreneurial city state (or island) where you are the legislator and there are no limits, no rules, no regulations holding you back from doing business, whatever kind of business.

Seasteading's Patri Friedman comes straigth to the point when he finds democracy ridiculous in comparison with the allegedly high standard of entrepreneurial product innovation:

"Yet the governance technology that we use in most of the world - representive democracy - is 2 thousand years old. It originated in ancient Athens. And here in the US we use a constitution which is 200 years old. And that's ridiculous compared with consumer technologies, right? If you'd drive a car from 200 years ago, it would be a horse." (03:38)

Guess it's time to rethink some other more than 2000 years old concepts: e.g. rational thinking, deductive science, speeches in front of an audience, and - last but not least - brigandism and entrepreneurship. For some people with a certain mindset, Friedman's argument might appear compelling, but it's one of the weakest I have ever heard.

Democracy is a human longtime project like science - it is at any time only as good as its proponents, it is always prone to error and it is always improvable. Unfortunately democracy can be faked almost perfectly. (Scientists control each other, politicians do not.)

Related topic:
The Plutocracy Will Go to Extremes to Keep the 1% in Control

Saturday, October 13, 2012

"Peaceful EU"

The 2012 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the European Union (EU) "for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe". In other words, for not killing each other for six decades. What an achievement of civilization! European countries successfully managed to export war to other countries and keep their home clean of massacres. This has got to be celebrated! Almost a third (31%) of the world's weapon exports between 2004 and 2008 belonged to the EU: Germany (10%), France (8%), United Kingdom (4%), Netherlands (3%), Spain (2%), Italy (2%) and Schweden (2%), according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). In its comment on the award, the institute consequently noted:

‘To be relevant for its citizens and to become a significant global player, the European Union must achieve peace and prosperity abroad as well as at home.’

In other words, the award is disregarding the EU's involvement in recent NATO wars and its often slavish following of the USA's hegemonic, aggressive, failed foreign politics. Let's not forget that among Bush's "coalition of the willing" (nations to invade Iraq) there were several EU countries (see Bush's White House Press Release, March 27, 2003). SIPRI's hint at "prosperity abroad" is also worth noting. Wasn't the EU and its citizens an essential part of the oppressive systems ruling in Tunisia, Egypt and Lybia until the "Arab Spring"? (See e.g. Smart Villages and the City of the Dead).

Moreover, with similar arguments as given below, one could justify that the US warlords deserve the Nobel Peace Prize much more than the EU: there was no war on American soil since the American Civil War, 1861. (I don't count the conflicts concerning Hawai or Alaska because these US-controlled territories became official US-states only after these conflicts).

Wouldn't it be time to think of awarding people or organizations doing a real essential job in preventing or avoiding war? Isn't the international arms trade one of the most serious threats to peace? Isn't the uncontrolled and unpunished warmongering (of mass-media) one of the most serious threats to peace as well? Why aren't people and organisations awarded which successfully fight against international arms trade and warmongering? Because there are none?

"The Nobel Peace Prize for 2012
The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2012 is to be awarded to the European Union (EU). The union and its forerunners have for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.
In the inter-war years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee made several awards to persons who were seeking reconciliation between Germany and France. Since 1945, that reconciliation has become a reality. The dreadful suffering in World War II demonstrated the need for a new Europe. Over a seventy-year period, Germany and France had fought three wars. Today war between Germany and France is unthinkable. This shows how, through well-aimed efforts and by building up mutual confidence, historical enemies can become close partners.
In the 1980s, Greece, Spain and Portugal joined the EU. The introduction of democracy was a condition for their membership. The fall of the Berlin Wall made EU membership possible for several Central and Eastern European countries, thereby opening a new era in European history. The division between East and West has to a large extent been brought to an end; democracy has been strengthened; many ethnically-based national conflicts have been settled.
The admission of Croatia as a member next year, the opening of membership negotiations with Montenegro, and the granting of candidate status to Serbia all strengthen the process of reconciliation in the Balkans. In the past decade, the possibility of EU membership for Turkey has also advanced democracy and human rights in that country.
The EU is currently undergoing grave economic difficulties and considerable social unrest. The Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to focus on what it sees as the EU's most important result: the successful struggle for peace and reconciliation and for democracy and human rights. The stabilizing part played by the EU has helped to transform most of Europe from a continent of war to a continent of peace.
The work of the EU represents "fraternity between nations", and amounts to a form of the "peace congresses" to which Alfred Nobel refers as criteria for the Peace Prize in his 1895 will.
Oslo, 12 October 2012"

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Politically Most Dangerous Verses of the Christian Bible (New Testament)

Romans 13:1-7
"(1) Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God.
(2) Therefore, whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
(3) For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval;
(4) for it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer.
(5) Therefore one must be subject, not only because of wrath but because of conscience. (6) For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, busy with this very thing. 
(7) Pay to all what is due them—taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due."

Throughout history, it is first and foremost this authoritarian pamphlet in St. Paul's letters to the Romans that justified the organized Christian religion to try to align with any regime regardless of how stupid, cruel or inhumane. But don't get fooled by the term 'organized religion'. The basis for this unconditional authoritarian thinking is written down explicitly in the "holy text" and holds for the ordinary believer as well. It cannot just be interpreted away, especially if you think of the apostles being "inspired by the holy spirit" and therefore speaking the truth, and their Messiah's somewhat indifferent answer to the question if you ought to pay taxes to the oppressive occupier of your country: "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." It is thus open to every fundamentalist to take these verses literally as moral justification for convincing the people to slavishly obey any political power of the day, for this power is appointed by God. Independent of the ways various rulers come to power - let it be democratic elections or coups d'etats, Christians may not resist but ought to pay taxes and revenues, show respect and honor, and try to receive approval from the authorities (and btw, this also holds for the present US president, Mr. Obama: do everything to receive his approval, folks!).

Throughout history they tried to align, even with the most detestable rulers, and as soon as circumstances allowed, Christians tried to get in power themselves. Those rare cases when some local branches of a Christian church opposed injust governments, were brutally rebuked by higher church officials. For example, Liberation Theology during the nineteen sixties and seventies in South-America was not supported by the Vatican but finally wiped off the table by today's Pope Ratzinger in his critique "Libertatis nuntius", 1984, where he denounced proponents of the fight against (US-backed) dictatorships and the terror of land-owners as Marxists (a  typical straw man argument and killer phrase). It is eye-opening to read the document, probably the best theological justification for Romans 13:1-7 on the market: the basic argument against Liberation Theology consists in the distinction between the Messiah's promise of liberation from "original sin" on the one hand, and the liberation from "servitude of an earthly and temporal kind" on the other hand. Consequently, the enslaved and tortured should first try to convert the rulers to obey Christian laws, then the rest (just and humane government) would follow automatically. Ratzinger didn't even mention the killed priests, he just joined the people who ordered these assassinations by defaming the priests as Marxists. (E.g. Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador had been killed on 24 March 1980 while celebrating Mass, and he could have hardly been viewed as Marxist.)

On the other hand, St. Paul's verses have frequently motivated regimes to align with Christian churches, and still they are doing. In the USA, every presidential candidate must seek support of Christian organisations in order to be electable, and in Putin's Russia the growing influence of the Orthodox Church is frightening. Russian political commentators often justify this move by the old Machiavellian view of religion: stupid but useful for rulers. Romans 13:1-7 provides the basis for such a mindset. During the Tsarist Era, the Russian Orthodox church enjoyed its privileges granted by the Russian aristocratic rulers. This ended abruptly after the rise of the Bolsheviks and Stalin. But as soon as Stalin was under attack by Nazi Germany, the dictator invited the Orthodox back to bed and table and the priests accepted immediately. The involvement of the Vatican with Hitler's regime is widely known. The Roman Catholic church was one of those who helped Hitler to come into power. In fact, the Reichskonkordat (1933) was one of Hitler's first success stories, "ensuring that the catholics from now on will unreservedly support the Nazi state". Hardly anybody knows that this treaty of shame is still in force today! According to Romans 13:1-7 the authority of Hitler and Stalin was from God and God established their terror regimes (and all the others). They were not a terror for good conduct, but to bad. If you have done good, you have received their approval. Don't you know that Hitler, Stalin, Cesar, Mao, Franco, Pinochet, Idi Amin, Ceausescu, ... they were all good for you? Because they were servants of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoers ... Well, if this is not highly dangerous nonsense, what else is?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

From Iraq to Iran

"He [Saddam] now has this distributed in little sites, tiny sites, tiny centrifuges the size of washing machines, and they're hidden. Are you going to find them? Iraq is a very big country. He's got 50 palaces with secret trap doors. I mean it's not going to work. It doesn't work that way. It didn't work up to now, it's not going to work." Benjamin Netanyahu

Probably Mr. Netanyahu ist still believing Saddam's WMD are there in Iraq, somewhere hidden under the hot desert sand, invisible for satellite surveillance, too tiny to be found. Yes, nobody can find them behind the secret trap doors (is '50' taken from the Thora?), they are just too tiny, pinpoint almost ... And this is probably also the reason for not finding WMD in Iraq down to the present day, they just too tiny, hidden in tiny places ...
... what a nonsense, but obviously good enough for the US-American audience; kind of oriental scary story coming from a man who knows how easily the US can be drawn into a war (see America is easy to push around or 'America Is A Thing You Can Move Very Easily'). On another occasion the minstrel sang his song with such overemphasized 'feverishly' that it sounds almost funny in our ears listening backwards through time during which no trace of WMD in Iraq other than those of the invaders have been found.

"It is simply not reflecting the reality to assume that Saddam is not feverishly working to develop nuclear weapons, as we speak.” Benjamin Netanyahu, Benjamin Netanyahu speaking to House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

And the man goes on and on. But in contrast to Richard "Dick" Cheney - who put forward his 1% Percent-Rule for attacking other countries or Colin Powell, whose infamous performance in front of the UN General Asembly has become a classic of war propaganda, dubious Mr. Netanyhu doesn't dwell for long with arguing or presenting evidence, he just tries to convince people that other nations in the Middle-East than Israel cannot be given the bomb. Thus, just as he was agitating against Iraq "we cannot allow a world in which Saddam acquires nuclear weapons", he is fear- and warmongering against Iran by evoking ad nauseam the angst of freakish Muslim leaders:  "just imagine Iranian aggression with nuclear weapons. Imagine their long range missiles tipped with nuclear warheads, their terror networks armed with atomic bombs." In fact, he only takes Cheney's 1% and multiplies it with some value big enough to blow it up to an allegedly real threat. We can call it the Netanyahoo-Factor (in other words, the amount of Chutzpah needed to make up a 1% chance of a catastrophic event to look like an absolute necessity).

How dubious is this guy? Once Israeli Newspaper Haaretz wrote about a video showing Netanjahu bragging about how he's dealing with the Oslo peace process and the "ally" USA:

"This video should have been banned for broadcast to minors. This video should have been shown in every home in Israel, then sent to Washington and Ramallah. Banned for viewing by children so as not to corrupt them, and distributed around the country and the world so that everyone will know who leads the government of Israel."

Alternatively, watch video and transcript here: ‘The world won’t say a thing’– Netanyahu on ongoing Israeli expansion"

"Netanyahu: Especially today, with America. I know what America is. America is something that can easily be moved. Moved to the right correction.
Child: They say they’re for us, but, it’s like…
Netanyahu: They won’t get in our way. They won’t get in our way."

Further reading: an article from 1996: "Spook, Terrorist or Criminal? America’s Mysterious Files on Netanyahu"