October 20, 2011

On the other hand, Moammar, you only missed one day

I'd nearly forgotten that tomorrow is It. Despite suffering a stroke in June, Harold Camping, noted East Bay eschatologist, tinkered with his End Times algorithm, crunched the numbers, and came up with this:

"I do believe we're getting very near the very end," Camping, 90, said during a podcast recorded earlier this month and posted on his Family Radio website. "Oct. 21, that's coming very shortly, that looks like it will be, at this point, it will be the final end of everything." SF Chronicle, October 20 (gulp), 2011.

Just as a style note, I think if you're going to be in the end-of-the-world prediction business, you owe it to your public not to use weasel words like "very near the very end." In terms of the age of the Earth (6,000 years, of course), very near the very end could be a year away from the blowing of the Trumpet and still be "very near," since we only have 1/6,000th of our allotted time left. Also, the "final end of everything" doesn't really "look like" anything else except, you know, the final end of everything. Sui generis, as they say. A unique occurrence. (I suppose; I mean God, who always "just was" according to the tenets of Abrahamic religions, could easily have created a lot of these diversions. This time through, He invented quantum theory, introducing the element of chance into causality maybe as a means of concealing from Himself what was going to happen next. After 6,000 years of watching the incredible suffering of all the sentient beings He created, He figured it all out [He is omniscient, you know, and it's up to Him to decide what He doesn't want to know and for how long] and the fun went out of the game. Even if Einstein said that God "did not play dice" with the Universe. Au contraire, Albert: He is the Croupier in the Sky.)

Still, I think the operating instructions for the Universe are very, very complicated, and I am willing to bet one million dollars against a buck that the sun will rise as usual on October 22, 2011, and that Harold Camping is not actually some version of a modern-day Nostradamus but is instead a senile fruitcake.

Anyway, Moammar, sorry you won't be around for the day after the Final Day. Our bloodthirsty foreign policy as conducted by the Nobel Peace Prize Winner, in which we "capture or kill" all the Bad Guys, and yet never seem to do any of the "capturing" part, requires periodic, and increasingly frequent, instances of murder and mayhem to keep the folks riled up back home, sort of like Aztecs with virgins. Two years ago you were shaking hands with President Obama, you were a big player in the oil markets, you were on our list of Most Favored Dictator-Thugs. Unfortunately, Facebook and Twitter brought down the strongmen in Tunisia and Egypt, and we let it happen since there's no oil to speak of in either shithole sand pile, and then this "popular democratization" thing just sort of got out of hand. And with assurances from the rebels that they wouldn't do anything wild and crazy, like nationalize the oil industry in Libya, we got on board with our newly-found love for the "common Arab" (as long as those Arabs don't live in countries like Saudi Arabia, which attacked us on 9-11, or Bahrain, where we supply the autocrats with weapons and airplanes to suppress the "freedom fighters" there). You had to pay the price, Moammar, because we could use you as the exception that proves the rule, and if you can't figure that out now, well, what possible difference can it make to you.

October 18, 2011

A few notes on attending the local OWS

Ours had Roy Zimmerman performing, so that's already a good start (see picture).

It was a low-key affair, as one might expect in our community. No one gets too worked up about anything, especially on such a nice day. I would say the mood was overwhelmingly "liberal," but then so is the county.

Just a few ideas: I don't really think it's wise to cast the OWS movement as class warfare, or to use lines of demarcation such as 99% versus 1%. The real break points are not so much income-related; in our culture, where medicine is practiced for profit, for example, many of the high earners are in such fields as neuro-and cardiovascular surgery, and other arcane specialties. Depending on how you feel about allopathic medicine (with its exorbitant waste and poor efficiency), you may or may not think surgeons pulling down high six-figure or low seven-figure incomes "deserve" what they make, but their incomes do not present a political problem, per se. They pay a lot of income and FICA tax, in fact, as do rock stars, superstar athletes and other social icons. But this, again, does not have much to do with the fundamental problem, which is the disenfranchisement of the American electorate through corrupt politics. The politics in Washington, D.C. are completely unresponsive to the needs of the American commoner, as the Empire simply acts to serve its own interests.

I think that's the major issue. Until money is removed as the driving force from politics, there is no hope for reforming the American political system. I'm very dubious there is any hope anyway, simply because the reason that money became the controlling force in politics was the hyper-concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands through monopolization (mergers, Big Box consolidation, etc.) and the rise of the multinational corporation, on one hand, and the "financialization" of the American economy on the other. The latter tendency (by which about 40% of all corporate profits are generated through the paper-shuffling work in the FIRE industries of finance, insurance and real estate) has joined Big Finance to federal government at the hip - all these businesses are "too big to fail," and yet are now dependent on the money-creation games of the Federal Reserve in order to survive. How does the economy, acting through its elected officials, go about the orderly redistribution of wealth so that the economy is again diversified without a complete collapse? Something to ponder.

And would a system of publicly-financed political campaigns actually work any better in the United States anyway? As I've said before, the United States is the one Western democracy which has Third World size (over 300 million people) joined to a modern economy. The country is simply too big and the candidates running for office too remote from the electorate for anything other than the election of imagery. The last couple of presidential elections are probably good evidence that the system simply doesn't work anymore.

If I were an OWS honcho writing a platform, I would revive the idea of a Constitutional convention which would completely revamp the electoral system. Get rid of the direct election of a President and move to a parliamentary system (a unicameral legislature) where a primus inter pares system, as in Great Britain, is used whereby the representatives themselves elect one of their number to serve as Prime Minister (or President) for one term not to exceed six years. Such a system could encourage the formation of additional parties, since all politics, in effect, would become local. The general populace would only vote for members of parliament and leave the executive decisions to those (closer-at-hand) representatives. The single legislative house could be increased to 1,000 members or so, so that the anti-democratic tendencies of the present system were smoothed out somewhat (populous states being under-represented on a per capita basis).

Anyway, the OWS movement does need an agenda at some point, because otherwise it will devolve into pointless anarchy or will be hijacked by special pleaders in its midst. People in OWS are doing the right thing, but they are people and subject to the usual foibles.