My father worked in Bangladesh for 8 years in the 80s, and in East Pakistan (what Bangladesh was called pre-independence) in the 50s. I have relatives who live in India, and I spent my summers and many Christmas vacations in Bangladesh. My mother spoke fluent Hindi (though that isn’t the language spoken in Bangladesh) as she grew up in Darjeeling and Calcutta.
Let’s run through the points.
The first is the simplest: I find it interesting that there is so much textile manufacture in Bangladesh. There was none to speak of in the 80s. Let me put it crudely, Bangladesh is way down the chain, there are very few poorer, more corrupt countries in the world outside of Africa. The textile industry is running out of cheap places to make clothes if they’re in Bangladesh.
The second is this: Bangladesh’s government will never enforce safety regulations in the textile industry. It is impossible, it will not happen. Nothing happens, nothing gets done in Bangladesh without baksheesh—bribes. Bribes are the actual salary of government employees, they are not paid enough to live decently on without them. Textile factories will be throwing off so much money, in Bangladeshi terms, that virtually anyone can be bought, and with so much money at stake, anyone who can’t be bought will be otherwise dealt with.
Which means that if textile manufacturing jobs are to made safer it must be done by the companies buying the textiles, like Joe Fresh. Only they can do it, because they control the money spigot. If unsafe work circumstances will cost the people running the factories money, they will fix it, assuming that the audits are thorough and rigorous, by incorruptible people. Those people will have to be outsiders (outsiders aren’t necessarily incorruptible, but locals can be gotten to too easily) though they will need local fixers on staff.
My prediction is that some nominal steps will be taken, but only nominal ones. You don’t do textile manufacture in a country like Bangladesh because you want safe, you do it because you want cheap. Really, really cheap. Bet on the big headline disasters being only the tip of the iceberg, with routine maimings and horrible work conditions being part of the daily life of the workers.
All that said, if you live in Bangladesh, odds are you have no options. These jobs may be horrible but they are jobs, and pay better than most of your other options. That’s why the textile companies are there, no one who has other options would work in their hellhole sweatshops.
Ultimately that comes back to us and our corporate leaders. We want cheap clothes, they want outsize profits (they don’t pass most of the “cost savings” on.) If you aren’t dirt poor yourself, I suggest you look at the label, and if it’s made in a third world country (including China), don’t buy it. It’s not much, but it’s about as much as you can do. And, generally speaking the quality of clothes will be better.
If you really want to do something about this, tie work safety to allowing clothes made in such countries to be imported to developed nations, and have the inspectors be government employees of the country where the clothes will be exported. That goes against everything our current government and corporate leaders are willing to do, however, and also offends the sensibilities of many on the left so just get used to the fact that a lot of blood stains your clothes, just like lots of blood is mixed in to your oil and is used to fertilize your food.
1) Close it.
2) Send most of the prisoners to US ultramax prisons.
e) No longer together, break their solidarity and thus resistance.
4) No longer at “Guantanamo” and with “Guantanamo” closed, break the media narrative.
Anyone who thinks Obama cares about force feeding prisoners is delusional. Bad press, on the other hand…
(As has been pointed out, this isn’t a good interview in speaking terms: I speak too fast and low, making it hard to make out what I’m saying. Be forewarned.)
We’ll touch on the surveillance state, Boston, Dorner, and the oligarchy. Feel free to listen in.
Now that the events in Boston have come to a conclusion, of sorts, let’s look at some why what happened, happened.
First, the most contentious part, and something I can’t prove yet. The two kids who did the bombing were known to the FBI. One had been interviewed by the FBI, the mother of one of them was convinced her son was under surveillance. It is likely that that the FBI knew they had explosives though they deny the boy was under surveillance. It seems likely that the FBI, Police and local prosecutor, Ortiz, made the decision to not bring them in, because they wanted a bigger arrest: they wanted a network, not just two kids. This is a problem of prosecutorial and police incentives: they wanted the big spectacular arrest, with big sentences, not just possession of explosives. So they let them stay out, and they lost that bet. Again, this is systemic, the FBI, prosecutor and police wanted a big bust, not a small one, and they gambled. Now, if you choose to believe that the FBI’s official story, that they interviewed him once, and never followed up, then they’re incompetent, which is believable, but that seems unlikely.
I trust I don’t need to point out that when people who have no need of explosives in their everyday lives start stockpiling explosives, you should take that serious, and bring them in?
Let’s walk this back, a bit, to the type of society we have, and have had for over a century. This is a society where it is impossible to restrict access to explosives. Diesel and chlorine are widely available. Up until the end of WWII and the great de-ruralization of the West, explosives were easy to get, and fertilizer, stock full of nitrates was also available. Modern society relies on the use of materials which are easily made into explosives and which cannot, actually, be restricted. Every gas station is a huge potential bomb.
So anyone who really wants to make explosives, can get the materials. It’s not hard.
In my last article on Boston, I noted that the key to reducing terrorist activities is to make people not want to do them. That means taking care of them. In societies with ready access to weapons which can kill large numbers of people, you have to make sure that people have futures, have better things to do. They must have other purposes they believe in. This isn’t just about “poverty” it is about purpose and justice. In an interconnected world this also means you have to take care of everyone—not just westerners (who are increasingly not being taken care of in any case) but Chechens, and Africans and so on. A society halfway across the world which is not taking care of its people, let alone engaged in repression, torture, systematic rape and mass murder, can blow back in the West.
Now, while it would be trivial for us to see to the basic needs of most people in the world (food and medicine could be provided for amounts of money which we waste every year), giving them purpose and meaning is a lot harder: it can’t be done under our current political, social and economic models. That’s too big a subject for me to go in to at length here, but what I will say is that it’s not beyond us as a practical matter. We could do it, if we really wanted to. We don’t. I’ve written about this extensively in the past, so my regular readers should know what I mean, those who don’t should read systematically back in my archives.
Let us move to a contentious matter: the shelter in place request, where Boston and the State asked residents to stay inside. This was not martial law, and it was not a curfew. People were asked to stay inside and were not forced to. I know people who went out, none of them were arrested. Likewise, the house searches were, in fact, voluntary (though if you’d said no I imagine a warrant would have been provided so fast your head would spin). That isn’t to say that reaching the point where you have to shut a major metropolitan area down isn’t a bad thing. Let’s examine why the decision was made.
The first part of it was that a suspect was on the loose who had explosives. He had shown a willingness to use them, had shown he was more than willing (and capable) of fighting it out with the police. If a bomber is on the loose basic doctrine is to deny the bomber targets. Large groups of people are targets.
Reason #2 is the basic doctrine of fighting guerillas, which is in effect what he was: isolate, concentrate, annihilate. In regular, every day Boston, there are crowds he could meld in to. With almost no one on the streets, it was much easier for him to be seen, at least in principle. In practice, he still just walked past the police cordon. Let’s cover that.
Reason #3 is something a lot of people don’t want to hear: your police state are incompetent. They are young and stupid, or they are Iraqi or Afghan veterans (read: burn out cases). They have essentially no fire discipline. When Dorner, the cop killer, a large African American was on the loose, there was an incident where a civilian who didn’t look anything like him was blown away by a twitchy cop.
The police have become dependent on overwhelming force. Anyone who was involved in Occupy is familiar with what I mean: they generally went after Occupy with far larger numbers of cops than the protestors had protestors. When arresting a drunk they use multiple cars. After the bombing they had large numbers of police just stand around as a matter of “confidence” building and to “deter” the bombers. They were driving down streets in motorcycle columns, evenly spaced. If the bombers had been competent, all they were doing was either providing targets (the police) or telling the bombers (who still had more explosives) where not to hit, if they didn’t want to go for cops.
So, you had cops with extremely weak fire discipline and who aren’t particularly competent. You had a suspect who probably still had bombs. To keep civilians safe, at that point, meant keeping them off the street. And by safe, we mean from both police and bombers.
This decision is at the end of a chain of decisions about the composition and training of the police. It is at the end of a societal decision about the incentives for prosecutors and the FBI. In a society which is fundamentally corrupt and venal, too many of the people in the police and security industry are not people who are in it for the right reasons. When your job is to beat up protestors (we do remember Occupy, don’t we), when you can’t believe in your own justice system, because everyone KNOWS that absolute crooks were not prosecuted after the financial crisis, and when you have created a police force which is incompetent, you have almost no choices left.
Yes, this means that smart, competent people watching this spectacle, along with the Dorner episode now know how easy it would be to shut down major metropolitan centers. Ten competent people could shut down the entire Northeastern metropolitan complex from Boston to NYC. But the other choice, given the type of security-industrial complex you have, would be to risk civilian casualties. It may come to that: if bombings become routine, rather than shut down, they will simply have to be accepted.
The reaction means there will be more bombings. Mass shootings are becoming routine and don’t get the same attention they once did. People who want to go out with a “bang” will have noticed this and understood that this is a better way to go out if they want to go out with maximum attention and impact.
Let us turn our attention to some other aspects. First, the bombers were minimally competent. They could have easily done more damage, a lot more damage. Even with the weak bombs they had there are substances they could have added which would have increased the casualties significantly. Professionals or creative amateurs could have come up with many things, things which you can buy in the local hardware store, things which can’t be restricted. A lot more people could have died.
Next, they could easily have escaped, if they’d wanted to. Immediately after the bombs went off, they could have driven north, staying off the major arteries where the cameras are, and slipped in to Canada through one of the myriad of unmarked border crossings. Or they could have headed west and quickly been far out of the dragnet, or they could have grabbed a boat and left that way.
Third: surveillance doesn’t stop this stuff. The suspects were caught on surveillance. Unless all surveillance is being watched, in real time, by competent people, all it does is give you information afterwards. And that information doesn’t have be useful.
Once more, these two were not particularly bright. They wore hats, not hoodies. They didn’t do anything significant obscure their faces. They didn’t carry extra clothes, and get out of the cameras, and change. They were not particularly competent or imaginative operationally. If you want surveillance to stop people like this, you have to hire one quarter of the population to watch the other three-quarters: you have to create the Stasi and turn the US into Eastern Germany. But even that probably wouldn’t work, because America is a lot larger than East Germany (people forget how small European nations are compared to continental nations) and because Americans are not Germans. The current attempt is to use algorithims, to teach computers to look for and “flag” suspicious behaviour and to add that to 24 hour tracking of every single person, identified every moment of the day. If that’s what you want, go for it, but you’ll find it’s a far worse society than even what you have now.
The tempo of mass killings and bombings IS going to increase. The generation coming up is much more detached from your society. They are much less likely to believe in it, to think it’s fair, to believe they can have a good life, or a purposeful life in it. They are burdened with debt, they know that one slip up can condemn them to a lousy life, they see the good jobs going, going, going and they understand, in their bones, that the society is a corrupt one. Make no mistake, bankers killed far more people than these boys, and they didn’t go to jail. The people running the plant in Texas which blew up and the bureaucrats who made the decision not to shut it down, killed more people than these kids did, and they did it for money. A society which is fundamentally unjust, and which is seen to be fundamentally unjust, is going to have more and more problems like this. The older generations still sort of believed, or still thought they could make it through. The new generations coming up, will less and less believe the myths, less and less believe that if they just play by the rules, they’ll be taken care of. Less and less believe that if they fail, well, the system is basically fair and they had it coming.
This is a matter of margins. The bell curve has been moved over, just slightly. But when you’re dealing with the margins, a slight move over will increase the number of events massively. The more it moves over, the more significantly.
Pope Paul VI once said, “If you want peace, work for justice.” He didn’t primarily mean criminal justice, he meant social justice in all its forms. A just society, which takes care of its people, has very little of this sort of violence, has competent police, has prosecutors who do their jobs properly, and so on.
A clear eyed understanding of why what happened, happened, is necessary. If you don’t want this sort of thing to happen again, or at least want to reduce its frequency (and again, this sort of thing is going to become more frequent, and you will lose if you bet against me on this), you need a different sort of society. Not just in America, not just in the West, not just in the developed world, but in the world entire. This is something which can be done. If we want to. Right now, we don’t.
Text Modified April 22, 2:47 AM EDT to indicate that there are no media reports that the FBI knew they had explosives.
“Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.”
That’s most of the necessary commentary, as Boston has already said they’ll be doing random backpack checks (unconstitutional on the face) tomorrow.
I will notice also, that this sort of thing happens all the time in Iraq, because of America and Americans, and essentially no one in the West gives two good God-damns about that.
Finally, I will note that the response to this, as the quote indicates, will be to increase the police state. In context, your lords and masters (and they consider themselves both, and by your actions and lack of them you confirm they are right) believe that new technologies have made the police state cheaper, and thus affordable. The alternative to a police state is to take care of people: widespread affluence and liberty. But the lessons of the late 19th and early 20th century, that technology makes individuals and small groups deadly, and that in modern life you cannot remove the precursor chemicals from everyone’s hands, have been forgotten, because those who lived through that period are dead, and their children are past their years in power.
And so we walk the road again. Rather than take care of everyone, we will surveil everyone, and use every attack as an excuse to crack down further.
And the elites are wrong about the cost of the police state, this time, too, because the real cost is in societal stasis, in loss of creativity and actual productive change. Police states become stagnant, and eventually they crack, because no one believes in them.
Rapists uphold the social status quo. Hackers, especially the idealistic ones, subvert it. They are far, far more dangerous to important people (who have staff and bodyguards) than rapists are.
1) Almost everything you have more than someone else is because of where you were born, and who your parents were, including your genetic endowment and your life experiences. Whether you believe in nature, nurture, or both, you don’t “deserve” squat.
2) Justification for having more than other people can, thus, only come down to whether having more means we will contribute more. Will you use your more to make society better off? Do we want you doing MORE of what you’re doing?
3) Since we don’t deserve anything, “deserve” can’t be used to deny people what they need to live and be happy.
4) Lots of people are broken, and can’t do much that’s of use. They don’t deserve that, they didn’t choose their genetics, their upraising, their parents. Perhaps they shouldn’t have more than they need to live and be happy, but that’s only based on whether we want them to do more, it’s not based on anything else.
5) It is in no one’s interest to have unhappy, sick, broken, economic zombies. Unhappy people suck to be around. Sick and broken people can’t contribute as much, and unless we’re Nazis, and bearing in mind the whole “deserve” bit, we should, ethically support them. And money spent contributes to the economy if it’s a billionaire spending it, a janitor, or someone without a job. People chained by debt and low wages bring everyone down.
6) Until we get past the idea of “deserve” we won’t ever really fix our societies. There is NO positive relationship between how much money people get and how they contribute. A cursory look at the banking sector and CEOs should prove the point to anyone who isn’t paid not to understand.
We all want to believe we’re special. Unique. That what we have, we deserve.
We don’t, or not more than almost anyone else who isn’t a monster of some sort: someone who will keep murdering or raping or stealing if given more money. Like, say, the people who run the US and Britain, the people who run the banks, and the people in the Congo who we pay to rape and murder so we can have cheap electronic goods.
Our society runs on it, it’s mixed in with your phone, your oil, your car and far more besides.
Our societies aren’t made up of anyone but us, and we bear some responsibility for what they do. This is what’ll make readers mad, me saying that, me saying that you, we, are responsible. We refuse to accept our responsibility. It’s all the fault of the politicians, the bankers, the military, the… someone else. But not you, oh no, not you. Not me. Not us.
I’ll tell you this, if you don’t accept responsibility, you don’t accept that you have the power to make change. Slaves have virtually no responsibility. Free people take responsibility. Those who aren’t free take responsibility for revolution, or they are slaves.
The world doesn’t have to run on so much blood, so much rape, so much torture, so much murder, so much sickness. It’s not necessary.
Or rather it’s not necessary if people are willing to live a different life than the suburban American life. If they’re willing to imagine a different future. But if what you want is a life where you live in your little suburban castle, driving your oil-mobile to your job, gazing at your lawn, eating factory food, then yeah, it’s necessary. If you want to maintain the current Western, the current suburban lifestyle, then people have to die. They have to be raped. They have to live sick. That’s what is required to maintain your lifestyle.
It’d be one thing if it were impossible to live a good life except by murder and rape and environmental genocide. But it’s not necessary. Depression in America has increased 10 fold in the last hundred years. Diabetes rates are through the roof. Americans and westerners are fat and getting fatter. Civil rights are being gutted, standards of living for each generation post-boomer are dropping. We’re not even living well off the blood we suck.
The rich and powerful don’t want change they can’t control, the middle class just want to live like their parents, but with smartphones.
And so people die and suffer.
Not because they deserve to, any more than we in the West deserve our lifestyle, a lifestyle created not by us but people long dead. They die because they had the bad taste to be born in the wrong place, to the wrong parents. They’re raped because they were born female in the Congo, or perhaps in some shitty little town where the sports team thinks rape is no big deal. They suffer because they can’t afford medicine, or mosquito netting, or food which could be provided for an amount of money the first world wouldn’t even notice, food that rots in our silos. They live lives of despair because we won’t move off petroleum, on to an energy source which allows everyone to contribute.
Deserve. They don’t, and we don’t.
And until we get that, until we stop allowing CEOs to pay themselves millions, until we stop allowing people who lose their jobs to suffer, until we decide that every person on Earth must be given the chance to contribute, the chance to live: until we stop throwing away human lives like dross—well, until then, we’re going to slide down, and down and down. We’re going to blow past 10 billion, and then we’re going to lose billions and many who don’t die will wish they had. We’re going to have drought, famine, war, pestilence. Mass rape as a weapon of terror. And not just in the “developing” world, oh no, it’s going to come home to the first world.
So go zen: drop deserve, and take responsibility.
The life you save might be your own. Might not, too. But it will be the life of someone you care about. Maybe your children, you friends, your family. The people you claim to love.
Because if you won’t do right by everyone, you can’t do right by those close to you.
A judge has overruled this. I’m not a lawyer, so I won’t comment on the legality, what I will say is that in this case, I actually support Bloomberg. High doses of sugar and fructose contribute to obesity and the diabetes epidemic: they kill a lot of people. A lot more people than, say, marijuana. There’s very little difference, in harm, between processed sugar/fructose in large doses and cigarettes.
You could, of course, also tax it into the ground.
I would also put limits on plate size in restaurants, and would tax fast food very heavily, along with increasing the minimum wage to at least $14/hour. Get rid of ALL the corn subsidies and move them over to subsidizing small independently owned farms growing vegetables while taxing large corporate owned farms at higher rates (about half the remaining family owned farms in America went out of business during the last drought, I’m given to understand.) All of those things would have significant beneficial health effects. If you believe in markets (not free markets, there are no such things) you believe also that incentives have effects. Change the incentives and you change the behaviour.
Oh, and tax the heck out of lawns, which do nothing but waste water, and make it legal everywhere (by making it a requirement for a federally conforming mortgage) to grow and sell vegetables at your home.