The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Category: Civil Liberties Page 1 of 8

Freezing and Seizing Bank Accounts To Stop Protests And End Bail Funds & Protests

RICO, as you may know, is a law passed in 1970, meant to be used against the Mafia. It allows the government to seize money before a guilty verdict if there is a “pattern” of racketeering (defined very widely).

Of course, once you seize someone’s money, they generally can’t hire a defense lawyer, so they tend to have to plead. I respect public defenders greatly, but if you’re in real trouble using one is a crapshoot at best and even the best ones can’t put in the time and work a private defense lawyer can.

Back in 2008 I suggested using RICO against the banksters: there was a pattern of fraud. I did this because I hated the banksters and I hate RICO, and the best way to get rid of bad law is to use it against important people. (Same reason I wanted the banksters thrown into nasty prisons.)

Anyway, RICO is just one way to do what is becoming more and more common: seizing or freezing the money of those the government of the day dislikes, so they can’t oppose the government. Although I disagreed with the Canadian Truck protesters, freezing their without first convicting them of a crime was a tyrannical act. This strategy has been used against unions and protesters, and is why, as far back as 20 years ago, I was arguing that unions needed to find an organizing model which didn’t require a freezable or seizable bank account.

Domestic terrorism laws are also being used for this, and again, many people warned they would be. You think you’re creating a law to go after the Mafia or Nazis, but such laws are always abused. The rule of law is not “what would good people do with this law” but “what would bad people do with this law” because that’s always where it ends up. (And prosecutors in America are almost always bad people, though that’s another article.)

Yesterday we had what is (so far not a RICO case, but it looks like it might wind up being) this used in Atlanta to go after a bail fund:


Bail itself is an abomination: a way of throwing poor people in prison while rich people walk free (unless their money has been frozen.) It’s vastly unjust and clear class warfare of the most common kind: the rich and powerful versus the poor and weak.

This sort of stuff is also why any movement away from paper cash towards all electronic systems must be resisted vigorously. The more you have no way to keep money out of the system, the more the system can be used to crush you. Any all-electronic money system will eventually be abused by those in power, even the “mostly electronic” systems we have are now regularly abused. (Regular readers will notice this is related to the recent article on how dominant systems want people out.)

But the basic principle is simple, no law should be legal if it inflicts punishment before conviction. The only (small) carve-outs must be for people who are a genuine imminent threat and even such cases must be rare.

Of course, to do this,  you need fast trials. You can’t have a system where it takes two years or more for a person to get their time in front of a judge and jury. The simple fixes for this is that if the government doesn’t give you a trial in certain amount of time, six months perhaps being a good upper bound, you get off. It should probably be less than six months, 3 months for complicated cases and 1 month for simple cases seems far more reasonable.

But, some may argue, “if we did that most people would go free.”

Well, yeah. Because the US justice system (and the UK one) are criminalizing way too much stuff. If your crime rate is too high for your justice system to keep up with something is wrong with your laws and your society. Probably a lot of somethings.

In the meantime, if you’re going to oppose the government or important corporations, whether from right or left, remember that, increasingly, the first thing they will do is go after your money. If they can’t nail you with a “crime” yet, this may just be credit card companies and/or other payment processors suddenly deciding they don’t want you as a customer as happened to Wikileaks, MintPress and many others, but piss off the wrong people and they’ll find someway of smashing you, using laws that should never have been on the books, or just using administrative sanctions and daring you to do anything about it when you’re suddenly broke and worried about food and having a roof over your head.

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Analyzing The Trans Panic

This is an article I’ve been avoiding writing for a few years now because there’s no upside to it, much like a man weighing in on feminism or a white person writing about first nations or anyone who isn’t a racist piece of garbage writing about Israel. But because trans-rights have become a political wedge issue, I feel it has become necessary to discuss them.

I’m fifty-five years old. When I was growing up two things were true about transvestites (which we universally thought of as male to female). People didn’t like them, and people mostly didn’t think it was any of their business unless they were tricked into a romantic or sexual encounter with one.

I don’t want to underplay how much they were disliked. Watch the end of the first Ace Ventura movie to get a feel for it.

But I don’t remember many people saying transvestites (or drag queens) didn’t have a right to exist. Now, admittedly, this is the late 70s and 80s and 90s, not the 50s and 60s.

The current panic needs a dissection. It’s obviously something which conservatives have vastly amplified in an attempt to use it as a wedge issue, so they can roll back advances on GLBTQ rights. I say obviously because they’re the ones pushing it hardest, alongside one group of essentialist feminists, the TERFs. Conservatives always love to find an otherwise leftish group to work with: in the past they often worked with anti-porn feminists (whom I have some sympathy for.)

A wedge issue is meant to split. Split a coalition, split the public. Carve the T and Q off GLBTQ as gays, lesbians and bi-sexuals scramble to protect themselves and get mommy and daddy to associate cross-dressing with their kids and feel queasy about it, rather than with those two nice gays or lesbians who want to marry, or the bisexual whose bed-partners have nothing to do with them.

There are three main avenues of attack. Sports, safety in female only spaces like bathrooms, and “save the kiddies.”

Let’s start with sports. There’s a lot of back and forth on this and disagreeing studies, but my take on this is simple enough. If you’ve gone thru puberty as a man you’re going to have an advantage in certain sports due to skeletal structure. I used to run. Look at men running and women running: women’s mechanics are different and less efficient due to wider hips. It’s just that simple. In some gender divided sports I’m not sure that trans-women should be allowed to compete, as a matter of fairness. I don’t see an issue with trans-men competing in most sports, but it may turn out that there are some sports in which female puberty is an advantage. There are certainly sports where the best women are worlds better than the best men (real long distance swimming, as one example, though it seems like most of the advantage would go away with hormone treatment.)

Sports is fairly niche, however. The second issue is female only spaces, mostly public bathrooms. The bottom line here is that there doesn’t seem to be much trans-on-normie violence, but a ton of normie-on-trans violence and that trans-women are at great risk if forced to use men’s bathrooms. Trans-women get raped and beaten a lot and men’s bathrooms are a bad place for them. The “other” stigma combined with the fact that any post-hormone treatment transwoman is unlikely to be able to hide what she is makes them big obvious targets that a significant minority of men thinks it’s OK to rape or beat. A transwoman, while she has some skeletal advantages in sports where small advantages add up to victory, is not a big physical threat to other women, and there is no evidence of a wave of trans-women violence, though there have been some individual cases. The bathroom stuff is a panic, and largely irrational.

Now, the kids thing. This is the real problem, and this is what has people most worked up over and outraged. The first step is to admit that there’s some reason for it.

Understand clearly, the evidence is that people who go thru puberty as their preferred gender, having never gone thru puberty as their non-preferred gender have better outcomes, both psychologically and medically/physically. This is pretty settled.

But we have a culture where an ten to thirteen  year old isn’t supposed to make any important decisions for themselves. Our children, including out teenagers below the age of 18, are chattel. Their parents and other authorities make all the important decisions, with the state having the right to override the parents.

This is a time and social bounded case and has not been the situation in all societies. It’s good we don’t have child labor, but the lack of it means that we have come to believe that children and teens (really two different things) are incapable of making their own decisions well or of knowing what is good for them. Further, because of the amount of hormones in our food and water the age of typical puberty has dropped significantly. Many children used to hit puberty as late as 14, that’s rare now.

The problem is that outcomes ARE better if the decision is made at (or rather just before) puberty onset. Again, this isn’t in doubt.

But, yes, it’s a big decision and you’re given hormones to go thru puberty in your non-biological gender, that’s going to lead to worse outcomes if you change your mind.

To the best of my knowledge, however, fewer people change their mind than stick with it and who believe they made the right choice, at least with the time-limited data we have so far.

The other issue related to this is the use of hormone blockers. (Oddly I’m on hormone blockers right now, as they’re standard in one treatment protocol for cancer.)

Understand clearly: the vast majority of evidence and this evidence was accumulated before kid-trans became an issue, is that early puberty is bad for kids: they’re unhappy, they do less well in school, etc. Late puberty is associated with happier and better adjusted kids. Add that to the fact that puberty now comes earlier than it did before we polluted our food and water and a couple years on puberty blockers is close to a non-issue. Hormone blockers do sometimes cause medical issues, so they aren’t risk free, but the risks of growing up as the non-prefferred gender are significant.

But the bottom line here is simple. Should children be able to make their own decisions? Can they? There’s lots of conservative claims that children are unduly influenced by parents or teachers or whatever to become trans, but a cold eye that notices that being a transvestite is still looked on negatively by most of the population leads to the calculation that it’s more likely they’ll be persuaded away becoming trans than towards becoming trans.

Influence or no, though, the problem is that the decision to be trans is best made just before puberty, because not undergoing the other gender’s puberty leads to the best outcomes. This is a decision which should be made by young teens, and our society thinks that young teens shouldn’t make important decisions.

The body in question, however, and the future, is theirs. They are the ones who have to live with it. I am aware of no vast social interest in whether or not transvestites exist. As for the surgery, just leave that decision till they’re legal adults. But the hormone therapy decision should be made young and perhaps, for once, we should allow children to make a decision that matters to them, with the input of their family and doctors, when they need to make it to get the best results.

As for the politics, fuck the right. If people don’t own their own bodies and have the right to make decisions about them, they own nothing. The only reason this is an issue at all is because it involves children and we treat children like property. The rest of it is politically driven moral-panic bullshit. The existence of transvestites, male or female, does not harm you in the vast majority of circumstances (elite athletics is a tiny issue and bathrooms are largely bullshit) and is none of your goddamn business. Mind your own business and let them mind theirs.

(A summary from Scientific American of the evidence.)

Edit: Corrected to indicate improved psychological outcomes (very robust) and some issues from hormone blockers.

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And Roe Is Gone: What’s Coming Up on the Chopping Block?

No surprise, leaked opinion was accurate. There’s a decent map here of what it will mean on the ground:

Republicans have spent generations stacking courts, doing whatever they could to put ideologues there. They understood what appointments meant.

If you think Democrats are going to do anything meaningful about this, you are delusional. Democratic leadership does not care, though they’ll fundraise on the issue:

The next time Republicans have the Senate, House, and Presidency they’ll pass a nationwide abortion ban.

Meanwhile, restrictions on guns will be increasingly struck down. Cops no longer have to read people their Miranda rights. Republicans want gay marriage gone. I think they’ll continue to allow cross-race marriages, at least as long as Thomas is on the court, and maybe longer, as they’ll need Hispanic votes. Free public schooling is also likely to go in many states. Contraceptives will be made illegal in many places.

America, fuck’yeah.


The Democratic Bargain, Abortion and Responsibility

The Problem With Aristocrats Is That They Inflict What They Can Never Suffer

— (someone else, can’t find the original)

The democratic bargain, or really, the bargain of all civilization that is worthy of existing, is based on the idea of resolution of conflict by means other than violence. Band level hunter gatherers are much more egalitarian than we are, and are generally better off on most metrics than anyone except industrial age humans (who they are still better off than in terms of free time, equality, dental health and female hip width) but they usually have higher levels of violence than we do.

Early civilizations were also shockingly violent and extremely cruel, both to their own residents (not citizens, residents) and to those nearby. “An eye for an eye” wasn’t even the law: punishments for crimes were often excessive, feuds were common and often lead to far more death and suffering than the original crime being avenged.

In civilizations and especially in democracy, at least in theory, the idea is that we give up our private right to determine what is right and wrong and especially our private right to take justice into our own hands. In exchange we avoid the evils of vengeance and feuds and reduce the amount of internal violence. (Native Americans might not think that British democracy reduced violence, though, note, nor did Rome’s neighbours think Republican Rome reduced violence towards them.)

In Democracy we elect people to make and enforce our laws, and to implement policy. This is based on the idea that people we elect will act largely in the interests of society as a whole, and thus that more people will be better off. Because it is impossible to make policy or laws without harming at least a few people, those who run society are supposed to be disciplined not by violence but by legal means and thru the ballot box.

However, representative democracy (not direct democracy, which has other failure modes), especially when combined with capitalism, tends to fall into oligarchy. There are multiple forms of oligarchy, an oligarchy isn’t always rich, but under capitalism those with the most money tend to form the core of any oligarchy, even if it has some sort of base in the population. There would be no right wing in America of the current sort, or the world, without the massive financial support of the Koch brothers and other extremely rich individuals.

The end result of this is governments which act against the interests and desires of the majority. The Princeton oligarchy study found that, for all intents and purposes, the opinions of most of the American population have no effect on legislation.

Oligarchies are a form of aristocracy, and aristocracies have three fundamental principles:

  1. Aristocrats are the best people and deserve their wealth, power and privileges.
  2. Aristocrats as a class should never lose their power; and,
  3. Individual aristocrats should never be held responsible for their actions unless they harm other aristocrats or their interests;

There are two issues here.

First, democracies which become aristocratic oligarchies stop acting in the interests of the majority.

Second, the members of an aristocratic oligarchy don’t suffer what they inflict.

For well over 40 years now productivity and wages have not risen together, for example, where before they did. This is a direct result of policy, both legislative (massive tax cuts and regulatory changes) and monetary, central banks acting to “control inflation” by suppressing wages on theory that “wage push inflation” is the only important type of inflation, while also acting to increase asset prices held by the rich, like stocks, bonds and real estate.

Likewise, starting in the 70s many types of drugs were made illegal, but the rich don’t tend to be arrested for doing them, either because their drugs are legal, or by simple lack of enforcement, as with the widespread use of cocaine amongst elites in the 80s and 90s.

I recently read someone claiming that Federal Reserve members had “skin in the game” because they had to live in America, which is a massive misuse of the idea, akin to saying that Jeff Bezos and workers in his warehouses both have interests in common. Well, sort of. Or that just because they are Americans Bill Gates and homeless person both have skin in the game.

Yeah, OK. And the Queen and Boris Johnson have skin in the British game, just like food bank users and people who die from NHS cuts.

In 2008 there was a huge financial crisis, starting in the US, but spreading thru much of the world.

It was caused by the actions of executives in the financial sector and as a result, essentially every brokerage and most banks were, had they taken their losses, bankrupt. If the normal course had been allowed, they would have lost all their money, and thus their power

Aristocrats, as a class, must never lose their money or power. (Money is power, in our societies.)

The Federal Reserve and the Treasury department stepped in, with some legislative help, and saved them. The cost for saving them was, at the time, for America alone, something like 20 trillion dollars.

Some ordinary people were bailed out, but the vast majority weren’t.

Later, when banks foreclosed homes because of the financial crisis’s fallout, they fraudulently signed legal documents, en-masse, stating that they had title to the properties they were foreclosing. They were allowed to foreclose anyway, and they were not prosecuted for this clear crime.

Democracies which become aristocratic oligarchies stop acting in the interests of the majority.

As for the crimes which lead up to the crisis, of which there were many, most of the bubble, especially in the last two years, they were not prosecuted, but instead they were fined for amounts less than they had made, thus immunizing them from criminal penalties.

Aristocrats should never be held responsible for their actions,  unless they hurt other aristocrats.

The one major prosecution was of Bernie Madoff. Madoff had victimized out members of the elite, not the general public.

So, the system operated to save the rich and powerful and when saving them was in opposition to saving regular people it not only didn’t save them, it allowed the rich and powerful to victimize them further.

Much of this was illegal by the law at the time, but a lot of it was legal. Aristocracies make laws that favor those in power. They create policies which favor the already powerful and rich.

And, as the Princeton study showed, they ignore majority opinion if it contradicts elite preference.

Let us now move to abortion, the issue of the day. A majority of the population wanted to keep Roe vs. Wade, by about a 2:1 margin.

Some years ago I asked my father, a very conservative guy, his position on abortion. He said he didn’t like it but believed it should be legal. I asked why. “Because I saw what happened when it was illegal. Rich women got abortions, and poor women didn’t.”

Let us say that abortion becomes effectively illegal. Do you think that the wives, sisters and daughters of the rich and powerful will still have access to them?

We all know the answer.

Aristocrats inflict what they never must suffer.

An example given by, I think, Nassim Taleb, used the Roman Republic. When Hannibal wiped out a huge Roman army at Cannae, one-third of the Roman Senate’s members were killed. They fought in battles.

What important politician or rich person of the last two generations died in any of America’s wars? Most didn’t even fight, including Bush Jr., Trump and Clinton all of whom weaseled out of the Vietnam war using dubious means.

Now let’s bring this back. One of the benefits of civilization is the reduction of violence which comes from prohibiting people from taking vengeance or justice (not the law) into their own hands. The benefit of Democracy is supposed to be that the government acts in the interests of the majority of the population, and liberal democracy it is supposed to also protect the rights of minorites against the majority.

This is what the legitimacy of civilization and democracy rest on. In exchange for these benefits, people don’t make life unpleasant for people with power, they don’t get vengeance themselves and so on.

I’ve seen the argument that protesting outside the houses of Supreme Court justices is illegal. It is. Hiding slaves was illegal. Blacks riding at the front buses was illegal. Strikes were illegal. Almost nothing that the Nazis did was illegal when they did it, because they were in power and made the laws.

What the French aristocracy did before the revolution was legal, and so was what the Russian aristocracy did.

Legality isn’t justice, even in good societies, though sometimes it approximates it.

But when legitimacy is broken: when civilization or democracy or liberalism doesn’t provide what it’s supposed to do, people stop caring so much about what is legal.

Nobody on the supreme court is going to be affected negatively by the loss of Roe. They and their friends and families, all of whom are rich, powerful or both, will still be able to get abortion when needed or when they want them. They, their daughters, wives and sisters will not die of untreated ectopic pregnancies or bleed out from back alley abortions.

And, as a commenter pointed out, the supreme court did rule that protests outside the houses of abortion doctors were constitutionally protected free speech, but protests outside their houses aren’t.

The evil of aristocracy is that aristocrats inflict what they never suffer.

If you are a member of the American elite life has never been better. You are the richest rich the world has ever known, even richer than in the Gilded Age. For over 40 years salaries, stock options, stocks and other assets like real-estate have just gone up and up and up, and when they haven’t the government, often in the form of the Fed, has stepped into to make sure they do.

Meanwhile ordinary people increasingly can’t afford houses, rent or medical care and where one salary could support a 4 person family, now 2 often can’t. (Ignore the official inflation and wage adjusted stats, and focus on reality, the stats don’t tell the picture and everyone knows it.)

Life gets better and better for the elite; the aristocrats and some of their retainer class, and shittier for almost everyone else.

There isn’t really a social contract, but there is legitimacy, and our elites have broken it. Since they have broken it, I will gently suggest that expecting those will die or suffer in large numbers due to their decisions to respect them or their laws is unreasonable.

When Jared Diamond tried to figure out why societies collapse, he dug into many civilization collapses and found out they almost all had one thing in common: the decision makers were cut off from the consequences of their decisions. Things were getting worse for almost everyone else, but everything was good for them, and often even improving, so they did nothing.

Eventually that broke. Sometimes due to environmental collapse; sometimes economic collapse; sometimes invasion; sometimes rebellion; and sometimes a combination or all of them at once.

Our aristocratic oligarchy is inflicting on others what they won’t suffer, even as they enrich themselves and pat themselves on the back about how they deserve everything they have.

That is leading where it always does, and it starts with the loss of legitimacy.

Those who protest rudely when those who will never suffer what they inflict hurt them or kill them, are minor in this context, but they are a sign of what is to come.

And that will be far worse than some judges being made uncomfortable or scared. It will be an age of war and revolution, throughout the world, and it will also be an age where some of their victims decide that if they are to suffer, their victimizers will suffer too.

This means either full on dystopian police states or an age of assassination and rebellion, and probably both.

This is what our aristocrats have sowed, and they will reap it. Alas, so will the rest of us. In the meantime, those who try and intrude on their bubbles and make their displeasure known are actually doing them a favor, offering them one last (and it is very close to last) chance to course correct.

History suggest they won’t, but occasionally it does happen, and we must hope for that occasionally.


Losing Roe And The New Dred Scott

So, Roe is to be overturned. This has been coming for a long time. Democrats were worthless and didn’t fight, RBG betrayed those who worship her when she refused to resign when she got a cancer with a 90% death rate and Obama had a supermajority. (In the end Roe would have been lost anyway, but she moved up the clock.)

What needs to be understood about the loss of Roe is that states with anti-abortion laws are going to make them extra-territorial: they’re going to make it illegal to go to another state for an abortion. They will try and extradite people who do, and if they return to the state they live in, well, they’ll be arrested. Given surveillance abilities today, many women who thought no one knew will find out someone did: if you track your periods on your phone, or if you are foolish enough to carry your phone to a clinic. Perhaps even if you use your phone to call a clinic.

Phones are bugs and taps we carry with us voluntarily, after all.

Roe is, of course, only the start. Conservatives have a 5/4 majority for horrid things, and they will go after gay marriage, school integration, teaching evolution in schools and eventually (given Thomas is unlikely to annul his own marriage) mixed raced marriages.

I would also expect an assault on the decisions which allowed the New Deal: which is to say the right to regulate banks, to provide social security and medicare, and, of course, a further gutting of Obamacare.

Voting and demonstrations which bother no one will not fix this. If you want it fixed you’re going to have to let politicians and judges know, personally, in ways they can’t ignore, that this is unacceptable. That will entail risk to you, and may not be worth it to enough people.

There are no such thing as innate rights: all rights are political, and all of politics is a matter of force and power. Sometimes that fact is kept out of sight so as not to offend the delicate, but power is the only thing that ever matters.

Do people who want abortion rights and other civil liberties have enough power to keep them? Remember that you don’t have power you won’t use.

I hope we find out they do.

(And don’t count on fleeing to Canada or Mexico. If a Republican government puts the pressure on, there’s a good chance our government will fold. Canadian and Mexicans understand what American governments do to those who cross them.)


Texas’s Effective Anti-Abortion Law

No abortions after six weeks, any private citizen can sue anyone who “aids and abets” a private abortion, and while there is a medical exception, no exception for rape or incest.

I remember a friend who drove his friend to get an abortion, she didn’t have a car. He’d certainly be sued under this law.

Most women don’t know they’ve pregnant at six weeks, so this is an obvious attempt to make almost all abortions illegal.

An ordinary American, from Texas or elsewhere, may now be able to seek up to $10,000 (£7,200) in damages in a civil court against abortion providers and doctors – and possibly anyone at all involved in the process. That means people like clinic staff, family members, or clergy who encourage or support the procedure could, in theory, be sued.

Turning over enforcement of the Heartbeat Act to private citizens instead of government officials likely means that – in the absence of Supreme Court intervention – the law cannot be challenged until a private citizen seeks damages.

The Supremes have refused to intervene, telling us what we all know: Roe vs. Wade is a dead letter.

I asked my father about abortion once. He was a life-long conservative, though of the old school, and he was personally anti-abortion. But he wanted abortion to be legal. That seemed…odd.

He said, “Ian, I remember when abortion was illegal. All it meant was that women with money still got abortions, and that those who didn’t have money either couldn’t get one, or had to get a dangerous one. You see one women bleed out from an illegal abortion, and your views change.”

My father was one of the world’s biggest assholes, but he was a fair man in most ways.

I get why some people are anti-abortion; I understand the moral argument. But I’m not willing to tell someone else she has to spend nine months gestating a baby; there is a moral argument there, too, and I consider it more important.

In particular, when women can be raped and forced to bear the baby (this is the Texas law), then they are not free.

Texas recently had a huge power outage and the power providers who failed made huge windfall profits. It’s trying to get through an extreme election-fixing bill. It’s generally a regressive state with awful laws.

I would not do business there, and if I lived there and did not follow its politics, I would leave if I could. If I were in charge of a corporation I would not put any offices or factories there. (But then, this is true of much of the South, and not just the South.)

I can already hear people screeching, “Stay and fight!” but remember, people who fight when they’re on the ground and surrounded by guys with steel-toed boots get hurt bad or killed.

The main argument is just that this is the thin edge: What’s coming to Texas now will be coming to you very soon. Roe vs. Wade is doomed; Republican Trumpists are taking over the party apparatus to ensure the next coup attempt succeeds, and Democrats are doing nothing to stop any of this.

Leaving Texas probably isn’t enough.

The best case scenario is probably the US splitting up peacefully. That will be unfortunate for those left-behind, but it beats the entire country falling, or a civil war.

In the meantime, take this stuff seriously: It is the future, and not just in the US.

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Way Past Time to Leave America

I wrote this article in January of 2010. I’m re-posting it because, alas, it is STILL important. I had some hope Biden could at least put through a good economic package; I was wrong.

My errors are far more often on the side of “hope” and optimism than pessimism, which is something people who consider me a pessimist get wrong.

I have updated commentary after the piece.

The Unvarnished Truth About the US

I’ve been meaning to write this post for some time and in light of yesterday’s Supreme Court decision allowing unlimited corporate money into the political system, I think it’s time.

Yesterday’s decision makes the US a soft fascist state. Roosevelt’s definition of fascism was control of government by corporate interests. Unlimited money means that private interests can dump billions into elections if they choose. Given that the government can, will, and has rewarded them with trillions, as in the bailouts, or is thinking about doing so in HCR, by forcing millions of Americans to buy their products, the return on investment is so good that I would argue that corporations have a fiduciary duty to their shareholders to buy out government – after all, if you pay a million to get a billion, or a billion to get a trillion, that’s far far better returns than are available anywhere else.

And no politician, no political party, can reasonably expect to win when billions are arrayed against it.

The one faint hope is that politicians in the Senate will panic, know they have ten months to do something and ram something through. Of course, that will only be a stopgap measure, until the Supremes overthrow it, but in the meantime, maybe Dems will get serious about the Supreme Court and not rubber-stamp radical right-wingers like Alito and Roberts.

That is, however, a faint hope.

Add to this the US’s complete inability to manage its economic affairs, and its refusal to fix its profound structural problems, whether in the financial system, the education system, the military, concrete infrastructure, technology, or anything else, and I cannot see a likely scenario where the US turns things around. The US’s problems in almost every area amount to “monied interests are making a killing on business as usual, along with ologopolistic markets, and will do anything they can to make sure the problem isn’t fixed.”

Even before they had the ability to dump unlimited money into the political system, they virtually controlled Washington. This will put their influence on steroids. Any congressperson who goes against their interests can be threatened by what amounts to unlimited money. And any one who does their bidding can be rewarded with so much money their reelection is virtually secure.

This decision makes the US’s recovery from its decline even more unlikely than before -— and even then, it was still very unlikely. Absolute catastrophe will have to occur before people are angry enough, and corporations weak enough, for there to even be a chance.

So, my advice to my readers is this:

If you can leave the US, do. Most of the world is going to suffer over the next decades, but there are places which will suffer less than the US, places that have not settled for soft fascism and a refusal to fix their economic problems. Fighting to the very end is very romantic, and all, but when you’re outnumbered, outgunned, and your odds of winning are miniscule, sometimes the smartest thing to do is book out. Those who came to to the US understood this, they left countries which were less free or had less economic hope than the US, and they came to a place where they thought freedom and opportunity reigned.

That place, that time, is coming to an end. For your own sake, and especially for the sake of your children, I tell you now -— it is time to get out.

I am not the only person thinking this. Even before the decisions, two of my savviest American friends, people with impeccable records at predicting the US meltdown, told me that within the next few years they would be leaving.

There’s always hope, and those who choose to stay might stop this terminal decline.

But you need to ask yourself, seriously, if you are willing to pay the price of failure, if you are willing to have your children pay the price of failure. Because it will be very, very steep.

I understand that not everyone can leave the US. Look within the US for places that will be least affected. I don’t know what those are. I suggest being willing to adopt “protective” coloring; if you aren’t, and things go really south, understand that the right (and a big chunk of what passes for the center in the US) is itching to do a purge of left-wingers and, indeed, of a lot of centrists (the Clintons, for example).

Next, I’m Canadian, and despite our image, things aren’t going great in Canada. We are badly infected by US-style politics, but even if we happen to win against them (not a sure bet at all — and remember my comment about my errors being errors of optimism), we are a US satrapy which the US may decide to take direct control of. Even if they don’t, Canada cannot realistically resist most US demands if the US is serious; well, not without steps Canada has refused to take, like getting a credible deterrent.

Smart Jews fled Germany to other European nations, and wound up in the camps anyway.

Canada and Mexico (a completely failing state) may well not be far enough away.

Next: Understand that the world IS moving towards a new cold war. It looks like China/Russia + allies vs. America/Europe plus allies, at least so far. There is some chance that Europe will try to go third-path, but so far it is choosing to go with the US, despite misgivings. You can see this in its rejection of Huawei 5G, after a great deal of wavering. Some countries even started to deploy 5G, and are now dismantling it.

There are some other considerations, like China now competing with Germany more than being a customer, but overall Europe seems to be choosing the current hegemon over the new rising one. This is a startling failure on the part of Jingping (who is incompetent at almost everything except controlling the Party). Other countries should be falling into China’s arms, but China now wants to be a bully, too; to reap the rights of being powerful.

So, where you settle will have a lot to do with your future mobility; which part of the walled internet you’re in and so on. Look at countries and consider which side they’ll be on, or if or how they might manage the neutrality dance. This will matter for extradition, visiting the relatives, what technology you use and much more (Russia, for example, is where people in the US really want go, not because Russia is great (it’s a mafia state) but because Russia won’t extradite).

It is, of course, possible that I am wrong, and the US will pull it out. Every great nation (“great” is not a synonym for “good”) pulls it out over and over again until they don’t. England lost an empire then created another, for example, but Britain seems unlikely to exist soon: Both Northern Ireland and Scotland will likely go, and it’ll just be England and Wales again (and even Wales may go in 20 to 30 years, which would be losing a possession conquered 800 years ago).

So, it’s always possible that the US will pull it out. History goes in waves: There was a Gilded Age before, and it ended. That may happen again this time, either by force or luck of disaster.

That said, I don’t think that’s where the smart money is, and you’ll be gambling with more than your life.

If you do stay, remember that you have two defenses: (1) Other people who care for you and will fight with you (fight is not entirely a metaphor here), and; (2) Anonymity: Sliding along with no one really knowing anything about you and your beliefs (far harder than it once was).

All of this is complicated by climate change and environmental collapse putting pressure on systems never designed to withstand shocks.

Be well and be safe, whatever you do.

(The more people subscribe or donate the more I write. So please consider subscribing if you like my writing.)

Tech Platform Censorship & The Great QAnon Facebook Purge

So, Facebook has cracked down on QAnon, removing essentially all QAnon pages and groups.


Obviously QAnon is bunk. As I noted earlier it’s right in the broad sense: yes, we are ruled by pedophiles as any casual acquaintance with the Epstein case will tell you, no, Trump is not at war with them except in the sense that yeah, he’s opposed by some elite factions and some of them will be pedos. Of course, many people who support Trump are probably pedos. And it’s laughably wrong in specifics.

At one time the tech platforms mostly didn’t want to do censorship and content moderation. Of course, their algos mean they do: and there’s plenty of evidence that YouTube, for example, pushes a lot of right wing content hard, but they did it for greed, not out of any sense of political noblesse oblige or civic responsibility. Facebook played a role in at least one ethnic cleansing.

But really it was the hysteria about a possible Russian role in the 2016 election that started the censorship ball rolling.

It started with Google, who changed their algorithms. Strangely, that algorithm change hit the left much harder than the right.

(I actually noticed it myself, pages that had been on the first page of search results, like my ethics vs. morality article dropped off and never returned.)

So, you’re left wing and you hate the right (understandable) and you want them censored.

The problem is simple: once censorship gets going it doesn’t just stay with the people you want hit. Everyone who doesn’t have the power to protect themselves gets censored, and, children, people in power hate the left FAR more than the right. They can live with Fascism, authoritarianism and so on. Pinochet, Hitler, Mussolini, whoever—they were and are all good to corporations and rich people. They may be declasse and embarassing, but they don’t threaten most of the people with power or wealth. Left wingers, well, they might actually tax rich people and if you remember Bill Gates squeals during the primary at the idea of a wealth tax, well, you know that even “good” billionaires hate left wingers.

So, censorship is on the loose, the tech platforms are purging and maybe you’re happy.

But remember, it never stops with the people you hate.

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