Medicaid Expansion: HELP-Mixed Mission ensures failure  (last edited Aug 1, 2016)

Green Libertarianism, Health Care

The following was an attempt to respond to Sen Buttrey’s “HELP” act to expand Medicaid in Montana.   I’m publishing it now in hopes of maybe somebody who is a “Republican” or “Conservative” will have some inkling of how such principles might be applied to a universal public health care system, or several optional alternatives.  –PHS, 7-14-17.  Bastille Day

HELP-Mixed Mission ensures failure  (last edited Aug 1, 2016)

“The cost of health care will never go down- that’s a given….”

I’ve long maintained that a couple of good economists could, in a matter of days, design an excellent health care system on any scale which would be far less expensive and more comprehensive than anything proposed, today. Medicine is now run as a “business” rather than a public necessity, like police, fire, the military, or whatever – the core “institutional infrastructure” of a humane and sustainable society. And so, it is entirely the business (and even financial interests) of the “stakeholders” which is under consideration.

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I’m watching a rebroadcast of the MT Health Care Forum which took place in Great Falls on Dec 3, 2015.  This is a project of the Montana Health Care Foundation, which is funded by the buy-out of the formerly non-profit Blue Cross-Blue Shield when they were “acquired” (with no objections from State insurance regulators) by a for-profit Chicago outfit which now does business in 41 states, I think they said.

Anyone could have attended this “forum” by “enrolling” at a cost of $65, or some such thing. I had thought of going, and I would have learned a lot, as these rebroadcasts demonstrate. I feared, correctly, that it was basically a PR deal to “explain” the new HELP law which provides an insurance-style Medicaid Expansion for Montanans (or, rather, for the Montana medicine “industry”). And very strangely, the recordings of the proceedings have been considerably edited, in such a crude fashion that most people might suppose it was “technical difficulties” of some sort.

Much of the difficulty was in the convoluted and often contradictory statements and discussions among the participants, which resembled the Legislature hearings we’ve become used to in recent decades, where neither side cares to address the real issues, but instead blames the other party for “obstructionism” or whatever, with a lot of coded terms basically expressing contempt for each other, and for the population in general.

Most of the video was as much as several minutes out of sync with the sound, and large portions of the discussion were available only to lip-readers, which could have been intentional. Most video recorders automatically sync the sound with the pictures – they’re all on the tape or disc as separate “channels” or whatever. So, to create a tape like we were shown had to be intentional. The machines simply don’t work that way, or fail to work with that result.

So, immediately the whole HELP program comes under intense suspicion, as it should have long before someone like the CEO of Benefis, Mr Goodnough, was appointed to chair it. And Mr. Buttrey, whose previous businesses were involved with military contracting, proved himself to be an expert in government-funded bureaucratic protocol, but little else. Most of the same perverse incentives in the welfare system are perpetuated, along with the premise that any low-income person only needs to get a paying job in order to “pay back” whatever welfare services and funds she has received, and thus become “independent.” Good luck with that. The only way for a poor person to be independent is to live on the streets or otherwise outside of “government programs.”

It’s like watching the Regents Meetings or the State Board of Public Education meetings, both of which appear on this same HVCT station in Helena which broadcasts Legislative hearings, the MT Supreme Court, and various other public interest events and programming. To listen to these “legislators,” lobbyists, and corporate stakeholders try to come up with a workable solution is painful beyond description. Sometimes, they have public hearings, or public comment, but that usually amounts to some lesser stakeholder pleading his or her particular interests, not an attempt to actually come up with a workable system.

The Republicans decide everything in caucus, at the behest mostly of ALEC and other monopolists while the Democrats rely on the “professional class” and public emploee unions whose careers and livelihoods are utterly dependent on an expanding state bureaucracy. Therefore, we are presented with plans and “choices” which never amount to more than which of the above will “get the contract” or otherwise reap the fruits of their lobbying and “corporate sponsorships.”

Above all, never allow the “other party’s” plans or policies prove successful. We really have a government of sabotage rather than constructive public policy. We could see this most clearly with the Republican’s visceral hatred of Barak Obama, making sure than nothing he could claim as a “victory” would work, or encourage anyone to vote Democrat in the next election. Seriously, this is the bottom line for nearly everything Congress and our State Legislatures do. They are not parliaments; they are “Legislative Exchanges” where laws are purchased like the sausage they are often compared to.

There is little or no “access” for alternative ideas, policies, or programs, like the Green Party’s Single Payer, Medicare for All programs or some sort of National Health Service which would provide basic healthcare to all at sliding scale fees. Although there is a lot of support for small-scale, cooperative schools and other institutions, the big teacher’s unions, School Board Associations, and even such local businesses as bus contractors retain an iron grip on the large-scale factory-style (and increasingly prison-style) monopoly State Schools.

To call them “public” is laughable. Every year dozens of parents in Great Falls find their kids marginalized, punished, abused, and otherwise treated like they were criminals and prisoners, not young minds being shaped for some sort of healthy and sustainable future – one, incidentally, which does not require a local nuclear strike force to “save the economy.”

If medical products and services were properly priced, without the monopoly protections they now receive, most people would be able to afford them, and “insurance” would be nothing more than a small charge and required examinations and follow-ups to make sure that people were getting the health care they were paying for.

The present disaster is, in part, a legacy of the battle between Church and State. It needs to stop right now. If the State is going to use public money for things like education and health care, which are fundamental to our individual and social well-being, then it must provide fairly and equitably to those who may support differing “education” or health care philosophies and practices.

I’ve long maintained that a couple of good economists could, in a matter of days, design an excellent health care system on any scale which would be far less expensive and more comprehensive than anything proposed, today. Medicine is now run as a “business” rather than a public necessity, like police, fire, the military, or whatever – the core “institutional infrastructure” of a humane and sustainable society. And so, it is entirely the business (and even financial interests) of the “stakeholders” which is under consideration.

These “stakeholders” turn out to be, not the doctors, nurses, and patients utilizing the health care, but some 3rd party bureaucrats and for-profit “insurance” companies as well as huge and powerful Drug Cartels who have no concern with the medical aspects of their “business” at all. They are simply corporations with a lot of monopoly power which is fungible. The more they rip off the customers, the government which funds health care, and anyone else, the more their stock rises, and the more valuable they are as a corporation.

If a small company invents a new miracle drug (as recently happened with a cure for the previously incurable Hepatitis C), it is quickly taken over by a hedge fund or some other non-medical entity which then charges “the market price” for a treatment which costs them $200 to make, for something like $70,000. And this even happens with old drugs which are still under patent, as we learned with an AIDS drug which used to sell for $17, and after being “aquired” by a Hedge Fund (whose manager is now in jail for various financial frauds) now sells for $thousands, and there is no shortage of lawyers and public policy “experts” who will defend this abuse of “property rights” and the totally fictional idea of “intellectual property,” which belongs to those “fictional persons,” corporations, which now own and control practically every part of the government and “the public sector” in general.

When Darwin and Wallace argued over who “discovered” or first enunciated the Theory of Evolution, it wasn’t over “property rights.” It was over intellectual pride, and such “rivalries” rarely resemble the popular dramas based on them. Often, the protagonists are good friends, and freely recognize the other’s contributions. The very fact that there’s a word, “evolution,” indicates that the process was very well-understood since Aristotle, at least..

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HELP is our new state (Montana) Medicaid Expansion program, and it differs significantly from what was envisioned in the ACA which most other states have adopted.

It was Ed Buttrey from Great Falls who actually put the package together and got enough Republicans to support it as a “conservative approach” to Medicaid expansion, meaning it is corporate-run (by the now for-profit “Blue Cross/Blue Shield”), and still maintains the structure of the “insurance model” of micromanaging the cost and appropriateness of every particular drug or medical service being billed. And it includes premiums and co-pays, which are anathema to the whole idea of Medicaid, even if they are quite reasonable, which they are.

Had the HELP program been offered independently of the ACA , it would have been hailed as a major “reform” toward something like the Canadian Single Payer system, which has the highest approval rate in the world, or did until the Neo-cons “introduced” private insurance and other rackets into the Canadian system, plus letting a third or more of their government-trained doctors and nurses move to the US where they could earn 2-5 times more.

Medicare and Medicaid are “socialized medicine”, which is public provision of medical products and services. Medicare and Medicaid are considered “Single-payer” systems, meaning that that the state or other government agency pays the providers, out of general tax revenues or out of some special tax and funding allocated to that purpose.

Although this is often contrasted with “Single-provider” systems (Britain’s NHS) which most developed countries maintain, this is the old view of “socialism” which is centralized and directed by some sort of planning board, rather than being “market-directed.” Medicare and Medicaid are very “market-driven”, or would be if any sort of competition were allowed between the various providers. Wherever there is a healthy multi-provider “marketplace” for medical products or services, prices stay reasonable, but there is a strong financial (and political) incentive to create monopolies and reduce services, while always raising costs which are separated from real costs across the board.

Instead, under our present system, the government reimbursements through Medicare and Medicaid are largely determined by the providers, and the amount of graft and false-billing is huge – not to mention the “false billing” done by every provider for the products and services they provide. The best luxury hotel suites in the world cost less than the typical hospital stay, which can hit a million $ in a few weeks for what used to be considered routine illnesses which simply required long hospital stays.

There is no relationship between prices and costs, and most of the profits are plowed back into corporate deals which further restrict competition and increase costs. Even staff and services are often cut in these “deals” (like the Benefis merger of two century-old community hospitals) – not to improve service, but to cut costs in accordance with the Enron-style Arthur Andersen plan they were sold as Boards, with the support of the School District (probably their largest customer, paying well), the Chamber of Commerce, and the military/retiree communities who need the services the most, but have access to all the VA facilities and Base clinics.

There was a huge organization of all sorts of people to oppose this dastardly scheme. More than 200 doctors testified against it. Everyone I knew in the peace and justice movements opposed it. The only people who favored it seemed to be the Deaconess Hospital Board, chaired by Dr. Gelernter, a psychiatrist known for his use of electro-convulsive “therapy” in the 1970’s and before.

Somehow, Arthur Andersen had gotten in the door, and had a “plan” which promised to reduce health care costs while improving “profitability.” It was a major point of contention, since both hospitals were profitable (how could they fail to be?), low-cost, provided a lot of charity care, etc. But the Columbus, run by the Sisters of Providence, gave much better service – especially to the Native American community.

I’m not even sure that the name “Columbus”, which had become unpopular and a symbol of slavery and oppression, didn’t have something to do with it. Plus, the newly-merged Benefis was actually run, under some sort of contract, by Providence Health Services, the umbrella organization, and still Catholic, so the “threat” of abortions was averted, or moved to a neighboring building. (Another major complaint against the Deaconess was that it provided therapeutic abortions, while the Columbus didn’t, so there was an alliance between the Right to Life evangelicals and the traditional Catholics).

It turned out they were all fooled. After a decent interval had passed, Benefis announced it was pulling out of Providence. OK, so give us the Columbus back. No way! It’s a done deal. We’ve already taken out the ER and OR. It’s an annex with professional offices, now, and a treatment center. Sorry! It went to court or mediation, and Benefis ended up paying the Diocese $10 million (for a facility which the whole Catholic community relied on) to shut up about it. And of course Pope Benedict was happy to sign – it actually goes that high – probably some Vatican functionary, not anyone listening to the local Priests or faithful.

We should all remember that virtually every doctor, every patient, every family who had contributed to the Deaconess and Columbus endowments (now controlled by Benefis) opposed the “merger.” And every clerk and janitor who worked for these hospitals could count on its care for themselves and their families should they fall ill. Not so anymore!

Remember what the word “hospital” is supposed to mean? It was like that. And any sick or dying person could just check in, under a doctor’s care. You didn’t need to prove you had “insurance” – which, if you did, was a sure ticket to getting vastly overcharged. Only the wealthy wanted or needed insurance. The rest got what they needed – health care.

In effect, it was “socialized medicine” in the same sense that the Catholic Church is “socialist.” And one hospital was owned by the Church, while the other was founded by Brother Van (along with 12 others around the state, and more than 100 Methodist Churches.) The main point is that their “mission” was to heal the sick and reduce suffering – “harm reduction” – which is also the first principle enunciated in the Hippocratic Oath – “Do no harm”.

“Obamacare” was attacked as being “Socialist” mainly because people are forced to participate in it, and the workers bear the full burden of a system which costs at least 4 times more than it should. If this is “socialism”, only the insane will want to participate in it, unless they’re Democrats, and told that this is the price they must pay for supporting the first African-American President.

What’s wrong, then, with this “charity” model for health care? The rich would like better quality, so they don’t want to be in “the charity ward”. They want to go First Class. But, no, everyone wants to go First Class. The reality is that NO society, system, “insurance plan” or any other “provider” of health care services is going to pay for everyone going First Class. And since the physicians and other health care managers and providers make the most money off of the present system, it’s not likely to change – especially if you put them in charge of changing the system. How many times have we learned that lesson in Montana (without, however, learning anything)?

 

 

 

 

Before Television – BTV

Green Libertarianism, Young Person's Guide.. chapters

What Have Computers Done to Our Minds?

A brief discourse on technological progress

BTV = Before Television

My own early childhood was part of the last generation to develop its consciousness before the advent of television. I did not experience television until I was six years old, and we didn’t own one in our home until I was nine. More importantly, all of the adults in my life, including parents and teachers, were raised and educated BTV – before television. Television, and then computers, the internet, VCR’s, DVD’s, and the national corporate media have completely changed our consciousness during the past 50 years, and this New Age of electronic media closely parallels the rise of science fiction as literature and the obsession with an alien presence, here. The effects have been highly political, drastically changing the economic, social, and cultural life of nearly everyone in this country who is in any way “plugged in” to them.
Few Americans now in their teens or 20’s, unless they have lived in a remote place, have experienced anything like the personal freedom, connection with nature, and sense of local community which I experienced as a child. Is this really a problem? No, because it has no solution. It is a change which we can make ourselves aware of, and in certain respects compensate for with our personal lifestyle choices. What we need to do is understand both the positive and negative implications of these changes, and attempt to direct our individual and community lifestyle choices in a healthier, freer, more natural and humanistic direction.
Some parents have actually made the choice of having no television in their homes, encouraging reading, crafts, and hobbies of the same kinds which nearly everyone practiced when I was a child. Others have opted for high-tech, internet-based home schooling, intensive sports programs, music, dance, skating, art, and other kinds of private or group instruction, and so forth. Forming an intentional community of some sort (most are religiously based, but that needn’t be the case) is highly desireable, both for the nurturing, health, and sanity of children, and to maintain the sort of lifestyles which are good for people of all ages. But the vast majority of Americans simply haven’t done it, and aren’t about to do it.
If you were raised in the average environment of public schools, lots of TV and video games, computers, Top 40 radio, fads in clothes, cars, hair, and gadgets, you will probably see no reason to make any radical changes in your lifestyle. You are probably interested in having a good job, owning your own home, marrying someone you love and with whom you share many or most interests and aspirations, and raising children to be pretty much like you are. This book might lead you to question some or all of these goals, and to re-think or make some better choices. Whatever happens, I have tried to provide some alternatives to the present assumptions which underlie American society at the beginning of the 21st century. This book is more for those who are unhappy with the current state of affairs, and wish to head out in some different direction. It is only by defining and understanding where we are, today, that we can even think about being somewhere else. These are personal choices which all of us must make for ourselves.

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A Brief Discourse on Technology

We live in a highly technological age, and virtually no part of the world is free of its attractions and liabilities. Even the most isolated and “pre-industrial” civilizations now rely on automobiles, power boats, farm machinery, and now, of course, computers, cell-phones, and every other kind of modern technology. And every nation, no matter how poor or disadvantaged, wants to spend an inordinate part of its national income on military, police, and other repressive and destructive institutions. More than 70% of our “foreign aid” over the past century has been devoted to military and “internal security” purposes.
The U.S. government spends 20% of its budget on direct military spending; another 20% or so on interest on the national debt which is almost entirely attributable to past military spending; and another 10-15% on health care, pensions, and other services for veterans of past wars. At the same time, spending 1% of the budget on aid to families with dependent children was considered to be an unconscionable waste of the taxpayer’s money, and 50 cents per taxpayer spent on support for the arts, and another 50 cents for public broadcasting are under continual attack by “conservative” senators and congressmen.

I. The Abuse of Science, Sociology, and Mathematics

In defending a radical, logical opposition to today’s technocracy, it is important to distinguish the human uses of new science and technology from its abuses. Most of the criticism of technology and techno-think is directed towards its rampant abuses, not its utilitarian values.

The primary abuse of physics is the nuclear arms race. The primary abuse of rocket science is an ICBM nuclear arsenal (which I live next to here in central Montana). The primary abuse of economics is its role as apologetics for the multi-national corporate aristocracy. The clearest abuse of mathematics may be seen in the actions of another Montanan-by-choice, Theodore Kaczynski.

If we include theology, then its abuse may be seen in monotheistic fundamentalism, whether Christian, Islamic, or Judaic; and its resulting conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere based on putting one faith above nature, and creation as a whole, in being “the one true faith” and the only accurate representation of God’s scheme of things.
Is it wrong (“Satanic”) to teach children calculus and quantum theory? Evolution? The Marxist theory of historical development? Of course not! Should we attempt to indoctrinate our teachers and schoolmasters in some particular faith or ideology? Or should we encourage diversity and choice? These are the vital issues surrounding another great abuse: the abuse of education by brainwashing, “training for capitalism,” racism, imperialism, genocide, or whatever. Liberal education, it would seem, has suffered even greater setbacks than liberal politics or religion.

What about high-tech terrorism based on our utter dependence on massive, energy intensive machines, buildings, and other accessories of civilization? As this is being written, we have just witnessed the first major, successful attack on the 48 states since the War of 1812, accomplished by 18 men armed with pocket knives, but in control of 4 airliners which were used as guided missiles against some of our tallest and most important government and financial buildings. The death toll is now estimated to be approaching 7000 — more than Pearl Harbor and the Titanic, combined. (A few years later, we know the 9-11 death toll was some 3500, and at least 2 of the four airliners are believed to have been shot down or otherwise disposed of by our own military forces. The strike on the Pentagon is now believed to have been a military aircraft or missile, not an airliner. And instead of 3500 deaths, the number has now multiplied to millions of casualties in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other parts of the world as a consequence of the U.S. “response.”)

In the 1970’s, a movement known as “appropriate technology” emerged, led by counter-culture leaders such as Stewart Brand, who founded the Whole Earth Catalog and associated enterprises and publications, and E. F. Schumacher, a British economist and former bureaucrat in Britain’s state-owned coal industry who wrote a charming little book called Small is Beautiful which became an international best seller. The gist of this movement was that we need to free ourselves of technological domination by governments and large corporations by regaining control of our economy, our tools, and “the means of production.” Children of the upper middle class “dropped out” to form rural communes, urban collective businesses, schools, community centers, and all sorts of other humanistic, more or less anti-corporate and anti-technological endeavors.

Much of the recent policy debate between advocates of “appropriate technology” and those who believe that no one should attempt to control its development and evolution centers around this question. In the 1930’s, there was an explicit political movement – the Technocrats – who believed that all social problems could be “re- engineered” by science and technology to correct or eliminate them. Much of Nazi ideology had a similar “scientific” aura and rationale. Marxists called their system “scientific socialism” to distinguish it from the softer “social democrats” or “Utopian Socialists” – a term which Marx originated. Yet, his followers would also rely heavily on the French tradition, with its Phalanges and rule by scientists and engineers.

The classical Liberals – the laissez-faire, free trade, rule of law, parliamentary democracy advocates – often had a different view based closely on emerging evolutionary biology. A healthy society must not overprotect its weakest members; captains of industry are like ecologic dominants, evidence of the perfect working of the principle of the “survival of the fittest.” Technology, for them, was just one part of this process. Clearly, we must leave entrepreneurs free to develop and experiment with any and all technology. We must protect their right to exploit their discoveries and inventions, a principle which was later severely questioned by libertarian purists. Since studying their arguments, I have been able to find little social value in granting monopoly protection to most scientific patents and discoveries. Although “trade secrets” and the fruits of well-financed research and development programs are known to be keys to success in the marketplace for new technologies and products, the fact that pharmaceutical companies spend far more on advertising and promotion of their products than they do on research indicates their arguments in favor of monopoly profits resulting from patent “protection” are bogus.

In the United States, the latter position has obviously had the upper hand for the past couple of decades, if not before. Although the American natural environment is less ravaged than Europe’s or the heavily populated parts of Asia, we now lag behind the rest of the world in international initiatives to address global ecologic problems. Indeed, we are as reactionary as the Vatican or Islamic Republics on many of these issues – especially those pertaining to population control.

Clearly, we must begin to address such issues as overpopulation, land use, and non-renewable resource exploitation sooner rather than later. The human species is rapidly approaching some form of negative utopia in which life has lost all meaning, and in which the physical conditions of most people’s existence has again fallen to a level of barest subsistance on a day-by-day basis. All the advances of science and technology, the arts, culture, and human understanding will be swept away in a radioactive holocaust, genocide by genetic engineering, and total management of all information sources and political responses. This happened under Nazism and Bolshevism, and can just as well happen under a theocracy or rule by some other rigid, rigorously-enforced ideology. We may also be reaching the point where for a great many people, violent revolution carried out by small, autonomous groups (AKA “terrorism”) is seen to be the only practical recourse.

Americans have traditionally preferred fighting to switching. We remain an essentially warrior culture – something which all the liberal panaceas in the world will not change. They can weaken us, or deceive us temporarily, but eventually we will rally to face any threat – foreign or domestic. We have finally “met the enemy, and they are us,” as Pogo so cogently put it.

We’ve got a tiger by the tail, to use another metaphor. If we let go, it will turn and rend us. If we hold on, we will be dragged to our death. We can continue the American vision of post-World-War II global supremacy – a program no one understands or wishes to pursue any further – or we can let go, and find ourselves immersed in a seething caldron of nuclear terrorism (which we invented) or the Old World imperialistic struggles for resources and territory, as well as religious wars (which we tried to avoid, but have now finally caught up with us).

We Americans have the distinction of having supplied the nuclear technology to make what has always been a hopeless struggle into one which threatens human civilization, itself. We may, indeed, be recognized by future explorers and archaeologists as the civiliation which destroyed itself – Western, Christian, Scientific, Humanistic civilization. If any people survive, they are likely to be at the very margins of today’s scientific, technological civilization, uncontaminated by its technology and values.

II. What are Computers Doing to Our Minds?

When I first encountered computers on a direct, personal level, I was a graduate student in philosophy, with special interests in what was then called “cybernetics”, philosophy of mind, and the relationship between human and machine thinking – the field now known as “Artificial Intelligence.” Although I soon found myself both out of school and unemployed, the subject continued to interest me. I had been working as a computer operator in a large computing center of a prestigious, research-oriented university – UCLA – where I had recently graduated and was facing the choice of continuing my education there, or moving elsewhere in pursuit of an academic career. The choice I finally made was neither; instead, I quit school entirely and returned to Montana, vowing that I would never again take a course for academic credit.

Part of my revulsion was based on my research in the economics of education, and the seeming counter-productivity of most formal schooling. The rest was based on a then common fear or suspicion of technology, although I was more scientific and better-trained academically than most of the so-called “counter culture.” My newly-acquired knowledge of computers and how they were becoming ubiquitous and essential to the American way of life made me wonder just where we were headed, and as an avid reader of science fiction, I was very future-conscious and future-oriented.
I was especially concerned about the computer’s role in government, for I was also a political libertarian. The libertarian left (much of which is also called “anarchism”) was beginning to shape my thinking about social philosophy. It was just at that time in my life that I was familiarizing myself with that rarified part of the political spectrum where left and right overlap, and for those who find themselves in this territory, the history of our political life can easily seem to have been one long, unmitigated disaster – the gradual erosion of a free society into an empire or other elitist, totalitarian state.
The idea of governments armed with massive, powerful computers regulating, structuring, and evaluating the most minute and private aspects of our lives filled me with horror. I knew that we were living in an age of declining freedom and social morality, overpopulation, environmental degradation, and the imminent danger of complete annihilation from nuclear war. We were losing, or had already lost, the ability to plan and determine the course of our individual lives. It appeared that governments everywhere were becoming totalitarian.

Computers were an obvious tool for oppressive governments, and at this time, governments were the main impetus to computer development. The very first computers in the United States were actually built to do the numerous and complex integrations required for artillery trajectories. Later, they were to be employed in the Manhattan Project in the development of the atomic bomb. The first commercial builders of computers could hardly imagine any business applications, and estimated that only a dozen or so computers could ever be sold — mainly for record-keeping functions, accounting, and the like. Thus, digital technology remained primarily a government domain for a decade or two, where tax collection, the census, and similar functions might provide a likely application for magnetic or other coded information storage, and electronic data processing.

Military applications proceeded apace. It was widely believed in the late 1960’s that the main benefit of the Apollo Program (to land a man on the moon by the end of the decade) was the impetus it gave to computer development and design. Because governments had ordered and paid for their development, generally for purposes of defense and scientific research, engineering of weapons systems and other military and aerospace applications, computers were not yet recognized as a means of personal empowerment.

Those of us who worked in computing centers soon found that we were empowered simply by our access to computers. This was where the really smart people worked, and in order to continue our work, we had to adjust to an authoritarian setting, knowing universities were the least oppressive and most amenable to creative, divergent thinking. We became something like a new priesthood, serving the machine-gods who had become a sort of oracle or Divine Presence. If you’ve seen the original film of “2001, A Space Odyssey,” you’ll know what I’m talking about. Although no such computers existed in the late 1960’s, the fear was already there, and by 2001, “virtual reality” and the internet far exceeded those earlier predictions.

If you were an engineering or science type, you designed, built, and thoroughly understood digital technology. If you were a business type, you may have sold computers, programmed them, or otherwise employed them in your business planning and administration. If you were an artist or an academic, you could begin to computers to create new patterns of light, line, or sound; or in research, which might be textual analysis of a great novel, or to decipher ancient, previously untranslated texts.

If you were an urban planner, computers would prove very useful, and economic planning was supposed to have been revolutionized by the development of computers. In short, almost any field was open to the development of computer programs which would inevitably change the ways we worked, solved problems, and carried out the everyday tasks of production, distribution, and the applications of theoretical knowledge and information to our everyday lives.

In the late 1960’s, the personal computer, so far as we knew, did not yet exist — even in the science fiction where most futuristic technology first appeared. Shows like “Star Trek” had a ship’s computer which could answer questions (this was even anticipated in a charming 1957 film called “Desk Set” with Spencer Tracey and Katherine Hepburn). But the impending horror of a totally centralized, computerized and thus “regulated” society seemed to be the real prospect we were facing. In the epic science fiction novel Dune, by Frank Herbert, computers have been outlawed in that distant future, feudalistic civilization, to be replaced by human “mentats” – carefully trained logical thinkers who could evaluate complex data and make probabilistic predictions from it.

Thus, the decade or so before personal computers became widely available was the last time that a principled – if hysterical – opposition to the further development of computers and their intrusion into our everyday lives was expressed. Student radicals had actually taken over university computing centers (including the University of California, Santa Barbara, the year before I began working there) and in one case, totally destroyed a large, multi-million dollar system at a Canadian university. For awhile, working in a computing center could be seen as “hazardous duty” – even on a university campus! Ted Kaczynski’s so-called “Unabomber Manifesto” expresses this period and thinking very well, although in a rather convoluted and distorted fashion, representing the mental state of the author.

The computers we used in those days should be described for the benefit of younger readers who’ve never seen a computer which wouldn’t fit on a small desk or in a briefcase. The IBM 360/91 I operated cost more than $5 million ($35-40 million in today’s dollars), and filled a large room – perhaps 1500 square feet, carefully air-conditioned, and kept immaculately clean. The computer itself (CPU – central processing unit – and RAM, or Random Access Memory) was water-cooled with a radiator system holding more than a hundred gallons of distilled water. RAM then cost about $1.00/byte, so that a 4 MB (4 million byte) memory like we had (one of the very largest in use at that time) cost $4 million in 1969 dollars, and was most of the cost of the entire computer system. Now, it would cost about 10 cents per MB, and a giga-byte or more is commonly found on a chip about the size of a postage stamp inside of a flash drive or on a memory card.

In the 360/91, 4 MB filled several large cabinets roughly the size of supermarket coolers – roughly 4 X 4 X 20 feet. They contained millions of wires and transistors, which had to be hard-wired into place. The original memory location “bit” was a bead-sized doughnut of ferrous metal with three wires going through it. A current along one of the wires would magnetically polarize an individual doughnut either positively or negatively. The other wire would reverse the polarization, changing a 1 to a 0, or vice versa. The third wire was a “read” wire, to tell the CPU whether that location was presently a 1 or a 0. All “binary” digital computers work on the same principle, but today’s hardware looks very different, and billions of such “doughnuts” are microscopically “printed” on a single memory chip.

Similar developments can be seen in graphics, programming, speed, and “user-friendliness.” To use a computer for any obvious task then required hundreds or thousands of hours of “programming”, usually in the form of mathematical symbols or formulas. FORTRAN was the language of choice. Crude word processors, graphics displays, music synthesizers, and remote terminal access were just then being developed. The business “spread sheet” was practically unheard of, but CAD (Computer-Aided Design) was beginning to be used in engineering to do routine and repetitive calculations, and to graphically display drawings of parts or whole systems.
Computers were also used in accounting (payrolls, billing, inventories, etc.). In fact, this last was by far their largest commercial application, usually in banks, insurance companies, and other large corporate enterprises. Soon, very large offices which had once been filled with rows of bookkeepers with adding machines (like Jack Lemmon in the 50’s film “The Apartment”) were replaced by a single mainframe computer and a cadre of keypunch operators.

What is now called a “data entry clerk” was then a “keypunch operator,” for that is exactly what they did. Instead of just “scanning” in data from barcodes or whatever (they were also just then being developed), the “keypunch operator” typed in data or program codes on punched “IBM cards” – something which today’s computer users may have never seen. I still find old ones placed as bookmarks in some of the books I owned at that time. They were also good for taking notes.

As a single line of characters was typed along the top of the card, a coded sequence of holes beneath it translated the characters into “machine language.” This consisted of a set of electrical impulses corresponding to the codes punched through the cards, generated as the cards were run through a “card reader” and thus transferred into computer memory.

All computer programs were at some point “keypunched” on these unwieldy cards. Each card contained a single line of code or data in a computer program, and a typical program might use boxes of them, at 500 to the box. Keypunch machines and card readers were very expensive, and prone to failure. A typical academic computer user might hire both a programmer and a keypunch operator if there was much programming and data to record.

The impact of the Apollo Program could be seen very clearly in the computer center where I worked at UCLA. IBM made less than 20 360/91’s like ours, and NASA owned most of them, and used them in the Apollo Program. In fact, I had the pleasure of watching the live television coverage of the first landing in the Sea of Tranquility from the machine room of our own 360/91. All the rest were bought by large research universities, including Stanford and Princeton. UCLA had two – one for general use, and the other for its large biomedical research facility in the School of Medicine.
Silicon chips were the technological breakthrough which in the early 1970’s made every previous generation of computer immediately obsolete. Instead of being a large bundle of wires and transistors, very slow, and very costly to manufacture, any microprocessor could now be more or less photographically “printed” on silicon wafers at a scale so tiny that powerful microscopes were required to see the circuits and junctions. Random Access Memory (RAM) chips containing 4K (4000) memory locations were soon developed, and reduced in cost to a few dollars apiece. Thus, the greatest expense in making computers was drastically reduced.

By the mid-1970’s there were single-chip CPU’s or “micro-processors” such as the Motorola 6200, the Zilog Z-80, and later, the Intel 8086 – the first processor used in the IBM PC or Personal Computer. RAM chips “grew” every few years by a factor of four: from 4K to 16K to 64K to 256K to 1MB to 4MB, and so on. Now, 256MB costs less than $50 as part of a “memory board” that can be plugged into a personal computer (2006). Today (2017), you can buy a 32GB USB memory stick (“thumb drive”) for about $10.

“Silicon Valley” sprang into being, and beginning with the Apple, the powerful desk- top personal computer became a reality. Since that time, the formula, known as “Moore’s Law” after one of the founders of Intel, has been that each year, a given quantity of computing power and speed will cost 30% less than it did the year, before. This is a rapid rate of development which probably cannot be sustained (they said that ten years ago, too) but it is a tangeable form of “progress” which has never been equalled in all the history of technology. Even Henry Ford’s remarkable reduction in the price and availability of automobiles by mass production pales in comparison.
III. The Idea of Progress in the Evolution of Digital Technology

The Idea of Progress, an issue dear to the hearts of important thinkers in the mid- 20th century, seems to have been stood on its ear in what can now only be called “the Cybernetic Revolution.” It’s already over, or in its final “set a long-term course” phase, and many believe it will almost cease to be an issue in the new Millenium. I concur with this prediction. Technics do, indeed, shape civilization and all its art, culture, and intellectual content and direction. Many seemed to understand this in mid-century. My father read books and journals at that time, when I was growing up, and there were sarcastic references to “an air-conditioned nightmare” and a nation of imbeciles “dumbed down” by television and other commercial mass media.

The same Louis Mumford who wrote The City in History and Technics and Civilization also wrote an impassioned plea for nuclear disarmament, In the Name of Sanity. Bertrand Russell provided a similar humanistic perspective tempered by fears for a future dominated by Stalinesque leaders with nuclear arsenals. Yet, the wonders of technology, exemplified by the slogan “Atoms for Peace,” became a dominant theme in popular and commercial culture during the 1950’s. The United States attemped to become, again, the Empire it had abandoned two centuries before. The “100% American” of the 1950’s took more pride in his nation and its recent victory over tyrants and dictators, even as our leaders were protecting and installing tyrants and dictators around the world. The 1950’s, like the 80’s and 90’s, was an age of upward mobility and professional success – suceess being counted mainly, but not exclusively, in material terms. Much of popular culture was reinforced and enhanced by a Yuppy-esque pursuit of wealth and beauty.

Yet, everyone was not benefitting equally or proportionately. Here are the roots of the Black Revolt in the 1960’s; the peace and social justice movements which accompanied and reinforced a larger Third-world Liberation and anti-colonialist impulse. It is to this post- war period of euphoric ambition – the GI Bill and the amalgamation of the working class with intellectuals – that we can also trace the roots of the Counterculture in the Beats and Jazz scenes who were predominantly ethnic (i.e., of non-British ancestry).

Whenever we visited foreign countries, or listened to fine arts and educational radio and television, we understood how limited American popular culture had become – how the “melting pot” had consistently denied our individual characters and heritage, leaving us a rootless, history-deprived society. In our family, religion got much of the blame for this, even as we respected and encouraged the moral foundations of traditional Christianity and western European civilization.

It was in this context that computers emerged. The classic film “Deskset” (mentioned above) with Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn is one of the few brilliant insights into the effects computers were having on our daily lives. The fact that it was made in 1957, which is extraordinary, qualifies it as “science fiction,” for there was then nothing like this computer in existence. Basically, the story describes a computer programmed with all of human knowledge, and thus becomes an infallible source of truth and guidance – a kind of oracle which exposes and makes fun of contemporary American culture. The ironic title, Desk Set (sub-titled “His Other Woman”) reminds us of our own obsession with the latest desk-top computer technology. Although this computer was not a desktop, it became the accessory of a “smart working girl” and her greedy boss.

Now, the Internet has become the oracle for all knowledge and information, the “world-wide-web” which connects all the computers and data-bases in the world! Computers are the one known area where the technology has actually exceeded the wildest expectations and imaginary machines of the most optimistic science-fiction writers. In contrast, we are still far behind the science fiction standards in robotics and propulsion systems – even with respect to what was written half a century or more, ago.

IV. How lives changed at the Dawn of the Cybernetic Age

The largest threat posed by computers was evident to me from the beginning (say, 1970): what would they do to the way we think? Students from “Third World” underdeveloped countries often remarked that computers posed a real dilemma for those of them who were learning science or engineering with the help of computers, but planned to return to their own countries and do their work without computers later on. Even the pocket calculator was yet to be developed, and those who didn’t have computers could only look forward to doing calculations with slide rules!
People in their 50’s and older may remember the large $30-$50 logarithmic slide rule, with 20-30 different scales, and carried in a leather holster like a large sheath knife by the rather awkward-looking science and engineering students. The handwriting was on the wall when I could go to a campus lost-and-found auction and buy as many of these antiques as I wanted for two or three dollars apiece!

If we were to become dependent on computers, what would happen if the computers were somehow not available? Obviously, this was a real problem so long as computers filled large rooms and cost millions of dollars. When I returned to Montana in 1972 and lived 30 miles from a city, and the same distance from any usable computer, I called the phone company and asked what it would cost to install a phone line that could handle a remote computer terminal. It would have been necessary to extend a private line (our normal rural phone used a noisy 8-party line not well-suited for modems!) for about 8 miles, at a cost of several thousand dollars per mile – not an economically feasible proposition. In fact, the Mountain Bell representative seemed amused that anyone would even consider such a thing.

Another aspect of this dependency was observable in the computer centers where I worked. Those who were really dedicated to the newest incarnation of the God of the Machine often seemed to lose other aspects of their humanity. Staring fixedly into CRT displays which more resembled oscilloscopes than modern color monitors; forgetting to eat, wash, change clothes, and otherwise interact with friends and families; these “hackers” turned out to be next year’s millionaires or literal “rocket scientists”. Some went mad, or disappeared into the counterculture, never to be seen or heard from again.

We know, now, that this was a form of addiction, or obsessive-compulsive behavior. Denial was a large aspect of the problem. I can still remember a young man, ambitious and clean-cut, who over several months turned into a kind of Dr. Jekyll before our very eyes. On one occasion, his aging father, an immigrant from some European country, came to the computer center to rescue his son from the infernal machines which had somehow captured his soul. All entreaties were in vain, with the old gentleman finally leaving in tears, leaving his son to complete the work of genius he was performing.

Anyone wishing to deal with computers had first to deal with the new priesthood of the Cybernetic Age. They resembled Ross Perot. Even the lowliest technician from IBM wore a three-piece suit and tie to the shop in the back of the machine room, where the coat might be hung on a chair and sleeves rolled up, but vest and tie stayed on. One could have easily mistaken them for FBI agents. They knew nothing about programming or what the computer was doing, but they had the ability to locate, replace, or adjust any defective part or mechanism in what was undoubtedly the most complex machine ever built. Basically, they were glorified mechanics, usually trained in the military or according to a military-style regimen.

One of my friends wrote an article for an underground paper entitled “Cyborgs” in which he “exposed” this new class of machine-bound humans. Even a person driving a car, he maintained, is a cyborg – half human (or less than half), and half machine, plunging headlong into an unknown future which, when contrasted with the “flower children” of the 1960’s, began to resemble H.G. Wells’ future technocracy of Morlocks in The Time Machine. But most social criticism of the dawning Cybernetic Age was restricted to the infuriating unresponsiveness of trying to deal with computers, and the form-letters which they were already generating in a blizzard of meaningless paperwork. Someone would get a bill or other document from a company or the government, and assuming that it was from a real mind and a real person, would call or write to straighten out the problem. Soon, the unwitting customer or client would discover that no person had written or even seen the letter, and that the problem would be identified as a “computer error” for which there was likely to be no redress or adjustment very soon.

“It’s the computer” became everyone’s favorite excuse for mistakes or inaction. This was the time when the phrase “Do not fold, spindle, or mutilate” became a cliche’ – not with respect to people, where we sometimes hear it today, but with respect to one’s phone bill or other document, itself a punched “IBM card” which would at some point have to be read at very high speed by a card-reader, the slowest and weakest link in the flow of “information.” Any damage to the card might cause a jam in the card reader or loss of valuable data.

It was at this point that some of us began to see that computers were not just machines, but harbingers of the beginning of a new era in culture and belief; that computers had already become the newest oracles of what we now might call a “virtual” religion; and that we should properly speak of computer theology rather than computer science.

There was also an ecological aspect to all this. The evolution and proliferation of computers constituted an ecological system, subject to most of the same rules identified by the investigators of living systems. There were many extinctions and dead-ends in the evolution of new computer species. And some lay dormant for years or decades until someone figured out a way to utilize them.

The “mouse,” for example, was developed by Xerox in the early 1970’s, but didn’t become a common feature of computers until a decade or so later with the advent of the Macintosh. The punched card technology became entirely extinct, as did many other forms of data storage and retrieval. Dot-matrix printers replaced the costly and complex line printers, only to be superceded by laser and ink-jet printers which continue to become cheaper and better with each passing year.

But it was the advent of the personal computer which totally changed the game from one of centralized authority and superstition to the age-old American ideal of individualism and “do it yourself” technology. Once computers became affordable to the average professional or working person, the mystique was gone. Although computers no longer seemed to pose the same totalitarian threat they had, before, other potential dangers lurked in the shadows.

For one thing, computers in the workplace were not entirely the labor-saving devices they were intended to be. They may have saved certain kinds of labor costs for employers, but they also imposed heavy costs on many of the users, including the still-controversial effects of CRT radiation and the damage to fingers and tendons (carpal tunnel syndrome) from long hours of steady typing, uninterrupted by inserting paper, erasing, or other more natural and spontaneous movements once required of typists.
In terms of labor relations, many once-salaried and low-pressure jobs became piece-work nightmares, in which each worker’s productivity could be precisely monitored and measured. Slower typists were demoted or fired, regardless of their other talents or value to the firm. Those who refused to become “computer literate” found their employment opportunities severely curtailed.

As computers became more and more essential – not only to the completion of repetitious typing or calculating tasks, but to the creative end of business, such as design, layout and typesetting, and the robotics found in manufacturing – the standards for products and productivity improved or increased at what seemed to be an accelerating rate. Those who could use computers effectively had an immediate and enormous advantage over their competitors who could not. Soon, it began to appear as though computers were becoming a kind of magical “answer” for every workplace or industrial problem.

The marketers and vendors of computers and computer accessories became the new prophets of the cybernetic religion. In government and other large-scale institutions, the rate of mechanization and replacement of already advanced and successful technology snowballed, costing hundreds of thousands of jobs with little or no increase in productivity or service to the clients or customers. Somehow, the American way of doing business was no longer proving to be effective, and was being replaced by an attitude which began to see computers and other high technology as ends in themselves, regardless of their negative impacts on the average person.

V. The Idea of Progress – Computers

The message we’ve been sold is that everything is getting better every year – just like the machines, themselves. More computers means a higher standard of living. Ever more costly and complex gadgets are somehow believed to have improved “the quality of life.” Yet, most of us cannot afford to upgrade our equipment every couple of years, and re-learn the software. Most of us couldn’t even figure out how to program a VCR, until screen “menus” (again, based on micro-processors) simplified the process to the level of a complete idiot.

But more love and care is not being put into products, yet. “Quality control” is still seen as primarily a technological or economic issue – not a matter for human aspirations. “Efficiency” is no longer the Puritan virtue it once was. It means, instead, dehumanizing the workers (or the customers) for the sake of corporate profits. It means cutting public services by governments, not improving them. Being “cost-effective” doesn’t mean that we should get maximum value for our money, but that we should spend a minimum of money for anything except our own immediate material desires – the next generation of gadgets, in other words.

Talk to college business students or recent MBA recipients and you are likely to be in for a shock. Not only are most of these people not knowledgeable about philosophy, the arts, or broader community issues; in most cases, they are not the least bit interested, either. They hope to make a lot of money for themselves, so they can then purchase “leisure,” apparently. Or gain power over others, attract suitable members of the opposite sex (as many as possible, it would seem), or perhaps just become “rich and famous” so that they might be featured on some TV “lifestyles” segment.
They’re not actually interested in enriching their lives and minds, or improving their cultural awareness, and certainly not intersted in helping others to do so, or in creating a society in which all may achieve and prosper. In fact, most of them seem to think we’re playing a zero-sum game, in which one person’s gain must necessarily come at someone else’s expense. Our victory must mean someone else’s defeat – hopefully someone of a different race and culture. Ultimately, it become a “casino model of society” or “party culture,” where self-destructive behavior makes a few people rich and comfortable at tremendous human costs to a much larger number of people.

Fortunately, computers are no longer restricted to a wealthy elite. They may, indeed, become the “great equalizers” and the ultimate expressions of an Open Society in which no one group or faction can control the future, or abuse those with less power and influence. Although I am not inclined to use computers more than is necessary and beneficial, I feel fortunate, indeed, to have a small, affordable computer which performs all the functions which are useful and beneficial to me. It is, indeed, an empowerment tool of great flexibility and utility. The fact that civilization reached the high level it did before they were invented is almost more miraculous than the fact that computers were invented at all, and perfected to their present level.

VI. Cyber-linguistic Socialism

How do we explain the fact that the American people and our intellectual and moral leaders have virtually no standing in the policy decisions of this country? If it is truly the case that the most legitimate and pressing issues are not even on the table, or have been long since discarded from active consideration, how do we explain this fact, or maintain our illusions that we live in a society with principles, and that the democratic process actually works to bring forward the best ideas and policies?

Of course, we can admit that we no longer have a democracy, and that the corporate media refuses to consider or discuss the real issues of poverty, racism, sexism, the nuclear threat, envirornmental crisis, or whatever. Even when they do discuss these issues, there is a nearly complete censorship in their reluctance to publish certain writers or schools of thought.

Now, thanks to the internet and a new wave of popular activism bolstered by other telecommunications including public broadcasting, cable, CNN, C-SPAN and various other channels and networks, all of us can publish and read exactly what we like. With all sorts of related progress in the epistemology of political rhetoric and action, a true participatory democracy is beginning to arise. Is it enough, yet, to swing an election? Sometimes, in some places. But more importantly, it is changing the consciousness of the average news reader or viewer; changing the media, itself; and changing the way that elected officials manage or “coordinate” government functions and public policy.

Amazingly, all of this has not much shifted the balance between right and left, which was already very heavily weighted towards a more or less constantly rightward-moving Center. The Internet, itself, is a scientific, academic and political instrument, developed under government contracts in support of defense research and other kinds of academic, scientific endeavors like the National Science Foundation, NASA, and a number of other agencies and institutions. Soon, it would become a library resource, publisher of academic journals, a medical management tool, and so forth. Computers had been developing concurrently to serve all the various academic, scientific, business, consumer, and entertainment functions, and it was a natural development in “cyber-ecology” to expand the WWW to encompass all these applications, and many more, besides.

But few imagined, or had any idea, what the political consequences might be. With the advent of the personal computer, most fears of a computerized dictatorship were tossed out the window. Both Right and Left saw in computers a means of personal and community liberation, and perhaps even the demise of the giant nation-state and centralized governments of all kinds. Legislators could immediately access all the research, news, and opinions they could possibly assimilate, and the public consciousness became a concrete, quantifiable reality which could be “studied” and interpreted with a pseudo-scientific exactness which brooked no argument or refutation.

It is now possible to have national referendums and town meetings to decide every kind of issue, and some progress has been made in that direction, but there is little progress, yet, in actually moving in the direction which socialist or social democratic activists might favor.

The fact is, there is now probably two or three times as much Right-wing activity and propaganda on the WWW as there is Leftist, and the class division, which made computers accessible to the professional class long before working class people hardly knew what they were, has had grim consequences politically.

But it is in education and the media that computers have had by far the greatest social impact. How terribly insecure and impermanent our young people must feel, seeing yesterday’s most glamorous technologies thrown on a junk-heap of the obsolete and over-costly. For the educated and elite classes, it is Brave New World — light, sexy, and scientific. For the working poor, it is 1984 — bleak, frightening, and dictatorial. Meanwhile, there is a growing incidence of irrational violence and other destructive behavior directed not at the system, but at anyone and everyone within reach.

These “flavors” — entirely refuted and unwanted — have nevertheless come to dominate our national consciousness. In spite of all the technological savvy, greed, and ambition, there is very little critical thinking or what the Right calls “Secular Humanism” (academic, scientific, progressive philosophizing) going on in either our public or private media and education systems.

So what is our new paradigm of cybersocialism going to look like? And what sort of education systems and media will it foster and maintain? What I discovered as an economics student (most interested in the history of economic thought and comparative economic systems) is that the science of economics has defined its own boundaries so narrowly that it is up to social philosophers (who hopefully thoroughly understand economic theory) to actually define the ends of human civilization, and the means to attain them. Thus, any sort of economic system is essentially meaningless and irrelevant unless it reflects a deeper set of social values and (natural) scientific understanding. That’s why work of people like Noam Chomsky and other progressive, humanistic Leftists is so valuable, and so under-appreciated in our centralized, totalitarian corporate state.

 

The Alien Contingency (1999, 2001)

Nuclear Issues, Young Person's Guide.. chapters

This essay reflects a lifetime of being interested in science fiction and the possibility that alien species from Outer Space have visited Earth and influenced elections and other human events….   When I started putting together a book, “A Young Person’s Guide to Life, Love, Art, and Philosophy,” this was one of the first topics I wanted to present.  I’ve updated a few of the references in here, but it’s basically the same as what I saved in 2006.   I’m posting individual chapters, here, in case the book is never finished or published….  Paul Stephens, June 28, 2017

The Alien Contingency (1999, 2001)

In arguing with “true believers” about flying saucers, alien invasions, and a future in which intersteller wars between different species and cultures may come to pass, a number of interesting contingencies arise. Personally, I acknowledge the possibility that alien cultures, more advanced in science and technology than our own, have visited earth, and may still be here, observing and altering the course of human history in various ways.
What probability do I place on this being true? At present, I conjecture that there is about a 1 in 7 chance, or 15%, that this is true. There is also the possibility that life on earth was “seeded” here by aliens millions or billions of years ago, rather than having spontaneously evolved from materials indigenous to earth. The second conjecture depends on the first, but the converse is not the case. Life may have evolved independently on earth, and only recently come to the attention of extra-terrestrial species who were attracted by our nuclear explosions or high power radio transmissions (mostly television and radar, which could have already traveled about 60 light years into space).
This estimate, entirely free of scientific evidence, statistical or other mathematical derivation, is a very rough guess based on my reading of science and s+cience fiction, and the credibility of the evidence which various people put forward to “prove” either that aliens are here, or that they couldn’t possibly be here. No doubt the estimate will seem overly generous to many professionals in the field (even those who strongly believe there is life in other solar systems are very doubtful that it could have ever traveled to earth), while it will seem drastically conservative to those who are totally convinced of an ongoing alien presence.
If I had ever personally observed flying saucers, or had the experience of alien abduction, I would undoubtedly give the alien presence a much higher probability, which is why I stress that this is a personal estimate, based upon my own personal experience. Tens or hundreds of millions of dollars are presently being spent on such projects as SETI ( the “search for extra-terrestrial intelligence”), although most of it is now privately funded, since Congress decided this was an unconscionable waste of the taxpayer’s money. It seems unlikely that such projects would continue if it was already certainly known that extraterrestrials are already here, and our government is spending billions of dollars in studying, preserving, and reverse-engineering alien spacecrafts and other technology. Yet, there are many highly educated and experienced people who will claim that this is true. I hope to include some comments or analysis from such people in this chapter. [See attached PDF – AlienConting-ET&Sci-Tech]

What I am wondering, and intend to explore in this essay, is whether or not the alien presence is a contingency which is taken seriously in national security planning. It drastically changes the nature of defense policy, for example, if we are to prepare for an alien invasion, rather than merely an attack from some other human nation – no matter how large and powerful it may be. In fact, it changes the whole picture so drastically that it seems clear either that nothing is being done about this contingency at all, or that it totally overshadows all other defense considerations.
For example, even though space-based defense systems, large nuclear arsenals, and sophisticated laser and other “ray gun” or electro-magnetic-pulse (EMP) weapons are totally useless (and potentially suicidal or “doomsday”) defensive weapons if deployed against other human nations, they may be entirely rational and necessary if deployed against an impending alien invasion. Of course, it would be up to the defense authorities to somehow prove or demonstrate that such an invasion was impending – something they are neither willing nor able to do, at least publicly. Yet, it wouldn’t surprise me if a great deal of military policy and research, development, and procurement of advanced weapon systems is actually based on this idea.
On the other hand, it is virtually certain that we will eventually have a global nuclear war – with nuclear winter, destruction of the ionosphere, a proliferation of mutations and the degeneration of the gene pool (both human and for other species) along with other genuine threats to our very existence as an ecosystem – unless we dispose of our nuclear arsenals before that happens. It is almost as certain that we will have plagues and famines resulting from biological warfare and genetic engineering killing billions of people unless we control these technologies along with nuclear weapons. Further exponential population growth and environmental degradation also threaten our health and well being in a much more obvious and direct way than any potential alien invasion.
Yet, even these more tangible and human-caused threats seem to be largely ignored or denied in our real-world policy-making efforts. And it is a non-partisan or bi-partisan kind of denial. When Democrats controlled the Presidency and Congress, they were no more interested in ending the Cold War, disposing of nuclear weapons, and removing the causes of war than the Republicans are, today. There are too many jobs, corporate profits, and “national security” issues involved to let this happen. Indeed, whatever programs and treaties once attempted to address them have been put on the back burner. They have become politically inexpedient, and any major candidate who focuses on them is likely to lose the next election, largely because of negative news coverage and biased polls which misrepresent the issue and then misinterpret voter interest in it. (See the chapter “Fads and fallacies in the name of Democracy”).
Better, perhaps, that we consider alien invasion as a kind of generic disaster scenario. At least it has a following in Hollywood – something the anti-nuclear movement hasn’t had since Jane Fonda retired. Perhaps, as Jung suggested, alien contact is only a metaphor for a human-caused crisis (the nuclear arms race) or disasters. In a similar fashion, George Lucas’ Star Wars became a generic term for space-based weapon systems and a revival of the nuclear arms race among human nations. As long as we keep thinking in these terms, and each successive generation is imprinted with images of space flight and combat with alien species, we will continue to spend the billions of dollars and risk billions of lives in an enterprise which is so stupid and improbable that we can hardly conceive of its actual costs and consequences.
Whatever the case may be, a 15% probability of an alien presence is not enough to focus a nation’s energies to meet that threat. But it is certainly worth a lot of research and contingency planning. The chances of a serious nuclear accident, in any given year, are supposed to be about 1 in 50 (historically, it has been about 1 catastrophic accident every 10 years, any one of which could have precipitated some larger nuclear exhange in one of many “doomsday” scenarios). The chance of a nuclear war being started more or less by accident is approximately the same. For some of us, this is far too great a risk to take, when the consequences may include the extinction of the human species.
A similar logic could apply to the presence of aliens. Even if there are some, the chances that they are hostile and mean to destroy us are much less than the probability of their existence and presence here. Perhaps there is a 1 in a 100 chance that we are actually being threatened by hostile aliens. Or 1 in 10,000. Without concrete, reproduceable evidence that we actually face such a threat, any calculation of probablilities is sheer guesswork and speculation. If there are such beings, here, it would seem prudent to treat them as though they were welcome, and attempt to establish peaceful relations with them, rather than immediately assuming they are some sort of hostile force. But that would be a strange reversal, at least for American diplomacy and “foreign policy.”
One can’t help but wonder whether the nuclear arms race, itself, has been stimulated by a fear of alien invasion. For those who were fans of the short-lived television series Dark Skies, or more successful series such as The X-Files or Earth, Final Conflict, these contingencies have already been worked out in fiction. Dark Skies interpreted “post-Roswell” history as being largely the consquence of alien infiltration and intervention. President Truman, according to this account, started the war with the aliens by refusing to surrender unconditionally in a meeting at Roswell, and then ordering the alien emissary’s ship destroyed. Thus began an alien infiltration into the highest levels of government, and the show subsequently dramatized the Kennedy assassination as being alien-caused. Finally (the show was cancelled after the first season), they were portrayed as being at large within the government as a kind of CIA-like underground, manipulating government policies at home and abroad. A similar conclusion was reached in the X-files TV series and subsequent feature films.
This is the issue which concerns us, here. What political methods and policy options are available to those who would resist such an alien takeover? In Earth, Final Conflict the Taelons attempt to peaceably acquire a benign and wisely scientific hegemony over earth. Unfortunately, they, too, are threatened by another species in an intergalactic war, and there is much deception and intrigue in the effort to recruit human soldiers and adapt them to warfare in interstellar space. At first, humans are genetically altered to be “companions” to the Taelons. Later, under a secret program which the “good Taelon” Da-an opposes, large numbers are altered or created as warrior clones and other secret operatives. A resistance grows to overthrow the Taelons, leading to a situation where earthlings and resistance leaders are making contact with another alien species at war with the Taelons. A few years later, it is the “Twilight of the Taelons”, who are running out of their vital energy, and threatened by yet another alien species.
All this makes an interesting story, but it is little different from H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds written nearly a century ago. It was viruses or other micro-organisms which destroyed the Martians, and we would probably do just as well to rely on such natural obstacles to alien colonization, ourselves. In any case, there is no use planning for such contingencies in the absence of any evidence that they might happen. It all begins to sound like the ritual to keep away elephants, which was later judged a success due to the fact that no elephants have appeared.
If we can solve our very human problems of the nuclear arms race, environmental degradation, plagues (whether human-caused or “natural”), and overpopulation, we will be doing very well, indeed. But it wouldn’t be the first time that preparation for a war which otherwise would never have happened has been the cause of war, genocide, and otherwise undreamed-of devastation and human suffering.

Aliens, 9-11, and the War on Terror

The text of this chapter so far was written in about 1999. Now, it is September, 2001, and we are experiencing the immediate aftermath of “the attack on America” by 18 Islamic “terrorists” who commandeered four airliners, crashing three of them into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon. The film, Armageddon, has been released in the interim, in which a number of asteroids and large meteors hit the earth. In some of the scenes, skyscrapers in New York City are destroyed in a vision so much like what we have just seen in the nightly news that people have remarked about the similarity. This has nothing to do with aliens (we’d have to go back to the War of the Worlds film from the 1950’s in which several Los Angeles landmarks are destroyed by alien ray-guns to make that connection), but the fact remains that science fiction often seems like prophecy when compared with current history.
Nearly every science fiction plot, today, has something to do with aliens. Its the one unifying theme, and the source, perhaps, of most of the popularity of this genre. What is the significance of this fear of aliens? Is it merely a transposed fear of the outsider, the foreigner, and thus a kind of xenophobia? Now, we actually have legitimate sciences concerned with this issue – exobiology, and the like. We routinely sterilize spacecraft and quarantine their crews, lest they bring back some alien microbes which could wreak havoc on our bodies since we have no immunity or resistance to such organisms.
Paradoxically enough, Congress and the Defense Department have eliminated nearly every kind of “Search for Extraterrestrials”, flying saucer research, or whatever. Yet, many professional, experienced and legitimate ex-government or military people claim that “Area 51” in Nevada (said to be the repository of alien remains and technology) exists, and that much of the recent explosion in advanced technology was obtained by “reverse engineering” from flying saucers and other alien machines. The unwillingness of governments to even admit the possibility of this alien presence may be due to political pressures of various kinds, or simply the requirements of mility secrecy. If there actually were such programs and the alien presence they imply, wouldn’t there be widespread panic based on the failure of the government to protect us?
This is one of those issues which will not be resolved by any sort of idle speculation, no matter how sophisticated. Either there is an alien presence and the government knows about it, and is keeping it a secret in order to use these technologies and the threat of hostile alien action to further restrict our freedom and well-being, or it is being made up by some sort of cadre of people, in or out of the government, who hope to stampede the country into war, dictatorship or other harmful outcome. Who knows?
My position, and that of this book, is that we don’t need a “national security state”, and creating one acts as a self-fulfilling prophecy to create the very threats which the national security state is supposed to counter. Whether the imagined “enemy” is aliens, terrorists, or “godless communists,” the consequences are pretty much the same. We lose our political self-determination, our individual rights, our freedom of expression and association, and our national wealth and human resources are channeled into weapons of mass destruction and a militaristic regimentation which has by now become entirely politcally and socially respectable. For the past year or two, and in recent days, especially (following “the attack on America”), I have witnessed an astounding change in young people These changes included a surge in enlistments in the military, a marked tendency to become politically right-wing and nationalistic, and believing implicitly whatever we are told by the media and those in authority.
For those of us who came of age during the Vietnam War and the social revolutions of the 1960’s and 70’s, this is inconceivable, and it is for this reason, primarily, that I have undertaken to write this book. We must continue to “Question Authority!” and otherwise maintain our mental, spiritual, and material freedom and independence from government and the agencies of coercion and repression which are constantly being expanded and marshalled against us. We will have more to say in other chapters about the education system and the co-option of the youth culture, and their roles in creating this vast reversal in youth consciousness.

Law, Legislation, and Liberty: Hayek’s enduring contribution to political sanity

Green Libertarianism, Hayek Studies

What is “legislation”, and do we really need more of it?

Five maxims for state legislators

I was hoping to give some advice to state legislators, who have been fed a toxic brew of corporate lies and propaganda by an organization called ALEC since the 1980’s. These are some of the same people I knew as Young Republicans. I didn’t like them, then, and needless to say, having more wealth and power has not improved the quality of their leadership and “model legislation. ” So, here is the “anti-ALEC”:

1. Even if you run as a Republican or Democrat, do NOT join or participate in your local party organization. You don’t have to. You don’t even have to join your party caucus in the legislature. Call yourself a public servant, and that’s it.

2. As soon as you have been elected, declare yourself free of party influence, and instead, form a local coucil of people from your district who voted for you, and who are known to you as being honest and public-spirited.

3. Learn some basic economics. This is easier said than done. If you’re a “liberal”, you’ll end up thinking that Keynes was God, and that perpetual deficit spending is the only way to prosperity. If you’re a conservative or otherwise “free market,” you’ll be told that welfare is evil, corporate criminals are your only friends, and the only people responsible for “creating jobs” and “balancing the budget”- unless you happen to live in a military town, in which case you’ll be told that the more money spent on weapons and killing people, the better-off we’ll all be.

4. Military people tend to see everything in military terms. They can’t conceive of a society which isn’t dominated by military discipline and “order.” They can’t conceive of a world without “enemies”, and the duty of a soldier is to kill anyone the President and Congress designate as “enemies.”

Congress has abdicated its responsibility, over and over again, to maintain cordial relations with other nations in the world. The President and the “secret government” behind him is totally subservient to military lobbies and “strategic thinking” based on “Mutually Assured Destruction” and “Full Spectrum Dominance”.  And it’s like pro-sports. It’s all about “us vs. them” and maximizing profits. Legislators must take back their constitutional authority in this respect, and refuse to allow state troops (the National Guard) being deployed on corporate missions to loot and destroy other countries overseas. Several states have alreay done this, and there is wide public support for it.

5. Simple sanity. This is another standard which only a few understand, and many misuse or mis-represent. For example, you don’t give psychoactive drugs to school children. If they need drugs, they shouldn’t be in school, and the schools should certainly have nothing to do with cooperating in such a program.

Public Schools and Universities – the importance of choice and moral values

Any group of parents, for any reasons, should be free to educate their own children in their own way,  with the same taxpayer support which the large prison-schools receive. We already reimburse local school districts according to attendance, so we can just as well pay alternative schools for the students who attend them. Whatever “regulation”, testing, or other standards are needed may be applied, to make sure that they are real schools or other learning places, and real learning is happening, with the full participation of the parents and students, themselves.

Although many might object, the decision to give taxpayer money to private, religious schools is “normal” and “reasonable.” Most other countries with large independent school systems also support religious schools, and deciding what are “real religions” and what are merely “cults” is difficult. The large, “consolidated” public schools, although they sometimes work well, only do so if they have the full support of the parents and local communities. In today’s fractious climate of corporate gang warfare and suppression of any and all free inquiry by authoritarians of all stripes, a bureaucratic, centralized, rule-bound public school bureaucracy is nothing less than the final stage of dictatorship.

Health Care and Social Safety Net

One thing that still puzzles me is pricing and other cost-accounting for government, taxpayer-provided services. Like health care, there is no provision for ordinary people purchasing what they need in an open market. It’s all about monopolies, licenses, corporate lobbying and extortion, med school bottlenecks, Federal programs and kick-backs, vast disparities in pay even among those who work in the same fields, etc. How did we ever get to this? Who can possibly believe that this kind of system is workable or good for us?

Basic primary care is very cheap – even if doctors are paid $200K a year. With nurse practitioners, who make somewhat less, but may be better primary care providers, it costs even less. We needn’t get into the thorny topic of medical politics and elitism – apparently, it’s always been that way. But we know that real health care (as opposed to the “health insurance” racket) is charitable, spiritual, and otherwise real medicine and “hospitality”, not some sort of protection racket which says: “Your money or your life.” “No insurance? No credit? No shoes? No service.” “There’s a hospice across the street. They’ll let you die, there.” “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

And with this kind of “system”, we pay anwhere from 2-5 times more in the name of health care (most of which is simply stolen or extorted) than any other country, and we’re the least healthy in the whole OECD (the so-called “developed world”).

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Background: Hayek and the Rule of Law

Friedrich Hayek, who visited my neighborhood for about 5 months in 1968, wrote a very good book at that time called “Law, Legislation, and Liberty,” published in three volumes by the University of Chicago Press. By some dialectical perversity, I actually sat in on and got credit for the initial presentation of that work in a UCLA philosophy seminar. They didn’t even put professor’s names on our transcripts in those days, so everyone here thinks I made it up – obviously I couldn’t have studied under such a famous conservative – or counter-revolutionary, to some of my Marxist friends.

There’s a lot more to it than that, and why Hayek should have been there, doing that, at that time. His title, which no one now remembers, was Visiting Flint Professor (of Law, Philosophy?) I don’t know who Flint was – I should google it, but UCLA was ranked 4th in the country, then, in Legal Philosophy, and there were a couple of professors who also taught in the Law School. I was an economics-philosophy major, and later tried being a grad student in philosophy, which only lasted two quarters, during which time I took psychedelics and became “enlightened”. Professor Yost and other senior faculty actually taught “expanded consciousness” with such texts as William James’ Varieties of Religious Experience as well as the more recent psychedelic literature, which by then inclulded Aldous Huxley, the Beats, etc. Woodstock Nation was being born at that very time, and of course LA and UCLA was one of the hubs of this New Consciousness.

The fact that I used psychedelics AFTER studying with Hayek totally negates his influence, right? The slate was wiped clean. But they don’t really change you that much – especially in an academic setting. We used to say that the only thing psychedelics do is bring out the “real you” – they liberate us from our family and cultural biases and presuppositions, although we quickly learn that most of what is old, is good. Experience matters. So, nothing much really changed except that we became more “old fashioned”, “folksy”, or otherwise “down home,” (and anti-science and technology, in many cases) and those of us closely tied to the land and a particular regional history soon returned home. “All the Buffalo Returning,” so to speak.

About the first thing I did when I returned to Montana in January, 1972, was request a catalog and application from the UM Law School. In part, this was due to my having been “profiled” (as a hippy), arrested, charged with spurious crimes, and otherwise fallen victim to an “establishment” which I had previously thought I was part of. I had been Vice President of the Bruin Young Republicans. I was a libertarian. I read all of Hayek’s books in anticipation of his coming to UCLA. And after these seminars, I really understood what “the Law” is, what is good about it, and what is wrong.

Briefly, Hayek’s view was that there are two kinds of law – Nomos and Thesis. One is “exogenous” or imposed from without by “authority”. The other is “endogenous” or internal, built-in, etc. We come hard-wired with moral principles, which can either be accentuated and reinforced by parental guidance and childhood experience, or negated by that later “training.”

The English Common Law is a good example of how people, over centuries, establish the rules and principles for civilized and harmonious living. This is the real Law. The stuff that legislators do is purely administrative – how to tax, provide public services, “provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and ensure the blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”

The two kinds of law are very different, yet in the American system, they are totally confused and conflated. And “coalitions of organized interests” (Hayek’s expression) control the Congress and State Legislatures almost totally. So, what we needed (and still need) is a Constitution which recognizes these two kinds of law, and keeps them separate.

Hayek proposed a two-house Congress in which the House of Representatives would be the main unicameral “legislature” or Parliament, and another “Upper House” would be something like the British House of Lords, in which members would be elected for life (at the age of 40, and only by their own age-cohort – the other 40 year-olds in that year). This body would deal with broader issues and long-term consequences, creating overall policy and even acting (as the Lords does) as a Supreme Court determining the validity and appropriateness of whatever the main Parliament passes on.

I don’t know if Hayek ever studied the Iroquois Confederation and its system, which our Framers did. They also have a three-council government, with the “fire keepers” being a kind of buffer or referee between the other two (which could easily be geared to gender or other function – labor/capital, military/civilian, or some combination of these). I’ve long believed that we should either have a Women’s House and Men’s House, or else one man and one woman being elected from each district. For some strange reason, I’ve never met a feminst who supports that!

All of these should have been discussed in Montana’s Constitutional Convention of 1972, and I was prepared to go and participate, but not having been elected, and our neighbor Bob Woodmansey having been, I was out. I had been arrested a couple of times as a teen-ager in Great Falls. But I never thought of myself as “an enemy of society” or threat to anyone. Indeed, I was often bullied and punished in other ways for things I had no connection with at all.

By 1972, I was a political radical. But I didn’t consider myself either a Leftist or a Rightist. I was a Survivalist – something I probably learned from Boy Scouts and just growing up in a heavily militarized post WWII environment.

Still, being arrested after earning a college degree and having done some notable, worthwhile things, was a major wake-up call. Suddenly, I became very interested in the plight of the poor and minorities, as well as gays, atheists, and other traditionally persecuted minorities. What the psychedelics had done was to have removed my fears and inhibitions – “the thin veneer of civilization” which had prevented me from violating the delusions of the middle class. Being arrested and getting to hang out with murderers and mafia-types for awhile was worth a law degree in itself, and I didn’t need to go to school anymore.

Like most universities, UCLA had a large pool of acadmic hangers-on who were neither students nor teachers. They used the libraries, visited lectures, and otherwise “crashed” the system which they (correctly) believed, belong to the people. Sometimes they worked for the university (which I did for more than 2 years after I graduated). UC was tuition-free in those days, so there was no need to fight for “scholarhips.” Just having an interest and showing up was sufficient (of course, it was difficult to get admitted to student or graduate status, but not nearly so much so as it is, today. I had excellent test scores – they were APTITUDE tests, in those days, and no one studied for them).

 

 

 

Objectivity… The latest Crisis

Young Person's Guide.. chapters

OBJECTIVITY  The Latest Crisis

(edited 6-26-17)

For anyone possessing a philosophical turn of mind, it is obvious that there is something radically wrong with the way we think about social and political issues. Denial and blame have replaced most enlightened and enlightening discussion in the political realm, while the social sciences, although often sophisticated and meaningful, are rarely applied effectively within the constraints of organized government and the political process which is largely poll-driven and subject to control by a few large media conglomerates.
The fact remains that few people in public life even make the pretense of being fair-minded or “objective” in their thinking and policies. It is as though objectivity, itself, is no longer a valid goal or principle, probably because of the abuses to which this concept or criterion has long suffered. In Soviet Russia, the term “objective” became a kind of buzzword meaning something like “material reality” or “the facts, themselves, independent of analysis.” Something of this idea was imported into American thinking via the emigre novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand. Although largely discredited as an academic philosopher, her influence is still pervasive and must be taken into account in any understanding of the contem porary American political/social status quo.
Ayn Rand, of course, is the originator of a copyrighted “philosophy” known as “Objectivism.” After studying and learning the principles of this closed and rigid system, most people found themselves torn between their love of freedom, order, peace and prosperity (all of which, of course, Objectivism promises to deliver) and their distaste for the actual principles and reasoning which Ayn Rand offered them. Objectivism was actually a useful part of many people’s education (myself included), and Ayn Rand was neither a bad thinker nor a bad writer, but only a somewhat warped personality. She lacked the one essential quality of a philosopher — dispassionate objectivity — and with it, some essential human qualities, including simple kindness and some measure of reverence for life, nature and the larger universe. Having grown up and spent her formative teenage and young adult years in the Russian Revolution and its aftermath, her hatred of Marxism and Communism was automatic, and her distrust of government in general followed close behind.
Her anti-authoritarian arguments are as powerful and absolute as any which have ever been made, rivaling John Stuart Mill’s, Kropotkin’s, and in many ways resembling Herbert Spencer’s and the other Social Darwinists. Once convinced of them, as I was in my own formative teenage and young adult years, one is not likely ever to change or abandon them. Much of contemporary libertarianism and even anarchism is directly attributable to Ayn Rand. That she was not an explicit anarchist is most likely due to her experiences during the McCarthy Era, and the fact that she perceived a total breakdown of authority as presaging something like the Russian Revolutionary and the resulting bloodshed and terror. She was already a Republican in the 1940 election, having worked for Wendell Wilke. Yet, if one takes literally her ideas of the sovereignty of the individual, and the necessity of a social contract, renewed and affirmed by each successive generation (and each individual therein), there is really no place for a sovereign state in Ayn Rand’s system. Much of the confusion and distress which her philosophy has caused has been based on that particular contradiction.
In concrete form, we have witnessed since the Nixon Administration the absurdity of an Ayn Rand disciple, Alan Greenspan, advising Republican Presidents and finally presiding over the funny-money system of the Federal Reserve, while Objectivism advocated a gold standard, no central bank, and certainly no Federal Reserve System, as such. How Mr. Greenspan reconciles this particular contradiction in his own mind is, I suppose, his business, but our next President would do well to find someone for these jobs who is not burdened with so many supposed misgivings.
The main issue — the discrediting of the very idea of “objectivity” because of Ayn Rand’s advocacy of it — is a much deeper and apparently insoluble dilemma. Either we dismiss Ojectivism, and with it, objectivity, as being irrelevant or counter-productive, or we “buy into” Ayn Rand’s total world-view, and with it, a total rejection of the Welfare State, welfare as such, and virtually all “interventionist” government, including subsidies for the arts, protection of the family farm, a mercantilist trade policy, the role of the world’s policeman (something which Ayn Rand seemed to support, so long as her former tormentors were still in power in the Kremlin), the protector of the environment, etc., etc.
The peculiar thing about Ayn Rand’s philosophy (and its attractiveness, obviously, for Mr. Greenspan and his ilk) is that it is emphatically pro-business! No other philosophy has so glorified the power of money and the nobility of counting and accumulating it. Ayn Rand explicitly opposed the idea that money or the love of it is the root of all evil. As a novelist, she wrote basically the same book three times, but her heroes evolved from engineers, architects, and creative artists, none of whom cared a damn about money, into the financiers and industrial magnates of the 1890’s, transposed into the 1950’s and beyond. The main hero in Atlas Shrugged, to be sure, was an inventor (a physicist-philosopher of Irish antecedents) who never seemed to want to capitalize on his genius, and thus eschewed conspicuous consumption, but he chose his friends exclusively on the basis of their material success.
For those having some background in Marxist thought, or the persistent Russian view of capitalism, all this fits into place. The real motivation of the Soviet leaders since Lenin’s day has been to make themselves into the “captains of industry” which they imagined Western capitalists accomplished by a similar process — first, by taking over the government, and then by planning (or conspiring, depending on one’s point of view) to make themselves rich and powerful at the expense of everyone else, while at the same time making the country rich and powerful, as well.
The dialectical process is also very evident in Ayn Rand’s life and career, as is the principle that ideology reflects one’s class affiliation. As a poor, struggling writer, Ayn Rand’s heroes were poor and struggling. As a wealthy, upper-East Side “novelist-philosopher” and successful writer of screenplays, Ayn Rand’s heroes tended to occupy a similar territory, and her ideas went from opposing tyranny and oppression to attempting to gain the instruments of tyranny and oppression for themselves and their friends.
I wonder that there has never been a “Marxist Critique” of Ayn Rand. The reason is probably that Marxists were quite happy with her work, while it was the real anarchists, libertarians and advocates of a free society who attacked her most vociferously. The history of this movement and its opponents is a book or two in itself, but much current history is attributable to it, whether or not one agrees with the Objectivist agenda. It is safe to say that the Libertarian Party owes its existence to Objectivism, and so does the transformation of the national psyche into an obsession with economics — the baby-boomers and their “counterculture,” the yuppies with their snobbery and (upper) class-consciousness, and the continuing superstition that the United States is “the greatest country in the world,” “a beacon of freedom and opportunity,” etc., etc. For such a radical individualist, Ayn Rand had a peculiar knack for playing to the crowd.
I hope the reader will understand that I am viewing this with a sense of wonder, not hatred or contempt. Give her credit for beating the game, even while she committed suicide with cigarettes. This is another example of the denial which seemed to dog the footsteps of the Objectivist “inner circle.” She will be remembered, while other 20th century intellectuals — more “respectable,” today — are long forgotten. Many scientists revere her for her advocacy of the scientific method and the purity of scientific knowledge. Most scientists, after all, do profess to believe in an objective reality, and practice a generic form of “objectivism” in their daily lives. Computers are likewise an “objectivist” factor in our cultural evolution — a profound “reality check” for those of us who’ve learned to use them and to think logically.
Has anyone else noticed that Objectivism (the movement) actually may constitute a kind of Marxian synthesis between State socialism and capitalism? The two are actually shown to be the same. Both are “scientific” societies, technological, dynamic, change-oriented, ruled by the strong and able, etc., etc. Both are actually quite “macho” — a rather peculiar position for a woman philosopher to take!
I remember agonizing discussions among college-age disciples of Ayn Rand in the 60’s about whether or not she hated children (since none of her major characters had them), or what the Objectivist position on homosexuality might be. What are now called “family values” got relatively short shrift in the Objectivist system. Intelligence, however, was practically divine, which proved quite an attraction for the highly-gifted who had gotten little recognition or approval, elsewhere. Some of them seem never to have thought they were grateful enough for this special recognition.
At this point, I believe that a new interpretation — a new dispensation, if you will — of the Objectivist faith is in order. We need to talk about concrete social and political principles — methods by which the real-world problems of today may actually be dealt with. Unless we expect to “bottom out” with some total collapse of the government and social order, and then to be led by the wise and good to the foundation of a better State, we’d better start breaking the free-fall and start the climb back out of the hole we’ve dug for ourselves over the past 30 years. We’d better figure out who knows what they’re talking about, and listen to them.
Ayn Rand’s stuff is mostly of academic interest, since she didn’t follow her own principles, herself. Like most of us, she was somewhat confused in many ways, and unable to reconcile the reality “out there” with her own finely-developed instincts and prejudices.
It would be easier for us, now, if Ayn Rand had never existed. She actually contributed nothing of value except a vision of what the future might be, and what sort of people might lead “us” (not the masses) there. Political leadership or success in statecraft were not on her agenda, and those who followed her rarely, if ever, changed their mind about the general worthlessness and incompetence of government to serve important human needs and aspirations.
Perhaps that’s the really harmful legacy of Ayn Rand: the conviction that government is “the enemy” and doomed to be the province of the corrupt and incompetent. For those of us raised on the American frontier, with strong traditions of populism and participatory democracy, civic virtue and public recognition and esteem for the virtuous, this is a heresy of unspeakable danger and destructiveness. Our pioneer system was practically anarchism by today’s standards and definitions, but it worked, and we thought of it as “good government” and “reform.” It was the Eastern monied interests who played the bogey-men — the very “heroes” and “heroines” whom Ayn Rand glorified in her magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged.
Beyond the idea of community — a concept quite alien to Ayn Rand in any case, although some have considered her positively utopian in her creation of a higher social order based on “reason, purpose, and self-esteem” — there is the international dimension. Ayn Rand seems to have caught on in other countries, too — most notably the Netherlands, Australia, and South Africa. One wonders if she might not have a following, today, in Russia! Or what might have happened to the family of Alicia Rosenbaum in the Stalinist purges? What might be Ayn Rand’s role in (or attitude about) the ending of the Cold War, if she were alive, today?
Or did it end? Are we not about to see a transition to an alliance of the left and right wing nationalists, again? Will the Communist Party have a resurgence, once the bastard form of gangster capitalism which has taken over, there, has run its course. Has everyone unlearned all the Marxist history and theory they’ve been taught over the past 70 years? It seems unlikely. Perhaps we’re still operating under the false assumption that Marxists are stupid, and that all Marxist thought is now discredited and safe to ignore.
In fact, it seems to be thoroughly vindicated in many respects. We needn’t see it as a threat. Marxists aren’t intellectually invincible, but often they are found to be much more liberal and realistic in their thinking than their bourgeois colleagues.
And what about spirituality? Here is another concept which Ayn Rand appropriated and turned to her own advantage. It’s much more common, nowadays, to think in terms of a spiritual dimension than it was 30 years ago. The purely materialistic vision has not been at a lower ebb since 1814. Even scientists have become mystics, if only because life and society are ultimately mysterious. I would venture to say that great scientists are far more playful and imaginative than political leaders, and far more effective, too, in altering the course of history. Like their medical colleagues, they have found it very profitable to be smart and specialized. But there is still plenty of room for the humanistic generalist, or pure research scientist. They are treated with a mixture of awe and wonder.
In short, the scientific community, broadly construed to include such fields as “economic science”, cybernetics, and psychology, has the best hope of saving us — our once peaceful, harmonious society — from self-destruction. Just as democratic values and an international esthetics are becoming universal, we seem to be locked into a paranoia of “us against them.” Who is them? Them are us! “We have met the enemy, and they are us!” as Pogo so eloquently put it.

From Objectivism to Technocracy

The impetus to technocracy is still seen to be a threat, and in many respects, it is, leaving us with something like a military-driven economy in every case, whether it be Nazism or Cold War communism mirroring our own military- industrial complex. There must be other ways to do it, and it needs to be decentralized, empowering, humanistic, and even holistic (i.e., respectful of whole systems and interdisciplinary concerns) to be viable. It’s very difficult to run a country, an economy, or an ecosystem by means of “scientific” planning and centralization of control functions. In fact, we can say it is impossible, if our goal is to approach some optimal social model. Total Quality Management and other “excellence” theories. The real-world practices of different kinds of enterprises have clearly shown that the old-fashioned democratic, community-based, cooperative ownership and management systems work the best.
It is important, here, to say something about goals and the kinds of organizations which can meet certain kinds of goals. Nearly always before in history, the ultimate test of a nation-state was its success in military combat. If it defeated its rivals in battle, it could dictate terms, and more or less impose its own vision of reality (and its own form of economic success) on the rest of the world, who might then be robbed of their land and natural resources or forced to pay some other kind of tribute. The ethical principle involved is an abomination: namely, “I beat you up, so now you have to do what I tell you to do.”
Among “civilized” people, the question then becomes, “Who started it?” And this question can go on forever. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. What matters is the rules, and the responsibility of each nation to police itself so that it doesn’t develop some idea of power and conquest, and march forth to do damage to some other nation.
In reading about the origins of World War I in Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August, it seemed to me that the greatest single cause of this (and probably any other) war was the opposition of various absurd notions of personal honor and chauvinistic “team rivalry” — much like today’s high school or college sports teams. One can say that all wars ultimately involve conquest of land (and its redistribution among the victors) and other resources. What was clearly learned from the Treaty of Versailles is that one sophisticated nation cannot morally blame and exact reparations from the defeated one. Its like making the losers pay court costs along with whatever damages or punishments are inflicted on them. Far better to the have the winner pay them, for that nation can afford to do so, and is benefitting in many other ways from the victory. This was our policy following World War II, and in most respects, it was an unqualified success.
The failure of the United States and Soviet Union to maintain their hegemony over the rest of the world is due largely to the fact that both nations are founded on anti-imperialistic principles, and dissidents in either nation would never let their governments forget this basic contradiction in their behavior. If each nation can finally began to look outward and reconstruct itself according to emerging higher standards of planetary consciousness, we might save ourselves, and pool our resources towards positively reconstructing our less fortunate, poverty- and violence-ridden neighbors, wherever in the world they might be.
It is time for a sophisticated ethics of international brotherhood, voluntarism, and mutual aid. Let us be done with the empires, and begin again to live as human beings in a common habitat on planet Earth. These are the “objective conditions” of our present social existence, and when we finally acknowledge and accept them, we may begin to re-think our political and social reality, and alter it to fit the humanistic and ecological imperatives which are becoming ever-clearer. If “human life on earth is the ultimate value”, as Ayn Rand maintained (in the non- gender-inclusive form “man’s life”), then even her version of “objectivity” has something to offer, and we can proceed to work together to improve the quality of life for everyone.
Paul Stephens

From the Nuclear Bantustan…

Nuclear Issues

Nuclear Mafias,  Cyber-nuclear Terrorism, and the limits of Full Spectrum Dominance

How do they figure that a nuclear Doomsday Machine is any sort of “asset?”

A Chinese-Filipino I hung out with for a few months in 1971 – call him Gene – taught me a lot  about the “Outsider’s” point of view. His father, part of the commercial elite of the Philippines (wholesale food production and trade), sent him to California to go to school.

One of the “gems of wisdom” he enunciated (which later proved all too true) was that “military towns are Mafia towns”, citing San Diego (where he was in the process of moving) as an example. The military demands an authoritarian, business-like culture, education system, etc. No room for radicals or independent thinkers, and some sort of “black ops” or contracted Mafia can take care of them, sparing the taxpayers and elected officials from the embarassment and expense.

Since I had grown up in such a town (Great Falls, MT, with a nuclear strike force of 200 Minuteman missiles at Malmstrom AFB, carrying up to 600 nuclear warheads), it was all too familiar to me, but I’d never seen it from “the Outside.” Although many people here opposed the preparations for nuclear war (focussed clearly by “Dr. Strangelove”, “Fail-safe” and other anti-nuclear “survivor” films and even TV shows in the 1950’s and ’60’s), there was little beyond the mainstream Catholic and Protestant peace sentiments, and they were very subdued. Any sort of “demonstrations” were virtually unheard of.  We also later learned that many foreigners (from “communist” or otherwise “hostile” countries) were prohibited from living here, and if they did, they had to register and place themselves under surveillance.  Thus, we had become “a nuclear Bantustan” on the model of South Africa.

We did have a local free press which was highly critical of this “nuclear enterprise” – the installation of the latest solid-fuel “Minuteman” missiles which could be launched to hit targets in the Soviet Union in a matter of minutes. This was 1962, when Montana Senator Mike Mansfield had replaced LBJ as Majority Leader. Perhaps that had something to do with the Minuteman being sited here – a Mission which every Democrat is still taught was a great thing for our local economy and national security.

A couple of years later, the Tribune was sold to Cowles Media (the Minneapolis Star-Tribune), which might have had a more positive view of the nuclear Doomsday Machine, and better connections to the Military-Industrial Complex. The Vietnam War, which was resisted all over the country by every tribe and class and in every imaginable venue, was basically ignored in Great Falls. We believed whatever the government told us, and no one here ever heard that our sainted Senator, Mike Mansfield, was doing all he could to get us out of Vietnam.  He would have been challenged and defeated by a Goldwater Republican if we had known.

The College of Great Falls employed a number of Berrigan-style Catholics – often Jesuits or from the Catholic Workers tradition, but even this caused a scandal. When we later organized a campaign to block new missile systems, CGF was dropped by the Air Force as an “approved” college for Missile Launch Officers to pursue an advanced degree. That was a big hit to the finances of this quiet Sisters of Providence school, and it later re-organized as “The University of Great Falls” with an emphasis on programs like pre-med, pre-law, and Criminal Justice which would fit in with the needs of local Air Force personnel and veterans, a third or more of whom were “missile cops” guarding the nuclear arsenal.

Our local “peace movement” (for a time re-vitalized in the late 1980’s by the World Beyond War campaigns) was often politically conservative and against abortion and other “liberal” causes, but Christianity is ultimately a “peace religion” at its core, and that remained. We also had a great Bishop – Hunthausen – who later became Bishop of Seattle and was reprimanded for his progressive views. Father Gregori and Ron Haverlandt were also notable peace, justice, and indigenous rights advocates in the Electric City, building on the tradition of Sister Providentia, who succorred local Native Americans for many decades, and at a time when there was little support for such activities.

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UCSB in 1971

I was working in the computer center of UC Santa Barbara in 1971, and living in the student ghetto, Isla Vista – the scene of anti-war riots and a Bank of America branch burned the year before. UCSB was the “party school” of the UC system, with beaches on three sides (mostly nude, in those days), and that was a major reason I took a working-class job there. My various attempts to form lasting relationships with accomplished people had generally failed- nearly always in the case of females- and I thought this might be a good place to gain some social skills.

I actually found the job more or less by chance, and since I already worked part-time in the UCLA computer center, it was easy to move to a full-time job at Santa Barbara – where some of the most advanced remote computing systems were being developed – the fabled “BBN Box” which became the first router, which you could “log on” to. The “N” in BBN was von Neumann, who designed the first framework for digital computers which is still used – the “Von Neumann Architecture” of I-O devices, processing, and storage in RAM and ROM form.

So, I was literally present at the birth of the Internet – both at UCLA and then at Santa Barbara, which had an NSF grant (and probably DARPA, or whatever it was called then) to develop a national network of about 10 engineering schools so they could use our relatively large and fast IBM-360-75. Big deal. I had nothing to do with it. But I was an avid Sci-Fi reader and “futurist”, although that term was itself mostly science fiction (or “prophecy”) in those days.

One contemporary film captured this well – “Collossus: the Forbin Project” in which American military computers hook up with Soviet ones and take over the world. And there was also the recent “2001 A Space Odyssey” (1968) where the computer on a space mission to Jupiter kills the human members of the crew. And there were early Star Trek episodes with a similar theme (1966-69 -exactly shadowing my years at UCLA). So, I was already well-aware of all the dangers of centralized computer control systems, and monitoring of everyone’s “transactions” of whatever kind.

It’s interesting to reflect that “machine thinking” applies to politics just as well as computer hardware. But it’s a particular kind of politics – organized, money-driven, corporate – the same structure found in any sort of dictatorial system, criminal or otherwise (and all are ultimately “criminal” in the sense of being destructive of human values).

During the Vietnam War, and in the midst of strikes and mass demonstrations, university computer centers had been taken over by “student radicals” and “peace activists” who accused them of participating in military planning and procurement, along with police state “pacification” projects, supporting Apartheid in S. Africa, or whatever crimes against humanity were being funded. In one case, they totally demolished the tape-drives and other visible stuff, while leaving the expensive “guts” (core storage, which then cost about $1 a byte, as opposed to maybe $1 a gigabyte which we have, today). A large main-frame computer might have as much as 2 megabytes of core storage (like ours at UCSB, and much of it was still the old “donut/3-wires” system – not even transistorized.) Therefore, we “long-haired computer freaks” (later called “hackers”) were in demand if there was a riot, figuring that we could talk our brethren radicals out of doing anything “stupid.”

Fortunately, no such confrontation ever happened to me. At UCSB, the leading hardware guy was right out of the Charles Manson family, but he was the only one who understood the system and could make it work. Maybe I took a hint from that, when I quit the job after less than a year, ostensibly to return to Montana to help my family.

That was when I met Gene of Manila, or maybe it was Leyte, where my father had wanted to return and start a night club after WWII. Gene was one of the most accomplished people I’d ever met – world-class chess player, a fine classical pianist, and a student of culture in general. He spoke several languages, and was an anglophile, besides. He may have been born during the Japanese Occupation, and many people thought he was part-Japanese. He was also looking for economic opportunities, and social advancement in a very strange time and place – Southern California c. 1970.

When I met him, he had already gone over to the Dark Side, joining car gangs (souped-up VW’s), dealing pot, and when I met him, in the process of joining the beach-van culture of surfers and various criminal elements. But he did it all from a very superior perspective – not someone trying to “work his way up” and finally get into “the Mafia”, which many drug dealers were doing at that time. He was trying to “figure out this culture”, which was very unsettling to him. Although he seemed very “corporate” in his thinking – “grow or die,” “expand the business”, “develop a new territory,” etc., most of his mind-set was classical Chinese philosophy and practice – something which was ubiquitous in the I-Ching-throwing counter-culture, as well as the vast proliferation of other Eastern schools of philosophy and spirituality which had found a foothold in California. Soon, Kung-Fu with David Carradine and all sorts of “martial arts” films and TV series would proliferate like another Cultural Revolution. Indeed, we explicitly thought of ourselves as being “culture freaks” rather than political revolutionaries, without any particular attachment to Mao and the Red Guards. I read somewhere that in the 1970’s, there were 100,000 “Maoists” in Norway (out of a population of about 4 million). So, it was a global phenomenon.

This was Gene’s overseas-Chinese family history (“the Jews of E Asia”), and coming from the Philippines, much of it was military and related to US Imperialism. He had come to the source, in order to better-understand how to function in “the Empire.” He had military ID. He could shop at any US base commissary. He had no revolutionary (or even “reformist”) attitudes or values whatsoever, which took me awhile to figure out. He could have been a highly-trained Intelligence officer, or maybe Counter-Intelligence, infiltrating the radical student elements in California, as well as the then-nascent drug cartels and “Counter-culture” – which seemed a real threat to “Authority” in those days. If so, he did it entirely with an “underworld” rationale and style…. like James Bond infiltrating the Mafia.

We’ve been watching gangster movies since the 1930’s. Some of our biggest, most popular movie stars might appear as an Al Capone or some other “heavy.” It tended to legitimize the whole gangster thing, reverting to a simpler boss-driven tribal society, and real-life gangsters had a lot to do with producing and distributing such films. Chinese gangsters (Tongs) and martial arts cults, along with Ninja, the Filipino martial arts (used in the Bourne films) flourished, and most of it goes back centuries, or even millenia – like our Graeco-Roman wrestling, fencing, etc.

This also explains the origins of “identity politics”. Each tribe, race, class, or other “demographic” (an accurate term, for once) is perceived to have particular interests which must be addressed in political campaigns. The Greens, for one, were supposed to have transcended that conundrum. We were for the interests of all – and for the planet and resources upon which all must live for the rest of eternity. No one seems to get this latter point, but it is the essence of all religions, as well as an open and diverse society.

Native Americans and other indigenous people tend to “get it”, or did before they were corrupted by “White Man’s Thinking.” And that is why it is so troubling to see Native Americans running for office on essentially a “White Man’s platform”, wanting nothing but more “welfare” and “federal support” for the very stuff that’s killing us – like a nuclear arsenal and continuing or expanding fossil fuel use – two policies which cost Denise Juneau the election (for Montana’s lone House seat), in my opinion. She certainly couldn’t compete in the military arena with a decorated Seal Team 6 Commander, who was very measured and sane in most of what he said.

Yet, she basically surrendered the contest to him before it had even begun, saying nothing against war or military spending – let alone the prison system, which she should have been “up in arms” about. Unfortunately, she also holds a law degree from what must be one of the worst law schools in the country – the University of Montana – which has consistantly supported all the ALEC policies to create a domestic Police State with the largest prison population (and the most lawyers, cops, and jailers) in the world. And it has expanded 5-fold since 1971.

Denise Juneau also earned Master’s from Harvard’s School of Education – something which former Dem Gov. Ted Schwinden’s son, Mike, also had, and later moved to Boston to live and work. By emphasizing these personal “accomplishments”, I can well imagine that many Native Americans didn’t care to vote for her, or vote at all, since she was still probably the best Democrat running for a major office in Montana. She wasn’t doing much for her people, but she had done a lot for the education bureaucracy and teacher’s unions, who were funding her campaign.

Ultimately, the Dem “strategists” (using the term loosely) didn’t want her to win. Rep. Zinke could do a lot more for their corporate bosses than Denise, who would follow the NEA line to the letter, and perhaps make further claims for the descendents of people illegally massacred by the Feds, in the process of stealing their lands and resources. No matter how much a Native American claims to favor strip-mining, logging, oil drilling, nuclear warfare or whatever, she’s always suspect, because those activities are the ultimate crime or sin – raping and looting our common Mother which sustains us all.

And so, a close race became a rout. Denise just wasn’t addressing the issues of importance to her own people, let alone the rest of us – peace, sustainable economy, loss of national sovereignty through trade deals and NATO, and ending corporate control of our vital institutions – especially the “criminal justice system” and our local utilities and public services (like education, libraries, public broadcasting, etc) which are constantly under assault from out-of-state (and in-state) corporate interests, as well as “government take-overs” from Washington, D.C.

That’s what no doubt “tipped the scales” from a close race to a rout. The Control Freaks always end up at the same point – they want to keep controlling us, no matter what we believe or which office we hold or organization we belong to. Worse, it’s never their fault, and whatever negative consequences follow from their desires to dominate and control us, it’s always safe to blame the victims, or some imaginary “enemies” like Russia or China.

This is, by the way, the essence of Fascism – total control of the economy and the government by corporate interests, usually with a military emphasis and a desire for war and global “Full Spectrum Dominance”, a police state at home, and prisons in place of health care, food, and housing. Amerika Uber Alles is no longer a slogan. It’s our official “Defense Posture”, and well on the way to being fully-implemented in domestic policy as well. STOP NATO. Peace Now.

The 2016 Peace and Freedom debates

Green Libertarianism

 

Green Libertarianism: the 2016 Stein-Johnson Debates on Tavis Smiley

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/tavissmiley/interviews/presidential-candidates-dr-jill-stein-gary-johnson-pt-1/

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/tavissmiley/interviews/presidential-candidates-dr-jill-stein-gary-johnson-pt-2/

I define myself as a “Green Libertarian” (slightly modified from an earlier system I defined for myself, Social Libertarianism.). I wrote part of this Wikipedia entry, but it needs to be completely redone elsewhere, since the Wiki parameters exclude any original material. But some of the concepts are presented well enough.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_libertarianism

I thought that it was better for Greens and Libertarians to have their own debates rather than participate in the charade of the “official debate” which debated nothing of any importance or relevance to the present campaigns, or the current state of the world.

Stein is a sort of “composite candidate” – the best the fractious Green Party could come up with, and she’s a good example why we probably shouldn’t be running candidates for President – at least until we have a couple of dozen members in Congress (and that simply isn’t going to happen short of a major revolution or different Constitution).

I’ve grown pessimistic about the prospects for any sort of electoral outcomes that aren’t profoundly negative. There simply aren’t any good guys out there, and when they try, they usually don’t get to 1st base. So, the best thing to do is keep trying, and make every campaign an educational one, devoted to exposing the extreme dangers we face from nuclear war and an environmentally ravaged planet. And in this case, Jill is proving to be a very useful “foil” either to Gary Johnson or to Hillary, who shares much of her class and intellectual presuppositions.

Step forward, Gary Johnson. When I first read about him, he didn’t sound very libertarian at all – he seemed like a moderate, sane Republican, much like the Cobb’s in Montana, or the Jeanette Rankin Brigades. Now, most of those people are Democrats, but nothing like the great ones of the past. Usually, they can’t even get a credible candidate to run for Congress.

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After watching both parts of the debate, let me see if I can “iron out” (pun intended) some of the rough spots in the Stein-Johnson campaigns. This is really “a pair to draw to” for our side. (I used the same expression when Ted Cruz chose his “running mate” – Carly Fiorina – the woman who destroyed Hewlett-Packard.)

Jill is really doing well, and needs to be freed of any committments to support some obsolete socialist “line” that more subsidies and “government programs” are going to solve these problems. Academia (and the public employee unions) have had a lock on government policy since long before I was in college at UCLA in the 1960’s. Indeed, UCLA was seen as one of the pre-eminent “trainers” for the elite bureaucratic class – “The Country Club of the liberal jet set,” as one of my YR comrades put it.

So, I know the drill. The Ivy League vs. The Rest of the Country. In the West, it’s more diverse, and universities have their own agendas and alliances. So, we’re the perpetual “outsiders” (isn’t “Utne” Norwegian for that?).

As a Montanan, I’ve been building strong alliances with New Mexico since the 1970’s when I worked with a guy I won’t name from one of the old Mexican families. Taos artists and our own CM Russell were tight – and there’s always Los Alamos, one of the largest Unitarian-Universalist congregations in the Mountain-Desert District. Santa Fe (along with Cut Bank, Montana) is a center for the arts, music, and culture. Is Montana doing its part to advance a truly esthetic and humane lifestyle and agenda for the American West? We hope so.

Gary Johnson was apparently a popular governor (of New Mexico), for he was re-elected. He also vetoed more bills than probably any other governor in history, or so he claimes. He’s a “casual,” hip Westerner – the New Model for a 21st Century President. He doesn’t want war or confrontation. He doesn’t want to build walls. He wants to restore the ancient borders of New Spain, or else remove all borders entirely – the preferred strategy, I believe.

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Libertarian history – more Green than Republican

Prior to, say, 1945, “libertarian” was equated with traditional communitarian anarchism, pacifism, nature worship, and the values and traditions of indigenous people – essentially what the Green Party was originally conceived to be.

The “libertarian” label is ancient – a believer in liberty, not capitalism, wealth, the stock market, or the 1%. It means small, local, self-governing communities, not an empire which encompasses hundreds or thousands of such self-governing communities, and exploits them for political and economic benefits which are rarely shared or “worth the cost.”

People should intentionally govern themselves and their communities instead of being owned and controlled by the State – a respectable theory which maintained that strong central governments and standing armies were inimical to human freedom and prosperity, not to mention survival, itself. Seems harmless enough, doesn’t it?

Except that the politcal/military/imperial forces of both the Left and Right are based on the premise of a Totalitarian State. If any opposition is allowed, the State will collapse. And that is what we have, today. Were it not for Tavis Smiley and an unannounced appearance on American Forum from the University of Virginia (both on PBS), there would have been no national appearances for Johnson at all, and he is on the ballot in nearly every state.

Stein, with a strong base in New England among the highest intellectual elites, hasn’t done any better. In the West, she’s basically unknown, and in Montana, at least, an above-ground Green Party is basically non-existant, although I still try to keep up appearances, just in case a Jill Stein should happen to show up.

I vetted the idea of a Stein-Johnson debate to several GP leaders, including both of her campaign managers, and they encouraged me to contact the Libertarians, since they weren’t about to do that, themselves. So, I asked Ron Vandevender, a leading local Libertarian, if he might present the idea to his party leaders. Next thing I know, abracadabra, it’s on Tavis Smiley. And Tavis did a great job in the limited time available.

There was no posturing or attacks – just a solid discussion of the real issues – peace, military spending, foreign policy of fomenting wars and terrorism, etc. And there was remarkable agreement on most of these. Obviously, these two candidates (and Parties) are on the same side, just as the Republicans and Democrats are on the same side – for total destruction of the planet, just so long as they maintain the 1% monopoly on wealth and power.

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My two closest contacts (not exactly “comrades”) in the Green Party have been Jill’s campaign managers in the past two campaigns – David Cobb and Ben Manski. Cobb, the 2004 Presidential candidate (and General Counsel for Nader in 2000) had previously worked for the Jerry Brown and Jesse Jackson campaigns, and still maintains ties to the PDA. He also started the Move to Amend and Democracy Unlimited in Humbolt County, CA (against corporate power). Ben Manski (recommended to me by Cobb) was a leader of the Campus Greens (at Wisconsin, Madison) when I first became active in 2000. Now he is 42, and a professor at UC Santa Barbara, where I also worked for time.

Ben Manski managed the 2012 campaign, which used as its centerpiece a “Green New Deal”, which is a widely-used metaphor for what we should be doing. Both Clinton and Obama used it (or something similar) as a talking point, but the Obama version sank with a large subsidy to a solar producer which went bankrupt, costing taxpayers $1 billion or so.

Jill and her spokespeople keep saying they can make it work, but after the revelations in Part 1 of the debate on Tavis Smiley, it seems my worst fears were realized.

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/tavissmiley/interviews/presidential-candidates-dr-jill-stein-gary-johnson-pt-1/

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/tavissmiley/interviews/presidential-candidates-dr-jill-stein-gary-johnson-pt-2/
Now we know, as the Daily Beast reported, Jill is a certified capitalist, with an extensive portfolio including many bad companies, which she only recently “divested” from (her word), while her husband is still active in Merck and other major corporate brands. And she advocates all sorts of spending and government programs to address climate change, “picking winners and losers”, as Gov. Johnson puts it (and all Libertarians oppose) – a strategy which is absolutely doomed to failure, as are any sort of taxpayer subsidies to private companies or other “producers.” This is also obvious to the critics of the ACA, which is a vast scheme of taxpayer subsidies to fund compulsory corporate racketeering (in the guise of “Health Insurance” which is nothing of the sort.)

The same is true of producer subsidies anywhere else – agriculture is probably the worst offender. Those who really defend “free markets” (and most Republicans say they do), must be made to understand that any sort of taxpayer subsidies to private corporations totally negates free-market principles and the possibility of a beneficial market economy. Gary Johnson understands this very well, while Jill is still mired in “New Deal” fantasies of “minimum wages,” “full employment,” universal health care and free K-PhD public education.

Doesn’t this require a totalitarian surveillance over all economic activity (just as long as it stays out of our bedrooms and libraries, I suppose), and confiscation of the “social surplus” which is being stolen from the people by corporations? Or is it to promote some ill-defined “social justice” – usually more “government programs” or other state-directed policies to politically benefit those who support the Party, all the while protecting and bailing out the corporate elites. This is where libertarian principles can really make a difference.

The best policy in every case is to tax or prohibit the bad things (nuclear and fossil fuel industries, in this case,) along with chemical agriculture, the Military-Industrial-Education-Medical complex, and other major parts of “government” which are killing and enslaving us on a daily basis. This allows individual firms and co-ops to act as they see fit, subject to the usual general rules of accounting and business practice, torts (they cannot injure their neighbors, workers, or customers), etc.

If anyone needs subsidizing, it’s the poor who have no means to participate in the market economy. Give them some chips so they can play, and provide them with the necessities of life (food, clothing, shelter, health care, cultural enrichment, etc.) Then they won’t be forced into lives of crime, drug abuse, prostitution, and other rackets which depend on poverty and deprivation.

By outlawing all these things, a “black economy” is created based on exploiting others. And our present rules don’t distinguish criminal activities from an “informal economy” of barter and exchange, “under the table” wages, etc., which is absolutely essential for the survival of those excluded from the corporate state and its police power.

Most people only ask to be left alone to do their own thing. They’re not interested in politics, and if they participate at all, they’re usually led by some party officials to vote against their own (and everyone else’s) best interests. Fear is a strong motivation, and that is what the major parties use to maintain their power, along with some grandiose vision of American Full Spectrum Dominance over the entire planet. And that is what is costing us our freedom and threatens our very survival as a species.

“Natural Law” may in this case be taken literally – Nature is sovereign. We, as humans, cannot do anything which permanently alters and destroys the ecosystem on which we all depend for survival. This fundamental principle of Green Libertarianism follows Hayek in distinguishing between two kinds of law, and leaving most human activity to follow general rules and principles (enshrined in the English Common Law and other traditional systems) rather than a myriad of specific laws and regulations which no one knows about or understands.

If we are to be law-abiding, the laws must be simple and self-evident -not created by sold-out and ignorant legislators at the behest of corporate bosses, ALEC, union bosses and other special-interest groups and the courts which are now utterly dominated and overwhelmed by them….

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The Green New Deal

http://www.jill2016.com/greennewdeal

So, what’s wrong with the Green New Deal? I’ve written a lot about it, largely based on Gabriel Kolko’s “Triumph of Conservatism” (describing the original New Deal). But free market economists have always been critical of it, along with the phoney “Keynesianism” which they think underlies it.

In the first place, it’s blatant stealing (or at least unauthorized “borrowing”) from FDR’s New Deal. The Democrats have always charged that Greens are “stealing our votes” and trying to recruit members from within the traditional supporters of the Democratic Party. Now, Jill is verifying that charge.

The Greens are definitely the “idea party” with voluminous solutions to ever policy issue or question. Yet, Stein, acting as though she’s “really just a New Deal Liberal,” piggy-backs on something which all working people, minorities, and leftists in general once identified with. Even WWII veterans and those who think we somehow “won the war” because of FDR’s wise and skillful leadership, will automatically support a “Green New Deal,” won’t they? Not necessarily. That’s traditional political thinking, not Green Politics.

In any case, such people are largely gone. Even in the 1950’s and 60’s, the New Deal didn’t seem like such a good deal after all, so we had a “Fair Deal,” “New Frontier”, “Great Society” (actually a concept taken from Adam Smith), etc. And another war (or series of them) which FDR (an anti-imperialist) would have vehemently opposed, but which Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson pursued “with vigor.”

East vs. West

“Frontier” was the key metaphor in the West, and we continue in that frame of reference, whether it’s in biomedical resarch or space exploration. We don’t want to be “centrists.” We want to be on the edge (das Rand, in German), whatever we’re doing. We want to be unique individuals who work with other rational people for mutual aid and benefit, not to exploit the poor or enslave minorities, or be part of some unthinking herd called Democrats, Republicans, or “the majority.”

The words “New Deal” must always represent State Socialism and a strong central government which will overcome all the evils which exist in the backward rural areas and inner cities – primarily by disarming and imprisoning everyone who resists. Economically, the New Deal is widely reccognized today as American Fascism, and the opposite of anything really Green (“grass-roots Democracy”). It was a corporate deal to save capitalism from the surging socialists and populists who were outraged by the abuses of the 1% and the gangster fiefdoms created by alcohol Prohibition and the establishment of the FBI – a completely unconstitutional abuse of federal power… See any parallels with today?

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Vote your conscience, not your fears…

OK, forget the label “Green New Deal.” Am I voting for Stein? I wouldn’t if I thought a vote for Gary Johnson would be more “effective” or whatever in re-establishing National Sanity. I’ll let you know how I voted after the election. And I would encourage others to vote Green in every case – even if they offer a badly misinformed and misleading candidate. (People thought Obama was essentially Green, anti-war, pro-justice, etc., so few voted Green that year). I will even vote for a good Republican (we still have some in Montana – I need to talk some more with Ed Buttrey) over a bad Green or Libertarian.

Most of what is wrong with Stein is due to her Harvard education (which I must say, has also badly contaminated Denise Juneau, the Democratic candidate for Montana’s lone seat in the House). Indeed, they sound much the same on issues involving the academic elites, the need for more government spending, aggressive foreign policy, and more “success” in the existing educational and other public institutions.

Do we really want our schools and prisons to be more “successful” in establishing a Totalitarian State? That’s a distinction which Juneau, at least, seems to have missed, since she still supports fossil fuels and “Nuclear Deterrence” – easily among the top 5 threats to human life and civilization, and especially indigenous peoples everywhere. The idea of forcing people to spend more time in a dysfunctional “school to prison pipeline” is certainly nothing to be proud of.

I’ve heard nothing from her about less spending on prisons, the military, Homeland Security, or any other aspects of the National Security State. She seems to think she’s “supporting our Warriors” or something. Whatever “Peace Democrats” used to exist in Montana have largely been hunted to extinction. That’s simply not part of their platform anymore, and that’s why we desperately need for the anti-war candidates, whether Green or Libertarian, to be listened to and supported.

Meanwhile, the Montana Democrat and Republican parties continue their insane demands to foment more and more social crises with the War on Drugs and other ALEC initiatives to destroy the environment and any sort of independent politics and media. This is all in the name of “creating jobs” to make sure Montana-educated kids have jobs here at home – except that the most important ones, like manning the nuclear Doomsday Machine, are exclusively under Federal control. I imagine it’s much the same in New Mexico, yet their governor has allied himself with the forces of reason, culture, and peace, instead of the Military-Industrial-Complex.

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My home town of Great Falls, MT is presently being occupied by the most horrendous Doomsday Machine in history – 150-200 strategic nuclear “Minuteman” missiles which can deliver a couple of hundred thousand tons of TNT-equivalent almost anywhere in the world, in less than an hour (hence the name).

Imagine what people think and believe growing up in the midst of such a facility. “It’s just for Deterrence,” we’re told. “They’ll never be used.” But we should spend another trillion dollars to keep a “better version” for another 50 years? Only if we plan to use them, which is the big news apparently being suppressed for election purposes.

The following article from Global Research, a Canadian foreign policy institute, makes specific reference to Montana’s nuclear capabilities, but the numbers and technology is from the 1990’s. Half or more of the world’s nuclear arsenals in Russia and the US have been dismantled, but now there is another nuclear arms race underway….

http://www.globalresearch.ca/war-between-us-and-russia-could-be-sooner-than-later-the-danger-of-a-nuclear-war

Joachim Hagopian
Global Research, October 18, 2016
Region: Russia and FSU, USA
Theme: Militarization and WMD, US NATO War Agenda
In-depth Report: Nuclear War
PHS comments/corrections for this article…

When MIRVed, our Minuteman IIIs had three warheads each, not 8. It is Trident and MX missiles (once deployed in Wyoming, before being cancelled) which carry 8-10 IRV’s, and I believe that treaties have also cut down that number, perhaps to one per missile. Non-MIRVed ballistic missiles are much less destabilizing, since it’s a one for one deal (hard to explain, but everything about strategic nuclear warfare depends on “balance”, counterforce, and the preservation of a “deterrent” – which is really just a mental construct, not an actual military strategy).

Every military operation involves threats to a real or potential enemy. That is what “deterrence” literally means. But if a country is already in a state of hostilities like the fabled “Cold War” between the US and USSR, “deterrence” has no meaning. It becomes, in Helen Caldicott’s pithy phrase, “Missile Envy.”

Which guy has the biggest stuff? Who can intimidate the other in a cosmic game of chicken? That’s really all it is. And when we politicize it, and put it in the hands of the corporate crime syndicates posing as Republican and Democratic Parties, we are certainly asking for disaster, and probably suicide as a civilization, if not the human species, itself.

At some point, we must choose between supporting a military government, coup, or revolution which ends these policies, or the actual Doomsday which Democrats/Republicans are preparing for in the name of “National Security.”

High Frontier Vs Star Wars (Strategic Defense Initiative)

Mensa writings (1985-87)

 

From Mensatana, c. 1987
High Frontier vs. Star Wars

by Paul Stephens

Recently, I saw the results of a poll conducted by Reason Magazine. One of the questions gauged the reader’s interest, pro or con, on the subject of “Star Wars/High Frontier.” If President Reagan or his theoreticians have stolen the title “High Frontier” from Princeton physicist Gerard O’Neill, this fact is not yet widely known to the American people. O’Neill’s conception of a “High Frontier” (the title of his book published in the 70’s) has nothing to do with the Strategic Defense Initiative or “Star Wars.” In fact, they are in direct competition with one another for financial and technological resources, and carrying out one of them virtually precludes the other.

High Frontier, in O’Neill’s formulation, calls for building permanent human habitats in outer space, materially supported by the construction of huge solar micro-wave-transmitting power stations and factories in earth orbit. These power stations would beam down electricity in the form of microwaves to receiver-arrays on earth. Most of the construction materials would come from the moon (having a much smaller “gravity-well”, and being rich in aluminum and silicon). Although far-fetched and still not taken entirely seriously, O’Neil’s plan captured the imagination of science fiction fans and advocates of space development and exploration in the 1970’s. Even environmentalists, pacifists, the Russian followers of Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (who saw earth as “the nest” from which a full-fledged humanity would someday emerge), and others could relate to O’Neill’s humanistic vision of a kind of scientific Utopia for the future.

The Strategic Defense Initiative, on the other hand, is the reductio ad absurdum of militaristic paranoia. Contrary to many existing treaties and common sense, this program would carry the arms race into outer space, costing hundreds of billions or trillions of scarce public dollars, and render obsolete existing weapon systems built, supposedly, to preserve peace through “deterrence.” No tangeable benefits of any kind are envisioned from space-based weapon systems. Instead, a period of destabilization, arms build-ups, mutual suspicion and paranoia would be the inevitable result if we continue to develop and deploy such systems.

By all accounts from reputable, disinterested scientists, the actual technological systems now under development simply aren’t feasible. It is much more costly to fortify against attack than to double or triple the attacking force. Through the use of decoys, atmospheric delivery systems, and other strategies on the part of potential attackers, the space-based defense system can easily be nullified or outflanked, like a kind of space-age Maginot Line. At worst, it could invite or even necessitate attack before it is completed, for it constitutes a return to American arms superiority and the capability of dominating and intimidating other countries— particularly if something like the Reagan Administration is still in power. Precisely because such systems represent a means of strategic intimidation, space-based weapons were long ago outlawed by treaty.
The Reagan Administration’s attempt to revive this discredited thinking and technology is merely one more indication of his (and his advisors’) incompetence, chicanery, and paranoia. Having already usurped the ideals of the cowboy and the American West, Mr. Reagan (because he acted in Hollywood “Westerns,” I suppose) has blithely assumed that anything which pertains to a “high frontier” must have something to do with “star wars” or, for all I know, the gunfight at the O.K. corral. If the American media has fallen for this “package deal,” surely it is up to the rest of us to expose it.

Perhaps this is a case of Mr. Reagan, as auteur. wanting to direct Dr. Strangelove II: Cap the Knife. Or is it another massive payoff to his defense industry friends and supporters in California? Whatever it is, it should be seen as being dangerous, irrational, and foolish.
Implicit (for whatever reasons) in the mindset of the Reaganites is a virtually total disregard for “lower classes” and the universal interests of humanity. To embrace the United Nations; to make peace with the Russians; to rid the world of the threat of nuclear war — these things are simply not priorities for the Reagan Administration. Their mindset requires a “bogey-man” – some “enemy” or malevolent force or ideology which must be fought to the death.

Thus, we are made to believe that it is better to be poised on the brink of nuclear war, hating other nations and their people, than to work for peace. Any suggestion that all nations, cultures, and traditions have an equal moral value, complexity, and legitimacy is likely to face hostility or even violent opposition from this Administration. The most obvious truths must be forever obscure to the Reagan-class mind.

The wise and sane alternatives are obvious: the human species ought to care for itself and its long-term interests. Every nation and race shares a common future, common needs, and very similar aspirations. Peace is the natural state of affairs. It is war which is the irrational, contrived abberation; the expression of self-hatred and species-hatred; the ultimate degradation of all our highest values and aspirations.

War is the triumph of evil over good; of death over life. And it is war which our present political leadership insists we should prepare for, and rely on as an instrument of “policy.” Their view is simple: You don’t like somebody? Then attack him. Invade his country. Overthrow his government. Or support dictatorships which would otherwise be overthrown.

On a practical level, Mr. Reagan and his political allies would murder an Allende while succoring a Marcos or a Somoza. They make it a point to be oblivious to world opinion. With inconceivable arrogance, they see themselves as defending “the free world” and bringing the “benefits of American civilization” (and especially American weapons) to the rest of the world.

This is nothing new. Ever since the Mexican War and especially the Spanish American War of 1898, we’ve had a tradition of stupid jingoism being acted out in spite of every kind of rational, moral, and humanitarian objections. Since building up our vast nuclear arsenals, there is no legitimate “defense.” There is either peace or mutual annihiliation. Right now, there is a “balance of terror” and little else. Is it any wonder that any splinter group of dissidents now sees terrorism as the only efficacious means to bring about change? What are nuclear arsenals but the greatest instruments of terror the world has ever known?

Anyone who acts to perpetuate war and our reliance on it should be regarded with the greatest suspicion. We have no further use for war and its appliances. There is no longer anything to be gained from it. The only thing worth fighting for is a nation’s freedom and its territorial integrity. Those who attempt to take away the freedom or violate the territorial integrity of others cause wars, and they are guilty of the greatest possible immorality.

The only sure way to avoid war is for everyone to refuse to participate in it. And we should begin by refusing to participate in “Star Wars.” Space exploration and habitation is a completely different matter. As Carl Sagan recently pointed out, the financial and technological resources necessary for the development of one regular strategic defense system (like the B-1 bomber or MX missile) would be sufficient to build and carry out a’ manned mission to Mars, with Soviet, European, Japanese, and other nations’ support and cooperation. And this would have all the “spin-off” benefits of SDI, plus the advantages of peaceful cooperation and scientific knowledge in many vital fields, including planetary ecology. Lets work for the future instead of being enslaved by the past.

Paul Stephens,  Great Falls, Montana

Small ICBM deployment-USAF hearing July 1987

Mensa writings (1985-87)

Testimony by Paul Stephens

Reprinted in Mensatana, December 22, 1987
Mensans sometimes wonder how they can use their intelligence for public benefit. Here is an example of how one person responded to an issue of public concern. This testimony was given at a local Environmental Impact Hearing conducted by the US Air Force concerning the deployment of another nuclear weapon system in Montana.

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My name is Paul Stephens. I’m a fourth-generation Montanan whose family has lived in this area since 1883.

Our President claims to want to earn a place in history by successfully negotiating real limitations on nuclear arms. If he does so, those following in the next Administration will find themselves scaling back and dismantling the build-up pro­posed here. This suggests another “boom and bust” cycle, or an experience like Conrad, Montana where construction was begun with the ABM system in the 1970’s.

Dr. Paul F. Walker, Co-director of the Institute for Peace and International Security in Cambridge, Mass, spoke here recently informing us that Malmstrom AFB (and indeed, all land-based ICBM’s) are no longer a vital part of our strategic posture. We’d be better-off without them. All are vulnerable to a first-strike, and this, in turn, limits their function and strategic value to that of a first-strike weapon — something which both sides claim they neither want nor need. They are neither an effective deterrent nor a sure means of retaliation.

The pin­point accuracy of the Midgetman and its use of “penetration aids” also characterizes it as a first-strike weapon — something which should be abhorrent to all Montanans. $50 billion could he used much more effectively elsewhere — even for “defense” purposes. Give the State of Montana the $1 billion which the Air Force will spend here, and I guarantee we will spend the money much more wisely and productively than the Air Force will. Our economy will benefit much more from productive investments than non-productive or destructive ones.

It’s true that our state and national economies are in bad shape, but more missiles will not correct the problems. Indeed, high levels of military spending are a large part of our economic problems. Why, then, are we even considering the deployment of the Midgetman System here in Montana, or anywhere? According to Dr. Walker, it is a political “deal,” a “payoff.” The Air Force wants more MX “Peacekeeper” missiles. But the smaller, more expensive “Midgetman” sounds safer, less threatening. The Scowcroft Commission Report compromises, advocating the deployment of 500 Midgetman and additional MX missiles (which incidently  violates the Salt II Treaty, which limits us to one new missile).

Dr. Walker says that if rationality prevails, the Midgetman will be defeated. Yet, this proposal is for Montana to receive 200-250 Midgetman missiles and 8 MX deployed on railroad cars. The very real “growth possibilities” here amount to turning Montana into a nuclear sponge.

Dr. Walker estimates that our present 200 Minuteman missiles are targeted by 400 or more Soviet nuclear warheads. However, the Midgetman would require that 4000-5000 additional Soviet warheads be targeted here, in order to neutralize this new system. Under these conditions, any sort of nuclear exchange would devastate Montana beyond any recovery.

The U.S. Air Force claims its missiles are fail-safe, and incapable of accidental launch or explosion. Are they equally confident about the Soviet missiles and Soviet precautions against accidents or sabotage? Clearly, the only safe course of action is to build down our nuclear arsenals with the intention of eliminating them entirely, rather than deploying newer and ever more complex systems.

We should point out here that at $50 billion, the proposed Midgetman system is the most expensive strategic weapon system in our history. More importantly, it is three times as expensive per warhead as the MX, Minuteman, or Poseidon systems. It is a criminal economic waste in an era of high budget deficits and drastic cuts in civilian public spending.

Among the few people who claim to be informed about the issue, and who still favor Midgetman deployment here are those who imagine that it will help our local economy. Professor Tom Power of the Economics Department at the University of Montana in Missoula addressed this issue very well in a public radio commentary of June 29, 1987. He says, in part, and I quote:

“In 1980, almost 40% of the Great Falls economic base was the military. Now that percentage will increase, and the economy will suffer every time that peace threatens to break out. Residents will quietly pray that world tensions will remain high; that rabid militarists will remain in control of the White House and Congress, and that the anti-nuke forces will fail miserably. There is something perverse going on when the needs of the local economy corrupt people’s vision in this way.”

Concerning the “boom-bust cycle,” Professor Power says:

“We may gear up for the missiles, and either not have them appear, or have them eliminated after they are deployed. This will put Great Palls in a strange moral and political position. Its residents and politicians will find themselves committed to the arms race, and fearful of any serious arms reduction proposals. The militarization of Great Palls will be nearly complete….

“Between 1970-1985, Great Falls’ population declined by about 2000. Its economic base also declined as the military role declined, primary metals shut down, and agriculture withered. Yet, real per capita income rose by almost a quarter. [We] did almost as well as the rest of the state…. There is nothing seriously wrong with the Great Falls economy that needs fixing. There certainly is nothing so wrong that its worth keeping the arms race going for a little local economic stimulation.

“The spokespersons for the Great Falls business community will not see it this way, of course. To them, any growth is good and stability is always bad. Hopefully, others within the Great Falls community will be a little bit more critical, and will not welcome these missiles as an economic blessing when in fact they are part of a much larger curse that weighs down the entire national economy and threatens ours and our children’s futures.”

It is clear enough to me that our best course is to cancel the Midgetman program immediately, and to seriously negotiate towards complete nuclear disarmament. Montana and the rest of the world will all benefit from the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Paul Stephens July 22, 1987

Against the “War on Drugs” (c. 1986)

Mensa writings (1985-87)

Against the “War on Drugs”  (c. 1986)

Like most people who became adults in the 1960’s, I’ve literally “grown up with drugs.” My father was an alcoholic, smoker, and amphetamine addict. So was my uncle. Being raised in the secular, scientific tradition, I was early led to believe that any physical or emotional problem could be solved by ingesting the proper chemical “medicine.” . Being highly-intelligent, 1 soon came to believe that I knew better than others what was best for me. And if I didn’t know, I claimed the right to find out: by reading, questioning, and experimenting with whatever substances were available. I don’t think I ever believed that anyone else had the right to tell me what I could or could not experiment with. And growing up in “lawless Montana,” my respect for .government and its desire to control our personal lives was entirely non-existent.
Thus, I obtained some marijuana from an intelligent colleague in the Philosophy Department at UCLA at my first opportunity. Later, I obtained some mescaline and LSD from another student in the same department. I should say that there was no commercial aspect to these transactions. I merely reimbursed them their cost. And they positively advocated the use of these substances to me. They genuinely believed that I would benefit from using them! Even professors at this time (1969) freely circulated articles from learned journals on the use of psychedelics (mescaline, psilocybin, and LSD), and significant academic research was being devoted to these substances. It no more seemed immoral or illegal to use them than it would be immoral or illegal to read a book or participate in an academic research project.
To be sure, the free access to these substances was already restricted, and one could, technically, be arrested for distributing or using them, but this was rarely if ever known to happen, and to express worry on this account was to risk being labeled “paranoid.”
And so, for several years thereafter, I used marijuana and hashish quite regularly, and psychedelics some 50 times. The most unpleasant experience I ever had was learning afterwards that some close friends of mine had been killed in an auto accident while I was “tripping” on LSD. Because of the psychic, mystical nature of these experiences, one could readily imagine that one was connected to or responsible for catastrophic events happening some distance away, and apparently unconnected to one’s immediate reality. I felt a certain amount of guilt on account of the deaths of my friends, even though I was in no way involved with it. That was the last time I used LSD.
Cannabis (marijuana and hashish), on the other hand, seemed to be something like the mythical Soma of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Huxley, like many other intellectuals of his time, was himself a strong advocate of the serious, structured use of psychedelics. Hermann Hesse used them extensively, and it was no accident that his books became required reading for the “hippy intelligentsia” of the 1960’s, their predecessors, and successors. The use of hallucinogens is as ancient as civilization, itself, and cannabis (a very mild halucinogen and stimulant of the imagination) is found in warm climates in every part of the world; Indeed, Islam encourages the use of cannabis while absolutely prohibiting the use of alcohol. That, it seems to me, is an accurate evaluation of the merits and dangers of the two substances.
By using cannabis, I was intentionally declaring my solidarity with the Third World, and darker-skinned peoples of the tropics. The white male imperialistic opposition to cannabis (as found in the Reagan Administration, or Nixon’s “Operation Intercept” 15 years ago) seemed to be consistent with our policy in Vietnam or Central America, and thus my use of cannabis v/as a political act as well as a social and intellectual one.
It was this political aspect which convinced many of us that we were doing the right thing. Marijuana, and the collective smoking of it, produced a social camaraderie and solidarity which was new and very satisfying to those of us raised within the confines of an over-intellectualized Protestant individualism. Marijuana in the work-place became a way to better coordinate our efforts by establishing our identity as a crew or team. And most of us discovered that we were actually able to learn quicker, improve our reflexes and physical dexterity, and otherwise upgrade our physical performance and emotional satisfaction through the use of these substances.
To be sure, the scientific evidence for this is ambiguous. Sometimes, it is only that subjectively our performance has improved. And some studies seem to indicate that perpetual use of cannabis over a decade or more may result in brain damage or other harmful effects to the nervous system. I suppose that such consequences are proportionate to the quantity of cannabis in the blood-stream, one’s diet, and other variables —much as alcohol use can be benign in some cases and deadly in others.
I never smoked more than, say, 2 or 3 very small joints a day, but I’ve known people who might have smoked several grams of hashish or 20 large joints a day. Obviously, such quantities could not be described as “beneficial,” and the very act of smoking any organic substance has harmful consequences to the respiratory system, and poses the threat of cancer. Cannabis can also be taken orally, and with purely pleasurable and much less harmful consequences. It is one effect of criminalization that the oral use of cannabis has practically disappeared in this country, since smoking provides the largest dosage in the shortest time of a scarce and expensive substance. (In a free market, cannabis would be no more expensive than lettuce or cabbage, and thus capable of being refined and processed at a very low cost to the consumer).
My experience, then, is that psychedelics should be used carefully and with the greatest respect and most intelligent supervision, while cannabis is the “beer” of the drug-world, widely-used by working-class people, gourmets, intellectuals, and especially artists and other creative people. But it should be used with care and moderation. In both cases, the criminalization of these substances has literally destroyed the social fabric. Millions of lives have been ruined by arrest, punishment, and forced conversion to criminal and underworld values and lifestyles. This, it must be emphasized, is the direct consequence of police-state tactics on the part of governments, and usually for specifically political reasons.
Cocaine, like heroin or other narcotics, may constitute a different kind of problem. The people who use it are, or quickly become, self-destructive. They need to be protected from themselves — not by arrest and prosecution, but by treatment, sympathy, and a structured conversion to healthy values and lifestyles. Here, again, the “war on drugs” promises to be entirely counter-productive, and to make the problem worse instead of better.
It is very strange to me, as a 6th or 7th generation American, that anyone in this country should support a police-state as the solution to any kind of problem! Whatever happened to the ideas of free choice and moral autonomy? Since when has punishment, repression, trade restrictions, invasion of privacy, and other typical old-world, totalitarian methods been acceptable to Americans? Have we all become Puritans, Racists, Czarists, or what? Since when did I give up my God-given rights to gather, harvest, cultivate, or prepare one of God’s sacred creations? I can see passing laws against amphetamines or Valium, but against poppies, bushes, and trees? Isn’t this more than a little bit ridiculous?
The real issue here, it seems to me, is an ethical, moral, and philosophical one. Since when have governments become our masters rather than our servants? Since when have governments received a mandate to harm people, rather than to benefit them? It is particularly ironic that Ronald Reagan, who reached the Presidency on a program which he described as pro-freedom, pro-individual responsibility, pro-^free trade, and even “libertarian” should be the architect of what can only be described as the most fascistic, totalitarian, statist administration in the history of the United States. Taking up where the Roosevelt’s left off, he has re-instituted the gunboat diplomacy of Theodore and the corporate fascism of the New Deal. In fact, he is the first President since Franklin Roosevelt to dare to continue in this direction of elitist authoritarianism. which is so unpopular with the American people. But it is a testimony to the power of the media and propaganda techniques that he is still a popular President and obtained something like a 90% majority of the House for his “war on drugs” legislation. Unfortunately, it will be the American people who will suffer and have to pay for the policies brought forth by these self-serving lies and propaganda.
The philosophical issue arises when one considers why it is so hard for government leaders to respect the moral autonomy of the people? Why do some people feel that they have to dictate and control the lives of others? And most of all, why do some people feel they have to punish and blame others for our common problems?
The first thing one learns in psychotherapy (or religion) is that those who most loudly proclaim their own innocence and virtue, blaming and “correcting” others, are most likely to have the worst problems within themselves. Why does one feel a need to be President, a prison warden, a prosecuting attorney, or a judge? This is the question which we, as Americans, must insist be answered before these people gain power over our lives!
Government, to an American, “derives its just powers from the consent of the governed.” Who, among enlightened, healthy, responsible people has given his consent to this “war on drugs,” aid to the Contras, or any of a hundred other abominations which the Reagan administration has promulgated? How can they get away with this? Who is being fooled by the illusory merits of more punishment and repression? No one that you or (would like to know, I’m fairly sure.

The roots of this problem are deep, and apparently still obscure. Why, then, is there no effort to uncover them? Why are the recommendations of enlightened, responsible people being disregarded? These are the kinds of questions which need to be answered. Whether or not drugs are harmful or beneficial is largely irrelevant to these broader questions, and of much less permanent significance.

Paul Stephens     Great Falls, Montana