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Posted by samoasoftball
Housing Shortage in Eureka! No jobs for you!
Randy Weaver, a North Coast Labor Market Consultant, did a Humboldt Housing
Affordability presentation to the Redwood Region Economic Development Commission (RREDC) this week and some of the quick observations were pretty interesting. There has been very little growth in Eureka over the last umpteenth years.
The median price for a home in Eureka is $250,000. $317,000 in McKinleyville and ....$459,000 in Redway!
Rental Vacancy rates in Eureka are at 3.4%. Fortuna has 9% available. Renters represent 61% of Eureka Housing.
64% of all houses in Eureka were built before 1959! 32% of them were built before 1939!
Only 2% of the houses were built between 2000-2009. From 2010 to present there has been less than 1%.
Only 23% of residents can afford to buy a house. In 2007 it was only 11%!
When businesses are looking to relocate the most important criteria for such moves are:
1. Low Crime Rate: Not good that Eureka has a crime index rate of 1. Only 1% of all cities are as unsafe as Eureka.
2. Healthcare Facilities: Cost of Living index rate for healthcare is 119 compared to 100 for the US. Not good.
3. Education: Only 82% residents of graduated High School. Average student test
scores are 24% less than national average. Student to teacher ratio in Eureka is 19:1 compared to 16:1 for the nation.
Just about every living index is greatly higher than the national average. And we have
one of the highest Homeless per capita rate in the nation also. These are what businesses take into account when they decide to grow into a community.
What is the solution? Just the messenger here.
From wrong forecasts by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Wall Street, to wrong policies by the Federal Reserve and the Federal Government, wrong economic theory impacts everyone. Last year was a particularly bad one for the profession, as none of the mainstream forecasts on major events, from Brexit to Donald Trump’s election, and the effects of those events on markets and the economy, were correct. In fact, mainstream economics has been consistently getting it wrong since the Great Financial Crisis of 2008.
So why hasn’t the mainstream realized something is profoundly wrong with the models and theories it uses? Why do they marginalize alternative theories and theorists? Why are the people who have been getting it wrong still in charge?
If you worked for companies like General Motors or IBM and are now out of a job because they have outsourced it to Mexico, you can blame wrong economic theory for this.
They have models that extrapolate what is going on, they have to agree with one another, and they are covering their backs within their profession. That’s why they are always wrong.
— Woody Brock, president, Strategic Economic Decisions
The free-trade model advocated by elites from the IMF to Harvard has promised jobs for the developing world, while keeping the ones in the developed world. It hasn’t worked because the theory behind free trade, developed by 19th-century economist David Ricardo, is 200 years old and obsolete.
“Ricardo’s theory fails in a world of mobile factors [of capital and labor]. It only works if everyone plays by the rules. Free trade … does not produce optimal outcomes because it is never free. It is a house built on the quicksand of assumptions that don’t reign in the real world and never will,” wrote analyst James Rickards in his book “The Road to Ruin: The Global Elites’ Secret Plan for the Next Financial Crisis.”
The elite economists at the IMF and the Fed have missed their growth forecasts for almost every major economy leading up to and following the financial crisis. Governments and companies making their plans based on the optimistic forecasts (these models never predict a crisis) are in for a rude awakening when they don’t materialize.
“They have models that extrapolate what is going on, they have to agree with one another, and they are covering their backs within their profession. That’s why they are always wrong,” said Woody Brock, president of consulting firm Strategic Economic Decisions.
Wall Street risk managers still use the same risk models that led to the subprime crisis. When the house of cards collapsed, it wiped out the savings of millions and plunged the country into the worst recession since the Great Depression. Because these same models are in use, another crisis is just around the corner.
“They are treating the financial sector as an outcome of economic action, not as a cause. But we know that the financial sector is a cause if something goes wrong,” said Steve Keen, a professor at London’s Kingston University and author of “Debunking Economics.”
After the financial crisis, fiscal stimulus and unprecedented money printing by central banks in the United States, Europe, and Japan promised us a solid recovery that has not materialized.
“The elite view is if the right Ph.D. economist is seated as Fed chair, with the dual mandate firmly in mind, and money supply as a lever to move the world, the global economy may be pushed to equilibrium and made to run like a fine Swiss watch,” wrote Rickards.
Economists like to pack the world with all its idiosyncrasies into neat little mathematical models that are supposed to predict the future, an undertaking historically reserved for prophets and magicians, at least in the humanities. Actual science like physics gets a pass.
However, the models, no matter how sophisticated, follow the old rule of computer science first discovered in the 1950s: “garbage in, garbage out.”
The most important model in the toolkit of mainstream neoclassical economists is the Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium (DSGE) model. It states that supply matches demand, and the economy functions like clockwork until some not-to-be foreseen exogenous shock comes around that disrupts the model.
These models have been disproven in theory and in practice, and rely on assumptions that don’t apply in the real world. For example, the model expects the agents (us) to make decisions based on math and economic models and not based on whether we are bored at our jobs and feel like a bit of online shopping.
And yet, they are still being used by the world’s central banks as well as institutions like the IMF and world governments to craft monetary and fiscal policy.
“The herd [of monetary elites] agrees that markets are efficient, albeit with imperfections. They agree that supply and demand produce local equilibria, and the sum of these equilibria is a general equilibrium. When equilibrium is perturbed, it can be restored through policy,” wrote Rickards, who also notes that equilibrium is “a facade that masks unstable complex dynamics.”
The models’ shortcomings are so obvious, however, that the chief economist of the World Bank, Paul Romer, has broken ranks with the economic elite and last year published a scathing critique of macroeconomists in general and the equilibrium models in particular called “The Trouble With Macroeconomics.”
His verdict: “Macro models now use incredible identifying assumptions to reach bewildering conclusions. … Macroeconomists got comfortable with the idea that fluctuations in macroeconomic aggregates are caused by imaginary shocks, instead of actions that people take. … Once macroeconomists concluded that it was reasonable to invoke imaginary forcing variables, they added more.”
It is the DSGE model that led former Fed chairman Ben Bernanke to declare the following about the equilibrium interest rate on his blog for the Brookings Institution in 2015:
“If the Fed wants to see full employment of capital and labor resources (which, of course, it does), then its task amounts to using its influence over market interest rates to push those rates toward levels consistent with the equilibrium rate, or—more realistically—its best estimate of the equilibrium rate, which is not directly observable.”
So the rate the Fed wants to achieve, one that will supposedly bring about the best use of capital and labor (remember the assumption behind equilibrium here), is not directly observable, so the Fed is left guessing.
Small wonder it can never predict a crisis and instead often causes one by leaving rates too low for too long and then later raising them at the most inopportune moment. And no wonder the economy still hasn’t taken off, despite zero interest rates for close to a decade, which brings us to another problem.
Crises Don’t Fit
“They ignore money and credit, probably the most important determinants of where the economy goes,” said Keen.
For instance, Bernanke told Congress in March 2007 that “the impact on the broader economy and financial markets of the problems in the subprime market seems likely to be contained.” It wasn’t.
“They only extrapolate the current trends and that only matters if there is no change in the things they are ignoring. So if there is a change in money, credit, and debt, then they are going to be completely wrong, and that’s what happened in 2008,” said Keen.
“What matters in the model is not money but the imaginary forces,” wrote Romer.
Crises emerge because regulators don’t comprehend the statistical properties of the systems they regulate.
— James Rickards, author, 'The Road to Ruin'
Mainstream economists usually use the excuse that nobody saw a particular event coming, like the crisis in 2008, which is only true if the somebodies are mainstream economists and everybody else is a nobody.
Keen did predict the crisis of 2008 using post-Keynesian models, which include private debt, and so did hedge fund legend Ray Dalio of Bridgewater Associates, who also built models around private debt. There are scores of others who did the same and profited from it. None of them follow the mainstream.
Rickards predicted the 2008 crisis using complexity theory borrowed from physics, which has nothing to do with DSGE models and the so-called “normal” occurrence or distribution of risk.
“Crises emerge because regulators don’t comprehend the statistical properties of the systems they regulate,” Rickards wrote.
“There are models that do a good job identifying bubbles using complexity theory, causal inference, and behavioral economics, although the exact timing of collapse remains difficult to predict,” he wrote.
It is mostly physicists who use complexity theory, but it can also be applied to capital markets. Unlike equilibrium models, complex systems allow for extreme events to occur rather frequently. They also have dynamic feedback loops so agents can learn from their past actions and from other agents.
Brock also believes economists at the Fed and elsewhere rely too much on historical data to make predictions for the future.
“They are trained that history is everything,” Brock said. Enough data will identify economic relationships.
“That’s fine until structural changes occur and the previous relationship breaks down,” he said. Structural changes, like too much debt in the system, brought the economy to its knees in 2008 and now prevent us from realizing our maximum growth potential. “Structural changes mean historical samples won’t be good. You must use your subjective judgment so you know what is different,” he added.
In a nutshell, “capital markets were condemned to a succession of calamities while academics-turned-central bankers waited decades for more data to convince them of their failures,” wrote Rickards.
With the exception of Romer, however, mainstream economists aren’t convinced that there is something at all wrong with their way of doing things.
Living in the Ivory Tower
There are several reasons why economists cannot or do not want to see the evident flaws in their models and their way of thinking.
According to Brock, it’s the fact that subjective analysis of structural changes would expose the economists to being wrong, a risk they cannot live with.
“Most people who go for those jobs are risk-averse in the extreme. Subjective probabilities can’t be proven true. They do things where they can always back up positions with data. The fact that the data is irrelevant doesn’t matter,” he said.
Keen thinks this risk aversion combines with a desire to hold on to power. “If the mainstream economists admit that they are wrong and the post-Keynesians are right, they would have to abandon their posts, resign, and let us take over. That’s the last thing anybody will do,” he said.
But given their dismal performance, how can these people stick around for so long? Keen said the problem starts in academia and then seamlessly flows through to the centers of power.
In economics, all the non-orthodox people can’t get jobs in the main universities because we don’t push the mainstream paradigm.
— Steve Keen, author, 'Debunking Economics'
“In economics, all the non-orthodox people can’t get jobs in the main universities because we don’t push the mainstream paradigm,” he said, adding, “We don’t get the exposure, and we are not even part of this debate.”
It is this lack of creative debate that has robbed academics and policymakers of better tools to interpret and handle economic problems. Mainstream economists live in their bubble and have given up serving science. They would rather serve their leaders, according to Romer.
“Because guidance from authority can align the efforts of many researchers, conformity to the facts is no longer needed as a coordinating device. As a result, if facts disconfirm the officially sanctioned theoretical vision, they are subordinated,” he wrote.
“Eventually, evidence stops being relevant. Progress in the field is judged by the purity of its mathematical theories, as determined by the authorities.”
Romer also states that while some mainstream economists have been angered by his critique, others by and large agree but do not dare to speak out in public.
What Romer describes as a “general failure mode of science” is not new. When Nicolaus Copernicus told his fellow scientists in the 16th century that the earth revolved around the sun rather than the other way around, he was in for some trouble.
Both Keen and Romer think of science as a belief system. Humans find it difficult to give up widely held beliefs, even if they are proven wrong.
“Humanity shares belief systems. If you have a belief system, you live in a world that promotes that belief system, and you will be critical of opposing belief systems. The initial response of any discipline is to reinforce its current belief system,” said Keen.
“It starts by distinguishing ‘research’ fields from ‘belief’ fields. In research fields such as math, science, and technology, the pursuit of truth is the coordinating device. In belief fields such as religion and political action, authorities coordinate the efforts of group members,” wrote Romer. He thinks macroeconomics has morphed into a belief field.
What Can Be Done?
Economics is called the dismal science, but it is not useless. There are economists and models that can explain complex human behavior, leading to better policy decisions. Mainstream scholars just have to admit their equilibrium-centric view of the economic system is wrong.
“In the 20th century, we developed the technology to send people to the moon. It involves non-equilibrium systems. If you assume an equilibrium in that process, you have dead astronauts,” said Keen.
He said economists should borrow from these branches of science to model the economy as a non-equilibrium system, and of course include money and debt.
Brock said economists have to allow themselves to be wrong from time to time to grasp structural changes.
“You have to be trained in game theory and political theory to understand” these changes, he says. Neither provides a neat outcome with 100 percent certainty but rather different probabilities. This is somewhat ironic, as the mainstream now claims its models are always right and yet they are wrong at the crucial times.
Rickards thinks capital markets should be analyzed as a complex system with a non-normal distribution of risk.
However, all these changes would only be possible if economists started to adhere to scientific methods again.
“By rejecting any reliance on central authority, the members of a research field can coordinate their independent efforts only by maintaining an unwavering commitment to the pursuit of truth [via the consensus] that emerges from many independent assessments … assessments that are made by people who … accept their own fallibility, and relish the chance to subvert any claim of authority,” wrote Romer.
In the here and now, there are some policies most non-mainstream economists consider safe bets. One of them is the reinstatement of the 1933 Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act. The act separated consumer banking from the securities business and served the country well until its repeal in 1999 by President Bill Clinton.
“Glass-Steagall worked for exactly the reason complexity theory suggests. By breaking the banking system into two parts, Glass-Steagall made each part stronger by shrinking systemic scale, diminishing dense connections, and truncating channels through which failure of one institution jeopardizes [everything],” wrote Rickards.
In fact, the repeal was a classic case of trying to make reality fit economic models rather than the other way around. “Economists were for the repeal because it fits their model on how the economy should operate,” said Keen.
Another safely established danger signal is private debt. Keen says that once private debt passes 150 percent of GDP, a financial crisis is almost inevitable. “There are danger zones you don’t want to enter,” he said.
Keen and Rickards both argue for strengthening the role of labor in the economy, including enacting some protectionist trade measures and giving workers more influence at their companies.
Brock said infrastructure spending, lower taxes, and deregulation are the right fiscal policy levers. “It’s the incentives that are most important to determine growth,” he said.
Neither of the cited economists and analysts believes, however, that humans could ever achieve perfection with modeling or predictions. It’s rather more important to let go of a false sense of pride and learn from past mistakes.
“Science and the spirit of the enlightenment are the most important human accomplishments,” wrote Romer. “They matter more than the feelings of any of us.”
There is now a prevailing method of argument that replaces discussion and debate with personal attacks. At its root is the same philosophy used by totalitarian systems and leaders over the 20th century—from Hitler, to Stalin, to Pol Pot—to label members of society as enemies of the regime’s social agendas, and to thus mobilize its citizens in acts of suppression or violence against those targeted.
These methods of attack and mobilization have found their way into the arguments of the postmodern left, and traditional liberals seem to be shocked by the emerging problem.
British actor and comedian Tom Walker commented on this in a viral video from Nov. 10, shortly after the election of President Donald Trump, and said the same issue had led to Brexit and the Tory majority in Britain. He blamed the left, “because the left have decided that any other opinion, any other way of looking at the world is unacceptable.”
The result of this mentality, he said, is that “we don’t debate anymore,” and instead turn to insults and labels. “If you’re on the right, you’re a freak—you’re evil, you’re racist, you are stupid, you are a ‘basket of deplorables.'”
“How do you think people are going to vote if you talk to them like that?” he said.
Jon Stewart, former host of “The Daily Show,” noted a similar problem during a Nov. 18 interview with CBS about the Trump victory. He said, “There is now this idea that anyone who voted for him has to be defined by the worst of his rhetoric.”
Stewart noted that most liberals “hate this idea of creating people as a monolith.” One example, he said, is that you can’t look at Muslims as a monolith, based on negative actions of a few individuals. “But everyone who voted for Trump is a monolith, is a racist. That kind of hypocrisy is also real in our country.”
Of course, the avoidance of direct debate was part of the original intention that is causing this new way of thinking—one that groups people into extreme definitions, and bypasses discussion to attack them personally.
A New ‘Ideology’The method of debate is rooted in the Marxist idea of “ideology” and is meant to instill an altered worldview reinterpreted through the teachings of Marxism.
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels argued that people aren’t in control of their views, and their views are instead formed by the system. All values, concepts, opinions, theories, and beliefs that many of us hold as self-evident are viewed by this theory as products of political developments.
The only ideas that are outside this system and should not be reconsidered, under the Marxist ideology, are the teachings of Marx. This is because it portrays its own ideology as being Utopian—the end of human progress.
It creates a way of thinking where those who subscribe to Marxist ideology believe they are among the enlightened few, and that all other beliefs and ideas are part of outdated ideologies of the past—things they believe should be discarded or destroyed.
“The concept vaulted to unprecedented popularity, primarily because it proved to be a most convenient tool in political conflicts: it allowed discrediting one’s opponents without entering into a substantive argument,” writes former Polish Minister of Education Ryszard Legutko in his book “The Demon in Democracy: Totalitarian Temptations in Free Societies.”
Rather than engage in direct debates and discussion, this new concept taught its adherents to dig out social characteristics of the individual they were speaking with, to reinterpret those characteristics according to the Marxist view of struggle, and then to attack them based on these labels.
This concept also pulled in an idea of partisanship proposed by Vladimir Lenin: A person is either for something or against something. Moreover, Lenin’s ideas created the understanding that all things should be viewed only in black and white. The spectrum of ideas and beliefs is narrowed to two opposing extremes, with only socialist ideology being valid.
Marxist ideology was used to terrifying effect under nearly all communist regimes, which are estimated to have killed 150 million people worldwide—including 80 million in China, alone—in a single century.
Under Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Russia, the enemies were labeled the “bourgeoisie,” “fascists,” “capitalists,” and “Zionists;” under Mao Zedong’s Chinese Communist Party, the enemies were called “rightists,” “counter-revolutionaries,” the “landlord class,” and those who believed in “superstition.”
“By being identified as serving the cause of the bourgeoisie, the philosophers, artists, and writers could be arraigned on a charge of being the enemies of the socialist revolution and standing in the way of the future, often with lamentable consequences for the defendants,” Legutko writes.
“This practically put an end to any form of intellectual argumentation,” he writes. “No one argued, but either accused someone of ideological treason or defended himself against such a charge.”
Marxism in the WestThe Marxist idea of “ideology” was introduced to the West under the guise of “critical theory.”
Critical theory was brought to the United States by the Frankfurt School, founded as a Marxist school of social theory and philosophy, which was affiliated with Columbia University in New York from 1935 until after World War II ended, when it returned to Frankfurt.
The Frankfurt School has attempted through critical theory to understand knowledge as something that is defined either by a social context or a Utopian goal, not by objective reality. The thinkers in the school have used a variety of perspectives informed by Georg Hegel, Sigmund Freud, Friedrich Nietzsche, and, of course, Marx, although the school has also subjected Marx’s own thought to critical treatment.
Dr. John Lenczowski, founder and president of The Institute of World Politics, described critical theory at an event on Jan. 29, 2016, as a “nihilistic Marxist analysis of our society based on its materialism” that tries to alienate people from traditional values. In particular, this analysis targets the United States, which established a “moral order” that gave us international law and global concepts of human rights.
During the same event, Michael Walsh, author of “The Devil’s Pleasure Palace: The Cult of Critical Theory and the Subversion of the West,” explained the concept further. He believes that only by looking at what was behind critical theory can we understand its attacks on freedom of speech, freedom of belief, and our values as a nation.
Walsh said that most people, religious or not, believe there are some absolute truths based on the human condition, and that we have developed a code of morals based on this recognition. “That is now under attack.”
“What the Frankfurt School tried to do through the mechanism of critical theory, was to undermine your belief in reason,” Walsh said. “They erected a devil’s pleasure palace of illusion to give you the sense that what you previously had believed is no longer true and no longer operable.”
“Among the traits of the Frankfurt School is the war on language, and the war on what you can say and what you can’t say, and that is political correctness,” he said. “Political correctness is meant to forbid you from thinking. That’s what it is—it’s fascism of the mind. The theory being if you can’t say it, you won’t think it.”
The new ideology is a way of using debate to shut down debate. It’s a way of discrediting people based on their race, beliefs, gender, or creed. And it’s a way of using political labels to dehumanize a person so he or she can be stripped of rights and ultimately silenced.
In 1945, Hannah Arendt wrote that evil would be the fundamental problem for postwar intellectual inquiry, but do the sheer magnitude of atrocities like Auschwitz defy human capacities for understanding?
"Just as you [Eichmann] supported and carried out a policy of not wanting to share the earth with the Jewish people and the people of a number of other nations—as though you and your superiors had any right to determine who should and who should not inhabit the world—we find that no one, that is, no member of the human race, can be expected to want to share the earth with you. This is the reason, and the only reason, you must hang".
~ Hannah Arendt.
What's good for the goose is good for the gander states Hannah Arendt, thus subscribing to the secondary mindset that inevitably distils to war and genocide. The execution of Eichmann, the holocaust, the Japanese atrocity, all share a common theme: survival of the fittest – the preservation of favored races in the struggle for life.
Arendt upon observing Eichmann found him banal. She was surprised at ‘the banality of evil’ and perplexed as to how totalitarianism could seduce such a person to the depths of evil. To properly understand the nature of evil we must raise our consciousness to awareness of totalitarianism on a level that embraces the higher truth of life: the cosmogonic cycle (Russell, Einstein, Campbell, Tesla etc.):
The universe is disappearing to eternity and each return is eternity inside out: a flip-flop between stillness and ultimate magnetic force. Albert Einstein’s Special Relativity explains the physics of eternal disappearance but the information was used expeditiously to destroy Hiroshima and Nagasaki and thereafter shelved. Nicola Tesla also took us to the precipice of eternal awareness but, again, we ate the icing and left the cake. One must wonder at the contrivance of this for there is no person or group of persons with the sophistication to enact such levels of control.
The energetic universe was sparked by resistance to eternity. The resulting annihilation was achieved by the ultimate magnetic force of eternity inside out. And thus, the cycle of life began.
The primary resistance is a though-form with an agenda to live and live it does through the secondary result of the universe flashing in and out of the ultimate magnetic field. Please take important note that the primary resistance remains the same as it flashes on/off to serve the demands of the secondary forms of thinking.
The primary lives through the secondary life-forms and just as any despot it will not give up its life of ultimate power and control.
We are all pawns until we learn better.
~ Tom Kitt.
At this level of existence "I" am immeasurably old; my forms are infinite and their comings and goings are simply the pulses or vibrations of a single and eternal flow of energy'
- Alan Watts.
Snagged from The New York Times:
By STEVEN LEVITSKY and DANIEL ZIBLATT
December 16, 2016
Donald J. Trump’s election has raised a question that few Americans ever imagined asking: Is our democracy in danger? With the possible exception of the Civil War, American democracy has never collapsed; indeed, no democracy as rich or as established as America’s ever has. Yet past stability is no guarantee of democracy’s future survival.
We have spent two decades studying the emergence and breakdown of democracy in Europe and Latin America. Our research points to several warning signs.
The clearest warning sign is the ascent of anti-democratic politicians into mainstream politics. Drawing on a close study of democracy’s demise in 1930s Europe, the eminent political scientist Juan J. Linz designed a “litmus test” to identify anti-democratic politicians. His indicators include a failure to reject violence unambiguously, a readiness to curtail rivals’ civil liberties, and the denial of the legitimacy of elected governments.
Mr. Trump tests positive. In the campaign, he encouraged violence among supporters; pledged to prosecute Hillary Clinton; threatened legal action against unfriendly media; and suggested that he might not accept the election results.
This anti-democratic behavior has continued since the election. With the false claim that he lost the popular vote because of “millions of people who voted illegally,” Mr. Trump openly challenged the legitimacy of the electoral process. At the same time, he has been remarkably dismissive of United States intelligence agencies’ reports of Russian hacking to tilt the election in his favor.
Mr. Trump is not the first American politician with authoritarian tendencies. (Other notable authoritarians include Gov. Huey Long of Louisiana and Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin.) But he is the first in modern American history to be elected president. This is not necessarily because Americans have grown more authoritarian (the United States electorate has always had an authoritarian streak). Rather it’s because the institutional filters that we assumed would protect us from extremists, like the party nomination system and the news media, failed.
Many Americans are not overly concerned about Mr. Trump’s authoritarian inclinations because they trust our system of constitutional checks and balances to constrain him.
Yet the institutional safeguards protecting our democracy may be less effective than we think. A well-designed constitution is not enough to ensure a stable democracy — a lesson many Latin American independence leaders learned when they borrowed the American constitutional model in the early 19th century, only to see their countries plunge into chaos.
Democratic institutions must be reinforced by strong informal norms. Like a pickup basketball game without a referee, democracies work best when unwritten rules of the game, known and respected by all players, ensure a minimum of civility and cooperation. Norms serve as the soft guardrails of democracy, preventing political competition from spiraling into a chaotic, no-holds-barred conflict.
Among the unwritten rules that have sustained American democracy are partisan self-restraint and fair play. For much of our history, leaders of both parties resisted the temptation to use their temporary control of institutions to maximum partisan advantage, effectively underutilizing the power conferred by those institutions. There existed a shared understanding, for example, that anti-majoritarian practices like the Senate filibuster would be used sparingly, that the Senate would defer (within reason) to the president in nominating Supreme Court justices, and that votes of extraordinary importance — like impeachment — required a bipartisan consensus. Such practices helped to avoid a descent into the kind of partisan fight to the death that destroyed many European democracies in the 1930s.
Yet norms of partisan restraint have eroded in recent decades. House Republicans’ impeachment of Bill Clinton in 1998 abandoned the idea of bipartisan consensus on impeachment. The filibuster, once a rarity, has become a routine tool of legislative obstruction. As the political scientists Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein have shown, the decline of partisan restraint has rendered our democratic institutions increasingly dysfunctional. Republicans’ 2011 refusal to raise the debt ceiling, which put America’s credit rating at risk for partisan gain, and the Senate’s refusal this year to consider President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee — in essence, allowing the Republicans to steal a Supreme Court seat — offer an alarming glimpse at political life in the absence of partisan restraint.
Norms of presidential restraint are also at risk. The Constitution’s ambiguity regarding the limits of executive authority can tempt presidents to try and push those limits. Although executive power has expanded in recent decades, it has ultimately been reined in by the prudence and self-restraint of our presidents.
Unlike his predecessors, Mr. Trump is a serial norm-breaker. There are signs that Mr. Trump seeks to diminish the news media’s traditional role by using Twitter, video messages and public rallies to circumvent the White House press corps and communicate directly with voters — taking a page out of the playbook of populist leaders like Silvio Berlusconi in Italy, Hugo Chávez in Venezuela and Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey.
An even more basic norm under threat today is the idea of legitimate opposition. In a democracy, partisan rivals must fully accept one another’s right to exist, to compete and to govern. Democrats and Republicans may disagree intensely, but they must view one another as loyal Americans and accept that the other side will occasionally win elections and lead the country. Without such mutual acceptance, democracy is imperiled. Governments throughout history have used the claim that their opponents are disloyal or criminal or a threat to the nation’s way of life to justify acts of authoritarianism.
The idea of legitimate opposition has been entrenched in the United States since the early 19th century, disrupted only by the Civil War. That may now be changing, however, as right-wing extremists increasingly question the legitimacy of their liberal rivals. During the last decade, Ann Coulter wrote best-selling books describing liberals as traitors, and the “birther” movement questioned President Obama’s status as an American.
Such extremism, once confined to the political fringes, has now moved into the mainstream. In 2008, the Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin linked Barack Obama to terrorism. This year, the Republican Party nominated a birther as its presidential candidate. Mr. Trump’s campaign centered on the claim that Hillary Clinton was a criminal who should be in jail; and “Lock her up!” was chanted at the Republican National Convention. In other words, leading Republicans — including the president-elect — endorsed the view that the Democratic candidate was not a legitimate rival.
The risk we face, then, is not merely a president with illiberal proclivities — it is the election of such a president when the guardrails protecting American democracy are no longer as secure.
American democracy is not in imminent danger of collapse. If ordinary circumstances prevail, our institutions will most likely muddle through a Trump presidency. It is less clear, however, how democracy would fare in a crisis. In the event of a war, a major terrorist attack or large-scale riots or protests — all of which are entirely possible — a president with authoritarian tendencies and institutions that have come unmoored could pose a serious threat to American democracy. We must be vigilant. The warning signs are real.
-Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt are professors of government at Harvard University.
A PETITION TO MITIGATE THREATS TO THE HEALTH AND SAFETY OF A SIGNIFICANT NUMBER OF UNSHELTERED INDIVIDUALS IN THE SOUTHERN HUMBOLDT COUNTY AREA BY A DECLARATION OF A SHELTER CRISIS.
there is an ongoing shortage of adequate housing, a persistent population of transient individuals, and continual disruption of camps used by unhoused individuals in the Southern Humboldt area by law enforcement officers and unofficial agencies that needlessly expose individuals to additional risk to their health and safety.
A de facto state of crisis exists that creates a threat to the health and safety of a significant population, and mitigating action by local government to reduce these risks, for the benefit of the communities affected is required, as specifically allowed by Title 2, Division 1. General Chapter 7.8. Shelter Crisis [8698 - 8698.2] of the California State Government Code.
We therefore request:
That the elected Supervisors of Humboldt County declare a shelter crisis in Southern Humboldt County, pursuant to Sec.8698 (2) & (d) of the California code
That the county identify and designate appropriate public facility in the form of unused land in the Southern Humboldt area pursuant to Sec. 8698 (c) for the establishment of an orderly and self regulated campground for the relief and comfort of an at risk, unhoused population, and declare that a sanctioned tent site significantly improves the safety and security of those individuals affected by a shelter crisis.
That the County provide minimal waste disposal service, consistent with the sanitation needs of the campground dwellers and additionally, a rudimentary water storage system be sanctioned, as allowed by the provisions of Sec. 8698.1 (b)
That the County Supervisors agree to allow and support an ongoing, self governing compact of tent dwellers that protect their health and safety by collectively working to maintain a clean and and safe environment that benefits those that choose to participate and causes no impact to those who do not.
GOVERNMENT CODE SECTION 8698-8698.2
8698. For purposes of this chapter, the following definitions shall apply:
(a) "Political subdivision" includes the state, any city, city and county, county, special district, or school district or public agency authorized by law
(b)"Governing body" means the following: (1) The Governor for the state.
(2) The legislative body for a city or city and county.
(3) The board of supervisors for a county.
(4) The governing board or board of trustees for a district or other public agency.
5) An official designated by ordinance or resolution adopted by a
governing body, as defined in
paragraph (2), (3), or (4).
(c) "Public facility" means any facility of a political
subdivision including parks, schools, and vacant or underutilized
facilities which are owned, operated, leased, or maintained, or any
combination thereof, by the political subdivision through money derived by taxation or assessment.
(d) "Declaration of a shelter crisis" means the duly proclaimed existence of a situation in which a significant number of persons are
without the ability to obtain shelter, resulting in a threat to their health and safety.
8698.1. Upon a declaration of a shelter crisis, the following
provisions shall apply during the period of the emergency.
(a) The political subdivision shall be immune from liability for
ordinary negligence in the provision of emergency housing pursuant to
Section 8698.2. This limitation of liability shall apply only to
conditions, acts, or omissions directly related to, and which would
not occur but for, the provision of emergency housing.
This section does not limit liability for grossly negligent, reckless, or
intentional conduct which causes injury.
(b) The provisions of any state or local regulatory statute, regulation, or ordinance prescribing standards of housing, health, or safety shall be suspended to the extent that strict compliance would
in any way prevent, hinder, or delay the mitigation of the effects
of the shelter crisis. Political subdivisions may, in place of such
standards, enact municipal health and safety standards to be
operative during the housing emergency consistent with ensuring
minimal public health and safety. The provisions of this section
apply only to additional public facilities open to the homeless pursuant to this chapter.
8698.2. (a) (1) The governing body may declare a shelter crisis,
and may take such action as is necessary to carry out the provisions
of this chapter, upon a finding by that governing body that a
significant number of persons within the jurisdiction of the
governing body are without the ability to obtain shelter, and that
the situation has resulted in a threat to the health and safety of those persons.
(2) For purposes of this chapter, the governing body of the state,
in making a declaration of a shelter crisis pursuant to paragraph (1), may limit that declaration to any geographical portion of the state.
(b) Upon a declaration of a shelter crisis pursuant to subdivision
(a), the political subdivision may allow persons unable to obtain
housing to occupy designated public facilities during the duration of
the state of emergency.
Beneath Fading Flags
Weaving through the front lines,
a reflection of our culture's decay,
I notice a consistent fading of sticky patriotic flag ads,
on lifted, mud-baptized
and blue, red
worn to white, like
Illusions of separateness.
The most sentimental beings
from fruitful forests
forgotten streets for coffee,
beside bohemian guitars
empathetically escorting wheel chairs
to a remedy.
Weathered street wanderers
surviving on scraps
migrate to huddle in that
hacked-up Humboldt alleyway,
across from the filth's glistening cage,
beneath a mural depicting
farm folk laughing ironically
with grinning neighbors
who appear helpful,
contrasting the entirety of their Hand-me-down reality,
in tattered, tortured souls, concrete camping,
I watch them,
watching Posh bank tellers counting their Cache of cash,
as a status-pearl-parade
comes prancing proudly
concerned mostly for soul-paralyzing stilettos,
but I notice them not noticing the cracks.
The nearer we close in on
the more often I notice
a survival split
You either work for the system,
or to dismantle it.
I stumble from establishment to establishment
where podiums are warm and hallow
while gunfire hammers
against a dulled-florescent-lit fog
Old-Paradigm Professors wallow in anger,
Luna observes in confusion,
Inspiring me to muster up a smile
just to marinate
in variations of Housewife anthems,
and other ignorance's I couldn't claim,
that inspires the perpetuation
of this species-disconnect- feeling.
Sullen super-psychic souls
grow to find acceptance
for life's not what
were trained to make it.
They warn “Pay no attention
to the man behind the curtain”
Same fear-based plots re-branded,
same industries enabled,
same frail, male
genetically modifying natural law,
and at interest, selling us our free will.
So I just retreat to the interior of my eyelids
The safest place I have ever been,
Where compassion is confirmed,
Vivacious colors twirl and spin
My abstractions, legitimate.
It is being widely publicized on the corporate (and "public") media that the Republicans control both houses of Congress and almost every governor's mansion in the country. What is somewhat less widely publicized is the fact that now, as usual, the vast majority of US cities are controlled by the Democratic Party. In most cases, US city governments are essentially one-party institutions, where the Republicans don't even bother putting up a fight, since they never win.
And there's a clear pattern in terms of the governance of all of these cities, and it goes like this: the more the rents go up, the more shrill the rhetoric of the ruling Democratic Party politicians get.
And who are they criticizing with such enthusiasm? The real estate speculators and gentrifying developers who are primarily responsible for the growing misery? Or maybe the 48 (out of 50) Republican-controlled state governments which have banned rent control in their states?
No. They prefer safe targets. Ones that don't affect the bottom lines of the real estate profiteers that bought their political offices for them. They acknowledge that we are having a rent crisis, a housing crisis, and still suffering from the long-term aftermath of the foreclosure crisis. But they say their hands are tied, nothing much they can do. Other than making it easier for the developers to build more "low-income" housing -- in actual terms meaning far above the median income. It is Orwellian doublespeak.
And why not go ahead and break state law and impose some desperately-needed legal controls over the cost of housing? Simple. Because these supposedly progressive Democratic politicians don't give a shit about us. They are bought and sold by real estate developers and other rich people, and they govern on behalf of these scum.
In the 1980's, in response to rising property taxes, property owners formed a lobby, and the Reagan administration passed a law that limited the annual rise in property taxes across the country to 1%. Why has such a law never been passed for renters? Because both parties rule on behalf of the (bigger) property owners, not the lowly renters.
The proof is in the pudding. If these politicians cared about the working class, they would immediately break state laws across the country and institute sensible forms of rent control. In doing this, they would become tremendously popular among the working class residents of their cities. They could change the face of the country. And then of course they would become objects of hatred, victims of smear campaigns led by the real estate developers and property speculators who they would have just betrayed.
Portland has lost most of it's African-American population in between the last two censuses, and statistics in San Francisco, Seattle and elsewhere are similar. If these Democratic politicians cared about Black people, they'd institute rent control.
Instead, they'll take what they see as the safe road. They know that most of their constituencies hate Trump and the Republican establishment. They know that most of their constituencies are life-long Democrats with egalitarian impulses, who voted for Obama, who believe in an inclusive society. So they'll focus on things we can all agree on -- racism and sexism and fascism are bad. We stand against these things. What do we stand for? Who the fuck knows. Hope and change, or something. Entrepreneurship. Small business. The middle class, whatever the fuck that is.
But Mexicans, African-Americans, Native Americans, Asians, poor people, and women who are all struggling to make ends meet, who desperately need governments to intervene on their behalf, against the rapacious greed of the landlord class, the big banks, etc.? Fuck them. The mayor of Portland, the mayor of Seattle, the mayor of New York City, the mayor of Boston -- that's what they would be saying if they were honest. Fuck them. We don't give a shit.
Now go protest against Trump and the governor of North Carolina and racism and sexism some more -- just don't pay any attention to the landlord behind the curtain.
I have been filming in the Marshall Islands, which lie north of Australia, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Whenever I tell people where I have been, they ask, “Where is that?” If I offer a clue by referring to “Bikini”, they say, “You mean the swimsuit.”
Few seem aware that the bikini swimsuit was named to celebrate the nuclear explosions that destroyed Bikini island. Sixty-six nuclear devices were exploded by the United States in the Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958 – the equivalent of 1.6 Hiroshima bombs every day for twelve years.
Bikini is silent today, mutated and contaminated. Palm trees grow in a strange grid formation. Nothing moves. There are no birds. The headstones in the old cemetery are alive with radiation. My shoes registered “unsafe” on a Geiger counter.
Standing on the beach, I watched the emerald green of the Pacific fall away into a vast black hole. This was the crater left by the hydrogen bomb they called “Bravo”. The explosion poisoned people and their environment for hundreds of miles, perhaps forever.
On my return journey, I stopped at Honolulu airport and noticed an American magazine called Women’s Health. On the cover was a smiling woman in a bikini swimsuit, and the headline: “You, too, can have a bikini body.” A few days earlier, in the Marshall Islands, I had interviewed women who had very different “bikini bodies”; each had suffered thyroid cancer and other life-threatening cancers.
Unlike the smiling woman in the magazine, all of them were impoverished: the victims and guinea pigs of a rapacious superpower that is today more dangerous than ever.
I relate this experience as a warning and to interrupt a distraction that has consumed so many of us. The founder of modern propaganda, Edward Bernays, described this phenomenon as “the conscious and intelligent manipulation of the habits and opinions” of democratic societies. He called it an “invisible government”.
How many people are aware that a world war has begun? At present, it is a war of propaganda, of lies and distraction, but this can change instantaneously with the first mistaken order, the first missile.
In 2009, President Obama stood before an adoring crowd in the center of Prague, in the heart of Europe. He pledged himself to make “the world free from nuclear weapons”. People cheered and some cried. A torrent of platitudes flowed from the media. Obama was subsequently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
It was all fake. He was lying.
US president Barack Obama. The Obama administration has built more nuclear weapons, more nuclear warheads, more nuclear delivery systems, more nuclear factories. Nuclear warhead spending alone rose higher under Obama than under any American president. The cost over thirty years is more than $1 trillion.
A mini nuclear bomb is planned. It is known as the B61 Model 12. There has never been anything like it. General James Cartwright, a former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said, “Going smaller [makes using this nuclear] weapon more thinkable.”
In the last eighteen months, the greatest build-up of military forces since World War Two – led by the United States – is taking place along Russia’s western frontier. Not since Hitler invaded the Soviet Union have foreign troops presented such a demonstrable threat to Russia.
Ukraine – once part of the Soviet Union – has become a CIA theme park. Having orchestrated a coup in Kiev, Washington effectively controls a regime that is next door and hostile to Russia: a regime rotten with Nazis, literally. Prominent parliamentary figures in Ukraine are the political descendants of the notorious OUN and UPA fascists. They openly praise Hitler and call for the persecution and expulsion of the Russian speaking minority.
This is seldom news in the West, or it is inverted to suppress the truth.
In Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia – next door to Russia – the US military is deploying combat troops, tanks, heavy weapons. This extreme provocation of the world’s second nuclear power is met with silence in the West.
What makes the prospect of nuclear war even more dangerous is a parallel campaign against China.
Seldom a day passes when China is not elevated to the status of a “threat”. According to Admiral Harry Harris, the US Pacific commander, China is “building a great wall of sand in the South China Sea”.
What he is referring to is China building airstrips in the Spratly Islands, which are the subject of a dispute with the Philippines – a dispute without priority until Washington pressured and bribed the government in Manila and the Pentagon launched a propaganda campaign called “freedom of navigation”.
What does this really mean? It means freedom for American warships to patrol and dominate the coastal waters of China. Try to imagine the American reaction if Chinese warships did the same off the coast of California.
I made a film called The War You Don’t See, in which I interviewed distinguished journalists in America and Britain: reporters such as Dan Rather of CBS, Rageh Omar of the BBC, David Rose of the Observer.
All of them said that had journalists and broadcasters done their job and questioned the propaganda that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction; had the lies of George W. Bush and Tony Blair not been amplified and echoed by journalists, the 2003 invasion of Iraq might not have happened, and hundreds of thousands of men, women and children would be alive today.
The propaganda laying the ground for a war against Russia and/or China is no different in principle. To my knowledge, no journalist in the Western “mainstream” – a Dan Rather equivalent, say – asks why China is building airstrips in the South China Sea.
The answer ought to be glaringly obvious. The United States is encircling China with a network of bases, with ballistic missiles, battle groups, nuclear-armed bombers.
This lethal arc extends from Australia to the islands of the Pacific, the Marianas and the Marshalls and Guam, to the Philippines, Thailand, Okinawa, Korea and across Eurasia to Afghanistan and India. America has hung a noose around the neck of China. This is not news. Silence by media; war by media.
In 2015, in high secrecy, the US and Australia staged the biggest single air-sea military exercise in recent history, known as Talisman Sabre. Its aim was to rehearse an Air-Sea Battle Plan, blocking sea lanes, such as the Straits of Malacca and the Lombok Straits, that cut off China’s access to oil, gas and other vital raw materials from the Middle East and Africa.
Donald Trump speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. In the circus known as the American presidential campaign, Donald Trump is being presented as a lunatic, a fascist. He is certainly odious; but he is also a media hate figure. That alone should arouse our skepticism.
Trump’s views on migration are grotesque, but no more grotesque than those of David Cameron. It is not Trump who is the Great Deporter from the United States, but the Nobel Peace Prize winner, Barack Obama.
According to one prodigious liberal commentator, Trump is “unleashing the dark forces of violence” in the United States. Unleashing them?
This is the country where toddlers shoot their mothers and the police wage a murderous war against black Americans. This is the country that has attacked and sought to overthrow more than 50 governments, many of them democracies, and bombed from Asia to the Middle East, causing the deaths and dispossession of millions of people.
No country can equal this systemic record of violence. Most of America’s wars (almost all of them against defenseless countries) have been launched not by Republican presidents but by liberal Democrats: Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Clinton, Obama.
In 1947, a series of National Security Council directives described the paramount aim of American foreign policy as “a world substantially made over in [America’s] own image”. The ideology was messianic Americanism. We were all Americans. Or else. Heretics would be converted, subverted, bribed, smeared or crushed.
Donald Trump is a symptom of this, but he is also a maverick. He says the invasion of Iraq was a crime; he doesn’t want to go to war with Russia and China. The danger to the rest of us is not Trump, but Hillary Clinton. She is no maverick. She embodies the resilience and violence of a system whose vaunted “exceptionalism” is totalitarian with an occasional liberal face.
As presidential election day draws near, Clinton will be hailed as the first female president, regardless of her crimes and lies – just as Barack Obama was lauded as the first black president and liberals swallowed his nonsense about “hope”. And the drool goes on.
Described by the Guardian columnist Owen Jones as “funny, charming, with a coolness that eludes practically every other politician”, Obama the other day sent drones to slaughter 150 people in Somalia. He kills people usually on Tuesdays, according to the New York Times, when he is handed a list of candidates for death by drone. So cool.
In the 2008 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton threatened to “totally obliterate” Iran with nuclear weapons. As Secretary of State under Obama, she participated in the overthrow of the democratic government of Honduras. Her contribution to the destruction of Libya in 2011 was almost gleeful. When the Libyan leader, Colonel Gaddafi, was publicly sodomised with a knife – a murder made possible by American logistics – Clinton gloated over his death: “We came, we saw, he died.”
One of Clinton’s closest allies is Madeleine Albright, the former Secretary of State, who has attacked young women for not supporting “Hillary”. This is the same Madeleine Albright who infamously celebrated on TV the death of half a million Iraqi children as “worth it”.
Among Clinton’s biggest backers are the Israel lobby and the arms companies that fuel the violence in the Middle East. She and her husband have received a fortune from Wall Street. And yet, she is about to be ordained the women’s candidate, to see off the evil Trump, the official demon. Her supporters include distinguished feminists: the likes of Gloria Steinem in the US and Anne Summers in Australia.
A generation ago, a post-modern cult now known as “identity politics” stopped many intelligent, liberal-minded people examining the causes and individuals they supported – such as the fakery of Obama and Clinton; such as bogus progressive movements like Syriza in Greece, which betrayed the people of that country and allied with their enemies.
Self-absorption, a kind of “me-ism”, became the new zeitgeist in privileged western societies and signaled the demise of great collective movements against war, social injustice, inequality, racism and sexism.
What has happened to the great tradition of popular direct action, unfettered to parties? Where is the courage, imagination and commitment required to begin the long journey to a better, just and peaceful world? Where are the dissidents in art, film, the theatre, literature?
Where are those who will shatter the silence? Or do we wait until the first nuclear missile is fired?
-An edited version of an address given by John Pilger at the University of Sydney
JohnPilger.com – the films and journalism of John Pilger