(November 3, 2008)
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Befouled Words and Uncivil Discourse
To the Editor:
I hope everybody has noticed that precious words are being befouled and removed from civil discourse. Liberal now means anyone who has got beyond bible thumping; elite, anyone who demonstrates they aren't uneducated. Spreading the wealth has come to mean a wild revolutionary policy though it has been around for years as a graduated income tax. What's next for smirching? Hunger, a roof over your head? Maybe human being? It's no longer true that "First they come for your Jewish neighbor; the next time it's for you." First of all, they come for your vocabulary.
Lecce, Italy - October 26, 2008
Socialism is coming! Socialism is coming!
Hey Monsieur d'Aymery,
For anyone who wants to get a handle on the financial and economic crisis I can only recommend your series of the last three Blips (#73, #74, and #75) -- good lessons of political economy. At least, your little sojourn at Sciences Po [ed. Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris, France] has served you well. For the benefit of those nitwits who think the current mayhem could not have been predicted you ought to republish your July 2002 piece, "The Tribulations Of The Toads." It was all there in one neat little package.
Has the echo of the latest Ron Paul howls reached your benighted corner in the boonies? Socialism is coming! Socialism is coming! hurled PoPaul. It's all down hill from here. Poor America is going to become socialist like bad Europe, you know. Funny enough, they have a strange concept of socialism in the land of milk and honey -- socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor; they socialize the losses and privatize the profits. As to European socialism, the libertarian ignoramuses will be happy to learn that Josef Ackermann, the CEO of Deutsche Bank, makes about $13 million a year and the bosses of the CAC 40 [ed. French stock exchange with the 40 biggest corporations in France] made $5.2 million in average in 2007, or just about the equivalent of 200 years of the median French salary. Here is another little stats to bring to the fleeting attention of my American friends: Between 1998 and 2006, the salaries of 90 percent of the French work force have risen only 4 percent, those of the top one percent by 14 percent, and the cream of the cream (about 2,500 people) by 51 percent. Vive le socialisme!
Allez, bon vent. Give 'em hell.
Paris, France - October 31, 2008
The Limits of Electoral Politics according to the Bureau of Public Secrets -- Beyond Voting...
To the Editor:
Roughly speaking we can distinguish five degrees of "government":
(1) Unrestricted freedomThe present society oscillates between (4) and (5); i.e., between overt minority rule and covert minority rule camouflaged by a facade of token democracy. A liberated society would eliminate (4) and (5) and would progressively reduce the need for (2) and (3). . . .
In representative democracy people abdicate their power to elected officials. The candidates' stated policies are limited to a few vague generalities, and once they are elected there is little control over their actual decisions on hundreds of issues -- apart from the feeble threat of changing one's vote, a few years later, to some equally uncontrollable rival politician. Representatives are dependent on the wealthy for bribes and campaign contributions; they are subordinate to the owners of the mass media, who decide which issues get the publicity; and they are almost as ignorant and powerless as the general public regarding many important matters that are determined by unelected bureaucrats and independent secret agencies. Overt dictators may sometimes be overthrown, but the real rulers in "democratic" regimes, the tiny minority who own or control virtually everything, are never voted in and never voted out. Most people don't even know who they are. . . .
In itself, voting is of no great significance one way or the other (those who make a big deal about refusing to vote are only revealing their own fetishism). The problem is that it tends to lull people into relying on others to act for them, distracting them from more significant possibilities. A few people who take some creative initiative (think of the first civil rights sit-ins) may ultimately have a far greater effect than if they had put their energy into campaigning for lesser-evil politicians. At best, legislators rarely do more than what they have been forced to do by popular movements. A conservative regime under pressure from independent radical movements often concedes more than a liberal regime that knows it can count on radical support. (The Vietnam war, for example, was not ended by electing antiwar politicians, but because there was so much pressure from so many different directions that the prowar president Nixon was forced to withdraw.) If people invariably rally to lesser evils, all the rulers have to do in any situation that threatens their power is to conjure up a threat of some greater evil.
Even in the rare case when a "radical" politician has a realistic chance of winning an election, all the tedious campaign efforts of thousands of people may go down the drain in one day because of some trivial scandal discovered in his (or her) personal life, or because he inadvertently says something intelligent. If he manages to avoid these pitfalls and it looks like he might win, he tends to evade controversial issues for fear of antagonizing swing voters. If he actually gets elected he is almost never in a position to implement the reforms he has promised, except perhaps after years of wheeling and dealing with his new colleagues; which gives him a good excuse to see his first priority as making whatever compromises are necessary to keep himself in office indefinitely. Hobnobbing with the rich and powerful, he develops new interests and new tastes, which he justifies by telling himself that he deserves a few perks after all his years of working for good causes. Worst of all, if he does eventually manage to get a few "progressive" measures passed, this exceptional and usually trivial success is held up as evidence of the value of relying on electoral politics, luring many more people into wasting their energy on similar campaigns to come.
As one of the May 1968 graffiti put it, "It's painful to submit to our bosses; it's even more stupid to choose them!"
--Excerpts from Ken Knabb's "The Joy of Revolution."
The complete text is online at http://www.bopsecrets.org/PS/joyrev.htm
* * * * *
My intention in circulating these observations is not to discourage you from voting or campaigning, but to encourage you to go further.
Like many other people, I am delighted to see the Republicans collapsing into well-deserved ignominy, with the likelihood of the Democrats recapturing the presidency and increasing their majorities in Congress. Hopefully the latter will discontinue or at least mitigate some of the more insane policies of the current administration (some of which, such as climate change and ecological devastation, threaten to become irreversible).
Beyond that, I do not expect the Democratic politicians to accomplish anything very significant. Most of them are just as corrupt and compromised as the Republicans. Even if a few of them are honest and well-intentioned, they are all loyal servants of the ruling economic system, and they all ultimately function as cogwheels in the murderous political machine that serves to defend that system.
I have considerable respect and sympathy for the people who are campaigning for the Democratic Party while simultaneously trying to reinvigorate it and democratize it. There are elements of a real grassroots movement there, developing in tandem with the remarkable growth of the liberal-radical blogosphere over the last few years.
But imagine if that same immense amount of energy on the part of millions of people was put into more directly radical agitation, rather than (or in addition to) campaigning for rival millionaires. As a side effect, such agitation would put the reactionaries on the defensive and actually result in more "progressives" being elected. But more importantly, it would shift both the momentum and the terrain of the struggle.
If you put all your energy into trying to reassure swing voters that your candidate is "fully committed to fighting the War on Terror" but that he has regretfully concluded that we should withdraw from Iraq because "our efforts to promote democracy" there haven't been working, you may win a few votes but you have accomplished nothing in the way of political awareness.
In contrast, if you convince people that the war in Iraq is both evil and stupid, they will not only tend to vote for antiwar candidates, they are likely to start questioning other aspects of the social system. Which may lead to them to challenge that system in more concrete and participatory ways.
(If you want some examples, look at the rich variety of tactics used in France two years ago -- http://www.bopsecrets.org/recent/france2006.htm.)
The side that takes the initiative usually wins because it defines the terms of the struggle. If we accept the system's own terms and confine ourselves to defensively reacting to each new mess produced by it, we will never overcome it. We have to keep resisting particular evils, but we also have to recognize that the system will keep generating new ones until we put an end to it.
By all means vote if you feel like it. But don't stop there. Real social change requires participation, not representation.
"Making petrified conditions dance by singing them their own tune."
Berkeley, California, USA - October 29, 2008
Electromagnetically-induced current to replace fossil fuels?
To the Editor:
I would like to announce the arrival of a clean, cheap, abundant, and portable form of energy production that will make burning fossil fuel obsolete.
The German physicist Heinrich Freidrich Lenz stated in 1833 the direction of an electromagnetically-induced current (generated by moving a magnet near a wire or by moving a wire in a magnetic field) will be such as to oppose the motion producing it.
Today, most of our electricity is produced by "electromagnetic induction," where a magnet is moved in and out of a coil of wire in a closed circuit.
In other words, we now have to power the motion of either the magnet or the wire to produce electricity.
Instead, wind a solenoidal coil around a magnet, and apply electricity. The magnetic field is amplified, and the magnetic gradient can be exploited to yield more electricity than was used powering the solenoidal coil.
In other words, we avoid having to power the motion of either the magnet or the wire, and can instead have a solid state power generator.
It has been reported that previous attempts to commercially exploit this simple principle failed. Not because such solid state power generators failed to produce a net gain in electricity production, but because the source of the net gain in electricity couldn't be explained.
A private California company called Magnetic Power Inc (magneticpowerinc.com ) exceeded breakeven (i.e., produced more electricity than it used) with a prototype in late 2004. Here is an abstract of their patent application:
US Patent Application Publication No. US 2006/0163971 A1
Solid State Electric Generator
A solid-state electrical generator includes at least one permanent magnet, magnetically coupled to a ferromagnetic core provided with at least one hole penetrating its volume; the hole(s) and magnet(s) being placed such that the hole(s) penetrating the ferromagnetic core's volume intercept flux from the permanent magnet(s) coupled into the ferromagnetic core. A first wire coil is wound around the ferromagnetic core for the purpose of moving the coupled permanent magnet flux within the ferromagnetic core. A second wire is routed through the hole(s) penetrating the volume of the ferromagnetic core, for the purpose of intercepting this moving magnetic flux, thereby inducing an output electromotive force along wire(s) passing through the hole(s) in the ferromagnetic core. The mechanical action of an electrical generator is thereby synthesized without use of moving parts.
I strongly suggest you listen to the first 15 minutes of the radio interview with Chairman Goldes posted on the MPI website. Soon burning fossil fuel for energy will be obsolete, and replaced with a clean, cheap, abundant, and portable form of energy production.
St Louis Park, MN, USA - October 23, 2008
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