Tuesday, January 31, 2017

21st Century California vulnerabilities to active Neoliberal political opportunists

To paraphrase a wise Californian the late John Steinbeck, too many under-50 Californians see themselves as temporarily embarrassed capitalists.

When you have economically frustrated persons in a political entity like California, the Neoliberals will target them as potential voters in order to unseat those officials who advocate California Empirical Egalitarian Progressivism.

The truth is even Californians in the top 1.5% income group impacted by 2016's Proposition 55 (the extension of 2012's Proposition 30) are not a large enough group to vote a politician into statewide office or approve a ballot measure. But Neoliberal strategists target frustrated groups to create a political revolt on which they can piggyback their agenda advocacy.

As noted in an earlier post California is home to 13 organizations which are members of the Neoliberal Atlas Network: the Ayn Rand Institute, the Benjamin Rush Institute, the California Policy Center, the Claremont Institute, the Hoover Institution, the Independent Institute, Liberty International, the Pacific Legal Foundation, the Pacific Research Institute, the Reason Foundation, Seasteading Institute, Smock Media, and Taliesin Nexus. Each of those 13 actively attack California Empirical Egalitarian Progressivism by using alternative-reality, iWorld propaganda supported by alternative facts.

If you check their websites, you will have difficulty finding anything related to immigration or women's issues. Instead they focus on an ideological message. Perhaps it is most accurate to use the Ayn Rand Institute's words to give a sense of the thrust of these organizations: "Discover how reason, rational self-interest and laissez-faire capitalism can make a positive impact on our world." The Atlas Network gives as its mission: "Our vision is of a free, prosperous and peaceful world where limited governments defend the rule of law, private property and free markets."

These organizations are vehemently opposed to the distributive justice process critical to California Empirical Egalitarian Progressivism.

As explained in the previous post, while other activists were focused on "flower child" issues in 1960's California - free speech, drugs, the Vietnam War - Neoliberal spokesman Ronald Reagan was elected Governor.

The next effort by California Neoliberals came with the California Electricity Crisis of 2000 and 2001 which should be required case study on how to disrupt California politics.

In 2000 California had an installed generating capacity of 45GW. Demand was 28GW. A demand supply gap was created by energy companies, mainly Enron, to create an artificial shortage. Energy traders took power plants offline for maintenance in days of peak demand to increase the price. Rolling blackouts adversely affected many businesses dependent upon a reliable supply of electricity, and inconvenienced a large number of retail consumers. Traders were thus able to sell power at premium prices, sometimes up to a factor of 20 times its normal value.

Because the state government had a cap on retail electricity charges, this market manipulation squeezed the industry's revenue margins, causing the bankruptcy of Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) and near bankruptcy of Southern California Edison in early 2001.

The crisis was possible because of partial deregulation legislation (AB 1890) adopted in 1996. Then Republican Governor and Neoliberal Pete Wilson, who is currently a distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution, was the driving force behind the historic change. In 1993, a 200-page report generated within the PUC, referred to as the "yellow book," spoke favorably of deregulation in response to complaints from industrial customers and to national trends that had seen the deregulation of airline, telephone and savings and loan industries. A year later, another PUC report emerged, this one called the "blue book," that openly declared the regulatory body’s intent to "dissolve the old power monopolies and create an open market within two years".

By then, going by the "alternative" name of "restructuring,’’ the call to deregulate the power franchises had also reached Sacramento. Versions vary on with whom and in what form the idea took root among elected state officials leading to the eventual unanimous approval of AB 1890 in 1993, which placed in law the creation of a wholesale market for electric power in California for PUC-regulated utilities.

The collapse of the system started seven years later. The public, due to the complex nature of the energy crisis, held then Democratic Governor Davis partly responsible. General speculation regarding the factors influencing the recall's outcome continues to center on the idea that Californians simply voted for a "change" because Davis had mismanaged the events leading up to the energy crisis. Perhaps, but....

The effort to recall Gray Davis began with Republicans:
  • Ted Costa who was mentored by Paul Gann during the Prop 13 campaign and who supported Proposition 23, an oil industry measure supported by the Koch brothers to suspend California's 2006 global warming law; 
  • Mark Abernathy, an advisor to then Congressman Bill Thomas, a member of the  American Enterprise Institute; and 
  • Howard Kaloogian, Tea Party Express co-founder.
The effort was not taken seriously, until Rep. Darrell Issa, named a number of times as the wealthiest currently serving member of Congress, donated $2 million towards the effort.

While many think that celebrity Donald Trump's election as a Republican-who-wasn't-a-Republican is unique. However, in California on November 17, 2003, a celebrity and nominal Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger won the California Governorship in an open no-primary popularity contest that at the time was peculiar to recall elections. (It's worth noting he replaced Trump on "The Apprentice" NBC series.)

But Arnold Schwarzenegger was not a Neoliberal ideologue and the Democrats retained control of the Legislature during his terms.

The point here is Neoliberals leap on every potential opportunity to disrupt the status quo while gaining influence. They understand there is not a "one California" consistently voting Democratic despite what the 2016 Presidential election results seem to the politically inexperienced.

Instead, the voters are fickle, think of themselves as temporarily embarrassed capitalists, and can be persuaded by the effective use of propaganda as can be seen on these maps:

California has overhauled its election system from that where party primary winners face off in a general election to an open primary where the "top two" vote-getters face off in the general election. Further, the California Republican Party is not a force in California politics. Today all elections in California have a format similar to that won by Schwarzenegger.

This creates a situation where, in each state legislative and executive office election, Neoliberal groups with money can find a candidate to support. Parties are not really a focus point for Neoliberals. They don't need the support of one to organize a strong political campaign. And we are moving in the direction of "let's all support independents" which is a euphemism for we don't need to know who these candidates are politically.

The problem is the non-partisan ballot was a project of the Independent Voter Project which as explained in this story and this story is a cover for corporate interests. It is even tied to Charles Munger, Jr., who has used his family's billions to keep the California Republican Party on life support.

Additionally, we should keep in mind that as Neoliberalism has evolved, it has become an ideology which asserts that 21st Century market metaphors, metrics, and practices should permeate all fields of human life. Consider this from a December 2016 article by Ben Tarnoff, a San Francisco journalist who writes about technology and politics:
No industry has played a larger role in evangelizing the neoliberal faith than Silicon Valley. Its entrepreneurs are constantly coming up with new ways to make more of our lives into markets. A couple of decades ago, staying in touch with friends wasn’t a source of economic value – now it’s the basis for a $350bn company. Our photo albums, dating preferences, porn habits, and most random and banal thoughts have all become profitable data sets, mined for advertising revenue. We are encouraged to see ourselves as pieces of human capital that must ceaselessly enhance our value – optimizing our feeds and profiles, hustling for follows and likes and swipes.

If Silicon Valley is turning our personal lives into a business, then Trump hopes to turn our government into one. Like all of Trump’s ideas, this isn’t especially original. For decades, neoliberal politicians of both parties have promoted the notion that government should not only serve business, but operate like one. They’ve argued that public services should be privatized, or at least model the “efficiency” of the private sector. They’ve claimed that business is the highest form of human endeavor, and that the role of the state is to empower and emulate it.
We in California are vulnerable to Neoliberal opportunists. There are now tech billionaires who do favor Neoliberal ideas and put their billions where their ideas are. There are open elections that favor eliminating political parties which provided some vetting of candidates. And there are a lot of frustrated "temporarily embarrassed capitalists" in California.

California Empirical Egalitarian Progressives need to be vigilant within the State's political system or we won't be able to protect our future or the Earth.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Counter-Ascendancy of California Empirical Egalitarian Progressivism

Free college tuition. Interesting idea, Bernie.

In 1962 when I entered the University of California there was no tuition. Nor was there tuition at any other state college in California. Let me introduce you to California Master Plan for Higher Education implemented by bills adopted by the Legislature and signed into law in 1960 by Governor Pat Brown, the late father of current Governor Jerry Brown which states:
For the state colleges and the University of California it is recommended that:
  1. The two governing boards reaffirm the long established principle that state colleges and the University of California shall be tuition free to all residents of the state.
Unfortunately, one of the impacts of Proposition 13 sponsored by corporate interests and approved by the voters in 1978 was to force the modification of that policy. Because the State had to fund from its General Fund more of the costs of primary and secondary education, the tuition-free college policy could not be sustained.

Literally, inexpensive college education in California was one of the first victims in the United States of the Neoliberals who used a populist backlash against rising taxes to eliminate working class opportunities for higher education established under the Empirical Egalitarian Progressive movement. (Empirical Egalitarian Progressivism is always attacked by Neoliberals as "socialism" despite the fact that it does not advocate in any way against the private ownership of property.)

California has struggled as an imperfect home for Empirical Egalitarian Progressivism which can be summarized as follows:
  • Empirical means that knowledge comes only or primarily from sensory experience, from science, engineering, and art.
  • Egalitarian means the principle that all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities.
  • Progressivism asserts that advancements in science, technology, economic development, and social organization are vital to the improvement of the human condition when bound to the recognition of the intrinsic importance of all forms of life within the Earth's biosphere.
As implemented, the California version of Empirical Egalitarian Progressivism includes:
  • A process of mixing industrial and technological progress with active governmental intervention to assure equal opportunity and a proper balance of distributive justice.
  • A social compact recognizing the common needs of a disparate peoples and a trust in direct democracy as the final arbiter of public policy with particular focus on those needs.
Distributive justice is about how rewards and costs are distributed among members of a group (or a city, state, or nation) which takes into account five conflicting "norms" that typically confront groups. These can be summarized as:
  1. Responsibility: Group members who have the most should share their resources with those who have less.
  2. Need: Those in greatest needs should be provided with resources needed to meet those needs, regardless of their input..
  3. Equity: Members' outcomes should be based upon their inputs. Therefore, an individual who has invested a large amount of input (e.g. time, money, energy) should receive more from the group than someone who has contributed very little.
  4. Power: Those with more authority, status, or control over the group should receive more than those in lower level positions.
  5. Equality: Regardless of their inputs, all group members should be given an equal share of the rewards/costs
With the goal of assuring the long term survival and success of California and Californians, these norms are used within society, economics, and government, giving priority in the order they are listed above to set the course for the ship of state. The first four are understood as requirements applied to keep the ship running.

The last is then used to adjust (meaning to "tweak" not "reverse") the final heading - it is used as the "fairness" standard of mediation that keeps everyone on board and avoids a mutiny.

It all requires commitment and compromise.

"Need", or more accurately in this setting "common needs", is a term not limited to economics. In terms of the individual perspective,  Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs applies:

Advocates of California Empirical Egalitarian Progressivism understand that The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 placed the burden on government, with the obligation of support from every person and organization, to assure that the physiological and safety needs of all persons are met.

Further the Universal Declaration also placed the responsibility on every person, organization, and government to see that everyone's needs for belonging and for esteem are met to the limited extent the norms of distributive justice allow.

California courts have cited the Universal Declaration to support their interpretation of the right to practice one’s trade, the right to privacy, the meaning of “physical handicap,” the right to freedom of movement, and the scope of welfare provisions.1

In the United States advocates of Empirical Egalitarian Progressivism in the first two-thirds of the 20th Century achieved much through our national government. But that stopped due to an increasing Neoliberal influence beginning in the mid-1970's under both Republican and Democratic Presidents and both Republican and Democratic Congresses.

California always leads the way, and the rise of  Neoliberalism is no exception. A mid-20th Century Neoliberal attempt to crush California Empirical Egalitarian Progressivism became a springboard for a future nation-wide movement. The Neoliberals failed in California only after the anti-flower-child populist backlash of the 1960's ended with Proposition 13.

In California the Neoliberal influence became evident in 1967 when Ronald Reagan defeated Pat Brown. Governor. Reagan went on to become President in 1981 because he was the America's most effective spokesperson for Neoliberalism using the alternative reality game. His internship among the Neoliberals started 26 years before he was nominated for President.

Reagan was hired by General Electric (GE) in 1954 to host the General Electric Theater, a weekly TV drama series and to give talks to over 200,000 GE employees as a motivational speaker. His speeches carried the Neoliberal re-education message. Reagan was influenced by Lemuel Boulware, a senior GE executive whose ideas have been called "Boulwarism." In a 1949 address at Harvard Boulware stated:
We have simply got to learn, and preach, and practice what’s the good alternative to socialism. And we have to interpret this to a majority of adults in a way that is understandable and credible and attractive.
You can learn more about him at the Foundation for Economic Education website. The Foundation for Economic Education, founded in 1946, is the oldest free-market think tank in the United States. It has had common board members with the Atlas Network.

After Reagan's two terms as Governor, in 1975 Jerry Brown began his first two terms as Governor. Even though there were Republican Governors following Brown's second term, beginning in 1975 the Democrats controlled both houses of the Legislature except in 1996-96 when the Republicans had a majority in the Assembly, though the wily Democrat Willie Brown continued as Speaker for the first half of 1995.

But, of course, in 1978 Proposition 13 was passed which gave corporate owners of industrial, commercial, and apartment properties a significant long-term tax break at the expense of public education at all levels and the stability of the State's finances. It's not that the populist backlash against property taxes had no underlying causes. But most of those causes were essentially the result of bad judgement by local officials elected and reelected by the the same voters who voted for Proposition 13.

To fund education and healthcare, in 2016 California voters approved a measure continuing until 2030 the provisions of a 2012 measure increasing personal income taxes on incomes over $250,000. This impacts the top 1.5% of Californians with a single income filing of at least $263,000 or a joint income filing of at least $526,000. This tax to fund education and healthcare reflects the first two elements of distributive justice that drives California Empirical Egalitarian Progressivism - Responsibility and Need.

And for the most part, since 1975 the Legislature has leaned towards California Empirical Egalitarian Progressivism. As a result, as of 2017 California voters elected to the Assembly and the Senate Democratic super-majorities (over 's).

So it would appear that California Empirical Egalitarian Progressivism is strong in this state. But that can be misleading.

1Bixby v. Pierno, 4 Cal. 3d 130, 143 n.9, 145 n.12 (Cal. 1971); Santa Barbara v. Adamson, 27 Cal. 3d 123, 130 n.2 (Cal. 1980); Am. Nat’l Life Ins. Co. v. Fair Employment & Housing Comm., 32 Cal. 3d 603, 608 n.4 (Cal. 1982); In re White, 97 Cal. App. 3d 141, 149 n.4 (Cal. Ct. App. 1979); Boehm v. Superior Court, 178 Cal. App. 3d 494 (Cal. Ct. App. 1986).

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Worldwide Ascendancy of Neoliberalism

As of January 20, 2017, the Neoliberals gained control of the United States Presidency. Two years earlier they consolidated their domination of Congress. And 84.4% of the U.S. population residing in 45 states have chosen to allow Neoliberals to control all, or a meaningful part, of their state government. How did the Neoliberals do this?

In 1938 in Paris two exiles from Austria, Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek, discovered a shared belief that social democracy was a manifestation of a collectivism that occupied the same spectrum as nazism and communism, as exemplified by Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and the gradual development of Britain’s welfare state. So they coined the term Neoliberalism as a label for their view.

In a 1944 book Hayek argued that government planning, by crushing individualism, would lead inexorably to totalitarian control. In 1947 he founded the first organization to spread the doctrine of neoliberalism – the Mont Pelerin Society – supported by billionaires and their foundations. Charles Koch, one of the famous or infamous (depending on your point of view) Koch brothers, is a long-standing member.

On the international level, per Wikipedia the Atlas Network was founded in 1981 by Sir Antony Fisher. After founding the Institute of Economic Affairs in London in 1955, Fisher had helped to establish the Fraser Institute, the Manhattan Institute and the Pacific Research Institute in the 1970s. Fisher conceived of Atlas as a means to connect various think tanks via a global network through which the organizations could learn best practices from one another and "pass the best research and policy ideas from one to the other, and so avoid the need to reinvent the wheel." Atlas has been described as "self replicating, a think tank that creates think tank." In addition to the Pacific Research Institute, California members of the Atlas Network include the Hoover Institution, the Ayn Rand Institute, the Benjamin Rush Institute, the California Policy Center, the Claremont Institute, the Independent Institute, Liberty International, the Pacific Legal Foundation, the Reason Foundation, Seasteading Institute, Smock Media, and Taliesin Nexus.

In the United States, Neoliberal wealthy corporate interests created a national network of academics, businessmen, journalists and activists who always hid under the traditional label "conservative." They funded academic positions and departments, particularly at the universities of Chicago and Virginia, plus a series of think tanks. The latter include among others The American Enterprise Institute, The Heritage Foundation, The Cato Institute (founded as the Charles Koch Foundation in 1974),  the Pacific Research Institute, and The Heartland Institute.  In 1992 they established a network of state-level think tanks across the United States called the State Policy Network which include:
  • Alabama: Alabama Policy Institute
  • Alaska: Alaska Policy Forum
  • Arizona: Goldwater Institute
  • Arkansas: Advance Arkansas Institute, Arkansas Policy Foundation
  • California: California Policy Center, Pacific Research Institute
  • Colorado: Independence Institute
  • Connecticut: Yankee Institute for Public Policy
  • Delaware: Caesar Rodney Institute
  • Florida: Foundation for Government Accountability, James Madison Institute
  • Georgia: Georgia Center for Opportunity, Georgia Public Policy Foundation
  • Hawaii: Grassroot Institute
  • Idaho: Idaho Freedom Foundation
  • Illinois: Illinois Policy Institute
  • Indiana: Indiana Policy Review Foundation
  • Iowa: Public Interest Institute
  • Kansas: Kansas Policy Institute
  • Kentucky: Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions
  • Louisiana: Pelican Institute for Public Policy
  • Maine: Maine Heritage Policy Center
  • Maryland: Calvert Institute for Policy Research, Maryland Public Policy Institute
  • Massachusetts: Pioneer Institute
  • Michigan: Mackinac Center for Public Policy
  • Minnesota: Center of the American Experiment, Freedom Foundation of Minnesota
  • Mississippi: Empower Mississippi, Mississippi Center for Public Policy
  • Missouri: Show-Me Institute
  • Montana: Montana Policy Institute
  • Nebraska: Platte Institute for Economic Research
  • Nevada: Nevada Policy Research Institute
  • New Hampshire: Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, Granite Institute
  • New Mexico: Rio Grande Foundation
  • New York: Empire Center for Public Policy
  • North Carolina: John Locke Foundation, John William Pope Civitas Institute
  • Ohio: Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions
  • Oklahoma: Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs
  • Oregon: Cascade Policy Institute
  • Pennsylvania: Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy Alternatives
  • Rhode Island: Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity
  • South Carolina Palmetto Promise Institute, South Carolina Policy Council
  • South Dakota: Great Plains Public Policy Institute
  • Tennessee: Beacon Center of Tennessee
  • Texas: Texas Public Policy Foundation
  • Utah: Libertas Institute, Sutherland Institute
  • Vermont: Ethan Allen Institute
  • Virginia: Thomas Jefferson Institute, Virginia Institute for Public Policy
  • Washington: Freedom Foundation, Washington Policy Center
  • West Virginia: Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy
  • Wisconsin: MacIver Institute for Public Policy, Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty
  • Wyoming: Wyoming Liberty Group
And yet despite all that activity, sometime in the early-to-mid-1950's the term "neoliberal" disappeared from normal political discourse, except in certain tight circles and among those who study political science instead of celebrity politics.

Let's consider one of these organizations -  The Heartland Institute. I chose it because of these headlines this week:

The late David Padden, a Chicago-based investment banker and one of the original members of the Board of Directors of the Cato Institute, founded The Heartland Institute in 1984.  Padden also served on the original Board of Directors of another organization founded that year, Citizens for a Sound Economy, which later split into two groups, FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity. The Cato Institute and both of these organizations received their initial seed money from Koch Industries.

In an interview in 2011 with Heartland’s communications director Jim Lakely we learned:
“We are the only 50-state think tank….We were founded in 1984 to be a think tank that focuses on educating legislators.  That continues to be our core mission, and one that no other think tank can match at our scale.”

Looking back on Heartland’s 27-year history, its communications director says the organization has accomplished quite a lot.

The fact that global warming now consistently ranks very low on the list of concerns for American voters is  “a victory for the organization,” Lakely says.

He also says Heartland was able to capitalize on the rise of the Tea Party shortly after the election of President Obama.

“We distributed more than 75,000 copies of ‘The Patriot’s Tool Box,’ a 10-chapter book that lays out conservative arguments for policy reforms across a variety of issues....The support of the Tea Party groups across the country has been extremely valuable.”
Heartland was among the organizers of the September 2009 Tea Party protest march, the Taxpayer March on Washington. In support of the Tea Party movement, Heartland offered free literature and other assistance to Tea Party activists, created a website "www.teapartytoolbox.org".

In 2012, leaked documents revealed some of the Heartland Institute's initiatives and climate change strategy including a tailored high school curriculum. As reported at the New York Times, the Heartland Institute had help from the Charles G. Koch Foundation to “cast doubt on the scientific finding that fossil fuel emissions endanger the long-term welfare of the planet.”  The Union of Concerned Scientists found that “Nearly 40% of the total funds that the Heartland Institute has received from ExxonMobil since 1998 were specifically designated for climate change projects.”

Also in 2012, the Heartland Institute made a huge mistake which allowed us to see the depth of their corporate financial support. From Wikipedia:
On May 4, 2012, Heartland launched a digital billboard advertising campaign in the Chicago area featuring a photo of Ted Kaczynski, the "Unabomber" whose mail bombs killed three people and injured 23 others, asking the question, “I still believe in global warming, do you?” The Institute planned for the campaign to feature murderer Charles Manson, communist leader Fidel Castro and perhaps Osama bin Laden, asking the same question. The Institute justified the billboards saying "the most prominent advocates of global warming aren’t scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen."

The billboard reportedly "unleashed a social media-fed campaign, including a petition from the advocacy group Forecast the Facts calling on Heartland’s corporate backers to immediately pull their funding,".... Within 24 hours Heartland cancelled the campaign, although its president refused to apologize for it....

Following the ... the controversial billboard campaign, substantial funding was lost as corporate donors, including the General Motors Foundation, sought to dissociate themselves from the Institute. According to the advocacy group Forecast the Facts, Heartland lost more than $825,000, or one third of planned corporate fundraising for the year. The shortfall led to sponsorship of the Institute's May 2012 climate conference by Illinois' coal lobby, the Illinois Coal Association, the Institute's "first publicly acknowledged donations from the coal industry," and the Heritage Foundation. The billboard controversy led to the loss of substantial corporate funding, including telecommunications firm AT&T, financial service firm BB&T, alcoholic beverage company Diageo and about two dozen insurance companies.... Pharmaceutical companies Amgen, Eli Lilly, Bayer and GlaxoSmithKline ended financial support. Heartland's May, 2012 climate conference was smaller than previous years.
The Neoliberal organizations do make mistakes. But fundamentally they keep their heads down, avoid recognition and publicity, and consistently work to win over the long term. And so they do - win.

In 2014  Clark S. Judge, Chairman of the Pacific Research Institute, wrote an article The GOP Establishment, the Tea Party and 2016 in which he concluded with the following sentence: "Creating a reform-establishment alliance and preparing it to win the White House – this is the great political task of the next two years." Of course winning the White House with Donald Trump can be extremely problematic. While many of his appointees are in the Neoliberal camp, he simply is not an ideologue and extremely unreliable.

In California, consistently laboring well-funded Neoliberal organizations have won some significant political fights on issues. Now they are preparing for a long effort to reverse the Counter-Ascendancy California Empirical Egalitarian Progressivism.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Spurn the alternate reality political game

An alternate reality game (ARG) is an interactive networked narrative that uses the real world as a platform and employs transmedia storytelling to deliver a story that may be altered by players' ideas or actions. - Wikipedia

Language has always been confusing. With the advent of alternate reality games in the last decade of the 20th Century, there has always been a chance that the terms "alternate reality" and "alternative" could be appropriated in a confusing way by those with a political agenda.

Beginning this week we were confronted with:

The problem is that "alternative" in most discussions means "available as another possibility or choice." In olden times we believed that an alternative was viable only if it was a "real" alternative where "real" meant "actually existing as a thing or occurring in fact; not imagined or supposed."

But "Holy Hoodwink, Batman!" Somehow there has been a confluence of technology that turned basic definitions on their ear.

When in 1980 we looked at dictionary definitions for the term "information" we read something like
  1. "facts provided or learned about something or someone" or
  2.  "knowledge gained through study, communication, research, instruction, etc.; factual data." 
The key term was "fact." A piece of "data" was, or digitally represented, some piece of fact, hence "information" which became the focus of the "Information Technology" department.

In the 21st Century something happened to the word "information". As explained by Wikipedia: "Information is any type of pattern that influences the formation or transformation of other patterns."

Yes indeed, today there is no difference between fact or fiction so long as the information used influences the formation or transformation of other patterns. Conflicting fact and fiction can be lumped together as "information" offering the same sense of authority.

As one newspaper columnist noted: "Welcome to Donald Trump's America, where facts don't matter. Where it makes no difference whether or not what you say is true, as long as you say it loud enough."

What the columnist is referring to is the iWorld in which information itself is simulated - digitally formatted to feel and look like realistic facts.

For instance, the climate change denial alternative is being reinforced in the iWorld by a sufficient number of people who have repeated simulated research data until it has become a mass delusion.

The iWorld is a world in which people confuse computerized escapism with reality whether
  • they lose themselves in fantasies viewed on a screen or through electronic 3-D goggles or glasses,  fantasies that are more pleasing than the world around them, or
  • instead of  focusing on the reality around them, they focus on short texts and tweets which have no physical substance and no immediately verifiable basis in fact.
Consider these images.

In which version of the world would you choose to live, the one at the top that is fed to the brain through "devices" or the one at the bottom that is fed to your brain by eyes, ears, nose, and skin interacting with the real world directly?

What makes recent political debates befuddling to many is a muddling of the word "lie" for which Dictionary.com offers the following first definitions:
noun. a false statement made with deliberate intent to deceive; an intentional untruth.
verb. to speak falsely or utter untruth knowingly, as with intent to deceive.
Consider this Dictionary.com definition of the word "error":
1. a deviation from accuracy or correctness; a mistake, as in action or speech: His speech contained several factual errors.
2. belief in something untrue; the holding of mistaken opinions.
3. the condition of believing what is not true: in error about the date.
A false statement isn't a "lie" if the speaker or writer believes it to be true when it is spoken or written by the speaker or writer. It is an "error." A "lie" must include the intent to deceive.

Accusing someone of lying is to accuse them of intent to deceive. If your goal is to make that person angry, instantly accuse them of lying. Remember, they likely believe something that has been reinforced many times within the iWorld.

What's subtle here is an intended language muddle. Consider again that Wikipedia statement: "Information is any type of pattern that influences the formation or transformation of other patterns." Compare it with this in Wikipedia:
Propaganda is "information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote a political cause or point of view". Propaganda is often associated with the psychological mechanisms of influencing and altering the attitude of a population toward a specific cause, position or political agenda in an effort to form a consensus to a standard set of belief patterns.
It becomes quite easy in the iWorld to influence folks to join an alternate reality political game using a focused form of "information" which is simply "any type of pattern that influences the formation or transformation of other patterns."

The challenge is that the wings that lift us up too high today are not made of feathers, but money. So far a large majority of Californians have resisted the Neoliberal ideologues who assert that market metaphors, metrics, and practices should permeate all fields of human life.

In no place is there more iWorld  "alternative information" created than in California. Even when we've lived with Silicon Valley for seemingly forever, we struggle to reject being drawn into their alternative reality game.

The game is simple. Provide easy access on the internet to conflicting information with links to simulated supporting documentation literally created out of "alternative" facts. Then "share" it on social media.

Kellyanne understands what "information" is in our brave new world, the one created by those for whom she works. It offers alternate realities with alternative facts to support belief structures underlying the 1% economy.

California must continue to spurn this Neoliberal alternative reality political game. But to assure our success we need to know more about the Neoliberals who hide behind alternative labels.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Why California First?

  The map below indicates which among the 50 U.S. states that have (1) a Democratic Governor and
Democrats in control of its legislature. In addition to California which has Democratic
  super-majorities in both houses of the its legislature and eight of eight elected executive offices
  filled by Democrats, the other five Democratic states are Oregon, Delaware, Connecticut, Rhode
  Island, and Hawaii.

The headline and map above should trigger concerns among Californians. As of noon on January 20, 2017, the following California policies and traditions are threatened:
  • California's Integrated Plan for Addressing Climate Change and the related Safeguarding California climate change impacts adapation program.
  • The Covered California and MediCal universal health care program.
  • California's long history of Pro-Choice laws that began on June 14, 1967, when California Governor Ronald Reagan signed the groundbreaking Therapeutic Abortion Act.
  • California's State Trade Export Program; as one of only 3 of the 48 states in the continental United States to be Pacific Rim geographically-oriented, California is the largest exporting state to Asia, exporting $67.5 billion in goods to Asia in 2015, with China being the largest; in addition to the exports, every day a huge import volume of clothing, food, furniture, electronics, etc., passes through California's ports where members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union work; any significant alteration in this pattern will result in a recession in California.
  • As California cities and schools continue steps to protect undocumented immigrants from Trump,  California's large immigrant communities will need protection from potential repeats of the following deplorable federal programs:
    1. from 1930-1946 in the Mexican Repatriation program and beginning again in 1954 with Operation Wetback the federal government rounded up and deported one group of Californians - American citizens of Hispanic heritage, for which the State of California passed an official "Apology Act" in 2005 officially recognizing the "unconstitutional removal and coerced emigration of United States citizens and legal residents of Mexican descent" and apologizing "for the fundamental violations of their basic civil liberties and constitutional rights committed during the period of illegal deportation and coerced emigration."; and 
    2. from 1942-1945 the federal government rounded up another group of Californians - American citizens of Japanese heritage - and put them into concentration camps ultimately resulting in an apology, reparations and redress by the U.S. government in the late 20th Century;
    Since the 15th Century, California has been tied to Spanish speaking peoples, having been a Spanish Colony and then a Mexican State for the 285 years prior to becoming a state in the United States; since the 18th Century California migrants from Asia have been a significant element in the State's economy; since the mid-19th Century English speaking immigrants from the United States (many of whom were illegal immigrants when California was a Mexican State) plus other non-Spanish European migrants have arrived in large numbers.
  • California's legalization of recreational use of marijuana is under threat representing potential damage to the state's large marijuana industry.
Californians have to recognize that few, if any, other states have the political interest and will to confront the federal government on all these potential policy and economic conflicts using state and local government resources.

California is confronted with a reactionary Congress and Neoliberal Presidency. Further in the 45 states on the map above in Trumpist Orange, 84.4% of the U.S. population residing there have chosen to allow persons other than Democrats to control all, or a meaningful part, of their state government. It is consistent with the fact that while Hillary Clinton won the national popular vote by 2,864,903 votes, without California counted in the totals Donald Trump won by 1,405,075.

When the headlines read 'Governor Moonbeam' Vows to Launch 'Own Damn Satellite' If Donald Trump Ignores Climate Change and the story told us...
In a barnburner speech on Wednesday, Governor Jerry Brown vowed to defy any attempt by the future President to “mess with” the state’s earth science programs, telling a group of geophysicists in San Francisco, “We will persevere.”

“We’ve got the scientists, we’ve got the lawyers and we’re ready to fight,” Brown told the American Geophysical Union to wild applause. “If Trump turns off the satellites, California will launch its own damn satellite.”
...it pretty much gave us a feel for what the political and economic future looks like and it doesn't look like smooth sailing for those Californians who care about their descendants living in the year 2117.

While it is heartening to see the Women's March this weekend, take a hard look at that map above and this headline:

The map represents about 30 years of hard work by those committed to the Neoliberal ideology which asserts that market metaphors, metrics, and practices should permeate all fields of human life. The headline represents the state legislators they worked so hard to put into office.

To significantly change things by 2037, those tens of thousands of folks marching this weekend should in 2018 be slogging around hundreds of legislative districts nationwide supporting state legislative candidates sympathetic to their views to change future policies.

However Trump's "America First" speech is about now.

What Trump's "America First" speech means to Californians is that to continue to survive and thrive, we must embrace a "California First" attitude for the next four years.

It means smartly countering every piece of objectionable Congressional legislation, every damaging federal executive order, and every threatening federal court case filing.

It means: “If Trump turns off the satellites, California will launch its own damn satellite."

So that is why we must think of California First.