Freedom of speech, the false freedom and the hidden freedom.

August 18, 2017

What is meant in the west by freedom of expression, generally known as freedom of speech, is generally known. As a rough idea we can take the renaissance with names as Erasmus of Rotterdam,Galileo and Montaigne.  The rights have been won through centuries of struggle till today. Meanwhile they have been  changed, improved  and subverted.

I will start with the limitations most of us accept today.

Libel – you are not allowed to defame somebody by unfactual  statements.

Hate crimes – spoken or written. Here there is still a gray zone but in general racist symbols, speech or writings are not tolerated

Historical falsifications – denial of documented past atrocities such as the genocide of armenians or the holocaust are allowed sometimes.  The matter is discussed.

In general in Sweden you may say anything about anybody, however an open discussion about islam or its founder is impossible in practice.

Does this mean that freedom of speech is otherwise unlimited. Taking some thought this is shown to be wrong.

Limitations are usually based on the principle that everybody has the right to express themselves, undisturbed. You cannot enter a church and talk about whatever or in a closed meeting or disturb a  public meeting. You cannot sing at a public meeting  to interrupt a speaker etc.

By these limits you can see the outline of the hidden freedom.

But first, freedom of speech as a thought is a human right for the individual or groups of individuals to talk to  other individuals but is has been counterfeited,

The false freedom of speech is that money or power  gives someone more right to  present opinions or goods. Here you have taken way freedom of speech for the individuals to drown it in the loudspeaker of wealth. You are using the nature of freedom of speech to strangle freedom of speech. Neither mcdonald, volvo or  lotto are individuals.

Now let us try to give the hidden freedom a name. I suggest freedom from impression. That nobody must receive impressions that somebody else chooses. Here, as with freedom of speech, there are limits. Freedom from impression is not a bar to the free association between individuals  but to give individuals the ability to resist Power and Money’s obvious (obvious!!) priority . It  should not hinder the Contact between authorities and Citizens but can be tested from case to case to distinguish propaganda from information.

It is not meant to hinder individuals or groups of individuals from letting the public know their opinions (protected by freedom of speech). But with this and similar limits freedom from impressions is for one’s self  to decide what impressions to receive.

As an exempel how freedom from impression could appear. On the sidewalk there would only be a sign for what kind of business it is such as Ikea, Walmart, Ford. Inside, invisible from the street, the presentation would be as we  are used to.  Breaking these rules would lead to fines, Radio and Tv commercials only to those who clearly want it. Freedom from impressions, just as freedom of speech, couldn’t be given away. As a trial, impression free buildings or areas could be established. The reaction of the business community would give clearer idea of this freedom.

You may, hopefully find better exemples.

As for freedom from impressions, we have still 500 years to make up. We find it difficult just to imagine  what it is. It is considered as a matter of course that the individual is a funnel where Money and Power can pour anything they like. And what do you as an isolated individual have to resist.

You may feel the freedom from impressions is an ivory Tower Construction instead of a protection for free thoughts for individuals. That your feelings and opinions are trade goods although you haven’t offered them to anybody. Keep on that way and offer yourself and those following you to the  Cages  of Money and Power.

 
   

 

 

 

Terrorism: their and our

May 21, 2017

Instead of writing a final word on terrorism of today, I am trying to define the problem and discuss a possible way out. I leave “celebrity” terrorism aside since that is a different problem.

By terrorism I mean here attacks on civilians. In the middle east Muslims are attacked by Islamists and by Western (including russian and japanese) forces of ”law and order”. In parts of the middle east Muslims are killed as part of a civil war between sunni and shia and as part of resistance against western aggression. The West is there to protect access to raw materials and to prevent religious fanatics, instead of Western corporations, from controlling the region.  Both parties are killing innocent Muslim civilians.In other words a perfect whirlpool of mixed motives:

I don’t intend to give a complete rundown of terrorist activities or discuss the rights and wrongs of the situation. The main point is that civilians are being killed as a routine matter.

The difference is that Muslim fanatics are killing other Muslims to assert their power. The Western forces of “law and order” are killing Muslims because they simply don’t care. It is clear that in crowded cities and in firefights there is no automatic immunity for civilians, but weddings and funerals are bombed, schools and hospitals are attacked without anyone held responsible. Western state terrorists are not targeting Muslim civilians; they simply do not care. To the inhabitants of these areas the difference, between the two parties, is irrelevant. Dead is dead.

Considering the historical lessons of successful antiterrorist actions, I will outline a policy. When actions against terrorism have been successful (the British against IRA for exemple) this has been based on legality. This does not mean that brute force and extermination have not also been successful. But the cost to the host society and the incompleteness of the results has made this a very chancy proposition in a world where nuclear weapons are getting cheaper, more portable and finding disturbed fanatics to carry them easier all the time.

Legality has the following parts.

  1. A clear dividing line between legal and illegal activities
  2. Those that are innocent are generally acquitted
  3. No punishment greater than the crime committed
  4. Members of military and paramilitary forces of “law and order” who have gone over the line are put on trial

The first time any officer is put on trial for “carelessness” resulting in civilian casualties will be  the el alamein of the fight against terrorism.

The first time any officer will be charged in an international court for the breach of point 4 will be the D-day of counterterrorism.

Legality is the first element but there is another element which the terrorists completely lack. The second element is kindness, which can be shown in many ways. Here is how you can think of kindness in today’s world, even if I hope you will find a better way. Apart of the manipulators, most terrorists are not very well acquainted with the Koran and its meaning.  One suggestion is that captured terrorists on the fringes of atrocities will serve their prison sentence building a mosque and their evenings studying Koran under a moderate mulla. The purpose of the studies is not to convert them but leave them informed.

The conflict between the muslim world and the west won’t be solved by violence.

 

The pig in Nato’s poke: what is missing?

March 1, 2017

For Sweden, to join Nato, is to choose between malaria and the plague. With malaria you don’t feel very well but the plague is usually deadly. From this viewpoint the question is not to join but how to join.  The first that strikes one is the unanalyzed negotiation situation. Some demands are difficult to get a hearing, others are important for Sweden but minor for Nato. I will mention two:a. Compensation for damage from military maneuvers to reindeer husbandry which is central to the same people, who are the original inhabitants of the area. b: An involuntary scarcity of women. To solve these is neither difficult or expensive for Nato.

Two major problems remain.  The first is the presence of nuclear weapons on swedish soil. Every possible aggressor will be convinced that these are present whether the government stonewalls or not. Nato will not accept such a restriction. But nuclear devices are not only a danger for Sweden but for each Nato country. Knowledge how to make smaller nuclear devices is becoming more common, knowledge how to move these is becoming more common (you don’t need missiles) and the will to offer one’s life to explode a nuclear device is becoming more common.

A more constructive solution is that Nato establishes a powerful authority for an international elimination of nuclear weapons coupled to an internationally accepted whistleblower law.  This is in the interest of Nato, just as much, as a military form of defence.

The second problem is practically absent in swedish Nato discussions. I present a few short scenarios to make it visible. a. A number of IKEA stores are burnt to the ground. Should Nato take military action? b. A country nationalizes french oil holdings without compensation. Should Nato take military action? c. A country prevents fishing vessels from Nato countries from fishing within its territorial waters. Should Nato take military action?

As you may notice, I have not listed any US corporations in these scenarios. It is no point in blaming others instead of starting to clean up our own back yard. The problem is just as much Europe’s.

To be exact. Nato membership means that  tin boxes with swedish soldiers can come from Moldavia, Svalbard and Afghanistan??!! (What Nato country borders on Afghanistan?) But this is done to defend Nato’s  borders and prevent even greater casualties.

Sweden should demand that no Swedish military action should be taken outside Nato’s borders unless it is followed within a month by a clear majority vote  in parliament. (the pearl harbor rule). Even if Nato does not agree, the question will not disappear and not only in Sweden.

Shall swedish soldiers die to defend Coca Cola, Ikea and Mcdonalds? Finally, does Sweden seek membership in a defence alliance or in an assembly  for economic aggression?

 

 

 

Sarajevo on the Baltic

September 26, 2016

The Balkans have traditionally been an the object of the great powers’  ambitions. 1914 in Sarajevo, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire was assasinated. This led
to a serie of events that became the First World War, the results of which still beset us today. The Great Powers of Europe were taken by surprise quite simply.
Today we have a similar situation in the Baltic. In articles, speeches, and plans it has been discussed how Nato and Russia, separately, or simultaneously can prepare an
armed conflict there. Here I wish to discuss something  nobody takes up: the risk for such a conflict when nobody wants it. I want to show that Tjernobil and Fukushima, the risk for an armed conflict is great, could happen at any moment, but can be limited by a thoughtout plan of action.

the fire hazard

After the invasion of Sovjet Russia at the end of the Second World War, the Baltic was treated as a part of Russia. People from Russia were moved there or were drawn there by various rewards.When the Iron Curtain fell in 1989 and the Baltic states regained their independence, these people were stranded. In this article I call them the Rbalts. The original inhabitants I designate as Urbalts. One possibility was that the Urbalts could have realized what an advantage this was and the Rbalts what an unique opportunity this offered, but the recent oppression and both groups unwillingness to integrate has been too great. We have in other words a firehazard that can be ignited at any moment by any spark of conflict. It is an illusion to imagine that, whoever runs the government, Russia would remain passive if Rbalts are killed. It is just a great illusion to imagine that Nato would remain passive if “volunteers” crossed the border of any Baltic state to support Rbalts who cause disturbances.

the fire alarm

To prevent this, an agreement must be signed, quickly, between Nato and ´Russia to handle the situation.A “direct line” must be established between Kreml and the Nato for swift intervention before the situation gets out of hand. In other words, an EU muddle such as in the migrant question is to ask for a military conflict in the Baltic.

the sparks

a. a Baltic government that faces an election defeat because it is too corrupt or incompetent, is tempted to play the ethnic card openly or behind the scenes.

b. Urbaltic or Rbaltic xenophobes. That means those that not only hate other ethnics but organize acts of violence against them. Note! That they may be only a minor part of  their group is of no importance; it is the threat of violence against people based on their origin. A fire alarm is the mass media content in the area or across the border.

c.  Ambitious high Russian officials. As long as there is peace in the area it remains a backwater. But if tensions increase so do the promotion opportunities  for higher officials.   Some “patriots” may be tempted to increase their influence.

the fire station

If tensions get out of hand immediate action is needed where the Balt states, Nato and Russia are informed. For this to be effective a crisis line must exist between the Kreml and Nato and a crisis center exist where both parties are represented.

Fire fighting

To start a fire is the work of a moment, but it takes time to extinguish one. I cannot prescribe how it should be done, but I can suggest how it could be done. Because preparation is necessary.

a. What kind of Nato troops?

It is important therefore that the troops don’t belong to the historical enemies or friends of Russia. A start at least should be made with soldiers from West of the Rhone.

b. What should they do?

Take over law enforcement duties from the local government, see that the laws of the land are followed, and maintain life in the turbulent areas till the situation calms down. Which means no Urbalts or Rbalts being harmed. They shall also prevent any “volunteers” as in Crimea and eastern Ukraine or any rightwing extremists like the “Azov brigade”from the Ukraine entering the area.

c. Human rights, a cause for conflict?.

Genocide, like in Rwanda, has often followed an official or tolerated  campaign in mass media which has whipped up hatred against the targeted group. On the other hand, freedom of speech is one of the tools a democratic society has developed to limit political power and its misuses.It is  important that Nato journalists have full freedom to investigate developments and write about them. But what if the government or organizations in the Baltic States misuse freedom of speech to spread ethnic hatred? Even this must be prepared against and not solved by some last minute improvisation. A court should be established where the crime would be massmedial preparation for genocide. The court should consist of lawyers and journalists and have its own investigative resources.

d. A tool from history

The following is an idea and not a proposal as above.There could be many other proposals. In Italy of the renaissance, when two powerful factions could not agree, and city life became paralyzed, a podesta was established. That is an authority constituted of people not related to either faction who were imported till the local parties realized that they could do things better themselves by working together. That is an emergency measure to cool things down until time has passed and at least a better solution than  quotas that has more or less paralyzed Bosnia.

e. Demagogues

Real differences of opinion can exist between Urbalts and Rbalts which can only be solved by mutual discussions. But some will want to use and deepen these differences for their own personal advantage.To counter this a court should be established against preparations for genocide and the convicted be exiled to west of Rhone or east of the Urals.

f. Sovereignity

It is obvious that the proposals above are  an interference with the sovereignity of the Baltic states in question. But does sovereignity give the right for a number of selfwilled men to set the whole of Europe on fire?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Religion, the Supreme Court and Public Schools.

July 16, 2016

If we could bring the signers of the Constitution to the present day and show them the place of religion in public schools they would be flabbergasted.  None of the signers were openly against religion and very few if any were antireligious at all.  Where is it?

The Bill of Rights says two things. The government can’t make any law that forces the citizens to follow any form of worship. It also stops the government from hindering any form of worship. And that includes religious instruction. Usually we call this the right of the citizens to liberty of conscience.

How does this apply to tax supported schools (public education) and what is all the commotion about?

In the past if parents were well off they could hire people to supply religious instruction if they themselves were busy working etc. If not, most of the population were farmers working with their children which meant that during the day, by exemple and by word, they could let them know what was the right way for contact with the eternal. But gradually during the years parents and minors were separated during the day and religion had a smaller and smaller place in public education in contrast to the case in the world outside the school. The reason: people should be able to send their children to school without being told what to think about religion. That is the first part of the first amendment to the constitution. The result has been the mess that exists today, not because people are less religious but because trying to be fair.

But what of the second part liberty of conscience which means the parental responsibility towards their minors to get what they consider is the proper religious instruction.?

I therefore propose that every public school could have a Spiritual Center built close by. How would it be run and financed? A Spiritual Center is simply a building with class rooms for worship and religious instruction to be carried out by reverends, priests and rabbis etc during the schoolday for students in public schools. The instructors will be paid by parents and the religious organizations that want the students to have religious instruction during the school week. The adjustment to the school demands will not be greater than the adjustment for football and the like. If there are not enough who want to follow a particular form of worship it will be up to the parents to cooperate (presbyterians and methodists for ex)

Those who are opposed to worship will have their own presentation of religion.

An Spiritual Center doesn’t have to be there but if there are enough parents who want it they will have to pay for it. (the free exercise of religion again). One way is to do it by fundraising from the public, another by issuing bonds. Labor can also be contributed as part of or instead of money. None of these involves government efforts or tax money. Payment for instruction and upkeep will be collected from the parents. Then the question arises. Is there going to be a money bar for those who can’t afford or will the religious organizations make up the deficit. In other words is religious instruction (or instruction about religion) something only  for the rich or for all children. This is a fundamental question but one for the parents involved and not for the Supreme Court.

The constitution forbids the government to favor one religious expression over another which means using tax money for this purpose. But it also forbids the government from interfering with liberty of conscience. In other words religion in schools is not allowed but religion at schools is.

Bye, Bye U.S Democratic Elections

May 9, 2016

 

Can voting by electronic voting machines or any version which doesn’t involve a paper trail be democratic? First we have to understand what a paper trail is. It is a ballot (piece of paper) which counts for one vote and where nobody can see that just you have cast that vote.

Why couldn’t an electronic ballot be democratic? That is free, secret and correct?

I will tell you what convinced me, but it is up to you to decide if it makes sense.

You, as a voter have no control over the electronic voting machines or networks. As a matter of fact, only a minority of the democratically elected officials do and how much control do they have? The supplier of these systems is out to make money.

A. There is no way for you to know if a deal has been made and the results have been fixed.

B.What is just as bad, there is no large system which hasn’t been hacked. That is to say, where  the results have been changed either from mischief or for profit or for political reasons.

In either case there is no way for you as a voter to trace if the vote you cast is the vote that is counted. Paper leaves a trail, particularly in the system which is still in force in most places.

Electrons leave no trail. Just as you cannot be a bit pregnant, so you cannot have elections that are partly democratic.

In other countries you need riot police and armor to prevent a democratic election. In the US you just need a keyboard.

China gains by granting autonomy to Tibet

November 2, 2009


There are major questions. Why now? What will it involve for China and Tibet? Why should China do it?

I. Why now?

The Dalai Lama is still alive and is world renowned. An agreement where he is involved will have greater effect in Tibet than his replacement and China will reap maximum benefits.

II.What does autonomy mean for China and Tibet

Any autonomy agreement depends on the parties involved, not on general principles or foreign ideas. But to show that that autonomy is not unthinkable I present the following proposal to get the discussion started.

a. No interference with Tibetan religious practices except as stated out in the AA (autonomy agreement) nor involving the abuse of human beings.

Komment: On the one hand many abuses of human rights can be covered up as a religious practice. Forced employment in monasteries as an exempel. On the other hand meddling with religious practices can be camouflaged as a defense of human rights.

b. The status of the Dalai Lama will be respected and the succession a Tibetan matter.

c. Defence and foreign relations will be reserved for the Chinese government

Komment: This means that Tibetans will not be armed, and that they will undergo civil conscription served within Tibet. Also that no foreigners will be admitted to Tibet without the consent of the Chinese government and after discussions with the Tibetan autonumous authority.

d. The presence of non-tibetan speakers in the government (this includes scientific and health services) or in private equivalents will be reduced with a measurable reduction each year.

e. No commercial activities will be carried out except by Tibetan nationals and with the consent of the Chinese governmnt.

Komment: This will be the hardest part to accept by either side. What does it mean? First Tibet will not, by the AA, be allowed to be a base for commercial penetration of China and that Chinese commercial law, with due consideration of RP (religious practices) will be the rule for business activities aimed at China or abroad. On the other hand Tibetan commercial law modified by RP will be the rule in autonomous Tibet itself. This to prevent religious symbols or places to be exploited by ruthless businessmen native to Tibet

For another that Han nationals will not be allowed to own property or engage in commercial activities in Tibet itself and thus by economic weight subvert the AA.

Either part can delay decisions or subvert the AA but then why make it in the first place.

One fundamental problem is that China is so large so that local officials out of greed or ambition can subvert the AA despite the intentions or the interest of the Chinese government. Even if not there may be differences of opinion between Han and Tibetans . To create an impartial tribunal to resolve such differences is one of the important task of the AA negotiators.

III. What does China gain?

The major question for China is whether it will exchange the semblance of power for the the substance of power. A necessary ingredient in both is military strength. This exists. However the substance of power is a well ordered society supported by its citizens and respected by the international community. By its present policy towards Tibet, China signals that it is an unjust society and a danger to its neighbors.

The disadvantages to China of a truly autonomous Tibet are trivial and the benefits great. And in this world of predators, Tibet, protected by the might of China could become one of the brightest jewels in the dragon’s crown and both make their contribution to world harmony.

Fight the extremists, not the Talibans.

August 15, 2009

 

Let us imagine the following. Due to some serious terrorist actions, foreign troops are forced to invade the US. Which then would lead to the least  casualties among invaders as well as US civilians: Attacking the “moral majority” or attacking the extremists groups?

 

If the invaders  limit themselves to attacks on extremists or interfering , in addition, with the court system.

 

Bringing in foreign aid workers and businessmen of the same nationality as the major invading forces or limiting the presence of foreign civilians to the minimum as much as possible.

 

Please keep this scenario in mind while we discuss the following questions.

 

First – why is the West in Afghanistan at all?  What are Western war aims? Or to put it differently, in what way does Western presence in Afghanistan make sense?

 

Second-What is the situation in Afghanistan?

 

Third- What is the nature of the Western Presence in Afghanistan?

 

Fourth-What makes the Western Presence unnecessarily disruptive in Afghanistan, supporting the extremists and causing avoidable damage to civilians and to the Western forces.

 

Fifth – How should the Western Forces react to the different factors in Afghanistan?

 

 

  

A.     Why is the West in Afghanistan at all? What are the Western war aims? Or to put it differently: is there any way that the Western presence in Afghanistan makes sense?

 

The drug trade, denial of women’s rights, the establishment of the Muslim laws  called the sharia, oppression of citizens. All these occur, more or less, in countries without any Western military presence and often allied with the West.

 

How is Afghanistan different?

 

a.      It has a government which does not control its own territory or even its own bureacracy (the closest comparison is former South Vietnam)

b.      The risk of an extremist takeover (not a Taliban-they are already there) is great.

c.       In addition the government itself is in danger of being taken over by drug dealers and turning into a narco state.

 

The West is there to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a global danger by being a safe shelter for global terrorists. But the ones paying the price for global security are the Afghan people.

 

Therefore the only Western war aim that makes  any sense is to prevent the extremists from gaining control of Afghan territory.

 

B. What is the situation in Afghanistan?

 

Think of a series of dials. A big one for Afghanistan as a whole. Smaller ones for each province.  At the far left of each dial are the extremists (10%), next we have the very conservative and devout rural and small town population(40%),  then rightward we have the ones just trying to make a living and and getting along with the power that be, tolerating Western benefits  with (health care  and  women’s schools) and Western habits (rock, Western movies, Western dress) in various degrees the more you move rightward(30%). Then you have the Western modernizers who fully accept Western ideals (10%). Finally you have the drug dealers, war lords and gangsters at the far right (10%).Don’t get caught in the percentages – they are approximate and change as the needle moves. The needle is the current situation in Afghanistan based on what people think, how they act, and how the local leadership changes.

 

This means that it is not only  possible but necessary to negotiate with local Taliban leaders.  Depending on the position of the needle ,  the treaties will hold or not. However if they are broken  then it is back to the negotiating table again. Outrage will not solve anything but perseverance will give a breathing spell for ordinary Afghans to get on with their lives and  join to improve their society. It is this civil action that is the hope of Afghanistan.

 

 

        C.  What is the nature of the Western presence in Afghanistan?

 

The Western presence is that of foreign invaders with an alien culture whom the Afghan people did not ask  to intervene. The extremists are nearly all Afghans, bone of their bone and flesh of their flesh. That is the great advantage that they have.

On the other hand the extremists are fanatics who push the envelope till it pops.

The  great advantage of the Western forces is that the extremists run their territories so badly that even Western invaders are tolerated. Until the West in turn screws up so badly that the needle swings back again.  It  is important to note that the West is now engaged in a ground war in Asia, something which one Western general after another has warned against from General Eisenhower on down.

 

   D.      What makes the Western presence unnecessarily disruptive in           Afghanistan and and plays into the hands of the extremists?

 

i.                    Carpetbaggers.

 

These can be put under the following headings. Businessmen trying to exploit the weakness and corruption of the Afghan government to make money.

“Idealists?” claiming to help but in reality trying to impose their private agenda on the Afghans using the Western military presence and Afghan economic weakness.

 

What is the price in wayside bombs and bullets in the dark that justifies the presence of these?

 

I propose that nationals from the major contingents serving in Afghanistan (with the exception of journalists) be barred. Martyred Afghanistan is not to be a playground for economic and ideological hustlers. As for the citizens from smaller countries, their presence ought to be discouraged unless the Afghan government insists on their presence. Even their    help costs too much in paving the way for local extremists.

 

ii.                  Atrocities

 

On the face of it there is a military necessity for air attacks and artillery fire where civilians and their livelihod are at risk.  And there are no risks to the ones ordering it– charge it to the taxpayer. The risks are borne by the men in the field who are the targets of those avenging their martyred dead.

 

I propose the following, either separately or in combination for a trial period of six months:

 

a.  Air attacks and artillery fire as usual but a reduction of one pay grade for the officer ordering it.

 

b.  An board of inquiry for every such event, evaluating the necessity, the effect and eventual errors.

 

As it is now, bombing the wrong village or for inadequate reasons is written off as a mishap and these mishaps keep happening because there is no interest in correcting them.

 

                     If after 6 months (or earlier if there is a sharp casualty rise due to these restrictions)  there  is no increase in military casualties traced to these restrictions then they should remain.

 

       E.   How to minimize Western distruption of life in Afghanistan?

 

                a. Compensation for loss of life and property   

 

 

Any loss of life or property (read livelihood and shelter) due to Western military action should be compensated in a way that puts the money into the hands of the sufferers and not parcelled out through a corrupt bureaucracy.

That extremists use the civilian population as shields is totally irrelevant. They are Afghans, the Westerners are invaders and the extremists would not use the civilians as shields if the Westerners weren’t attacking them. (OK this means that the extremists are literally getting away with murder, but that is not the point.)The point is the reaction of the victims and their neighbors (see section B )

 

  b.  Establish an agricultural support program.

 

            It is important that this does not interfere with normal market procedures. That   is a matter for the Afghans. The program should be confined to compensating for floods and storms on the one hand and providing affordable (not genetic modified)  seeds for the nexts season’s planting, on the other. Unfamiliar crops for which there is a local demand could also be financed this way.  It is important that this should not go through the Afghan bureaucracy.  A benchmark should be set up for when the program should be phased out, otherwise it will always be “needed”.

 

c.  A pension plan for seniors who survived the Sovjet invasion

 

                    For many years the Afghans fought the Soviets. Their resistance was one of the major reasons for the fall of the Sovjet empire. Most of the survivors have died of privations or from the subsequent unrest.

 

   I suggest: That the West pays a modest monthly pension to Afghan senior citizens in those districts that have a functioning girl’s school and women’s medical clinic. That the payment gets into the hands of the poverty stricken population and not sticking to somebody’s palm. 

 

To sum up: Resist the extremists, negotiate with the local Talibans time and time again, limit  the carpetbaggers, cooperate with the government at arm’s length, and prepare a sensible exit strategy for Afghanistan.      

               

 

 

President Obama’s recovery plan : so far not good enough

February 28, 2009

 

 

A. Preliminaries

 

Here will be outlined another approach towards economic recovery but first –the groundwork

 

 

 That which  follows are ideas. All ideas must be sieved through pp ( practical considerations and political considerations). How does it work and will it work, and will it be accepted by the public and/or  Congress,.

 

Further, the situation, including eight years of dismounting the even then necessary oversight, is an open field for graft and Hurricane Katrine type inefficiency and waste. To add just another layer of bureaucracy is countereffective. Instead, for every program the following requirements must be met

1        Imaginative enforcement and auditing points for just that program must be identified and part of the program.

2        If possible, current enforcement agencies must change their procedures to include these programs.

3        If possible, legal challenges should  be difficult. The recovery  is a question of incentives and not of rights. 

All of the above subject to the pp sieve.

 

A final problem, which,  if recognized, is easy to solve, is the problem of benchmarks. The problem with any government program is that the bureaucracy involved has an interest in preserving it. This has often been solved by brutally cutting programs short before they have achieved their purpose or letting them drag on when they serve no purpose. So agricultural supports which were designed to even the demand cycle for small farmers and ranchers have turned out to be a handout to agrobusiness (the wealthys’ form of socialism). A benchmark for completing a program should be tied to the economy’s progress to normalcy. (Obs! It is important that this not be confused with returning to previous levels)

It is really a pp but examples of benchmarks are: new housing starts, federal   interest rate, or increasing business orders. There could be one single benchmark for for most programs or one tailored to each particular program.

It could either be a benchmark for most programs or tailored to each particular program.

 

When I propose something I stand in back of it unless convinced otherwise. When I suggest I send up a trial balloon to be shot down by any thought out proposal.

 

  1. General Considerations

 

 Recovery is not reconstruction. It would be a grave error to try to recreate the economy as it was. After all that is the economy that crashed. Nor would more oversight solve the imbalance of the economy, though greater transparency would be a great help.

 

  1. A Case in Point: the autoindustry.

 

The autoindustry was bloated, outcompeted and a menace to the environment before the crisis.

A bailout means a return to its original disastrous state. For the workforce the problem is to keep it gainfully employed in the viable parts and to provide alternatives, see below, for the rest. I propose that a joint taskforce of banks, private enterprise and government decide which parts of the autoindustry has a chance to survive if bailed out.

I suggest that this be done as follows: The taskforce above establishes guidelines for investors with a proven track record. These may bid on the viable parts of  the autoindustry. The bids will be the percentage they are willing to invest  in the viable part bid upon with the government bailing out the rest. As the economy recovers the government will sell out its stake on the general market preserving these investors’  voting rights under a benchmark period + 1 year.

 

 

D. General Incentives

 

Bailouts are not the answer. Handouts (such as tax cuts) are not the answer. Consumer earnings are the answer.

 

Bailouts keeps the economy from crashing but stimuli enables the economy to rise to an acceptable level.

 

The stimuli to start with are the most basic – consumer earnings that  have to be spent or invested without too great a delay.

 

Consumers need food, shelter, transportation, and hope for the future. What the government must do is to create an economic incubator which leads to free enterprise regaining confidence to produce and invest.

 

Where to start?  With the farmers. You can’t mothball a farm or make an instant farmer. If the farmers have a reliable market source they will make the necessary investments for the following harvest and they will be a good credit risk.  Where is the credit to come from? The regional banks serving them if such banks have a sound balance sheet and don’t need bailouts. The major financial institutions may need bailouts to keep from crashing but there is no need to support uncompetitive regional banks.  On the contrary there is a need to support reliable ones so the farmer can count on sound credit givers till the next harvest

 

How to get a reliable market source for farm products? That is a pp question. One of many suggestions is to create communal eating halls where anybody can get a square meal for an affordable amount. Many other solutions are possible.

 

We now have a recovering production sector (farmers), a demand for credit (again farmers), a demand  for their products (paying low income consumers) who can get a square meal for themselves and their families at affordable prices.

 

But where are the consumers to get their income, how much  and for doing what? Let us start with the communal eating halls. Use this as a placeholder for useful activity for elemental infrastructure which demands agricultural products. (In other words I  am making a suggestion here which easily can be replaced, and not a proposal such as supporting the farmers and the sound regional banks).

 

They have to be built and run. This creates jobs. which among other things, pays for the food. Another activity is to prevent destruction of capital by buying repossessed housing from the banks or from a “toxic reservoir” ( a government or nonprofit institution which takes over bad loans), and maintaining and improving them. To providing an additional incentive for doing a decent job there may be provisions to allow a share  of the selling price or the rent of the renovated housing or reduced rent on a longer contract for living in them.

 

How much should they be paid?. At least the minimum wage with a bit more for specialists. Why?

First to establish a demand floor. That is : the demand for goods and services will not be less than the minimum wage for the majority of wage earners. Second to establish an turnstile which will allow only productive enterprises to establish themselves and not ramshackle ones who precariously survive by cheating the taxpayer and preying on the wageearner.

 

Now we have discussed, food, shelter and wages. We still have transportation to cover.

 

The problem of the auto industry has already been  considered. We are still left with minimum wage earners who need an inexpensive temporary people mover until such time as they get off the wage and get a job which at least will support a used car and its fuel and  garage costs. Such a people mover which can carry two persons and about 100 lbs at max 40 miles an hour, powered by a combination of solar panels and rechargeable batteries may exist. Otherwise govt support of research and production will quickly create it. The problem is to prevent them being broken up for sale of the components.

To encourage small business, even if it means a slightly larger production cost, production should be reserved for small machine shops, engineering firms and do it yourself assemblers from kits. It should not be a crutch for the auto industry.

In addition I propose the return of public transit to major metropolitan areas should be supported by bailout funds as a means of employment, as providing inexpensive transportation for minimum wagers, and as a pollution reducer.

 

The risks for featherbedding are however enormous but can be reduced by making this transportation free thus eliminating both  collection devices and computer systems as well as expensive audits in just the payment sector.

 

  1. Special Incentives

 

Now for hope for the future I have 4 proposals plus some replaceable suggestions to implement some of them:

 

  1.  
    1. A Mississippi Valley Authority

 

      The Tennessee Valley Authority, chartered by congress, already exist for the production of electricity, flood control, support of agriculture, improvement of  navigation etc. The Mississippi valley is one of the more depressed economic areas of the United States. The very planning of such an Authority will give the economy a positive jolt and as the planning becomes reality will give employment and hope to many wage earners both directly and indirectly. However, there is a political trap here, the

Obama administration should make it clear that it will only undertake such a major operation, if asked by a joint resolution of the Senate and the House. Otherwise the project would be an

albatross  round the administrations neck like the League of Nations was for the Wilson administration.

 

 

  1.  
    1. A Student Bill of rights.

     One things which concerns the middle class even more than housing is affording their children’s college education.

I propose a federal loan system with student loans paid monthly to anybody attending a state university and keeping up their grades. The loans to be repayable only when the student reaches a generous wage or property level and even then at a low interest rate rate with early repayment giving a massive reduction. In short education should in principle be affordable by anybody accepted at a state university repayable after recovery is certain.

This in turn will immediately mean a demand for increased student housing which will benefit both wage earners and smaller construction firms.

 

  1.  
    1. A High School bill of rights

 

High schools today are, for all too many more of a prison or a place of storage, than an opportunity for learning. Even high school students need a break. I propose that for all above a certain age (the age is a pp) there will be an opportunity to take time out for a year if enlisted in a program which could either be local community service or a national  one.

 

Suggestions for programs (see below). The important thing is that they be adequately supervised to keep out predators and that they do not turn out to be a playground for juvenile delinquents. Obs! Participation in a national  program is a privilege, not a right.

 

  1.  
    1. A Wage Earners bill of rights (sabbatical)

 

I propose  a government program giving all, who have worked in the caring or protective sectors a certain number of years, a year’s leave for a minimum wage. The number of years, the number covered and the wage level is a pp. By caring or protective I mean the health sector, police, firemen, sanitary personnel and prison guards.

 

 

                 5. The coasts

 

a. Fish farming

 

This is a suggestion to aid the seaboards. The important thing is that if it is practically workable this should be channelled to small business and not to agrobusiness and should, if possible be supplemented by normal fishing and small ship handling activities.

                

                 b. Ship building and sailing for recreation.

 

I suggest  as one of the possible High School programs’ the building of a sailing ship and sailing it from one coast to the other.

 

                 

    6. West of the Mississippi

 

     Recreation – get the horse back into the country

This suggestion is the one of the high school programs.  Every young person that is capable should have a  chance to learn how to ride and a year to explore the country on horseback. This involves both building stables, care of horses and organizing the programs the hostels and  the trails. It, as several of the others puts money in the hand of consumers for work performed and benefits the coming generation.  (And gets them out of “jail” for a year.)

 

Start from the bottom and build upwards. Don’t start at the top and hope recovery will trickle down.

 

 

                              

                              .                    

Armistice between Israel and Palestine

February 1, 2009

This continues: Time to leave the merrygoround of violence in the Middle East

There are some major issues arising from the armistice proposal which have to be addressed, even though not part of the proposed agreement itself.

a. Limitations on sovereignty

The Proposed agreement will leave the Palestinians with the West Bank, cleared of Israeli settlements, without the Gaza Strip, but with the addition of areas from Israel of almost exclusively Palestinian composition. The question of Jerusalem will probably have to await a peace treaty which could not reasonably be negotiated earlier than 5 years after an essentially continual armistice.

A fully independent Palestinian state may be possible for a short while. But with hostile actions emanating from Israel in retaliation for attacks from Palestinian territory which such a state could not possibly control, barring a general Middle Eastern peace treaty, there would be only 2 outcomes: a total breakdown of the armistice or a puppet government.

On the other hand a sovereign Palestinian nation with state sovereignity, limited by Israeli security concerns,  is fully possible, but only with far reaching  Israeli concessions in return.

What would this involve?

Israeli troops and customs checks at the borders of Palestine as at present. Nothing stronger than small arms in the hands of Palestinians. Israeli incursions in case of hostile actions of gravity.

b.  Advantages for Palestine of such limitations for the duration of the armistice.

I want to emphasize here that none of these advantages  that follow outweighs the limitations on sovereignity but may make them endurable if joined to suitable compensation while Palestine builds its own nation.

1 The entire government budget will be devoted to civilian needs. As a bonus, an armed coup will be much more difficult.

2 The government will be less liable to come into armed conflict with its own citizens or with fellow arabs, some of which would even be of Palestinian descent.

3 This however is not enough, if it is to be endurable, there has to be some compensatory limitation on Israeli sovereignty, which does not affect Israels security and other security neutral concessions as well.

What follows is not intended to be a realistic proposal but an exampel showing how to think about these matters.

1 Palestinian officials in Israel

Israel gives Palestine a monopoly on package tours of the IP area and considers breach of this as a threat to the armistice and state security. While having control of its own customs, Israel trains and pays for customs officers who are Palestinian nationals  at all access points, even Israeli airports and harbors. These officers will function more as travel agents than as customs officials. So among the first faces that a visitor to IP meets, will be Palestinian government officials bearing Palestinian national insignia.

2 Payment for damage

Violent actions from Palestine territory directed against Israel, will continue after the armistice for reasons noted in the main proposal. If the armistice is to be successful it cannot be a shield for such actions. This means that Israeli retaliations may continue. It is necessary therefore, if the armistice is to hold,  for Israel to agree to a neutral assessment of damage and compensation for non terrorist lives and property. This cannot be a part of the armistice agreement proper as it would imply that Palestine permits such retaliation. It should be a unilateral action by Israel as a consequence of such retaliations.

3 Generosity

When an armistice is signed, it is important that Israel as the more powerful of the signatories interprets the provisions as generously as possible, within the security limitations involved. The armistice is only the first step to the ending of this unfortunate conflict and it would be ridiculous to expend all this time and effort and have it fail due to petty execution or rigid interpretation.

4 Return of senior citizens

As an exemple of generosity is the return to Israel of senior citizens who are Palestinian nationals. Even with a peace treaty, it is an illusionto believe that Israel will ever consent to a “law of return” for Palestine, similar to the one applying to those of Jewish origin. However both as a gesture of good will and to relieve the Palestiniabn budget, a sizable number of such senior citizens should be permitted to settle in Israel. The number depending on the ebb and flow of economic conditions in Israel.

5 Economic support

If the two nations were at peace and a natural calamity would affect one of them, wouldn’t the other be a good neighbor and help the stricken one. It is useful to consider the long conflict as such a calamity which has weighed more heavily on Palestine than on Israel. On the other hand Israel would not be prepared to transfer funds which wind up in armaments or an offshore bank account. As an example: two wasys which would be difficult to divert improperly would be a certain percentage of the difference of percapita income between the two nations to be paid directly as a pension supplement and children’s allowances for the first 3 children.

c  Restrictions on the IP

1. No Palestinian nationals working in Israel.

The use of an external workforce from Palestine will in itself strain the armistice as much as to make it useless. A large group of people taking the worst jobs, confronting the greater prosperity of Israel each day and subject to Israeli culture is an unnecessary source of great conflict. Until both Israel and Palestine separately consider that the conflict is resolved (which would need a peace treaty at the very least) they should be kept apart.

2  The Wall – its armistice context

The wall was build to protect Israeli territory. Its section on the West Bank must be torn down before the armistice is signed. Neither part has yet reason enough to trust the promises of the other part. However I submit that it should be rebuilt on Israeli territory and only torn down there as the consequence of a peace treaty. Its function is to protect the security of Israel and  the independent development of the nation of Palestine.

Let us consider the situation of Palestine, After decades of struggle what of the Palestine of peace that the armistice would enable? How will it develop into a nation with its own ways, goals and destiny without being smothered by Israel and constantly having Israelis of Jewish and Palestinian origin as role models? It is bad enough that Palestine is under the Israeli media umbrella. To build itself as a nation it needs a period of benign neglect on the part of Israel.

Internationally it is a different matter. Neither carries enough weight by itself but together, with their joint history, they can mean something.

The above shows some of the consequences of an armistice and how they could be met.

The real solutions are of course a matter for direct negotiation.