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).

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

In California we are overcoming words that blind and bind since we want our descendants to survive

Sometimes the stars align for auspicious outcomes, but sometimes they seem to portend an apocalypse.

In 2017 here in California we know that during the lifespans of the Millennials and their children
disruptions in the biosphere's self-regulating mechanisms will cause regionally disparate climate impacts negatively affecting tens of thousands of Californians, as well as hundreds of millions of people around the world.

For many around the Earth it will be catastrophic, for most it will be disruptive at times as it already has been in California, and for some - the Russians led by Putin for example - it will present opportunities represented by this map...

...though the opportunities come with a likely onslaught of serious problems.

It is obvious that within regions people acting together need to implement plans to adapt to the varying impacts of biospheric disruption.

At this critical moment in time, Neoliberal billionaires have been granted control of a number of Western World governments outside California.

What is that going to mean for future Californians in 2067 and in 2117? Do they face adapting to an Earth in upheaval without adequate support from state government policies and funding as is already the case in Florida?

Fortunately, in California we have begun our Safeguarding California program. The following series of posts explore how we Californians are overcoming an antiscience trend and what it means for the future well-being of our children and grandchildren:

  1. In California we are overcoming words that blind and bind - such as the words global and climate
  2. In California we are overcoming words that blind and bind by discussing biosphere science
  3. In California we are overcoming words that blind and bind: about lie, error, digital and information
  4. In California we are overcoming words that blind and bind: avoiding the ideology of Neoliberalism
  5. In California we are overcoming words that blind and bind: the trap of the technology promise

In California we are overcoming words that blind and bind - such as the words global and climate

While it probably would not come as a surprise to many Californians, the folks in Venice and the Netherlands have serious programs under way to adapt to the sea level rise, programs to mitigate the regional impacts of the disruption of the biosphere also known as "climate change."

Obviously, whether you're a Venetian along the canals of Venice or among the Dutch protected by the dykes, dunes, and dams of Holland, you switched off the volume of any Neoliberal-style ignorant debate that may have led to you and your grandchildren drowning. You are proceeding with plans to adapt.

So are the people of the State of California, even to the extent that voters have approved special taxes to start the adaptation process.

Since 2009 pursuant to its Integrated Plan for Addressing Climate Change, California has made significant progress partnering and collaborating with other states, countries and jurisdictions interested in reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. California even adopted it's own complex policies like cap-and-trade. The logo to the left above links to the official website providing an extensive explanation of the state program.

California has done this despite the misuse of words that have created confusion and permitted obfuscation surrounding the issue officially named "Climate Change" which name itself can be misleading.

What's not generally understood outside California is the Safeguarding California program. Like the Dutch and the Venetians, Californian's have begun the process of adaptation to regional climate change. We understand that regional climate change is simply one of the impacts of disruption of the biosphere's self-regulating mechanisms.

So far we've been able to do it by ignoring the discussion at the national level that has become so confusing and that has been targeted by economic interests for deliberate, ongoing obfuscation. Let's take a look at the word problem that permits this obfuscation of the discussion around intelligent regional adaptation to the disruption of the biosphere. Consider these definitions:


So is it "global" warming, meaning warming pertaining to the whole world universally? Or is it "climate" change meaning differing weather conditions of a region?

Science should be precise, right? But it has been confusing. What is it all about because they've been telling us about it for 65 years?

The "Climate Change" (with capital first letters) discussion has been confusing. When it began in the 1950's it was referred to as "climate change" though, yes, the discussion mostly was about temperatures.

Then in 1975 a scientific paper was published titled Climatic Change: Are We on the Brink of a Pronounced Global Warming?  This caused...
  1. the PR-unsophisticated in the biosphere science community and 
  2. the biosphere science-unsophisticated in the press 
...to start discussing "global warming." Unfortunately this resulted in most everyone else arguing about "global warming" for awhile.

Why would there be any confusion? Was it just because everyone trying to warn us about something was communicating in some odd dialect?

The problem is that any reasonable Average Jolene standing knee deep in snow in the Rust Belt because of the worst snowstorm she's ever seen is going to puzzle over the term "global warming." Her part of the globe isn't warm at all. So just maybe "global" was the wrong word to use because it's definition (see above) carries a "universal" element.

The climate may be changing, and if you tell Jolene that it is she might believe you. But if you tell her about the climate warming while standing in that record deep snow, she's going to recognize you for being the communications incompetent you are. It may be that her region's climate isn't really warming even if it is changing.

After all "climate" means "the composite or generally prevailing weather conditions of a region, as temperature, air pressure, humidity, precipitation, sunshine, cloudiness, and winds, throughout the year, averaged over a series of years."

To be precise, there is no global, universal warming affecting everywhere the same.

Further, there has always been climate change everywhere, all the time, when measured "over a series of years" which Wikipedia tells us is "the statistics of weather, usually over a 30-year interval." Yes, there has always been climate change.

The fact is if you Google the words "climate blizzard" and then Google the words "climate freezing" what you'll read is lengthy boring information explaining how a warming Arctic is causing colder weather where Jolene lives and explaining how unusually warm Atlantic ocean surface temperatures resulted in the blizzard that dumped the snow she is standing in.

Consider a recent article - Climate change may shut down a current that keeps the North Atlantic warm - telling us a 44 percent chance exists that by the year 2300 we might have frigid winters for countries along the North Atlantic all because of global warming.

It's not the first time scientists have argued that the Gulf Stream, together with its northern extension towards Europe, the North Atlantic Drift, could be disrupted by Climate Change causing a significant temperature drop, maybe even a mini-Ice-Age in the North Atlantic region because of a rise in the the average temperature in the Earth's lower atmosphere. And in the 1970's there was serious discussion of global cooling.

Say what? A mini-Ice-Age because of Global Warming? Or is it Climate Change? Does anyone see a language problem here assuming the goal is to communicate with all the folks that vote as opposed to America's academics and illuminati?

"Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace recently asked then incoming U.S. President Donald Trump where he stands on the environment - specifically about climate change - thereby soliciting some honest rambling Trump-style:
"I'm still open-minded. Nobody really knows. Look, I'm somebody that gets it, and nobody really knows. It's not something that's so hard and fast."

"Now, Paris, I'm studying. I do say this. I don't want that agreement to put us at a competitive disadvantage with other countries. And as you know, there are different times and different time limits on that agreement. I don't want that to give China, or other countries signing agreements an advantage over us."
In this case, I believe Mr. Trump was honestly reflecting what he believes about Climate Change - "It's not something that's so hard and fast." And why wouldn't he believe that, as he's right! And his view is constantly reinforced in the iWorld in which he clearly lives like so many Americans.

The second ongoing problem within the conversation about Climate Change is that scientists are constrained by probabilities, such as that "44 percent chance" and "by the year 2300." They offer information about the probabilities. And they are constantly adjusting their data and the probabilities.

So you and I and everyone else are regularly confronted not only with language dysfunction but with confusing probabilities. And confusing probabilities they are!

To understand how befuddling this can be for the average American, let's turn to medical science for an analogy. Consider the information faced by a 22-year-old-woman without children who has received a genetic test telling her she inherited a "faulty" BRCA1 gene, the gene Angelina Jolie made a center of controversy.

The test result means that 22-year-old-woman without children has up to an 80% risk of developing breast cancer by age 90 plus a high risk of ovarian cancer which has an extremely high death rate. In many women with the genetic problem, cancer never develops. In many it develops before age 40.

Does the 22-year-old-woman without children take preventative action now by having her breasts and ovaries removed? Or does she act now by having children as soon as possible? Or is she confronted with probabilities that offer no concrete information?

A number like 80% risk by the year 2084 is most certainly for her "not something that's so hard and fast" (to use Trump thinking about Climate Change).

Maybe she can have children first, maybe even wait until she's in her 30's. She can study the information on the internet, the iWorld, which recently includes contrarian information that seems to be telling her the numbers and the risks may not even be that clear - you know, not so hard and fast.

She can live her life, and study ... until she can't because she has a cancer diagnosis and dies within a few months.

Or maybe she can study until she dies of old age from heart problems.

It's all fuzzy. "It's not something that's so hard and fast."

And that's the same problem that appears to be confusing most Americans regarding regional climate change. (Note that from this point on I will not be capitalizing the first letter in words like "climate" except in quoted material.) However, in the case of regional climate change, too many are confusing the greatly studied 1970's "gene test result" reported to them by Al Gore with "yesterday's cancer diagnosis". Because we already have the diagnosis, we just try to forget.

Yes, the regional climate change situation actually can be likened to a terminal cancer diagnosis. "Yeah, I'm feeling some effects, but how long do I have, doc?" The answer to this question further befuddles people,

In the case of cancer, you might get an answer ranging from "weeks" to "two years." And it's possible there are treatments that can slow it down. So even that is not "so hard and fast."

In the case of regional climate change, it's "not something that's so hard and fast" because scientists are offering estimates of damage and dislocation along with time frames that vary from 3 years to 300 years; such as a possible sea rise of a couple of feet to 40 feet.

And as we've already have seen storms and drought and wildfire effects will vary, and maybe there's a 40% chance of a mini-ice-age in Europe and North America in 200 years. And it's even possible that actions still could be taken to mitigate the effects to some degree which justifies spending a gazillion taxpayer dollars and seriously downgrading our lifestyle.

Yeah. This is how to create a discussion that ordinary people will tune out. This is not the way to discuss the important data scientists are recording. We need to begin with correct, effective language.

To be precise, when talking about the world the discussion should be about the "biosphere." Further when talking about adaptation the key word is "regional" not "global" and what we need to adapt to are "impacts" not "warming."

When one talks about "climate" issues, the language should reflect the thinking reflected in the introductory sentence from the 2015 Climate Change Research Plan for California (emphasis added):
Over the past 25 years, the State of California has demonstrated national and international leadership in understanding regional climate change impacts, developing strategies for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and developing knowledge to support adaptation to projected impacts.
Most of the Plan's focus acknowledges that climate change is regional even within California. That's because disruption of the biosphere does not result in uniform changes.

With that said, we need to review both what's happening to the biosphere and California's adaptation plans.

In California we are overcoming words that blind and bind by discussing biosphere science

Wikipedia tells us that the term "biosphere" was coined by geologist Eduard Suess in 1875, which he defined as the place on Earth's surface where life dwells.

The "biosphere" is the zone of life on Earth, a closed system and largely self-regulating. Well, perhaps not completely closed as solar radiation and heat from the interior of the Earth have an ongoing influence.

As used here, the biosphere is the Earth's ecological system integrating all living beings and their relationships including their interaction with the elements of the 
  1. lithosphere including the crust and the uppermost mantle which constitute the outer layer of the Earth subdivided into tectonic plates including the mineral elements that make it up;
  2. hydrosphere including the combined mass of water found on, under, and above the surface; and 
  3. atmosphere including the layer of gases, commonly known as air, that surrounds the planet Earth and is retained by Earth's gravity.
Though it may be self-regulating, the biosphere is a constantly evolving system of interactions among organisms and their environment.

Many factors challenge the self-regulating mechanisms causing minor-to-disruptive changes that establish new balances within the biosphere sometimes resulting in species extinction.

Occasionally asteroids and volcanoes significantly disrupt the biosphere resulting in significant species extinction and radical species evolution. These kind of events represent a subject that we can ignore while the scientists argue of the meaning of their data. For you and I, which event - asteroid strike or volcano eruption - will cause the change is irrelevant. If we are the animals standing where 30 seconds from now either an asteroid is going to hit or a volcano is going to explode, who cares which it is? Just ask a dinosaur ... oh, that's right, you can't because of what is known as an extinction event.

The concern at the beginning of the 21st Century is simple. The biosphere's self-regulating mechanisms have undergone disruptive changes far more significant than, and occurring far more rapidly than, typical. The disruption we are mostly concerned about is in the atmosphere though the impacts extend to the hydrosphere and the lithosphere. The dramatic results look like this:



There is, however, a far less dramatic look shown below from The Realities of Sea-Level Rise in Miami's Low-Income Communities.
...This is just one neighborhood of many in Miami-Dade dealing with the effects of Florida’s King Tide last week, the highest tide of the year. Coastal neighborhoods are hardest hit, but the flooding also reaches farther inland, to less affluent communities. It’s here where the consequences of climate change and sea-level rise could in fact be most grave, says Nicole Hernandez Hammer, a climate researcher with the Union of Concerned Scientists. Middle- and low-income households tend to be less resilient to shocks such as flooding, and they also run the highest risk of being forgotten in the rush to save the millions of dollars in real-estate investments on the waterfront.
“It’s getting worse. When you visit places that weren’t flooding 30 years ago, they’re flooding now,” says Hammer. Today, the Miami area experiences about six of these sunny-day flooding events per year. But the Union of Concerned Scientists projects that by 2045, they’ll be happening 380 times per year. “That’s two times per day in some areas,” she says.

It is interesting that these areas are within just a short drive from Trump Miami and Trump's Mar-a-Lago. Trump can already study the biosphere disruption effects in his own neighborhoods, from his own real estate investments.

But it doesn't matter to the Neoliberal billionaires developing the Miami waterfront as explained in this article. They have state officials denying climate change while local officials are funding beachfront mitigation measures at taxpayer expense. At the same time, they have the federal government absorbing all the risk while Congress fights against any effort to acknowledge and understand the biospheric disruptions.

It isn't as if the unwashed masses in those less affluent neighborhoods can relate to some impact projected out to 27 years from now. When it is presented with probabilities and decades, it is like telling them that a small asteroid will hit here 27 years from now. They really aren't going to react immediately.

And in fact they can't relate to this sentence in Elizabeth Kolbert's 2015 article The Siege of Miami that states: "In the Miami area, the daily high-water mark has been rising almost an inch a year."

It just doesn't register that such a continuing rise at that rate means the water will be over two feet deeper in the lifetime of most of those residents, and that doesn't even indicate what the impact will be for storm water drainage as explained by Kolbert. That rise is relentlessly continuing, but in human terms it is slow.

What Californians know is that the important discussion among scientists is over whether
  1. the disruption in the biosphere will continue slowly and relentlessly towards a new balance or 
  2. the disruption will reach a tipping point, a threshold for abrupt and irreversible change. 
If it reaches a tipping point the disruption will progress rapidly, potentially leading to a time of significant species extinction and radical species evolution. But in either case, there is little that can be done about it. Through cooperation with folks in regions not controlled by Neoliberals by modifying our behaviors and our economy to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, Californians hope to limit the disruption. But....

What Average Jolene wading out to her 15-year-old minivan feels is that decades ago somebody failed her. And she can't focus on the problems her grandkids will face because the problems she faces include providing food, clothing and shelter for her kids.

How we failed is a typical American story. (It is an American story - it's all about 20th Century economics, when the United States was the world leader, the decision-maker relative to almost all relevant issues.)

In 1976, after joining the United States House of Representatives, Al Gore held the "first congressional hearings on the climate change, and co-sponsored hearings on toxic waste and global warming."

Uh, yeah, we've all heard about this. What is important is that it is now 40 years after 1976 and that passage of time matters. Let me say it again.  

It is now 40 years after 1976 and that passage of time matters.

Gore, who ironically is from Tennessee which has a climate change denial law, has spent a lifetime as an environmental activist and was co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 31 years after his first Congressional hearing on climate issues.

About 20 years ago and 20 years after those first hearings, then Vice-President Gore reflected on his experienced reality in a 1995 New York Times article:
"We are in an unusual predicament as a global civilization," Al Gore said when I interviewed him early in his Vice Presidency. "The maximum that is politically feasible, even the maximum that is politically imaginable right now, still falls short of the minimum that is scientifically and ecologically necessary."
Confronted in 1995 with Gore's clear, candid pessimism, the writer of that article, renowned environmental organizer (whatever that is) Bill McKibben, with wild optimism, or maybe massive denial, went on to write this (emphasis added):
But this state of affairs may not last. According to the most accurate computer models of global climate, for instance, increased global temperatures may be obvious to the man in the street by decade's end. For all the right-wing bluster about taming the environmental movement, for all the happy-talk books about our ecological triumphs, it will take only a hot summer or two, a string of crop failures or some similar catastrophe to bring these issues center stage once more. A spate of recent studies has begun to make clear that an average temperature increase of only a few degrees hides tremendous heat waves, droughts and storms; the insurance industry has actually begun to worry publicly about the greenhouse effect and the losses it will cause.

If and when such stresses really show themselves, though, we will need an environmental movement that understands what is happening -- that understands that more recycling is not the main answer, that is willing to advocate the unpopular and the disturbing. Partly this means a stepped-up political campaign -- continual pressure on governments around the world to sign and fulfill treaties, share renewable technologies and pass steep new taxes on the use of fossil fuels and other polluters. Already a small segment of the environmental movement has begun to focus on such issues.
Yeah, well, it's 20 years later.... We've had that hot summer or two, in fact we've had over a decade of expanding worldwide drought, wildfires, and huge storms. The environmental movement has pushed hard. But no. The U.S. population would never allow "the unpopular and the disturbing", particularly if it meant not being able to afford a new iPhone every year and otherwise bask in the light of economic achievements based on the overuse of the resources in the biosphere.

Environmental reporter Elizabeth Kolbert's works include the books The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History which won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction and other awards and Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change expanding on a 2005 three-part series for The New Yorker which had won the 2006 National Magazine Award for Public Interest, the 2005 American Association for the Advancement of Science Journalism Award, and the 2006 National Academies Communication Award. Hopefully these books have been read by at least a million or so people out of the 7 billion humans on Earth and 350 million Americans as they represent the best available reporting on the subject.

  In her recent update to Field Notes she told us all (emphasis added):
In the years since I wrote this book I’ve been asked hundreds of variations on the question: “What should I do?” What people seem to be looking for is both advice on concrete actions they can take and the assurance that what they do will make a difference. Given the paralysis of the political system, the time lag built into the climate system, and the high likelihood that the threshold of DAI [dangerous anthropogenic interference] has now been crossed, it’s difficult to offer such assurances. We have already changed the world dramatically, indeed quite probably catastrophically. But even when it comes to catastrophe, distinctions can be made. What we choose to do—or not to do—in the coming decades will determine the future both for our own kind and for the millions of other species with whom we share this planet. It is possible that we could still limit warming to around two degrees Celsius, and it is also possible that we could lock in warming of six degrees Celsius or more. These two possibilities represent radically different worlds.
For clarity, "dangerous anthropogenic interference" means that within a period of less than a 100 years we humans screwed up the self-regulating mechanisms of the biosphere to an irremediable level.

Perhaps it is because she has hung around scientists too long, but in this case Kolbert, who is a master wordsmith and whose two books are the best reporting available on the subjects of regional climate change impacts, still used probability wording - "the high likelihood that the threshold of DAI has now been crossed." A more accurate way of saying it is "the threshold of DAI was crossed sometime early in this Millennium." To put it in perspective, looking back from the year 2116 folks will be correct when they say that on one date in the 20 years between 1995 and 2015 the threshold of DAI was crossed.

And that's what most too many Americans still don't get - by 2066 the number of natural disasters - massive hurricanes, flooding, drought-caused water shortages, and wildfires - will have reached significantly disruptive proportions for many. "Significantly disruptive" in many cases will mean catastrophic locally in some areas by 1950's standards.

No one wants to say to anyone that millions of your grandkids will be in deep s**t if we don't start urging families and businesses to locate to safer locations through planning processes.

But the Safeguarding California website explains:
California is leading the way on emissions reduction, but no matter how quickly we reduce our climate polluting emissions, climate impacts will still occur. Many impacts – increased fires, floods, severe storms and heat waves – are occurring already and will only become more frequent and more dangerous. But there are many things we can do to protect against climate impacts. Taking steps now to adapt to climate change will protect public health and safety, our economy and our future.

 The Safeguarding California Implementation Action Plan...


...deals with ten sectors that show the path forward by concisely presenting
  • risks posed by climate change impacts caused by the biospheric disruptions,
  • adaptation efforts underway, and
  • actions that will be taken to safeguard residents, property, communities and natural systems.
California is preparing for what is understood to be the inevitable.

Curiously, unbeknownst to or perhaps deliberately ignored by Donald Trump and people in the Rust Belt, the folks around the San Francisco Bay, which among others includes all the area known as Silicon Valley, acting through The San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority voted last year to tax themselves to begin the needed regional climate change adaptation process. The Bay is not just facing flooding from the sea level rise. As noted in an MIT study:
For California, they calculated that, if the world’s average temperatures rise by 4 degrees Celsius by the year 2100, the state will experience three more extreme precipitation events than the current average, per year.
One irony is the Bay Area can afford to start adapting now because the iWorld prints and sends them real money, albeit in digital format, but still not in bitcoins. Apple does keep their money offshore so they don't have to pay taxes on it, but the tax for the adaptation to localized impacts of the biosphere disruption is a parcel tax they have to pay.

This couldn't have happened without political dialog. The assumption many would make is that this is a typical California liberal effort raising taxes on the everyone.

To understand the political context of biosphere disruption and climate change impacts, we need to explore the meaning of the Neoliberal takeover of the United States. But we need to do so after gaining an understanding of the context of language confusion created in the second half of the 20th Century by the tech industry.

In California we are overcoming words that blind and bind: about lie, error, digital and information

An English language word-muddle-in-the-middle has evolved since the 1950's - it includes the words "lie," "error," "digital," and "information," each of which has been used in ways that create misunderstandings and cofusion.

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.
Repeat this mantra. 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, then accuse them of lying before you know if they are just in error.

Unfortunately, when many people believe an incorrect statement, it can become a mass delusion whether spread by people who do so in error, or by those who do so as a lie "with intent to deceive."

In the context of these posts, climate change denial is being reinforced by large numbers of people who have repeated incorrect statements until it has become a mass delusion. This is reinforced by the iWorld, an artificial from which people create their mindset.

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 this image. In which version of the world would you choose to live, the one at the top &nbsp
that is fed to the brain through "devices" or the one at the bottom that is fed to your brain when
your eyes and ears interact with the real world directly? If you rely on the device-created world,
you will not be able to adapt when the real world goes through upheaval.                                    

 


How we got here is a related "First World" delusion. Many would want to argue that we are in some Information Age or Digital Age.

But the words "information" and "digital" are deluding us because they are lies or errors when used in the context of "age."

The "digital age" is a mass delusion in which people living in the Industrial Age have expanded fossil fuel energy production (which powers their locomotives) in order to create and power some newer, smaller devices used to enhance data processing and communication. These people think they've changed the basic economic structure underlying their society when they haven't.

Powering "digital" equipment in use by 100+ people is basically the same as powering an 1880's coal-powered railroad steam engine pulling a line of passenger rail cars transporting 100+ people. It doesn't matter what tool you're using if you are using the same biosphere resources for energy.

The important difference is the urban users of devices on the internet do not directly experience coal smoke spread over their localized area, but instead on a far more massive scale they - well, really, you and I - generously share it with polar bears.

We didn't move into some new age called the digital age. It's still the Industrial Age but, yes, the equipment we use is smaller than a locomotive.

And now for the stunning 21st Century redefinition that changed it all.

The term "Information Age" was an acknowledgement when first used in the early 1980's of the proliferation of  improvements in computing power, meaning smaller, more "powerful", and less expensive personal computers, which were used to digitize and manipulate data.

We suddenly had ready access to - and the ability to share, store, and manipulate - "data" which I and others frequently termed as "information." Delighted with ourselves, we said we had moved into an "Information Age."

Indeed, more folks could make money from data. But we most certainly would have not declared a new "age" if we the choice had been "Data Age." That offers a dreary sound, meaning boring work. Even though that's exactly how the folks made money from data.

But 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 more correctly digitally represented, some piece of fact. So in our view, "data" was "information."

But "Holy Hoodwink, Batman"....

When I and others were not paying attention, by the beginning of the 21st Century something happened to the word "information". And the "i" in information on the internet was turned into a ubiquitous symbol for "in" (as a determiner of whether you are cool and "in") by Apple in the era of Steve Jobs, the ultimate Neoliberal (though I don't know if he knew he was one).

As explained today by Wikipedia: "Information is any type of pattern that influences the formation or transformation of other patterns." Huh? Say what?

How absurd! The criteria to judge whether something uttered or written is "information" is whether it influences the formation or transformation of other patterns???

The absurdness is that informative or transformative "patterns" literally can be what we once knew as "misinformation." Except apparently now it is information!

Please note that I do not use the term "bad data" because "misinformation" can be created with no data at all!

Today there is no difference between fact or fiction so long as the words used are a "type of pattern that influences the formation or transformation of other patterns." They are lumped together as "information." The word "misinformation" has been discarded. In the context of this definition it doesn't matter if the pattern is untrue so long as it influences.

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." This, of course, gives Donald Trump way too much credit.

What the columnist is referring to is the iWorld in which information itself is "simulated," meaning it is digitally formatted by one or more persons to feel and look like realistic facts specifically to influence or reinforce the formation or transformation of another person's belief about the real world that surrounds them.

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 also 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.

Propaganda is information that is not objective and is used primarily to influence an audience and further an agenda, often by presenting facts selectively (perhaps lying by omission) to encourage a particular synthesis or perception, or using loaded messages or "loaded language" to produce an emotional rather than a rational response to the information that is presented. Propaganda is often associated with material prepared by governments, but activist groups and companies can also produce propaganda.
Using these definitions, "propaganda"  is defined as "information" - which is defined as any type of pattern that influences the formation or transformation of other patterns - which is nearly identical to the goal of "propaganda" which is to influence and alter "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."

The center of the iWorld is in California where billions of dollars are made on technology, TV, and movies all designed specifically to pull people out of the real world. But the original intent was to provide short term entertainment ... yes, escapism, but not to live outside the real world in the iWorld.

But in that iWorld we escaped from the Industrial Age into the Digital or Information Age. We are free of the evils of the Industrial Age if only folks would quit talking about "Climate Change."

The iWorld.  Embraced by Donald Trump.  Effectively used by the Neoliberals, who we can now discuss.

In California we are overcoming words that blind and bind: avoiding the ideology of Neoliberalism

As noted in previous posts, it's nearly past time to begin to implement climate change adaptation plans at the state and local level. At the national level it's nearly past time to begin to prepare adaptation plans including how to handle potential future mass migration and significant economic dislocation.

But when the headlines read 'Governor Moonbeam' Vows to Launch 'Own Damn Satellite' If Donald Trump Ignores Climate Change in which were told...
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 gives us a feel for what the political and economic landscape looks like and it doesn't look like smooth sailing for those Californians who care about their descendants living in the year 2117.

Our beloved Governor Moonbeam is acutely aware that climate scientists are anxious over threatened NASA climate science cuts during Trump presidency and House Republicans have tried to defund Defense Department initiatives to prepare for climate change impacts.

Recently some political philosophy types rediscovered why it is that the Western World has been unable to cope with climate change impacts. The reason is 21st Century "Neoliberalism" - a name coined at a meeting in Paris in 1938 for an alternative ideology.

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. It is an ideology that is winning outside California primarily because its advocates from Silicon Valley have operated outside the traditional social, economic and political norms.

Ben Tarnoff, a San Francisco journalist who writes about technology and politics, in a December 2016 article explains the nature of Neoliberalism in the correct context:
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.
It is important to note that Tarnoff earlier in August 2016 wrote a piece decrying the planned October 2016 action of the government that turned over ownership of the internet domain name system (DNS) to the private sector, again in the correct context in which he explained:
But the symbolic significance is huge. The October handover marks the last chapter in the privatization of the Internet. It concludes a process that began in the 1990s, when the US government privatized a network built at enormous public expense.

In return, the government demanded nothing: no compensation, and no constraints or conditions over how the Internet would take shape.

There was nothing inevitable about this outcome — it reflected an ideological choice, not a technical necessity. Instead of confronting critical issues of popular oversight and access, privatization precluded the possibility of putting the Internet on a more democratic path.
In that August 2016 article he explains how the internet was developed and how it was privatized. He advocates reclaiming "the People’s Platform" to bring it "under democratic control" so it isn't "used to produce immense concentrations of corporate power."

Sadly in December 2016 he was explaining how those corporations implemented Neoliberalism in our daily lives and were now implementing a government agendas outside California. What happened in between is Donald Trump was elected President because the world's latte-drinking urban liberals thought Trump was a buffoon, not a Neoliberal with memories of adolescent longings for an Ayn Rand iWorld where information need not be fact and all information is monetized.

If you asked any "smart" progressive or liberal politician or staffer or press member before November 2016 what a Neoliberal was, probably 90% would have given you a blank look or fumbled around for words. Not all, however.

There were some Millennials, not long out of college, who still retained their ability to read more than 140 characters. In my February 11 post Hillary Clinton's Dilemma: the Centrist Third Way Policies of Bill's Presidency vs. Young Women I offered this quote from Clio Chang (emphasis added) 
Is it so outlandish to think that the circumstances in which each generation grew up would affect their political preferences? Particularly when those circumstances are of immense historical importance, like the Great Recession? While those who entered the workforce during Bill Clinton’s presidency may remember his legacy as an era of economic prosperity, that wealth hasn’t trickled down to today’s millennials. Two decades later, they are just as likely to hear criticisms of Clinton’s policies, such as welfare reform, DOMA,and mandatory minimum sentences. Indeed, when you take into account the root causes of the financial crisis, income inequality, and wage stagnation, the Clinton years start to look like part of a neoliberal-conservative consensus, as opposed to a liberal outlier between two Bush administrations. At a time when more young voters seem to be following all the correct steps for success—graduating high school, getting a college degree—but are still floundering, it’s no wonder that they are drawn to Sanders’s stacked-deck rhetoric.
As Tarnoff noted in his December article, Trump built his campaign around the premise that his chief qualification for the presidency was his success as a businessman and promised to make America great again by bringing business discipline and dynamism to government.

Democrats, who wouldn't want to offend the deluded in their effort to be be inclusive, offered no coordinated attack on this expression of Neoliberal ideology at least partly because some of their ilk agree with it.

Nor did the mainstream media offer such an attack because the term Neoliberalism wasn't recognized by the camera-hogs in the mainstream media. That is understandable, though not forgivable, because 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.

While no one was looking, Neoliberal wealthy corporate interests funded academic positions and departments, particularly at the universities of Chicago and Virginia, plus a series of think tanks including the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, the Institute of Economic Affairs, the Centre for Policy Studies and the Adam Smith Institute. They created a transatlantic network of academics, businessmen, journalists and activists who always hid under the traditional label "conservative."

As I've explained in previous posts, in the United States they quietly took over most state legislatures and executive offices which then allowed them to take control of Congress. Now they will have Donald Trump as President and will continue their attempts to take control of European governments.

As British writer, George Monbiot, explains it:
Its anonymity is both a symptom and cause of its power. It has played a major role in a remarkable variety of crises: the financial meltdown of 2007‑8, the offshoring of wealth and power, of which the Panama Papers offer us merely a glimpse, the slow collapse of public health and education, resurgent child poverty, the epidemic of loneliness, the collapse of ecosystems, the rise of Donald Trump. But we respond to these crises as if they emerge in isolation, apparently unaware that they have all been either catalysed or exacerbated by the same coherent philosophy; a philosophy that has – or had – a name. What greater power can there be than to operate namelessly?

So pervasive has neoliberalism become that we seldom even recognise it as an ideology. We appear to accept the proposition that this utopian, millenarian faith describes a neutral force; a kind of biological law, like Darwin’s theory of evolution. But the philosophy arose as a conscious attempt to reshape human life and shift the locus of power.
It is in the context of  Neoliberal values that we can understand that all persons are free to compete, but the competition is never a fair competition, because life is not fair, nor should any government attempt to make it fair or even a little fairer. Overlaid on a biosphere disruption scenario, Neoliberalism almost seems to guarantee a dystopian future.

In contrast, Egalitarian Progressivism reached the peak of its influence in the United States in the first half of the 20th Century, then slowly faded as the collective memory of The Great Depression faded.

In California, it was epitomized by the Master Plan for Higher Education of 1960 signed by Governor Pat Brown which established a system of tuition-free higher education for residents including the University of California, the California State University System, and the statewide community college system. (This was ultimately undone in 1978 by Proposition 13.)

Egalitarian Progressivism involved mixing industrial and technological progress with active governmental intervention to assure equal opportunity and a proper balance of distributive justice. It is distributive justice that creates a significant contrast with Neoliberalism.

However, Egalitarian Progressivism as it evolved in the 20th Century is complicated.

In his book Group DynamicsProfessor Donelson R. Forsyth, Thorsness Endowed Chair in Ethical Leadership, Jepson School of Leadership Studies, University of Richmond, explains that "distributive justice" is about how rewards and costs are distributed among members of a group (or a city or nation) which takes into account five conflicting "norms" which typically confront groups. These can be summarized (in a different order than Forsyth presents them) 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
In the context of American society, economics, and politics, Egalitarian Progressivism requires that these norms be used 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 the final heading - it is the "fairness" standard of mediation that keeps everyone on board and avoids a mutiny. But it requires commitment and compromise.

"Need" is given a high priority, but it is a word not limited to economics. In terms of the individual perspective,  Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs applies:


During World War II, in order to distinguish themselves from the Nazi and Japanese societies, the Allies adopted the Four Freedoms to which every human is entitled as elucidated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on January 6, 1941 —freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from fear, and freedom from want—as their basic war aims.

Advocates of Egalitarian Progressivism believe that in 1948 The Universal Declaration of Human Rights amplified those Four Freedoms, placing the burden on government, with the support of every person and organization, to assure that the physiological and safety needs of all persons are met.

Further it also placed the responsibility on every person, organization, and government to see that every person's need for belonging and for esteem can be met to the extent the group can facilitate achieving them using the norms of distributive justice.

In the United States advocates of Egalitarian Progressivism in the first two-thirds of the 20th Century achieved much through government. But beginning in the mid-1970's under both Republican and Democratic Presidents, that stopped.

It should be clear from the discussion above that "egalitarian" as used here supports the thought that all humans are equal in fundamental worth or social status, a thought that logically requires and supports the dictate that all people should be treated as equals and have the same basic political, economic, social, and civil rights.

It does not mean, nor did it ever mean, socialism simply because it acknowledges norms based on how groups behave and what people need, and suggests folks work it out through democratic governments. Nevertheless....

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

Hayek, who in a 1944 book argued that government planning, by crushing individualism, would lead inexorably to totalitarian control, in 1947 founded the first organization to spread the doctrine of neoliberalism – the Mont Pelerin Society – supported by millionaires and their foundations.

This set the pattern that for the next 50 years was used in the U.S. successfully to create a funding base to support three decades of a Republican political strategy to take control of 32 of 50 state legislatures as shown on the map above, 33 governors offices, both houses of Congress, and the Presidency.

The problem is, starting with President Jimmy Carter, there has been a steady shift in the Democratic Party away from Egalitarian Progressivism - we find terms describing elected Democrats as New Democrats, Centrist Democrats, Clinton Democrats, Moderate Democrats,  Blue Dog Democrats, and Third Way Democrats. Many leading New Democrats, such as Bill Clinton, started out in the George McGovern wing of the Democratic Party but gradually moved toward the right on economic and military policy, effectively accepting elements of Neoliberalism.

At the beginning of the 21st Century Egalitarian Progressivism had no home in either of the two dominant national political parties. Neoliberal philosophy had seduced Democratic politicians seeking a national stage, though not all of those active at the State level.

At the state level in Florida, where streets are frequently under water because of rising sea levels and the government is controlled by Neoliberals, the term's "climate change" and "global warming" may not be mentioned in official state documents or by state officials.

On the other hand, the government of California, led by old Egalitarian Progressive Democrats, in 2009 established an extensive program to cope with regional climate change impacts as noted in previous posts.

But California has an advantage. Silicon Valley billionaires, like Hollywood billionaires, like living here and want to continue to be able to live here, even if personal income taxes at their income levels are unusually high. This is a contrast with other locations.

Curiously, for decades many American billionaires have been buying large ranches in the group of states pictured at the left, running from the Canadian border to the Mexican border. These 1,000± acre ranches can, of course, be impacted by drought, wildfire, blizzards, etc. But with proper site planning and building construction, they represent the best locations to escape the long term dislocation impacts on America of climate change.

In addition to protecting themselves and their families, how will Neoliberals additionally engage adaptation to a disruption of the biosphere? What would they do if the scene below were the picture of a continuing disaster - one that we knew would last a century or more?


Would their first response be to study how to monetize the situation for corporate profits?  If it couldn't be monetized directly would we see the equivalent on the internet of the billboard war which would generate corporate revenue from social media?

Would the symbol of U.S. migration policy be a picture like this and the experience similar to what Florence Thompson describes (click the picture):


Consider the pictures of Florida in the previous post with two more feet of tidal water in the middle of a heavy rainstorm 25 years from now, then realize flooding like this is going to happen - indeed has happend - in New York City and other coastal cities of the United States absent billions spent on flood control projects that likely will not be enough 50 years after their completion:


Exactly how will a government dominated by people who believe in Neoliberalism prepare?

Or will that government prepare? After all, the core of Neoliberal philosophy is everyone is responsible for themselves.  After all, for decades billionaires have been buying large ranches ...oh I already said that above.

Well... It needs to be repeated as those ranches are in the best locations to escape the long term regional dislocation impacts of climate change. It will isolate the Neoliberals from the unwashed masses should the need arise.

Warnings about this scenario have been offered. The late journalist, author and activist Jane Jacobs was described as one of the most prescient writers of the 20th century before her last book, titled Dark Age Ahead, was released in 2004.

The New Yorker reviewer Paul Goldberger called the book, "a despairing look at the state of things, and like everything Jacobs wrote, it is a curious combination of plainspoken common sense based on simple, empirical observation of the world around her, and broad generalizations about the nature of cities and cultures." It was not recommended light summer reading for the masses.

In her 2004 book Jacobs warns of an increasing distrust of government, worsening environmental degradation, entrenched segregation, and an “enlarging gulf between rich and poor along with attrition of the middle class” as signals and symptoms of a coming Dark Age.

“Cultural xenophobia is a frequent sequel to a society’s decline from cultural vigor,” as “self-imposed isolation” leads to “a fortress mentality,” she writes. That mentality transforms logic into myth, Jacobs writes, with a conservatism that “looks backward to fundamentalist beliefs for guidance and a worldview.”

This has insidious impacts on society. She cited the 1995 Chicago Heat Wave, which killed hundreds of mostly elderly Chicagoans. Comparing two studies, one by the United States Department of Health and the other by Eric Klinenberg a sociology graduate student who wrote his thesis on the disaster, she argued that the federal study was unconsciously biased by the prevailing political and economic ideology, neoliberalism, which promoted individualism to the point of becoming completely oblivious to community and social factors. For Klinenberg these were factors that ultimately helped some avoid death and resulted in others dying.

In 2004, a time when latte-drinking intellectual pundits were celebrating the end of history and extolling the virtues of a "flat" world of economic globalization, Jacobs ominously predicted a coming age of urban crisis, mass amnesia, and populist backlash.

A more recent review said Jacobs' 2004 book "serves as a survivors’ guide to the Age of Trump."

One serious concern about the Neoliberals is expressed by Jacobs in her assertion that "cultural xenophobia" leads to “a fortress mentality.” A fortress is a tool of war.

As we know the Trump administration appears paranoid when it comes to trade. There is no open acknowledgment that when your military is shooting at your existing and potential customers, it’s very difficult to serve and be served by those same individuals. Open trade makes war less likely.

The Neoliberals have monetized warfare directly by privatizing it - not by selling goods to the military as in pre-1980's wars - but by privatizing the military. As I noted in a previous post former Navy Seal Erik Prince,who founded the firm of Blackwater USA now known as Academi - the American private military company - is the brother of  Betsy DeVos, the Trump nominee for Education Secretary who advocates privatizing education.

So one potential Neoliberal response to a biosphere disruption crisis is the fun and profitable distraction of war. The upside of war is that it reduces the problem of human overpopulation that contributes to the biosphere disruption.

Before closing out this series, how technology used by a huge human population affects the biosphere disruptions deserves further review.