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Before the relocations of 100,000 - indeed, within 24 hours of Pearl Harbor - a much smaller number of people of Japanese ancestry were arrested and ultimately put into POW camps with captured Axis soldiers. Executive Order 9066 authorized relocation in February 1942 But before that in Hawai'i, 1,100 were arrested in December 1941 and shipped to the mainland for the duration of the war under legal circumstances that the NDAA has recreated. This diary has a complete legal brief, below the fold, filed on behalf of Internee Takaichi "Rupert" Saiki on January 12, 1942, by Harry Irwin, who was the Hawai'i Territorial Attorney General 1918-1922. Money quote:

The Due Process Clause of the Constitution, the constitutional right to be informed of the charges against him, the right to be confronted with the witnesses against him, the right of cross-examination of those witnesses and, apparently, the presumption of innocence have, apparently, been repealed by the declaration of war.
Also repealed was free speech.

Having come to the Republic of Hawaii in 1894 with his parents and living there as an eleven year old boy when the USA took over in 1898 yet denied citizenship for his Japanese birthplace was also a factor in this trial of a 55 year old banker and father of seven. As a contrast, his half-Alsatian, half-Native Hawai'ian wife was granted citizenship at Annexation, when she was also a child, but Saiki was still ineligible for citizenship.

Please continue to read the entire brief.


What's the earliest known date you had an ancestor living in current US territory?

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Last year the Maya, this year Romans.This is the draft I submitted to the conference for acceptance. I will add to it prior to the 2014 International System Dynamics Conference, provided I am invited (which I expect to be).

This paper simulates the rise, stability, and fall of the Roman Empire from 500 BC to 1500 AD. Building on the 1995 ISDC Paper “Sustainable Civilization: Cohesion, Capacity, and External contacts,” the author considers the extraordinarily long life of the Roman state as it grew for half a millennium; sustained itself at its maximum extent for another half a millennium; persisted for another half a millennium as one of the strongest Western states with some successors; and finally declined and ended in yet more successor states two thousand years after it started. The Roman Empire grew via its competitive advantages of resilience and strength, bounded by Persia to the East and by environment and tribal societies to the West, South and North. While its powers waxed and waned, it declined only when the people to its north overcame the western half of the state. The eastern half persisted until other states met its strength, and even then a vestige lasted for several centuries. The rise, uniquely high climax, and fall are interesting, but even more interesting is the long persistence. This paper explores all of those dynamics in a historical and sociological context.

By legend, Rome was founded on April 21, 753 BC by Romulus and Remus. The first significant verifiable date however is 510 BC, with the expulsion of its last king Tarquinius Superbus and the foundation of the Republic. This innovation was a key to its gradually spectacular growth and uniquely long life. The Roman state grew at the expense of its neighbors for five centuries until it had only one neighboring state, the Parthian Empire in present-day Iran. Though at its peak it changed its form of government to Empire, still the republican institutions and the framework of state persisted to provide the basis for its resilience throughout its long maturity and decline.

This paper applies a version of the model from “Sustainable Civilization,” ultimately itself derived from “Limits to Growth,” to the specifics of Roman history. But rather than being driven by resource constraints, the dynamics are driven by the relative social power of societies and the economic ecosystems they exist within. In ancient times, only Parthia and its successor Persia were strong enough and different enough to resist Rome. The stateless peoples beyond the frontier were too weak to provide a basis for imperial rule until the fifth century AD in the west, the seventh century AD in the southeast, the eleventh century AD in the east, and the thirteenth century AD in the eastern core. The Roman story is ultimately one of the conduction and convection of power from Rome, with conduction predominating for a thousand years and convection afterwards, but both punctuating long periods of relative equilibria.

Problem Statement
Of all the world’s states – East and West, New World and Old – the Roman state had by far the longest duration. From the beginning of the Republic in 510 BC to the fall of Constantinople in 1453 AD, Rome existed for almost two millennia and over two millennia if the uncertain length of the kingship dating back to the seventh or eighth century BC is included. While Chinese and ancient Egyptian states covered at least that much time, there were interregna of decades and centuries when the states ceased to exist as a whole, or even at all. India, Iran, and elsewhere in Africa, Mesoamerica and Europe had no states of even interrupted comparable duration.

How did Rome manage to rise so far, and persist so long? Its rise was not continuous or without reversals, though they were short-lived. Its persistence at its imperial peak was eventful, yet they remained the dominant European and Mediterranean power until the rise of the Caliphate in the seventh century, and were a considerable force in the Balkans and Anatolia into the fourteenth. Its most comparable successor, the Ottoman Empire, lasted six centuries. Its most persistent rival, in Iran, went through Parthian, Sassanian, Arab, and Turkish states in the millennium of the rivalry.

In form a republic during its rise, the Roman state kept many of its republican institutions in place even after Augustus, who referred to himself as first citizen and said that he had saved and preserved the Republic – which in some ways he had.  It was only in the third century that emperors referred to themselves as lords and the Imperium Romanum became overt and explicit. That state, that name, that organization – they all remained in place continuously, in one part of the Mediterranean or another, for another thousand years.

Rome started as a small city-state in central Italy, founded by Etruscans. It grew in its first few centuries in a peninsula full of comparably-sized cities in varying alliance configurations. Over three centuries it overcame them all, and ruled them for many more centuries. They went on to conquer every pre-existing state on the Mediterranean and in Europe, and added territory that had never before been part of a state – and ruled it all for centuries, some for a thousand years and more. How did they do it?

Follow beyond the glycon, beyond the limes...

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Unlike all other Latinos, Cubanos get preferential US immigration treatment: there is no illegal Cubano immigrant problem. Not by coincidence, the GOP's two star 'Latinos' Rubio and Cruz are Cubanos. I cringe every time I see them characterized as Hispanics or Latinos, which they are in name only. It is a source of some satirical fun that 'Rubio' is Spanish for blonde.The distinction between Cubanos and other Latinos is lost on most Anglos. Selling them as Latinos may make GOP Anglos feel better. It does nothing for other Latinos, however.  Daniel Larison:

Put another way, most Hispanics aren’t likely to identify with conservative Cuban Republicans, which makes the attempt to appeal to them on the basis of identity politics even less likely to succeed than usual. It is an attempt to practice identity politics without really understanding the identities involved. It’s pandering without going to the trouble of paying lip service to the issues that matter to most of these voters, which is just half-hearted pandering.
For Cubanos, refugee status is automatic, uniquely among Latinos. While citizenship is neither 100% automatic nor immediate, the vast majority do get citizenship, though, and much faster than any other Latinos via the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966.
One who makes it to shore ("dry feet") gets a chance to remain in the United States, and later would qualify for expedited "legal permanent resident" status and, eventually, U.S. citizenship.
But in this way they are typical of the GOP: we got ours, f--- you.

As Maria Santana says, there are some specific ways to woo a Latino voter.

"Dime con quién andas y te diré quién eres," which means, "Judge a man by the company he keeps... He was a darling of the tea party and at times has adopted positions that Latinos consider extreme on issues of concern to them and has prompted many to label him a traitor."
More on the LINOS below the fold...

How much Latino heritage do you have?

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They cook the same recipe: no discernible policy knowledge, beliefs, or expertise, and just one area of competence - fundraising. New York Magazine's recent Christie profile make that clear.

Romney was touted as a paragon of managerial competence: MBA (and Law degree) from Harvard; Successful Management Consultant at Bain & Co.; Job Creating Entrepreneur and spectacularly successful turnaround specialist at Bain Capital. But when everything he was given is stripped away - the plutocrat's rolodex of plutocrats (thanks to his father); the gaming of the tax system and the mortgaging (and second mortgaging) of clients' corporate futures for ginormous dividends to Romney - er, Bain Capital, same thing - Mitt Romney's role was always ultimately about attracting investors. He did not run the operations, come up with the tax gaming, or even hire talent. His job was to get his fellow plutocrats to write checks. He does not fundamentally know how to relate to anyone who isn't a plutocrat. His policies in Massachusetts were market testing for a national campaign - a campaign that ultimately repudiated everything he ostensibly stood for as governor. His only belief was that he should have more power. While necessary for all politicians, it is ultimately insufficient.

By contrast, Christie was more like Nixon, born of modest means. He got a law degree from Seton Hall, and made it a point to schmooze The Right People. He started differently, though. His first campaign:

In 1994, he ran for a seat on the Board of Chosen Freeholders in Morris County, the prosperous exurb where he and [his wife] Mary Pat, a Wall Street investment banker, had settled. It was time, he declared, for an end to the cycle of campaign contributions from those who did business with local government. “I’m sick and tired of people hiring their political friends,” he said.
But he only lasted one term. After another loss, he went to the back room, the smoke-filled and profanity-filled room. Advice was offered by a colleague, Rick Merkt.
He suggested to Christie that “the federal route might give him another bite at the apple.” What Merkt meant was that, instead of running for election, Christie should try to get himself appointed to an influential post. In New Jersey, that meant engaging in precisely the sort of grubby glad-handing Christie had condemned.
So Chris "Man of Principle" Christie went Full Romney, soliciting from the plutocracy.
Christie and [legal colleague Bill] Palatucci proceeded to pull in $350,000, more than enough for Christie to qualify as a Bush “Pioneer”; he and Mary Pat also personally contributed $29,000 to Bush and other Republicans between 1999 and 2001. After the election, it came time for Bush to nominate a U.S. attorney for New Jersey, one of the biggest offices in the country. Palatucci pitched Christie to Karl Rove. It was a competitive field, and Christie had zero experience in criminal law; indeed, he had never so much as filed a motion in federal court.

No qualifications, no problem - as long as the price is met. Competency and expertise is for fools. Power is all in who you know and how big the checks are. That's the GOP's alpha and omega. The myth of Romney was that he improved corporate performance. But he did no such thing. There were no innovations in operations, process, product or management that came from Romney or Bain. There was just systematic looting.

But what most voters don't know is the way Mitt Romney actually made his fortune: by borrowing vast sums of money that other people were forced to pay back. This is the plain, stark reality that has somehow eluded America's top political journalists for two consecutive presidential campaigns: Mitt Romney is one of the greatest and most irresponsible debt creators of all time. In the past few decades, in fact, Romney has piled more debt onto more unsuspecting companies, written more gigantic checks that other people have to cover, than perhaps all but a handful of people on planet Earth.
Romney was passionate about two things: money and power, in that order.

Christie is passionate about power and money. To both, policies are part of the marketing plan, to be changed from time to time to meet revenue targets. Christie made his name as a corruption-busting prosecutor who went after Republicans and Democrats alike. Like Romney's Job Creator marketing plan, it had and has broad appeal. But like Romney's plan it's a big lie. Christie wasn't fighting corruption, except as a way to prune the Small Bosses in favor of the Big Bosses, who are all still there and are Friends of Chris: most notably George Norcross and Joe DiVincenzo.

In hindsight, what is notable is how openly Christie embraced the bosses. He sent massive resources in their direction; when they came under fire, he vouched for them.
Christie ostensibly ran for governor to fight cronyism. But as Romney is only really comfortable with other plutocrats, Christie is only comfortable with other bullies, like the Big Bosses he clears the way for. His staff is filled with them. Even a charitable view of the many scandals Christie is immersed in details how extensive his own cronyism is. Romney and Christie are typical of the post-policy, post Bush GOP: What they accuse other of doing is what they themselves have done - destroying jobs, serving cronies not the common welfare. What they say they are doing is the opposite of what they really do - which is to wage class warfare on the 99%. What the GOP is best at is putting populist lipstick on the plutocratic pigs they front for. It's our responsibility to wipe the lipstick off and show them for what they are.

Who is most like Chris Christie?

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Immigration is undoing the Mexican-American War of 1846-8, which set most of the current boundary. But boundaries are not impervious, immutable barriers: The Economist points out that in significant ways that border change has been undone.

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ending the war had a dual nature. One was a transfer of territory occupied and controlled by Mexico  It was also a quit-claim deed for the vast majority of the territory covered by the agreement in which Mexico had no control.

Likewise, based on its coastal exploration Spain had a claim to the Northwest, which they gave to the USA in 1818 as part of a quit-claim deed: the Adams–Onís Treaty, which also transferred control of Spanish Florida to the USA. What's interesting is that the political results of 1818 and 1848 have been somewhat undone socially, by people voting with their feet. The Adams-Onis treaty transferred actual Spanish-ruled colonies in Florida, but just renounced Spain's unsubstantiated and unrealized claim to the Northwest, of which it had no control. The people who lived in the Northwest, the owners-in-fact, were not a party to the agreement.

The Louisiana Purchase was similar, transferring title to French holdings in New Orleans and St. Louis, but involving mostly unrealized vast French claims in the Mississippi and Missouri drainage without any consideration of the Native owners-in-fact. The 1848 peace treaty with Mexico surrendered title to California missions, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, but again covered mostly unrealized claims to the interior of the Southwest.

The larger issue here is American imperialism, and its denial in American Exceptionalism. If America is a figurative Shining City on a Hill, it is a city much like ancient Rome, and however well Rome's citizens were treated it attacked its neighbors until it ruled the Occident. Imperialism has been widely practiced worldwide for millennia. My point is not that it shouldn't have happened - I don't want to apply today's standards retroactively - but that much of American Exceptionalism is a myth, that America was and is much like any other state. Howard Zinn has a strong critique focusing on American treatment of its people, citizens and non-citizens alike, which I recommend. But I am focusing on nineteenth century American territorial expansion and conquest.

The most exceptional thing about America is that, partly intentionally but mostly through inadvertent disease susceptibility, over 90% of the Natives died after European colonization. This made imperialism, and specifically colonial replacement of the Native cultures, easier than it was in Africa, Asia, or even Mexico (but like Costa Rica). Now we have a lot of company in our imperialism, East and West, and colonialist legacy covers the Western Hemisphere.

Our Manifest Destiny - a term coined in 1845 and used to justify war with Mexico and westward expansion in general - was closely foreshadowed by Ch'ing China expanding west and Imperial Russia expanding east in the 17th century. The Adams-Onis-like Treaty of Nerchinsk in 1689 partitioned East Asia regardless of the owners-in-fact. Chile and Argentina expanded south into Patagonia as America expanded west. We're not that special.

The second most exceptional thing about America was its pioneering experiment in democracy, first for English Protestant male land owners but for increasingly broad segments of the adult population. Again, we have a lot of company in democracy now. What remains exceptional is our military, and (for now) our wealth. China was the richest nation on Earth into the 19th century, and is more likely than not to be that again by the end of this century. We should set aside reverence for an ephemeral, mythologized past and make the best of our all-too-brief time at the top - and remember that we will not always be that. We have been planting some bitter seeds.

America has had unprecedented military and economic strength since World War II - and especially post-Cold War - that has made it unique in global history. That economic strength has declined, relatively: we account for a ¼ share of world GDP now, down from ½ in 1945 but still the highest. Militarily, however, we account for almost half the world's spending and have the greatest armory in the history of the world. Those things have made the scale of what we do novel, but not qualitatively changed it in any distinctive or positive way.  We throw our weight around just like any other historically dominant state: for instance, 134 nations have American Special Forces in them.

We are still subject to all the historical forces all nations have been subject to, and are not qualitatively unique. We can get better as a country or we can get worse. There is no standing still. If you would like to extoll America's virtues, of which there are many, I welcome it. My point is that our ethnocentrism is common. We cloak it in, among other things, a mythical exceptionalism for which I have little patience - an exceptionalism smacking of the divine rights of kings coupled with the dangerous and volatile conceit of being God's Chosen.

It is true that people can come here from and become American. It can't happen to the same degree in France, China, India, or Turkey - or anywhere else in the Old World. But in the New World, the USA is not alone in that.

Insofar as I believe in American Exceptionalism, it is this: however much we may overstate it at times, we do have an unusual sense of how much we change the world. But even that is more a reflection of our isolation from the Old World in the 19th century followed by our military and economic preeminence in the 20th. When my nation is wrong, it is my duty as a citizen to make it right. As much as our character is tested when we are weak, it is tested more when we are strong.


Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 10:14 PM PST

More Fear, More Death

by Tom Lum Forest

Those seem to be the justification and consequence of "Stand Your Ground" laws. Is rewarding fear - feeding fear with violence - the best way to live as a civil society? Is "reasonable belief of necessity to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another" how we decide whether a death is deserved? I am not a legal professional, and won't comment on the legality of the laws. What concerns me is using fear as a justification for violence. That justification should be repealed from the law.

Fear is like any other emotion: we feel it, but what stokes it varies widely from person to person. We have choices on how to respond to it. The GOP is Orwellian in its fixation on 'personal responsibility' for anyone but Anglo males. Not least in their misguided attributions is that fear is a primal response that we cannot and should not learn to modulate. They are profoundly and utterly wrong. Regardless of our feelings, we are responsible for how we act on them. But

Fear overwhelms the mind, causes you to project that which you find despicable in yourself onto others, breeds paranoia, and fuels self-justifying, self-serving behavior.

In Florida two days ago, a man, Curtis Reeves, was hit with popcorn by another man, Chad Oulson, while waiting for a movie to start in a theatre. Reeves responded by shooting and killing Oulson. Reeves had started the confrontation by expressing his displeasure that Oulson was texting during the previews, then escalated by going to his car and retrieving his gun when Oulson was uncooperative.

Reeves said he "was in fear of being attacked" by Oulson so he pulled his .380 semi-automatic handgun from his pants pocket and shot the victim, police said.
While contemplating and giving mindful responses is good on its own, it's the relevance to our political discussion that makes it worth a diary entry. We have an opportunity to re-frame the debate over gun responsibilities in general and the "Stand Your Ground' laws in particular by questioning fear as a justification for violence. We all have anxieties, fears, and panics. But we are all sentient beings. We all have a mind that allows us to respond to our emotions in a variety of ways.

Fear is not a reasonable belief, and should never be an excuse for being unthinking and uncaring - and violent.

May I find freedom from fear in my life. May I also in turn help others find freedom from fear in their lives. And may I meet the fear in our culture with the courage of the open heart, which acts with decisiveness but never divisiveness.

Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 10:22 PM PST

Here Ticks a Bomb

by Tom Lum Forest

I’ve seen it written on the Halls of Kos and elsewhere that we are the party of hope, and the GOP is the party of fear. It is very hard to allay the fears of the nation. Mostly it’s Anglos fearing Brown People; Haves fearing turning into Have-nots; or Evangelicals fearing heretics and unbelievers.  But it is also expressed in America as a whole, in our willingness to terrorize the rest of the world in our War on Terror. It shows in our eagerness to globalize our Prohibition of Some Drugs into a Crusade to Create an International Mafia. It is apparent in our eagerness to spy on Everyone on Earth – friend, foe, or citizen. We as citizens, as a self-governing Commonwealth, permit it.

We have personal fears like cancer:
Afraid of being tested; afraid of being drugged
Afraid of tubes being threaded from bottom to snout
Not knowing what they’ll see there, soaking in sweat and pain
Afraid of not knowing; afraid even more to find out

Heart attack:
Driving home from work now; can’t work any more
Stop to call, dreading a fall, pain rips me apart
A miracle of love, a miracle of luck, a marvel of skill
It isn’t time to end, but time to make a new start.

The Boston Marathon Bomber:
Fear of the bombing; fear of the strangers
Fear of being blown up and blow apart
Not knowing who to turn to; not knowing where to run
Fear of those around us is shredding my heart

I don’t want to go there, to feed the beast inside.
I don’t want to be like… those whose conscience has died.
But it’s so hard to fight the panic; it’s hard to keep calm
When here, deep inside me, ticks a bomb.

I feel these fears, and others, as everyone does. But why is the richest, most powerful nation ever so full of fear?

[We] react to genuine dangers in ways that, instead of ending the dangers, actually create new ones. We amass wealth to provide security, but wealth creates a high profile that excites jealousy in others. We build walls to keep out dangerous people, but those walls become our prisons. We stockpile weapons, but they can easily be turned against us.
How can we prevail in the face of fear? Last fall I attended a local community Emergency Preparedness session held by a couple of state legislators and featuring Beaverton, Oregon's Emergency Manager, Michal Mumaw. It focused on the recently discovered history of Magnitude 9.0 earthquakes in Oregon at 300-600 year intervals - most recently January 26, 1700  - and how to prepare for the next one. There was a question-and-answer session at the end. One member of the audience suggested that preparation should include arming everyone with guns, and that this potential emergency was another argument in favor of further loosening gun laws and responsibilities. Mumaw responded, more adroitly than I can recall here, that far more likely than neighbor stealing from neighbor was neighbor reaching out to help neighbor - that experience in Chile, Japan, and other such large-scale disasters worldwide speaks far more powerfully to our social side, to our compassionate side. The questioner had no follow-up, and the audience responded warmly to Mumaw.

That is who we are - as Democrats, as Americans, as people. That is the example we aspire to. That is the course of action that speaks louder than any words we can speak or type. Although we may each carry a bomb of some sort, our mission must be to show the power of compassion to overcome the fears we all carry, and how that compassion can and will overcome those fears and the fears of our Republican opponents - who continuously trumpet their lack of compassion for the majority of Americans and belittle compassion as somehow being un-American.

To win, we must assuage our own fears first. Competitive fear-mongering will not result in as persistent Progressive majority. More than hope, we must meet fear with compassion for everyone. Only in that way can we guarantee the rights of all Americans to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.


The GOP Litany continues to hold the un-Christian position that the needy should not be helped, so for instance no unemployment insurance benefit extension should exist.  I hope I'm wrong, but I do not expect it to even be voted on in the House, and expect a filibuster in the Senate. A picture is worth a thousand words: since I’m using one this will be a short essay.

Instead of helping the needy, the GOP holds that our tax dollars should reward the deserving – the Mighty Job Creators – and Lo, There Will Be Jobs. Can we check that with actual data? Conveniently the St. Louis Fed has a lot of its data in easily plottable form, or one can download the data in Excel format and plot to one’s heart’s content.

Plotting Corporate Profits After Tax Since 2003 and Total Nonfarm Employees together, if the GOP were correct we’d see a significant and substantial correlation. I have done that exercise, using an index where 2007 values = 100%. The blue line is profits; the red line is employment.

Despite a growing population, total employment is where it was in 2007. Profits, however, are up 60%. Ergo, the GOP is FOS on this issue, and since Job Creators are not creating jobs, we should raise corporate taxes and put people to work on infrastructure and public service.

How best can we reconcile a core American commitment to economic growth with a finite planet and all but insatiable craving? As a progressive Buddhist, one who is intimately familiar with the Limits to Growth, I feel challenged to take a coherent position that reconciles sustainability, growth, and craving.

GOP anti-American obstruction notwithstanding, we have had GNP growth as a metric for how we’re doing economically: less than three percent real growth is a problem. Five percent or more is great. It has been a political crisis in recent years that we have not met those goals. That employment needs to grow with the population is another core assumption, again despite GOP unwillingness to take effective action on that score.  But taking more and more of the Earth’s past, present, and future for ourselves cannot continue indefinitely.

That we live on a finite planet is not in doubt. That we will reach its limits with anything but a catastrophe is, however, very much in doubt. We as a species use about half the land area for homes, businesses, roads, farms, mines, logging, and ranching. We strip-mine the sea with our drag nets. We use fossil fuels and other non-renewable resources at an infinitely faster rate than they regenerate.  The Limits to Growth studies made assumptions about total available reserves that did not account for potential reserves and the disincentive to know about more than 25 years of proven reserves due to the resulting depression of prices. Still, adding more non-renewable resources to the model just delays, not averts, the day we have to stop relying on them. What is the sustainable capacity for humans on Earth? That depends on the time scale for sustainability. If we’re talking about the lifetimes of anyone now alive, we can probably sustain what we have more or less. On the scale of millennia, however, it is not possible to continue our geometric growth.

It is intrinsically and perennially human to crave what we do not have, whether a better past or a hoped-for future.  Modernity has turned that craving into an elaborate social and political matrix that in the West and the Pacific Rim is, in political science terms, social democracy coupled with oligarchic plutocracy. I am not confident that our democratic or plutocratic institutions could handle a truly sustainable world. We are a violent species, and even the world’s unquestionably strongest and richest nation, a self-styled paragon of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, is so insecure that it bullies its enemies as well as its friends. I fear that as positive-sum materialist growth turns to zero-sum or negative-sum, we will turn on each other and within decades devolve to a tiny fraction of our current population as hunter/gatherers and rudimentary agriculturalists. I have seen advocacy for Zero Population Growth - but none for Zero Economic Growth, except For (Brown and Yellow) Others.

It's taken three decades for riches-just-for-the rich politics to be noticed and surfaced as a mainstream problem, the generation-long class war of the rich vs. the rest, in a nominally positive-sum environment. How would this play out in a zero-sum or negative-sum milieu?

How do we as Buddhists reconcile global craving and its attendant suffering with the Modern Growth Gospel? How can we as progressives reconcile perpetual growth with its limits? How may we as humans reconcile our craving and violence with our desire to leave a better world - or any world at all - to our descendents and heirs?


It seems that no one who has ever been on unemployment ever writes about it - or gets it published. Otherwise, the fact that benefits cover only a fraction of prior wages - and are capped - would be in the lede or initial paragraph every time. Oregon, for instance, has a handy benefit calculator.  The current maximum is $538/week, reached at a salary of $43K/year or $828/week - 65% of prior wages. Someone earning $400/week will receive $260/week in benefits. If the average benefit is $300/month in Oregon, the average pre-layoff income was $460/week or $23K/year - the 2013 poverty level for a family of four. And if you earned less than $18K/year, working a part-time job - it will be less than 65% of previous wages. Working half-time at minimum wage gives only 33% in UI benefits.

For most people that's a substantial hardship. How big a hardship? None, according to some people, who characterize it as, for instance, a hammock:

In 2011, Paul Ryan notoriously said,

We are at a moment, where if government's growth is left unchecked and unchallenged, America's best century will be considered our past century. This is a future in which we will transform our social safety net into a hammock, which lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency.
Soooo... what happens to most Americans at 65% earnings? They dip into their savings significantly - if they have any. The bottom 40% of the income distribution - those who most need the assistance - are those least likely to have liquid assets. For families with incomes under $25K/year, 64% have less than five hundred dollars of savings (table 8).

The bottom 20% of the household incomes are in households with a 2007 median net worth of $8,100. For the next quintile, the median was $37,900. And that's not just liquid assets like cash , bonds, or stocks. Net worth includes cars and home equity, which are most of the wealth of these families. Lack of a safety net then quickly requires selling vehicles, thus further limiting job choices; and losing homes, as those lucky enough to have mortgages are foreclosed and those renting are evicted, also making getting and keeping a job harder.

All in all, then, an inadequate safety net is a road to serfdom. Seems to me that someone else has used that title with a different slant, but that's for another day.


Have you ever collected unemplyment insurance benefits?

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Sat Jan 04, 2014 at 12:01 AM PST

PTSD for Military Brats?

by Tom Lum Forest

My father was a young child in Hawai'i when World War II came to America, and he always wanted to be a military hero, to serve in the Army. Denied for Korea for bad eyesight, he tried again in 1957 but disliked the peacetime Army and got out again in 1960.

But in 1964 the Vietnam War got going for America and he went back in. Despite having five children by then - the youngest was just three months old - he wanted to go to Vietnam, where he served with the 25th Infantry as artillery support in 1966-7. I as the eldest at 7 became the man of the house per his request. He went again in 1969-70.

As a youngster I was very serious about this. The nightly news reports and weekly casualty scorecards took their toll on me, and many were the nights I cried myself to sleep in anxiety, or hid beneath some book. Only recently has this deep-seated anxiety become clear to me. I wrote about the experience 30 years ago, and recently encountered that writing and set it to music.

Has anyone else had similar experience, with Vietnam, Iraq, or anywhere else?

My song: "You Can Say That" (a rough mix is here)

My sisters ask, "Where did Daddy go?
I say, "Far, far away," but I don’t really know

My brothers ask me, "Where did Daddy go?
Just like yesterday on the TV show

"We need some help with arithmetic tonight.
When's Daddy coming home from fighting his fight?"

We want a piggy back ride!
When's Daddy coming home to play outside?"

You can say it was the right thing, that you were no fool
You can say that it's something you always wanted to do
You had to fight the evil; it was required of you.
But you never say that it made you happy too.

Sunshine's on the wall, with an orange glow
June days dawn very early, but Daddy's all packed to go

TV says 200 GIs died today
But twice as many bad guys, so it’s OK

Green boots, green cap, green bag stuffed with shirts
He's going, he's going, he's gone now, off to work

So it's alright, alright, it's alright though it hurts
Daddy's gone, Daddy's gone off to work


But wars end and glory fades, and so did his dreams.
He came home without any wounds - none that we could see
He learned how to fight far, far away
Yet never found peace with his family


Mommy feeds the five of us, changes baby's clothes
She turns on the TV and lets us watch our favorite shows

He's fighting for us; he's only gone for a year.
He's fighting to save our country from fear.

Then she walks into her room and closes the door,
Until Daddy comes home from the war.

I cry myself to sleep, rubbing snot on my wrist,
"Someday I'll die, someday I won't exist."


Continue Reading

Religion is strange and mysterious: as a social phenomenon, and in its content and practice. My Portuguese great-grandmother Virginia Rodrigues taught her Catholicism to my grandfather, and him to my father, and him to me. As a child I went to Mass weekly, attended CCD, and received communion and confirmation. From ages 11-14 I was an altar boy, and enjoyed participating in the service. But my interest in science conflicted with what I was being taught at church, and at about 14 I decided that this God thing was just like Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy, and had no more use for it. At 15 my father and I had a long conversation about it, the outcome of which was "well it sounds like you've thought about it quite a bit but as long as you live under my roof you're going to participate. You're an example for your younger siblings..." So as soon as I left home I was done.

Thirty years went by with nary a thought to religious practice. But life's challenges require adaptations, and in the course of a prolonged personal crisis I began exploring Buddhism and settled into a Theravada practice. It provides a deeply satisfy framework of ethics, aesthetics, and psychology, with no actual God content required, or even reincarnation. After a couple of years, I became curious again about Catholicism and bought "Catholicism for Dummies." It provided a framework and a coherent context for Catholicism that I had never had, in a conversational and warm yet doctrinally correct way.

But a lot of things make sense now that never did before: the discernment and veneration of saints; devotion to Mary; and the distinctions between divine positive, natural moral, and human positive laws, which all seemed like a long list of "thou shalts." I learned what the Four Pillar were (the Creed, Our Father, Seven Sacraments, and the Ten Commandments). Highlights:

1.    Favorite teaching: forgiveness;
2.    Favorite sacrament, confession; and
3.    Favorite commandment "though shall not bear false witness."

There are other good teachings, many with strong parallels in my current practice. OTOH, there are four teachings I find bizarre:
1.    The resurrection of the body. Not figurative, but literal resurrection? Which version of the body goes?
2.    One God, three persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit): why three? One, zero, or infinite I could understand, but three?
3.    Jesus: one person, two natures (human, divine). Seems like casuistry to me, like part of a marketing campaign or political deal making.
4.    Transubstantiation: at every Mass a miracle occurs and the Host becomes the body of Christ, literally. Echoing a longstanding complaint against this one, it seems like cannibalism. How does this help anyone?

I asked my father, who is still very much in the Church, about them a couple of years ago, and he just shrugged. Religion is strange and mysterious. Many of us like it that way.

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