19 August 2006


If our social formations were limited to what the human genetic code told us we could be, then we might expect the human species to follow the population pattern suggested in Darwin's Origin of Species, and reiterated by modern population biology in the form of the "J-curve."

According to this model, animal species which are too successful at adaptation to their habitats will overpopulate said habitats, and deplete them of their natural food sources. The population graph of such animal species takes on the shape of a "J-curve," with population increasing exponentially (the upward-curve of the "J") as species "success" is consolidated. Thus the name, "J-curve."

Animal species which are "too successful" will overpoulate themselves, say the population biologists, until the animal species breeds a quantity of individuals for which no food supply is available. At that point, the "J-curve" is finished, and the "too successful" animal species experiences massive dieoff as its members starve to death in great numbers until an ecological balance is restored and population limits are established.

Could human beings be such a "too successful" animal species? Certainly, we humans are versatile enough to adapt to any habitat niche the world has to offer, and so we can get around the "J-curve" problem by multiplying our habitat niches. A couple of million years ago, for instance, our distant ancestors managed to avoid extinction in Africa (the fate of the australopithecines) by migrating to Asia and Europe. But that solution could only go so far; humans have now invaded every habitat the world has to offer a land mammal. Our population, too, follows that natural "J-curve" -- the human population explosion of the last two centuries looks on a graph like the upward straight-line of the letter "J" when viewed against the background of the rest of human existence.

We are now at the point where we have begun to speculate as to the origins of an eventual mass human dieoff. Agriculture, of course, has multiplied our food supply; but we could destroy the Earth's soil fertility and make it incapable of generating plant habitat in the quantities necessary to produce food for many billions of people. Or the human race could catastrophically disrupt agricultural habitats through human-caused climate change. Using up our planet's cheap oil could place strict limits on the human race's adaptive resources. The human race can certainly be said to have overfished the oceans to the point of serious disruption of ocean ecologies. Planet-wide overexploitation of other resources has occurred for other reasons as well.

At any rate, if humans were just like other "too successful" animals, we could expect the fate of the J-curve to occur to us. The saving grace for the human race is its versatility; we have to hope that "our genetic code" (at least) will not prohibit us from creating social forms that do not result in the tragedy of the commons. We must, however, reorient our versatility -- instead of using it to amplify our domination of nature and of each other, we must use it to cope with the excesses of our success as a species.

Well, first of all, there's the on-the-ground evidence... and then there's the UN Security Council Resolution 1701 which, in this author's opinion, just sets the stage for another war, this time to see which of its provisions is enforced and which ignored.

17 August 2006


Uri Avnery's article in Counterpunch has some interesting details to relate:
IN ISRAEL, there is now a general atmosphere of disappointment and despondency. From mania to depression. It's not only that the politicians and the generals are firing accusations at each other, as we foresaw, but the general public is also voicing criticism from every possible angle. The soldiers criticize the conduct of the war, the reserve soldiers gripe about the chaos and the failure of supplies.

In all parties, there are new opposition groupings and threats of splits. In Kadima. In Labor. It seems that in Meretz, too, there is a lot of ferment, because most of its leaders supported the war dragon almost until the last moment, when they caught its tail and pierced it with their little lance.

At the head of the critics are marching--surprise, surprise--the media. The entire horde of interviewers and commentators, correspondents and presstitutes, who (with very few exceptions) enthused about the war, who deceived, misled, falsified, ignored, duped and lied for the fatherland, who stifled all criticism and branded as traitors all who opposed the war--they are now running ahead of the lynch mob. How predictable, how ugly. Suddenly they remember what we have been saying right from the beginning of the war.
So, now that the "need to appear unified" has been lost with the conclusion of the war, the Israeli political elite has reverted to a coercive pattern of competition within a political shark-tank. Democracy Now reports that "in Israel, a new poll shows declining support for the two top Israeli leaders behind the attack on Lebanon. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's approval rating has fallen to forty percent, down from nearly eighty percent at the height of the war. Defense Minister Amir Peretz has also seen his rating fall by more than half, to below thirty percent." (If anyone is wondering, I've found news like this in the Washington Times, as well.)

A new word needs to be put into our vocabulary of geopolitics: groupthink. As Ira Chernus pointed out in an article I linked previously, the decision to fight this war was made through bureaucratic groupthink.
“’If everyone voted the way they spoke, there would be a majority opposing the [Peretz] proposal,’ one minister said. So why didn't anyone vote against the proposal (to go to war)? We were afraid, the minister explained, of showing the public and the Hezbollah that there are rifts within the government and cracks in its support for the IDF.”

Hopefully, since the spell created by war-based groupthink is now no longer in force, the people of Israel can learn something important about how groupthink operates. In this case, Israel was manipulated through groupthink into participation in a war effort that was not in its best interests. One could indeed argue, though less plausibly, that Israel was and is entrapped in a pattern of defective decision-making, and that groupthink plays a strong role in the maintenance of this pattern. Ehud Olmert would do well to consult the research record on groupthink when considering his next move. Paul 't Hart has a book called Groupthink in Government that might serve as a starting-point for research.

See here:
"Carter: I don't think that Israel has any legal or moral justification for their massive bombing of the entire nation of Lebanon. What happened is that Israel is holding almost 10,000 prisoners, so when the militants in Lebanon or in Gaza take one or two soldiers, Israel looks upon this as a justification for an attack on the civilian population of Lebanon and Gaza. I do not think that's justified, no."
I can hear the Zionists scrambling for a response now... "Uh, 'antisemitic,' uh, 'Israel's right to exist,' uh, 'terrorists,' blah blah blah"...

Unprovoked aggression (n.): when Israel's "enemies" fight back.

from the First English-Zionese Dictionary

16 August 2006


John Ross files this report...

15 August 2006


See Ira Chernus' article on Israeli office politics... also interesting, of course, is William Beeman's piece on Hezbollah, which debunks the head-office myth that Iran is behind Hezbollah. Offices, of course, imagine themselves as the origin of all that is real about politics, whereas the people are not to be discounted as a real-life force...

14 August 2006


Welcome to the world of the Joke On Terror -- today's distraction from bourgeois democracy's official malfeasance...

kudos to Jeannette Spaghetti

Here is a commentary I posted to Gristmill on Lieberman's loss to Lamont in the primary, titled "The US is still too predatory":
The US is still too predatory (at least at the Federal level) to be part of a global sustainable society. America appears to have put all its eggs in the basket of "let's conquer the world so we can have first dibs on its cheap oil, so we can keep our SUVs running." When the cheap oil runs out, maybe at about the time the US Dollar collapses and America's foreign creditors start demanding an immediate payback of the national debt, the defects of this US strategy will be plain to all.

Other countries must lead the way. Sujatha Fernandes, in an article in ZNet, suggests that genuine political change is promoted through a politics that puts community organizing at the center of things. The Zapatistas, in Mexico, offer her a political model of sorts:
The Other Campaign was launched in San Cristobal de Las Casas in January 1, 2006, a historic date on which the Zapatistas had occupied the city twelve years earlier. Alongside the campaign efforts of political candidates, the Zapatistas took to the road with marches, mobilizations, and mass meetings across the country.

The aim of the Other Campaign is not to tell people to abstain from voting, but rather to point to the limitations of an election where political parties share a consensus on most major issues, and participation is reduced to going to the ballots once every six years. It is to carry the campaign beyond the period of elections to everyday organizing. It is to raise debates over issues such as land reform, neoliberalism, indigenous rights, and free trade, which are not being addressed in the electoral arena.
Let me suggest that the issue of a global (ecologically) sustainable society is one of these same issues. It is not an issue that is being addressed in the US electoral arena. Both political parties, in this regard, appear to share a consensus: more occupation of Iraq, more support for war in Lebanon, more increased funding for the world's biggest single corporate fossil-fuel consumer (the US military), more capitalist development, more "free trade" sloganeering, and more corporate protectionism. And remember that unanimous 1997 Senate vote against the Kyoto Protocol?

"Mainstream environmentalism" is too thoroughly plugged into the "lesser of two evils" logic that lends support to the Democratic Party because it is "not as bad as" the Republican Party. As you can see above, all the "mainstream environmentalists" supported Lieberman. And Lieberman-politics, the politics of "bipartisanship," is not going to save the Earth. This situation, needless to say, does not do wonders for the credibility of "mainstream environmentalism." It certainly did little for Lieberman's credibility this week.

Working through "mainstream" political parties appears to be a completely inadequate means of facing the environmental challenges of the 21st century. They do this now, and are captured in the web of alliances of the Democratic Party. This web (for instance) required complete and ultra-conformist support for the agenda of John Kerry.

At the very least, a different approach will have to be taken by environmental organizations wishing to become credible. This approach must:

* divorce itself from both major political parties, ideally through a third party such as the Green Party (or elsewhere if necessary)
* rededicate itself to community organizing and
* stay in touch with the organized communities in order to make sure that the legitimate concerns of said communities are represented legitimately.

Only in such a way will the US be made less predatory. Lamont defeated Lieberman; hurray, but it still won't change very much, and neither will a Democrat victory in November.

Lieberman, BTW, is ahead in the polls in Connecticut. He is drawing a ton of Republican support. As if it mattered.