General Strike, Seattle 1919

It shut down a major U.S. city, inspired a rock operaled to decades of labor unrest and provoked fears Russian Bolsheviks were trying to overthrow American capitalism. It was the Seattle General Strike of 1919, a century ago this month.  All told, striking workers represented about half of the workforce and almost a fifth of Seattle’s 315,000 residents.  Still, the strike didn’t achieve the higher wages that the 35,000 shipyard workers who first walked off their jobs sought, even after 25,000 other union members joined the strike in solidarity.  Read why, nevertheless, the story of this particular strike is surprisingly hopeful for the future of labor, and holds lessons for today’s labor activists – whether they’re striking teachers in West Virginia or Arizona, mental health workers in California or Google activists in offices across the world.

— Read more from Steven Beda, writing for Consortium News

File 20190205 86233 1fiy76b.png?ixlib=rb 1.1


Let’s be practical

 Je plaide simplement pour le maintien d’un niveau minimal d’hypocrisie, sans lequel aucune vie dans la société humaine n’est possible.
— Jean Houellebecq

I’m just pleading for the maintenance of a minimal level of hypocrisy, without which no life in human society is possible.
— from a contrarian article translated for this month’s Harpers

innocent_hypocrisy_by_madartia_dcl427i-pre                                        Innocent Hypocrisy, by Madartia




What single change in governance structure would produce most benefit?

Public control over the Fed would end profiteering on war, healthcare, education, and most other markets, would quickly eliminate the nation debt (since we would no longer be paying principal and interest on private bank notes created from thin air and passed off as our “legal tender”), and the embedded 30 to 40% interest in the cost of goods and services, which eats away at our productive capacity, would also disappear. It would also make most taxes irrelevant because unnecessary.
Robert Bows

Image result for banking war

Bows’s premise is that the Federal Reserve is managing the money supply and manipulating the American economy for private gain, not for public good.  Though the fact is hardly ever explained in the mainstream press, the Federal Reserve, which is empowered to create dollars with the flip of a computer switch, is a consortium of the nation’s largest banks, not an agency of the US Government.

If Bows is correct, then the influence of private investment banks in distorting the world’s economic system is deep and broad.  If central banks were subject to democratic control, not only would a great leech be removed from  the economy, promoting an easy and widespread prosperity, but the financial motive for war would be removed.

Free love

Love, the strongest and deepest element in all life, the harbinger of hope, of joy, of ecstasy; love, the defier of all laws, of all conventions; love, the freest, the most powerful moulder of human destiny; how can such an all-compelling force be synonymous with that poor little State and Church-begotten weed, marriage?

Free love? As if love is anything but free! Man has bought brains, but all the millions in the world have failed to buy love. Man has subdued bodies, but all the power on earth has been unable to subdue love. Man has conquered whole nations, but all his armies could not conquer love. Man has chained and fettered the spirit, but he has been utterly helpless before love. High on a throne, with all the splendor and pomp his gold can command, man is yet poor and desolate, if love passes him by. And if it stays, the poorest hovel is radiant with warmth, with life and color. Thus love has the magic power to make of a beggar a king. Yes, love is free; it can dwell in no other atmosphere. 

Emma Goldman

Making sound into light

Energy tends to spread out.  That’s the essence of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, the law of entropy.

Temperature is the amount of energy per particle.  If you have a lot of particles with a little energy each, that’s a low temperature.  That same energy concentrated in just a few particles produces a high temperature.

Suppose you had a red-hot poker.  You could dunk it in a pot of water, and the pot might only be 1 degree hotter than room temperature.  All the energy is there, but it’s spread through the large pot.  There’s no way to extract and concentrate the energy in the water so you can make a red-hot poker.

So it’s a one-way street.  Left to its own devices, energy spreads out, but if you want to take spread out energy and concentrate it, it would take a lot of work, and could only be done with very low efficiency.

Sound is low energy, light is high energy.  A single particle of light, called a photon, has energy about a billion times greater than a single particle of sound, called a phonon.  So it’s easy to turn light energy into sound energy, but impossible to turn sound energy into light energy.

But now that I’ve convinced you it’s impossible, I’ll tell you that it happens, and the discovery of sonoluminescence (1934) was a huge surprise to physicists.  How can the energy of a billion phonons be extracted and funneled into a single photon?  And why doesn’t this violate the Second Law?

I don’t know the answer, so I can’t explain it.  I know it has something to do with the fact that the sound waves are coherent, like a laser, all pointed in the same direction and acting together they can do things they would never be able to do if they were random sound waves going every which way.

When I was an undergraduate, I learned quantum physics from Julian Schwinger.  (Today is his 101st birthday, and that provides me an excuse for writing this column.)  Schwinger was a true scholar, not just a phenomenal mathematician and profound scientific thinker, a cultured and thoughtful person who made far-flung connections in his conversation and his scholarship. His career was jump-started when he did a PhD dissertation under J Robert Oppenheimer at age 21.  He left his mark on 20th Century physics as much as any of the great names who are better known (e.g., Einstein, Schrodinger, Feynman, with whom he shared the 1965 Nobel prize).

Late in his life, Schwinger came up with an esoteric explanation for sonoluminescence, by analogy with Hawking’s account of evaporating black holes.

Around this time was the front-page news of cold fusion in a Utah elecrochemistry lab. It was a flash in the pan.  Cold fusion was soon dismissed as an experimental error.

Correcting this error has required decades; cold fusion is real.

What Schwinger realized was that cold fusion was the same story as sonoluminescence. Both phenomena occur when dispersed energy somehow manages to focus itself and accumulate so that within a low-temperature environment, a few very hot particles can appear.

Twenty-five years have passed since Schwinger theorized about cold fusion. We still don’t know if he was right.

We hold these truths to be self-evident…

The idea that humans are autonomous individuals with individual self-interests that mutually conflict was already an old idea when it became the underlying philosophy behind the Declaration of Independence in 1776.  Libertarians take this perspective as the only truth, and social philosophers such as Ayn Rand, Paul Samuelson and Ludwig von Mises are not afraid to carry the premise of individuality to its absurd logical end.

The essence of modern Western political economy is that humans are inherently selfish and that a system of rewards and punishments forcibly imposed by a strong government is all that stands between us and destroying one another for profit.

In making this postulate explicit, we can begin to examine and question it, perhaps for the first time.  Compare it to the Confucian and Daoist philosophies that have been the basis of Chinese governance for 2500 years.  Compare it, indeed, to the picture that modern social psychological science has painted of human nature.

In Hindu and Chinese and Inuit and all the indigenous cultures with which I have a passing familiarity, the concept of “who I am” is much more closely tied to a social context than in the modern, industrial West.  I am my role in my family. I am a member of my community. I am defined by my relationships of love and work and play, the ideas I exchange, the art we create together. It’s hard to imagine what I would care about, what I would do if I lived in isolation.  Baby primates, including humans, die promptly if they are not held and cuddled. People in solitary confinement go mad, or worse. Older people warehoused in nursing homes die within months.

Contrast the Social Contract of Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau with the Confucian ideal which has threaded through millennia of Chinese society.  To the Western philosophers, society exists as a deal made by individuals, submitting to constraints on their freedom in exchange for the means of security and comfort that are difficult for an individual to engineer on his own.  To the Confucians, there is the harmony of being together and the symbiosis of a smoothly-functioning community, and from these flow the fulfillment and self-satisfaction of individual members.

There is a great deal of research supporting the Eastern view over the Western.  People have mirror neurons, and they experience pain and pleasure in sympathy with those around them.  Health and longevity are tied far more tightly to family relations and position in the community than to diet, self-care, genetics, or any medical variable.  There are cultures where most people are happy and satisfied with life, regardless of their pecuniary circumstances, and other cultures where even the wealthiest and most powerful are chronically nervous, bitter and unsatisfied.

More controversially, there is a suppressed literature of PSI research which shows that our thoughts and motivations are not just ours individually, but can be shared and transmitted by extrasensory means that science has yet to understand.


Image result for social contract