Tell me again about that dung heap?

I woke up this morning thinking of an old friend, John, who is no longer a friend. The parting of our ways was acrimonious, with his last message including a warning that should I ever come to his door, I would be met with a gun in my face. Today, I see a commentary by Bob Ray Sanders. Towards the end, he writes,

I’ve been saying this for months, although I’ve held little hope that things would change for the better.

The echoes and visions of the past simply will not go away.

Unmasked and undaunted, it seems the disgruntled masses will not relent as they encourage each other to remain not just angry, but bitter.

Sanders is writing about the Tea Party and how the strife today resembles that of the Civil Rights era. John and I parted over the invasion of Iraq. I was convinced that it would be a disaster, that we would kill lots of people for no good reason. Indeed, thinking of this reminds me that even then it was apparent that the Bush administration rationale was, at best, weak. And indeed it has turned out poorly. Tom Engelhardt writes,

Like Afghanistan before it, Iraq is now largely the “forgotten” war, and if this is “victory,” then here’s a little of what’s been forgotten in the process, of what Friedman suggests he’d prefer to leave future historians to sort out: that the American invasion led to possibly hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths; that literally millions of Iraqis had to flee into exile abroad and millions more were turned into internal refugees in their own country; that the national capital, Baghdad, was significantly ethnically cleansed in a brutal Shiite-Sunni civil conflict; that the country was littered with new “killing fields”; that a devastating insurgency roiled the land and still brings enough death and terror to Baghdad to make it one of the more dangerous places on the planet; that a soaring unemployment rate and the lack of delivery of the most basic services, including reliable electricity and potable water, created nightmarish conditions for a vast class of impoverished Iraqis; that the U.S., for all its nation-building boasts, proved remarkably incapable of “reconstructing” the country or its oil industry, even though American private contractors profited enormously from work on both; that a full-scale foreign military occupation left Americans on almost 300 bases nationwide and in the largest embassy on the planet; that American advisors remain attached to, and deeply embedded in, an Iraqi military that still lacks a credible air force and is unlikely to be able to operate and resupply itself on its own for years to come.

In fact, well over a million Iraqis are dead. And in a moment of apparent fury at post-election maneuvering there, Juan Cole wrote,

Hey, warmongers: get it through your heads. You went to war on the grounds that Iraq was a grave danger to the US and might even nuke us. That was untrue and ridiculous. You don’t get any mulligans in the invasion game. Nothing would vindicate Bush save proof that Saddam Hussein’s regime was really dangerous to the US. It wasn’t. It had bupkes in the way of WMD. Iraqis will eventually live normal lives and get rich. That won’t vindicate Bush either. He lied to us repeatedly and illegally invaded another country, contravening the UN charter and a whole slew of international and even domestic US laws. There is no vindication. But the unseemly backstabbing and maneuvering of fundamentalists, ex-Baathists, Iranian double agents and CIA assets in Iraq now is certainly not it.

Iraq Deaths Estimator

But if he who lives by the sword, dies by the sword, it can be no surprise that violence has come home, not merely in broken warriors but in the appalling scenes that Sanders describes. (UPDATE: According to the Veterans for Common Sense, based on a Freedom of Information Act response, over 442,000 disability claims have been filed by Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, over 240,000 such veterans have been treated for mental health issues, and over 140,000 have been treated for post-traumatic stress disorder.)

Way to go, John, my old ex-friend. Not only did you advocate destroying a country and killing so many on dubious grounds, but in your zeal to affirm the United States’ position on top of the dung heap (your language was a little more colorful), you have instead exposed its weakness. A court in Britain has ruled that evidence of official complicity in torture–which the U.S. wanted kept secret–must now be revealed. The Netherlands has rebuffed a U.S. appeal even to keep its present troops in Afghanistan. Iran dismisses U.S. threats over its nuclear program. (UPDATE: Cole writes of potential sanctions against Iran, “Iran sanctions are in any case merely symbolic. The regime cannot be forced to change course in this way. Indeed, this regime likes being isolated.”) And the crusade in Afghanistan and Iraq only gets wider, involving ever more countries. These are not the signs of a dominant power, but of a country whose imperial ambitions have exceeded its reach–what scholars in the field refer to as overstretch.

At home, the economy is so broken that the government relies on temporary and part-time Census Bureau jobs to minimize unemployment numbers while the Bureau itself is hiring from the vast pool of overqualified and unemployed. The anti-government Tea Party that Sanders deplores draws its strength from the unemployed working class–and no wonder, for all the good that the government does them. For all the shenanigans, Gallup still shows an underemployment rate at 20.4 percent. (UPDATE: ADP reports that private sector employers shed 23,000 jobs in March.

John, the United States now rests not at the top of the dung heap, but at the bottom of an overflowing latrine pit. I hope you’re satisfied.

Listening for goosesteps in a conservative backlash

For those of us who see the present political and economic order as unsustainable, it’s been a hell of a day.

Last night, Murray Dobbin posted an article on advising “Canadians to begin asking themselves is what do we do as American moves inexorably towards fascism?” Today, Chris Hedges asked on Truthdig, “Is America yearning for fascism?” Hedges wrote,

The Democrats and their liberal apologists are so oblivious to the profound personal and economic despair sweeping through this country that they think offering unemployed people the right to keep their unemployed children on their nonexistent health care policies is a step forward. They think that passing a jobs bill that will give tax credits to corporations is a rational response to an unemployment rate that is, in real terms, close to 20 percent. They think that making ordinary Americans, one in eight of whom depends on food stamps to eat, fork over trillions in taxpayer dollars to pay for the crimes of Wall Street and war is acceptable. They think that the refusal to save the estimated 2.4 million people who will be forced out of their homes by foreclosure this year is justified by the bloodless language of fiscal austerity. The message is clear. Laws do not apply to the power elite. Our government does not work. And the longer we stand by and do nothing, the longer we refuse to embrace and recognize the legitimate rage of the working class, the faster we will see our anemic democracy die.

For those who think Hedges might be over-reacting, the New York Times pointed out on Saturday how the Tea Party movement arises substantially from the ranks of the unemployed. And sociologists have observed for some time now how the white working class, perceiving itself burned by Democrats with affirmative action legislation, has tilted to the right. So we should not be surprised by what so many seem to be finding so alarming, in Dobbin’s words:

In the days before the recent [health care] vote, Democratic Congressmen were harassed, threatened and subjected to racist taunts. An American Press story stated: “Representative Andre Carson, an Indiana Democrat, told a reporter that as he left the Cannon House Office Building with Georgia Democratic Representative John Lewis, a leader of the civil rights era, some among the crowd chanted ‘the N-word, the N-word, 15 times.’ Both Mr. Carson and Mr. Lewis are black. It was like going into the time machine with John Lewis.”

It got worse after the vote – now Democrat’s offices are being vandalized and members of Congress are getting death threats over the phone. If you want a taste of these scary events take five minutes to listen the Rachel Maddow show. Republicans are not-so-subtly encouraging this behaviour and when confronted by their words, refuse to retract them – or to take any responsibility for the actions they foment.

Lewis and Carson were not alone. This was to be found in the introduction to a piece describing Utah as being governed by the Tea Party on TomDispatch:

Not that the Tea Partiers went down without a fight. Last weekend, they swarmed Capitol Hill in a last-gasp revolt, flags flying, chants ringing, placards held aloft, throwing everything in their arsenal at triumphant Democratic lawmakers. That included racist and homophobic slurs, leveled at Democrats like civil-rights icon Rep. James Lewis (D-GA), and Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), a gay congressman and one of the most powerful figures on the Hill. An impromptu march of key Democrats to the Capitol to pass their bill took on the feel of a hate-riddled gauntlet, as the darker undercurrents of the Tea Party (egged on by some knucklehead Republican congressmen) rose to the surface. Someone even spit on Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO). So it was that when the going got tough, the Tea Party got ugly.

They may have lost the Battle of Obamacare, but the weekend’s depravity foreshadowed the possible future of this loosely knit network of malcontents and rebels. Indeed, health care is only likely to embolden them; and behind them stands a nation in which, according to a recent Harris Poll, 24% of Republicans consider the president “the Antichrist,” 38% believe that he is “doing many of the things that Hitler did,” and 45% agree with the Birthers that he was “not born in the United States and so is not eligible to be president.”

The Huffington Post described a gauntlet, and the lawmakers who braved it as fearless:

Preceding the president’s speech to a gathering of House Democrats, thousands of protesters descended around the Capitol to protest the passage of health care reform. The gathering quickly turned into abusive heckling, as members of Congress passing through Longworth House office building were subjected to epithets and even mild physical abuse.

A staffer for Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) told reporters that Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) had been spat on by a protestor. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a hero of the civil rights movement, was called a ‘ni–er.’ And Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) was called a “faggot,” as protestors shouted at him with deliberately lisp-y screams. Frank, approached in the halls after the president’s speech, shrugged off the incident.

But Clyburn was downright incredulous, saying he had not witnessed such treatment since he was leading civil rights protests in South Carolina in the 1960s.

“It was absolutely shocking to me,” Clyburn said, in response to a question from the Huffington Post. “Last Monday, this past Monday, I stayed home to meet on the campus of Claflin University where fifty years ago as of last Monday… I led the first demonstrations in South Carolina, the sit ins… And quite frankly I heard some things today I have not heard since that day. I heard people saying things that I have not heard since March 15, 1960 when I was marching to try and get off the back of the bus.”

“It doesn’t make me nervous as all,” the congressman said, when asked how the mob-like atmosphere made him feel. “In fact, as I said to one heckler, I am the hardest person in the world to intimidate, so they better go somewhere else.”

Particularly with Sarah Palin as one of its leading lights, the Tea Party seems irresistible fodder for mainstream and alternative journalists and bloggers alike. But then came word of an FBI bust targeting a Christian militia group. According to the Los Angeles Times, “The indictment said the Hutaree, which describes itself as a ‘Christian warrior’ group, viewed all law enforcement as the enemy. It said members planned a violent act to get the attention of the police, possibly by killing an officer at a traffic stop, then attacking the funeral procession with explosives.”

Juan Cole made the connection as he compared the Hutaree to the Mahdi Army in Iraq:

Both groups are victims of a neoliberal world order that uses and discards working people, while protecting and cushioning the super-wealthy. Instead of a rational analysis of exploitation, however, they are responding with emotion and symbol, projecting their economic and political alienation on other religious or ethnic groups (the Mahdi Army ethnically cleansed tens of thousands of Sunni Muslims from Baghdad in the name of anti-imperialism.)

Wow. Some of us must feel a bit bemused. Joe Conason (in It Can Happen Here) and Naomi Wolf (in The End of America) have both written of the United States’ slide towards fascism, but did so with a view of elite actions that have progressively constrained civil liberties. I worried about the Tea Party before it was even called that, worried about a Republican-inspired rise of fascism, worried about the violence that could erupt, and become so alarmed about the direction the political system is headed, and about the deep cultural divide that drives it, that I have advocated an end to the two-party paradigm and a break-up of the United States.

A risk I hoped was receding, that we may be headed for a right wing insurrection appears to have reawakened, very much on the wrong side of the bed. I doubt the Hutaree will be the principal instigators. Indeed Michael Vanderboegh, described by the Los Angeles Times as “a former militia member and leading voice of the constitutionalist militia movement,” called Hutaree ideology “so far around the bend I can’t see that bend from here.” But they are apparently not so far out to a number of right wing voices, as a FireDogLake posting cites a number of them sniffing political opportunism, conspiracy, betrayal, and a round up of political opponents.

Sara Robinson wrote last August that,

[Robert] Paxton wrote that succeeding at the second stage “depends on certain relatively precise conditions: the weakness of a liberal state, whose inadequacies condemn the nation to disorder, decline, or humiliation; and political deadlock because the Right, the heir to power but unable to continue to wield it alone, refuses to accept a growing Left as a legitimate governing partner.” He further noted that Hitler and Mussolini both took power under these same circumstances: “deadlock of constitutional government (produced in part by the polarization that the fascists abetted); conservative leaders who felt threatened by the loss of their capacity to keep the population under control at a moment of massive popular mobilization; an advancing Left; and conservative leaders who refused to work with that Left and who felt unable to continue to govern against the Left without further reinforcement.”

And more ominously: “The most important variables…are the conservative elites’ willingness to work with the fascists (along with a reciprocal flexibility on the part of the fascist leaders) and the depth of the crisis that induces them to cooperate.”

That description sounds eerily like the dire straits our Congressional Republicans find themselves in right now. Though the GOP has been humiliated, rejected, and reduced to rump status by a series of epic national catastrophes mostly of its own making, its leadership can’t even imagine governing cooperatively with the newly mobilized and ascendant Democrats. Lacking legitimate routes back to power, their last hope is to invest the hardcore remainder of their base with an undeserved legitimacy, recruit them as shock troops, and overthrow American democracy by force. If they can’t win elections or policy fights, they’re more than willing to take it to the streets, and seize power by bullying Americans into silence and complicity.

That’s why I found it so alarming when Republican South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint said, “I would rather have 30 Republicans in the Senate who really believe in principles of limited government, free markets, free people, than to have 60 that don’t have a set of beliefs.” In this, DeMint effectively declared that conservative Republican or–though it may be hard to tell the difference–Tea Party political strategy is not an electoral strategy.

The connections may be coming together. And while it is far too soon to say how, really, this will play out, this country has been headed in a very dangerous direction for quite some time. It will not be enough for, as Dobbin recommends, Canadians to consider the possibility of a fascist southern neighbor with whom their country shares a long border. The world must now consider the possibility that its nuclear-armed only remaining global superpower will turn fascist.

It’s not that you have nothing to offer, but that you have no money to offer

One of the most aggravating facets of unemployment, particularly long term unemployment, is a sense that no one wants you for anything you have to offer. They just want money. And U.S. culture ferociously stigmatizes the unemployed, as when, according to Howard Zinn,

Henry Ford, in March 1931, said the crisis [the Great Depression] was here because “the average man won’t really do a day’s work unless he is caught and cannot get out of it. There is plenty of work to do if people would do it.” A few weeks later he laid of 75,000 workers.

There were millions of tons of food around, but it was not profitable to transport it, to sell it. Warehouses were full of clothing, but people could not afford it. There were lots of houses, but they stayed empty because people couldn’t pay the rent, had been evicted, and now lived in shacks in quickly formed “Hoovervilles” built on garbage dumps.

The difficulty with any system of exchange is that it inherently privileges those who are most able to say no, those who are most able to decline a deal. It serves to widen the gap between rich and poor. And money accelerates the process.

When you’re unemployed, it isn’t that you have nothing to offer. It’s that you have no money to offer. But when money is the only economic value, that distinction is unimportant. And even when you’re employed, you may be brutalized as the rich make themselves richer by undervaluing everybody else.

In the Great Depression, people formed barter systems and self-help organizations. But the scale of the problem soon overwhelmed these efforts. Money is evil, but the more fundamental problem lies in a notion that each person works for him or herself. A system of competition accepts as inevitable that there will be “winners” and “losers.” And while the rest of us may be losing as cogs in the corporate wheel, or having been evicted therefrom, Charles Reich observed in The Greening of America that we will be pacified with illusions of wealth on television.

But that can’t go on forever when, as a Wall Street Journal article suggests, “jobless recoveries” are “the new normal”:

“With the third jobless recovery, you have to say we shouldn’t have expected companies to behave as they did in the 1960s or the 1970s,” said St. Louis Fed President James Bullard. “We should expect this as the normal state of affairs.”

If the elite in this country, who seem well protected from unemployment, are not going to take concrete action on unemployment, if as Obama so callously put it, “There are limits to what government can and should do, even during such difficult times,” then we must recognize that those who have money will never allow the rest of us to have any. And if we are to survive, we shall have to introduce a new way of fulfilling our needs.

My idea is that social media makes possible what was not possible during the Great Depression. We can work towards the greater good. We can do it by cooperating rather than competing. We can do it by valuing every person. I have the barest beginning of an idea how. But I’m going to need help to do it.

A many-splendored oppression

I got away with it. I think.

I had been looking forward to Arundhati Roy’s appearance in San Francisco tonight, but as luck would have it, I got only my second substitute teaching job since signing up for it in December today. That meant I was out of the house before dawn (I am normally a late riser) to get to it.

Both these jobs have reinforced a dissonance between the greater experience of learning I have had in post-secondary education with the experience of seeing children treated more or less as prisoners at a middle school and the experience today of seeing children with an irrepressible exuberance confined to chairs near the beginning of their learning careers who inevitably become “discipline” problems in a primary school.

So for me, there is a paradox on top of a dissonance. Children need to learn. If they don’t, in this economic system, when they grow up, they will surely be condemned to low wage jobs–if they can find employment at all–that don’t pay rent, jobs that are often even worse than my abusive experience at Luxor Cab. But to attempt to contain this energy seems to me like asking the sun to stop shining. Worse, I fear it risks an anti-intellectual backlash as these kids mature.

And so, as I was driving to San Francisco, a place I generally avoid, tonight, my heart was heavy and my mind was pondering this paradox on top of a dissonance. Hitting traffic on Highway 101 getting into San Francisco meant I was also running out of time. Tired and under pressure, I chose the worst of four reasonably direct but also reasonably rational routes to the Arundhati Roy event. It was a rookie mistake, inexcusable in someone who has lived in and around San Francisco for as long as I have (all but about two years of the last forty-three) and who has driven cab there. It was an unmistakable sign my judgment was impaired.

But I also anticipated parking problems around the event; parking in almost every part of San Francisco has become dramatically more difficult particularly since voters approved the creation of the Department of Parking and Traffic. This agency was supposed to ease parking problems but has instead turned into the bane of most San Francisco car owners’ existences, generating a vast stream of revenue for the City. So I was delighted when approaching Mission High School, I spied its faculty parking lot, with spaces available.

At first, I didn’t give it a second thought. I pulled in and parked. I was attending a function in the school’s auditorium and there were lots of other cars in the parking lot–only some of which were displaying permits for overnight parking–and I assumed the rest were also owned by people attending the event. And nearly anywhere else I’ve lived, this would be a sensible way of viewing the situation.

But this is San Francisco. And when you’re unemployed, as I am, desperate, as I am, and broke, as I am, any ambiguity in a situation is unlikely to be resolved in your favor. San Francisco makes a fortune off of the naïve and off of people who share many aspects of my situation. I’m not faculty at Mission High School. I didn’t have one of those orange parking permits that I saw on the dashboards of some other vehicles. This reality began to sink in as I walked into the event.

As was to be expected, Arundhati Roy had many sensible and valuable things to say about oppression in the Kashmir, in India, and in other places, but by the end of her appearance, I was more than anxious to get out of there to retrieve a pickup truck that I would not be able to afford to get out of impound. And I had more to think about as I noticed a double flash of a red light camera that I think (hope) was aimed in another direction as I began making my way back out of the City and towards home.

The prospects of publicity and the prospects of qualification

TMZ reports that Vivid Entertainment has offered to pay off the mortgage, including a past due balloon payment, of “Octomom” Nadya Suleman, enabling her to avoid foreclosure. Tracy Clark-Flory, writing for, notes that this appears to be a reduced offer from the $1 million of last year. Suleman, whose obsessions include not only making babies but becoming an Angelina Jolie look-alike, would be required to star in a porn film.

For this, Clark-Flory calls the company “the X-rated equivalent of an ambulance-chaser.” But stigmatized businesses often operate on the premise that any publicity is good publicity. We might find it distasteful (I certainly do), but I think Clark-Flory had a more salient point when she wrote, “The recession has so many feeling profoundly hopeless — and for women, true economic desperation often means selling our bodies in one way or another.”

These are indeed desperate times. Gallup has begun measuring underemployment with a daily poll that’s worth noting if for no other reason than its definition of underemployment: “Gallup classifies Americans as underemployed if they are unemployed or working part-time but wanting full-time work.” As Carlton Meyer of Sanders Research put it, “an honest man would count anyone who would like to work as unemployed.” Gallup is doing this and more, while Meyer catalogs the ways the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not, thus reducing the number of people in the labor market and reducing the unemployment rate it reports as a headline number in its press releases.

As of March 21st, Gallup reports a 30-day rolling average underemployment rate of 20.2 percent. The despair is overwhelming. Last month, Gallup reported “that 61% of the underemployed are not hopeful they will find a job within the next four weeks, while 39% are hopeful.” It’s worst in two of the categories that apply to me: “Nearly three-quarters of underemployed Americans aged 50 to 65 (71%) are not hopeful about finding a job within four weeks, making them the demographic group with the lowest likelihood of being hopeful” and “nearly two-thirds [65 percent] of those with a college degree or postgraduate education are not hopeful, making them the educational group that is least likely to be hopeful.” But the proportion of people in the midwest who are not hopeful (64 percent) edges out the proportion in the west (62 percent). (I have a Master’s degree, I’m fifty years old, and I live in California.)

But I tie any meaning to be drawn from the Suleman saga more to my own intense distaste for marketing. “Octomom,” with fourteen kids and counting, seems to have relied upon publicity as a means to financial support throughout her whole tawdry tale. I may find it even more distasteful than the thought of seeing her in a porn flick, but the idea that people who sell themselves successfully out-compete those with actual competence resonates with the whole of my life experience. As Suleman has bounced from one instance of publicity to another, she may not have developed a positive or even sympathetic image, but she has somehow kept herself and her fourteen children fed, clothed, and housed without any traditional means of gainful employment.

Dubious though it may be, that’s an accomplishment. And we may expect that Suleman’s prospects will continue to outshine mine for some time yet to come. That should turn a spotlight more on our society than upon an obviously disturbed woman.

(UPDATE: A more complete account of Suleman’s situation, including something of how public opinion turned against her is available in this CTV News story.)

Betraying women again

At this writing, it appears that the House will approve the health care bill (UPDATE: it passed) that has been at the putative center of controversy around Obama’s presidency. I use the qualifier, putative, because as it appeared to me before, and as others have suspected, at least some tea partiers have confirmed that racism and gay-baiting are at the core of their protests.

But if racism is held in abeyance on this occasion, Obama has once again betrayed women. His comments about late term abortion were the final straw that convinced me that I couldn’t vote for him in 2008. And he has made a deal with Bart Stupak today to issue an executive order which “provides additional safeguards to ensure that the status quo [the Hyde amendment] is upheld and enforced, and that the health care legislation’s restrictions against the public funding of abortions cannot be circumvented.” Bart Stupak has something of an obsession about controlling women’s bodies.

That means that the barely better Nelson language in the Senate bill stands. As Vania Laveille of the ACLU put it,

The Nelson language is yet another attempt to impede a woman’s right to make private health care decisions. It will further stigmatize abortion and create a needless barricade for women to access comprehensive health care. Women will be required, every month, to make unnecessary dual health care payments to ensure they have the coverage they need. The Nelson language will, in effect, create a redundant and separate health care system for women.

Laveille points to the fact that only women will need to purchase this coverage. And to do so–assuming she has the foresight–is tantamount to an admission both to self and to health insurance company that the woman, never the man, is engaging in unprotected sex or is relying on birth control methods which may fail. As Martin Donohoe points out,

Most patients pay out of pocket [for abortions]. Only 26% of abortions are billed directly to public or private insurance. Most insured patients are reluctant to file claims because of concerns about confidentiality. Some health plans cover sterilization but not abortion, leaving poor women in the unenviable position of having to choose sterilization if they lack the resources for adequate contraception. . . .

The Nelson amendment further stigmatizes an already stigmatized procedure that is already hard to get in many areas:

Over one third of US women live in the 87% of counties in the United States, including 30% of metropolitan areas, that have no abortion provider. The situation is worst in rural areas. Only 1800 physicians provided abortion services in 2000, down 11% from 2400 in 1996. Only 12% of obstetrics and gynecology residency programs required abortion training in the mid-1990s, down from 25% in 1985. More recently, Espey and colleagues conducted a survey on abortion education throughout the 4 years of medical school. The results show that abortion education remains limited in US medical schools.

If, as opponents claim, women who have abortions are more likely to suffer depression, these facts can only serve to increase the trauma. Thank you, Obama, for making it even worse.

(UPDATE: Chris Hedges comments on other aspects of the package; Marcy Wheeler’s explains how health insurance costs will affect families under the plan.)

Getting it backwards on a right to work

I started reading a book by Beverly Ryle, Ground of Your Own Choosing. It was suggested to me by one of the career counselors I contacted looking for someone who would break a job hunt paradigm of chasing thunderstorms and hoping to be struck by lightning. She offers compelling arguments for why the old way of job hunting is futile and argues for an entrepreneurial approach to one’s career.

It won’t work for me.

The key is in the word entrepreneurship. I have not only spent my entire life being burnt by capitalism, but I have come to understand it as deeply and fundamentally immoral. Any system of exchange privileges parties most able to say no, that is, those most able to decline potential deals. This exacerbates rather than diminishes differences in wealth.

But Ryle is advocating different ways to fit in as a cog in the corporate wheel. She dismisses the enormous advantage that the wealthy have in this game, writing instead that the times call for us to return to an old workplace ethic of craftspeople who retain their independence as vendors and service providers. Without explanation, she sees this as equalizing.

But it does not equalize. Moreover, by converting people into so-called “free agents,” it enslaves them to a nightmarish burden of operating a small business. You still work for others and you are still subordinate to them, but now you must juggle this with business licensing and taxation requirements that no so-called independent business person would describe as liberating.

Worse, it requires people to market themselves even more intensely than they would in the process of begging for a job. Not only am I not a marketing person, but I deeply despise marketing. Ars Technica’s argument that ad blocking devastates the revenue streams of web sites people visit does not move me. I am unwilling even to be subject to marketing, let alone to be a participant in it, even on my own behalf.

The idea that I should have to market myself is so profoundly revolting that it evokes, unfairly perhaps, a sensation of rape. I am being compelled to do that which I despise. And just as surely as anti-abortion advocates would compel a woman to carry a pregnancy to term, taking her body for their own purposes for a protracted length of time, the concept of marketing myself, even for my own benefit, amounts to a profound betrayal of my own values that obscures a benefit which, in any event, never seems to materialize–and I’ve been butting my head against this economic system for over thirty years.

No matter how Ryle seeks to dress it up, any system of exchange is an exploitation of the poor that makes us poorer. I am not a capitalist. I do not wish to become one. Nor do I wish to participate in any fantasy of equality of opportunity.

In an odd way, I am reminded of Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals. Alinsky uses an example of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, a document which omitted the benefits of British colonization, to argue that movements for change must deceive by omission in order to keep their messages simple. Ryle instead seeks to uphold the status quo not merely by omitting a description of its injustice, but by criticizing those who, in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, insist that they “deserve” a job. In fact, under the Declaration,

Article 23.

  1. Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
  2. Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
  3. Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
  4. Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

As I described last year how politicians would have it,

We are not entitled to those rights enshrined beginning with Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that the United States ratified under a constitution whose Article 6 enshrines treaties with the highest law in the land and whose ninth amendment states that “[t]he enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people,” like perhaps those rights our politicians agreed to in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Am I entitled? Damn right, I am. But for insisting on my rights, Ryle casts me as evading responsibility. And she immunizes those who not only have the ability to fulfill their obligations but have acknowledged their obligations. Ryle thus gets it entirely backwards.

With allies like Israel, who needs enemies?

Let us begin from the proposition that United States support for Israel is based on ideology rather than on informed or even elite opinion. A survey of Council on Foreign Relations members taken by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press showed that “two-thirds (67%) of Council members say that, historically, U.S. policies have favored Israel too much; just 24% believe America’s policies have been balanced.”

Further, support for Israel is repeatedly cited by those the U.S. labels as terrorists who believe the West is anti-Islamic. Indeed, Osama bin Laden used this to attract support, saying in an interview, “The U.S. government will lead the American people and the West in general will enter an unbearable hell and a choking life because the Western leadership acts under the Zionist lobby’s influence for the purpose of serving Israel, which kills our sons unlawfully in order for them to remain in their leadership positions.” According to STRATFOR, a video released by al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula on January 24, 2009, “threatens so-called ‘crusader forces’ supporting the regional Muslim leaders, and promises to carry the jihad from the Arabian Peninsula to Israel so as to liberate Muslim holy sites and brethren in Gaza.”

The salience of this is reinforced by Osama bin Laden’s abjectly failed attempts at insurrections in Egypt and Algeria. Muslim fundamentalism did not work for bin Laden. But, at least partly due to neoconservatives’ manipulations, attacks on powers blamed for supporting Israel have had a different outcome.

Whatever we may think of al Qaeda‘s motives, there can be little question that the war “on terror” which began in the wake of the 9/11 attacks could be perceived as a crusade. The war has expanded from Afghanistan to Iraq to Pakistan to Somalia and to Sudan to Yemen, all countries with substantial Muslim populations. Indeed, in The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot, Naomi Wolf cites many actions in the name of this war which targeted Muslims among the evidence for her thesis that the U.S. is shifting towards fascism. As David Cole observed in 2006, “the administration subjected 80,000 Arab and Muslim immigrants to fingerprinting and registration, sought out 8,000 Arab and Muslim men for FBI interviews, and imprisoned over 5,000 foreign nationals in antiterrorism preventive detention initiatives.” And as I wrote in January,

In Cairo, Barack Obama said of relations between the U.S. and Islam that “this cycle of suspicion and discord must end,” that he had “come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition.” But one of my former professors, Agha Saeed, chairman of the American Muslim Alliance, had his briefcase “stolen” and quickly recovered but returned only after an inspection of its contents which lasted several days–because he is Muslim; his video studio was apparently subjected to a sneak-and-peak search (a burglary committed by law enforcement and sanctioned under the Patriot Act); and partly as a result, his organization joined in a nationwide call for Muslims to limit their cooperation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. As many Muslims around the world now understand, the al Qaeda casting of the so-called “War on Terror” as a war on Islam in fact bears at least some truth. And what many of the rest of us need to understand is that this war is in fact a revival of the Crusades, that NATO soldiers in Afghanistan and remaining “coalition of the willing” soldiers in Iraq die not just for empire and not just for oil, but for Christianity and for Zionism.

U.S. foreign policy towards Muslims is often associated with a need to control oil resources; the fact that so much oil lies in Muslim countries contributes to a cynicism about U.S. motives which the U.S. appeared to confirm with its support for an oil law in Iraq that favored multinational corporations. But the U.S. has also formed alliances with wealthy oil producing countries along the Persian Gulf which undermine the notion that the addiction to oil which even then-President George W. Bush criticized in 2006 must always lead to colonial relationships. The fact of these alliances raises questions about the potential nature of relationships with the broader Muslim oil-producing world in the absence of Israeli provocation.

In this light, the apparent cost of U.S. policy towards Israel rises considerably. It includes the post-9/11 war. And it does not include progress towards peace. As a Congressional report noted,

The use of foreign aid to help accelerate the Middle East peace process has had mixed results.
The promise of U.S. assistance to Israel and Egypt during peace negotiations in the late 1970s enabled both countries to take the risks needed for peace, and may have helped convince them that the United States was committed to supporting their peace efforts. Promoting Israeli-Palestinian peace has proven to be a far greater challenge for U.S. policy makers, as most analysts consider foreign aid to be tangential to solving complex territorial issues and overcoming deeply rooted mistrust sown over decades.

Critics of U.S. aid policy, particularly some in the Middle East, argue that U.S. foreign aid exacerbates tensions in the region. Many Arab commentators insist that U.S. assistance to Israel indirectly causes suffering to Palestinians by supporting Israeli arms purchases.

Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s incursion into the Gaza Strip, to which the Goldstone report attributed massive human rights violations, lent considerable support to the claims of those Arab commentators. And that Cast Lead is far from the only source of complaints about the Israeli occupation completes the connection between U.S. aid for Israel and the war on so-called terror.

U.S. military aid to Israel was to amount to $2.7 billion in fiscal year 2010 and $2.85 billion in fiscal year 2011. A considerable portion of the justification for the outsized U.S. military budget of $680 billion in fiscal year 2010 must be attributed to the only tangible external threat: so-called terrorism. By way of comparison, China, according the the State Department, the next largest military spender in the world after the U.S., spends a mere $65 per capita on its armed forces. According to the same report, the U.S. spends $1,700.

China, a regional superpower, faces potential conflicts over Taiwan and its boundary with India. It invaded Vietnam in the wake of the latter’s invasion of Cambodia. It was North Korea’s ally in the Korean War. In the absence of U.S. involvement, particularly with Taiwan and South Korea, it might need to spend even less.

But the U.S. should consider how much of the difference between that $1,700 per capita and that $65 per capita is due to its support for Israel and to an ideology that emphasizes military spending. In light of a brutal recession creating long-term unemployment and a so-called recovery that at the least leaves considerable “slack” in the economy and in fact raises questions about the veracity of GDP measurements, and in light of continued economic growth in China, it is more than fair to question U.S. national priorities.

If the U.S. were spending on defense at the rate China is, its military budget for 2010 would have been $26 billion rather than $680 billion. If we were to divide the $654 billion difference among the over 20 million people who would be employed if we sustained the rate at the peak of the dot-com boom, it would allow each over $32,000. That would be a decent start towards a guaranteed minimum income in a country where jobs aren’t coming back. It would be a far more effective allocation of money than the bank bailout.

But I guess Israel is worth it.

UPDATED: Is this a lot of major earthquakes?

I probably over-reacted. But this table is from the United States Geological Survey from when I first wrote this:

y/m/d h:m:s
6.1 2010/03/04 01:59:51 -33.154 -72.064 34.4 OFFSHORE VALPARAISO, CHILE
6.4 2010/03/04 00:18:52 22.903 120.823 23.1 TAIWAN
5.1 2010/03/03 21:24:03 -38.465 -73.696 35.0 OFFSHORE ARAUCANIA, CHILE
5.6 2010/03/03 19:58:29 -33.463 -71.825 28.7 OFFSHORE VALPARAISO, CHILE
6.0 2010/03/03 17:44:25 -36.452 -73.069 19.0 OFFSHORE BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.0 2010/03/03 11:13:58 3.160 127.084 64.5 KEPULAUAN TALAUD, INDONESIA
5.1 2010/03/03 06:16:23 -33.620 -71.959 35.0 OFFSHORE VALPARAISO, CHILE
5.1 2010/03/03 04:36:00 -37.527 -73.773 30.2 OFFSHORE BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.4 2010/03/03 01:51:21 -34.966 -72.671 35.0 OFFSHORE MAULE, CHILE
5.2 2010/03/02 22:18:42 3.528 126.917 67.4 KEPULAUAN TALAUD, INDONESIA
5.2 2010/03/02 21:56:43 -30.212 -68.909 33.7 SAN JUAN, ARGENTINA
5.1 2010/03/02 19:12:56 -34.253 -72.112 41.3 OFFSHORE LIBERTADOR O’HIGGINS, CHILE
5.0 2010/03/02 17:57:02 -33.841 -72.123 26.8 OFFSHORE VALPARAISO, CHILE
5.2 2010/03/02 12:16:36 -36.451 -73.277 35.0 OFFSHORE BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.0 2010/03/02 11:42:36 -35.072 -72.000 35.0 MAULE, CHILE
5.3 2010/03/02 11:30:32 -35.203 -72.638 35.0 OFFSHORE MAULE, CHILE
5.3 2010/03/02 10:42:24 -10.411 166.244 232.3 SANTA CRUZ ISLANDS
5.1 2010/03/02 09:44:57 -34.062 -73.263 35.0 OFF COAST OF LIBERTADOR O’HIGGINS, CHILE
5.1 2010/03/02 08:21:44 26.092 128.318 27.3 RYUKYU ISLANDS, JAPAN
5.5 2010/03/02 06:10:54 -34.454 -72.471 35.0 OFFSHORE LIBERTADOR O’HIGGINS, CHILE
5.1 2010/03/02 04:28:46 -36.666 -73.372 39.2 OFFSHORE BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.1 2010/03/02 04:09:29 -35.884 -73.502 35.0 OFFSHORE BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.0 2010/03/02 03:48:37 -33.774 -71.669 26.0 VALPARAISO, CHILE
5.0 2010/03/02 03:44:58 -34.473 -72.625 27.2 OFFSHORE LIBERTADOR O’HIGGINS, CHILE
5.8 2010/03/02 02:51:24 18.238 122.487 29.6 LUZON, PHILIPPINES
5.3 2010/03/02 02:09:35 -39.797 -71.242 18.5 NEUQUEN, ARGENTINA
5.0 2010/03/02 01:55:39 42.542 75.584 17.4 KYRGYZSTAN
5.0 2010/03/01 21:51:03 -33.762 -71.201 48.4 REGION METROPOLITANA, CHILE
5.0 2010/03/01 17:23:33 -34.795 -73.924 19.2 OFF COAST OF LIBERTADOR O’HIGGINS, CHILE
5.2 2010/03/01 16:56:50 -36.305 -72.479 35.0 BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.3 2010/03/01 14:36:30 -34.359 -73.432 30.1 OFF COAST OF LIBERTADOR O’HIGGINS, CHILE
5.3 2010/03/01 12:27:16 -34.216 -71.821 35.0 LIBERTADOR O’HIGGINS, CHILE
5.2 2010/03/01 12:20:19 -34.513 -73.636 35.0 OFF COAST OF LIBERTADOR O’HIGGINS, CHILE
5.3 2010/03/01 08:58:34 -37.701 -74.390 35.0 OFFSHORE BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.3 2010/03/01 07:49:08 -34.997 -72.861 35.0 OFFSHORE MAULE, CHILE
5.0 2010/03/01 06:24:59 32.347 105.178 36.2 SICHUAN-GANSU BORDER REGION, CHINA
5.1 2010/03/01 06:16:12 -37.581 -74.531 35.0 OFFSHORE BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.2 2010/03/01 05:30:36 -34.451 -73.481 35.0 OFF COAST OF LIBERTADOR O’HIGGINS, CHILE
5.0 2010/03/01 03:53:16 -38.638 -73.122 35.0 ARAUCANIA, CHILE
5.2 2010/03/01 03:15:58 25.995 128.363 19.9 RYUKYU ISLANDS, JAPAN
5.2 2010/03/01 03:15:51 7.144 126.423 7.2 MINDANAO, PHILIPPINES
5.1 2010/03/01 03:07:51 -36.125 -72.796 40.0 BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.8 2010/03/01 02:44:43 -35.095 -72.608 26.0 OFFSHORE MAULE, CHILE
5.4 2010/03/01 01:10:58 -35.163 -71.704 42.6 MAULE, CHILE
5.0 2010/03/01 00:01:27 -38.306 -73.746 35.0 OFFSHORE BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.1 2010/02/28 23:49:05 -37.355 -72.952 35.0 BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.0 2010/02/28 23:45:06 -35.275 -72.257 34.9 MAULE, CHILE
5.0 2010/02/28 22:41:29 -36.840 -73.528 26.5 OFFSHORE BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.1 2010/02/28 22:07:48 39.508 140.426 124.4 EASTERN HONSHU, JAPAN
5.9 2010/02/28 19:48:39 -38.054 -73.525 35.0 OFFSHORE BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.1 2010/02/28 18:44:31 -36.630 -72.506 35.0 BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.0 2010/02/28 18:19:53 -34.845 -71.605 35.0 LIBERTADOR O’HIGGINS, CHILE
5.4 2010/02/28 16:13:49 -58.242 -8.005 35.0 EAST OF THE SOUTH SANDWICH ISLANDS
5.2 2010/02/28 15:46:25 -35.330 -72.165 28.7 MAULE, CHILE
5.0 2010/02/28 15:26:55 -35.085 -72.061 29.6 MAULE, CHILE
5.1 2010/02/28 14:55:25 -33.880 -73.286 32.7 OFF THE COAST OF VALPARAISO, CHILE
5.2 2010/02/28 14:50:33 -33.844 -73.191 26.0 OFF THE COAST OF VALPARAISO, CHILE
5.0 2010/02/28 13:47:06 -35.328 -72.918 35.0 OFFSHORE MAULE, CHILE
5.2 2010/02/28 12:18:59 -38.129 -73.341 26.5 BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.1 2010/02/28 12:13:27 2.146 98.906 51.3 NORTHERN SUMATRA, INDONESIA
5.0 2010/02/28 12:01:15 -35.809 -72.786 35.0 OFFSHORE MAULE, CHILE
5.2 2010/02/28 11:50:36 -35.067 -72.730 20.0 OFFSHORE MAULE, CHILE
6.2 2010/02/28 11:25:36 -34.864 -71.571 46.0 LIBERTADOR O’HIGGINS, CHILE
5.0 2010/02/28 11:14:27 -35.324 -72.655 35.0 OFFSHORE MAULE, CHILE
5.1 2010/02/28 10:43:11 -38.408 -75.219 35.0 OFF THE COAST OF ARAUCANIA, CHILE
5.3 2010/02/28 10:26:53 -1.110 -80.310 40.8 NEAR THE COAST OF ECUADOR
5.0 2010/02/28 10:11:07 -33.910 -72.030 35.0 OFFSHORE LIBERTADOR O’HIGGINS, CHILE
5.2 2010/02/28 09:14:54 -33.593 -71.765 35.0 OFFSHORE VALPARAISO, CHILE
5.6 2010/02/28 08:17:45 34.867 141.444 10.0 OFF THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
5.0 2010/02/28 08:07:46 -35.182 -72.517 35.0 OFFSHORE MAULE, CHILE
5.0 2010/02/28 07:36:30 -37.763 -73.141 35.0 BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.1 2010/02/28 07:14:21 -38.345 -73.514 35.0 OFFSHORE ARAUCANIA, CHILE
5.3 2010/02/28 05:19:35 -37.705 -73.412 35.0 BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.3 2010/02/28 05:13:59 -37.458 -73.014 35.0 BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.0 2010/02/28 05:04:06 -35.232 -71.214 35.0 MAULE, CHILE
5.3 2010/02/28 04:55:49 -33.925 -71.945 35.0 OFFSHORE LIBERTADOR O’HIGGINS, CHILE
5.0 2010/02/28 04:29:12 -34.905 -69.631 35.0 MENDOZA, ARGENTINA
5.0 2010/02/28 04:17:52 -34.723 -72.183 35.0 OFFSHORE MAULE, CHILE
5.2 2010/02/28 03:33:50 25.952 128.385 35.0 RYUKYU ISLANDS, JAPAN
5.2 2010/02/28 03:23:49 -37.681 -73.533 35.0 BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.1 2010/02/28 03:14:12 -33.959 -73.195 35.0 OFF THE COAST OF VALPARAISO, CHILE
5.1 2010/02/28 02:51:47 25.994 128.394 35.0 RYUKYU ISLANDS, JAPAN
5.1 2010/02/28 02:41:10 -38.054 -73.213 35.0 BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.4 2010/02/28 02:38:32 -38.243 -73.672 35.0 OFFSHORE BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.0 2010/02/28 02:04:29 -34.610 -73.532 35.0 OFF COAST OF LIBERTADOR O’HIGGINS, CHILE
5.2 2010/02/28 01:58:50 -34.876 -72.646 35.0 OFFSHORE MAULE, CHILE
5.2 2010/02/28 01:45:29 -34.436 -73.728 35.0 OFF COAST OF LIBERTADOR O’HIGGINS, CHILE
5.3 2010/02/28 01:33:12 -36.600 -72.771 35.0 BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.3 2010/02/28 01:20:35 25.973 128.353 35.0 RYUKYU ISLANDS, JAPAN
5.5 2010/02/28 01:08:24 -34.113 -71.947 35.0 LIBERTADOR O’HIGGINS, CHILE
5.3 2010/02/28 01:01:12 -36.791 -73.352 35.0 OFFSHORE BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.1 2010/02/28 00:53:34 -37.949 -73.659 35.0 OFFSHORE BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.3 2010/02/28 00:00:49 -36.573 -73.279 35.0 OFFSHORE BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.2 2010/02/27 23:35:15 -33.867 -72.226 34.8 OFFSHORE LIBERTADOR O’HIGGINS, CHILE
5.7 2010/02/27 23:21:13 35.912 70.051 104.9 HINDU KUSH REGION, AFGHANISTAN
5.8 2010/02/27 23:12:35 -34.741 -71.864 35.0 LIBERTADOR O’HIGGINS, CHILE
5.8 2010/02/27 23:02:01 -37.755 -72.713 35.2 ARAUCANIA, CHILE
5.2 2010/02/27 22:22:33 -34.072 -71.308 35.0 REGION METROPOLITANA, CHILE
5.1 2010/02/27 22:20:04 -35.094 -72.712 35.0 OFFSHORE MAULE, CHILE
5.2 2010/02/27 22:16:15 -36.491 -73.380 35.0 OFFSHORE BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.0 2010/02/27 22:13:52 -34.437 -72.531 35.0 OFFSHORE LIBERTADOR O’HIGGINS, CHILE
5.2 2010/02/27 21:59:08 -36.794 -73.311 34.8 OFFSHORE BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.0 2010/02/27 21:48:26 -33.968 -72.140 28.6 OFFSHORE LIBERTADOR O’HIGGINS, CHILE
5.2 2010/02/27 21:43:11 -35.131 -72.450 35.0 OFFSHORE MAULE, CHILE
5.2 2010/02/27 21:00:37 -33.855 -73.028 35.0 OFF THE COAST OF VALPARAISO, CHILE
5.0 2010/02/27 20:44:34 -37.893 -73.423 35.0 BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.0 2010/02/27 20:37:41 -37.532 -73.580 35.0 BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.0 2010/02/27 20:29:23 -34.689 -73.621 35.0 OFF COAST OF LIBERTADOR O’HIGGINS, CHILE
5.4 2010/02/27 19:54:30 10.896 -43.442 10.0 NORTHERN MID-ATLANTIC RIDGE
5.0 2010/02/27 19:46:10 -36.090 -73.332 35.0 OFFSHORE BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.2 2010/02/27 19:06:18 -37.473 -73.502 35.0 BIO-BIO, CHILE
6.3 2010/02/27 19:00:08 -33.425 -71.909 34.8 OFFSHORE VALPARAISO, CHILE
5.1 2010/02/27 18:41:51 -37.581 -73.501 34.9 BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.3 2010/02/27 18:23:12 -37.618 -73.818 35.0 OFFSHORE BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.6 2010/02/27 18:15:23 -37.527 -73.696 20.8 OFFSHORE BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.1 2010/02/27 18:12:51 -33.856 -71.754 35.0 VALPARAISO, CHILE
5.3 2010/02/27 17:56:53 -34.688 -71.571 35.0 LIBERTADOR O’HIGGINS, CHILE
5.5 2010/02/27 17:43:37 -36.453 -72.978 35.0 OFFSHORE BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.0 2010/02/27 17:40:10 -33.357 -71.918 4.2 OFFSHORE VALPARAISO, CHILE
6.0 2010/02/27 17:24:31 -36.318 -73.156 19.0 OFFSHORE BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.5 2010/02/27 17:11:49 -33.953 -71.796 35.0 LIBERTADOR O’HIGGINS, CHILE
5.2 2010/02/27 16:50:20 -34.162 -72.010 35.0 LIBERTADOR O’HIGGINS, CHILE
5.5 2010/02/27 16:37:34 -37.509 -73.605 35.0 OFFSHORE BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.2 2010/02/27 16:32:21 -34.986 -72.356 35.0 OFFSHORE MAULE, CHILE
5.5 2010/02/27 16:27:58 -37.820 -73.404 35.0 BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.5 2010/02/27 16:21:14 -38.266 -73.434 35.0 BIO-BIO, CHILE
6.3 2010/02/27 15:45:36 -24.674 -65.403 9.5 SALTA, ARGENTINA
5.1 2010/02/27 15:23:06 -34.528 -74.987 35.0 OFF COAST OF LIBERTADOR O’HIGGINS, CHILE
5.2 2010/02/27 15:09:08 -33.890 -71.268 35.0 REGION METROPOLITANA, CHILE
5.1 2010/02/27 14:41:51 -35.678 -72.521 35.0 MAULE, CHILE
5.2 2010/02/27 14:23:28 -34.505 -72.596 35.0 OFFSHORE LIBERTADOR O’HIGGINS, CHILE
5.0 2010/02/27 14:20:00 -37.274 -73.062 35.0 BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.0 2010/02/27 14:06:47 -37.288 -72.835 35.0 BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.2 2010/02/27 13:54:04 -33.269 -71.834 35.0 OFFSHORE VALPARAISO, CHILE
5.0 2010/02/27 13:12:52 -35.014 -71.660 35.0 MAULE, CHILE
5.1 2010/02/27 13:07:42 -38.436 -73.254 35.0 ARAUCANIA, CHILE
5.1 2010/02/27 12:58:33 -33.443 -70.944 35.0 REGION METROPOLITANA, CHILE
5.1 2010/02/27 12:46:19 -37.699 -73.681 35.0 OFFSHORE BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.1 2010/02/27 12:44:50 -36.999 -73.038 35.0 BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.0 2010/02/27 12:23:06 -36.253 -72.266 35.0 BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.2 2010/02/27 12:19:51 25.979 128.434 9.9 RYUKYU ISLANDS, JAPAN
5.5 2010/02/27 12:03:27 -34.399 -73.825 35.0 OFF COAST OF LIBERTADOR O’HIGGINS, CHILE
5.4 2010/02/27 11:45:03 -36.318 -73.216 35.0 OFFSHORE BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.3 2010/02/27 11:27:00 -38.103 -73.587 35.0 OFFSHORE BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.4 2010/02/27 10:54:24 -36.828 -73.336 35.0 OFFSHORE BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.9 2010/02/27 10:38:36 -38.019 -73.575 35.0 OFFSHORE BIO-BIO, CHILE
6.0 2010/02/27 10:30:33 -33.969 -72.879 35.0 OFFSHORE LIBERTADOR O’HIGGINS, CHILE
5.6 2010/02/27 10:10:15 -33.701 -72.184 35.0 OFFSHORE VALPARAISO, CHILE
5.8 2010/02/27 09:59:21 -37.991 -73.467 35.0 BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.1 2010/02/27 09:21:26 -36.609 -73.218 35.0 OFFSHORE BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.6 2010/02/27 09:00:18 -33.425 -71.625 35.0 VALPARAISO, CHILE
5.3 2010/02/27 08:53:57 -34.447 -73.397 35.0 OFF COAST OF LIBERTADOR O’HIGGINS, CHILE
5.0 2010/02/27 08:53:27 -35.073 -71.760 35.0 MAULE, CHILE
5.6 2010/02/27 08:48:05 -38.584 -75.257 35.0 OFF THE COAST OF ARAUCANIA, CHILE
5.7 2010/02/27 08:31:05 -34.820 -72.443 35.0 OFFSHORE MAULE, CHILE
6.1 2010/02/27 08:25:30 -34.750 -72.394 35.0 OFFSHORE MAULE, CHILE
5.5 2010/02/27 08:19:24 -33.479 -71.574 35.0 VALPARAISO, CHILE
5.6 2010/02/27 08:13:16 -33.062 -71.702 35.0 OFFSHORE VALPARAISO, CHILE
6.9 2010/02/27 08:01:24 -37.654 -75.199 39.0 OFF THE COAST OF BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.4 2010/02/27 07:59:56 -36.050 -73.562 35.0 OFFSHORE BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.2 2010/02/27 07:56:37 -36.933 -73.240 35.0 OFFSHORE BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.4 2010/02/27 07:51:06 -36.399 -72.498 35.0 BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.4 2010/02/27 07:46:50 -36.795 -72.924 35.0 BIO-BIO, CHILE
6.0 2010/02/27 07:37:18 -36.837 -72.541 35.0 BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.6 2010/02/27 07:33:31 -38.007 -73.484 35.7 OFFSHORE BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.4 2010/02/27 07:19:49 -35.811 -72.945 35.0 OFFSHORE MAULE, CHILE
6.0 2010/02/27 07:12:29 -33.807 -71.913 35.0 OFFSHORE VALPARAISO, CHILE
6.2 2010/02/27 06:52:35 -34.735 -72.638 35.0 OFFSHORE MAULE, CHILE
8.8 2010/02/27 06:34:15 -35.846 -72.719 35.0 OFFSHORE MAULE, CHILE
5.1 2010/02/27 00:48:46 25.989 128.510 32.8 RYUKYU ISLANDS, JAPAN
7.0 2010/02/26 20:31:27 25.902 128.417 22.0 RYUKYU ISLANDS, JAPAN
5.1 2010/02/26 16:18:57 5.842 125.792 53.7 MINDANAO, PHILIPPINES
5.7 2010/02/26 08:37:03 6.394 126.805 117.3 MINDANAO, PHILIPPINES
5.4 2010/02/26 04:42:30 28.432 86.769 10.0 WESTERN XIZANG
5.0 2010/02/26 04:41:29 0.892 123.194 66.6 MINAHASA, SULAWESI, INDONESIA
5.5 2010/02/26 01:07:58 23.782 122.839 34.7 TAIWAN REGION
5.5 2010/02/26 00:11:51 -55.882 -5.052 6.0 SOUTHERN MID-ATLANTIC RIDGE
5.0 2010/02/25 11:26:36 -23.765 -175.713 107.0 TONGA REGION
5.2 2010/02/25 08:03:41 51.703 -176.019 42.2 ANDREANOF ISLANDS, ALEUTIAN IS., ALASKA

After four headline-making earthquakes so early in 2010, in Eureka (California), Haiti, Chile, and now Taiwan, I’m remembering a passage from Fritjof Capra, The Web of Life: A New Scientific Understanding of Living systems. He is discussing “whether the Gaia system can indeed be described as autopoietic,” meaning that the organization of the components of the earth regenerates the components:

The Gaia system is also clearly self-generating [one of three criteria proposed by Gail Fleischaker]. The planetary metabolism converts inorganic substances into organic, living matter and back into soil, oceans and air. All components of the Gaian network, including those of its atmospheric boundary, are produced by processes within the network.

A key characteristic on Gaia is the complex interweaving of living and nonliving systems within a single web. This results in feedback loops of vastly differing scales. Rock cycles, for example extend over hundreds of millions of years, while the organisms associated with them have very short life spans. In the metaphor of Stephan Harding, ecologist and collaborator of James Lovelock: “living beings come out of rocks and go back into rocks.”

How could this lead to earthquakes?

When the algae die, their shells rain down to the ocean floor, where they form massive sediments of limestone( another form of calcium carbonate). Because of their enormous weight, the limestone sediments gradually sink into the mantle of the Earth and melt and may even trigger the movements of tectonic plates. Eventually some of the CO2 contained in the molten rocks is spewed out again by volcanoes and sent on another round in the great Gaian cycle.

My thinking on this is hazy. But we have entered a massive species die-off, due to a number of factors–many man-made. As the death toll rises and other factors involved–global warming; tundra, seabed, and glacial melt; and atmospheric composition changes–play out, well, it just seems like we’re having an awful lot of big earthquakes lately.

There’s no good way to tell. That the number of seismographs has increased dramatically means that more earthquakes will be detected. Probably strong earthquakes will be detected regardless, and the U.S.G.S. claims those have remained relatively constant. I’ll have to take their word for it.

But the passages I’ve taken from Fritjof Capra are in his explanation of complexity theory. He makes a compelling case for it. In any discussion of climate change, it is increasingly apparent that we should be looking at cascading effects, like global warming replacing highly reflective ice surfaces with more heat-absorbing land and ocean surfaces leading to more global warming, like global warming leading to increased methane releases leading to more global warming, and like global warming leading to low oxygen “dead zones” in the Pacific that kill aquatic animal life, presumably including algae, and definitely including (bottom dwelling) shell fish, which I’m guessing can produce a similar effect to the dead algae shells that Capra describes.

Scientists are unsure how low oxygen levels will affect the ocean ecosystem. Bottom-dwelling species could be at the greatest risk because they move slowly and might not be able to escape the lower oxygen levels. Most fish can swim out of danger. Some species, however, such as chinook salmon, may have to start swimming at shallower depths than they’re used to. Whether the low oxygen zones will change salmon migration routes is unclear.

Some species, such as jellyfish, will like the lower-oxygen water. Jumbo squid, usually found off Mexico and Central America, can survive as oxygen levels decrease and now are found as far north as Alaska.

Are the powerful earthquakes we’ve experienced this year the result of climate change? I’ll be so bold as to say probably not. Could they be in the future? They very well might be.