Sunday, December 24, 2017

The 'Russian' Truth?

Lee Camp Takes Christmas to Task - on RT

Funny stuff! Lee Camp, recent target of corporate NPR and the new McCarthyism. 

"The Hidden Truth of Christmas" on  'Redacted Tonight.'  Search on You Tube.

"Russian Hippy Communist who Swears" - U.S. Govt

 Or click on:

Friday, December 22, 2017

Einstein's Ghost

“The Philosophy of Space-Time – Whence Come Matter & Motion?” and “The Dialectical Universe – Some Reflections on Cosmology,” both by Abdul  Malek, P.H.D., 2016 & 2012.

These two somewhat odd books by a Bangladeshi / Canadian scientist concern the flaws in the ideas of the modern scientific establishment centering around Albert Einstein’s idealist theories of the universe.  Why does it matter?

Philosophy is not practiced in the U.S., at least not openly.  We – and I mean most working class people - are all supposed to be ‘pragmatists’ only interested in where the next paycheck is coming from. And capital hopes you keep thinking that way!  But capital has a philosophy for you.  Being passive and depoliticized is a result of individualist pragmatism, but it also deprives people of an overall understanding of how reality, including society, works.  The rulers, however, do not labor under misunderstandings or partial views.

The point of philosophy is to actually understand reality as closely as possible – and not just the reality near you, but all of it, even up to the universe we live in.  As Malek points out, the microcosm and the macrocosm are actually related, connected and operated by many of the same physical and organizational laws.  Einstein’s General Relativity (GR) on the other hand, and the theories that are based on General Relativity, like the “Big Bang,” and a promised “Theory of Everything,” actually deny this connection.  “Spacetime” glibly rolls off the tongues of NPR hosts and the pens of Guardian writers, and multi-billion dollar experiments are run to prove GR, but proofs are tenuous or missing completely.   Which is why a TV show and a movie are about the only concrete result so far, in spite of the billions of dollars spent and the millions of words spilled. 

Cuddly Genius - but wrong.
Taking on Einstein is supposed to guarantee that no one listens to you, as Einstein is now a ‘god,’ not a real figure.   Or as we sometimes say, a ‘sacred cow.’  Malek understands the latter well, being from Bangladesh.  It is to his credit that he goes straight at Einstein’s cosmological theories.  In these two thin books Malek gives a repetitive outline of the basic confrontation between materialism and idealism, which started with the Greek philosophers Heraclitus, Epicurus and Plato.  So this debate has been going on a long time.

Marx pointed out long ago that the ruling ideas of any social system are the ideas of its ruling class. This does not exempt science.  Especially the more ‘theoretical’ the science is or the less empirical evidence there is, the more it borrows from the ideology of the ruling class that dominates its social system.  Cosmology is just such a science.  Various varieties of idealism are now the present bourgeois philosophy, as they portray the world as still full of godlike ‘prime movers,’ unchanging in essence and not related to or controlled by material forces.
I am going to quote Einstein from Malek’s book, as the quotes reveal quite a bit about what is actually going on in his theory of “General Relativity,’ which is based on math calculations uniting ‘space and time’ into one geometric field.  Einstein’s flaws from a scientific and theoretical point of views seem to be obvious to this layman’s eye, but then I support dialectical materialism.  Marx and Engels actually opposed the ideas of cosmological entropy - heat death.  Marx, Engels and Lenin spent time analyzing science and scientific theories and methods, so for Marxists or indeed any socialist - philosophy, science, economics and politics are not disconnected.   I.E. this matters too.

“Since the theory of general relativity implies the representation of physical reality by a continuous field, the concept of particles and material points cannot play a fundamental part and neither can the concept of motion.” 
In effect, matter and motion are both effectively abolished by this theory.  Time seems to also be somewhat frozen in space.

“Our experience hitherto justifies us in believing that nature is the realization of the simplest conceivable mathematical ideas.  I am convinced that we can discover by means of purely mathematical constructions the concepts and the laws connecting them with each other, which furnish the key to the understanding of natural phenomena.  … In a certain sense, therefore, I hold it true that pure thought can grasp reality, as the ancients dreamed.” 
In effect, empirical evidence is not necessary.  Ancients = Plato.

“I consider it quite possible that physics cannot be based on the field concept, i.e., continuous structure.   In that case, nothing remains of my entire castle in the air, gravitation theory included, (and of) the rest of modern physics.”
In effect, Einstein doubts his own theory.

“Spacetime does not claim existence on its own but only as a structural quality of the (gravitational) field.” And “… time and space are modes by which we think and not conditions in which we live.”
In effect, contradictory!

“…geometry, however, is not concerned with the relation of the ideas involved in it to objects of experience, but only with the logical connection of these ideas among themselves.”
In effect, geometric theory is not connected to objective reality.  “Pure” mathematics is the source of the Theory of General Relativity.

Einstein himself ruled infinity out of his model, and he did it by fiat, since his model does not work in an infinite space or time.  Hence it also requires limits to the universe and a basic sense of causality for it all - a beginning and an end.  In effect, a ‘big bang’ and heat death.  Which also implies a prime mover, a god, which somehow starts the whole process, and who exists outside, above and before the universe.  It requires the 'heat death' of the universe, hence a judgement day of sorts.  Which is why the Vatican has endorsed GR, and religious people seem to be quite happy with it.  

Malek’s own quotes:
“Quantum electrodynamics … abolishes the questions of a single act of creation.”
“Causality … always leads to a ‘first cause.”
“Mathematics was a major preoccupation of medieval scholasticism and theocracy.” 
“…the Inquisition burnt Giordano Bruno alive on the stake for claiming that the universe is infinite.” 
“The pursuit of General Relativity, unlike many other scientific breakthroughs, has had very little practical benefit.” 

Malek was inspired by the scientific work of Halton Arp and Satyendra Bose.  Malek advances a theory of ‘gravitons’ as particles that are responsible for gravity, not a mysterious gravitational ‘ether’ as proposed by Einstein’s theory.   Malek shows that dialectics and materialism explain the nature of reality better and more simply than GR.  Dialectical materialism shows how the internal contradictions within matter create motion and change, in time and in space, both being infinite.  This means no Big Bang, no ‘god particle,’ and no possible ‘theory of everything,’ as reality is always changing.  Not a 'steady state' but a 'changing state' universe.  Thorough-going materialism does not break any 'lower' physical rules or laws - unlike GR - but in fact closely follows them. 

Malek tracks materialist and the idealist methods through the Greeks, the Romans, Kant, Spinoza, Hegel, Marx and Einstein.  The books are a somewhat difficult first contact on this issue, not very readable and some of it only scientists or mathematicians will understand, but the issue is important enough if you feel up to it.

For prior, more in-depth discussions of this topic, see prior reviews using blog search box, upper left: The Big Bang Never Happened,” “Big Bang Goes Boom!” “Reason in Revolt,” “The Big Bang Theory is a Situation Comedy,” “Ten Assumptions of Science” and "Ubiquity."

And I bought it at May Day Books!
Red Frog

December 22, 2017

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Punch ... the Time Clock

"Time Wars - The Primary Conflict in Human History" by Jeremy Rifkin, 1987

Rifkin is a former peacenik who has gone on to a career in the social sciences as an advisor to the EU, the UN and China, while penning influential books on the 'end of work' and a 'third industrial revolution' for a green economy.  His generally progressive credentials are rooted in social-democracy, which is both his strength and his weakness. 

This book written in Reagan time, with its somewhat bombastic assertion that 'time' is the primary contradiction in human history, rings of pop sociology.  Sort of an early progressive version of Malcolm Gladwell. The primary contradiction in human history is actually between classes.  But methods of time keeping are certainly essential to the understanding of historical economics. Rifkin's book sees the relationship while undermining its own case.
Yeah, you hate it...

Any proletarian knows that a certain attitude to time is how capitalist life is structured.  In the U.S. it is the alarm clock, the quick breakfast, the dash to the car or train or bus, the half hour lunch embedded in an 8.5 hour day, the dash home or to daycare or a second job.  Blue collar workers have time-clocks to look forward to.  White collar workers have time sheets if they are non-exempt.  White collar workers who are 'salaried' still have to do their 8 hours or more.  Our time is taken from us.  Just as we are robbed of surplus value, we are robbed of time.  You work 50 years and hope you live to retirement.  Where you might still might have to work again, and be 'on time.'  Nearly everyone in this society is time-pressed.

Those farmers and peasants who lost their land and were forced into the factories of early England had a very difficult transition adapting to the demand that they sit or stand in one place for 12 hours doing repetitive tasks.  That is one reason child labor took off - because children were more malleable than grown people who had known a certain amount of time freedom as farmers. These former farmers also resisted the destruction of religious holidays, which gave them more days off than the Ebenezer Scrooges of capital would allow in this time of the new Protestant 'work ethic.'  Newly inducted members of the proletariat from the global 'south' are now going through this same situation.  What happened in England so long ago has now spread world-wide.

Rifkin describes sequences of time that correspond to changes in the economic structure of society.  Natural biologic time ruled the period of hunter/gatherer societies, which lived by the seasons, by the sun and moon, by rain, wind and weather.  Time was essentially circular, though slow changes happened even in this allegedly circular environment.  Agricultural/slave societies were also based on this, but the ruling elite then introduced the calendar, which gave time a certain rhythm beyond biologic time, celebrating certain political or holy holidays each month or year.  These still returned over and over again, but the calendar extended time beyond natural cycles. This method was heavily adopted by medieval serfdom, which used the sacred Church calendar to control the peasantry and create 'sacred' time.  

Early capitalism adopted the clock from Benedictine monks, which allowed factory owners to regulate work efficiently, in a linear manner.  Large clocks were installed in the center of towns as secular monuments.  From this came a period where 'time is money.'  Then schedules were developed, which further structured time.  Now, in the hyper-capitalist environment of the world-wide market, the computer has introduced instantaneous 'nano-second' time. Store websites on a computer are open 24/7.  Capital can travel in seconds to different exchanges or banks, trades are made in seconds, corporations, millitaries, media and governments can communicate in seconds. 'Change for change's sake' seems to be the mantra, but beneath it is the search for profits.  Marx pointed out that capitalism naturally speeds everything up, and modern capital, with its ability to leap the earth like this, has reached its zenith regarding time racing. 

Rifkin is anti-Marxist of course, because Marx challenges his technologic idealism.  But Rifkin does see that it is not merely a practical issue.  He sees that the economic ideas of time are then translated into the philosophic world. Religious types continue to believe we live in a 'clock-work' universe, where the 'clockmaker' keeps things ticking.  Muslim lives are supposed to be controlled by a 'call to prayer' 5 times a day, starting very early.  You can see how this might be a problem in a fast-paced capitalist society not attuned to rural life.  Corporate executives work in airports at any time of day, but now their embrace of the 24/7 internet is called 'creative destruction.'

Yet Rifkin insists that each method of time-keeping created these different types of economy, not the other way around.  I.E. the clock created capital.  Capital did not seek out the clock.  He is essentially a somewhat religious anti-materialist and desperately tries to ignore his own history of time-keeping and its link to class structures and methods of production.  Rifkin advocates the 're-sacralization' of time, nostalgically wanting a return to a period of 'deep ecology' where nature is the only time-keeper, where time was circular.  Time unfortunately is the center of present and past social life, but the methods of time are decided by those in power.  And those in power are normally the ruling class in each society.  So control over time is one way that power is exercised in the interests of that ruling class. Human society will not go back to primitive communism unless all the productive forces on this planet are destroyed. So Rifkin's dream will never happen.

Class status is partly about how important your time is.  If you have money, you can hire others to do the drudgework.  The more 'time' you put in, the possiblities of your career increase.  Children suck time, so having them is a drag on careers, unless wifey stays home or nannies are present.  And of course, our time living on earth is limited, so 'time' hangs over us all. 

Rifkin does not address the nature of time in certain former workers' states, where the phrase 'You pretend to pay us, we pretend to work' had some relevance.  Most people in Russia or Central Europe did not break their backs at work, as the pace of work was much slower than in the capitalist 'West."  This was one of the benefits of not having a capitalist system. He also does not address the benefits of a workplace democratically controlled, such as co-ops that exist in various countries, which could adjust time standards to fit the needs of the people who work there.
We have an App for that...!

This book is dated, but Rifkin makes good predictions on where computers were going, hinting at the power corporations and governments had using them.  He describes the computer-generated philosophy that 'information' is at the heart of all processes, biologic and otherwise, where negative feedback guides machines.  The body is a mere information storage system.  This mechanical view of the natural world has been christened 'cybernetics.' Time is no longer linear, but 'associative' in this idealist idea that time is fungible, and maybe even goes backwards or 'leaps' forwards.

Rifkin notes that parts of the working class and proletariat are more 'present' oriented, as their lives are so chaotic that planning and the 'future' are vague and impossible to define.  The middle class plans better due to their economic stability, as do some sections of the working class.  But now modern capital, with it's short-term profit focus, its opportunist looting of the commons, its 'catastrophe' profiteering, is beginning to lose its own ability to plan.  It is throwing the future to the winds as we speak...and reaping a whirlwind.

Book reviews that reference time:  "Flash Boys," "Ten Assumptions of Science," "Factory Days," "Night Shift," "China on Strike," "Night Shift - 270 Factory Stories,"

And I bought it at May Day's used book section
Red Frog
December 14, 2017

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Homo Sapiens Agree...

There Is Only One Race - the Human Race

Ostensibly on the U.S. Left or among liberals, people respect science.  Even centrists respect science to some extent.  So-called 'controversial discoveries' like the sun at the center of the solar system, evoluation and global warming are true, based on observation and scientific method.  So why is it that the U.S. government, the corporate and liberal media, the bought and sold academics, the capitalist political parties and politicians, some 'public intellectuals,' - the whole broad swath of ideological capitalist purveyors - believe that there are different 'races?'  Or at least talk like they do?

Scientifically, there is only one race - the human race.  This is the dominant perspective among biologists and anthropologists, and has been for many years.  Only extreme right-wing (fascist) scientists believe in a theory of 'different human races,' each which has a significant biological basis.  Yet we get constant chatter about the 'races' - plural - from nearly everyone.  Even so-called identity 'leftists.'  I can only conclude that this idea is yet another symptom of racism, held over from the criminal past of the U.S. and world colonialism - a past which is still present.

British Scientist Ashley Montagu

In 1942 British anthropologist Ashley Montagu claimed that 'there are no races, there are only clines.'  He referred to the fact that skin color and other small physical differences were originally related to climate and geography.  In 1950 UNESCO said that the idea of different 'races' was a myth.  This was a summary of the findings of an international panel of anthropologists, geneticists, sociologists, and psychologists at that time.  In the 1960s, Montagu later challenged the race concept when used by those who claimed that IQ tests showed differences among 'races.'  The American Anthropological Association and the American Association of Physical Anthropologists later passed resolutions to the effect that this is only one race.  Even Rosa Parks pointed out that there was one race, saying this in the 1960s.  No one listened to her then either. The DNA of human beings is 99.9% identical.  There are greater genetic variations among different human populations than between human populations.  Human evolution cannot be tracked like 'branches' of a tree.  it is one root.

In 2014, Harvard professor Robert Sussman published the book, "The Myth of Race: The Troubling Persistence of an Unscientific Idea," which had to take this issue to task, 75 years after Ashley Montagu.  The U.S. government to this day asks citizens in the Census or Applications for Citizenship to mark what 'race' they belong to.  They've had 'problems' because Latinos were marking 'white.'  So they added some ethnic categories.  They have also had to allow people to mark more than one 'race' or ethnicity, as mixed ethnicities are common.  I use the term 'ethnicity' as the best description at this point, but different 'cultures' might be even more appropriate. 

"Race" is a social concept used by colonialism and capitalism to separate people, not unite them. That is it's racist meaning.  The terms 'interracial' or 'multi-racial' or 'bi-racial' are follies. The lazy use of these terms only feeds into the discourse about 'the Other.'  Even saying 'women of color' without using 'women without color' or 'colorless women' implies that 'white' people actually don't have a bit of brown, as if all 'white' people were albinos...  But at least it is a bit more specific and narrow, as it only relates to skin color.  What do we do?  Well, stop using terms or phrases that imply there are different races.  And call people on it.

Books by Ashley Montagu:  "Man's Most Dangerous Myth:  The Fallacy of Race" (1942) and "Statement on Race" and  "The Concept of Race." (1964)

Red Frog
December  9, 2017

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Breadlines Knee-Deep in Wheat

"A Foodie's Guide to Capitalism," By Eric Holt-Gimenez, 2017

This is a pretty hard-core investigation of the capitalist food system in the world, as structured by capitalist relations. The author is the director of "Food First," an organization that focuses on food as a right, not as a privilege or a commodity as it is treated by capital.

The popular connection to 'foodie-ism' is the plethora of cooking shows or competitions, from the relatively sedate and kind "British Baking Show" to the vicious encounters in the U.S.-based "Hell's Kitchen."  Farm-to-table restaurants, international fusion cooking, localism, organics, exotic ingredients, vegetable gardening, vegan and vegetarian foods, tipping practices, CSAs, 'voting with your fork,' animal cruelty - these are all topics that U.S. 'foodies' are supposed to be interested in, but they are not focused on here.  Holt-Gimenez is more interested in looking at what is behind the cover. But he does not look at the topics of the dying oceans or meat diets in any detail, which are both central to capitalist food systems.

Cuban farmer practicing Agro-Ecology supported by the State
Holt-Gimenez is interested in explaining the mechanics of why the food system is structured the way it is.  For instance, mono-crop farming, the use of toxic pesticides, cattle feed-lots and industrial meat production, artificial fertilizers, GMO seeds, the promotion of large farms and contract farming, agro-fuels, the overabundance of cheap and unhealthy food - are all directly related to the profit system.  He points out that to oppose these problems the 'food movement' is split up into so many causes that it cannot have a major impact.  This of course is the problem with the Left as a whole, which is addicted to single-issuism across the board.  Holt-Gimenez hopes that once people take a step back and look at food, they will see that anti-capitalism and what can only be described as a socialist solution will become the tie that binds all these causes together.  He seems to be saying that if you are afraid to holistically talk about capitalist functioning, then you are not serious.

In the course of the book he explains the concepts of the 'commodity,' 'enclosure of the commons,' 'surplus value,' 'super-exploitation of labor,' 'land rent,' 'export economy,' 'capital,' 'externalities,' 'bio-diversity,' 'debt,' 'soil fertility,' 'socially necessary labor time,' 'use value,' 'over-accumulation' and 'agro-ecology.'

Of most interest is Holt-Gimenez's insistence, as a Marxist, that small farms and small farming techniques are superior to large farming because of the nature of agriculture, which is different than industrial production.  He calls food a 'special commodity.'  70% of world food production still comes out of peasant and small producers and he thinks this will continue.  Small farms are more labor intensive, but are able to be more productive and ecological because of this.  In the U.S. this points to the re-population of rural areas that capital has de-populated, as massive International Harvester combines have replaced people.  The benefits of small farming include soil & water conservation, high agro-biodiversity and rural employment - none of which have a market price.  Corporations are now buying out smaller organic firms and are diluting the benefits of what was once higher quality and more sustainable food through their large-scale industrial methods. According to Holt-Gimenez, 3/4s of the world's food is produced on 1/4 of the world's arable land.  This long 'persistence of the peasantry' confounds normal rules, which is why, at this point, capital prefers farmers to take the risks, while the capitalist firms reap most of the profits as suppliers, middle-men and retailers.  

Which is why in the U.S., farmer suicides are at a record high - double that of military veterans according to the Guardian.  This is like India, where 5,600+ farmers committed suicide in 2014 and over 18,000 in 2004, as the pressure on both is the same.  

The misnamed but much lauded 1960s 'Green Revolution' prompted by Norman Borlaug and the Ford & Rockefeller Foundations was actually a way for capital to dispossess farmers and control and subsequently profit from agriculture throughout the world.  The IMF, the World Bank, the various trade agreements like NAFTA, USAID, USDA, the World Food Program and billionaires like Bill and Melinda Gates all continue to promote capitalist agriculture for oligopolies like Monsanto, Cargill, ADM, Syngenta and Coca-Cola.  This process is not going to stop on its own.

Like slavery, cheap Latino, black and African labor provides a human subsidy to U.S. food production, but this should not be a secret to anyone.  Besides labor, land is the key issue in agriculture, which even includes the 'land' growing veggies in buildings in Brooklyn, NY.   Holt-Gimenez discusses 3 types of land ownership - private, public and common property.  Capital wants everything to be privatized and can tolerate only those things that are public that it cannot profit from.  It essentially wants to get rid of all 'common property,' as NAFTA did to the Mexican ejidos when Gotari legislated them out of existence in 1991.  Land rents are only going up, as 'land' is not an increasing commodity, except insofar as habitats are destroyed - rain forests, woods, marshes, tidelands, prairies and savannahs.  This is why heavy real-estate debt and increasing land prices are inevitable in a market economy.  This results in larger and larger farms and more debt for farmers.  Capital needs the power of the state to promote their program, which is why the U.S. Farm Bill becomes the template by which capital controls agricultural land in the U.S.    

Ultimately Holt-Gimenez promotes the methods of 'agro-ecology,' which is being practiced in Cuba and many other places, even the U.S.  This is essentially adopting many indigenous farming practices - polyculture, biomass instead of toxic pesticides, natural manures, small scale agriculture - as the real substitute for capitalist farming methods.  And to accomplish this, common ownership and control would be the only way to block capital from continuing to ruin the land, the health of the population and the farmers and farm workers who provide food for us all.  Like all the other interconnected struggles against capital, this has to be incorporated into any socialist transitional program.  A unity of workers and small farmers is part of that strategy.  That, after all, is what the hammer and sickle meant.

And I bought it at May Day Books!
Red Frog
December 3, 2017