Friday, June 5, 2009

abortion v. elf

so i wanted to compare the sentences between anti-abortion crimes such as arson and vandalism, and those commited by folks such as the earth liberation front.
it looks like they are fairly equal. i was supprised. i thought earth liberation actions would get higher sentences.

of course in the end we should abolish prisons...

oceans are polluted.

the level of ocean pollution sucks big time. there are insanly huge islands of trash floating around.

recently an airplane traveling from rio to paris crashed somewhere in the ocean. personally, i think it was aliens that abducted the plane. but the search effort to find any part of the plane has been hindered by random trash floating in the ocean. they thought they found parts of the plane, when it was just random junk.

The search by ships for wreckage from Air France flight AF 477, which came down early Monday as it was flying from Rio de Janeiro to Paris with 228 people on board, continued in a zone where confirmed items from the plane had been spotted earlier in the week.

"Up to now, no material from the plane has been recovered," Brigadier Ramon Cardoso, director of Brazilian air traffic control, told reporters in the northeastern city of Recife late Thursday.

That contradicted a statement Cardoso made earlier Thursday when he said a pallet and two buoys plucked from the Atlantic by navy crews were the first pieces of the Air France crash.

In fact, Cardoso admitted later, they were nothing more than sea "trash," probably from a ship, as was a big oil patch originally described as a fuel slick from the French jet.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

emotions are important

emotions have an effect on decision making. what is more interesting, is that we have a somewhat hard time figuring out how emotions that we are not currently feeling will affect our decisions when we are feeling those emotions.

for example, we might say we will use a condom when having sex, but in the heat of the moment, we don't. it's tough to know what we will or wont do when feeling emotions we are not feeling now. George Loewenstein has a paper about how sexual arousal influences the likelihood to commit date rape.

when students were in a 'cold' none emotional state, they were a lot more rational and unwilling to commit date rape. when in a 'hot' and aroused state they were less likely to be rational and unwilling to commit date rape.

this can be applied to other emotions, not just sexual arousal; fear, anger, excitement, etc.

what does this have to do with anarchists? two things come to my mind right away. certain anarchists property destruction. some do it alone in the middle of the night, others do it in public, during a protest. it seems to me like the nighttime property destruction is less popular than day time public rioting.
this might be because during a riot, people who would normally not be willing to break a window, are full of energy and emotions which affect their decisions. people might be more likely to commit property destruction when emotional than when planning a 'cold' unemotional night time action.
people might also plan to act a certain way during a protest or riot, but when in the middle of an emotionally packed riot, they may do things they did not expect themselves to do.

secondly, and maybe more importantly, anarchists, and everyone really, should know not to talk to the police. just dont say anything. most anarchists have heard this and may have said this themselves. it's easy to think that you wont talk to the cops when you are sitting around not feeling fear or any other emotion. however, if you have just been arrested, or are in jail being interrogated, you are in a very emotional state and your thought process and decisions will be affected.

folks who plan to participate in emotional situations may try practicing roll playing possible situations while feeling those emotions.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Environmental Protection and the Social Responsibility of Firms

there's a book called Environmental Protection and the Social Responsibility of Firms written from economic, business and legal viewpoints. it explores the questions of whether a capitalist firm can be environmentally friends and should be environmentally friendly.
the answer is that at times they can be and probably should be, but most of the time, they shouldnt be and cannot be. and in fact, most firms are not.

a firms main goal should be to make a profit to it's shareholders. every once in a great while, being environmentally friendly will go hand in hand with this goal, but it is rare.

firms are able to do costly environmentally friendly things only if they are not in a competitive environment, for example, a monopoly can be environmentally friendly. however, in a competitive market, if one firm takes on extra costs of being environmentally friendly, other firms will drive the green firm out of business.

basically, unless it is profitable, firms wont/shouldnt/cant be environmentally friendly. and in the real world, most firms arnt.


it is nice to come across books like this where obvious capitalists admit that a free market isnt gonna do much good for the environment.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

why i am an anti-capitalist

money is the root of all evil, isnt it?

here is a video that briefly explains the idea that there are two types of forces, a marketforce, and a social force. we are social animals, and some things we do because we achive social benefits from doing them. other thigns we do because someone is paying us. and even more telling is that bringing money into a relationship tends to destroy the social relationship.

why i am an anti-capitalist: i want to live in a society based on social forces.

i mean, it's pretty rad when Dan Ariely, a capitalist economist, more or less says that capitalism is anti-social.

cap and trade/carbon tax versus the politicians

Limiting carbon emissions isn’t going to save the world, but it isn’t a bad idea. The bigshots have been talking about two slightly different ways of doing this; cap and trade of a carbon tax. Both aim the limit the amount of pollution produced. They do so in a different way though. A carbon tax puts a price on pollution. For every ton of carbon X amount of money must be paid. Once carbon starts costing people money, they will be inclined to create less of it.

Cap and trade focuses on limiting the quantity, or amount of carbon produced. The country (or world, or whatever) as a whole can only produce X amount of carbon. Carbon credits will be created, where firms can produce Y amount of carbon for every carbon credit they have, and these carbon credits can be traded and sold between individual firms.

Both systems attempt to limit the amount of carbon produced. Both also increase the cost of producing carbon, and will make stuff more expensive. Which ever system is introduced is most likely going to be made largely ineffective due to political interests. Grandfathered cap and trade will benefit those who have historically been the largest polluters. If the demand for carbon is inelastic, a carbon tax might not actually decrease the amount of pollution.

Both a carbon tax and cap and trade can be effective, but I certainly don’t trust politicians to make them that way. Industries and wall street will make sure of that. To be politically feasible, any sort of limit on the production of carbon will have to be done in a way which does not impact the economy in a negative way. The most important thing is still to grow, grow, grow and consume, consume, consume. With priorities like that, the air pollution will always be a side issue at best.

However, while it is unrealistic that either cap and trade or a carbon tax will actually do much in terms of slowing climate change or increasing the air quality we breath, the debate is interesting. This article is one of the best, as it has short and simple opinions of a number of different people, from economists to environmentalists.

Monday, May 11, 2009

capitalism against environmentalism

it’s fairly interesting to see the ways in which capitalists are attempting to go green. They claim that capitalism and environmentalism can be totally compatible, and in fact, capitalism is a more efficient and effective way of protecting the environment than government intervention and other forms of top down regulations.

These are the same folks who believe the best way to fight poverty is to allow free markets to do their thing. Whole Foods CEO John Macke points out that poverty afflicted something like three-quarters of the world's population a few centuries ago and now -- thanks to capitalism -- it affects less than one-quarter. “Before the 21st century is over, poverty is something we'll only see in museums.”

The figures may vary as to what definition of poverty one uses, but I think we can agree that a smaller percentage of the worlds population is poor today than 200 years ago. But is this thanks to capitalism? I seriously doubt that. Sure, capitalism is efficient at creating goods, but its pretty crummy at distributing those goods in a way that benefits most members of society.

Most of the good done to relieve poverty can be attributed to labor unions, social movements (such as slave abolitionists) and government redistribution of wealth.

But more importantly, comparing 200 years ago to today will lead to a false conclusion. Instead we should compare periods of time where private property largely existed, and those times where it did not exist. When most of the world was hunter and gatherer and private property did not exist, it seems like poverty was uncommon. Though again, it depends on your definition of poverty. Of course hunter gatherers did not have nice houses and televisions, however, they also tended to be fairly healthy and did not suffer from hunger very often.

I would argue that most of the world’s poverty exists due to the idea of private property. Hell, colonialism may be the greatest cause of poverty the world has seen, and if you cannot see the link between capitalism and colonialism, you are crazy.

Capitalism is not created for things like the reduction of poverty or the protection of the environment.

Im sure I’ll rant about this more in the future, but I wanted to point out an article in the new York times about “The Story of Stuff,” a 20-minute video about the effects of human consumption being shown in classrooms around the country. It looks like the video has been recieived a large amount of praise,

but Mark Zuber, a parent of a child at Big Sky High School in Missoula, had a stronger reaction when a teacher showed the video to his daughter last year. “There was not one positive thing about capitalism in the whole thing,” Mr. Zuber said.

Corporations, for example, are portrayed as a bloated person sporting a top hat and with a dollar sign etched on its front.

He described the video as one-sided. “It was very well done, very effective advocacy, but it was just that,” he said.

Mr. Zuber argued before the Missoula County School Board that the way in which “The Story of Stuff” was presented, without an alternative point of view, violated its standards on bias, and the board agreed in a 4-to-3 vote.

This zuber guy has hit the nail on the head. Capitalism and environmentalism are not compatible. One of the key ideas in the environmental movement is to use less stuff. But capitalism is all about unlimited wants and trying to get and use as much stuff as possible.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

more americans agree: four wheels bad.

Nate Silver wrote a really interesting article about united states car use. he looked at some data and it looks like american love for cars might be lessening.

people are driving less, and it might not just be because of higher gas prices.

either way, it seems now is a good time to promote bicycle use, and presure city planners to create smart growth rather than sprawl and public transportation. it seems like the public is going to be more receptive than they have been in the past.

some neat facts from the article

-In January, according to statistics compiled by the Federal Highway Administration, Americans drove a collective 222 billion miles

-January 2009 was the fifteenth consecutive month in which the average American drove less than he had a year earlier.

-a doubling of gas prices reduces miles traveled by only a small fraction

-The cost of gas twelve months ago...has historically been a much better predictor of driving behavior than the cost of gas today

Thursday, May 7, 2009

whats in a name?

According to a pew research poll, in the united states, climate change was ranked as the lowest out of 20 concerns that voters have. This has startled environmentalists. they think it might be because global warming has become such a politicized issue. I think it has more to do with the right wing skeptics being effective propagandists.

You have a scientific issue, and you have a huge huge majority of climate scientists agreeing that the earth is warming, and they agree that humans are contributing to the causes, and there will be changes in the world, many of which will be bad. Yet, somehow, the right wing crazies have been able to convince a ton of people that all the scientists are wrong and that climate change is both, a liberal myth that doesn’t exist and at the time same, if it does exist it is perfectly natural and wont affect anything. They have turned climate change into an interest group! It’s insane, yet they did it.

When corporations want to be more environmentally friendly, they don’t radically change their operations, they just change the names of what they do. It’s called greenwashing. In December 2007, it was found that more than 99% of 1,018 common consumer products randomly surveyed were guilty of greenwashing. Starbucks doesn’t have employees, they have partners. But it isn’t only limited to environmental issues. The swine flu is not longer called the swine flu because the pork industry got offended. Greenwashing is important. In surveys done in the 1990s, about 80% of the population of germany, spain and france said they would be willing to switch products if there was a green alternative to what they normally buy.

So now, the tree huggers are attempting to change the way people in the united states view climate change by changing the names of certain things.

Does it matter? I mean, what’s in a name? a rose, by any other name, would still smell as sweet, right? Wrong. The terms we use to label things are very important and influential. In 2002 economists were surprised to see that a tax return had a smaller effect on the economy than expected. One reason they found was that the return was termed a tax “rebate”. If the term used would have been “bonus” people would have been more willing to spend the money and the impact of the tax return would have been greater.

What’s more important than what we call something is repetition. the right wing crazies claiming that evolution is not a good theory or that climate change isn’t real use repetition of a few effective phrases. Creationists emphasize that evolution is ‘just a theory’. They call climate change a claim or use the term climate change debate, as if it is not agreed upon by the scientific community.

In the late 1960s Robert Zajonc showed that just exposing someone to something makes them feel more positive towards that thing. The more someone hears that climate change is a myth, the more familiar that claim becomes. People feel positively towards familiar things, so people who keep hearing that climate change is a myth, will have positive feelings about the claim and are likely to believe it.

However, this only works to a certain extent. Once something is repeated too often, it becomes annoying and negative feelings start to form. Over exposure or too much advertising of something have a negative impact.

So while names and terms used are definitely important, I think the environmental movement may want to pay more attention to repetition. both, countering repetition by the right wing, but also repeating their own claims too often. If we hear that climate change is important too often, we will start having negative feelings towards climate change activists or scientists. Same goes for all types of propaganda.


a lot of anarchist events are donation based, pay-what-you-can, type of events.
at the same time, their goal is to raise money for a good cause.

i've been to some events where the money raised was pretty pitiful. here's a few tips on how to keep your event donation based, but make people more willing to donate.

studies show that people stay with whatever their default option is. if a company makes you check a box to enroll in a 401k investment plan, most people dont check the box. however, if a company makes you check a box to opt out of a 401k plan, most people dont check the box and do not enroll in a 401k plan.
same thing with organ donation. if you are by default made an organ donor, most people stay that way. if you are by default not made an organ donor, most people stay that way.

1)so what you want to do, is make giving a donation be the default. if someone doesnt have the moeny, or is unwilling to donate, that's ok, but it shouldnt be the default option. when people come in through the door, ask for a donation.

in another study, coffee was left in a teacher lounge with a box for money and a sign telling coffee drinkers to pay 25 cents for a cup of coffee. more coffee was used than was paid for.
then, the same setup was created, with the sign and the coffee and the box, but added was a picture of a face. with the picture of a face looking at them, the teachers actually paid more often and less coffee was taken for free.
the same happened when there was a mirror there so the teachers would be able to see their own faces when taking coffee.
people are less likely to take things without paying for them when someone is looking. even when it is just a picture of someone looking at them.

2) if you are going to use an unattended box where donations are dropped, a picture of someone looking at the person donating money is a good idea.

also, people are willing to pay more if they think the item normally costs more. students were asked to try a new type of chocolate, and asked how much they would be willing to pay for the new chocolate. college students were willing to pay more for a new brand of chocolate when it was placed next to expensive brands of chocolate than when it was placed next to cheap brands of chocolate, regardless of taste.

3) rather than asking for a donation of 5 dollars, ask for a donation of 5-20 dollars.

and just so you dont feel like you are cheating anyone, brain scans have shown that when people think they are drinking an expensive type of wine, they physically get more pleasure from that wine than from cheap wine.
so if your event ends up being a little more expensive, those who attend might actually get more pleasure from it!

Monday, May 4, 2009

an example of an efficient action

so a group of maybe 30 anarchists broke a bunch of windows in one of the main shopping districts of san francisco.
read a bit about it here. the comments have more information.

so why do i think this is an efficient action?

this action had no postings on the Internet or anything like that before hand. so lets say the planing for it was a meeting, lets say all 30 of the folks got together and had a 3 hour meeting about what to do, when to do it, how to do it, etc. then, lets assume it took 1 hour for each of them to get to union square. and lets say it took one hour for them to get home.

lets say they all put in 5 hours each for this simple action to take place. lets say there was 30 people involved. 5x30=150. ok, so lets assume it was a total of 150 hours of work to get the job done.
lets assume that transportation, black bandannas and whatever cost each of them 20 dollars. 20x30=600 dollars.

now, according to the police in one of the videos on the indybay page, they estimate the property damage committed to cost around 30,000 dollars. plus a decrease in business that weekend while all the windows were boarded up.

so take $30,000 subtract the amount spent the the anarchists, 600 dollars and we have 29,400. now divide that by the total amount of hours, 150 and you have 196.
using this little formula i made up, the participants of this action cost the businesses involved 196 dollars for every hour that each person was involved in this action.
plus the lost business that weekend from less shoppers entering those stores.
and some shallow local media reports which mostly were negative.

now lets compare this to one of those huge anti-war protests that happen in san francisco.
lets say there was 50,000 people involved in this protest. between the person who it took half an hour to walk to the protest and the protest organizer who put in 40 hours of work to get all the permits and print all the signs and everything, lets say there was an average of 2 hours per person spent on preparing for the protest, plus lets say 1 hour of marching. 3 hours by 50,000 people is 150,000 hours.

plus the money for permits and signs and transportation, etc. i have no idea what this will be but let us assume it is 2,000 dollars total.

excluding any sort of breakaway anarchist march, the economic losses would be traffic jams created by the closing of streets and people avoiding shopping that day because of the protest. let us assume 30,000 dollars worth of shopping did not happen because people wanted to avoid the protest and the traffic jams.

so we take that 30,000 dollars, subtract from it the 2,000 dollars spent but the participants of the march and we have 28,000 dollars. we will ignore all the economic activities of those involved in the protest, such as the purchasing of political t-shirts, snacks and coffee while marching. divide this number by the total assumed hours, and we get 28,000/150,000 which is $0.19.

the huge march cost the capitalists 19 cents for every hour each individual spent marching and getting ready for the march. plus the shallow but mostly positive media coverage.

i am simplifying the situation, and i do think the numbers i created were favorable towards the huge march, but you get my point.
maybe there are other positives of huge marches and other negatives of vandalism, but in terms of hurting the bastards where it hurts, vandalism in the way to go.

Gift economies wont work in an impersonal society.

your friend asked you to help him move, you would very likely do so. You are friends, and there are social reasons for you to help him out. However, if your friend offered you 5 dollars to help him move, you might feel insulted. In fact 5 dollars is pretty crummy pay for helping someone move, and you might refuse altogether.

Sometimes, people put forth a lot more effort when there is no mention of monetary payment than when money is mentioned.

Gift exchanges have their own incentives:

1) to give gifts is to increase social status. A giver is seen as generous and successful, both positive traits.

2) They increase social bonds between those who share gifts with one another.

3) Often, though it is not verbally agreed upon, such as with birthday presents, it is expected the giver will receive a gift of their own in the future.

Sometimes these incentives need not be very large. This may be because

1) The gifts are seen to have little value to the giver and therefore it costs them little or nothing to give them away.

2) As with free software and information, the goods and services are easily reproduced and it costs the giver little or nothing to give them away.

The problem with gift economies is that either gifts become expected and mandatory due to customs, or the gifts are of little value to the giver.

A gift economy may work on a smaller scale where the participants of that economy all know one another, however, a huge, complex and impersonal society such as ours has no real chance of creating a thriving gift economy. Traditional gift economies worked because they were small enough so that every one knew who and when they should give gifts to. If one did not give the proper gifts at the proper time there would be social repercussions. The same is true today of birthday presents. If one does not give birthday presents, one is less likely to receive birthday presents from others, and if a gift is not given when expected, one suffers social repercussions.

This type of gift giving only works between small social groups such as tribes or groups of friends. In our impersonal world it simply would not be possible for a full scale gift economy to work. The only way for us to create a gift economy would be for us to revert to a tribal type society, where we would be able to create many small scale gift economies.

Those gift exchanges which anarchists participate in today which are less personal such as really really free markets or food not bombs tend to only work because the things exchanged often have little value to the giver. Many of the items are dumpster dived or old and unwanted. It would be surprising to see a new iphone or an expensive car being given away at a really really free market.

There is some incentive to give things away to those we don’t know. We are only willing to participate in these types of exchanged with strangers with they cost us little or nothing.

My point being, that while food not bombs, really really free markets, free software and other types of gift exchanges that anarchists may participate in, have many positive aspects, they have little chance to exist on a large scale or to replace the current capitalist system. There is no incentive for someone to give something they highly value without getting something in return.

If you want to live in a gift economy, it must be small enough that the participants can personally know one another. If that is the kind of world you want to live in, you must be willing to give up certain things that are unproduceable at smaller scales.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

blogging is dumb

i cant believe im starting a blog.
at least i still dont have a cell phone, right?

most anarchists dont really talk about economics. so the plan is for me to, every once in a great while, post some information from an academic study that might be of interest to anarchists. maybe this will help anarchists and other radicals to be more effective in whatever it is they are doing. maybe.