Tuesday, February 22, 2005

When will they learn?

The insurgents in Iraq seem to be getting a feel for the proper use of advanced targeting methodologies to create cascading network failures and to maximally leverage their investments in attacks. John Robb's Blog offers up a veritable "Targeting & Cascading Network Failure 101" for potential trouble makers. So when will "They" learn? If we listen to America's Main Stream Media, it seems like terrorists of all stripes are continuing with their haphazard target selection and futile methods: we will not give in to their simple scare tactics...

Viz., The "homicide bombers" indiscriminately target civilians in a confused attempt to spread terror in Iraq. Animal Rights and Environmental activists break windows at Starbucks and spraypaint slogans on the walls. When will they learn that these acts of frustration will not lead to "victory" for their cause??

Well, sarcasm aside, they are learning:

- Insurgents in Iraq are conducting a well planned, coordinated and effectively targeted campaign against basic infrastructure, fomenting state-failure and leading to a reversion to primary loyalties: in other words, when the government can't provide security, water, electricity, etc., people revert to community, religious and tribal affiliate groups--which is exactly where the Sunni Arab insurgents want the Sunni Arab population turning for help.

- Eco-anarchists are on the verge of grasping the basic concepts of targeting as well. A recent issue of Green Anarchy has an article by Ted Kaczynski (of UnaBomber fame) on the need for the green-anarchist movement to identify and attack key nodes--namely key nodes in the electricity and genetic/agricultural infrastructure. Sounds like someone has been reading Boyd and Warden whilst in prison. They're not just spraypainting starbucks anymore, Dorothy.

- A string of recent green-anarchist associated attacks around Sacramento, California demonstrates a degree of focus and intensity unprecedented for the movement, but is still lacking in general effectiveness. When will this kind of intensity marry up with the targeting knowledge demonstrated by Kaczynski. SHAC (Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty) has been using press, coordination, long-term focus and careful targeting to leverage strings of very minor attacks and acts of non-violence to great effect (Huntingdon Life Sciences has been reduced from a $500 million dollar company in 1992 to a company valued at under $20 million today, and is no longer listed on the NYSE). A marriage of the kind of campaign executed by SHAC with the intensity, scale and violence of the recent attacks in the Sacramento area could have truly significant impact.

Some areas that I am watching carefully:

- When will the success of the infrastructure-attacks in Iraq spread to Saudi Arabia?
- When will domestic green-anarchist and affiliated groups take Kaczynski's advice and begin to target key nodes, learning from SHAC's well planned and executed campaign to tie together a string of attacks behind a clearly identifiable cause or objective?

Friday, February 18, 2005

The Sky (and Global Oil Production) is Falling!

The Sky (and global oil production) is Falling! Hubbert's peak (of global oil production) is either just behind us or just in front of us, we won't know for sure until we have the benefit of another 2 or 3 years of 20/20 hindsight, but the fundamentals are there (see the evidence).

What are the options for a low-energy-surplus future?

1. Hierarchal approach: Some smart government gambles on researching a secret, subsidized fusion/hydrogen cell program. Then, as the rest of the world becomes more and more desperate for energy, they can control the backbone of the global economy. Hmmm... sounds a bit like US foreign policy? The ramifications: well, we're seeing it already. Insurgents in Iraq (despite the spotty news coverage) are focusing their attacks on infrastructure (namely oil and electricity, also water). And it's succeeding. Did you know that despite pumping 1.8 million barrels a day out of the ground, Iraq is actually importing oil from Saudi Arabia? This kind of attack will spread because they create far greater return-on-investment than do real terrorism (as opposed to the newmedia use of the word "terrorism"). If al-Qa'ida is smart, we'll see the same thing happen in Saudi Arabia in the near future--probably kicked off by coordinated attacks on the Ghwar Superfield. And if ELF & the Primitivists are smart, they'll bring this crusade home to the US... (see Global Guerrillas)

2. Rhizome approach: If you buy my arguments in "A Theory of Power", then we need to spawn the formation of rhizome and ensure future civilization's compatibility with our genetic ontogeny (create an environment matching what we are genetically optimized to live in). From an energy perspective, this means single point production and consumption of energy, most practically in the form of Passive Solar... pioneers are already demonstrating that this is possible, but it has this nasty tendency to get in the way of corporations' need to centralize, stratify and profit...

3. 'Do-Nothing... the Rapture is coming anyway' approach: Pretty self-explanatory? Well, for those of us not sucked up the chute to heaven, this could get pretty ugly. We'll turn increasingly to coal as we try to salvage our failing global economy. That will kick global warning into overdrive (regardless of people who still think it's a left-wing conspiracy. Yes, they really exist, and not just on Fox!). Basically, we'll see the prophecy of James Madison come to fruition:

What becomes of the surplus of human life? It is either, 1st. destroyed by
infanticide, as among the Chinese and Lacedemonians; or 2d. it is stifled or
starved, as among other nations whose population is commensurate to its food; or
3d. it is consumed by wars and endemic diseases; or 4th. it overflows, by
emigration, to places where a surplus of food is attainable."-- James Madison,

The window of opportunity to "choose" one path over the other is fast closing...

Can Corporate Structure Be Fixed??

I've written before about the concept of "Corporate Social Responsibility" and its fundamental incompatibility with the structure of a corporation here.

But a couple of days ago I was talking to a friend who works in the world of corporate philanthropy about this problem, and some ideas have been percolating... I maintain that CSR is fundamentally incompatible with today's corporate structure, because that structure REQUIRES that corporations seek profit for their shareholders--at the expense of everything else. In light of that, CSR is legally bound to be nothing more than a nifty marketing ploy. Corporate structure is at the heart of much of what I identify as the problem in our world today: perpetual growth and intensification of hierarchy. But, I will recognize, the corporation as a concept survives and spreads because it succeeds. Is there a way to reform the corporation, to modify the fundamental structure to make it a tool of "self-perpetuating rhizome" as opposed to a "self-perpetuating hierarchy"? The whole thing smacks strongly of Deleuze's Body-Without-Organs, so this debate seems very important, at least to me...

So, what is the fundamental nature of the problem with corporations?

1. They are structured to fundamentally pursue one, and only one, goal: provide financial return to the shareholder.
2. This dictates that they must grow in some manner in order to continue to return financially in the face of the time-value-of-money. So they are, conceptually, in fundamental conflict with either human ontogeny, the finite-nature of our planet, or both.

Therefore (well, it makes sense to me anyways), the solution is to reverse these basic characteristics by creating a corporation--a conceptual Body-Without-Organs--that embodies the opposite: Structure them to pursue a more humane, compatible, sustainable goal. There is certainly flexibility here, but something on the order of "Generate positive-sum situations for participants and society at large by pursuing projects that increase happiness and quality of life while ensuring outcomes that perpetuate rhizome structure and are compatible with our genetic ontogeny."

I'm no expert on corporate formation, but it seems that this could be accomplished largely within the existing body of non-profit corporate law. Let's take a coffee-house chain. A standard, for-profit coffee-house chain is legally obligated to do whatever it takes--exploit workers, expand at the expense of locally owned businesses, etc.--that increase value for its shareholders. A "corporate-rhizome" coffee-house chain, on the other hand, could be structured as a non-profit corporation, founded on these principles:

- Establish a high-quality-of-life minimum living wage requirement in the corporate "constitution", and cap highest-paid to lowest-paid ratio at 2:1.
- Establish a fund from all "profits" at each local location to a charitable fund chartered to "benefit" the local community with projects as determined by the local staff.
- Create a buying cooperative and other forms of weak-node cooperation between local "nodes" in the chain.

This may sound a lot like existing forms of coops and other charitable vehicles, and it certainly is. In fact, it's taken from a real example already in place. The important thing is that--as a concept--it can serve as a model for how to make any other kind of business into a sustainable, rhizome-style corporation. The real strength of the standard form of corporation is that it provides the potential pay-off as the incentive to start the thing up and to invest your money in it. The critical conceptual shift is that these motivations don't have to be based strictly on money--there are many other types of motivation that can equally motivate people to "incorporate" and "invest" their time, and even their money: family, community, entertainment, solidarity, sustainability, nature, learning, health, interaction, social status, excitement, security, support, etc. In fact, the motivation to gain money is invariably just an intermediary to the desire to gain one of these other, genetically-determined motivating factors. So in a very vague conclusions, I guess that's the key: cut out the intermediary of money and find a way to form a legally-viable vehicle that is STRUCTURALLY BOUND to pursue one of these fundamental motivations, in a sustainable, ontogenetically-compatible manner...

Monday, February 14, 2005

Why are we in Iraq??

Raymond Kraft has written a polemic entitled "Why are we in Iraq?". It's an interesting question. While Kraft's piece utterly fails to provide the honest answer, in so doing it manages to provide a very accurate picture of why we are in Iraq: because Kraft's brand of disinformation and irrational-emotional smokescreen has effectively silenced the very people who could have stood up to the policies of the present administration.

Read Kraft's piece here: http://www.mensnewsdaily.com/archive/k/kraft/2005/kraft012905.htm

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Iraq: Which Way After the Election?

In the short time since the Iraq eletions, all sides are reporting that the result was whatever would be most in their favor. There is very little concrete evidence, but what evidence there is suggests that Sistani's United Iraqi Alliance has won far more of the Shi'ite vote than did Allawi's party, and that voting in the Sunni Arab regions may not present the rosy picture that was extolled in the last few days. If the situation does indeed result in a more polarized outcome than reflected by recent political spin (just wait for the State of the Union tonight...), there will need to be a day of reckoning in the near future--a point at which politicians are forced to concede that they were wrong on Iraq, again. But what developments will this bring on the geopolitical stage? There are three basic outcomes possible in the aftermath of the Iraq elections. Think of the potential outcome as a spectrum of possibilities represented by a triangle--the situation will be pulled towards one of the following 3 poles:

1. US Victory: Democratic ideals prevail, Shi'a groups recognize the need to share power with Sunni factions in order to maintain peace and to achieve government that is perceived as both legitimate and stable. Sunni groups realize that shared power and significant regional autonomy are better than insurgency, and come to the table. In doing so, the government also largely reject outside influences, especially from Iran, but Iran is largely placated by the outcome because they still perceive a mainly Shi'a state securing their Western border. The US gets what it wants, without driving Iran to feel the need to build nukes.

2. Iranian victory: The elections result in a clear majority for Shi'a parties (mainly UIA), and Hussayn Sharistani becomes president in a highly Iran-influenced government. Shi'a groups decide to fight the Sunnis rather than compromise their newfound powers with them, and the nation descends into civil war along sectarian lines. The Iranians are quiet (they got what they want) and make concessions in their nuclear program. The US identifies Syria as the primary source of support of Sunni insurgents, and moves towards action against Syria.

3. Chaos: The elections fail to produce a viable government, as violence prevents Sunnis from voting, the new government is therefore clearly not representative of the popular will, and the insurgency intensifies. The Shi'a inability to produce peace and a compromise leads to a Kurdish withdrawal into their autonomous region, sparking Kurd-Arab fighting over Kirkuk and Mosul. Their best hope for legitimate power having failed, the Shi'a militant groups--largely backed by Iran--engage in the conflict and all sense of governance falls apart. Iran pushes for Shi'a autonomy in the south (in a state that will be conveniently controlled, perhaps even annexed, by Iran), which results in Shi'a militants fighting US forces. The Iranian support to Shi'a forces leads the US to up-the ante in threatening Iran, which in-turn leads Iran to accelerate their nuclear program. This results in one or both of the following: US airstrikes against Iranian enrichment facilities and symbols of government and/or Israeli airstrikes against Iranian targets. Either way, Iran retaliates against Israel and domestic targets in the US.

Each of these scenarios is, of course, an extreme--the real result will probably not lie at any of the poles. The US will pull towards the first pole. Iran will push away from it, but it's unclear if they will actively pull towards either pole 2 or 3, or if they'll just pull in the easiest direction away from 1. Al-Qa'ida will also push away from pole 1, but they will probably follow the same path as Iran and pull in whatever direction (2 or 3) gets them furthest from point 1, as both poles 2 and 3 facilitate their eventual victory.

Pole 1 will not happen--the forces pushing away from it are too strong--and that will become clear in the next few months. There are three key questions: First, how effective will the US and elements within Iraq be in minimizing the slide away from Pole 1? Second, which path--towards Pole 2 or Pole 3--will prove to be the path of least resistance? Third, will the US realize that Pole 1 is untenable, and decide to push toward either Pole 2 or 3 in time to dictate the future course? Both paths present some initial resistance, but as soon as some event carves a small channel one way or the other the dam will break and the future of the conflict will quickly be very clear. Over the coming weeks and months we must watch for how, when and where this crack will appear...