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Wade Frazier

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  1. My Edward S. Herman biography project

    Hi: I have been working on Uncle Ed’s big biography lately, and plan to be relatively quiet until I get it done. I want to get my Ed project done this month, including getting a Wikipedia bio published, and then it will be off to battle the hack “editors” at Wikipedia. I have been doing my homework, and Ed wrote about the numerous attacks on Noam over Cambodia and the Faurisson Affair in this book, but it costs over $1,000 today, so I’ll have to do without it. But Ed talked and wrote about the issues enough elsewhere, so I can get my task done well enough. The next steps will have to be taken by a professional biographer. Some of Ed’s pals have offered to help, and we will see how it goes. I’ll leave you with a morsel from my account of Ed’s academic career, which I drafted this morning as an overhaul of this section, as I make my way through his bio. As I have written, Ed and I had some profound professional overlaps that I did not fully realize until recently. The below further reflects those overlaps, and shows how Ed was far from a slouch in his profession. Academic career and writings Herman’s post-doctoral career began at Penn State in 1954. In 1958, he joined Wharton’s finance department to help perform studies of banks and corporate control mechanisms, which Wharton had contracted with various government agencies to study. For the next 15 years, Herman participated in studies of various financial institutions. Herman’s specialty was analyzing the power and control issues in those institutions. In 1962, Herman’s team, led by Wharton professor Irwin Friend, completed the first large-scale study of mutual funds, which was commissioned by the Securities and Exchange Commission and published by the United States Congress. Wharton’s study became a landmark in the field, and one of its key findings was that: “The main problems affecting mutual funds do not seem to relate to the size of the individual funds or companies…The more important current problems appear to be those which involve potential conflicts of interest between fund management and shareowners, the possible absence of arm’s-length bargaining between fund management and investment advisers.” Among the Wharton study’s conclusions was that the performance of mutual fund advisers was no better than that achieved by randomly selecting securities. In the study’s wake, one senator picked a portfolio by throwing darts at a list of stocks, which subsequently performed better than the average common stock mutual fund. In a preview of his political writings and media analysis, Herman publicly defended the study from an attack by an interest-conflicted mutual-fund-related professional, which generally praised the study but challenged the motivation of its authors, including Herman’s. Wharton’s next major study was on savings and loan banks, for which Herman wrote the chapter on conflicts of interest. When the study was published, the savings and loan industry called a press conference to specifically dispute Herman’s chapter, and Herman was particularly proud of receiving that denunciation. Herman then studied bank trust departments and their conflicts of interest. In 1981, Herman published Corporate Control, Corporate Power, which The Twentieth Century Fund sponsored. It was partly an update of A.A. Berle, Jr. and Gardiner C. Means’s The Modern Corporation and Private Property. In Corporate Control, Corporate Power, Herman analyzed the internal structure of American corporations, their influence over the American economy and polity, and the competing interests within corporations, which were primarily owners, lenders, and managers. Herman wrote that corporate managers had prevailed in those power struggles, and that in 1981, management’s “triumph is virtually complete,” although managerial ascendance did not dim the overriding corporate goal of profit maximization. The primary competing interests within corporations were united on that premise. Herman wrote that expanding government influence in the 1960s and 1970s was resisted by the American business community and that “Big Government” was in the midst of attacks on it. Herman concluded that American corporations were, on average, as immune to outside influence as they were at the turn of the 20th century, as they operated with virtual autonomy, no matter their impact on American society, including environmental harm. Herman wrote that government influence over corporations was “extremely modest,” and that efforts by public interest groups and citizens to make corporations more accountable to American society were “extremely feeble.” Near his life’s end, Herman said that although he sometimes received anonymous and unhappy critiques from members of Wharton’s faculty, many at Wharton thought that his public political writings and media analyses were valuable, and he never had any professional repercussions at Wharton due to his activism or his political writings or media analyses. Herman noted that because he was a “steadily producing professor according to the rules of the game, I was promoted and became a full professor during the Vietnam War years,” and that Wharton’s dean was friendly to Herman. That is it for that section, and I’ll try to make a post or two this week, between stints of writing on Ed. Best, Wade
  2. Hi: While the downsides of civilization were many, there were also numerous attractions, which Scott underplayed in his work to the point where the benefits of civilization were not even evident, as if only elites would want to live there. For people living in the Fourth Epoch, it is very difficult to even imagine lives in the other Epochs. We may be able to get some sense of their material life, social and political organization, and the like, but try to imagine a late-Second Epoch person, living when nomadic life was all that was ever known. No crops, no homes, other than the cave that might be seasonally inhabited for the fortunate few, your only possessions were what you could carry, and you were lucky to live to adulthood. You had language, largely used for gossip, but no Third Epoch features even existed, other than the few bands that had dogs. In the late Second Epoch, you killed members of neighboring bands on sight, except for fertile women, who were always worth stealing. The early Third Epoch saw the rise of the horticultural village, and for the fortunate ones that became matrilocal, life was better than ever before, in the Golden Age of the early Neolithic. But even horticultural villages were rarely sustainable and regularly abandoned, as the wood and soils were depleted. But social organization was still along kinship lines. You knew or were at least familiar with everybody in your society, and while your community was still territorial, it was a pretty gentle territorialism in matrilocal societies, and relatively few people died violently. But tools were still made of stone, bone, and plants, literacy was not even a concept, and the idea of a city, professions, metallurgy, elites, and monumental architecture was completely alien, something never seen before. Hollywood has long portrayed the awe of “hayseeds” when gawking at the wonders of big cities. The first cities had to be places of awe for their visitors. Nothing like them had ever been seen before. They all had monumental architecture to overawe those viewing them, and it had to have worked, or else they would not have been built. Even today, the necropolis at Giza is an awesome sight, even stripped and defaced, the mere skeleton of an ancient marvel that took a century to build. Fourth Epoch peoples might disparage the “marvels” of the first cities, but for their time, they were spectacles and humanity’s greatest achievements. When invading Spaniards approached Tenochtitlan, the sights so overwhelmed them that they thought they were dreaming. And they weren’t all rubes; some had visited Venice and Constantinople. So, imagine what the effect must have been on peoples who had never even seen cities before. Cities were not just places to marvel at, but they were lived in, and never-before-seen social organization accompanied them. Cities are where professions formed, and for the first time ever, people socialized along something other than kinship lines, and professional associations began. It is hard to overstate that effect, of ending kinship as the basis of society. The levels of wealth creation and concentration were also unprecedented, and temples and palaces became regular features of cities from the beginning. Elites and professions appeared with cities, and there were plenty of downsides to cities. Filth and crowding were only part of it, but those led to epidemic diseases that eventually scourged cities. All city-states had their professional armies, and in Otterbein’s hypothesis, the rise of civilization was one of the two paths to war. All early cities had slaves, too. Forced servitude was a standard feature of Third Epoch societies. Slavery began when sedentism did and ended with industrialization. The first written laws largely dealt with slave matters, and closely following the first cities was the first empire. Laying siege to cities was a standard feature of the Third Epoch, and conquering a city and putting the men to death (or becoming crippled slaves, by either blinding them or cutting off feet) and stealing the women were typical outcomes. No city was ever sustainable, either, as they burned through their energy supplies, which in the Third Epoch was comprised of wood and arable soil. Those early cities all eventually collapsed, leaving ruins for scientists to investigate. That dynamic of unsustainability is far from confined to the Third Epoch. No Fourth Epoch city was ever sustainable, either. Fourth Epoch civilizations are burning through their primary energy sources a million times as fast as they were created. With all of the recent ballyhoo about electric cars, windmills, and how the USA was becoming energy self-sufficient, I recently saw a graphic of global energy consumption in 2013. Fossil fuels provided nearly 80% of global energy consumption, nuclear energy about 2%, and “renewable” energy was 19%. About half of the “renewable” 19% was basically firewood (or cow pies ), which is still the primary energy source of the world’s poor nations, still in their Third Epoch, which is more than 80% of humanity. The remainder of “renewable” is more than 3% energy from crops, almost 4% hydroelectric, and wind, solar, geothermal, and ocean energy combined are well short of 1%. All of that hype, and it is still less than 1%. Take away hydroelectric dams and nuclear energy, neither of which is ideal or very sustainable, and about 99% of Fourth Epoch fuels are fossil fuels. The prize hydrocarbon, conventional oil, will be completely burned up in this century, and the others are not far behind. And that is if we don’t have a species-ending catastrophe before we suck out the last dregs. There is no way that Fourth Epoch denizens would want to live in the Third, if they could have understood what it really meant. Today’s average American lives a richer life than Earth’s richest human of three centuries ago, when the Industrial Revolution began. The average Fifth Epoch denizen will live a vastly richer life than Bill Gates does today. But for Second Epoch denizens, the Third Epoch would have been mind-boggling, just as the idea of the Fifth Epoch blows people’s minds today, as nearly everybody reacts in denial or fear. You could not have talked a Second Epoch person into wanting to become a Third Epoch person. It had to be experienced to be understood, just as it is today regarding ideas of the Fifth Epoch. The masses are not going to be talked or enticed into embracing it. Best, Wade
  3. Hi: My big essay attempts to make very clear the profound differences between each Epoch, which why I call them Epochs. The First Epoch was a radical departure from the history of life on Earth, when a big-brained tool-maker appeared on the evolutionary scene and learned to control fire. Nothing remotely like it ever existed before, and the Second Epoch was about their conquest of Earth, as they expanded their numbers by a thousand-fold. Each Epoch would have been incomprehensible to the beings who lived immediately before it. That goes for the First Epoch as much as the coming Fifth, even though we have works of fiction and other accounts to give us hints. The Third Epoch would have been entirely incomprehensible to Second Epoch peoples. The first hint of the coming Third Epoch was likely the domestication of the dog, which may have domesticated themselves. Animals were domesticated around the time that plants were, and humans were also domesticated, in a process that likely began before anything else was domesticated, as psychopathic men were gradually eliminated from the gene pool. The human conscience gradually grew, and each Epoch was markedly more humane than the previous one, as the energy surplus increased. Chimps slaughtered each other with abandon, and once the Golden Age of the Hunter-Gatherer ended, people did the same, although the “Golden Rule” applied to in-group members, but that in-group could shrink to one in hard times, when eating’s one’s children was acceptable practice, and I suppose that the parents sized up each other when the child-food ran out. The out-group was fair game, but men slaughtered each other in the late-Second Epoch at rates slightly less than male chimps slaughtered each other, so you might say that “progress” was made. Bonobos showed how a doubling of their energy supply could allow a society to radically reengineer itself, and bonobo societies are more peaceful than any human society ever was. The early Third Epoch saw a similar reengineering in horticultural societies. It happened where the easy meat had been rendered extinct and some plants were conducive to domestication. In those relatively few places, women began bringing in more calories than the men, and those societies often became matrilocal (which was likely a first in the human line in at least ten million years), related to the increasing status of women, not far removed from the bonobo experience, which broke up the male gangs, and those became the human journey’s most peaceful preindustrial societies. Women don’t have the proclivity to dominance and violence that men do, which is rooted in our evolutionary journeys. When men run the show, it usually becomes greedy and violent, and psychopaths make great politicians and corporate executives. The women who “make it” in those professions often have that psychopathic edge, such as how Hillary joked about murdering a head of state and destroying a nation. Being a psychopath seems to be a prerequisite to becoming the American president, and they are all puppets and know it. The last president who thought that he could make a dent was JFK, and he got taken care of. One of the most compelling hypotheses that I have seen in my studies of those days is that warring societies could not have domesticated plants or mounted the efforts that led to civilization. But once those societies were on the way to forming civilization, they all had similar dynamics, without influencing each other, which supports the idea that humans in similar circumstances will act similarly, kind of like convergent evolution. Otterbein’s and Scott’s work are not that far apart, as far as the formation of civilization went. Once an agricultural surplus was generated and could be used for political purposes, men rose to dominance once again and the establishment of their rule was a brutal process. Women’s status universally declined with the advent of civilization and only rose again when the Fourth Epoch began, which also ended slavery as a hallowed institution. Only after the ruling class violently established their dominance could their rule become more bureaucratic and gentler. However, warring polities became the norm with the rise of civilization, wherever it appeared, as they fought over energy supplies, which at its most essential was the intensely farmed “cores” of civilization, which provided the energy surplus to sustain civilization, as well as the wood of forests. The dynamics of early civilizations were never stable, as they rapidly depleted their energy bases of arable soils and wood, and they all collapsed, to only rise again in the regional vicinity, where the same practices could be repeated for a time, until their inevitable collapse. The Fertile Crescent and Mediterranean’s periphery is the first and best-studied example of those dynamics. It has nearly all been rendered a semi-desert or outright desert today. Best, Wade
  4. Hi: My previous post is an example of what comprehensive thinking is all about. Comprehensive thinking is about combining the detail orientation of the specialist with the pattern recognition and big picture thinking of the generalist. It is not easy, but the potential insights are more than worthwhile to pursue. They could have Epochal significance. The challenge is to learn the details well enough to not overly generalize, and seek the overarching principles at work (if there are any ). It is kind of like unified field thinking. Today, scientists are often trained to think that way, so they don’t get stuck in overspecialization and can see the bigger picture. Sedentism partially preceded the domestication of plants, but not by much. Sedentism was only possible with a stable and adequate energy (AKA food and wood in preindustrial societies) supply. Before the Domestication Revolution, that was possible in only a few places on Earth. Where land met water was always a good place for that, for a few reasons, and some are a water supply and the relative ease of water transportation, but ever since bacterial colonies, where land met water was a key environment, even for the beginning of life on Earth. The shore is where fish learned to walk, and the primary environment by which humanity conquered Earth. Even today, nearly half of humanity lives near the coasts. Ancient shellfish middens (Europe, Florida, California, etc.) are evidence of at least semi-sedentary humans living off of seashore environments for a long time. In the Pacific Northwest, Indians lived in semi-sedentary villages that took advantage of both estuary environments and salmon runs. In California, south of the salmon runs, Indians took advantage of seashore environments and the acorn harvest. One good week of acorn harvesting could feed a family for years, and they stored the acorns in silos. Those were all sustainable situations and led to at least semi-sedentary living, as long as populations were relatively small. Mammoth villages, however, only lasted as long as the mammoths did, as humans quickly drove them to extinction. Acorns and pistachios formed the basis of the culture immediately preceding the first acts of plant domestication in the Fertile Crescent, so they also got a taste of semi-sedentary living, and liked it. I doubt that I need to explain to anybody what the benefits of sedentary living are. Even in my industrialized world, those leading nomadic existences are generally marginal people, such as those miserable truck drivers. The sailors that conquered the world on behalf of Europe lived horrific lives, if they survived for long. Around today’s Turkey is where key crops and animals were domesticated, in upland environments. Only thousands of years later did those domesticates form the basis of the “grain cores” of civilization. Without domesticated animals to fertilize the grain cores of the Fertile Crescent, the civilization would not have lasted long. In China, with few domesticates, people fertilized the farms with their night soil practices. The Mississippian culture had neither domesticated animals nor used night soil methods, so their culture did not last long and their first city soon collapsed from environmental exhaustion. Scott’s book makes the case that civilization was an invention of peasant-enslaving elites, who became elites by enslaving people to work the grain cores. There was certainly coercion involved in building civilization, but slavery appeared wherever sedentary living did, which Scott did not deny. His case was that coercion by elites was the sole reason why civilization appeared, which he called the state. I will be studying his referred works before I make my essay update, but the benefits of civilization were also many. The constant influx of peasants into the cities, to sustain their populations, was a feature of all cities until the 20th century. From what I have seen in my studies, the attractions of civilization were not just elite-living or aspiring to be one, or to be the professional class that supported them. The “class-conflict” theories of civilization formation are only one set of theories, and the other were the attractive benefits that civilization conferred. That debate is thousands of years old. Scott comes down on the “class-conflict” side, but it was far more than that. In the past decade, I saw a poll of people in the Seattle area, and the ideal living situation for most people was living in rural environments with urban amenities. I completely understand, and that would be my ideal, too. In the Fifth Epoch, everybody on Earth could enjoy that lifestyle. It is very true that hunter-gatherers in their Golden Age would hardly want to trade their lives for the drudgery of the peasant in the grain cores or becoming a slave, but in order to understand those dynamics, both a bigger and longer-term picture needs to be attained. The Neolithic Expansion was a Golden Age, at least for the farmers, and the hunter-gatherer women ran, not walked, into the arms of those farmers. Whether it was in sub-Saharan Africa, the Fertile Crescent, or today’s American Southwest, lands suitable for farming were there for the taking, and life was easy at first, at least while the forests and soils lasted, and “pests” had yet to adapt to eating those human crops. Scott made the case that “non-state” peoples during the Third Epoch easily moved back and forth between hunting, gathering, herding, and farming, moving from one mode to another as conditions warranted, and their flexibility allowed them to escape the clutches of states for millennia. Well, those people were going to be relatively few. Civilization arose where intense food-production was feasible, which obviously meant far more people. The difference in Earth’s carrying capacity under the hunter-gatherer versus farmer modes of production was a factor of 200. The difference was so dramatic that I call it an Epochal difference, and there was no way that very many people could move between the hunter-gatherer and farmer lifestyles. The numbers just don’t support that idea very well. I will not underplay the coercive aspects of states. They have always been coercive, although the elite reigns over their subjects are far gentler in Fourth Epoch societies versus Third Epoch ones, at least on the surface. That said, plenty of good stuff that Scott amasses in his book will make it into my essay update. There is a lot to write about the Third Epoch, and those chapters of my big essay will be significantly revised in next year’s planned essay update. The basic thrust will not change, but it is going to be fleshed out more. Best, Wade
  5. Hi: During my studies over the years, one dynamic became very fascinating. All life finds its energy niche, where it can survive. Sometimes, life helped build that niche, and some niches have lasted for billions of years. Those niches can give a glimpse into the past. In hydrothermal vents today we can see the most primitive forms of life still at it, called extremophiles today, but they probably represent the earliest life on Earth, and are probably doing it just like they did nearly four billion years ago. When a bacterium learned how to split water for its photosynthetic needs, oxygenic photosynthesis was born, which ultimately saved Earth’s ocean and made land-based life possible. That event likely happened more than three billion years ago. The oldest fossils yet found are of colonies of that bacteria. Those colonies can even be found today, in a few places on Earth too hostile for animals that can eat those colonies. So, in environments too hostile for complex life, we can still find bacteria living like they have for billions of years. The bacteria that learned how to split water also became the energy center for all plants. We all owe our existence to bacteria. There is little reason to believe that cyanobacteria have changed much for billions of years. They found something that worked, keep doing it, and nothing else on Earth does it. Sponges were among the first animals, and they are still at it, with a lifestyle that still works. The direct ancestor of vertebrates may still be around. The coelacanth and nautilus are so-called “living fossils,” as they survived for hundreds of millions of years in deep-water energy niches while all of their cousins died off, leaving them the last leaf on their branch of the tree of life, although coelacanths are our direct ancestors or close cousins to them. After amazingly surviving in their niches for hundreds of millions of years, as evolution passed them by, they are both threatened with extinction by humanity. The horsetail is a living fossil, nearly 400 million years old, and horsetails helped form the first forests. Their large cousins were driven to extinction long ago, as other plants overtook them in the game of evolution, but horsetails thrive today in the niches that resemble what they thrived in so long ago. These relics all provide a window into the past, for scientists to study and amateurs like me to marvel over. I hike past horsetails almost whenever I hike, and they are usually found near ferns, which are nearly as old and can also still live in wet environments. Humans are about to become living fossils, as they drive all of their cousins to extinction. It began when humans conquered Earth, and all great apes today are in danger of becoming extinct, due to humans. While no First Epoch specimens live today, in the historical era, Third Epoch humans encountered Second Epoch humans that lived in their energy niches. Basically, Third Epoch humans drove Second Epoch humans to extinction or the brink of it, and this also goes back to the Neolithic and Bantu expansions and other migrations. Perhaps the most illustrative example is Australia, but all other continents had similar encounters, especially when Europe conquered Earth. One of the more fascinating hypotheses that I encountered in my studies was the idea that plant domestication and state formation could not have happened if the region had warfare. Where humans had not hunted the big game to extinction and hunting was still the dominant mode of production, men still ruled with patrilocal societies, and those were violent societies that warred with their neighbors once the Golden Age of the Hunter Gatherer ended. But where the big game was driven to extinction and the plants conducive to it, women domesticated plants as an adjunct to their gathering duties, and the Third Epoch began. Aboriginal Australians could never hunt the fleet-footed kangaroo to extinction, so hunting remained the dominant form of production for nearly 50,000 years, until an industrializing Britain invaded and quickly brought aboriginal Australians to the brink of extinction. But before they were wiped out, white people got a glimpse into the human past. Those patrilocal aboriginal societies were in constant warfare with each other, and although there were plenty of candidates for domestication in Australia, as with the other continents, Australians never did, as stealing the neighbor’s crops would have been easy for hungry hunters. Aboriginal Australians also had a religion dominated by dancing and singing rituals that could go on all night and their rituals could last for months. With the rise of DNA testing, it has been determined that aboriginal Australians and Negritos are relict populations of the original migration from Africa, and they lived in their energy niches ever since, at least until Europeans invaded. While Australia was relatively isolated, I imagine that they kept out Third Epoch people like the Andamans did, by killing any strange people arriving in boats (which Native Americans didn’t do, which led to their extermination). The !Kung people of Africa are also a relict population of the original humans that conquered Earth, living in their energy niche in the desert (too hostile for Third Epoch energy practices to work), and they have a click language, which is likely how the original human language sounded. Those relict peoples all had strikingly similar religious rituals, which give us a window into the human past. Best, Wade
  6. My Edward S. Herman biography project

    Hi: It took a few weeks, but I finally received a book with an interview of Ed, and read it last night, along with an interview with Noam in the same volume. That interview is where some of the quotes in Ed’s obits came from, such as this one. While Noam seems to give interviews weekly, not so with Ed. He only gave a handful that I am aware of, and I think that Ed was OK with that, as he wanted his work to speak for itself, and it was never about him. It was about our world and how to make it better. That said, Ed was a man of his Epoch, and his work revolved around the Fourth Epoch’s politics and economics, or, at least, the retail versions of them. No Godzilla and free energy on his radar. My work was a little too radical for him. In fact, I have had to coin a new term for my work, which is “Epochal.” The so-called radicals are not really very radical, operating within the confines of their Epoch, unable to imagine anything beyond it, as all peoples have always done. I am not picking on them. Noam and Ed are examples of what high-integrity scientists and scholars have been like in the Fourth Epoch, if a little blinkered by the paradigms of their Epoch. Now, I will spend the rest of my year’s “spare” time working on Ed’s big bio, fielding feedback from his pals, and then making the abridged Wikipedia version. Next year will be working on my essay update, which is way overdue because I resumed my career and my “spare” time is very limited. I am going on all cylinders and then some, and I don’t see any daylight for another decade, if I am lucky, and then it will be time for my dotage. So, I expect that my forum postings will slow down next year, as they did at times this year, as something has to give. Best, Wade
  7. Hi Krishna: I was just reading this map this morning, which is from the 1930s. Well, the purpose of my big essay is to not just understand human history, but the history of life on Earth. There are some so-called “principles” of history, but they have always ridden on the energy issue. I think that the concept of energy Epochs of the human journey is critical to understanding how human history has unfolded as it has, and what the future may be. Unfortunately, when one society got the upper hand in the energy game, it played it to the hilt on its neighbors. That is really the story of colonialism. A rising Europe turned the global ocean into a low-energy transportation lane and thereby conquered the world, setting off the greatest demographic catastrophes in the human journey so far. Those conquering Europeans were the oceanic equivalent of the Mongol hordes. When higher-energy societies engage lower-energy ones, the lower-energy ones don’t have a chance, and this goes back to the Neolithic Expansion and earlier. Sure, some groups will fare slightly better than others, but it is like studying who became house slaves versus field slaves; they were all still slaves. The so-called post-colonial era of “freedom” has really been anything but that, as the USA took over the colonial mantle from its weakened rivals, with the terror states that it erected. That has really been the primary thrust of Noam’s and Ed’s work over the years. On India, I think that it was too big and powerful of a colony to be subjugated outright forever, similar to China, and the USA did not have nearly the strategic interest in India as it did the oil-rich Middle East or East Asia, and it was never really a threat to go communist. None of William Blum’s work, for instance, mentions any American interventions in India, while the USA intervened everywhere else in the post-colonial world. This “friendly” relationship is partly reflected in millions of high caste Indians living in North America. You might say that India got “lucky” with the Americans. If they had been sitting on huge oil reserves or went communist, it would have been a different story. India made a certain sense for the British to conquer and subjugate, but the same did not go for the USA. It already had a continent to exploit and slaves to raise and pick the cotton and tobacco, declared all of Latin America to be its imperial hinterland, etc. China and India were going to regain their freedom a lot faster than smaller nations such as Kenya. Hitler thought that England’s rule of India was a poor colonial model. He preferred the Anglo-American experience in North America of exterminating the inhabitants and taking their land, which became his model for Germanic “settling” of Eastern Europe. As long as scarcity and fear are humanity’s operative principles, the future looks grim. Introduce abundant and harmless energy to humanity, and an entirely different game awaits. Best, Wade
  8. Hi Krishna: I don’t need to tell you how India suffered under British rule. I doubt that any of it was random, but the fates of peoples were tied to the dynamics of the time, although fate sure could seem capricious. Some did better than others, for various reasons. The Osage, like all aboriginal peoples of the Western Hemisphere, suffered greatly, if they survived at all, when Europeans invaded. Are you referring to the Osage’s relative affluence because oil was discovered on their “worthless” land? I have taken business trips in Oklahoma, you could not pay me enough to live there, and in the airport at Oklahoma City was a big picture of Osage Indians being driven in their cars by chauffeurs, and the exhibit stated how they got rid of each car when it needed any repairs, as they were so rich. What the exhibit did not mention was that many of those rich Indians were murdered by whites, to get their hands on their wealth. The Cherokee invented an alphabet and had a higher literacy rate than American whites, but that did not stop the Trail of Tears. Over my years of traveling the USA, I have seen many exhibits and memorials about the aboriginal natives, and while some were kind of disgusting, such as the rich Osage exhibit, most of the rest were respectful and told a story that I never got in school. I saw one just last week in Leavenworth, as the exhibits told about what Indian life was like before the whites invaded. In fact, I am going to attach pictures that I took of an exhibit. I recall one that I saw in upstate New York on my Bucket List road trip in 2013. It was about the slaughter and razing of an Indian “village” in the 1700s, although the “village” looked identical to a colonial town of the day, as the Indians had completely adopted European ways and lived in houses with slate roofs, glass windows, etc. But no matter how “civilized” they were, they lived on land that the invaders coveted, so an excuse was made to destroy their town and steal the land, which was standard operating procedure. The killers undoubtedly sold some scalps after it was over. I have found that when you got into the details of the trajectories of any peoples, it was always understandable, in that you could see the dynamics that led to their trajectory. It can often be a mystery, particularly with preliterate or vanished peoples, but as more evidence is adduced, the story becomes clearer. An example is the Classic Maya. When I was born, the fate of the Maya was a complete mystery and the leading interpretation of the evidence, of a peaceful forest people, is now known to be just one more romantic fiction. That said, the rise and fall of the Maya is another fascinating study that is not nearly finished. I was about to write my Third Epoch posts in this little series, so this is an appropriate place for a little vignette on the Maya. To me, the Mayan trajectory was kind of a New World parallel to Sumer. Agriculture was not invented in the Yucatan or Mesopotamia, but crops were imported into a seemingly unpromising region and clever water management practices made the land arable. City-states then arose, with the usual trappings of agrarian civilizations, with peasants, elites, soldiers, slaves, a professional priesthood that conferred divine status to the new elites, etc. Alluvial Mesopotamia did not have handy stone, so the monumental architecture was made of earth and wood, and those mounds are excavated and studied to this day, at least until the USA invaded the region to steal the oil. But the agricultural methods were not sustainable. In Sumer, soil salination did them in and siltation clogged the irrigation canals, and in the Yucatan, a 50-year drought finished them off, but their unsustainable practices exacerbated it. As with Sumer, the lowland Mayan civilization collapsed with starvation and endless wars between the city-states, and like Sumer, the place was abandoned by the survivors. In Sumer, the ruins eroded and were buried in the silt of “progress,” but in the Yucatan, the forest reclaimed the land, and the ruins were not rediscovered until whites began exploring them. As with Sumer, when the central core collapsed, the center of Mayan civilization moved to lands that had not yet been depleted, and the northern Yucatan and nearby highlands became the center of Mayan civilization, and the lowlands were permanently abandoned. In Sumer, civilization moved upriver, with later centers such as Akkad, Babylon, and Assyria, and the original cities are buried under silt in a desert today. Best, Wade
  9. My Edward S. Herman biography project

    Hi: For the rest of the year, I will be working on Ed’s biography, in my “spare” time. What I published the week before he died was only intended as a rough draft, and I expected that when Ed saw what I had done, I could collaborate with him to take it the rest of the way. Ed was kind of an invisible man in his writings, even to the extent of often writing “this author” when referring to himself in his writings. He rarely wrote in the first person, and biographical details were sparse in his writings. I was hoping to get more from Ed after he saw my rough draft. When I did not hear from him for months and he largely stopped publishing anything, I guessed that his health was poor, and I was sorrowfully right. So, I am going to slog on to the finish line without Ed’s input, but Ed looped me into his circle of pals in my last email from him, several have offered to help, and we will see how it goes. It looks like I might have found the source of the “correction” of Ed’s New York Times obit, as FAIR mounted a campaign to get it corrected. FAIR made the same point that I did, that the “having soft-pedaled evidence of genocide” charge was fraudulent in of itself, never mind that they allegedly “soft-pedaled” evidence that did not yet exist, in the New York Times’s original obit. Ed and Noam never remotely did that. Instead, what they did was analyze the media’s performance on reporting bloody events that were very similar, with one key difference: “Was the crime perpetrated by us [the USA, client regimes, or allies] or them [official enemies of the USA]?” Ed and Noam’s work was about exposing the media’s double-standards on reporting such events. What Ed and Noam did do, as scientists, was seek the most reliable sources of information about such events and see how the media handled them. Their focus was on the media’s treatment of the events, not the events themselves. Pretty much without exception, in situations for which “we” committed the murders, if the media even covered the events, the victims were “unworthy,” even if they were American nuns, and actual American-sponsored genocides would receive complete silence in the American media while they happened, such as in East Timor. Arguably even worse, if “we” did it, the perpetrators could often be lionized nearly to the point of sainthood, and Ed contrasted the “good genocidist” Suharto with the “bad genocidist” Pol Pot. If “they” committed the crimes, any rumor would do, and the more lurid, the better. The media treated “their” victims as saints, with even hagiographic coverage. The media even plays up largely or wholly fictitious events, such as the “Racak Massacre” or Iraqi incubator story to justify bombing campaigns, and a massacre of 500 soldiers becomes “genocide” when “they” did it, while our outright genocide of several million people either passes in silence or, incredibly, becomes a heroic deed, a “constructive” genocide. As another example, arguably humanity’s greatest mass murderer in the past generation is lionized in the West as a heroic figure. Ed and Noam did a Q&A back in 2009 on how their propaganda model had aged since Manufacturing Consent was first published. Their work is Orwell for the 21st century, and I have been reading a bit of Noam’s work since Ed’s passing, from the Noam shelf of my library. My Ed project has made my Ed shelf perhaps larger than my Noam shelf, if we leave out a quarter-century of Ed’s Z Magazine articles. I am expecting one heck of a eulogy for Ed in the next Z Magazine, and this was a wonderful remembrance from one of his friends. The best mainstream obituary on Ed that I have seen so far naturally did not come from the American media, but British, as the British media did not get its ox gored as badly by Ed over the years, and The Independent is where Robert Fisk works. Best, Wade
  10. Hi: The Second Epoch began by boat, as the Founder Group ferried across the mouth of the Red Sea. Descendants of the Founder Group also made it to Australia by boat. So-called “archaic” humans and elephants never made it to Australia, being boat-less as they were, as the deep-water gulf between Southeast Asian islands and Australia was too far to swim across. The elephant family was the most successful land mammal ever before the rise of humanity. Where they lived with an evolving humanity, in Africa and Southern Asia, they learned to avoid humans and survive the onslaught, but everyplace else, the arrival of humans meant the extinction of the elephant family, from the “mammoth steppe” of Eurasia to the entire Western Hemisphere, along with almost all of the other large animals. While the large animals lasted, there was a Golden Age of the Hunter Gatherer, at least until the easy meat went extinct. We know that chimps are genocidal, with about half of male chimps dying violently, but when chimps were isolated south of the Congo when gorillas left the area and never returned, during a glacial interval, and the food supply doubled for those chimps, they became more peaceful than any human society ever was, as scientists have yet to record even one violent death among bonobos. Instead, life is one big orgy. It was an economic revolution born of relative abundance that led to female dominance. Kind of like the opposition to the idea of human-induced Global Warming, generously funded by the hydrocarbon interests, there is a cottage industry of scientists and scholars that strenuously disputes the idea that humans had anything to do with the megafauna extinctions. They generally attribute it to climate change, but their arguments don’t withstand even casual scrutiny, and this is a good example of the tunnel vision of specialists, or those with an agenda other than discovering the truth. Humans had the unprecedented means, motive, and opportunity to kill off the world’s easy meat (and no history of conserving their kills), as well as drive all other human groups to extinction. It was very likely not a gentle process, as some scientists hypothesize. IMO, many or most of those “contrarian” scientists are defending either their in-group, humanity, or have some misguided solidarity with the indigenous peoples of Australia and the Western Hemisphere, where the most spectacular extinctions happened. I am highly sympathetic to what happened to the world’s indigenous peoples under the European boot, but there is no sense in denying the obvious, which only leads to a delusional mindset. Our reality may not be pretty, but denying its unsavory aspects sure is no path to enlightenment and righting the swiftly-sinking ship. Today, it is thought that when the easy meat still existed, humans briefly lost their territorial nature, as conflicts were easily solved by moving to the next valley, where more easy meat was there for the killing. But once the easy meat was gone and humans became territorial again, then human-on-human violence escalated, as they fought over their dwindling energy base. It was not as bad as a 50% violent death rate of male chimps, but about a third of hunter-gatherer men of the late Pleistocene died violently. Women became war booty, and the hunter-gatherer goal was exterminating one’s neighbors and taking their territory and women. Strange men in one’s territory were killed on sight with no questions asked, as the assumption was that they were there to steal women. The late-Pleistocene was anything but a Golden Age. But the Second Epoch saw humanity’s population grow by a factor of a thousand, from maybe five thousand people when the Founder Group left Africa and conquered Earth (part of the evidence is a “bottleneck” in human DNA), to about five million when humans began domesticating plants and animals, 10 kya. If you are not indigenous to South-Saharan Africa, you are a descendant of that Founder Group, and all human societies are very similar in how people behave and interact, as they retained the traits of those behaviorally modern humans of 60 kya or so. DNA testing has confirmed the status of relict groups from the original migration, and they all have strikingly similar religious practices, of dancing and singing rituals, which are used to foster in-group cohesion, to prevail against their neighbors in battle. That so-called hunter-gatherer religion was supplanted by the organized religions of the Third Epoch, which arose wherever civilization did, as the professional priesthood stamped it out. In the late Second Epoch, where the easy meat was extinct and the plants conducive to it, women domesticated plants as an adjunct to their gathering duties. Humanity then became sedentary like they never had before, and the agricultural village formed. It was “Neolithic bliss” in the golden age of the early Third Epoch. Those villages often broke a pattern that stretched back to at least gorillas, as many societies became matrilocal (the men left their natal groups to mate), and those were the human journey’s most peaceful preindustrial peoples. The Second Epoch, like the First, took place during an ice age, and the ice age impacts were profound and perhaps even seminal. A cooling and drying Earth drove marginal monkeys from the trees, into becoming apes, drove chimps to the margins of the shrinking rainforest, drove marginal chimps into the woodlands, where they eventually evolved into people, may well have been related to a subsistence crisis that caused the Founder Group to leave Africa, and the vagaries of the Younger Dryas may have spurred the invention of agriculture. Necessity has long been the mother of invention. Best, Wade
  11. Hi: Each Epoch of the human journey has its controversies. The First Epoch has many, including just when the human line began controlling fire, the exact line that was ancestral to today’s humanity, how many relict lines existed and when they went extinct, when Homo sapiens first appeared on the evolutionary scene, when they became behaviorally modern and how, what migrations happened past Africa – who and when – and many other fascinating issues. The so-called Middle Stone Age began about 500 thousand years ago (kya), although most scientists argue that it began less than 300 kya. It happened around the time that Neanderthals split from Homo Heidelbergensis. Homo erectus still walked on Earth back then, as did the “hobbits,” which may have been island-dwarfed australopiths, and if that is the case, the control of fire may be pushed back to Wrangham’s range or the invention of fire quickly spread to all human-line species of the time. I consider it likely that the original human-line migrants past Africa controlled fire. The path to finding out more is the anthropologist’s mantra of “do more digging!” I will follow those issues with interest for as long as I am able. When I make my essay update, and next year is the plan, after I get done with my biography project on Ed, there will be updates on chimps and bonobos. The USA’s political machinations are driving bonobos to the brink of extinction, in standard American genocidal fashion. The study of chimps and bonobos reveals a lot about human nature and the human journey. After a career spent studying them, Frans de Waal puts chimp social intelligence on par with humanity’s. That is consistent with many new findings of scientists, as dates of evolutionary events are almost always pushed back by new evidence. There is recent work that argues that the evolution of Homo sapiens was more like 300 kya instead of the currently accepted 200 kya. This is normal science at work. Darwin argued that the two greatest achievements of humanity were the mastery of language and the control of fire, and the view of scientists has not changed much since then. I mark the beginning of the Second Epoch to when the Founder Group left Africa about 60 kya or so. Once again, it was probably a marginal group facing a subsistence crisis that made that migration. And they made it big. All humans outside of sub-Saharan Africa are direct descendants of that Founder Group. The Founder Group mastered language, had Earth’s most sophisticated toolset, used fire as a key tool, and nothing could stand in their way as they conquered Earth. Next up is the Second Epoch. Best, Wade
  12. Hi: One concept in my big essay that came out of writing it was the idea of energy-driven golden ages, of both life on Earth and in the human journey. I had more than a vague idea about them before I began writing my big essay, but by the end, they became obvious. For non-humans, they arose because some organism learned a new energy trick or inherited an ecosystem free from competition in the wake of a mass extinction, and enjoyed it unhindered until some barrier was reached, such as breeding to ecosystem limits or increased competition. The golden ages never lasted forever, as energetic limits were reached. Human golden ages were very similar, always had to do with tapping a new energy source, and the early days of each golden age were easy living. Humans always blithely blew through that energy source, without any awareness or concern that what they were doing was unsustainable. Richard Heinberg likened humanity to pond algae, which breeds to the limits with a nutrient infusion, to then die off. I see his point. Humanity is egocentric to the point of threatening its self-extinction. Also, those golden ages often were enjoyed by marginal organisms or humans, which is where the important innovations usually hail from. Apes were likely marginal monkeys, forced out of the canopy, and learned to live on the ground. Chimps were likely marginal gorillas, forced to the rainforest’s margins, and human line members were marginal chimps, forced even further away from the rainforest and learned to walk upright. Instead of a marginal existence, their descendants eventually conquered Earth. While fruit is still humanity’s ideal food, moving away from the rainforest meant dietary changes, to roots, more seeds, meat, and eventually cooked food. Fruit never needs to be cooked, as it is designed to be eaten, unlike almost all other foods that people eat. About 80% of what is called nutrition is energy, usually measured in kilocalories. Crafting stone tools was a big step in the human line, and australopiths are the likely inventors. There is controversy over whether Homo habilis was the first member of the genus Homo, and even whether it was an ancestor to humanity at all. But there is no debate over Homo erectus. Homo sapiens definitely arose from Homo erectus, and their members are certainly in the Homo genus. Most of the growth in the human-line’s brain happened during the time of Homo erectus. There is great controversy today on just how humanity garnered the energy to fuel its energy hog of a brain, which uses about 25% of a human body’s energy. The energetic benefits of walking upright, which increased the human line’s range, an increasing toolset, cooking, meat, and shrinking the digestive tract are all hypothesized to have contributed to the human-line’s growing brain. However it happened, the explosive growth of the human line’s brain is unique in the history of brains, and nearly unique in the history of organs. It is likely that Homo erectus invented cooking, although Richard Wrangham thinks that it might have been before then, and some think that cooking was a more recent innovation. I will follow that controversy with interest, but there is no doubt that the control of fire was a critical invention in the human line and led to human dominance, if not humans themselves. To this day, human civilizations are built around the control of fire. Controlled fire in my car’s engine is how I will get to work this morning. Best, Wade
  13. Hi: When the cooling was over, the Eocene ended, paradise was lost, and the Oligocene began, which was a cold time, when the Antarctic ice sheets were developing. Mammals had achieved their maximum size by then, and some plants developed a new form of photosynthesis to cope with declining carbon dioxide levels. Mammals had different digestion strategies, and the big grazers and browsers duplicated guilds that dinosaurs had. Primates first appeared on the evolutionary scene during the last 20 million years of the dinosaurs. Mammals always had relatively large brains, but recent research shows that primates took it further, packing more neurons into their brains than any other mammals. A primate packs in about six times as many neurons per gram of brain tissue as rodents do, which are close cousins that also evolved in canopies. Another principle of evolutionary theory is that biological features are often evolved for one purpose, and then are “drafted” into other functions as opportunities arise. Densely-packed primate brains are energetically expensive to possess, and another principle of evolutionary theory is that nothing gets a free ride. The biological feature is used or lost. “Use it or lose it” is an evolutionary adage. The primate brain is thought to have partly evolved to navigate the canopies, and also to remember were food is. Fruit, the primary simian staple, ripens at different times and places, and larger brains and higher intelligence seems related to those who have to hunt for fruit, from monkeys to chimps. In the Oligocene, monkeys began evolving into apes in Africa, as they slowly left the canopy. Some monkeys made it to South America, which is one of the most spectacular and improbable migrations in the Age of Mammals. The Oligocene ended with a warming period, which began the Miocene, when Africa began colliding with Eurasia, and Africa’s apes scattered across Eurasia. When times were warm, mammals easily migrated between the continents (North America, Europe, Asia) via the Arctic, but that route closed during the cold times. The Age of Mammals is marked by many migrations, which often displaced the “natives.” The Age of Humans has had similar dynamics. What became whales began migrating into the ocean during the hot Eocene, as archosaurs had done 200 million years earlier. The reigns of archosaurs and mammals had many similarities. I’ll now begin moving the narrative to the rise of humans. Best, Wade
  14. Hi: As the title of my big picture thread states, it is A big picture, not THE big picture. Nobody on Earth sees THE big picture, but I am constantly approached by people selling me their big picture, which is almost invariably some version of the scarcity and fear song, whether it is secular, galactic, or cosmic. I hear no end of people promoting the various New Age/conspiracist flavors of the day, the free energy inventor who “has it!”, and so on. We have enough of scarcity and fear in our world, ungrounded “activists” who play the anonymity game, heroes, messiahs, groupies, cheerleaders, “insiders” spinning grand yarns, etc. I am doing something different, and it is not easy to understand. Best, Wade
  15. My Edward S. Herman biography project

    Thanks Krishna: That UNESCO document is exactly the kind of document that the USA stopped funding back in the 1980s. I devote a section of Ed’s bio draft to his analysis of the media treatment of the USA’s withdrawal from UNESCO. Yes, back to those imperial anomalies that you pointed out, illiteracy is relatively cheap to remedy, so you can have very poor nations with high literacy rates, and as the West has outsourced things such as programming and call centers, poor nations with high literacy rates are where they can end up. As you know, India has been one of those places. In my lifetime, India went from more than 80% illiterate to nearly 80% literate, and the most literate state in India is one of the poorest, Kerala, which Western progressives have long cited as a model of what even poor humans are capable of. As long as people are not living under imperial oppression, improving human welfare is very feasible “on the cheap.” The capitalists don’t like it, obviously. As I begin work on Ed’s bio, I have found myself reading Uncle Noam’s work (on Ed’s and his propaganda model, which I will write more about in Ed’s big bio), and a work that attempts to make a connection between Noam’s linguistics and political work. On a related note, The New York Times corrected the blatant “error” in Ed’s obituary a couple of days ago. That obit, even with that “correction,” is largely a smear on Ed, so I am likely going to refer to it when I write Ed’s big bio in the coming weeks. Best, Wade