Saturday, January 31, 2015

Should the U.S. Join the ICC?

The people of the United States of America should force their government to join the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The ICC is charged with prosecuting people who commit war crimes and crimes against humanity. It is meant to be a global organization, so that no one in the world can get away with these crimes. Currently 123 nations are members.

The United States of America (USA) is not a member. The USA helped plan for the ICC and participated in writing the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. But then the U.S. representative voted against the U.N. sponsored convention in 1998. Our government refused to ratify the statute or participate in the ICC. [Strangely, the U.S. had signed the statute after voting against the actual wording].

Why? Because equality before the law is a fine concept when used to hang Nazi or Japanese leaders or African dictators. But the U.S. Congress and Presidents, political parties and generals don't want the laws against war crimes and crimes against humanity applied to them.

This is true even though the statute only allows for prosecution of crimes committed after the treaty came into effect (after a sufficient number of nations ratified it) on July 1, 2002. The vast sweep of American history, and its vast array of war criminals, living and dead, are safe from prosecution for crimes committed before that date.

It is possible that even if the U.S. (and other renegade nations like Russia, China, and India) were to join the ICC, our leaders would continue to commit crimes. The U.S. could also refuse to accept the judgment of the court after a crime is committed. But it seems likely that the crime rate would go down if criminal masterminds thought there was any possibility that they would be prosecuted.

The only way the U.S. will join the ICC is if there is sufficient pressure from below. Most of the USA's ruling elite have committed or condoned war crimes. They are still bent on committing war crimes and crimes against humanity if that should serve their economic or political purposes.

Pressure from below has been scant because most Americans think all our national actions are justified in some way. If you remind them of what was considered a war crime at the Nuremberg Trials of German leaders in 1945 (or of the Japanese in the Far East Tribunal), they have no problem with it. Try then reminding them of American historic actions that clearly would be considered war crimes under the Nuremberg rules. Watch them weasel out reasons (they are repeating from USA propaganda mills) why the USA is excused in each and every case.

It is hard to say which political party is worse, the Republican Party or the Democratic Party. Republican rhetoric tends to dismiss the ICC and any suggestion that Republicans have ever committed war crimes as internationalist communist U.N. conspiracy theory. Many Democrats give lip service to the ideal of peace, and won't admit that the three worst American war criminals of the 20th century were Democratic Party leaders: Presidents Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Lyndon Johnson.

A little-known aspect (in the USA) of the Nuremberg rules is how a political party is designated as a war-crimes organization. The court's guideline was that if one of the leaders was convicted of a major war crime (notably invading another nation), then the entire party was a war crimes organization and was to be outlawed. Thus the Nazi Party was outlawed in Germany after World War II. [See also: War Crimes Organizations and Nuremberg Article 9]

That is the only precedent on the subject. In other words, if it is proven that Lyndon Johnson invaded Vietnam, or Truman ordered unrestricted bombings of cities, or even the invasion of Panama by George H. W. Bush, then their political parties should be banned. According to the one good precedent. Note that the USA set up the Nuremberg trials and made the rules.

The ICC does not seem to be strictly following the precedent of Nuremberg. But since it is not under the absolute control of U.S. war criminals and their organization, there is always the possibility that the current rules could be made more strict.

Each and every citizen of the USA (and the world) should ask: do I understand what actions constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity? Understanding that, should all war criminals be brought to justice, including those of powerful nations like the USA?

Be sure to ask every politician you meet if they support the USA joining the ICC. If one says no, for whatever reason, know you are dealing with a criminal.

Be aware that by registering as a voter in the Democratic Party, or the Republican Party, you have joined a war crimes organization and are condoning war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Back to the Permian (Or: Some Like It Hot)

Only the most idiotic and hatefully prejudiced members of the human population of the globe can be in denial of global warming caused by greenhouse gasses emitted by our industrial civilization. 2014 was the hottest year on record, and most climate models show the heating up to be accelerating. At best politicians dither, and of course in most countries they are backed by the vast majority of people who don't want to give up the benefits of industrial civilization, much as they might whine about some of the negative consequences.

Where it will end exactly is hard to predict even with computer models, but as a rule of thumb I am going with the earth going back to conditions last seen during the Permian.

The Permian was hot, by our current standards. It ran from about 300 million to 250 million years ago. It followed the Carboniferous, which was when much of the coal and petroleum we've been burning started to from. It ended with a mass extinction, followed by the Triassic (which featured large lizards and the first dinosaurs).

The Permian is not a bad time to go back to, on the whole. In fact it was warmer (on average) than the Carboniferous, but not as hot as the Triassic. It was about 2 degrees Centigrade warmer than it's been on earth lately. Of course then, as now, some places were considerably hotter than others.

But life thrived anyway. It was an important period in the evolution of life, as amphibians began to give way to reptile-like creatures and even the earlier mammal-like creatures. In the oceans Trilobites were still in good supply, but going extinct. Seed ferns appeared, but some of the landscape might seem familiar to us, as the earliest conifers appeared. On the other hand, cockroach like insects did pretty well. If you don't like cockroaches, you won't like the New Permian.

Cockroaches should do well as things heat up, but in the evolution of life, predictions are just guesses. Maybe rats will do well. Maybe reptiles will start getting bigger again. But it won't be just a repeat of the Permian. Because I think Homo Sapiens will survive. Perhaps renamed Homo Stupidius.

Another difficult guess is how many humans will survive the coming die off. Will most of us cooperate to stay alive, with the population reduced to maybe 1 billion from the current 7 billion? I doubt that, but it is possible. I think people will cut each others throats for the last remaining air conditioned theater tickets, or grass-fed beef, or whatever else has not disappeared but reminds the survivors of the good old days.

I expect humans to evolve after the winnowing. We'll see who can take the heat. Small noses are probably out. Big noses help to cool hot air on the way to the lungs, and to retain moisture as air leaves the lungs. While cold-blooded animals will likely get bigger, humans may get smaller. Body mass, which generates heat, shrinks at a faster rate than skin surface, which helps cool the body off. Unless it is so hot that skin surface admits more heat, so it is better to be big ... in which case people will evolve to be the size of elephants. Or at least Rhinos. Which would give Republicans an advantage.

But most promising is the potential for what biologists call radiation. Not atomic radiation, but the evolutionary branching out of one life form into different niches, followed by specialization and eventually by forming new species or even whole new groups of species.

Radiation typically occurs when a dominant life form is wiped out. That is how a few mostly small mammals that had been hiding in holes came to replace the dinosaurs. A few million years later there were mammals of all sizes occupying all kinds of niches, from herbivore to omnivore to carnivore. So you might, in a million years or so, get cow-like homo species and wolf-like species and certainly sloth like species, snake like species, and maybe even bird men.

But can't we do anything to stop this disaster? Can't we save the current flora and fauna and temperature range? Clearly no. It is over. Industry won. It bought politicians and scientists and propagandists and the general public. They delayed and weaseled and made money on the side selling solar cells and wind mills.

So adapt or perish. Of course, it make take a few hundred generations to see what type of humans will ultimately emerge from the die off.

Of course I could be wrong. We could be headed to the Devonian instead. Average temperature 6 degrees Centigrade above the current era. Giant insects and scorpions dominate a landscape of primitive plants, with a few amphibians walking around. Happy hunting. Or avoiding predators.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Congress Should Fully Fund the U. S. Postal Service

Postal services are crucial to modern economies and cultures. Messenger and transport services of various kinds go back to the dawn of civilization. Benjamin Franklin realized the importance of postal services. With the other Founding Fathers he built the United States Postal Service (USPS) into the original U.S. Constitution:

Section 8. Congress shall have the Power To ... establish Post Offices and Post Roads.

The list of Powers actually granted to Congress is quite short. Since the adoption of the Constitution various Congresses have taken to authorizing (along with Presidents and Supreme Courts) many, many things that are not clearly intended by the Constitution.

But in the last two decades, what Congress has failed to do is to fully fund the Post Office. Pushed by lobbyists, ideologues, and government-haters, Congress has purposely made a shambles of the Post Office. Their actions come close to Treason against our Sacred Constitution. They have funded corrupt governments abroad, funded corrupt friends at home, but they have not funded the Post Office.

That hurts all of us, except perhaps the stockholders of Federal Express and United Parcel Service.

A strong, efficient and universal Postal Service is a keystone to modern economies. How bad has it become? It costs less to send a package from any city in China to Seattle than it costs to send the same package from Seattle to San Francisco.

Why? Because the Chinese government realizes the importance of postal service to business and economic prosperity. They fund their postal service. So if you go to eBay and are looking for the best price including shipping for anything (like an input into your own American business), the cost of shipping across the Pacific Ocean does not prohibit buying from Chinese merchants.

While electronic communications have had a revolutionary impact on the world, people are still physical and need physical things. Consumers need them and businesses need them. If a business needs a shipping container full of something, they don't need the USPS. But if they are in the business of breaking down that container and selling to individual consumers over the Internet, they need a reliable low-cost shipper.

By subsidizing the Post Office instead of (or even in addition to) oil companies, farming corporations, and road builders, Congress could help to restore the American economy to maximum efficiency. We need a system that delivers paper and parcels to every physical address in America every day. People should not have to wait in long lines at post offices to pick up packages, especially when the packages were sent via rival services and then dumped at post offices for final delivery.

Given that the Post Office charges for its services, it would not take much of a direct subsidy from Congress to get it to peak modern efficiency. Subsidized rates would be available to all shippers. That would encourage consumption and help all the mom-and-pop businesses that have emerged to ship what consumers want directly to their homes.

When you hear some doltish politician is against funding the Post Office, wave a copy of the U.S. Constitution in his face. Ask him to trample on it, because that is what he (or she) is doing when they vote to strangle the United States Post Office. Don't vote for the S.O.B. Vote for someone who honors the Constitution and has some business sense.

Make full funding of the United States Postal Service an issue in the 2016 elections. Demand that candidates take a position. And the only right position is that the USPS be fully funded so it can become the most economically effective Post Office in the world. Let's enable U.S. merchants to include the lure of "free shipping" when they sell to the Chinese, or anyone else in the world.

If the U.S. wants to be number 1 in the world, it needs the number 1 Postal Service in the world.