Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda…

 

If we had a real opposition party, you know–one with real alternative policy proposals–said party would have won the midterms in a landslide. Recent history has demonstrated that American voters are willing to support any candidate that offers an alternative to the same old neoliberal-economic-bullshit and endless war.

In 2016 President Donald Trump was elected on a platform of dealing with domestic crises raging from economic ruin and impoverishment from corporate off-shoring of US manufacturing to an out of control drug and opioid abuse epidemic brought about by these economic policies. Trump’s surprising victory was also predicated on opposition to the previous US policies of unsuccessful nation-building and government-toppling projects ranging from Iraq to Afghanistan and since extended into such nations as Ukraine, Syria, and Libya.

Unfortunately, as Trump’s proposals– to reform the trade policies that have hollowed out American manufacturing by sending jobs to China; and to change US foreign policies of regime-change, while improving relations with Russia, have foundered, the Democrats have wasted two years screeching about Russia-gate. Domestically the Democrats have failed to provide an alternative for Trump’s trickle-down economic nostrums and counterproductive tariffs. In the midterms the DNC is running a record number of former military and intelligence officers as candidates.

At this point I think it’s safe to conclude that the DNC intends to ignore the enormous popularity of Bernie Sanders 2016 presidential campaign policy proposals, and that this behavior is a feature rather than a bug.

I think it’s also obvious to conclude that both parties support an oligarchic agenda, only that the Democrats have a tougher PR problem. Republicans can be straight up about their wealth-humping, whereas Democrats have to disguise it with opposition towards racism and other forms of bigotry, because their wealthy benefactors could give-a-fuck if gay people can marry as long as Democrats bail out bankers and support more wars.  That both parties support the same oligarchic agendas which absolutely clobber their disadvantaged supporters first and worst goes unmentioned by either side.

Despite the fact of both parties being in the thrall of their wealthy supporters, surveys consistently demonstrate that Americans favor much more progressive policies than our plutocratic political parties offer.

Like ending our forever wars? In the run-up to the “historic midterms” neither party had a thing to say a thing about American foreign policy, the nation’s ongoing wars, or the exploding, record defense budget.

Or, single-payer healthcare? While, Trump is accusing Democrats of wanting to impose socialism, and he uses single-payer healthcare, also known as Medicare for All, Democrats are still stuck defending Obamacare, while most of the developed countries around the world have single-payer systems, offering better healthcare outcomes.

After the elections results, it appears that our future will be a ongoing stalemate between the parties, with the Democrats controlling the House, while the Republicans control the Senate and Presidency.

With the sheer venality of both parties, I think it’s probably the best we can hope for.

Though largely unmentioned in the corporate press, the current impasse and incoherent policies put forth by both parties are hastening the end of the US empire.

The vision of Nero fiddling while Rome burns come to mind.

 

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Told You So

 

As Russia-gate staggers to the finish it’s becoming increasingly clear that what I warned about two years ago has come to pass.

The narrative that our president is controlled by Putin has brought about a new and more dangerous Cold War, that threatens to turn hot any day with NATO war exercises on the doorstep of Russia, the withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and daily confrontations in Syria between the two nuclear-armed superpowers. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists recently reset the doomsday clock to 2 minutes to midnight. 

Meanwhile, none of the investigations arising from the Russia-gate conspiracy theory have turned up a single shred of evidence that Donald Trump colluded with the Russian government to rig the 2016 election.

I still believe that Russia-gate has been used precisely to attack Trump for his peace overtures to Russia while encouraging him to be confrontational as a means of disproving it.

Going further, I told you so, and warned that this is exactly what would happen.

What’s so infuriating is that even though the Russia-gaters were wrong, they’ve done tremendous damage. Thank’s a lot. I survived one Cold War, and this time we may not get so lucky.

In addition, all the shrill, demented screeching about Russia has allowed for a complete lack of accountability for the Democratic Party’s brazen election rigging, a total marginalization of real problems and progressive agendas, and the debasement of our political discourse. For example, liberals need to look in the mirror with their dire warnings of hate speech. You can’t accuse Trump of treason and call for his assassination then sit there as if the dangerous escalation in poisonous rhetoric is all his fault.

Then, there’s the sheer dishonesty of the accusations. For all the talk about Trump being some kind of neo-fascist, Putin-puppet it’s clear at this point that he’s simply continuing the policies of our last two presidents–Bush and Obama.

The establishment elite that instigated Russia-gate have done our nation and the Democratic Party a great disservice with their diversion, while turning liberals into frothing McCarthyites, calling for a Deep State coup.

Indeed, the reasons for Russia-gate were spelled out from the beginning. A journalistic insider’s account of the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, Shattered, revealed that “in the days after the election, Hillary declined to take responsibility for her own loss.” Her top advisers were summoned the following day, according to the book, “to engineer the case that the election wasn’t entirely on the up-and-up … Already, Russian hacking was the centerpiece of the argument.”

From the moment of Trump’s surprise victory, liberals have been in denial about why Hillary lost. Today they are still cobbling together a narrative of how Russia attacked our democracy despite the ongoing lack of proof. In the process they’ve actively resurrected George W. Bush’s reputation and the neocons who lied us into the invasion of Iraq, all because they can’t admit that Obama was a guardian of elitist interests, and Hillary an atrocious candidate.

Of course, there’s another reason for the durability of Russia-gate. For the corporate media, Trump has been fabulous for the bottom line, and Russia-gate can be understood as the ultimate expression of Trump-hate, which is the corporate media’s business model. Think about it–why has the media’s been relentlessly focused on a made-up story about collusion with Russians, for which a special counsel with unlimited budget and resources hasn’t found any proof after two whole years?

Here’s a prediction–they won’t find any.

If Russia had actually hacked the DNC e-mails then the National Security Agency (NSA) would have had proof of such activity. In fact, the NSA could have tracked such activity. But they did not do that. And, while this eavesdropping may have not been admissible in court, you can bet your bottom dollar that the deep state mavens that hold such antipathy towards Trump would have leaked the proof to their stenographers at the Washington Post.

As signs point to Mueller’s investigation wrapping up in the near future without turning up any evidence that Trump colluded with the Russian government, it’s time for everyone who helped advance this toxic, suicidal anti-Russia narrative to ask themselves a question. Was it worth it to pursue a crusade to oust Trump even at the cost of escalating tensions with a nuclear superpower that could lead to a conflict that would end life on earth?

Or, maybe it’s time to shut-the-fuck-up and rethink your entire worldview?

 

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Return to Sender

 

Crimes committed on the periphery of empire always return to the homeland.

Always.

Following this logic, perhaps the pipe bombs mailed to George Soros, Hillary Clinton, and Barak Obama are not from a Trump supporter like the media has been implying but from someone who has been on the receiving end of the drone strikes and regime change operations our ruling class uses to discipline the restless natives?

So far none of the pipe bombs have exploded, but that hasn’t stopped the #Resistance and the corporate media from freaking-the-fuck-out.

In fact, it’s probably a good thing that none of the bombs have exploded like the ordinance we’re happy to lob around in the name of freedom and, of course, peace. Imagine if our elite were targeted by the drones and bombers that we use to attack people in Third World countries every single day?

In the reporting on the targets of the pipe bombs, there’s been no mention of the reasons some malcontent might want to attack Obama, Clinton and Soros, though it’s hardly a secret.

Our Nobel Peace President dropped 26,171 bombs in the final year of his presidency, and his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, was so overjoyed by Moammar Gaddafi being sodomized by a bayonet that she cackled–“We came we saw, he died,” on national TV. Soros, despite being depicted by the right as some sort of communist-over-lord for his support of Move On and the Democratic Party, is actually little different that the average neocon with his penchant for regime change and hybrid-warfare via his Open Society Foundation.

The pipe bomb story has had a salutary effect for our Middle-East allies Saudi Arabia and Israel, who are thrilled to see the story of  Washington Post writer Jamal Khashoggi, who was brutally murdered and cut to piece on the direct orders of Saudi ruler Mohammad bin Salman, bumped off the front pages.

The pipe bomb story has also had a salutary effect on military/industrial stalwarts like Boeing, Lockheed-Martin and Raytheon, who’ve been overjoyed to see focus shift away the fact that the US is providing weapons, fuel, and targeting intel for our allies the Saudi’s, who’ve been busy bombing buses filled with children in Yemen.

For instance—

 

 

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The Gatekeepers

 

When they silenced Alex Jones, I was certain that that wouldn’t be the end of the online censorship.

And, now the other shoe has dropped with Facebook’s and Twitter’s recent purging of alternative sites and accounts that challenge conventional wisdom. Popular pages like The AntiMedia (2.1 million fans), The Free Thought Project (3.1 million fans), Press for Truth (350K fans),  Police the Police (1.9 million fans), Cop Block (1.7 million fans), and Punk Rock Libertarians (125K fans) are just a few of the ones which were taken off the internet.

This censorship is significant because social media is a massive source of information and influence today.

From the actions of Twitter and Facebook, it’s apparent that this purge was coordinated. The entity that is making censorship decisions for Facebook is the Atlantic Council, a think tank funded by NATO, weapons manufacturers, Middle-Eastern oil-state monarchies, billionaires and different branches of the US military. In short, it has been described as being nothing less than NATO’s unofficial propaganda wing.

The Atlantic Council recently published a very interesting 21-page document discussing a US military conference detailing, in present tense, how Silicon Valley tech giants are being used to nullify the threat that the new media landscape poses to the US power establishment.

“The central theme of the report is “sovereignty,” or the state’s ability to impose its will upon the population. This “sovereignty faces greater challenges now than it ever has in the past, due to the confluence between growing political opposition to the state and the internet’s ability to quickly spread political dissent. Technology has democratized the ability for sub-state groups and individuals to broadcast a narrative with limited resources and virtually unlimited scope. In the past, the general public had limited sources of information, which were managed by professional gatekeepers.”

Since this is America, where we’re subsumed by neoliberalism, the solution involves privatization. Enter the social media companies. The best mechanism for suppressing oppositional viewpoints and promoting pro-government narratives is to farm-it-out to the technology corporations, including Facebook, Google, YouTube, and Twitter, which can determine the content that people view.

To make sense of this new burst of censorship it’s important to recall some recent history. In November 2016, the Washington Post published a puff-piece on a shadowy and up to then largely unknown organization called PropOrNot, which had compiled a list of organizations and alternative blogs it claimed were part of a sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign. Indeed, Russia-gate, has been an essential part of this demonization of un-official news, where the empire gatekeepers are absent.

The clear implication of all this is that the censorship will not end with Google’s manipulation of its search platform or the removal of accounts by Facebook and Twitter. We must fear that their ultimate aim is the total banning of oppositional news web sites.

On Tuesday, Google admitted in an internal document that it and other technology companies had “gradually shifted away from unmediated free speech and towards censorship and moderation.” The document stated that an aim of the censorship was to “increase revenues” under conditions of growing government and commercial pressure. The document acknowledged that such actions constitute a break with the “American tradition that prioritizes free speech for democracy.”

Our dystopian social media environment is now coming into view. Commercial speech is totally cool. You can also share all the pictures of cute cats and children dressed in their scary Halloween costumes you want. But political speech will now have to be approved by the corporate gatekeepers.

We’re headed towards what George Orwell’s totalitarian 1984 would have looked like if Oceania had been privatized. In our brave new world, it’s corporations who will deploy the Thought Police to persecute independent thinking.

 

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Après moi, le déluge

 

Last week, I neglected to mention one of the key drivers of American nihilism–elite impunity.

As David Sirota recounts in a new article, since Enron, America has become an elite accountability free-zone.

“Our society has been fundamentally altered by a powerful political movement whose goal is not merely another court seat, tax cut or election victory. This movement’s objective is far more revolutionary: the creation of an accountability-free zone for an ennobled aristocracy, even as the rest of the population is treated to law-and-order rhetoric and painfully punitive policy.

In less than two decades, America has experienced the Iraq war, the financial crisis, intensifying economic stratification, an opioid plague, persistent gender and racial inequality and now seemingly unending climate change-intensified disasters. While the victims have been ravaged by these crime sprees, crises and calamities, the perpetrators have largely avoided arrest, inquisition, incarceration, resignation, public shaming and ruined careers. That’s because the United States has been turned into a safe space for a permanent ruling class. Inside the rarefied refuge, the key players who created this era’s catastrophes and who embody the most pernicious pathologies have not just eschewed punishment – many of them have actually maintained or even increased their social, financial and political status.”

I couldn’t agree more.

In the years since 9/11, Americans have watched as the neocon architects of America’s worst foreign policy disaster–the invasion of Iraq–completely escaped responsibility, while being rewarded for their failure. Same goes for their cheerleaders in the corporate media. They’ve all gone on to bigger and better things. War, it seems, is good for ones career.

Ditto for the bankers who caused the Wall Street Crash. They walked off with million dollar bonuses while the rest of us took it in the neck.

Who says that crime doesn’t pay?

In fact, it’s hard to keep up with the sheer volume of elite malfeasance without a scorecard.

Just off the top of my head there’s the CIA’s torture regime; the CIA’s torture memo that was destroyed; the banks rigging interest rates; the retroactive legal immunity for the telecom’s role in the government’s mass surveillance system; and, most galling, Purdue Pharma, where the pharmaceutical company made obscene profits overprescribing opioids, and is now turning around and profiting off the treatment.

Like I say, you can’t make this shit up.

Despite the elegant prose written in the Constitution, it was so 18th century. Today, the feral elite in this country have declared themselves above the law and beyond accountability on too many occasions for it to be an accident. Rather, it’s policy, where Obama’s Attorney General, Eric Holder, laid it out explictly–executives may commit crimes with virtual impunity, and the mega-banks are simply too big to jail.

The dangers of a feral elite was articulated many years ago by Arnold Toynbee in his majestic A Study Of History. Empires in decline, Toynbee wrote, divide into two unequal parts–a dominant minority that controls the political and economic systems with its rewards, and a majority proletariat that bears the costs of this relationship. As this relationship lengthens, the minority forgets the basic law of politics–the people will only remain loyal to their leaders if their leaders remain loyal to them. When this relationship goes off the rails, the people respond by rejecting not only the elites leadership, but their values and ideals as well.

Donald Trump, anyone?

History demonstrates that in declining empires the feral elite very frequently don’t get the memo, even as some of them are dimly aware of the consequences of their actions.

“Après moi, le déluge”

Update: The consequences of  a feral elite. All-American edition:

“Kavanaugh’s career should have ended at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. His new role as Supreme Court justice is what happens when democratic societies don’t hold criminals in the government accountable for their actions. At a bare minimum, everyone involved with the Bush administration’s war in Iraq and post-9/11 torture and detainee programs should have been thoroughly discredited and rejected from polite society. That they weren’t may end up being one of the defining moments in the 21st century.”

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American Nihilism

 

Why are Americans so desperately unhappy? What’s up with the opioid addiction, the mass murders, the deaths of despair, and the deep cynicism, that I’ve come to call American nihilism?

Maybe this is all because we’ve embraced economic policies that condemned millions of Americans in the working classes to poverty and misery, while treating our natural world like an open sewer?

One of those ruinous economic policies pushed so enthusiastically by our elite was free trade. Free trade allowed US corporations to close America factories and relocate to foreign sites where desperate workers would do the same work as American workers for a fraction of the cost.

Free trade was touted endlessly as beneficial to all Americans. In reality, free trade, despite the misleading moniker has been wonderful for the elite and terrible for the rest of us. What’s more, these effects weren’t acts of God. The mass unemployment, stagnant job market, and soaring rents that have driven so many working class Americans into destitution and misery since Reagan’s time aren’t bugs, they’re features, meant to increase the wealth of those who benefit from lower labor costs and asset ownership.

And that brings us to another economic policy that’s led to the immiseration of Americans and the corresponding nihilism–austerity. A modern economy depends on consumer expenditures for prosperity. When most consumers don’t have enough money to meet the ordinary requirements of life, much less the occasional luxury, the economy contracts. That’s the unmentionable fallacy at the heart of the austerity policies so dear to neoliberal economists and our sociopathic elite. As Henry Ford demonstrated by paying his workers more, the prosperity of the whole economy depends on the prosperity of the working classes. Austerity policies that impoverish the working classes for the temporary enrichment of the privileged thus always end badly. Can you say Third Reich?

Then, there’s our vaunted American democracy where both political parties have come to be solely concerned with the interests of the privileged classes and opposed to the interests of working-class Americans, even as they pretend to be rivals. There’s no doubt in my mind that this kayfabe arrangement is an enormous contributor to American nihilism.

For an example, let’s examine how we elect a chief-executive. The entire rhetoric of presidential politics in my lifetime has focused on the claim that we have to vote for the Democratic candidate because if the Republican candidate wins he’ll get to nominate a horrible Supreme Court justice or get us into another war or destroy the environment, even though it’s beyond obvious that the Democratic candidate supports the very same policies and is bought and sold by the same corrupt interests. Any suggestion that a presidential candidate might be expected to do something positive is dismissed out of hand as “unrealistic.”

Voting for the lesser evil means that the best the American people are supposed to hope for is the continuation of the current state of affairs, and for most Americans today, the current state of affairs is unbearable. If you don’t happen to belong to the privileged classes, life in today’s USA is rapidly becoming intolerable and the “realistic” policies pursued enthusiastically by both political parties are directly responsible for making it intolerable.

Trump surprising victory demonstrates that the American people have had enough of voting for the lesser-evil.

Still, there’s another important reason for American nihilism, but it’s one of those topics that’s largely unmentionable. I think that most Americans, whether they will admit it or not, know in their heart of hearts that the American way of life–the happy motoring to the suburbs, constant shopping and endless growth–are sacrificing our future. Peak oil and global warming are only a couple of the looming disasters that represent the dark side of the American dream.

Going further, I believe that we can point to a specific historical point where American nihilism began. I have in mind 1979, when President Carter gave his famous malaise speech, where in response to the energy crisis, he called on Americans to unify around a sense of civic sacrifice. Carter, also, correctly identified the roots of the nihilism that plagues us today–the American way of life with its rampant consumerism and materialism.

Here’s just a little of what Carter had to say. “The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation.”

Unfortunately, Americans were not ready for the sacrifice that was required, especially when Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan’s campaign theme of the 1980 election was “Morning in America”.

The economic and environmental decisions we made back in the 1970’s had a common denominator that a certain pro-wrestling Hall-of-Fame-president used to muscle his way into the White House. This Faustian bargain–throwing working class Americans and the environment under the bus–were supposed to make America great again, except these policies have abjectly failed. The policies we’re talking about–the lavish subsidies for corporations and the wealthy, punitive austerity for the poor, endless wars in the Middle-East, malign neglect of domestic infrastructure, and willful ignorance in the face of the obvious consequences of climate change–were supposed to bring prosperity to America and maintain our place as the preeminent hegemon.

These policies have failed and yet no one wants to talk about it.

Perhaps American nihilism is ultimately about our long-running deal with the devil, where it’s dawning on us that he got the better of the deal.

 

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Kayfabe

 

The resistance to President Trump leaves much to be desired.

While it’s true that substantial numbers of Americans oppose Trump, the #Resistance, led by establishment Democrats is anything but resistance. More like kayfabe.

The recent Defense spending bill is a case in point. The US Senate has just passed Trump’s mammoth military spending increase by a landslide 92-8 vote. The eight senators who voted “nay”? Seven Republicans, and Independent Bernie Sanders. Every single Democrat supported the biggest war budget since the height of the Iraq war.

Yay, Resistance!

What’s really funny is the way in which Trump is portrayed. If you watch MSNBC and Rachael Maddow, you probably believe that Trump is a Nazi/Kremlin agent who presents an unprecedented threat to America, while if your news source is Fox News you believe that Trump is protecting you against the nefarious deep state. Overall, there’s a maniacal focus on Trump, as though he is the cause, rather than the by-product and symptom of decades-old systemic American pathologies.

However, it’s become quite apparent that Trump is continuing the same policies as Obama and Bush. He’s simply the latest imperial president–albeit a crazy, texting one.

Not that the corporate media can explain this concept, they’ve managed to co-opt political language quite effectively. Goebbels would have approved. It’s the big lie.

Yet, it’s everywhere because it serves so many powerful interests in the US right now. Most significantly, it excuses and empowers the ancien-régime-on-the-Potomac, now starring in the #Resistance as heroic champions of democracy.

Indeed, what the #Resistance has accomplished is to turn our attention away from the real villains–the U.S. political establishment that is ensconced within both parties, along with the financial elites who own and control both of them for their own ends.

I find it quite fitting that Donald Trump is a member of the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame, while it would certainly be appropriate for the #Resistance to don spandex tights and a cape.

Update: Caitlin had this representation of our political process that says it all.

 

 

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