Pipeline-Istan

 

The Russian sanctions bill has got to be one of the most perverse pieces of legislation that I’ve ever seen.

Since WWII the presidency has increased its power vis-a-vis congress in relation to foreign policy and the ability to declare war, resulting in the imperial presidency that most of us have grown up with. One of the overlooked positives of the Trump presidency is that through his sheer ineptness he’s diminishing these imperial powers. However, Trump  called for better relations with Russia, resulting in a  bi-partisan attack led by the neoconservatives in both parties.

With the sanctions congress is effectively taking back its war powers to stop Trump from making peace with Russia.

What’s even more darkly amusing is that the sanctions are based on Russian meddling in our precious democracy, when recent studies have confirmed that the US is officially a plutocracy.

Maybe they should meddle.

That the sanctions passed both chambers of congress so overwhelmingly got me thinking that maybe the sanctions are about something else?

Perhaps they’re related to the wellspring of US foreign policy–oil and gas?

Asian Times, reporter Pepe Escobar coined the phrase Pipeline-Istan, to describe the New-Great-Game, a struggle for control over the oil and natural gas resources that are critical to our industrial world. Escobar says that nothing of significance happen with US foreign policy without an energy angle.

In a new article, Escobar argues that the new sanctions are all about the  energy wars against Russia.

“Even without considering the stellar historical record of Washington not only meddling but bombing and regime-changing vast swathes of the planet — from Iraq and Libya to the current threats against Iran, Venezuela and North Korea — the Russia-gate hysteria about meddling in the 2016 US presidential election is a non-story, by now thoroughly debunked.

The heart of the matter is, once again, energy wars.”

Escobar says that by imposing such harsh sanctions congress is also declaring economic war against Europe, especially Germany.

“According to a Middle East-based US energy source not hostage to the Beltway consensus, the message in these sanctions is the EU has no future unless it buys US natural gas to cut out Russia. To deny Russia the natural gas market of the EU was the goal behind the just lost war in Syria to put the Qatar-Saudi Arabia-Syria-Turkey-EU pipeline in and the opening to Iran for an Iran-Iraq-Syria-Turkey-EU pipeline. None of these plans worked.

The source adds as evidence the 2014 oil price war against Russia, orchestrated by “the dumping of Gulf States’ surplus oil or reserve capacity on the world market. Since this has failed to bring Russia to its knees, the destruction of the Russian natural gas market in the EU has become a national priority for the United States.”

Escobar has been following the energy wars that constitute the New-Great-Game since the 1990’s when President Clinton, with the advice of Zbignew Bresinski, plotted the initial moves. Once the Soviet Union collapsed, control of the energy-rich former Soviet republics in the region was quickly seen as essential to future U.S. global power. It would be there, as the neocons imagined it, that the War on Terror would intersect with control over energy flows in a way that would allow the US to remain the dominant hegemon.

You’d never know any of this from reading the Washington Post or New York Times, where they describe US foreign policies as a never ending crusade to spread democracy and establish order in a chaotic world. If they criticize US foreign policy it’s–mistakes were made but the goals were noble.

Escobar asks the questions that our media dare not, and then connects the dots.

“How could Russia not interpret the war in Kosovo, then the invasion of Afghanistan (where Washington had previously tried to pair with the Taliban and encourage the building of another of those avoid-Iran, avoid-Russia pipelines), followed by the invasion of Iraq (that country of vast oil reserves), and finally the recent clash in Georgia (that crucial energy transportation junction) as straightforward wars for Pipelineistan? Though seldom imagined this way in our mainstream media, the Russian and Chinese leaderships saw a stark “continuity” of policy stretching from Bill Clinton’s humanitarian imperialism to Bush’s Global War on Terror.”

Many educated Americans dismiss this type of analysis. They point out that the US doesn’t need to go to all the trouble to get oil and gas when we can buy it cheaply on the open market, and now with fracking technology we have our very own American sources. But that misses the point. It’s not about access, but control of energy flows.

US foreign policy since the end of the Cold War has been about controlling energy flows and making sure Russia is cut out.

If you want to understand what it is that the US does in the world–follow the pipelines.

 

 

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Cold War Kids

 

The Democratic Party with the corporate media in tow has been consistently promulgating the idea that Russia meddled in the 2016 election in favor of Trump. This effort is part of a larger scheme. Even before the election powerful factions within the US were agitating for a new Cold War against Russia.

And now Congress is getting into the act, with the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passing a bill giving Congress the power to block any effort by the White House to weaken sanctions on Russia, following the lead of the Senate that passed a sanctions bill 97-3.

A New York Times interview with Noam Chomsky provided a small sample of just how unhinged our discourse has become.

For liberal opinion, the political crime of the century, as it is sometimes called, is Russian interference in American elections. The effects of the crime are undetectable, unlike the massive effects of interference by corporate power and private wealth, not considered a crime but the normal workings of democracy. That’s even putting aside the record of U.S. ‘interference’ in foreign elections, Russia included; the word ‘interference’ in quotes because it is so laughably inadequate, as anyone with the slightest familiarity with recent history must be aware.”

There is a method to the madness of a new Cold War.

The ideology of the US ruling class–the cold war kids— mandates endless conflict with Russia, and is seen as essential to the US grand strategy of empire. The stability of the NATO alliance, and the entire U.S. strategy of permanently subordinating Europe to its rule, is founded on the New Cold War with Russia.

Then there’s the MIC, Military/Industrial/Complex, that rakes in billions from the sale of advanced weapons systems that would be threatened by Trump’s intention to normalize relations with Russia.

The overweening power of finance and Wall Street over the US economy and their corresponding need to maintain the US dollar as the worlds reserve currency, also mandates US global primacy, which increasingly relies on raw military power to get its way.

The permanent war party that controls Washington D.C. may not be good at fighting and winning wars but since Vietnam has become superbly talented at coopting liberal critics by describing these conflicts as “liberal interventions.” President Trump has made their job easier. Now, with the ongoing investigation into Russian interference, erstwhile liberals, who used to look askance at the MIC and the deep state intelligence agencies, excitedly point to these institutions as validation that Trump should be deposed.

The rest of the country doesn’t seem to agree. A Harvard-Harris survey poll conducted last month shows that majorities in both major parties are saying “enough with Russia.”  They want Congress to drop the Russia madness and get progressive things done on healthcare, the economy and jobs. Almost three out of four respondents to the Harvard-Harris poll said that lawmakers aren’t focusing on the issues that matter most to them. More than two-third of Democrats (68 percent) say that. Sixty-two percent of voters say there is “no hard evidence” that Trump has colluded with Russia.  Sixty-four percent say the investigations are “hurting the country.”

The first Cold War did immeasurable damage to American values. From the McCarthy witch hunts and charges of sedition leveled against labor unions, to support for murderous right-wing juntas as a bulwark against indigenous nationalism that US planners depicted as a world-wide communist revolution, the US tarnished itself and its ideals.

With all of our domestic problems, including “the massive effects of interference by corporate power and private wealth,” the last thing we need is another Cold War.

Update: This describes the cold war kids to a t.

“A problem arises when almost all experts and politicians participating in these Washington based think tanks come from federal agencies or industries tied to the military through contracts worth billions of dollars. Hardly offering any dissent from official or mainstream opinions on issue ranging from Russia to the F-35, politicians, experts and journalists all agree that Russia constitutes the main danger and that the F-35 program does not have any critical issues and is actually a superior weapon, two lies in full swing. Think-tanks and their guests promote an erroneous narrative that seeds, nourishes and sustains the problems and inefficiencies that beset military systems and Washington’s strategic vision. They offer no criticism, no change of policy, only echo chambers of lies and propaganda.”

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Pitchforks

 

Since the election results came in the Hillary Clinton wing of the Democratic Party along with the corporate media have been in full cry over Russia’s supposed interference.

Nick Hanauer, a Seattle-based entrepreneur, has a better explanation of why we ended up with Trump“The pitchforks are coming, my friends, and whether they come in the angry hands of a desperate mob or the tiny hands of an angry dictator, they’re coming for us. You may not want to believe that your great fortune has come, at least in part, at the expense of others, but the American people believe it. And they’re righteously pissed. So, you have a choice: You can either act now to help close the vast economic divide that is tearing our republic apart—or you can follow Trump’s rhetorical lead and start building huge f*cking walls. The pitchforks are at the gate, and time is running short.”

Hanauer, who I’m going to quote at length, makes a familiar argument to yours truly– economic insecurity does strange things to a society.

“Many smug, wealthy, highly educated liberals like myself (and let’s be honest, like many of you who have been blowing up my phone since the election) have taken to soothing ourselves with the notion that Trump was elected by stupid, racist people. And to some degree, this may be true. But like it or not, in America, even stupid racists have an equal claim to the prosperity, dignity, status and happiness that we urban economic elites hold so dear. Also, they vote. So while we should never pander to their racism, we must face the fact that if our greed prevents them from having their fair shot at happiness, they will most certainly take it from us by force. Parenthetically, I want to make clear that I am not so naïve as to believe that prosperity eliminates racism. It does not. But, it is one hell of a distraction. People who are thriving and hopeful may still be filled with hate, but they don’t have nearly as much reason to act on it.”

Hanauer proceeds to demolish the conventional explanation for the massive inequality in America.

“Many of my peers prefer to hide behind the enduring myth that today’s crisis of economic inequality and insecurity is the result of forces unleashed by unstoppable trends in technology and globalization. “It’s not my fault I have so much while others have so little,” we comfort ourselves, “it’s the economy.” That is nonsense. There’s no intrinsic reason why the social and political changes delivered by technological advances and globalization have to massively concentrate wealth in the hands of the few. We simply exploited changing circumstances to take advantage of people with less power than us.”

Hanauer’s argument needs to be repeated. These were political decisions. The savage inequality that’s leading to a pre-civil war type atmosphere in America was created deliberately by the policies of neoliberalism–massive tax cuts for the rich, the crushing of trade unions, deregulation, privatization, outsourcing and competition in public services.

“Over the last 40 years, corporate profits as a percentage of GDP have increased from about six percent to about 11 percent, while wages as a percentage of GDP have fallen by about the same amount. That represents about a trillion dollars a year that used to go to wages, but now goes to shareholders and executives. One trick we use to keep profits high and labor costs low is to refuse to schedule workers for the 30-plus hours a week they would need to qualify for benefits. Today, an astonishing 6.4 million involuntary part-time workers are denied the full-time work they seek in order to keep our profit margins high. You can call that “the market” or you can call that “stealing,” but from the point of view of a disgruntled worker it amounts to the same thing. How could they not be angry?”

Free-market apostles like Milton Friedman and Alan Greenspan, claimed that unleashing the animal-spirits of the “makers”would benefit all of America with a torrent of wealth that would invariably trickle down.

This was also the argument of the neoliberals. “Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that “the market” delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning. Inequality is recast as virtuous: a reward for utility and a generator of wealth, which trickles down to enrich everyone. Efforts to create a more equal society are both counterproductive and morally corrosive. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve.”

Of course, all these arguments were nothing more that cover story for the biggest heist in history. Free-market economic nostrums, or neoliberalism, or whatever you want to call it, was always about justifying the policies the rich and powerful wanted all along.

The travails of empires at the end of their days have been well recorded by historians. The common denominator in all of the stories is that empires fail when the elite go rogue. We are at that point in America. From palatial homes in coastal enclaves, to prestigious boarding schools, to the private planes that allow them to bypass the terror theater the rest of us are stuck with the elite in America might as well live on a different planet.

Maybe you better sharpen that pitchfork.

 

 

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In our world, creating and nurturing community is a revolutionary act

 

The defining characteristic of neoliberalism is it’s use of crisis and disaster to force its market based dogma upon a captive society. In the process, neoliberalism  destroys community and compassion while encouraging rampant and destructive individualism.

This has been a 40 year political as well as economic project of our elite, who chafed at New Deal taxes and regulations. Going further, what bothered them as much as the loss of money was the loss of political power, influence and veneration.

The stag-flation crisis of the 1970’s provided the opportunity to force reforms. In Fear City: New York’s Fiscal Crisis and the Rise of Austerity Politics, Kim Phillips-Fein, spells out the details of the ruling-class shock doctrine.

“The New York City fiscal crisis was a turning point not just for the city, but the subsequent development of global capitalism. It sounded the death knell for the golden age of postwar liberalism, and heralded the emergence of finance as the leading edge of capital’s dynamism and power. With the city’s balance sheet in shambles, the banks that funded much of New York’s sprawling municipal budget used their financial leverage to foster a major political crisis — and Wall Street’s leading figures wasted little time in taking advantage of it.

The fiscal crisis served as the battering ram for a ruling-class agenda that sought to disempower local elected officials, bring public-sector unions to heel, and justify a brutal austerity program that became the template not just for domestic Reaganism, but for neoliberal “structural adjustment” measures in Latin America and around the world.”

What happened in the US is nothing new. Rulers throughout the history of the world have implemented divide and rule. For example, the English enclosure acts, drove peasants out of a largely self-sufficient village into the maw of the Industrial Revolution, while pitting them against each other as wage slaves. In the process political and economic power was concentrated and consolidated by a new capitalist over-class, while a new working-class was once more placed into chains.

History, however, offers many examples of resistance.

This alternative history of resistance is probably the number one reason that Howard Zinn’s–A People’s History of the United States, engenders such hatred.

The history of resistance reveals that if we want to defeat neoliberalism, we need to recreate communities that are self sufficient and resilient.

In our world, creating and nurturing community is a revolutionary act.

 

 

 

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The flight to serfdom (Part 2)

 

Another example of neoliberalism working as planned.

“Mom feared being beaten by United crew, so she didn’t complain when her son’s seat was given away.”

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

Sorry, here’s Part-1 

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All the fake news that’s fit to print

 

The corporate-media is still freaking-out over fake news. Their concern would have a lot more credibility and sympathy if these so-called respectable news outlets hadn’t been responsible for so much propaganda. Does anyone remember mushroom clouds, aluminum tubes, and weapons of mass destruction, or are they down the memory hole?

In my opinion, the corporate-media is the largest disseminator of fake news, in the interest of promoting endless war.

The election of Donald Trump, who admittedly has a tenuous relationship with the truth, seems to have set the corporate-media off. They’ve spent the entire time since his election in attack mode, hammering him as some sort of Manchurian candidate, controlled personally by Russian leader–Vladimir Putin.

However, when Trump launched a volley of cruise missiles at Syria in response to the supposed chemical attack that Trump saw on CNN, the corporate-media turned on a dime from from attack to praise. The formerly adversarial press couldn’t find enough nice things to say about our kayfabe president.

I always thought the story was bullshit. That the Syrian military would employ chemical weapons when they were winning on the battlefield was always suspect, especially when the opposition, led by Al-Qaeda, has been known to use chemical weapons and has a powerful motive to perpetrate a false-flag attack.

And now we have confirming evidence that the chemical attack was fake news, seized upon by the corporate-media to smear Syria and Russia, all in a dangerous gambit to bring about the conflict that they lust for.

Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, with sources with first hand knowledge about what the U.S. military and intelligence community actually know, has just published another muckraking article–Trump’s Red Linein the German newspaper Die Welt.  Hersh reports US intelligence actually warned president Trump it had no evidence that the Syrian military had used sarin gas. Hersh writes that Russia had warned the U.S. about a Syrian military strike before Khan Shaykhun was bombed, and he says that bombing set off secondary explosions that released poisonous gases on the ground.

“The available intelligence made clear that the Syrians had targeted a jihadist meeting site on April 4 using a Russian-supplied guided bomb equipped with conventional explosives. Details of the attack,  including information on its so-called high-value targets, had been provided by the Russians days in advance to American and allied military officials in Doha, whose mission is to coordinate all U.S., allied, Syrian and Russian Air Force operations in the region.

Some American military and intelligence officials were especially distressed by the president’s determination to ignore the evidence. “None of this makes any sense,” one officer told colleagues upon learning of the decision to bomb. “We KNOW that there was no chemical attack … the Russians are furious.”

So far the corporate-media has completely ignored Hersh’s story, arguably his most explosive, because it shows a President Trump risking triggering a World War III with Russia based upon his own rash decision, over the objections and to the dismay of his own military and intelligence advisers.

Hersh wasn’t able to find a mainstream publisher in the US or the UK. Instead, he had to run it in a German newspaper. Hersh, a longtime reporter for the New York Times, used to be able to publish his signature investigative articles in the New Yorker. However, this time, as Hersh relates, ”I had a hell of a time getting it published.” 

In an interview, Hersh has some perceptive musings on how and why the corporate-media employs fake news in the service of endless war.

“The next few days were Trump’s most successful as president. America rallied around its commander in chief, as it always does in times of war… One prominent TV anchorman, Brian Williams of MSNBC, used the word ‘beautiful’ to describe the images of the Tomahawks being launched at sea. Speaking on CNN, Fareed Zakaria said: ‘I think Donald Trump became president of the United States.

…If you remember, the cry immediately was that Bashar had gassed his own people again with sarin as he allegedly did four years earlier. Then the Russians chimed in by denying it. Here you had Syria which is obviously very much hated by most Americans I guess. The polls probably show that. We don’t like Bashar Assad, and so for the president it was the easy win. He’d bomb somebody nobody likes. From the press reaction today, it’s clear that not liking Syria and not liking Russia for the mainstream press is much more important than what the president did which always surprises me but maybe it shouldn’t.”

As you can see, the corporate-media fake news conforms to the official Washington consensus of US empire, which is why the deep state, the military-industrial complex, the neo-cons or whatever one wants to call the permanent war-party will never allow Trump to pursue a detente with Putin.

Fifteen years ago, the Bush administration used fake news about weapons of mass destruction to start a war in Iraq that led to the deaths of millions. Now the Trump administration, with the full support of the corporate-media and the entire political establishment, is using fake news to escalate a war that could result in a nuclear exchange between the United States and Russia.

War, as they say, truly is the health of the state.

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Concentrated

 

Amazon’s takeover of Whole Foods has raised alarms about economic concentration. No corporation epitomizes monopoly better than Amazon, who’s business model is predicated on losing money with their super-low prices in order to capture market share. Their dominant position then allows them to chose how to extract more profit, which is usually a combination of squeezing suppliers and raising prices. There’s also a long term strategy: The reason investors are pumping cash into Amazon is so that it can grow so big that eventually it will control enough market share to jack up prices and make a killing.

Even neoliberal publications are starting to take notice of the economic concentration represented by corporations such as Google, Facebook and Amazon. “A report by The Economist found that two-thirds of the U.S. economy became more concentrated between 1997 and 2012, and dominant companies are using their growing control to squeeze cash from customers. However, since the 2008 financial crisis, U.S. markets have become anything but free. Mergers worth $10 trillion have reduced consumer choices. Domestic profits are at record highs, competition has plummeted and the rate of small-business creation is close to its 1970s-era nadir. The problem is worst in the tech sector. Facebook and Google each control at least 40 percent of their markets.”

These high-tech monopolists, based out of Silicon Valley, are largely represented by the Democratic Party, and their rise has been nourished and cheered on by recent Democratic presidents–Bill Clinton and Barak Obama. This political/economy is part of a larger phenomenon that writer Thomas Frank has detailed in Listen Liberal, where the Democratic Party abandoned labor and embraced affluent white collar professionals who’ve been the big winners in our milieu.

The only problem with the Democrats strategy of assuming that workers and labor had no here else to turn in our duopoly is this guy that’s currently the president. Maybe you’ve heard of him?

In the process of abandoning labor and workers, the Democrats have turned away from promoting economic fairness. This political transformation has separated the Democratic party from it’s historical appeal and in the process handed the issue to Trump, who based his populist campaign on disgust with the status quo. The Democratic Party used to see itself as standing up for the common man and promoting economic fairness as part of the concept of political freedom. Now they’re reduced to throwing crumbs at the Americans who’ve been left behind by their “New Economy”, while describing them as “deplorable”.

If the Democrats were not so beholden to their wealthy benefactors they would have a ready made campaign, that would resonate with down-trodden Americans. After all, you’re not free if a giant corporation controls what you can buy, what you can read or even what you can think.

Political and economic writer, Matt Stoller makes an important point that bears repeating. “The Democratic Party was founded on the premise that citizens can self-govern, that the rich or educated aren’t better or more virtuous. The point of politics is for ordinary citizens to protect and preserve their political liberties. As William Findley, a Revolutionary-era Congressman, put it, “Wealth in many hands is many checks.” Most Democrats do not take this seriously; they certainly do not act on it. They think the agenda is to tax the wealthy and redistribute their wealth through social programs, or compel corporations to pay workers more, rather than taking on the historic concentrations of corporate power already corrupting our democracy at the root.”

Libertarians see the government only as capable of vast oppression, but that’s not the world we live in. American corporations, through their capture of the US government, have emerged as the new oppressor, with a control over our lives that would have shocked George Orwell, but maybe not Aldous Huxley.

Indeed, more and more of us are having our liberties crushed by this “Gov-Corp” behemoth. Small business owners, like myself, are burdened by costly regulations and taxes while mega-corporations are allowed to skirt them. New graduates are weighed down with student debts. Small farmers are driven out of business by meatpacking monopolists and seed and herbicide monopolists like Monsanto. We are all subjected to a for-profit healthcare system run by powerful health-insurance and pharmaceutical corporations.

What really pisses me off about this neofeudal arrangement is that the winners are described as “innovators”, when they’re just like the robber-barons of a century ago. Rent-seeking, monopoly, tax avoidance and regulation arbitrage are nothing new. The only thing that’s different is the Silicon Valley high-tech gloss, and the breathless hagiography of our corporate media.

 

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