Ten Years After

 

Ten years ago the US stock market tanked, and for the next several weeks financial markets were a cluster-fuck of panic and chaos. Americans were frightened of what was happening in the economy. The real estate market had collapsed. Venerable Wall Street firms Bear Sterns and Lehman-Brothers vanished.

Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, and Federal Reserve Bank of New York President Timothy Geithner, rushed to Congress to plead for $700 billion to bail out the banks. They argued to lawmakers that without the bailout, the United States faced a catastrophic collapse of the financial system and a second Great Depression. Bernanke was hyperbolic. “If we don’t do this today we won’t have an economy on Monday.”

It was a big lie. The prospect of a modern repeat of the Great Depression was just a scare tactic used by Bernanke, Paulson and other proponents of the bailout to get the political support needed to save the Wall Street banks and their bondholders.

Meanwhile, millions of Americans suffered through the Great Recession, losing homes and jobs. 9 million homeowners were turfed-out. Saving the banks became the priority of the president and Congress. Saving people’s homes and jobs mattered much less or not at all.

Today, Ben Bernanke, Hank Paulson and Timothy Geithner insist they did what they had to under conditions of extreme pressure. Mistakes were made, the government’s former top financial overseers acknowledge in a recent piece for The New York Times, but they did ultimately “prevent the collapse of the financial system and avoid another Great Depression.”

Except here’s the thing. They didn’t really rescue the financial system. They transformed it into an unaccountable criminal syndicate. Too-Big-To-Jail. For example, in the years since the crash, the biggest Wall Street banks have been caught laundering drug money, violating U.S. sanctions against Iran and Cuba, bribing foreign government officials, making illegal campaign contributions to a state regulator and manipulating the market for U.S. government debt. Citibank, JPMorgan, Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays and UBS even pleaded guilty to felonies for manipulating currency markets.

When poor people engage in such activity, we call it looting. But for the bankers and their minions at the Fed and the Treasury, this was described as saving the economy.

Not a single banker has served a day in jail for any of it.

It could have been different. When Obama took office, he promised to hold bankers accountable and to spend up to $100 billion from the bank bailout to prevent foreclosures. He ultimately spent just $21 billion. But the dollar amount was only a fraction of the failure. The bailout gave the government unprecedented authority over the foreclosure process ― it could have required banks to adjust monthly payments or reduce debt burdens for homeowners in distress. Instead, as Geithner put it, the foreclosure relief plan was designed to “foam the runway” for banks coming in for a hard landing. This, crucially, allowed banks to slow down the pace of foreclosures, but did not actually help families keep their homes.

One theory posits that Mr. Obama’s decision to forego prosecution of Wall Street executives for crimes that led to the financial meltdown of 2008 and the Great Recession that followed was motivated by class-sympathy— they were his friends, acquaintances, campaign contributors and school-mates. Of course, Obama’s class-sympathy also came with a big payday. Since leaving office Mr. Obama has enriched himself giving speeches to those he failed to prosecute and that senior members of his cabinet returned to lucrative careers working for or otherwise representing the interests of Wall Street firms. This is participation in plunder, not sympathy.

Politics is about who wins vs who pays the costs. The bailout and the ten years since have provided a sobering view of this dynamic. Ultimately, the crash and bailout led to a breakdown and a lack of trust in institutions. It raised a lot of questions about who controls society ― banks or the elected government.

Looking back, what’s so infuriating is that there was a blueprint for a different course of action. In the wake of the Great Depression a wealthy president and enough of the members of his class realized that the only way to stop the rising spiral of depressions that threatened to end here, as in much of Europe, in fascist takeovers was to allow a much larger share of the national wealth to go the working classes.

Today there seems to be no such awareness among our elite. They talk about the brutal, merciless, sink or swim economy as if it were inevitable, beyond anyone’s control. But collapsing economic security is not inevitable. It is the direct and intended result of elitist policy, designed, built, and maintained by the people at the top: the CEOs and the Wall Street bankers, and of course their political puppets in congress, the executive branch and the courts.

Trump is the result of this elite malfeasance. Americans growing sense of economic insecurity is the primary force behind the populist surge, and it is the reason voters in 2016 rejected the mainstream elitist candidates in both the Republican and Democratic parties. The reality of mass economic insecurity must be confronted for the grave and long-standing crisis that it is. This is why we’re in a populist period, and why populism won’t be going away anytime soon.

 

 

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Profiles in Courage

 

In a courageous speech delivered on the House floor just two days after the nation memorialized 9/11, Democratic Hawaiian Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard on Thursday slammed Washington’s longtime support to anti-Assad jihadists in Syria, while also sounding the alarm over the current build-up of tensions between the US and Russia over the Syria crisis.

Two days ago, President Trump and Vice President Pence delivered solemn speeches about the attacks on 9/11, talking about how much they care about the victims of al-Qaeda’s attack on our country. But, they are now standing up to protect the 20,000 to 40,000 al-Qaeda and other jihadist forces in Syria, and threatening Russia, Syria, and Iran, with military force if they dare attack these terrorists.

This is a betrayal of the American people, especially the victims of al-Qaeda’s attack on 9/11 and their families, first responders, and my brothers and sisters in uniform who have been killed or wounded in action and their families. For the President, who is Commander in Chief, to act as the protective big brother of al-Qaeda and other jihadists must be condemned by every Member of Congress.”

At a time when the “Resistance” to Trump is fanning the flames of Russia-gate and pushing for more bellicose foreign policies, it’s refreshing to see such unprecedented truth telling from a member of congress.

Any bets on when the DNC will primary Gabbard?

 

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Quagmires

 

I still wonder if Trump would have carried out his promise of better relations with Russia and less interventionist foreign policies absent Russia-gate?

I ask this question because a confluence of events in Syria is increasing the danger of war with nuclear-armed Russia. From Trump’s cluelessness, to the neocons whispering in his ear, to the corporate media braying for war, to the political pressures of the upcoming mid-term elections, the conditions have never been more dangerous.

In a new memo addressed to President Trump, the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, warn that the risk of a direct military confrontation between the US and Russia in Syria is at “an all-time high” as the Syrian government moves to recapture the province of Idlib from the Al-Qaeda affiliates who have taken it hostage.

In my opinion, Russia-gate has been used to carry out a so-called soft-coup against the chief executive. In fact, there has to be some question about who is actually determining the policies that come out of the White House, which is reported to be in more than usual disarray due to the New York Times, anonymous op-ed, describing a “resistance” movement within the West Wing that has been deliberately undermining and sometimes ignoring the president to further Establishment/Deep State policies. One section of the op-ed in particular reeks of neocon ideology, describing how the White House staff has succeeded in “calling out countries like Russia…for meddling and having them punished accordingly”, in spite of the president’s desire for détente.

Going further, the United States’ industrial-military-intel-security complex profits from a compounded annual budget of roughly US$1 trillion. The only justification for such enormous expenditures is to manufacture a lethal external threat: Russia. That’s the crucial reason the complex will not allow US President Donald Trump even to try to normalize relations with Russia.

You can observe this dynamic at work in Syria. The Russian intervention in Syria in 2015, in effect halting the neocons attempted regime change operation, laid the foundation for the current anti-Russian hysteria in the US.

The pressure is having its desired effect. Trump, after promising to pull out of Syria and identifying the nature of the Syrian rebels, has now been pushed by the neocons to threaten Syrian President Bashar Assad. Despite his having expressed his desire to get U.S. troops out of Syria only months ago, a report published Friday in The Washington Post claims that President Donald Trump is allegedly “on board” with a new “indefinite military and diplomatic effort in Syria.” That effort claims to seek the “establishment of a stable, non-threatening government “acceptable to all Syrians and the international community,”

Unfortunately, Russia and Syria, in cooperation with Iran and Turkey, have begun the assult on Iblid province, the last stronghold of Washington’s proxy army consisting of Al Qaeda, Al Nursra, and ISIS mercenaries hired by Washington.

Which brings up the awkward and largely unmentionable reality that in Syria, our allies are Al Qaeda. While it may seem hard to believe that the US government is helping the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11, there’s a method to the madness. The neocons who run Trump’s foreign policy have determined that an alliance with terrorist groups is necessary to fight their greater enemy Iran, who is allied with Syria. The nature of the militants occupying Idlib is well known to Washington, London, Brussels, and the Persian Gulf nations sponsoring them. In fact, it was admitted by Brett McGurk, the U.S. government’s Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL (Daesh, ISIS), who called Syria’s Idlib province “the largest Al Qaeda safe haven since 9/11″, tied directly to Ayman al-Zawahiri [current leader of Al Qaeda].

I believe that the confluence of forces I mentioned earlier is driving Trump towards war. The corporate media has been unrelentingly hostile towards Trump with one exception–when he has decided to launch cruise missiles at Syria. As the pressures mount, I fear that he might be tempted to launch another attack. Crucially, another U.S. attack on Syria would help U.S. President Trump on domestic issues, most importantly in the upcoming elections for Congress.

What’s so infuriating is that after campaigning on a promise to “Make America Great Again”, Trump is being herded into the same endless wars as his predecessors–BushBama.  The Trump administration’s Syria policy is just one of many parts of its foreign policy that make a mockery of the idea that Trump puts American interests first.

The most remarkable thing about the present moment is that the crisis of U.S. foreign policy—a series of radical missteps—are systemic, and have been a long time coming.

These radical missteps continue uninterrupted. In a revealing interview an administration official told The Washington Post’s David Ignatius, “Right now, our job is to create quagmires until we get what we want.”

Great. If we somehow manage to avoid nuclear war, we’ll always have quagmires to look forward to.

 

 

 

 

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9/11

 

It’s more than ironic that 17 years after Al Qaeda attacked the World Trade Center, President Trump is coming to the rescue of Al Qaeda terrorists in Idlib Province Syria.

Maybe, like Obama, Trump’s playing 3 dimensional chess?

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Two Camps

 

There are two camps in America that hold completely different viewpoints.

One camp, let’s call them the establishment, still believes that we live in a meritocracy, where if you get an education and work hard you can succeed in America. The liberal end of the establishment reads the New York Times, watches Rachael Maddow, and believes that Trump is the cause of all of our problems. The conservative end of the establishment watches Fox News, reads the Wall Street Journal, and believes that liberals are sapping our will with their insistence on political correctness.

The second camp, let’s call us the heretics, has come to believe that the conventional wisdom promulgated by the establishment is bullshit. Instead, we’ve come to believe that our reality here in America much more closely resembles the Matrix, where most of what we see and hear is manufactured to assure our consent. The Deep State/Ruling-Class/Powers-That-Be or whatever you want to call the real people pulling the strings behind the curtain have skillfully utilized their propaganda system, in combination with the years of dumbing down the populace through their public education system to create a powerful narrative that has become the accepted version of reality.

The problem is that some of us have woken up.

We’ve come to believe that the only reason we continue on our current trajectory is because a few sociopathic plutocrats have seized control of the dominant narratives we tell ourselves about what’s going on in the world by buying up the news media people use to keep themselves informed. Remember that Jeff Bezos, owner of Amazon, also owns the Washington Post, while providing the cloud computing for the CIA. This corporate media manipulates the ways we think and vote to ensure that we will continue supporting the status quo upon which the plutocrats have built their empire.

Not everything is an illusion–you can catch Fox News in moments of lucidity where Tucker Carlson agrees with Bernie Sanders on Amazon’s corporate welfare scam or read the most amazing New York Times articles on culture or science or the arts and it’s all good–it’s just that we’ve learned to be extremely skeptical of  “official” narratives concerning economics and foreign policy.

For instance, as we pass the ten year anniversary of the Wall Street Crash, we don’t believe the hype that everything is back to normal. We have observed that no bankers went to jail and that they got a bail-out while the rest of the country was left to slowly twist in the wind. Meanwhile, Wall Street is up to its old tricks.

What we’re realizing is that this isn’t simply an economic problem but a political one as well. The bankers own Congress and by following their economic prescriptions after the debt bubble has burst means falling living standards, rising inequality, and increasing political turmoil as a result.

Trump is just one of the more ghastly symptoms of this malaise.

In foreign policy, the dominant narrative is Russia-gate, which has been used to re-start the Cold War against Russia, and to dissuade Trump from keeping his campaign pledge of better relations with Russia and a less interventionist foreign policy. If we’re honest, we can recognize that for the establishment, Trump’s talk of a different foreign policy was anathema. For the establishment, it’s all about maintaining an all-American empire at any cost.

Russia-gate has also been an effort by the ruling class to make an example out of Trump to dissuade any future billionaire-ass-clowns from running for high office without permission.

Indeed, the establishment is growing increasingly worried about the heretics lack of trust and their corresponding loss of control of the narrative. This worry has been most pronounced in the epidemic of stories about “fake news.” The establishment has belatedly realized that they need to put down the “populist” opposition on the left and on the right to the spread of global capitalism and the gradual phase-out of national sovereignty that began with Brexit and continued with Trump, so they can continue their plunder.

The only positive we can report is that the awakening of the heretics has breached some of the boundaries between left and right, providing some small hope that we can transcend the divide and rule spell that the 1% and their professional lackeys have cast upon us.

 

 

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Speaking ill of the dead

 

We’re not supposed to speak ill of the dead but that only applies to normal people like you and I. Politicians like John McCain who’ve spent their entire lives advocating for war while palling around with terrorists and Nazi’s don’t get that curtesy.

The reaction to McCain’s death, with his deification as a “straight talking, bi-partisan, maverick,” says a lot about the political/economy of the corporate media, with its fixation on American exceptionalism, where the senator from Arizona was the poster-child for the most exalted type of bi-partisanship that exists in Washington: military interventionism and regime change.

Here’s how The Washington Post’s, Jennifer Rubin described McCain. “The nation continues to absorb the loss of its greatest contemporary political figure–a senator who will rank up there among Daniel Webster, Henry Clay and Everett Dirksen.”

The fact that we can read endless stories about McCain’s bi-partisan political persona and human rights advocacy, despite McCain’s unforgivable record of facilitating death and destruction in Vietnam, Iraq, Syria, Libya and elsewhere, shows just how much neocon Kool-Aide the corporate press has drank.

Ironically, it’s neocons like McCain who’ve helped squander all the goodwill the world extended to the US in the wake of 9/11 by spending every waking moment advocating for wars and regime changes.

In doing so, McCain had no compunctions about using Al Qaeda and ISIS terrorists. For example, during Barack Obama’s presidency, McCain slipped into northern Syria to cheer Sunni-Jihadists rebels who had arisen to overthrow President Bashar Assad, an insurgency that led to a seven-year civil war and savage ethnic cleansing.

And it wasn’t just Sunni terrorists that McCain hearted. When protesters led by Ukrainian Nazi’s gathered in Maidan Square in Kiev to overthrow an elected pro-Russian president, McCain was there, cheering them onHe also strongly supported sending arms to the neo-Nazi, Azov Battalion, fighting pro-Russian rebels in the Donbass.

Here he is posing with Oleh Tyahnybok, leader of the anti-Semitic Ukrainian ultra-nationalist, neo-Nazi Svoboda party.

McCain gained his initial status as a naval aviator and is held up by the corporate media as a war hero because of his time as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War.

However, according to the explosive account by investigative journalist Sydney Schanberg, McCain’s actions were anything but honorable. “John McCain, who has risen to political prominence on his image as a Vietnam POW war hero, has, inexplicably, worked very hard to hide from the public stunning information about American prisoners in Vietnam who, unlike him, didn’t return home. Throughout his Senate career, McCain has quietly sponsored and pushed into federal law a set of prohibitions that keep the most revealing information about these men buried as classified documents. Thus the war hero who people would logically imagine as a determined crusader for the interests of POWs and their families became instead the strange champion of hiding the evidence and closing the books. Almost as striking is the manner in which the mainstream press has shied from reporting the POW story and McCain’s role in it, even as the Republican Party has made McCain’s military service the focus of his 2008 presidential campaign.”

Can’t have the embodiment of Washington’s always-war bipartisanship caught lying about his heroic backstory, it might raise questions about the agenda of the always-war corporate media. Hence the shrieks of alarm when Trump questioned McCains POW heroism.

As part of the ongoing deep state Russia-gate campaign, McCain has been credited as a hero of the Resistance and described as Trump’s greatest nemesis.  However, Trump’s real crime for neocons like McCain and the always-war corporate media is his calls for better relations with Russia and an end to US interventionists foreign policies.

I’m not a psychiatrist. I don’t even play one on TV, but my diagnosis of McCain actions while alive would blame his extreme bellicosity on his feelings of guilt from his abandonment of US POW’s and the cover-up.

And, this brings us to the real danger of how we view McCain and his legacy.

We can have a constitutional republic or an empire, we can’t have both. Presently, we are well down the path of empire thanks to the actions of John McCain with his foreign policies of endless war and regime change.

Right now the US is bombing and fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen, partly John McCain’s legacy. At various times McCain lobbied for bombing: Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Georgia, Kosovo, Bosnia, Russia, China, North Korea, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Sudan & in one of his final acts, voted to continue the US-backed genocide in Yemen.

Presently, the United States is far and away the world’s largest producer of weapons.  Stoking death and mass destruction is just about the only source of profitable exports the US economy can now boast of.  Once the world’s largest creditor nation, the US is today the world’s largest debtor nation and yet it insanely continues to spend more for military purposes than any other nation in all of human history.  And nothing is reinvested in the US itself.  Not in its infrastructure and certainly not in the lives and the future of its citizens.

Meanwhile, 72,000 Americans died of opioid overdose last year.

And, we’re not supposed to speak ill of the dead.

Fuck that.

Update: Someone else noticed how fucked-up the Washington Post headline was.

 

 

 

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Hero’s of the Resistance

 

The Resistance has embraced a rogues gallery of characters to oppose Trump since his surprise victory over their favored candidate–Hillary Clinton.

There’s been former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and National Security Agency (NSA) head Michael Hayden, and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and, of course, special counsel, and Russia-gate heartthrob Robert Mueller, who lied about Iraq’s WMDs, paving the way for war. Even George W. Bush has now been rehabilitated in an effort to appeal to suburban Republicans.

The latest hero of the Resistance is none other than official torture chief John Brennan. Trump’s decision to withdraw former CIA director John Brennan’s security clearance has prompted paeans to Brennan by establishment journalists and politicians, while Brennan has assumed the role of courageous dissident speaking truth to power. Resistance leaders like Rob Reiner (“When you libel James Clapper and John Brennan you libel America,” he wrote) have cheered on these characters when they’ve appeared on liberal talk shows to insult Trump in front of cheering audiences.

Let me say this loudly–Brennan is not a fucking hero!

Brennan organized torture and “extraordinary rendition”, and was a “vocal advocate” of giving the telcos immunity for Bush’s enormous program of warrrantless surveillance, under President George W Bush. Under President Barack Obama, Brennan organized the “kill list,” later rebranded as a “disposition matrix,” which Obama used in at least one case to kill a U.S. citizen with a drone strike, while avoiding any form of due process.) It was Brennan who conspired with the Gulf dictators to employ Al Qaeda to destroy Libya and to attempt the same in Syria. After Congress began an inquiry, Brennan ordered the CIA to spy on the congressional committee investigating torture and then lied about having done so.

Some hero.

Lately, I’ve come to think that if Hitler was reanimated and he came out in opposition to Trump, the Resistance would celebrate him too. “Oh, that Holocaust thing was so 1940’s. Look at him now. He hates Trump.”

I believe that the real reason so many liberals oppose Trump and find him abhorrent is class. It conversations with liberals who refuse to accept that Obama carried out the same monstrous policies it’s become clear that what really bothers them about Trump is that he’s not a member of the meritocracy like their champion Obama. With Obama’s cool, sophisticated articulation as the hip, black steward of the American empire, liberals could pretend that we really are the exceptional nation. We really do stand taller and see further.

I’ve come to realize that the proper formula for an acceptable US president is an elite class-consciousness combined with depravity. Madeleine Albright is the member of the leadership class who came the closest to this ideal. If you’ll recall from the way-back machine, Albright infamously told 60 Minutes that the price for starving 1/2 million Iraqi children was worth it, while later instructing prep-school students on the proper use of utensils at a fancy dinner.

 

 

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