Crackpot Centrism

 

I’m smitten.

Caitlin Johnstone is my new favorite blogger. She’s smart, funny and absolutely fearless. She also writes about the things I’m most interested in–political/economy, foreign policy, and media manipulation. Perhaps because she’s Australian, Johnstone deftly deconstructs US propaganda, following the lead of Noam Chomsky, and fellow Aussie, Alex Carrey, who wrote–Taking the Risk Out of Democracy.

Most importantly, Johnstone is a heterodox writer without a lot of the political-party bias that’s so common in the corporate media. Lately, she’s been calling bullshit on the whole Russia-gate story that the Democrats have seized upon as their means to depose Trump.

“People ask why I’m skeptical of the establishment Russia narrative. I’m skeptical because we’re being lied to every single step of the way by the news media who claim to be helping the public discover the truth. Trump lies because he’s a corrupt billionaire who knows he can get away with it, but that doesn’t make him a Russian agent. The media lies because they’re bolstering the stranglehold of America’s unelected power establishment, and that makes them traitors to our species.”

The corporate media yearns for a political center, a sort of mythical sweet-spot between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party; where cultural issues on the right obscure the Republicans corporate allegiance, while identity politics accomplishes the same goal on the Democrat side.

I call this state of affairs–crackpot centrism–paraphrasing C. Wright Mills.

Crackpot centrism enforces a neoliberal orthodoxy in domestic affairs, where any ideas about the Democrats abandoning Wall Street or  Medicare-For-All are swatted down as crazy left-wing populism. In fact, the corporate media spends the bulk of its efforts defending against any challenge from the left, as their one-sided coverage of Bernie Sanders during the 2016 presidential election clearly demonstrated.

Crackpot centrism also ensures that both parties and the corporate media remain fixated on endless wars to maintain the US empire. It’s more than ironic that the one time that the corporate media did praise Trump was in the wake of his cruise-missile attack on Syria, with TV hosts orgasmic over the prospect of more war.

Unfortunately, we’ve been here before. During the first Cold War, C. Wright Mills wrote of a “crackpot realism”, where US foreign policy mandarins evoked national security to disguise the operations of the corporate deep state. “For the first time in American history, men in authority are talking about an ’emergency’ without foreseeable end.”

Right now, crackpot centrism is focused on the dangers posed by Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Both parties warn of the risks to our fragile democracy, with neoconservative Republicans joining forces with liberal Democrats to attack Trump for daring to develop better ties between the two nuclear-armed countries. Unmindful of history, Democrats are engaged in a modern day McCarthy witch-hunt, while finding allies with the CIA and FBI.

Failure to conform to the crackpot centrism is a career-killer in Washington.

All the cool-kids are down with it.

Not Johnstone, who occupies the real center. She views liberals, conservatives, and the corporate media with distrust, while critically examining the evidence.

Here’s Johnston’s mission statement:

“I’ve been quite shameless about the fact that I’m happy to have my ideas advanced by people all across the political spectrum, from far left to far right. I will never have the ear of the US President’s eldest son, but if I did I wouldn’t hesitate to try and use that advantage if I thought I could get him to put our stuff out there. This wouldn’t mean that I support the US president, it would mean that I saw an opening to throw an anti-establishment idea over the censorship fence into mainstream consciousness, and I exploited the partisan self-interest of a mainstream figure to do that.

We should all be willing to do this. We should all get very clear that America’s unelected power establishment is the enemy, and we should shamelessly attack it with any weapons we’ve got. I took a lot of heat for expressing my willingness to have my ideas shared by high profile individuals on the far right, and I see the same outrage converging upon Assange. Assange isn’t going to stop attacking the establishment death machine with every tool at his disposal because of this outrage, though, and neither am I. The more people we have attacking the elites free from any burden of partisan or ideological nonsense, the better.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Friends like these

 

There’s an effort underway to force the US to attack Iran. The pressure is coming from the putative allies of the US in the Middle-East: Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Of course this crazy idea is also supported by the neoconservatives, who never met a war they didn’t love. The neocons are seething because Iran has emerged as the clear winner from the invasion of Iraq and subsequent attempt to overthrow Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.

But, how to justify an attack on Iran?

I know, blame the Iranians for 9/11.

It sounds crazy, but the neocons are nothing if not inventive. Remember how the Bush Administration, in its haste to invade Iraq, came up with all kinds of justifications–yellowcake uranium, mushroom clouds, biological-weapon-crop-dusters, and most significantly, Saddam’s supposed ties to Al-Qaeda?

Hell, it might work. American citizens are largely clueless about foreign affairs, and most of them couldn’t be bothered to find Iran on the map, or even look up from their device. More importantly, even with their record of failure, the neocons are still fully plugged into the elite foreign affairs network–a sort of echo chamber between the Council on Foreign Relations, the Hudson Institute, tthe Washington Post and New York Times.

Right now, the most immediate pressure to attack Iran is coming from key Middle-East ally, Saudi Arabia, a Wahhabist-Sunni state that views Shia-Iran as the existential enemy.

However, Saudi Arabia is undergoing a severe crisis.

The always reliable, Asian Times journalist, Pepe Escobar, claims that–“War has broken out within the House of Saud, as Asia Times had anticipated back in July. Rumors have been swirling for months about a coup against Mohammed bin Salman in the making. Instead, what just happened is yet another MBS pre-emptive coup.”

It gets crazier.

Right before this preemptive coup, Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, flew to Saudi Arabia, and resigned. In his resignation speech, Hariri lashed out against Hezbollah, the Shia militia that is supported by Iran, saying its arms were targeting the “chests of Lebanese and Syrians.” He repeated a long-held demand that all arms should be in the hands of the Lebanese State, and not with non-state players, be they Shiite or Sunni. Hariri also lashed out at the Iranians who back Hezbollah, saying: “The evil that Iran spreads in the region will backfire on it.” 

If that wasn’t enough drama, Yemen, a country that Saudi Arabia is ravaging, retaliated by firing a surface-to-surface missile that hit the airport in Riyadh.

Predictably, Saudi Arabia blamed Iran. “Saudi Arabia charged Monday that a missile fired at its capital from Yemen over the weekend was an “act of war” by Iran, in the sharpest escalation in nearly three decades of mounting hostility between the two regional rivals.”

In the US, President Trump tweeted his support of MBS, and there is considerable evidence that the preemptive coup was planned by Trump’s son-in-law and foreign policy advisor–Jared Kushner. Trump also tweeted that the Saudi’s needed to do their I.P.O. of Aramco, the priceless Saudi state oil company, on the New York Stock exchange.

Even with all the distraction, the Saudis, the Israelis and the neocons all remained focused on their bete-noire: Iran.

Unfortunately, there is a serious problem with their claim that Iran is the main sponsor of terrorism, or somehow responsible for 9/11.

In my opinion, Iran’s influence in the region has grown over the past decade precisely because aggressive policies by the United States and its allies have been spectacular failures, creating chaos and suffering that Iran has exploited as a matter of self-defense and self-interest.

Furthermore, the truth of the matter is that Saudi Arabia is the leading sponsor of terrorism, hands down.

Going further, the US has used Saudi jihadism as a way to maintain empire, as this explosive article by Daniel Lazare makes abundantly clear.

“The arrangement worked for the United States, which acquired a useful diplomatic partner and an auxiliary military force that was cheap, effective, and deniable. It worked for gung-ho journalists traipsing through the wilds of Afghanistan, who assured the folks back home that the “muj” were nothing more than “ornery mountain folk who have not cottoned to a foreign power that has seized their land, killed their people, and attacked their faith,” to quote William McGurn, who went on to prominence as a speechwriter for George W. Bush.

It worked for nearly everyone until 19 hijackers, 15 of them Saudis, flew a pair of fuel-laden jetliners into the World Trade Center and a third into the Pentagon, killing nearly 3,000 people in all. The 9/11 attacks should have been a wake-up call that something had gone seriously amiss. But instead of pressing the pause button, the United States opted to double down on the same old strategy. From its perspective, it had little choice. It needed Saudi oil; it needed security in the Persian Gulf, global commerce’s most important chokepoint; and it needed a reliable ally in the Muslim world in general.

Consequently, Washington opted to work on the marriage rather than splitting up. This entailed three things. First, there was a need to cover up Riyadh’s considerable role in the destruction of the Twin Towers by, among other things, suppressing a crucial 29-page chapter in a joint congressional report dealing with Saudi links to the hijackers. Second, the Bush administration redoubled efforts to pin the blame on Saddam Hussein, Washington’s latest villain du jour. Need “best info fast,” Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ordered while the towers were still burning, according to notes taken by his aide Stephen Cambone. “…Judge whether good enough [to] hit S.H. at same time—not only UBL [i.e. Usama bin Laden]. Hard to get a good case. Need to move swiftly—Near term target needs—Go massive—sweep it all up, need to do so to get anything useful. Things related or not.” Washington needed a fall guy to get the Saudis off the hook.

Third was the need to prosecute the so-called “War on Terror,” which was never about terrorism per se but about terrorism unsanctioned by the United States. The goal was to arrange for jihadis only to strike at targets jointly approved by Washington and Riyadh. This meant, first and foremost, Iran, the Saudis’ bête noire, whose power, ironically, had grown after the U.S. invasion of Iraq had tipped the formerly Sunni-controlled country into the pro-Shi‘ite column. But it also meant Syria, whose president, Bashar al-Assad, is an Alawite, a form of Shi‘ism, and Russia, whose friendliness to both countries left it doubly marked in U.S. and Saudi eyes. Ideologically, it meant taking Wahhabist anger at Western powers such as America, Britain, and France and directing it at Shi‘ism instead. The doors to sectarianism were thus opened.

The war on terror turned out to be the longest route possible between Sunni terrorism and Sunni terrorism. Once again, the United States had tried to use Wahhabism to its own advantage, but with consequences that proved nothing less than disastrous.”

The corporate media and opportunistic legislators have been obsessed with Russian influence over our policies, when it’s our so-called allies–Saudi Arabia, and Israel–who are the far greater danger.

As the old saying goes–with friends like these, who needs enemies?

Update: The plot thickens“Explosive” Leaked Secret Israeli Cable Confirms Israeli-Saudi Coordination To Provoke War.

“The classified embassy cable, written in Hebrew, constitutes the first formal evidence proving that the Saudis and Israelis are deliberately coordinating to escalate the situation in the Middle East.”

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A Flaw in the Model

 

The election of Donald Trump was due, in no small part, to the abject corruption of our elite.

In my last post, I examined An Economic Theory of the Criminal Law, where 7th Circuit Judge Richard Posner states that the poor require criminal law to keep them within the confines of the “market.”

“The major function of criminal law in a capitalist society is to prevent people from bypassing the system of voluntary, compensated exchange-the “market,” explicit or implicit-in situations where, because transaction costs are low, the market is a more efficient method of allocating resources than forced exchange. Market bypassing in such situations is inefficient — in the sense in which economists equate efficiency with wealth maximization — no matter how much utility it may confer on the offender.”

The flip-side of Posner’s theory was that unlike the poor, the wealthy required only tort law to ensure their proper behavior.

Posner–“This means that criminal law is designed primarily for the non-affluent; the affluent are kept in line, for the most part, by tort law.” 

Coincidently, Alan Greenspan, former Fed Chairman and Ayn Rand fanboy, believed the very same theory. However, Greenspan, in the wake of the 2008 Wall Street Crash, was forced to recant his magical thinking and grudgingly admit that he had found a flaw in the model.

Why is this magical belief system so important?

For the last 40 years, under the rubric of neoliberalism, both Republicans and Democrats have held this very same theory: regulations and laws only apply to the little people, while the innovators and entrepreneurs that create wealth should be free from such nuisances because their honor and reputation would keep their animal spirits in check.

Consequently, punishment for crime committed by elites has all but collapsed over the past couple decades.

While the Republicans favor energy, manufacturing, and the Military/Industrial/Complex, Democratic party constituents represent a cross section of finance, high-tech, Hollywood, and, of course, the Educational/Industrial/Complex.

In a must read post at Naked Capitalism, Yves Smith, examines the student-loan-securitization complex and it’s Democratic supporters. In the process, she demonstrates not only how the mortgage-securitization process that crashed the US economy in 2008 was the template for the student-loan-securitization, but also that this new scam is ongoing precisely because of the stunning failure by the Obama administration to hold the banksters accountable.

This failure still makes my blood boil, so I’m going to include a big-steaming chunk of Yves indictment.

“There was a way to have brought the entire mortgage securitization complex to heel. As we chronicled, starting in 2003, more and more originators failed to take the steps necessary to transfer mortgages to securitization trusts. About 80% of the securitizations had elected New York law to govern the trust. New York trust law is ancient and well settled. It is also rigid. An asset has to be conveyed specifically to the trust; endorsements in blank don’t cut it. Separately, the securitizations had also required that the mortgages be transferred to the trust by a specific date for tax law reasons.

Normally, when something is screwed up in a contract, you simply write a lot of waivers and maybe someone has to pay for the waivers. But these contracts were rigid. You couldn’t write waivers to fix these problems. Instead, a mini-industry of document back-dating, forgeries, and fabrication grew up to create a paper trail covering up the original sin of the failed securitization.

That means the Obama Administration held a nuclear weapon which it refused to use. It could have called in all the servicers, the big dogs at the banks that owned them (to the extent they had banks as parents; some didn’t), and the big names among the investors, like Pimco and Blackrock.

They could have sat all, say, 50 of them in a room and said,: We know that legally, most of the securitizatons post 2003 are empty bags. The mortgages never got to the trust. And that can’t be fixed now. So you have two choices. Either we sit back and allow or maybe even help the parties that are exposing this massive securitization failure. That will lead massive losses and litigation on a scale that will destroy a lot of wealth and almost certainly a lot of institutions. Or you will give principal modifications to qualified borrowers. You figure it out but if you don’t do this we will blow you all up. It is not acceptable to have millions of unnecessary foreclosures because your servicers can’t be bothered to do them. You staff up and eat the costs. They are trivial compared to the alternatives.

It used to be routine for government to have chats like that (usually a bit more coded but the bottom line was clear) when businesses rode roughshod over the public interest. So don’t pretend it couldn’t have been done.

The Obama Administration chose not to do it.”

Right now, the Democrats, and indeed the entire elite class of politicians and journalists are focused on Russian interference into our sacred democratic process as a way to deflect from their own culpability in creating the corruption that brought us to where we are now.

Corruption is not a bug, but a feature of neoliberalism. Rather than pushing for a Laissez-faire role for government as some supporters and critics allege, neoliberals in both political parties promote an activist role for government, albeit a bifurcated one, where there are harsh penalties imposed on you and I if we stray from the savagery of the “market,” while elite criminals are massively enriched and celebrated.

A quote come to mind–“Steal a little and they throw you in jail; steal a lot and they make you king.” –Bob Dylan

 

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Open for Business

 

Neoliberalism has trumped our democratic values and institutions by substituting a cost-benefit and efficiency rational. Political discourse is framed only in entrepreneurial terms where the management of a market-economy confers a government the legitimacy to carry out domestic and foreign policies, including warfare and homeland security.

Going further, neoliberalism has insinuated itself to such a degree that few of us notice how it has eroded our basic sense of morality in all aspects of our lives, including the ways in which we make sense of domestic and foreign policies.

For example, examining US foreign policy it’s obvious that under the morality of neoliberalism, democracy has come to signify allegiance to market values rather than a governing philosophy where citizens participate in governance. Understanding this calculus helps to understand the real purpose of the war-on-terror, where, rather than fighting terrorists, the US invades or regime changes any government that resists the market.

In the recent presidential election, my liberal friends would look at me askance when I explained that I was opposed to Hillary Clinton because of her actions as Secretary of State, where she played a key role in regime-change operations in Hondouras and Libya.

But, wait, they would ask, wasn’t Hillary advancing American values by spreading freedom and democracy? And, didn’t these nations need liberation from brutal and despotic rule?

After reading an amazing essay, Neoliberalism and the End of Liberal Democracy, by political scientist, Wendy Brown, I’ve come to understand my friends confusion.

According to Brown, “…democracy does not signify a set of independent political institutions and civic practices comprising equality, freedom, autonomy and the principle of popular sovereignty but rather indicates only a state and subjects organized by market rationality. Indeed, democracy could even be understood as a code word for avail- ability to this rationality; removal of the Taliban and Baath party pave the way to that availability, and democracy is simply the name of the regime, conforming to neoliberal requirements, that must replace them. When Paul Bremer, the U.S.-appointed interim governor of Iraq, declared on May 26, 2003 (just weeks after the sacking of Baghdad and four days after the UN lifted economic sanctions), that Iraq was “open for business,” he made clear exactly how democracy would take shape in post- Saddam Iraq.”

What’s interesting is that under the morality of neoliberalism US foreign policy is exactly like US criminal law.

7th Circuit Court judge, Richard Posner, in his 1985 article in the Columbia Law Review entitled, An Economic Theory of the Criminal Law, explained how criminal law was intended to prevent people from opting out of the market.

“The major function of criminal law in a capitalist society is to prevent people from bypassing the system of voluntary, compensated exchange-the “market,” explicit or implicit-in situations where, because transaction costs are low, the market is a more efficient method of allocating resources than forced exchange. Market bypassing in such situations is inefficient — in the sense in which economists equate efficiency with wealth maximization — no matter how much utility it may confer on the offender.”

Indeed, criminal law and foreign policy have a  lot of overlap. Don’t we treat foreign countries that stray from market based values as criminals who need to be punished lest they set a bad example that others might follow?

Isn’t that the real crime of Honduras, Libya, Venezuala, Iran, Cuba, Vietnam, Chile?

Contra Ken Burns and his Vietnam War documentary, where the Vietnam War was about US intentions gone wrong, maybe the Vietnam war was really about punishing a lawbreaker and making an example out of them so that other countries wouldn’t get any ideas?

The Domino theory sure looks a lot different in that light.

 

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Leftless in America

 

In The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Donald Trump, political scientist, Corey Robin says that conservatism draws its power and purpose from opposition to the left. “From the French Revolution through civil rights and women’s lib, struggles for collective liberation through revolution or reform have forced the right to think harder and better, to act smarter and with greater discipline and intentionality — not out of any Millian desire to get the better of the argument, but out of a desperate need to defend power and privilege against a movement that seeks their elimination.”

What if there’s no left in the US?

According to Robin: “Without a genuine enemy to tutor it, the right has allowed the long-standing fissures of the conservative movement to deepen and expand. That absent tutelage is most visibly embodied in Trump, whose whims are as unlettered as his mind is untaught. Trump is a window onto the dissolution of the conservative whole, a whole that can allow itself to collapse because it has achieved so much. Battling its way to hegemony in the second half of the 20th century, the American right would never have chosen a Trump — not because it was more intelligent and virtuous or less racist and violent, but because it was disciplined by its task of destroying the left. With that left now destroyed, the foot soldiers of the right wing think to themselves: We’ve had conservative Republican presidents. We have a conservative Republican Congress. Why haven’t they delivered on the promises they’ve made for so long? Why haven’t they made us great again? Why not Trump?”

Robin doesn’t say it but one of the chief reasons that conservatism became ascendant is that its erstwhile foe —the Democratic Party (who posed as the left)–abandoned the fight and actively aided conservatives.

For example, it wasn’t just the conservatives who sold us a bill of goods on the wonders of globalization, it was neoliberal Democrats as well. If you export millions of jobs to Mexico and Asia, take workers’ negotiating powers away and push them into crappy jobs with no benefits, while massively aiding banks and corporations, the result will be the sorts of extreme inequality presently plaguing our country.

This kind of analysis is not rocket science and it used to be part of every left-wing intellectual’s toolbox. The left made a serious mistake by ceding the economics sphere to bankers and finance, while focusing their energies on identity politics and cultural issues. In fact, the American left has gone two generations without understanding economics and finance, or even caring to understand. According to writer Mark Ames, “it was the hippies who decided half a century ago that finance was beneath them, so they happily ceded the entire field—finance, business, economics, money—otherwise known as “political power”—to the other side.”

Right now the so-called Resistance is focused on Trump, as if he were the cause of all our problems. But, like I’ve said before and will repeat–Trump is not the cause, he’s just one of the more ghastly symptoms of a failed economic system and dysfunctional democracy.

Since the Red Scares of the 1920’s, when President Woodrow Wilson and his Attorney General Palmer, virtually destroyed the labor movement and radical press, the destruction of the left in America has been a long running goal of conservative business culture.

The Great Depression and New Deal revitalized a labor movement that was energized by socialists and communists. Following World War II, however, the corporate state struck back, with the Taft-Hartley Act, that limited strikes and while fragmenting labor-power with right-to-work statutes, and the McCarthy witch-hunts during the early Cold War years, where the threat of the Soviet Union was used as a cudgel to attack left intellectuals.

The United States is nominally a representative democracy, however corporate interests have an outsized influence on the policies we enact. These corporations spend enormous amounts of money to get the American people to identify free enterprise (meaning state subsidized private power with no infringement of managerial prerogatives) as the American way. In addition to the day in and day out pro-business advertising and PR, corporations have waged intensified propaganda campaigns, deploying the term free enterprise as a means of gaining support for corporate policies.

This long running program to defeat the left has been a one-sided class war where the wealthy and corporations they control have routed their foe and are busy shooting the survivors.

So, I have a question. What are we going to do about it?

If we want a left that can help balance out our world and provide workers some needed power, we need to redevelop an vibrant economic critique of the present ruling ideology–neoliberalism.

In retrospect it seems obvious, but Bernie Sanders did so well in the 2016 presidential election because he’s the first Democrat in forever to offer a trenchant political analysis of the US economy, focusing on class and state power.

The ironic aspect of the rebirth of the left in America is that this development could be the best thing that’s happened to conservatives since Ronald Reagan. Conservatives, as Corey Robin, convincingly argues, absolutely requires a vibrant left to revitalize it as a political movement, lest it end up with Donald Trump as its standard bearer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Because Markets

 

Once again, there was a mass-shooting in America. This time in Las Vegas, where a 64 year old man sprayed bullets down onto concert-goers, killing 58 people and wounding 489.

The statistics paint a horrible picture of gun violence in the U.S. There is now one mass shooting, with more than four victims, per day:

First 9 months of 2017:
-11,572 gun deaths
-23,365 gun injuries
-271 mass shootings
-1,508 unintentional shootings
-2,971 kids/teens shot

Coincidentally, the Federal Reserve just released the 2016 version of the Survey of Consumer Finances. Overall, the new data presents a bleak reality. Wealth inequality is higher than ever. The overwhelming majority of Americans have less wealth now than they did one decade ago.

Maybe there’s a relationship?

Since the imposition of neoliberalism in the late 1970’s these two trends have moved together–more inequality results in more mass murder.

Neoliberalism has played a central role in reshaping the American economy and what it means to be a worker in the United States. Marrying a long tradition of individualism in American political thought to a policy program of deregulation and a globalizing world economy, these ideas have played a substantial role in stagnating wages, degrading working conditions, and cuts in the sorts of New Deal programs that made for a vibrant American community and culture.

After 40 years of neoliberalism the results are not pretty. Many of our cities are in ruins. Our public transportation system is a shambles. Our educational system is in steep decline and being privatized. Opioid addiction, suicide, mass shootings, depression and morbid obesity plague a population that has fallen into profound despairHalf of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. Ever-rising medical costs and loophole-filled insurance policies mean a costly medical problem will also lead to stressed finances and potentially a bankruptcy. Job tenures are short and if it takes more than 6 months to land a new job, you may be permanently unemployed. Most of the jobs created since the Wall Street crash were part-time. And those in part-time jobs are subject to depression at a 50% higher rate than those in full-time jobs.

Going further, neoliberalism has led to atomization in America; a sort of Randian hyper-individualism where everyone is responsible for their outcome in life and there is no such thing as a community. Shit! Everyone is walking around staring at their cell-phones. It’s no wonder that Americans view each other with suspicion and fear. High levels of inequality in and of themselves impair health and longevity, even for wealthy people. Indeed, highly stratified societies have weak social ties, which is a negative for health.

Add all this together with high rates of gun ownership and an American culture soaked in violence and it’s a recipe for disaster.

In, Going Postal, Mark Ames says that mass shootings are a recent phenomenon. According to Ames, these sorts of massacres have only been occurring since the Reagan administration and the adoption of neoliberal economic policies. These economic policies have hit white working-class males especially hard. Unsurprisingly, white males are the ones pulling the trigger in these, all too frequent, mass murders.

This being America, there is a historical amnesia about the 2nd Amendment and the right to bear arms. Conservatives, in thrall to the NRA, go so far as to claim that the Founders, as revolutionaries themselves, wanted an armed population so the people could rebel against the Republic, when, in fact, the goal of the 2nd Amendment was to establish state militias to maintain order in the time of armed uprisings, like Shay’s Rebellion, and potential slave revolts.

On the other side of the political spectrum there has been the predicable response. Since the shooting, there has been plea after plea for gun control as a way of putting an end to violence in America. While these sorts of appeals are certainly reasonable, there is something else at work here in America–a kind of dark sickness–that I believe is related to how we organize our society.

Humans have used markets to organize economic activity for thousands of years. It’s only been in the last 40 years, under the auspices of neoliberalism, that we’ve subsumed our whole world to markets. The corporate state, that’s been created and nurtured during this period, celebrates the loss of community brought about by this development. After all, it’s not possible to have both massive inequality, and a caring community.

Lambert at Naked Capitalism came up with 2 rules to describe neoliberalism–Rule #1: Because markets, Rule #2: Go die!

Unpacking Lambert’s rules: Neoliberals insist that the market is the most rational and efficient way to organize society. Social welfare programs designed to ameliorate the savagery of the market are immoral and distort the magical information processor that is the market. Therefore, if you are unable to parlay your human capital into a winning hand at the market/casino–go die. Of course, these rules do not apply to neoliberals or the banks and corporations they advise.

It should not be a surprise that in an angry, heavily armed country, where market forces have replaced community, there will be some individuals who refuse to go-die when they can go-kill.

 

 

 

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The Axis of Stupid

 

Between Trump’s UN speech and the new Committee to Investigate Russia, I don’t know who’s dumber–Trump, or the disparate faction that seems determined to take him down.

The Committee to Investigate Russia is sponsored by Hollywood director Rob Reiner, who played Meathead, on the 70’s sitcom–All in the Family.

I know, sometimes the jokes just write themselves.

Reiner explained the purpose as–“We’re trying to break through and explain to people why this is important and that there is a serious problem here that people don’t seem to really grasp.”

Maybe the purpose of the new committee is to propagandize Americans who seem to have lost interest in the story?

Recent polls have demonstrated that the American electorate could care less about it. As they continue to lose their jobs and homes and fall into medical debt and struggle with opioid addictions, they want our leaders and the corporate media to focus on important things like the economy and the fact that they face an increasingly precarious future.

While average Americans are tired of the story, liberal intellectuals, whose hatred of Trump seems to have overpowered their cognitive facilities, have embraced the Russia hacking story with a fervor. (I’m looking at you–New York Times) The last time this happened in 2003, after a year of such propaganda, the U.S. attacked Iraq on fraudulent – not “mistaken” – intelligence.

Perhaps the new effort by the Committee to Investigate Russia is due to the fact that the Russians have successfully deterred the US’s regime change foreign policies in Syria and Ukraine?

Most Americans never heard his speech, but at the UN General Assembly, Russian President Vladimir Putin described American foreign policies thusly–“An aggressive foreign interference has resulted in a brazen destruction of national institutions and the lifestyle itself. Instead of the triumph of democracy and progress, we got violence, poverty and social disaster. Nobody cares a bit about human rights, including the right to life. I cannot help asking those who have caused the situation, do you realize now what you’ve done?”

Putin was referring to the US efforts to overthrow the Syrian regime by employing al-Qaeda as proxies. The entirely legal military intervention by Russia at the request of the sovereign government of Syria — a member in good standing at the UN – reversed the nation’s descent into U.S.-backed jihadist terror. History may decree that Putin saved the international legal order from complete destruction by the US.

This effort to blame Russia for hacking our precious democracy has been ongoing since before the presidential election, but it became super-charged in the wake of Trump’s win when Hillary Clinton needed an excuse for losing to an orange-haired freak.

Despite the Sturm und Drang many knowledgable independent journalist and insiders doubt the story. For example, U.S. intelligence veterans–ex-NSA official William Binney, and ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern–are skeptical that Russia “hacked” the DNC’s computers, pointing instead to a download of emails by an insider.

The Committee to Investigate Russia did receive lots of corporate media attention. Not only has the corporate media been pushing the hacking story relentlessly but now it involves one of their favorite Beltway tropes–bi-partisanship. Reiner is a Democrat, while Frum, Boot, and Clapper are neoconservative Republicans.

David Frum, if you’ll remember from the way-back-machine, was George W. Bush’s speechwriter, who is credited with inventing the expression “axis of evil“, which Bush introduced in his 2002 State of the Union address.

Frum is on to his new gig as part of an axis of stupid, where instead of actual Russian experts the committee is made up of the following leading lights:

  • a neocon blogger
  • a perjurer
  • wonk with no Russia background
  • the director of When Harry Met Sally, and Meathead
  • right-wing talk radio guy

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

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