Dark Comedy

Watching our feral elite fly into terrain is terrifying but there’s some inadvertent humor along the way. You just know it’s going to end in tragedy but damn if it isn’t funny. Kind of like Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

Take that whole “rule based international order” our foreign policy mavens keep blathering about. I mean who are they fucking kidding? Is there anyone left out there who believes that shit? And Anthony Blinkin. He seems so clueless and out of his depth that one almost longs for the predictable bellicosity of a Pompeo or Bolton.

Almost.

I have a question. With all the threats to start a shooting war with Russia over Ukraine and China over Taiwan, how completely out of touch with reality can US leaders be?

What’s crazy is that after Biden promised a new era of American diplomacy, his foreign policy team is now widely acknowledged to have instead brought U.S. relations with Russia and China to all-time lows. Judging from the March meeting of Secretary of State Blinken and National Security Advisor Sullivan with Chinese officials in Alaska, Biden’s meeting with Putin in Vienna in June, and Under Secretary Nuland’s recent visit to Moscow, U.S. officials have based their encounters with Russian and Chinese officials on ultimatums in order to act tough for domestic audiences instead of seriously trying to resolve policy differences.

Of course, the beginnings of this descent into madness were provoked by the Orange Menace, who seems to have single-handedly caused our feral elite to lose their minds. Indeed, the 2015 rise of Donald Trump, a development that provoked a hysterical reaction in the establishment wings of both the Democratic and Republican parties, which became far more severe after Trump’s unexpected 2016 victory over Hillary Clinton.

Instead of asking themselves why they and their policies had grown so unpopular that a faux-populist outsider who had been massively outspent on advertising could win, leading Democrats instead adopted the lunatic excuse that Russian President Vladimir Putin had arranged Trump’s elevation, somehow managing to overcome their multi-billion-dollar presidential campaign with the help of a few thousand dollars of display ads on Facebook.

That liberals could swallow such absurdities was surprising, but those debilitating conditions turned out to be widespread within our establishment media and political worlds, and this bizarre Russia-gate narrative dominated the first couple of years of the Trump presidency, reducing American politics to a farce.

Yours truly had to deal with the madness. During the early days of Trump’s presidency I can’t tell you how many conversations where the person I was talking with would stammer with stunned disbelief that I did not believe the claims about Russia, Russia-gate, Trump, and Putin that were so universally believed and promoted within mainstream liberal circles.

What’s dismaying is that all of this domestic, partisan nonsense has made our world increasingly dangerous. The combination of a relentless media demonization of Putin’s Russia and the creation of potential military flash-points in Syria and Ukraine produced an extremely dangerous world situation. Our current confrontation with Russia might be even more perilous than what we had faced at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, yet almost none of the corporate media outlets articulate how dangerous all of this is.

And, crazy, stupid, as the recent pronouncement by NATO poodle, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, demonstrates. Stoltenberg called the events of January 6 “an attack… on the core values of NATO.” 

Yeah, like the head of NATO has any business pontificating on values or democracy after NATO destroyed Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Syria, while relentlessly encircling Russia with new members.

This comes on the heels of the latest in the Russia-gate saga, where it turns out that the whole thing was made up. But, of course, the perpetrators have moved on with zero accountability, or shame. The problem with this is presuming that our feral elite possess a sense of guilt. Take Adam Schiff and the Steele dossier. While even the Washington Post has admitted that it got the Russian collusion story wrong in light of the findings of Special Counsel John Durham, House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff, D-Calif., is still insisting that he was absolutely right to promote the discredited Steele dossier. Schiff’s interview on NBC’s Meet the Press may be the final proof of the death of shame in American politics.

What all of these stories have in common is the fecklessness of our feral elite. The US endlessly proclaims itself a meritocracy but from my vantage point there appears to be a pattern of elite’s being rewarded for being wrong in the right way and failing upward while the people who’ve been right are punished. Some meritocracy. More like oligarchy.

Of course, this sort of thing is in line with historical behavior of elites in crumbling empires. To wit, the crisis in American society stems from our operating system–capitalism and the oligarchy it has produced. Vast inequality, poverty, unemployment, crumby social welfare and healthcare, housing and education, and so on, are all rooted in this system that causing our nation to implode

Maybe this dim realization is why our feral elite are completely loosing it and threatening war with Russia and China. Dying empires are dangerous, especially ones with a vast nuclear arsenal. To accomplish this they’re aggressively propagandizing us into consenting to insanely dangerous escalations geared toward maintaining a US empire that massively rewards this psychotic elite. Meanwhile, I’m seeing signs everywhere that the managers of empire are preparing to do some very, very crazy things in order to maintain their dominance. 

Buckle up.

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Help Wanted

I have never seen anything like the employment situation now. There are help wanted signs prominently displayed at every business in America, yet hardly any takers. What’s going on?

Perhaps giving America workers a year off to contemplate their employment situation wasn’t such a great idea? One of the outcomes of the pandemic has been that workers seem less willing to tolerate low wages and challenging work conditions. The pandemic has also revealed that the most important people in the economy are those who actually produce and transport goods and foods; they are also among the worst paid and treated people in our society. Now many hourly workers want more pay and/or better conditions. However, many employers think the answer lies in finding more desperate prospects.

I suspect a lot of people found that the money they made from their Mcjob was easily offset by a higher quality of life. Such people may be lured into job situations that don’t stress or incur child care costs but they are unlikely to rush back to serving maskless assholes at Starbucks for 10 bucks an hour.

Companies like FedEx, Amazon, Uber etc, who rely on this ‘race-to-the-bottom’ desperation model and screw their workers are now “struggling to hire people” and are being forced to pay higher wages.

What’s clear is that 40 odd years of neoliberal infestation has made work for many a living hell. In this neoliberal period, the ‘labour shortage’ narrative is often just a mask to hide what the employers really want or do not want. Neoliberalism offered up an ideological justification to a way to attack trade unions and start to undermine the full employment system (ie. New Deal) that had delivered such gains to workers. The neoliberal ideology relied on the creation of a fictional world where cutting wages, cutting job security, denying rights of association, imposing onerous key indicators (delivery times etc) was the way forward to prosperity.

The so-called ‘labour shortage’ is also an indicator of management greed and short-sightedness. Rather than being a shortage of workers, there is a shortage of workers who will tolerate the indignity of low wages, onerous conditions and capricious management. It is also a union versus non-union type of discussion where the unionised work places generate high productivity and worker attachment, while the non-unionised workplaces find it hard to attract reliable staff and blame it all on ‘labour shortages’. Corporate America calls this a “labor problem” whereas those of us who’ve paid attention know it is a management problem. Unsurprisingly, it turns out that unfettered greed backfires.

This is the neoliberal ideology that corporate America has embraced. The profound reluctance of companies and managers to accommodate reasonable demands of employees they’ve been able to squeeze harder and harder over decades isn’t about commercial logic or inability to pay more. Corporate profit share as a percentage of GDP has been at insanely high levels for over a decade. Most can pay more, which is the change that would demand least of managers. It’s that it offends their sensibilities. Remember that the last decade in particular has featured the worst sort of electronic-Taylorism: employees being monitored intensively and held to explicit output standards. After being able to impose sadistic work pacing (see Amazon warehouses), facing a worker revolt is intolerable. They can’t believe it happened and reassure themselves that it won’t happen again.

Here’s the thing–corporate America’s profits are soaring while American workers share of the pie has dwindled. If corporate America was serious about solving the labor shortage they could offer higher wages, and given the gap between labour productivity growth and real wages growth, that has seen massive redistributions of national income away from wages to profits, that would hardly be ‘unaffordable’. They could also offer work to unemployed workers and offer them training.

A recent Rand Corp study conceptualized the transformation in power relations between capital and labor. It showed that the wealthiest 1% have taken $50 trillion from working Americans during this period, making our country less secure, (and, I would argue, setting the stage for the election of Donald Trump). The reason for this is that the New Deal/Post War Liberalism created a large middle class, and even manufacturing workers could support a four person family on one salary, while neoliberalism produced a society where the good working class jobs were lost and families needed two salaries and a lot of debt to get along, while all unavoidable costs like healthcare and housing and education (since almost all good jobs are closed without it) skyrocketed.

This wealth transfer (theft) occurred as the Democrats transformed from a political party that represented workers to one that represented the Professional/Managerial/Class. Hmmm. I wonder if these two developments are related?

Like I’ve stated repeatedly–politics is who in our society gets what and who in our society pays the costs of these policies.

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Winter is coming

The corporate media that spent months breathlessly flagging Russia-gate is quiet now that the Durham investigation is close to unraveling it. And Durham’s investigation only just getting started. The key takeaway is that it was a coup, set in motion to overturn the election of Donald Trump. Many of the key figures in the national security state (deep state) had switched allegiance from the GOP after Trump’s takedown of Jeb Bush and were planning on serving in the Hillary Clinton Administration. To wit, they weaponized the intelligence and justice apparatus in order to take Trump down.

Last week, John Durham’s grand jury issued its third criminal indictment in the Trump-Russia collusion hoax. The person who was arrested may be obscure and the news buried after Virginia’s bombshell election results but Durham’s investigation maneuvers are a big deal. It shows that the special counsel’s probe is methodically unraveling a huge conspiracy, seemingly engineered by Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign and implicating James Comey’s FBI, as willing accomplices. These indictments, interestingly, also illuminate the complicity of the Brookings Institution, a Democratic Party leaning think-tank, in the conspiracy to depose Trump.

The question now is whether Durham will be allowed to go all the way to the top and expose the full extent of this malfeasance and charge those who planned and executed it.

I have my doubts.

What’s truly funny is that Trump, with his clownish incompetence, was never the threat to the national security establishment as they imagined. He was always outside his element as a New York City businessman without a claque of Washington insiders to run his administration. The only danger Trump posed to elite institutions was from his propensity to pull the mask off the face of the American empire.

I remember telling anyone who would listen that Russia-gate was bullshit but all of my New York Times reading friends and family were absolutely convinced that Trump was a Russian secret agent who would be arrested and frog-marched from the White House at any moment. But it was obvious that the whole point of Russia-gate was to hobble Trump’s foreign policy edicts and turbo-charge a new Cold War with Russia. The real impetus for Russia-gate had been Russian efforts to stymie the Ukrainian coup and prevent the US from seizing their naval-base in Sevastopol. Even worse, from the US national security state viewpoint, was the successful Russian intervention into Syria to help defeat the Sunni jihadists the US was using as terrorists proxies to overthrow the government of Bashar Assad. Russia-gate was also intertwined with Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks exposure of Hillary’s emails. Democrats still blame WikiLeaks for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 defeat to Trump because it released verified Democratic Party emails that illuminated the rampant corruption in the party.

Most of this was obvious. Anyone who didn’t know, who was paying attention, was an idiot, but most of those who said otherwise were liars or propagandists.

The problem in America is that we’ve been inculcated to believe authorities that have the “right” shared values and for liberals the New York Times is like the voice of God. This is also a reflection of the hidden nature of power in American society. Liberal or conservative belief is made possible only because every day we face endless propaganda: in our schools, in our places of higher education, in the workplace, and most especially from the corporate media. The propaganda system tightly constrains our understanding of political and ideological realities to make them dependent on the priorities of the national security state.

Thanks to the sources that I have developed over the years, I have a pretty good handle on the corporate media propaganda and how it’s deployed. Hint–the serious propaganda is aimed at elite audiences.

Probably my most important source in debunking Russia-gate was the late independent-journalist Robert Parry and his site Consortiumnews.com, but here were many other brave journalists (all independent) who went against the overwhelming corporate media consensus. Matt Taibbi, Michael Tracy, Aaron Maté, and Glen Greenwald were early to raise serious doubts about Russia-gate.

Greenwald has a new article out where he pillars the Democratic Party’s hypocrisy when it come to justice. “This internal contradiction in Democratic politics was vividly illustrated by the fact that — though they will now deny it — the most revered and admired figure over the last five years in liberal politics was Robert Mueller, named in 2001 by George W. Bush to be FBI Director and then in 2017 by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to be Special Counsel investigating Russiagate. Liberals did not even bother hiding their glee at the prospect that Mueller was coming to arrest and imprison as many of their political adversaries as possible. They sung songs in his honor and danced to their fantasies about the next convictions. Every indictment was cheered, every prosecution applauded, every punishment lamented for being insufficiently harsh, as their favorite cable channels were filled to the brim with the very life-long federal prosecutors their ideology ostensibly opposed. Throughout the Trump years, Democratic politics was driven at its core by a bloodlust to imprison Trump, his family, his aides and his supporters for as long and as harshly as possible. Cravings for punishment and prison, at its core, was what drove the arousal of Russia-gate.”

Now that the Durham investigation is circling back to Hillary Clinton it will be interesting to see how the elite Democrat politicians and their corporate media hand-maidens react. Then there’s the political angle. With Russia-gate exposed as a fraud, and with many of the Democrats campaign promises unfulfilled a majority of midterm voters may well conclude that the Democrats are crooks who don’t deserve their vote. Which, in my humble opinion, is justified. Because here’s the thing–the Democratic Party is the political arm of the US’s establishment’s liberal flank. The New York Times is the propaganda arm of the US’s establishment’s liberal flank. The structural function of both institutions is to make genuine progressive change in America impossible.

As I’ve said before–the Democratic Party needs to go the way of the Whigs.

Burn it down.

Update: It’s good to be able to tell your corporate media-duped friends and family that you were right and their “trusted sources” were lying but so what? Five years too late and still more to go before the principals are on the dock. So what difference does revealing it now make? The coup succeeded: whatever Trump might have done was stymied and Putin was established as The Enemy.

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The world we live in now

The Obama Administration’s failure to prosecute the banksters in the wake of the Wall Street Crash has been an ongoing topic here at Camelotkidd so I’m glad to see a new podcast exploring the subject.

I’m referring to Meltdown, a new podcast series from investigative journalist David Sirota and documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney about the 2008–9 financial crisis and its aftermath that debuted last week. 

The meltdown they’re referring to is the Obama Administration’s political response to the Wall Street Crash— a response Sirota asserts is deeply interwoven with both the Democratic collapse of 2016 and the continued rise of the extreme right. “This is why,” he explains at the end of the series’ first episode: “. . . the meltdown of 2009 is this generation’s pivotal moment. Not the bank failures or the stock market crash in 2008. Those were obviously disasters. But the political disaster that came after. Our government stopped working for its citizens during a moment of profound crisis. We need to unbury this moment, to reexamine it. Because the failure of government then gave us the world we live in now.”

Causing some 2.5 million home foreclosures between 2007 and 2009, the crisis liquidated working- and middle-class bank accounts, destroyed lives, and spread a plague of misery and despair throughout the US body politic. Wall Street would be bailed-out with trillions of Federal spending, while ordinary citizens caught in predatory mortgage schemes would be left to twist slowly in the wind. Home foreclosure, in fact, became a burgeoning industry unto itself, as ad hoc courts worked hand in hand with big banks to eject people from their homes.

Even though there was copious evidence of elite criminality, nobody went to jail. Well, Bernie Madoff went to jail, but he ripped off rich and powerful people, and we can’t have that now can we?

Obama was a first-term Democratic president with a majority in Congress and an uncompromising Republican opposition. A country disillusioned by a previous administration’s corruption and mismanagement. A working class struggling through an economic downturn. But, a political elite and corporate media calling not for aggressiveness and boldness, but for half measures and compromise. Even worse, calling for austerity in the face of the economic calamity.

If this sounds familiar, it is not only because it describes this current moment, but because it is the experience we lived through 12 years ago – a political meltdown that destroyed many Americans’ remaining faith in their government, and ultimately birthed Donald Trump’s presidency.

That political meltdown crushed faith in hope and change, and led straight to the Tea Party and then to MAGA. And if Democrats continue making the same choices again, we should expect the same results – or worse.

We got lucky with Trump. The next right-wing populist will be more competent.

Gonzo journalist Matt Taibbi, who’s perceptive analysis of the economic and political factors that led to Trump’s victory, has nothing but praise for the new podcast. “What happened over the course of the next eight years, when the dream of forever-rule evaporated and the Democrats found themselves having to explain being vanquished by a foul-mouthed game show host, is the subject of Meltdown. To this day, the all-but-mandatory explanation for the Democrats’ 2016 disaster is a combination of racist reaction and Russian interference. Though race certainly played a significant role, the deeper explanation, still taboo, is the perception that the Obama administration’s handling of the 2008 crash was both corrupt and profoundly disillusioning. When the SS America struck an economic iceberg, the country watched Democrats fill the lifeboats with guilty bank CEOs, then waved from the horizon as everyone else went down with the ship.

Meltdown not only tells that story, it connects it to the Democrats’ political present and future. Sirota describes how the party’s misplaced faith in a Solomonesque business model — take money from Wall Street donors and deliver big for them on policy, while making gestures of sympathy toward the wider base of voters — opened the door for a canny political opportunism of Donald Trump. The psychology of the Democratic Party is to believe it’s always enough to be a little better, a little more sane, a little less craven than Republicans, but voters don’t see it that way. In a crisis, a leader in full control of the government has to act decisively, and be seen doing so, or risk being replaced by someone promising such action.

Trump hammered Obama on corruption and favoritism, painted Hillary Clinton as the sequel agent of Wall Street, and won making promises of sweeping action. This, Sirota says, is how “hope and change became MAGA and mayhem.” In an interview with Useful Idiots, he explained how the series was intended to be a wakeup call for Democrats, who continue to head off real examinations of their recent past, inviting, perhaps, repeats of the same self-inflicted disaster. Many disasters followed the 2008 financial crisis. But possibly the worst was the mass popular disillusionment that resulted from Barack Obama’s failure to help the victims and punish the wrongdoers — a failure that led to Donald Trump.”

In retrospect I’ve come to believe that the Obama Administration was the culmination of the Democrats long march from a party that represented workers to one that represented finance. Wall Street definitely knew something the rest of us didn’t, as the amounts of money Obama raised from investment banks attested. Then there’s the fact that one month before the presidential election of 2008, the giant Wall Street bank Citigroup submitted to the Obama campaign a list of its preferred candidates for cabinet positions in an Obama administration. This list corresponds almost exactly to the eventual composition of Barack Obama’s cabinet.

My liberal friends are worried about me because of my relentless focus on the Democrats even though the Republicans are worse. I get that people are deeply scared of an authoritarian GOP and growing threats to our democracy but as I’ve said before–we know Republicans are evil. It’s their brand. But, if we’re to have any chance of turning this sucker around we need a party that represents us not a bunch of mealy-mouthed traitors. Are the Democrats a political party that’s capable of fighting for justice or simply the lesser-evil?

The timing for this series is almost perfect as the Democrats are gutting the Build Back Better series of policies that were aimed at helping Americans hammered by the economic disaster brought on by the pandemic. This behavior is completely at odds with the response to the Great Depression, and not really adequate to the crises that we face. It’s the opposite of the cautionary tale in meltdown: the FDR story. Franklin Roosevelt came into office at the start of Great Depression and made very explicitly clear, that he understood the connection between economic policies and democracy. Basically, if you get into office making economic promises and you try to deliver on those promises, that’s the best way to fight off the rise of fascism. If you don’t deliver for people, right-wing authoritarians and fascists are able to make an argument, an anti-democratic argument, “Hey, they didn’t solve your problems. Democratic institutions won’t solve your problems. We will.” FDR explicitly made clear that his New Deal was not only morally necessary, not only economically good policy, but absolutely crucial to tamping down public support for fascism in America, which was on the rise at the time.

The latest Democratic betrayal shows that no progress can be made without changing the institutional structure of American politics.

Perhaps it’s a Whig moment?

To have that happen we need to make sure that the Democratic Party loses so irrevocably in 2022 and 2024 that it goes up in a puff of smoke, never to be seen again.

Burn it all down.

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Can’t make it here anymore

The Democratic Party is poised to deliver a Build Back Better betrayal to the American people. Indeed, the ways in which President Biden’s social and infrastructure spending proposals have been hollowed out are a good microcosm of the Democratic Party’s transformation under neoliberalism. It’s all there: the public/private/partnerships, the means testing, the paucity of spending, the deficit fetish obsession, the reliance on markets. It’s as if they don’t even believe that government under their control is capable of doing anything.

Over the past few days, Democrats signaled that they intend to fully gut many of the progressive elements in President Joe Biden’s health care, climate, and anti-poverty reconciliation spending bill.

Politico reported that “Congressional Democrats are watering down — and may entirely drop — a plan to have the government directly negotiate some Medicare drug prices in order to help clinch a deal on their sweeping social spending package.”

So, in order to secure a deal with their own pharma-bankrolled party members, Democratic leaders are now insisting they need to water down or kill the drug pricing provisions that survey data show voters most want, and that the party has been promising those voters for 15 years.

Politico further reported that Democrats may also axe their plan to add dental, hearing, and vision benefits to Medicare, and may fully eliminate their already watered-down proposal to guarantee U.S. workers have paid family and medical leave. The news follows reports that the Biden White House is ready to remove its clean electricity program from the reconciliation package in order to appease Democrats’ coal baron senator, Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

None of this is good policy nor good politics. Meanwhile, their priority seems to be allowing the IRS to snoop in bank accounts containing as little as $600. Boy, I don’t know about you but that sure sounds like a winning campaign issue to me.

For some time it’s been obvious that the Democrats really have no interest in governing because that would mean having to chose between we the people and they the corporations that fund their election campaigns. The reason the Democratic Party always sounds so helplessly incoherent is because its lawmakers are trying to simultaneously appease their corporate donors and look like they are fulfilling their public promises to fix problems created by those corporate donors. There’s also that 40 odd year default to neoliberal market-worship that I mentioned earlier. Instead, they much prefer being in the minority, especially with a president like Trump in office, where they can virtue signal and raise money by being not Trump. Actual governing is hard as they are expected to actually do things for the average voter which would displease their corporate funders and the Washington corporate press-corp, who would have a sad if Democrats were to govern progressively.

But, here’s the thing: We’ve just about reached the end of the line for this sort of behavior. After almost two years of Covid disruptions that have exposed the rot at the heart of our neoliberalized economy the US is in a state of catastrophe. The U.S. economy is just seeing massive amounts of workers being financially disempowered, a downwardly mobile middle class, the endless printing of money, extreme inequality, and now inflation. The American people are desperate for anyone, anything that will improve their lives.

The US decided it was going to de-industrialize, because our corporations could hire much cheaper labor abroad than they could hire in the United States. The brutal reality is that our societies and our social contracts were long ago hollowed out by corporate interests that captured the state. The brutal reality in America is that you cannot expect the government to act in your interest or care for you, unless it is in the interests of the powerful and rich that it does so. Going further, our profit-driven society, engineered to uphold the power of elites, is incapable of airing such matters fairly or allowing us to weigh them dispassionately. Which is precisely the reason for the social breakdown that has become so obvious.

Presently, the corporate media is freaking out about our supply chain woes but they are focusing on the wrong culprit–of course.

We cannot fix this crisis by adding to port capacity or working longshoremen and truckers overtime. It is a systemic failure, rooted in too much corporate power and too much faith in markets, deregulation, and hyper-globalism—the cocktail otherwise known as neoliberalism. Bring jobs and supplies home, restore some regulation, and the supply chain crisis goes away. Back when most supplies were sourced domestically, we never had a supply chain crisis—because we made most of the stuff at home. There were some imports, but they did not overwhelm ports. And back when we had a regulated trucking industry and a strong Teamsters Union, we never had shortages of truck drivers because these were good jobs with benefits.

I’ve talked about this before but it bears repeating. Government has a crucial role in the economy and it’s not simply backstopping the wealthy and corporations they own. Infrastructure is the “…fourth factor of production,” where health care, transportation and rents should be subsidized by the government to create a low-cost economy where small businesses and entrepreneurs can prosper. And the most important public utility is to keep money creation, banking, and credit in the public domain. We have the opposite. The US is a high-cost economy. The cost of housing has gone way up. The cost of medical insurance has gone way up. The debt burden has gone way up. And America has now priced itself out of the market.

Build Back Better might be our last chance because that if nothing fundamentally changes in our economy we can’t make it here anymore.

James McMurtry said it way better than I can.

“…Should I hate a people for the shade of their skin
Or the shape of their eyes or the shape I’m in
Should I hate ’em for having our jobs today
No, I hate the men sent the jobs away

I can see them all now, they haunt my dreams
All lily white and squeaky clean
They’ve never known want, they’ll never know need
Their shit don’t stink and their kids won’t bleed
Their kids won’t bleed in their damn little war
And we can’t make it here anymore

Will work for food, will die for oil
Will kill for power, and to us the spoils
The billionaires get to pay less tax
The working poor get to fall through the cracks

So let ’em eat jellybeans let ’em eat cake
Let ’em eat shit, whatever it takes
They can join the Air Force or join the Corps
If they can’t make it here anymore…”

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Corporations are people too, my friend

Of course, they’re psychotic people with a death count in the millions and if there was any justice or accountability Senators like our little Mittens would have to wear jackets that showed the logos of the various corporations that sponsor them with a running death count.

The anger come from the realization that the Supreme Court has ruled that corporations are people, and corporations can buy control of the political process. And now, not only are they people but now they are the government too. If you didn’t believe it before, believe it now that human rights lawyer Steven Donziger has effectively been sentenced to six months in prison by Chevron itself.

On Friday Chevron puppet–U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska– sentenced human rights lawyer Steven Donziger to six months in prison—following more than two years of house arrest related to a lawsuit he filed decades ago against oil giant Chevron.

Donziger found that Texaco, since bought by Chevron, had poisoned a huge swath of the Ecuadorian Amazon during oil drilling in the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s. What they saw were the results of a massive and man-made environmental disaster that poisoned the water, earth and food of tens of thousands of people. Worst of all, the evidence indicated it was done deliberately as part of an engineering plan to save $3 per barrel  in what came to be called the “Amazon Chernobyl” by locals and experts.

Ultimately, Steven led a team of lawyers in procuring a $9.5B judgement against Chevron that was affirmed by the Ecuadorian Supreme Court.

Chevron refused to pay. During the trial, it threatened the affected communities with a “lifetime of litigation.” Afterwards, Chevron engaged a team of 2,000 corporate lawyers from at least 60 firms to retaliate against Donziger and the lead plaintiffs in the case, filing a barrage of SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) and RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) suits, legal tools used—and abused—by large companies to punish people who take them to court.

In Donziger’s words, “The company’s goal is to silence my advocacy, bankrupt my family, and intimidate activists and environmental allies.”

The evidence for this persecution is all there: the denial of a jury trial, the unconstitutional order that Donziger turn over his cellular telephone and computer to Chevron during discovery, the assignment of a corrupt judge, the corrupt judge’s assignment of Chevron’s lawyers to prosecute the defendant in a case Chevron brought.

Chevron’s vile and cynical legal strategy–designed to avoid paying compensation to the Indigenous people whose lives it deliberately destroyed to earn an extra $5 billion over 20 years–could not succeed without a federal judiciary populated by corporate-friendly judges willing to bend the law to protect corporate profits. There is no precedent in US law allowing a private firm to assume the role of public prosecutor, yet thanks to that corporate coup I mentioned, Chevron has been able to make Donsiger’s life a living hell. This state of affairs is so egregious that the UN’s high commissioner for human rights condemned Donziger’s treatment shortly before he was sentenced.

The assault on Donziger has been a tag-team affair. In 2019, U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan of the Southern District of New York—a former corporate lawyer with investments in Chevron—held Donziger in contempt of court after he refused to disclose privileged information about his clients to the fossil fuel industry. Kaplan placed Donziger under house arrest, where he has remained under strict court monitoring for 787 days. In addition to Kaplan’s own connections to Chevron, the judge appointed private attorneys to prosecute the case, including one who had worked for a firm that represented the oil giant. Judge Preska, who found Donziger guilty of the contempt charges in July, is a leader of the right-wing Federalist Society, which counts Chevron among its financial backers.

Most Americans would not believe that here in the United States, a corporation could literally use an American court to criminally prosecute its critics. And yet that is exactly what has happened: a show trial that leaves an American environmental lawyer punished harshly and at risk of imprisonment, for the not-to-be-tolerated crime of standing up to Chevron.

So yes, my friend, corporations are people. Unfortunately, they are people like John Wayne Gacy, or Ted Bundy.

The reason Chevron can get away with such egregious behavior is the decades-long assault on workers and the public good by corporations, like Chevron. What we in the U.S. experience now is a consequence of this reality: a country ruled by corporate elites who have captured the machinery of government to enrich themselves at the expense on non-elites. The 50 year effort to transform the branches of our government into a bastion of right-wing ideology have paid amazing dividends. Especially for the judiciary where the Federalist Society has come to colonize legal minds through the economics and law movement. To whit, the individuals and think-tanks have transformed law and economics into an ultra ideological field dominated almost exclusively by passionate opponents of government “interference” in “free enterprise.” The targeting of the courts was one of the key goals of Lewis Powell, a corporate lawyer later elevated to the Supreme Court by President Nixon. In Powell’s 1971 memo to the Chamber of Commerce, a blueprint for the slow-motion corporate coup that has taken place, he called on business interests to pack the judiciary with corporate-friendly judges.

Ralph Nader, who graduated from Harvard Law School, has long decried the capture of the courts and law schools by corporate power, calling the nation’s attorneys and judges “lucrative cogs in the corporate wheel.” He notes that law school curriculums are “built around corporate law, and corporate power, and corporate perpetration, and corporate defense.”

This would be a problem with an obvious political resolution but for the fact that both the Republicans and the Democrats are cool with this state of affairs. Thanks to the tsunami of money that has thoroughly corrupted Congress both parties depend on corporate cash to get elected and stay elected. Meanwhile, both parties deploy cultural issues–abortion, guns and identity politics–to distract the American public from the corporate takeover. The end result of this corporate takeover is fascism.

Sorry, I mean “free enterprise.”

Fortunately, Americans are starting to recognize the dangers of concentrated corporate power and there seems to be an insurgency brewing in the workplace. Taken together with mass resignations, such worker strikes reveal a deep dissatisfaction with the nature of American work that has been decades in the making. Unsurprisingly, now that workers are rebelling corporate America is worried.

This is only the start.

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Fall Break

Taking some time off.

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Old Time Religion

We are endlessly lectured that there are no conspiracies but what was Russia-gate?

All the cool kids have moved on now that icky Trump is out of the White House and not embarrassing them and their corporate media play-things but the Durham Report is providing copious evidence of criminality. The verdict–“Russia-gate was a Democratic conspiracy.”

For example, the constantly piling-up evidence that Russia-gate was manufactured by lawyers working for Hillary Clinton – first and foremost Michael Sussmann. Have a look at authentic investigative reporter Aaron Mate’s latest: “With Clinton lawyer charged, the Russia-gate scam is now under indictment” of Sept. 20.

Mate’s takeaway–“With the Steele dossier now widely discredited and Sussmann’s indictment adding new details of a related deceptionthe Clinton campaign is now connected to yet one more documented scam in a sprawling effort to plant Trump-Russia conspiracy theories in the media and trigger federal investigative activity.”

This criminality was initiated and carried out by the Clinton campaign with voluminous help from the deep state, that mysterious entity that many Americans doubt exists. Symptomatic of this enforced myopia was the mainstream response to the grand Russia-gate conspiracy theory, a spectacle which to date has failed to produce any convictions for conspiracy or treason. What’s even more infuriating is that the critics of the Russia-gate conspiracy theory, like yours truly, have been denounced as “conspiracy theorists.” Thus, Russia-gate provided further proof that the term “conspiracy theory” is a pejorative, designed to stigmatize and dismiss critics of official pronouncements.

Trump’s crime was to discuss ending some of the overseas interventions that have been on cruise control ever since 911. For the deep state, accustomed to imperial rule, these were fighting words. No dove or even advocate for diplomacy, Trump nonetheless articulated an American-isolationist sentiment that resonated with Americans sick of the endless wars and sacrifice of sons and daughters.

Can’t have that now, can we?

Clinton and her allies in the deep state knew they could peddle the Russia-gate conspiracy to their corporate media cheerleaders and that they would do the rest. Indeed, the corporate media, led by the venerable New York Times, has embraced advocacy over neutrality, all the better to sell subscriptions. It worked due to the fact that their audience–liberal PMC’s–loathed Trump and were eager to believe anything about him that offered the hope of his downfall.

In an amazing new article, Matt Taibbi says that “The News is America’s New Religion, and We’re in a Religious War.” Basically, the media has gone from providing “news” to becoming more like religion, where they are peddling gospel. American increasingly pray at the red church or the blue church with no apostates allowed. “We have two denominations, both as fact-averse as real churches,” and this is the logical “result of narrative-driven coverage that focuses huge amounts of resources on the wrongness of the rival faith…Tales of each other’s stupidity are the new national religion, and especially among erstwhile liberals, we take them more seriously than any religion has been taken in the smart set in a long, long time.”

In this climate I wonder how the finale Durham Report, with its investigation into the origins of Russia-gate, coupled with criminal indictments, will be received by the faithful?

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This is why we can’t have nice things

The New York Times, with its insufferable class and elite bias, recently pondered economic policy–“How House Dems Plan to Raise $2.9 T”

Gee, I wonder how they will get the money? Maybe they can find some spare change under the cushions of the couch in the Oval Office? Perhaps Nancy Pelosi can hold a bake sale for her campaign contributors in Silicon Valley? Oh, I got it. Chuck Schumer can set up a lemonade stand on Wall Street where his patrons can kick in some jingle.

With Congress debating President Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending bill, we can see all of the rottenness that permeates our elite political and media institutions. A perfect encapsulation of Beltway consensus when it comes to spending money on anything besides tax cuts, Wall Street or the Pentagon is the Democratic Senator from West Virginia. In a widely circulated op-ed in the Wall Street Journal in early September, Senator Joe Manchin expressed his opposition to the budget bill, warning of excessive spending and inflation. He also argued how spending today could leave the country ill-positioned for some future crisis.

With Congress, it’s a given that they are thoroughly corrupt but even more scandalous is the corporate media. Our founders envisioned a Forth Estate that would hold elite policy holders accountable to the people rather than spew misleading propaganda.

And we really wonder why people don’t trust the corporate media?

The dishonesty is breathtaking. One of the tricks our policy makers play is to claim that the United States is like a household and is budgetary constrained when it comes to spending. And, of course the corporate media plays along. Thus we can see the class composition of the corporate media in their reporting on such topics.

For anyone who understands Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) this “conventional wisdom” is maddening. Repeat after me–Federal taxes don’t fund Federal spending. I never tire of asking people about the ongoing Wall Street Bail-Out: Where do the trillions of dollars come from that we continue to shower on the banks? Meanwhile, where did the $21 trillion come from that we lavished on the military/industrial/complex during that whole war on terror thingy?

The US’s response to Covid has definitely challenged the conventional wisdom on government spending to the point where even writers like Ezra Kline will honestly admit that the US is not budgetarily contained. “I think there’s a lot of fear that if it becomes known. If it becomes believed…that whatever we can do we can afford that that will be used irresponsibly…and create a lot of real problems like runaway inflation…The profession wants to say, ‘No, we knew all this,’ but in fact they haven’t been saying it because they’re a little bit afraid, in my view, of what people will do with these ideas if they get hold of them. If they’re sort of not protected by the responsible economists placing boundaries on what is and isn’t sober-minded policymaking.”

In other words, MMT reveals something that is simultaneously obvious within the economics profession but too dangerous to share with anyone on the outside. As a sovereign currency issuer the United States prints money into existence and how we spend the money are political choices. All of the rest of it is propaganda so that the little people don’t get any silly notions in their heads about a different world.

Even worse, Congress has invented arbitrary budgetary rules to artificially limit the amount of money they can spend on good things. Just because. For instance there’s PAYGO. PAYGO is deeply conservative and creates a structural and tactical advantage for Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats. Basically, the PAYGO rules require that any new outlay must be “paid for”—that is, it must not increase the projected deficit. In practice, this means that additional spending has to be offset, either by increased taxes or by cuts in other spending. PAYGO, in short, represents the discredited assumptions of the past restraining the expansive imperatives of the present and the future.

But this kind of thinking is madness. We should be investing in the human and physical potential of the economy, not obsessing over deficits. Keynes, said it best: “Anything we can actually do, we can afford.”

The money is always there to spend on whatever we want to spend it on. Just as a thought exercise, imagine that if in response to the pandemic we responded by pouring money into healthcare systems, or allowed Medicare to use its bulk purchasing power to negotiate lower prescription drug prices, or more radically, transferring wealth from the richest to the poorest by paying Americans to stay home, be safe and care for their families and neighbors?

How we spend money is the ultimate political choice, and if you’re playing at home, remember that your representative’s and senator’s vote reliably for war and Wall Street. Vote accordingly.

Update: Renegade economist Michael Hudson explains the calculation behind the spending bill.

“America doesn’t build infrastructure these days unless it’s monopolised. This is the political fight going on in the United States now. President Biden has a infrastructure plan that he’s scaled down from six and a half trillion to three and a half trillion. And essentially the bulk of the Democratic and Republican Party said if we can’t privatise infrastructure and make it a rent-extracting monopoly, we’re not going to do it, and we’re going to block the government from doing it. So in the United States, they’re going to have high priced infrastructure, high-priced health care and high-priced education while China is going to have low-priced transportation, low-cost infrastructure, free education, public health care. And you’re going to have a very high-cost United States unable to compete with the rest of the world. All it can do is make military threats or financial threats. If it tries to impose sanctions as it’s imposed on Russia, China and other countries, these are going to serve as protective tariffs for foreign countries.”

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Your problems are our problems

I always thought the official narrative of 911 was bullshit. The original story never made sense. There were just too many unanswered questions, too many suspicions, too many physical impossibilities. By September 2001 the Internet had been around for a while and I was an accomplished enough sleuth to quickly discover the many anomalies. The ones that still stand out are WTC-Building 7 and the dancing Israeli’s. Building 7, although not struck by planes, collapsed into its own footprint hours after the attacks. The dancing Israeli’s were a group of so-called “art students”, in white vans, who were seen filming the attacks and celebrating.

Even two decades after the fact, it is still deemed too controversial or unthinkable to question these oddities or ask whether the official story is an accurate portrayal of the events that transpired on and led to that day. Therefore, I’ve come to believe that in order to truly understand the War on Terror, the domestic surveillance state and our current reality, we must accept that we were lied to about 9/11. Going further–to come to terms with 911 it’s imperative to ask the ultimate question: Cui Bono?

Much of the alternative narrative has been assembled by the brilliant Ron Unz. He says, “Over the years, diligent researchers and courageous journalists have largely demolished the original narrative of those events, and have made a strong, perhaps even overwhelming case that the Israeli Mossad together with its American collaborators played the central role. The historical pattern of Israeli activity, especially with regard to false-flag attacks, is really quite remarkable. And even though it was played down, Israel has a history of attacking the US. In 1967, Israel launched a deliberate air and sea attack against the U.S.S. Liberty, intending to leave no survivors, killing or wounding over 200 American servicemen. This thoroughly documented history of major Israeli false-flag terrorist attacks, including those against American and other Western targets, should be carefully kept in mind when we consider the 9/11 attacks.”

The official US Government position on 9/11 is that any and all aspects of it are directly attributable to 19 named Arabs on 4 planes, conducting a terrorist operation planned and executed by Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda. Unz claims, “this position is at best incomplete, and at worst a complete fabrication engineered by those directly or indirectly responsible for what happened on 9/11, and the wars afterward. There is a mountain of physical, technical, analytical and circumstantial evidence, far more than any unprejudiced person needs to understand far beyond any reasonable doubt whatsoever, that (1) the USG case is fatally flawed, and (2) this was a Mossad-directed operation orchestrated at the highest levels of the Israeli government (because of the target) with local support within the US and elements of the US Government itself.”

“In a crime investigation it’s useful to examine motive. I find it difficult to think of any country in the world that clearly gained as a result of the 9/11 attacks and America’s military reaction, with one single, solitary exception. During 2000 and most of 2001, America was a peaceful prosperous country, but a certain small Middle Eastern nation had found itself in an increasingly desperate situation. Israel then seemed to be fighting for its life against the massive waves of domestic terrorism that constituted the Second Palestinian Intifada.”

The 9/11 attacks changed everything.

Suddenly the world’s sole superpower declared an endless war on terror against Arab and Muslim terrorist movements, especially those on Israel’s enemies list. Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon’s neocon political allies in America used the new “Pearl Harbor” as an opportunity to seize control of America’s foreign policy and national security apparatus. Unz says that during the period an NSA source claimed that “Israeli generals freely roamed the halls of the Pentagon without any security controls.” Meanwhile, the threat of domestic terrorism, exacerbated by the anthrax attacks, was used to implement the Patriot Act, that was used to harass or even shut down various anti-Zionist political organizations. One of the art students, who turned out to be an Israeli Mossad agent, arrested by the police in New York City as he and his fellows were celebrating the 9/11 attacks and producing a souvenir film of the burning World Trade Center towers told the officers that ‘We are Israelis…Your problems are our problems.'”

And so they immediately became.

General Wesley Clark reported that soon after the 9/11 attacks he was informed that a secret military plan had somehow come into being under which America would attack and destroy seven major Muslim countries over the next few years, including Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Libya, which coincidentally were all of Israel’s strongest regional adversaries and the leading supporters of the Palestinians. As America began to attack all of Israel’s enemies after 9/11, Israel itself no longer needed to do so. Partly as a consequence, almost no other nation in the world has so enormously improved its strategic and economic situation during the last 20 years. 

And, here we are. Not only has the US attacked the countries on Israel’s hit-list but our military as adopted the IDF method of warfare with its targeted assassinations, night raids, torture and drone strikes. As the shambolic withdrawal from Afghanistan and lightening fast Taliban victory have attested, all of this has been roaring success.

At this point any sane person would want to ask why Israel’s problems have become ours?

Here’s where it gets extremely complicated. Any criticism of Israel immediately gets one labeled an anti-Semite. Furthermore, the enormous dominance of Jewish and pro-Israel elements in the American corporate media and Hollywood has long ensured that even when the solid evidence of such attacks was discovered, very few ordinary Americans would ever hear those facts. As an example of this phenomenon, read the links above and ask yourself why you, dear reader, have never heard of any of this?

There’s so much more that points to an Israeli connection, but everyone inside the national security state, corporate media, or even alternative media understands the grim consequences of breathing a word about it. They saw what happened to Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden and Julian Assange. They are not stupid.

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