The Other Ratchet


I’ve written before about how our political process is like a ratchet, where the Republicans apply rightward force, while the Democrats allow this rightward movement but whenever there’s a lull, they lock into place and prevent any movement back to the left.

The American political system, since at least 1968, has been operating like a ratchet, and both parties — Republicans and Democrats — play crucial, mutually reinforcing roles in its operation. The electoral ratchet permits movement only in the rightward direction. The Republican role is fairly clear; the Republicans apply the torque that rotates the thing rightward. The Democrats’ role is a little less obvious. The Democrats are the pawl. They don’t resist the rightward movement — they let it happen — but whenever the rightward force slackens momentarily, for whatever reason, the Democrats click into place and keep the machine from rotating back to the left.”

(Picture of a mechanical ratchet)

After observing our corporate media in the pre and aftermath coverage of Trump’s surprising victory, I’ve come to believe that there is a similar dynamic at work.

Within the corporate media the right/left dichotomy resembles the Republican/Democratic one. Fox News, of course, would be on the right, while MSNBC, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and NPR operate from a left that is much more centric, similar to the role the Democrats play in our political process. Fox, and the other conservative media consistently churn out a right-wing message, whether pertaining to domestic policy where there is a relentless focus on tax cuts for the wealthy and the corporations they control, or foreign policy where the focus is on maintaining an all-American corporate empire. The so-called left media allows this right-wing message to go unchallenged, even joining it by incorporating conservative journalists as part of their ongoing effort to mitigate the constant accusation of liberal bias, however, when there is a brief lull, they lock into place and ensure that a authentic leftist challenge is blocked.

For example, during the 2016 presidential campaign coverage of Bernie Sanders was uniformly negative, and as the Wikileaks files demonstrated, actual collusion between the DNC and so-called left media to suppress any positive coverage of the socialist senator from Vermont.

And, now in the aftermath of Trump’s surprising win, the so-called left media has been in full attack mode, with many liberals gleefully cheering them on. But, what has been the focus of all the fury directed at Trump? Why Russia, of course, with hysterical coverage reminiscent of the early Cold War, in the process creating a sort of new McCarthyism.

Investigative journalist Robert Parry says that, “…given the determination of many key figures in the Establishment to get rid of Trump, it should come as no surprise that no one seems to care that no actual government-verified evidence has been revealed publicly to support any of the Russia-gate allegations.

There’s not even any public evidence from U.S. government agencies that Russia did “meddle” in the 2016 election or – even if Russia did slip Democratic emails to WikiLeaks (which WikiLeaks denies) – there has been zero evidence that the scheme resulted from collusion with Trump’s campaign.

The FBI has been investigating these suspicions for at least nine months, even reportedly securing a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant against Carter Page, an American whom Trump briefly claimed as a foreign policy adviser when Trump was under fire for not having any foreign policy advisers.

One of Page’s alleged offenses was that he gave a speech to an academic conference in Moscow in July 2016 that was mildly critical of how the U.S. treated countries from the former Soviet Union. He also once lived in Russia and met with a Russian diplomat who – apparently unbeknownst to Page – had been identified by the U.S. government as a Russian intelligence officer.

It appears that is enough, in these days of our New McCarthyism, to get an American put under a powerful counter-intelligence investigation.”

Understanding this media hysteria, it’s always important to look past the barrage of propaganda, and focus on the big picture.

Trump for all the negatives had actually proposed some very constructive steps towards improving our relations with nuclear-armed Russia, and reining in some of the excesses of  our all-American empire with his trenchant critique of NATO, which operates as an integral arm of Uncle Sam.

Ask yourself why, instead of  critiquing Trump for all the horrible policies that will harm average Americans, the corporate media is focussed like a laser on Trump’s relations with Russia?

In my opinion, it’s because Russia has challenged the US corporate empire and is seriously interfering with US plans for control over Eurasia. Even though our foreign policy is sold to gullible Americans as the never-ending war on terror while magically spreading democracy, the truth of the matter is that Washington intends to control critical oil and natural gas reserves in the Middle-East, establish military bases across Central Asia, and remain the dominant player in an area of that is set to become the most important region of the world. It’s The Great Game all over again, only this time it’s the US vs Russia and China in a struggle for all the marbles.

The anti-Russia hysteria in the media is equal to the pain the neocons who control US foreign policy are currently experiencing. Their global strategy of regime change and meddling in the affairs of nations around the world has met a roadblock. The real beef with Russia is that they will not let the US topple the Syrian and Ukrainian governments and install their own puppet regimes.

Of course, the corporate media can’t come out and tell the American people this uncomfortable truth, so the Russians are meddling in our elections.

We have clearly moved past of point of satire.

Update: Even Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein admits that there is zero evidence of Russian interference.

From Moon Over Alabama….

“But the political dimension of the dismissal is not about the Clinton email affair at all. It is about the “Russia interfered with the election” nonsense Clinton invented as excuse for her self-inflicted loss of the vote. The whole anti-Trump/anti-Russia campaign run by neocons and “Resistance” democrats, is designed to block the foreign policy – detente with Russia – for which Trump was elected. The anti-Russia inquisition is dangerous groupthink.

There is no evidence – none at all – that Russia “interfered” with the U.S. election. There is no evidence – none at all – that Russia colluded with the Trump campaign. The Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, who sits on the Judiciary Committee as well as the Select Committee on Intelligence, recently confirmed that publicly (vid) immediately after she had again been briefed by the CIA:

“Blitzer mentioned that Feinstein and other colleagues from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence had visited CIA headquarters on Tuesday to be briefed on the investigation. He then asked Feinstein whether she had evidence, without disclosing any classified information, that there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign.

“’Not at this time,’ Feinstein said.”






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A Tale of Two Countries


“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

When Charles Dickens wrote the opening lines of A Tale of Two Cities it was in reference to London and Paris during the French Revolution, but his epochal depiction could well be America in 2017.

Indeed, our country has devolved into two separate but unequal entities, where it’s the best of times, while simultaneously the worst of times.

Matt Stoller has an important new post examining ex-President Obama’s decision to accept $400,000 for a speech on Wall Street at Cantor-Fitzgerald’s annual healthcare conference, where wealthy investors and for-profit healthcare corporations network in pursuit of mutually advantageous deals.

“For virtually his whole Presidency, President Obama operated according to a Hamiltonian worldview in which social justice and concentrated capital went hand-in-hand, where technocracy was seen as superior to democracy. It is that same moral vision that animated Obama in accepting nearly half a million dollars in speaking fee money. Obama was the damn President — he’s a smart guy, and yeah, this is who he should be spending time with and naturally this transfer of wealth is a just reward for him to live the lifestyle to which the virtuous class is entitled.

The endorsement of this worldview by Obama, and the disappointment it provoked in his supporters, is useful. It strips away the polish and PR sheen of the last eight years. Democrats are now uncomfortable, not with Trump, but with themselves. And they need to be, or they won’t learn to love democracy. Taking this money makes it clear what Obama believes, and what Democrats bought into when they invested so heavily into his administration and its policies. It draws a consistent line from the unsatisfying policy framework of Obama’s administration to what actually animated it. Not 13 dimensional chess, not GOP obstruction, but a philosophy that Democrats find distasteful on its own merits.

Obama’s good society was one in which a few actors in this class organize our culture using their power over our lives and liberties, because their virtue has enabled them to have the capital or credentials to do so. It’s why his policy agenda on the challenges of today’s political economy was education, early childhood education, and a higher minimum wage, rather than any means to liberate us from the concentrated financiers that organize our markets and our communities. They are doing this for our own good, for one day, maybe not you or me, but perhaps our children might be able to scratch and claw into this rarefied class. If, of course, they have the virtue and intelligence to do so.”

Stoller well describes the technocratic elite who’ve emerged as the winners in our society.

For this strata of Americans these are indeed the best of times. And why wouldn’t they think this way? They are themselves the beneficiaries of a global meritocracy which serves to validate their worth. They live in coastal cites that are booming with jobs in tech, finance, media, and other fields that highlight their educations at the greatest universities in the world. They work brutal hours and are rewarded with high salaries, frequent travel, nice cars, and cutting-edge gadgets.

What of the other 80 percent of the population that aren’t winners? For them, these are the worst of times. Not surprisingly, they don’t see the bankers who ruined their lives in such a positive light. What they see is a system that is fundamentally unjust, rigged, and shot through with corruption and self-dealing. They see Obama getting paid a half-million for a speech on Wall Street as a slimy bribe.

James Howard Kunstler describes the losers.

I live in a corner of Flyover Red America where you can easily read these conditions on the landscape the vacant Main Streets, especially after dark, the houses uncared for and decrepitating year by year, the derelict farms with barns falling down, harvesters rusting in the rain, and pastures overgrown with sumacs, the parasitical national chain stores like tumors at the edge of every town.

You can read it in the bodies of the people in the new town square, i.e. the supermarket: people prematurely old, fattened and sickened by bad food made to look and taste irresistible to con those sunk in despair, a deadly consolation for lives otherwise filled by empty hours, trash television, addictive computer games, and their own family melodramas concocted to give some narrative meaning to lives otherwise bereft of event or effort.

These are people who have suffered their economic and social roles in life to be stolen from them. They do not work at things that matter. They have no prospects for a better life — and, anyway, the sheer notion of that has been reduced to absurd fantasies of Kardashian luxury, i.e. maximum comfort with no purpose other than to enable self-dramatization. And nothing dramatizes a desperate life like a drug habit. It concentrates the mind, as Samuel Johnson once remarked, like waiting to be hanged.

What galls me is how casually the country accepts the forces that it has enabled to wreck these relationships. None of the news reports or “studies” done about opioid addiction will challenge or even mention the deadly logic of Wal Mart and operations like it that systematically destroyed local retail economies (and the lives entailed in them.) The news media would have you believe that we still value “bargain shopping” above all other social dynamics. In the end, we don’t know what we’re talking about.”

Stoller and Kunstler are describing two countries. On one hand we have the technocratic elite who live in a rarified world of seemingly boundless power and luxury. Though the members of this elite consider their own power and luxury to be completely legitimate, it is not. It is the product of a system that’s rigged to benefit them while the other vast majority of Americans languish in declining small cities and rural areas, working in menial service-sector jobs or scraping by on disability checks while medicating away the pain in an opioid daze.

This state of affairs can’t continue for much longer.

If only we had a political party who could propose an alternative to such an arrangement?

Update: This is absolutely right.

“The war we’re fighting against the oligarchy is first and foremost a media war, and we may be certain that any sympathies progressives maintain toward their establishment oppressors will be exploited. By letting ourselves really see Obama for the vicious ecocidal warmongering corporatist that he is and letting the resulting disgust wash through us, we are inoculating ourselves against sympathy for him and everyone like him. That disgust will serve as a kind of psychological gag reflex that rescues us from swallowing any more of their bullshit.”



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It’s the economy, stupid


In retrospect it seems obvious, but political scientist Corey Robin argues that 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.

Of course, the Democratic Party doesn’t see it that way. They refuse to endorse Bernie’s critique of corporate power and the massive inequality present in the US economy. In the interview, Chris Hayes pushes Tom Perez to join Bernie in saying “the ruling class & billionaire class” are to blame for our problems. Perez refused.

Serendipitously, there’s a new book that provides a fascinating glimpse into the inner sanctum of the Democratic Party.

The just published account of Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential bid–Shattered, depicts a campaign in search of a message and bewilderment when her rival offered a popular one. Hillary Clinton and her top aides never could get their heads around what made Bernie popular–this fundamental economic policy critique leveled by Sanders.

In reviewing Shattered, Matt Taibbi relates that the Clinton campaign viewed economic policy as irrelevant“The Clinton campaign in 2016, for instance, never saw the Bernie Sanders campaign as being driven by millions of people who over the course of decades had become dissatisfied with the party. They instead saw one cheap stunt pulled by an illegitimate back-bencher, foolishness that would be ended if Sanders himself could somehow be removed.” 

Indeed, Shattered offers an account of a campaign so out of touch, that Clinton has no idea the damage that successive “free trade” treaties had done to former middle-class American workers.

According to Taibbi, “Clinton frequently acknowledged to her aides that she didn’t have the pulse of the electorate or understand the political currents. When she did campaign in Michigan, Clinton resisted condemning global free trade deals, and then drew criticism in the local press for her tepid answers.”

This is your modern Democratic Party and liberal faction of the political class. They don’t really believe in anything, except raising money from rich constituents and whip-smart campaign consultants, selling a product–said political candidate–to a sullen electorate. As a bonus, they deploy identity politics, like race and gay marriage, to distract from the neoliberal economic policies that reward their wealthy benefactors.

Since the 2016 election many political observers have ascribed Trump’s stunning win to a darker form of conservatism combined with the sheer racism of the deplorable’s who trooped to the polls to pull the lever for the political novice, in the process spoiling Hillary’s coronation.

I call bullshit. For the Democratic Party and their liberal-intellectual-class it’s much easier to blame racism or the nefarious Russians rather looking in the mirror.

In my opinion it was the deteriorating economic situation among America’s former middle-class voters that fueled Trump’s win. Many of these same Americans voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012, expecting Hope and Change. When they got neither and saw that Hillary was promising more of the same they took a flyer on Trump.

It was these worsening economic conditions that enabled a populist conservative like Trump to prevail–conditions that Clinton’s wing of the Democratic Party helped to create. For 40 years, working-class Americans have experienced stagnant or falling incomes, due to the policies of neoliberalism that New Democrats, like Obama and the Clinton’s have pursued.

It’s quite ironic that the Democratic Party, including Hillary Clinton, forgot her husbands overriding electoral focus in his successful  1992 presidential bid–it’s the economy, stupid.

Update: Former President Obama certainly didn’t forget the economy–his own personal economy.

“The rumors are true: Former President Barack Obama will receive $400,000 to speak at a health care conference organized by the Wall Street firm Cantor Fitzgerald.

It should not be a surprise. This unseemly and unnecessary cash-in fits a pattern of bad behavior involving the financial sector, one that spans Obama’s entire presidency. That governing failure convinced millions of his onetime supporters that the president and his party were not, in fact, playing for their team, and helped pave the way for President Donald Trump. Obama’s Wall Street payday will confirm for many what they have long suspected: that the Democratic Party is managed by out-of-touch elites who do not understand or care about the concerns of ordinary Americans. It’s hard to fault those who come to this conclusion.”


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The Weathervane Bares All


As I’ve stated repeatedly, the recent presidential election and its aftermath have been amazingly clarifying. Come to find out that the torrent of propaganda spewed out by the corporate media in the run up to the invasion of Iraq, wasn’t a one time affair. If anything, in the age of Trump they’ve become more brazen in their push for war as their shameful coverage of the Syrian civil war demonstrates.

Case in point. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, (aka The Weathervane), has a new column where he drops all pretext that the US isn’t using terrorists as proxies and urges the US to arm not just Al Qaeda, but ISIS, in the ongoing neoconservative effort to affect regime change in Syria.

“Why should our goal right now be to defeat the Islamic State in Syria?” Friedman asked before proposing outright support for the jihadists: “We could dramatically increase our military aid to anti-Assad rebels, giving them sufficient anti-tank and antiaircraft missiles to threaten Russian, Iranian, Hezbollah and Syrian helicopters and fighter jets and make them bleed, maybe enough to want to open negotiations. Fine with me.”

Yes, you heard that right. America’s leading foreign policy columnist wants to work with ISIS, the terrorists who decapitate hostages for live video streaming on the internet. Doesn’t this bold idea by Friedman negate the very purpose of the war-on-terror, or are we too far down the rabbit-hole of our Alice in Wonderland, topsy-turvy, foreign-policy funhouse to even notice the glaring inconsistencies?

The dirty little secret of the war-on-terror, is that the US cynically employs terrorists as either proxies or patsies to carry out its foreign policy, while waging a  a never-ending war against terrorism.

Going further, if we define terrorism as–the asymmetrical use of violence to achieve political goals–then the US, with it’s invasions, regime changes and drone assassination programs, is certainly guilty of its very own, ongoing terrorist campaign.

Elite media columnists and talking heads justify and sanctify the US’s secret foreign policies of war and terror. They appear to delight and rush to support any military intervention or act of aggression the United States wages against a foreign power. Friedman, if you’ll recall, stated in an interview: “The Iraq Invasion Was Worth Doing Because We Needed To Tell The Middle East To Suck On This.” 

Rather than facing ridicule and scorn, people like Friedman are amply rewarded for being wrong, but wrong in the very same way as the US foreign policy elite that comprises the Washington Consensus. Instead of facing consequences for backing an Iraq invasion based on lies and criticizing war opponents, many of these media figures continue to hold positions of influence and continue to provide foreign policy reporting and commentary.

Thomas Friedman is a vaunted NY Times columnist precisely because he mirrors and reinforces elite opinion. He also signals the depravity of our elite with his calls for greater and greater crimes to preserve the American-Empire.






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The Flight to Serfdom


Neoliberal economist Friedrich Hayek wrote  The Road to Serfdom, in 1944, where he warned of totalitarian governments terrorizing their citizens.

Hayek’s dystopian vision is upon us, only instead of totalitarian governments it’s all-powerful corporations like United Airlines that we fear.

I imagine that everyone has seen the video of Dr. Dao being forcibly removed from a United jet.

It’s telling that United’s immediate response was to blame the victim and justify the outrageous assault on Dr. Dao.

Dear Team,

Like you, I was upset to see and hear about what happened last night aboard United Express Flight 3411 headed from Chicago to Louisville. While the facts and circumstances are still evolving, especially with respect to why this customer defied Chicago Aviation Security Officers the way he did, to give you a clearer picture of what transpired, I’ve included below a recap from the preliminary reports filed by our employees….


Of course, Oscar, United’s CEO, was lying, as the subsequent events demonstrated. The corporate media was not much better, essentially parroting United’s public relations campaign.

Jesus, if flying wasn’t bad enough before.

How can airlines treat their passengers this way?

Simple–concentration. After the mergers and acquisitions, promoted by neoliberal economists, we’re left with four too-big-to-fail airlines serving the country. United, along with the other airlines can do whatever the fuck they want because they are part of a powerful oligopoly, as Alex Pareene, writes.

“In the three decades after the U.S. deregulated the airline industry in 1978, carriers chased market share at the expense of profits, losing tens of billions of dollars over the period. From 2008 to 2014, four mergers combined eight big airlines into four: American Airlines Group Inc., United Continental Holdings Inc., Delta Air Lines Inc. and Southwest Airlines Co.”

“This is called oligopoly, and, for airline shareholders, this is great! It truly is a new golden age of aviation, for people who fly in private jets but own stock in airlines. For the rest of us, this is most of why flying sucks now (the rest of it is the ever-expanding and largely incompetent security state), and also why United is not that worried about you sharing that video of a man being brutally dragged off their plane. They are not embarrassed, and you will not embarrass them. Airlines feel no need to perform the dance of corporate penitence. If you’ve chosen to fly somewhere, it’s probably because you don’t have a good alternative to flying, and you may not even have a good alternative to flying one particular airline.”

Though economists like Hayek sold neoliberalism as the way to avoid a dystopian future, there is much evidence that he and the others that were part of the Neoliberal-Thought-Collective, understood the darker side of their economic prescriptions. It’s useful to recall that the first test for neoliberalism was in Chile, where Salvador Allende was brutally deposed and his followers tortured and killed, under the guidance of the infamous Chicago Boys, who were then free to practice their radical free-market economics on a captive populace.

Guess who is the captive populace now?

That’s right. The radical free-market economic nostrums forced upon the Chileans by the Chicago Boys have come an airport near you.

After decades of neoliberalism the end result has been  an unparalleled corporate consolidation that has greatly enriched a few at the expense of workers, consumers, and citizens in general. It’s also created a culture of meanness that makes the United’s actions possible.

Not just possible, but probable in the future.

In my opinion, video’s of the bleeding, unconscious doctor being dragged from the plane are a blunt warning from our corporate overlords.

Comply or else.

United’s advertising jingle is unintendedly ironic–Fly the Friendly Sky’s.


Update: Matt Stoller weighs in on the costs of deregulation.

“More broadly, it’s time for the public to recognize that there is no such thing as “Deregulation.” The choice is always simply between regulation by the public for the public or regulation by private powers for their personal benefit. In short, we must regulate our society through democracy, or the plutocrats will regulate our lives for us. And sometimes, as we saw with David Dao, they will use violence to get their way.”




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Trump ran for office vowing to change US foreign policy and put America first.

That didn’t last long.

Trump’s cruise missile attack on Syria in response to the Syrian military’s so-called chemical weapon attack, marks the culmination of a months long campaign to domesticate Trump by the deep state.

With his bombing of Syria, Trump has been successfully manipulated into a completely different foreign policy from what he promised during the campaign and warned against in 2013 when Obama was threatening military intervention in Syria. Indeed, Trump was played like a fiddle by neocons such as John McCain and Lindsey Graham, Russia conspiracy theorists in the Democratic Party, and the always war-mongering corporate media.

After Trump’s top officials signaled that the regime change in Syria was no longer official policy, the pressure became unbearable. Haley and Tillerson’s comments brought harsh criticism from American neoconservatives, liberal interventionists, Israeli leaders and others obsessed over the past six years with “regime change” in Syria.

And, voila, a perfectly timed Casus belli, when on April 4, sketchy reports of children and other civilians killed by chemical poisoning emerged in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province, an area controlled by Al Qaeda-connected rebels. Assad was immediately blamed for bombing civilians with chemical weapons.

How convenient.

The whole story smells and has the distinct feel of a set-up. Ask yourself who benefits from this attack–Cui bono? In my opinion, it’s clear that the armed opposition–Al Qaeda–and their supporters benefited from this event. They have used the story to further demonize the Assad government and renew calls for the U.S. and the world to intervene.

The phrase deep state has been in the news lately. More than a permanent bureaucracy, the deep state is an articulation of the secret foreign policy that the U.S. government pursues contra to the stated policies that are sold to the American public. Without doubt, the most shocking articulation of US power would have to be using Al Qaeda as a proxy to carry out regime change in Syria.

I’m pretty sure the average American has zero idea that their country is run by sociopaths.

The problem for a neophyte like Trump, who doesn’t understand how Presidential power is wielded overseas, is that he’s in over his head and doesn’t have a network of trustworthy foreign policy intellectuals to fall back upon in a crisis, leaving him dependent on the usual neoconservative suspects.

The neoconservatives, cheered on by liberals like MSNBC host Rachael Maddow, have pushed Trump relentlessly into a conflict with Russia. It was quite telling that the very same liberal media that’s been bashing him non-stop, immeadiately started cheering when he launched the barrage of cruise missiles.

Robert Parry, the investigative reporter who wrote many of the Iran-Contra stories for  Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s, has been warning for months that the neocons are seeking to force Trump to continue their mad policies, using any means at their disposal.

“Night after night, MSNBC and other networks competed in their Russia-bashing to boost ratings among Trump-hating Democrats. However, besides creating a convenient excuse for Clinton’s defeat, the anti-Russian hysteria blocked Trump and his team from any move that they might try to make regarding avoidance of a costly and dangerous New Cold War. The Russia-hating frenzy reached such extremes that it paralyzed the formulation of any coherent Trump foreign policy.”

Making this horrible situation worse, Democratic leaders are attacking one of their own–Representative Tulsi Gabbard–who’s been one of the very few leaders to shine a light on the details of our deep state foreign policy, where the US is employing Al Qaeda as their proxy in an effort to overthrow the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad.

“A pair of veteran leaders on the left, former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean and Center for American Progress President Neera Tanden, called on Hawaiians to vote Rep. Tulsi Gabbard out of office after the Democrat questioned whether Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was responsible for last week’s chemical attack” [CNN (DK)].

The courageous Gabbard has introduced HR 608, Stop Arming Terrorists, bill in Congress, in an effort to force the issue. That the Democratic Party is deployed against Gabbard for spilling-the-beans is a telling aside.

Like I’ve stated repeatedly, the election and the aftermath have been amazingly clarifying. Come to find out that the so-called liberal faction in America is just a bloodthirsty and primed for war as the neocons.

One of the very few positive things about Trump was that he’d promised to reset relations with Russia and cease America’s unending regime change policies.

Can’t have that can we?

Fucking liberals in their mad quest to bring Trump down have made war with Russia probable and our world infinitely more dangerous.

Thanks a lot.

The Democrat and liberal hatred of Trump and willingness to employ any methods in their effort to destroy him reminds me of the pivotable scene from, A Man for All Seasons.

Roper: “So now you’d give the Devil benefit of law!
More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
Roper: I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you — where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast — man’s laws, not God’s — and if you cut them down — and you’re just the man to do it — d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.”



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N is for Neofeudalism


Everything that was old is new again. Take feudalism, it’s making a comeback.

The US economy is trending towards wage bondage and economic polarization, with an all-American debt peonage that I’ve come to call neofeudalism.

Heterodox economist Michael Hudson explains how it works in an interview with Adam Simpson. Hudson has just written a book entitled–J is For Junk Economics: A Guide to Reality in an Age of Deception, where he deconstructs the positive economic jargon that influences our world and offers up a far bleaker view.

“Today, families entering the labor force are going to have to spend all their life working off the debt they need to take on in order to get an education to get a job, as well the debt they need to buy a car to drive to the job, and the mortgage debt for the house they need to live in to avoid rents going up and up. They have to spend all their life merely to pay their creditors, not to live better with more goods and services. Unlike serfdom, today’s workers can live wherever they want. But wherever they live, they have to produce value not only for their employers but also for the bankers.

These bankers (and bondholders) are the main exploiters today. So finance capitalism is overwhelming industrial capitalism. Instead of industrial capitalism evolving into socialism as was expected, it is retrogressing back to neo-serfdom and neo-feudalism. This is mainly because of the inability to bring debt within the industrial capitalist system to evolve into a socialist economy. That is what neoliberalism is sponsoring by financialization and privatization.”

The sad truth of the matter is that the middle-ages serfs had it better. They had a lord to act as their protector, a small garden plot to till and some chickens to raise. Indeed, the good folk of the Middle Ages were enjoying far more of the good life than we are in our technologically-advanced society. What they had that we’ve neglected are community and culture, as historian Juliet Schor reminds us:

“The medieval calendar was filled with holidays …These were spent both in sober churchgoing and in feasting, drinking and merrymaking …All told, holiday leisure time in medieval England took up probably about one third of the year. And the English were apparently working harder than their neighbors. The ancien régime in France is reported to have guaranteed fifty-two Sundays, ninety rest days, and thirty-eight holidays. In Spain, travelers noted that holidays totaled five months per year.”

I remember reading science fiction as a kid, where the citizens of the future had minimal, rewarding work leaving plenty of time to write, paint, and pursue a life of leisure if they desired. These future beings were able to attend to family, friends and community.

That sort of world has turned out to be a cruel joke, as Hudson elaborates.

“If you told anyone a century ago about the rise in productivity, they’d think that people would only have to work one or two days a week. There would be a lot of leisure time. But the opposite is happening. People are being squeezed, they’re having to work overtime. They’re struggling just to break even. They’re one paycheck away from missing a utility payment. They can’t afford to campaign for better working conditions, much less go on strike.”

It’s not just economic. Neofeudalism has been enhanced through the deliberate imposition of austerity–starving the beast. Unfortunately, austerity is never just economic. It is cultural, and it is emotional. Americans are encouraged to hate on those beneath them while bowing and scraping to those above. Consequently, there’s been a serious loss of community and goodwill among Americans.

I have watched the country where I live become a harder, meaner place.

Going to leave you with some quotes from Trump voters that offer up a snapshot of neofeudalism in America.

“They cut my insurance at work…My doctor, because my back is bad, said, ‘Well, cut your hours. You can only work so many hours.’ Now I have to work more hours, take more pain pills, to get my insurance back, and now they’re telling me I can’t get it back for another year.”

“I was born and raised here. I am not happy. Middle class is getting killed; we work for everything and get nothing. I hate both of the candidates, but I would vote for Trump because the Iraq war was a disaster. Why we got to keep invading countries. Time to take care of ourselves first.”

“Clarington is a shithole. Jobs all left. There is nothing here anymore. When Ormet Aluminum factory closed, jobs all disappeared.” She is also blunt about the pain in her life. “I have five kids and two have addictions. There is nothing else for kids to do here but drugs. No jobs. No place to play.” She stopped and added: “I voted for Obama the first time, not the second. Now I am voting for Trump. We just got to change things.”

Update: Yves comments on the downward spiral of the American business model in the age of neofeudalism.

“I’m not sure if Jeff Bezos has much of a sense of irony, but even he would have to laugh if his warehouse employees could not order goods on Amazon because they didn’t earn enough to qualify for a credit or debit card. Amazon can’t be certain whether or not the clever wheeze of collaborating with conventional retailers to act as cash handling operations for this group of credit or debit card-less customers is sufficient to overcome an inherent regulatory failure in promoting financial inclusion.

The snags are obvious — if you have to go to a real, physical store to charge up your Amazon account, you might as well shop at either the store you’ve just had to visit or another store you could have gone to instead. And paying Amazon in advance with the inevitable consequence of having a credit balance sitting on your Amazon account does your personal financial management no good at all. If you are poor and living from pay check to pay check, you simply cannot afford to have money sat in your Amazon account when you might need it not for luxuries which you might buy from Amazon but to pay the rent that month.

Amazon — of all companies — must realise that it cannot expect the banks to subsidise unprofitable customers. But customers who cannot access even basic financial services like credit and debit cards because they are too poor to use these products in a way which makes them profitable are precisely what Amazon’s business model is creating.”




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