plus ça change

 

Sometimes, I think that I’ve become too cynical.

But, then I see something like this.

Image: Michelle Obama, George W. Bush

Look, I’m for political comity as much as the next fellow, but that calculation is for a political system that crafts policies and hammers out bi–partisan legislation that benefits our republic and its citizens. That’s not exactly the system we have, is it? From endless war, to financial parasitism, to rancid globalization, our elite political class doesn’t serve us. They serve the wealthy and the corporations they control.

Our system, to be frank, reeks of oligarchy.

This oligarchical bi-partisanship is what the corporate press glorifies with pictures like the one above, where the wife of a war criminal hugs another war criminal.

Hope and Change was always a suckers bet.

Perhaps the French, with their longer arc of history, have a more nuanced view of such affairs: plus ça change.

 

 

 

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The Deep State Goes Rogue

 

It appears that the military/intelligence arm of the deep state has gone rogue, bombing Syrian Army positions, and potentially jeopardizing the truce agreement with Russia that Secretary of State, John Kerry negotiated, and President Obama signed off on.

Here’s Mike Whitney writing at Counterpunch.org.

“A rift between the Pentagon and the White House turned into open rebellion on Saturday when two US F-16s and two A-10 warplanes bombed Syrian Arab Army (SAA) positions at Deir al-Zor killing at least 62 Syrian regulars and wounding 100 others. The US has officially taken responsibility for the incident which it called a “mistake”, but the timing of the massacre has increased speculation that the attack was a desperate, eleventh-hour attempt to derail the fragile ceasefire and avoid parts of the implementation agreement that Pentagon leaders publicly opposed. Many analysts  now wonder whether the attacks are an indication that the neocon-strewn DOD is actively engaged in sabotaging President Obama’s Syria policy, a claim that implies that the Pentagon is led by anti-democratic rebels who reject the Constitutional authority of the civilian leadership.  Saturday’s bloodletting strongly suggests that a mutiny is brewing at the War Department.”

Why has the deep state gone rogue and escalated the new Cold War with Russia?

The dirty little secret of the war in Syria, is that for all the rhetoric about the “war on terror,” the US is wielding terrorists as part of its regime change policy. The US Defense Department and the CIA have been working with Sunni extremists, including al-qaeda, and ISIS, in an effort to overthrow the Syrian government, headed by Bashar al Assad.

When the Russians intervened forcefully in Syria to prevent the regime change plot from going forward, the deep state reaction in Washington was rage, and dismay. The new Cold War that’s been whipped up in the corporate media is a direct result of this reaction. ” The ‘Cold War Bloc,’ which includes Defense Secretary Ash Carter and House Speaker Paul Ryan, is extremely angry.”

Indeed, the deep state hawks are in open rebellion against any agreement with Russia to resolve the conflict in Syria. They don’t want to admit it, and are doing everything they can to deny the reality, but their terrorist proxies have been decisively stalemated and are on the way to being defeated through the efforts of Russian air-power.

There is also a domestic angle to this story. The deep state hawks, and their political intermediaries are truly bipartisan, with as many Democrats as Republicans. For instance, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is the queen of the neocons. For the hawks, the conflict with Russia is also related to domestic politics, a way to appear tough and paint their opponents as soft. And, of course, it’s also a way to steer lucrative military contracts to their districts or states.

The first Cold War was largely about domestic politics, despite breathless descriptions of imminent Soviet invasions, “steely eyed” deterrence, or protecting the “free-world.” The Republicans, with overwhelming business support, were desperate to regain the presidency and terminate the New Deal reforms, initiated by FDR. Communism was a very convenient cudgel with which to pummel liberal New Dealers.

Similarly, this present conflict is largely about domestic politics. With an election shaping up to a be nail-biter, the Democratic administration of Barak Obama, is using the conflict with Russia to discredit Donald Trump, who’s made some quite rational statements about Putin and Russia.

Despite the ongoing Constitutional crisis involving civilian control over the military, an even greater danger is the potential for a mishap between two nuclear armed protagonists, resulting in a “hot war.”

This could get interesting.

Update: Investigative journalist Robert Parry wonders why this behavior is not a big story.

“If you were living in a truly democratic country with a truly professional news media, you would think that this evolution of the United States into a rogue superpower violating pretty much every international law and treaty of the post-World War II era would be a regular topic of debate and criticism.”

 

 

 

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Corporate Patriotism

 

There’s a serious effort underway to get President Obama to pardon whistleblower, Edward Snowden, before he leaves office. There’s also a new movie about Snowden, by Oliver Stone, that has got me thinking about what it means to be a patriot.

What is patriotism?

Is it mindless obedience to our country, or a healthy skepticism towards the corporate deep state that seems to call the shots irrespective of presidential administrations and our so-called democratic republic?

In my opinion, there has been a corporate coup, in my lifetime. For example, US foreign policy mandarins have conflated our nations interests with corporate ones. They cannot see any difference between the two. These corporations now wrap the flag around themselves and claim that what they are doing is patriotic.

To support corporate aims, our foreign policy is increasingly organized around maintaining a faltering US empire, with an obsession on regime change that borders on psychopathic.

This nexus of corporate and foreign policy was forged in the crucible of the Cold War against communism, but, if anything, has become more pronounced with the demise of the USSR. We had a unique chance to reset US foreign policy with the end of the Cold War, in the early 90’s, but, alas, it was not to be. This lack of change should call into question the reasons given for our aggressive policies during the Cold War–like supporting murderous dictators, and overthrowing 3rd world leaders who put their country before US corporate investments.

Perhaps the real reasons for the Cold War were corporate ones?

Maybe the same logic applies to the new Cold War. It sure was easy to whip up media hostility to Russia at the drop of the hat. Who owns our media? Oh, yeah, corporations.

One might assume that the American people would notice the continuity of US foreign policy, but that never  seems to happen and it probably won’t happen, due to the incessant blaring of the overpowering message of American exceptionalism by our uniquely commercialized propaganda system.

Sometimes, if you’re really paying attention, there will be a picture, or story, or quote that briefly shines a light on our uniquely corporate foreign policy. Here’s leading globalization cheerleader, Thomas Friedman, in a moment of candor“The hidden hand of the market, will never work without a hidden fist. McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglass, the designer of the F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley’s technologies to flourish is called the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps.”

To put our system of corporate foreign policy in context, let’s conduct a thought experiment. Imagine that we’d invested the 2-4 trillion dollars used to invade and occupy Iraq, in a post-petroleum economy. A high-tech, energy efficient economy; manufacturing solar cells and wind turbines, constructing bike and walking paths, retrofitting millions of homes and businesses, and most importantly, employing millions of Americans.

Instead, Vice President Cheney plotted with a secret cabal of oil insiders to seize Iraqi oil deposits and privatize their oil industry, after the US invasion.

We all know how that worked out.

Americans are supposed to be the government, as in “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union…”

This is the America that I treasure, represented by the flag with 50 stars and 13 bars.

Here’s what the corporate flag looks like:

American flag with the stars replaced by corporate logos

Maybe this flag is more appropriate?

 

 

 

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The Russians are coming

 

How did the new Cold War get started?

Maybe we need an enemy to keep us distracted as much of the country spirals into 3rd world status?

Maybe we need an enemy to keep the Military/Intelligence/Industrial/ Complex profitable? For example, the military-complex grows rich through war, so endless war is a feature – not a bug – of our foreign policy.

Or, maybe Orwell was right in that we’ve always been at war with Eastasia?

Whatever the reason, it’s apparent that the Russians have become our official enemy, with Russia being accused of everything from hacking our elections, to plotting to invade the Baltic’s, to killing Santa Claus. And, Vladimir Putin, Russia’s President, is depicted as a cross between Satan and Doctor Evil.

Don’t get me started on our corporate media. Their coverage lately in relation to Russia has been the worst stretch of rank propaganda I’ve witnessed since the run-up to the Iraq war. The latest article in the New York Times, where writer Timothy Egan lambasts American’s for their ignorance is a wonder to behold. Egan rants that American’s don’t know about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, when it was US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and American NGO’s that helped instigate a coup in Ukraine, during the Winter Olympics in 2014. Talk about projection. Articles like this are why Americans increasingly distrust corporate media.

Our corporate media has been decidedly silent on some of the true causes of the new Cold War. Like NATO, for example. Since the demise of the USSR, NATO has expanded eastward, adding Eastern European nations to its roster. In fact, NATO has expanded to where it surrounds Russia. NATO has also recently installed an ABM system in Romania and Poland, ostensibly to counter Iranian ballistic missiles, but in reality to deter Russian ICBM’s. Most Americans are completely unaware of these developments and are therefore easy marks for this new Cold War propaganda.

This propaganda blitz is reminiscent of the propaganda model that Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman wrote about in Manufacturing Consent. It also illustrates that our Republic is in grave danger. A democratic republic and a deceived public cannot coexist in the same country. This thanks to an “elite” intellectual culture that cleanses history and content, consistent with the official amnesia that holds official and doctrinal sway across the US foreign policy establishment and their fellow travelers in the media.

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

The new Cold War is a direct result of this all-American, corporate empire. An official enemy and endless conflict are more in keeping with an empire than they are with a democratic republic. A democratic republic has no need for endless war or the vast security apparatus that’s been constructed since 9/11, but an empire certainly does.

We’ve discussed before the existence of a secret unaccountable deep state that operates independently of presidential administrations. This deep state requires endless war to maintain its power and keep its citizens in a fearful thrall.

In Orwell’s novel, 1984, Emmanuel Goldstein explains that the purpose of war, “is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labour. War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent.”

The salient question of the 2016 presidential election should be: are we going to be a republic or an empire?

Update: Jesus, you can’t even make this shit up.

Sen. Rand Paul’s expression of opposition to a $1.1 billion U.S. arms sale to Saudi Arabia — which has been brutally bombing civilian targets in Yemen using U.S.-made weapons for more than a year now — alarmed CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Thursday afternoon.

Blitzer’s concern: That stopping the sale could result in fewer jobs for arms manufacturers.

“So for you this is a moral issue,” he told Paul during the Kentucky Republican’s appearance on CNN. “Because you know, there’s a lot of jobs at stake. Certainly if a lot of these defense contractors stop selling war planes, other sophisticated equipment to Saudi Arabia, there’s gonna be a significant loss of jobs, of revenue here in the United States. That’s secondary from your standpoint?”

 

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He’s Our Boy

 

In the midst of increasingly shrill denunciations of Donald Trump, I’m vainly waiting for someone to acknowledge the obvious. He’s our boy. Politicians and their media allies want to pretend that Trump is some sort of aberrant outlier, but he’s the embodiment of the values that our country represents. Trump is American as apple pie.

Trump epitomizes greed-is-good, where wealthy businessmen and bankers are held up as heroic role models. Has everyone forgotten The Apprentice? Since the Powell Memo, we’ve glorified greed as we’ve destroyed the safety net that aids the least fortunate members of our society, and watched as inequality has soared. Four hundred Americans now have more wealth, totaling $2 trillion, than 50 percent of all Americans combined. We have also officially become an oligarchy, where only corporations and the super wealthy are able to influence policy.

Trump epitomizes the vast corruption that has overtaken our republic. In the US we don’t have businessmen delivering suitcases of money to politicians like in a banana republic. No, here we do it in a more civilized way, where if your a good little boy or girl when you’re in power and follow your corporate diktats, there will be a lucrative job waiting when you retire. The upshot has been complete collapse of political class legitimacy.

Then, there’s Trump’s noted penchant for evading the law or getting a favorable ruling from a friendly magistrate. This is the new normal in the USA where we’ve eviscerated the rule of law, creating a bifurcated legal system where if you’re wealthy and powerful you’re above the law while if you’re poor and powerless the full weight of our punitive criminal system crashes down on you.

Finally, Trump epitomizes the xenophobia that’s overtaken America since 9/11. When Trump denounces Muslims, it’s related to actions taken by Bush and Co. to scare Americans into supporting our never ending war to maintain the US empire. Yes Virginia, our fair country maintains a violent empire, effectively bombing into submission any country that dares oppose Washington’s global hegemonic ambitions, often in total disregard of international law. Frightening Americans with Muslim terrorists is almost as effective as scaring them with communists during the cold war, although the Russian are making a comeback.

Both Democrats and Republicans want to pretend that before Trump came along there were mature, civilized leaders running their respective parties, but I remember Nixon’s Southern Strategy, and Saint Ronnie’s destructive policies in 1980’s. I also remember the things that the Clinton gang did back in the go-go 90’s even if no one else seems to.

Trump is the logical outcome of the political, economic and military policies we have pursued as a nation since the 1970’s.

Trump is us. He’s our boy.

 

 

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The weathervane

 

Thomas Friedman often serves as the weathervane for elite opinion. Friedman’s article, where he urges Hillary to double down on neoliberal dogma in order to thwart the evil Donald, reminds us that after all that’s happened in the 2016 election, our elite remain clueless. Along those lines, his employer, The NY Times, continues its descent into irrelevance, where its main purpose seems to flatter the 1% and continue the fiction of their merit to society.

Matt Taibbi, who writes for a music magazine, has emerged as one of the most trenchant critics of American economic, political and foreign policies. Taibbi, who christened Friedman, Flathead, says that Friedman’s purpose at the Times is to serve as the elite defender of globalization.

“We never really had a referendum on globalization in America. It just sort of happened. People had jobs one day, then the next morning they were fired, replaced by 14-year-olds in Indonesia or sweatshop laborers in Bangladesh, working in unsafe hell-holes without overtime or health care, beaten when they don’t make quotas.

Globalization in the snap of a finger essentially erased nearly two centuries of America’s bloody labor history. It’s as if the Thibodeaux Massacre, the hangings of the Molly McGuires, the Pullman Strike, the L.A. Times bombing, the Flint sit-in and thousands of other strikes and confrontations never took place.

The problem is that the major parties in the United States in particular seem almost totally disinterested in addressing the inequities of globalism. That’s because conventional wisdom is still stuck in the Friedman stage of telling people that if they’re troubled by the global economy, they’re just afraid of the future.”

And, here we are, with a Republican candidate–Trump–who has largely appealed to Republican voters who’ve been left behind by globalization.

To really understand the costs of globalization it’s nessessary to visit the flyover regions of America–Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, New York, etc. Countless shuttered factories, depressed and often nearly abandoned towns and cities, and populations overtaken by unemployment and the social breakdown that goes with it. The bleakness of the post-NAFTA industrial landscape is heartbreaking, but often completely hidden from view, especially for elites on the East and West coasts.

Like I’ve said before and will say again– economic insecurity does strange things to a society.

Defenders of globalization love to point to foreign workers in India or China and lecture you on your lack of empathy. Yeah, right. Since when do corporations, who are the biggest beneficiaries of globalization, give a rats-ass about foreign workers? After all, there’s that little detail of fiduciary responsibility that gets in the way of any concern except the bottom line.

Taibbi seems to be drinking from the same stream of consciousness on globalization so I’m going to quote big chunks of his latest article.

“Like Marxism, globalization is a borderless utopian religion. Its adherents almost by definition have to reject advocacy for the citizens of one country over another. Just as “Socialism in One Country” was an anathema to classic Marxists, “prosperity in one country” is an anathema to globalists, no matter what their politicians might say during election seasons.

If you bring up the destruction of the American middle class, pro-globalization adherents will point to facts like the rising fortunes of those hundreds of millions of Chinese workers who are now supposedly above the World Bank definition of poverty, making more than $1.90 a day.

That those same workers still have virtually no rights or benefits and on occasion have to be housed in factories with safety nets to keep them from killing themselves at an astronomical rate is immaterial to True Believers. 

They want even American voters to focus on the good news of incrementally increased wages abroad, forgetting that American workers never signed up for a plan to disenfranchise themselves so that workers in China or India could earn a few quarters more per day. Moreover, they certainly didn’t elect leaders to push such policies.

The problem with all of this is that the Democrats went so far in the direction of advocacy for the global religion that they made something as idiotic as the rise of unabashed nativist Donald Trump possible. 

Worse, Trump’s rise will give the Globalist Faith Militant an automatic argument for more time. They will decry any criticism of free trade or globalization as racist Trumpism, and Trump is such a galactic jackass that this will work, his vast inventory of offensive bleatings discrediting even the legitimate economic concerns of his voters.

But to deny that something needs to be done, and to ask American voters to keep having faith in this “we’ll all see gains in the end” fairytale that so far has very conspicuously only delivered gains to a tiny group of very wealthy people in this country, will do nothing but drive more workers into the Trump tent. 

And maybe the next strongman those voters pick to lead them out of the wilderness won’t be quite as huge an idiot, or as suicidal a campaigner, as Trump. Sooner or later, failing to deal with these questions is going to come back and bite all of us.”

Like a skunk at a dinner party, Trump has managed to unite the entire strata of the establishment and their media cheerleaders in opposition by exposing the rottenness in American political, economic, and foreign policies. The gang that’s oh, so horrified about Trump’s boorish behavior are the same ones who assured us that invading Iraq over nonexistent weapons of mass-destruction was the proper thing, and that bailing out banks instead of homeowners in the wake of the Wall Street crash avoided moral hazard.

While we’re lectured constantly on upping our game to succeed in the globalized marketplace, the neoconservative and neoliberal elites who were responsible for the biggest foreign policy and economic disasters in US history have escaped accountability with glib justifications of  how we should “look forward and not backward.”

Defenders of globalization, like Friedman, wondering where a monster like Trump came from should take a look in the mirror.

Update: “The White House put Congress on notice Friday morning that it will be sending lawmakers a bill to implement President Barack Obama’s landmark Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement — a move intended to infuse new energy into efforts to ratify the flat-lining trade pact.” [Politico].

What’s that adage about doing the same thing and expecting different results? Oh, yeah, insanity. And, this is your Democratic president–Mr. Hope and Change.

 

 

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The political/economy of empire

 

While it’s useful to focus on what we can all do to make things better, going local will only go so far. Entering a presidential election between two deeply unpopular candidates, we are faced with problems that require a national response.

Take the US empire. Since the end of World War II the US has maintained a world wide empire to ensure global dominance. Of course, this empire hasn’t been for the average American, but for the 1% and the corporations they control. Hate Trump, or love him, his contribution in this election cycle has been to clumsily expose the political/economy of the US empire. The panicked response among the foreign policy elite and media to Trump’s apostasy with regards to the continuing operation of NATO is case in point.

Despite the media depiction of Trump as the devil incarnate, he’s actually running to the left of Clinton on issues of foreign policy. In this crazy, topsy-turvy presidential election the Democratic Party has become the party of war, with Trump flirting with traditional GOP notions of isolation. The neocons have noticed and are fleeing Trump for Hillary. Top Democrats and the media have maintained a studied silence about this turn of events.

Investigative journalist, Robert Parry, has also noticed how the media depicts all of Trump’s statements as batshit crazy when some of what he says is quite rational.

“Amid his incoherence and insults, Trump has raised valid points on several important questions, such as the risks involved in the voracious expansion of NATO up to Russia’s borders and the wisdom of demonizing Russia and its internally popular President Vladimir Putin. Over the past several years, Washington’s neocon-dominated foreign policy establishment has pushed a stunning policy of destabilizing nuclear-armed Russia in pursuit of a “regime change” in Moscow. This existentially risky strategy has taken shape with minimal substantive debate behind a “group think” driven by anti-Russian and anti-Putin propaganda. 

Much as happened in the run-up to the disastrous Iraq War in 2002-2003, the neocons and their “liberal interventionist” allies bully from the public square anyone who doesn’t share these views. Any effort to put Russia’s behavior in context makes you a “Putin apologist,” just like questioning the Iraq-WMD certainty of last decade made you a Saddam apologist.”

Local readers looking for clarification on these and other foreign policy details will be sadly disappointed in our local papers coverage. The Tribune’s turn to the Washington Post for foreign policy coverage has not served readers well. In case you’ve been living under a rock, the Washington Post is the neoconservative flagship paper in the US, and their foreign policy coverage bleeds into propaganda.

A recent article describing a security conference held at my alma mater was an illustrative example. The conference was led by a local Republican Congress-critter who sits on the House Intelligence Committee. The speakers at the security conference were other assorted Congress and neoconservative think-tank denizens. Their overriding message was one of reluctant American benevolence, that was seriously at odds with reality.

“America is the best and perhaps only hope to maintain world peace in todays dangerous times, but it’s friends and foes question its commitment to that role.”

Since it was a security conference, the attendees went on to lay out a litany of concerns. The threat of Al-Qaeda and ISIS, Iran’s support of terrorism, Russian aggression, the conflict with China over access to the South China Sea, and North Korea. The consensus was that the world is a scary place with dangers lurking around every corner, and that the US needed to spend whatever it takes to reverse American foreign policy disasters.

Since this was a Republican con-fab, the US foreign policy disasters are all the black guy–Barak Obama’s–fault, never mind the idiot white guy–George Bush–who came before him, and the fact that Obama has been continuing the same disastrous foreign policies as Bush.

The whole security conference was a sick joke, with a sort of willful blindness to recent history, where since 9/11, the US has destroyed  Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Ukraine, etc., all in the name of maintaining “world peace in todays dangerous times.” It’s almost like the invasion of Iraq happened in another universe.

Jesus, it makes my head hurt.

Let me explain this slowly–the US is not the best and only hope to maintain world peace, but is a violent empire with hundreds of military bases garrisoning the world. The US, through NATO, has surrounded Russia, and installed an ABM system on their doorstep. The war on terror is a giant hoax. Instead of a threat to our way of life, Sunni terrorism is a Frankenstein monster we have created and nurtured in our quest for economic, military and political world dominance. As an example, we are supporting Al-Qaeda’s Syrian franchise–Al-Nusra–in our quest to overthrow the Baathist government of Bashar Assad. Our so-called independent media plays along, with CNN embedding a woman journalist costumed in a chador, with this bloodthirsty group of head-choppers.

Our foreign policy establishment and corporate media can continue to equate the US empire with American benevolence, but Trumps appeal is just one more indication of how threadbare this argument has become. Like financialization and globalization, while the American people may not know the exact details, they sense that the benefits accrue disproportionately to the 1%. They wonder why the US spends enormous resources to maintain a world-wide empire while cities at home crumble.

Making matters worse for our foreign policy establishment, the US is presently an empire in rapid decline and is vying to maintain it’s status quo in the face of aspiring powers–China and Russia, who are attempting to promote a multipolar world rather than the world we have now with the sole super-power–the US.

Commentator Alastair Crooke lays out the dilemma facing the US foreign policy elite. 

“Does he (Trump) not understand, (these “ancien regime” figures seem to say,) that rapprochement and entente with Putin now, could bring the whole structure tumbling down? It could collapse America’s entire foreign policy? Without a clear Russian “threat” (the “threat” being now a constant refrain in the U.S. Beltway), what meaning has NATO? And without NATO, why should Europe stay “on side, and [do] the right thing?” And if Damascus, Moscow and Tehran succeed in emerging with political credit and esteem from the Syria conflict, what price then for the U.S,-led “rules-based” global order?”

You’d be hard pressed to get any of this foreign policy complexity from our corporate media.

Instead we get American benevolence and Cold War 2.0.

Update: If you think I’m exaggerating about the new Cold War, watch NBC’s Olympic coverage for 15 minutes. Holy Fuck!

 

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