Making the connection

 

Gina Haspel has been confirmed as America’s new CIA director.

Now that we have a torturer in charge of our premier intelligence agency it’s appropriate to make the connection between the economic and foreign policies of the US empire.

Neoliberalism and torture are connected. Contrary to the cover-story about Laissez-faire, neoliberals absolutely require a strong state to implement their market-centric economic policies. However, as we’ve seen with the recent populist backlash, these economic policies are opposed by the captive populaces who’ve seen their standard of living plummet, while inequality soars.

Hence the need for force. Despite their paeans to “freedom,” neoliberals are down with wielding an authoritarian state in order to subdue an unruly proletariat. The proof is in the history, where the first test case of neoliberalism was Chile.

On September 11, 1973, Chile’s government was overthrown in a bloody, CIA-backed coup, led by General Augusto Pinochet. Neoliberal policies, incubated in the University of Chicago economics department under the tutelage of Milton Friedman, were introduced in Chile after the violent coup. Friedman and his Chicago Boys” advised Pinochet to impose his free market wish list on the country–tax cuts, free trade, privatized services, deregulation and cuts to social spending.

As Naomi Klein makes clear in The Shock Doctrinealthough Chile was described in glowing term as an economic miracle, the reality was that these neoliberal economic policies were imposed by force, including torture. “Pinochet also facilitated the adjustment with his own shock treatments; these were performed in the regimes many torture cells, inflicted on the writhing bodies of those most likely to stand in the way of the capitalist transformation. Many in Latin America saw a direct connection between the the economic shocks that impoverished millions and the epidemic of torture that punished hundreds of thousands of people who believed in a different kind of society. As Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano asked, ‘How can this inequality be maintained if not through jolts of electric shock?'”

The US has always practiced torture, they just kept it on the down-low, using surrogates or cut-outs to maintain plausible deniability. What’s been different since 9/11 is that the US has openly embraced torture.

Both political parties are complicit. Even though the “gloves came off,” under the Bush administration, Obama failed to prosecute the torturers and “looked forward,” allowing Trump the opportunity to nominate Haspel to be head of the CIA. In a touching show of bi-partisanship, the Democrats played a critical role in supplying the votes necessary to confirm Gina Haspel as CIA director earlier this week.

In my opinion, both major parties are beholden to a deep state, dominated by a vast military/intelligence complex, for surveillance, repression and control. Going further, this deep state is allied to the same financial oligarchy that advocates neoliberalism.

It’s not a coincidence that we have a torturer as the head of the CIA. More and more people are recognizing neoliberalism for what it is and protesting this vile economic agenda that has impoverished them and destroyed their communities. Even the happy, chirpy corporate media cannot entirely hide the grim reality.

There have already been warnings. What they’ve done to Greece was akin to a mob boss having his capos kneecap a client who couldn’t pay his vig. And don’t forget Libya. Muammar Gaddafi real crime appears to have been his attempt to create a African currency based on gold that was free from western banks. Can’t have that can we? For his troubles, Gaddafi was tortured to death to the sadistic cackles of Hillary Clinton.

Domestically, we have whole sections of the US that have been impoverished and abandoned. Flint, Michigan still doesn’t have clean water. How’s that for torture?

As the disparity between the 1% and the rest of us grows watch the political climate. The neoliberals have seized the state and will use force to protect their ill-gotten gains. Remember, savage policies carried out on the periphery of empire always return to the center.

Expect the corporate media to obscure these crimes. Time and time again, we’re fed false and deceitful narratives to manufacture support for the agendas of the plutocrats who control the US empire. And, then when we notice that once again we’ve been lied to it’s too late. The news churn moves on and we’re distracted by something else as the old narrative is stuffed down the memory hole.

We must continue to make the connection between torture and neoliberalism obvious.

Spread the word.

 

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No mercy in this land

 

There is no mercy in this land.

We have one political party that makes no bones about its support for plutocratic rule and another that pretends to support democracy while surreptitiously aiding the wealthy and powerful at every opportunity.

Indeed, the Democrats have been cynically using Russia-gate so that they don’t have to talk about policies that give real material benefits to average Americans, while openly sabotaging progressive candidates in the run up to the 2018 mid-terms.

When it comes to foreign policies: both parties unconditionally support Israel, even as it murders Palestinians who have the temerity to protest the theft of their land and savage imprisonment in an open air prison that is Gaza.

First, Democratic minority leader, Chuck Schumer endorsed Trump’s embassy move in Israel, from Tel Aviv to contested Jerusalem. Now, the second ranking Democrat in the House, Steny Hoyer, defends Israel’ s right to gun down protestors in Gaza, and by extension the Trump administration, which supports Israel, slavishly.

Some Resistance. More like McResistance.

When it come to the power relationship between Israel and the US there are two schools of thought. The first posits that US foreign policy is absolutely dictated by the Israeli Lobby, where the tail wags the dog, so to speak. With the Trump administration there is some truth to this theory. Billionaire Sheldon Adelson donated $25 million to Trump’s campaign and provided an additional $5 million for Trump’s inauguration. Adelson is pro-Israel super hawk who advocated dropping a nuclear bomb on Iran. He was the guest of honor at the opening of the US’s new embassy in Jerusalem, getting what he paid for.

The other theory, promulgated by Noam Chomsky, say that this is nonsense, and that US foreign policy wields Israel as its attack dog in the Middle-East to maintain control over the vast oil and natural gas reserves. “In 1967, Israel destroyed the source of secular Arab nationalism — Nasser’s Egypt — which was considered a major threat and enemy by the West…Nasserite secular nationalism was considered a serious threat, because it was recognized that it might seek to take control of the immense resources of the region and use them for regional interest, rather than allow them to be centrally controlled and exploited by the United States and its allies.”

I’m partial to a third view, where it isn’t nations and governments that control an empire, but instead a group of trans-national plutocrats who use the US, Israeli, British, etc., government’s to loot, plunder and control the rest of us.

And, the corporate media is totally cool with this state of affairs. Corporate journalists have abandoned all pretense of objectivity and make it their purpose to afflict the weak and comfort the powerful. This is what happens when the corporate media is more concerned with maximizing revenues than they are in seeking truth.

This corporate media complicity is on display in their coverage over the protests in Gaza. For example, can you imagine the shrill outrage that would follow if Syrian President Assad were using snipers to gun down unarmed protestors? In this manner, the corporate media has created a class of worthy and unworthy victims, depending on their propaganda value and utility.

This dynamic is nowhere more pronounced than when it come to the great lie about Israel, its neighbors and the notion of democracy. Israel, it’s argued, is superior because it’s a democracy while the other countries that makes up the Middle-East are corrupt dictatorships that abuse their citizens. The dirty little secret is that these countries are corrupt and dictatorial precisely because the US and Israel prefer them that way in order to control their resources.

Recently, Israel declared that Gaza was not covered by the laws of war. Now they can target medical personnel and the non-embedded press, all better to wage a terror war against the Palestinian protestors.

The corporate media yawned. Covering unworthy victims is bad for business. It’s better to focus on the Kardashians.

There is no mercy in this land.

 

 

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We the Precariat

 

Here’s an observation from Lambert at Naked Capitalism that perfectly captures the precarious world that’s been created by the advance of neoliberalism.

“So, Walmart spends squillions destroying public education, and then pays low wages because people can’t read or write. It’s beautiful in its own way…”

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Special kind of stupid

 

Our leaders seem to believe that the American people are a special kind of stupid. The latest propaganda campaign against Iran demonstrates that at this point they’re just going through the motions.

As any half-wit could have foreseen, Trump pulled out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran nuclear deal, and announced aggressive new sanctions against Iran. “The decaying and the rotten structure” of the 2015 agreement does not block Iran from developing nuclear weapons, declared Trump during a speech at the White House.

Last week Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a completely dishonest presentation arguing in favor of the termination of the  Iran nuclear deal, so Trump’s action was hardly a surprise.

This latest dog and pony show demonstrates once again the most absurd thing about Russia-gate. Despite the shrieks of alarm raised over the prospect of Kremlin influence, Israel is the foreign power that has a hammerlock on US policy.

Israel also maintains a sizable arsenal of nuclear warheads, fitted to ballistic missiles, or delivered by bombers and subs. Western politicians and the corporate media manage to omit mention of of this salient fact when hyperventilating about Iran’s alleged “weapons of mass destruction.”

Trump also repeated the neocon lie that Iran is the world’s “leading state sponsor of terrorism”, a lie again repeated on his Twitter account. Instead, the actual leading state sponsor of terrorism is US ally–Saudi Arabia.

Predictably, the reasons for Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA involves the neocons. They are feeling especially butt-hurt now that their scheme to overthrow the Syrian government has been thwarted by Russian and Iranian intervention. In fact, Iran has gained strength in the region mostly because the US, led by the neocons, has produced one devastating war fiasco after the other.

Despite all the hue and cry, it’s clear Iran is in full compliance with the JCPOA, and we’re being lied to by yet another US president about yet another country in the Middle-East.

There seems to be a precedent. This century we’ve been lied into war by a Republican president and a Democratic one. Bush invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, while Obama attacked Libya and Syria. And now another Republican  president, Trump, is beating the drums of war.

 

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That’s just the way it is

 

Divide and rule is as old as the hills.

That’s just the way it is.

In the wake of Trump’s surprising win over Hillary Clinton, Democrats have seized upon several explanations for the poor showing of their establishment candidate. It was the Russian’s. Or Wikileaks. But most pernicious was the excuse put forth by the candidate herself before the results were known. Trump supporters were deplorable, declared Mrs. Clinton.

The expletive was directed at white working-class voters who’d been left behind by the neoliberal, New Economy, celebrated by Hillary, and largely created by her husband, Bill Clinton, when he was president.

Indeed, a list of the feral elite who served in the Clinton Administration reveals just what interests were served. There was Robert Rubin who went from co-chair of Goldman Sachs to secretary of the treasury. And, Ron Brown, corporate lawyer and lobbyist at the Department of Commerce. Mickey Kantor, corporate lawyer, was in charge of “free trade” deals. Warren Christopher, another corporate lawyer, was at the State Department and would initiate the liberal interventions that continue to plague US foreign policy. Then there was Hillary herself, a corporate lawyer and board member at Walmart, the low-wage behemoth that’s destroyed countless small town economies. She would supervise health care.

While that kind of lineup went over big with the corporate and banking interests, its policy pursuits would end up driving a wedge between the Democratic Party and the working class.

At the top of the neoliberal policies pursued by the Clinton Administration was the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Of course the corporate CEO’s and the bankers loved NAFTA. The corporate media was also a big fan, no surprise, since their owners have the same class interests.

For the rest of us there’s not been much to celebrate.

NAFTA decimated American union wages and led to a hollowing out of the economy. In essence, US industry shifted production to Mexico where Mexican workers were paid one-third that of US workers. Imagine the feeling when the boss came to inform you that your job was being moved to Mexico and there was nothing you could do. Do you think there might be some animus towards Mexicans?

It wasn’t just American workers who suffered. NAFTA decimated the Mexican economy, leaving Mexican workers the choice of going to work for American corporations in Mexico (maquiladoras) for whatever wages they were offering or migrating to the U.S. Indeed, NAFTA created the conditions that made the Mexican immigrant invasion that Trump rails against inevitable.

By the time NAFTA was fully implemented the feral elite behind its central policies had already settled upon a racialized explanation of Mexican immigration to the U.S. According to this conventional wisdom, NAFTA bear no responsibility for the millions of Mexicans leaving Mexico for the U.S. or for the rapidly declining fortunes of American workers who suddenly faced competition from people willing to work for whatever they could get. Rapists and freeloaders coming for American jobs is now the carefully-crafted storyline.

What’s so infuriating is that the liberals who are now so concerned about Trump’s racism, played a huge part in creating the fertile soil for it to flourish. The deplorables pejorative is especially offensive given the role of liberal economists and politicians in engineering the economic facts that racism and xenophobia are now being exploited to explain. Especially galling is Bill Clinton decrying Trumpian xenophobia while being the architect of the policies that exacerbated the hatred.

The result of these bi-partisan neoliberal policies has been mass immigration from Mexico and the destruction of the American working-class.

For the feral elite it’s nothing personal. It’s just capitalism, with its emphasis on the surplus value of labor. Different classes of workers are created and placed in competition with one another to benefit the 1%.

Divide and rule.

That’s just the way it is.

 

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A state turns its lonely eyes to Mittens

 

Mittens wants to be our Senator.

Not only that but he’s convinced that we share his enthusiasm.

We don’t.

However, Mittens does offer a useful representation of our feral elite. Romney is the sort of centrist politician that stands for nothing except for looting the republic under the benevolent gaze of the corporate media, whose owners profit massively from the ongoing operation.

There’s just one little problem for politicians like Mittens in 2018.

Everything changed after 2008—when for a lot of Americans the economy went in the crapper. Despite endless pearl clutching by wealthy liberals, racism, anxiety and the economy are all related. In my opinion, we have Trump as president because after the Wall Street crash Obama bailed out the banksters instead of the homeowners

Indeed, Trump won by tapping into the anger and despair in the flyover regions of America by directing fury and frustration at institutions of the establishment — the leadership of both parties, mainstream media outlets, the banking and financial sectors. Liberals want to forget that Trump beat Clinton by running as an economic populist against an establishment candidate who raked in millions from Wall Street banks for speeches. It’s become apparent that he lied, but Trump promised to change course away from policies on trade, immigration, and international affairs that these establishments had championed and that had contributed to the decline and immiseration of communities across wide swaths of the country.

Trump is the monster that financial elites like Mittens created by embracing everything for the 1% and nothing for the losers that Mittens infamously described as takers. During a private fundraiser for his presidential campaign, Romney told a small group of wealthy contributors that he believes half of the population is made up of freeloaders who pay no taxes, who don’t assume responsibility for their lives, and who think government should take care of them.

You do have to hand it to Mittens in that he’s entirely shameless. Any honest appraisal of Romney’s actions and behavior while at Bain Capital would offer a more useful description of the term takers. In fact, Mittens is the perfect embodiment of financialization, where America went from a productive economy that built things and employed millions of workers, to an extractive economy based on looting.

Rolling Stone’s gonzo journalist, Matt Taibbi, well describes the vast projection of Mittens world view.

“And this is where we get to the hypocrisy at the heart of Mitt Romney. Everyone knows that he is fantastically rich, having scored great success, the legend goes, as a “turnaround specialist,” a shrewd financial operator who revived moribund companies as a high-priced consultant for a storied Wall Street private equity firm. But what most voters don’t know is the way Mitt Romney actually made his fortune: by borrowing vast sums of money that other people were forced to pay back. This is the plain, stark reality that has somehow eluded America’s top political journalists for two consecutive presidential campaigns: Mitt Romney is one of the greatest and most irresponsible debt creators of all time. In the past few decades, in fact, Romney has piled more debt onto more unsuspecting companies, written more gigantic checks that other people have to cover, than perhaps all but a handful of people on planet Earth.

By making debt the centerpiece of his campaign, Romney was making a calculated bluff of historic dimensions – placing a massive all-in bet on the rank incompetence of the American press corps. The result has been a brilliant comedy: A man makes a $250 million fortune loading up companies with debt and then extracting million-dollar fees from those same companies, in exchange for the generous service of telling them who needs to be fired in order to finance the debt payments he saddled them with in the first place. That same man then runs for president riding an image of children roasting on flames of debt, choosing as his running mate perhaps the only politician in America more pompous and self-righteous on the subject of the evils of borrowed money than the candidate himself. If Romney pulls off this whopper, you’ll have to tip your hat to him: No one in history has ever successfully run for president riding this big of a lie. It’s almost enough to make you think he really is qualified for the White House.”

It would be nice if the Utah media would explore the history of Romney’s time on Wall Street and the sheer hypocrisy of his worldview but I’m not holding my breath.

At least we’ll have the comedic value of Mittens.

There will also be ongoing comedy in that Romney is a notoriously tone death candidate.

But, in his defense, it’s hard to run as an actually feeling human when you’re a sociopath.

Update: If we’re lucky we could get a corporate Democrat to contest Romney.

Oh, wait.

Here’s Ajamu Baraka, international human rights activist, organizer and political analyst offering a warning about the faux resistance.

“I have to give it democrats. Trump is product of failure of neoliberal capitalism but democrats successfully coopted a potential resistance against the neoliberal system into safe politics of anti-Trumpism.”

 

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Morality of Empire

 

The missile strikes in Syria were a joke.

Western officials claimed the 105-missile attack, including on a scientific research and development center in the capital of Damascus’ Barzeh district and two facilities nearly the city of Homs, had crippled Assad’s chemical weapons abilities.

The attack wasn’t really about chemical weapons at all. In fact, there’s a strong case to be made that the chemical attack was fabricated. Instead, the attack was an attempt to disable the Syrian air force by destroying its airports. It failed and now the Pentagon is hiding this failure by claiming that all its cruise missiles hit the undefended targets some of its missiles reached.

Here’s what the military experts at Sic Semper Tyrannis, have to say about the West’s cruise missile diplomacy.

“Do not believe a word you have heard from the Pentagon and the White House about the “success” of the cruise missile strikes on Friday last. A fraud is being perpetrated on the American people and the world at large. Frankly, General Mattis and General Dunford have dishonored themselves by going along with this charade.”

The martial exercise was not just about a purported chemical weapons attack in Syria. Let’s be honest, Trump and the mandarins of US foreign policy could care less about dead Arab children. The problem goes much deeper.

The US empire is running into post-primacy faster than anticipated, and Russia, due to geographical, historical, cultural and military factors, is today the objective leader of the worldwide resistance to the Empire. Hence, Russia-gate.

In my opinion, the US empire is in steep decline because the US maintains a very unique empire based on greedy/ideology. As a nation of hustlers, that’s just how we roll.

However, this greedy/ideology is really starting to bite us in the ass. We are ruled by fools, where the pursuit of profit interferes with competent empire management. The way in which our feral elite thought they could “manage” China, offers a useful testament to this greedy/ideology. Our leading lights, while recognizing China as a long term adversary, couldn’t pass up the chance to offshore US industry to China, largely to destroy American unionized labor and increase shareholder value and executive compensation. Except, now China is seen as an existential enemy. Recently, Trump launched a trade war with China as the enormity of the blunder becomes clear.

Even worse, the ceaseless demonization of Russia and China has brought the two together, violating the maxim about uniting enemies. Even the Machiavellian ghoul Henry Kissenger understood this and sought to keep Russia and China divided during the Cold War. Presently, Russia and China are working together on the One Belt One Road project in central Asia, that promises to be a game changer  Add the Petro-Yuan to the equation and you have the emergence of a new Eurasian model which threatens to make the US corporate empire irrelevant.

Most of this starts with the basics. Not only does the US not have anything remotely resembling a consistent foreign policy, it does not even do diplomacy. The Department of State does not deal with diplomacy simply because the US leaders don’t believe in diplomacy as a concept. They simply issue threats, like UN Ambassador Nikki Haley openly declaring at a UNSC meeting that the US is willing to ignore the decisions of the UNSC and act in complete violation of the UN Charter.

Despite the enormity of their failure, the managers of the US corporate empire do have at their disposal the worlds best propaganda system. However, this system has limits. The reason that the corporate media works so hard to manufacture support for war because they still require that consent from the American people.

Meanwhile, there is a brewing dissatisfaction. Indeed, for the last two elections Americans have clearly voted for a different foreign policy. First for Hope and Change, where they voted for Obama as a turn from the disastrous foreign policies of George W. Bush, and now Make America Great Again, where Trump supporters voted to end these disastrous wars of empire that are sending their kin home in body bags.

The reason for the lack of change can be attributed to the bi-partisanship of empire, and to the suppression of the discussion of the morality of the empire by the feral elite that directly benefit from this empire. It’s pretty simple: America is now involved in so many wars in so many different places, and there exists such an overwhelming bipartisan consensus that involvement in these wars is necessary and to the US advantage, that to confront the morality of our militarism honestly would require an almost total overhaul of America’s role in the world.

It’s beyond time for an overhaul.

If we are to have any hope of doing so we’re going to have to put aside  partisanship. No more team red or team blue. Those artificial constructs allow the feral elite to divide and rule. Instead we’re going to have to make alliances across those lines in the pursuit of an anti-empire foreign policy.

We don’t have much time.

Update: Colonel W. Patrick Lang, a retired senior officer of U.S. Military Intelligence and U.S. Army Special Forces (The Green Berets), details the malign influence of the neocons on US foreign policy.

“I am told that the old neocon crew argued as hard as possible for a disabling massive air and missile campaign intended to destroy the Syrian government’s ability to fight the mostly jihadi rebels. John Bolton, General (ret.) Jack Keane and many other neocons argued strongly for this campaign as a way to reverse the outcome of the civil war. James Mattis managed to obtain President Trump’s approval for a much more limited and largely symbolic strike but Trump was clearly inclined to the neocon side of the argument. What will happen next time?”

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