Pitchforks

 

Since the election results came in the Hillary Clinton wing of the Democratic Party along with the corporate media have been in full cry over Russia’s supposed interference.

Nick Hanauer, a Seattle-based entrepreneur, has a better explanation of why we ended up with Trump“The pitchforks are coming, my friends, and whether they come in the angry hands of a desperate mob or the tiny hands of an angry dictator, they’re coming for us. You may not want to believe that your great fortune has come, at least in part, at the expense of others, but the American people believe it. And they’re righteously pissed. So, you have a choice: You can either act now to help close the vast economic divide that is tearing our republic apart—or you can follow Trump’s rhetorical lead and start building huge f*cking walls. The pitchforks are at the gate, and time is running short.”

Hanauer, who I’m going to quote at length, makes a familiar argument to yours truly– economic insecurity does strange things to a society.

“Many smug, wealthy, highly educated liberals like myself (and let’s be honest, like many of you who have been blowing up my phone since the election) have taken to soothing ourselves with the notion that Trump was elected by stupid, racist people. And to some degree, this may be true. But like it or not, in America, even stupid racists have an equal claim to the prosperity, dignity, status and happiness that we urban economic elites hold so dear. Also, they vote. So while we should never pander to their racism, we must face the fact that if our greed prevents them from having their fair shot at happiness, they will most certainly take it from us by force. Parenthetically, I want to make clear that I am not so naïve as to believe that prosperity eliminates racism. It does not. But, it is one hell of a distraction. People who are thriving and hopeful may still be filled with hate, but they don’t have nearly as much reason to act on it.”

Hanauer proceeds to demolish the conventional explanation for the massive inequality in America.

“Many of my peers prefer to hide behind the enduring myth that today’s crisis of economic inequality and insecurity is the result of forces unleashed by unstoppable trends in technology and globalization. “It’s not my fault I have so much while others have so little,” we comfort ourselves, “it’s the economy.” That is nonsense. There’s no intrinsic reason why the social and political changes delivered by technological advances and globalization have to massively concentrate wealth in the hands of the few. We simply exploited changing circumstances to take advantage of people with less power than us.”

Hanauer’s argument needs to be repeated. These were political decisions. The savage inequality that’s leading to a pre-civil war type atmosphere in America was created deliberately by the policies of neoliberalism–massive tax cuts for the rich, the crushing of trade unions, deregulation, privatization, outsourcing and competition in public services.

“Over the last 40 years, corporate profits as a percentage of GDP have increased from about six percent to about 11 percent, while wages as a percentage of GDP have fallen by about the same amount. That represents about a trillion dollars a year that used to go to wages, but now goes to shareholders and executives. One trick we use to keep profits high and labor costs low is to refuse to schedule workers for the 30-plus hours a week they would need to qualify for benefits. Today, an astonishing 6.4 million involuntary part-time workers are denied the full-time work they seek in order to keep our profit margins high. You can call that “the market” or you can call that “stealing,” but from the point of view of a disgruntled worker it amounts to the same thing. How could they not be angry?”

Free-market apostles like Milton Friedman and Alan Greenspan, claimed that unleashing the animal-spirits of the “makers”would benefit all of America with a torrent of wealth that would invariably trickle down.

This was also the argument of the neoliberals. “Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that “the market” delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning. Inequality is recast as virtuous: a reward for utility and a generator of wealth, which trickles down to enrich everyone. Efforts to create a more equal society are both counterproductive and morally corrosive. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve.”

Of course, all these arguments were nothing more that cover story for the biggest heist in history. Free-market economic nostrums, or neoliberalism, or whatever you want to call it, was always about justifying the policies the rich and powerful wanted all along.

The travails of empires at the end of their days have been well recorded by historians. The common denominator in all of the stories is that empires fail when the elite go rogue. We are at that point in America. From palatial homes in coastal enclaves, to prestigious boarding schools, to the private planes that allow them to bypass the terror theater the rest of us are stuck with the elite in America might as well live on a different planet.

Maybe you better sharpen that pitchfork.

 

 

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In our world, creating and nurturing community is a revolutionary act

 

The defining characteristic of neoliberalism is it’s use of crisis and disaster to force its market based dogma upon a captive society. In the process, neoliberalism  destroys community and compassion while encouraging rampant and destructive individualism.

This has been a 40 year political as well as economic project of our elite, who chafed at New Deal taxes and regulations. Going further, what bothered them as much as the loss of money was the loss of political power, influence and veneration.

The stag-flation crisis of the 1970’s provided the opportunity to force reforms. In Fear City: New York’s Fiscal Crisis and the Rise of Austerity Politics, Kim Phillips-Fein, spells out the details of the ruling-class shock doctrine.

“The New York City fiscal crisis was a turning point not just for the city, but the subsequent development of global capitalism. It sounded the death knell for the golden age of postwar liberalism, and heralded the emergence of finance as the leading edge of capital’s dynamism and power. With the city’s balance sheet in shambles, the banks that funded much of New York’s sprawling municipal budget used their financial leverage to foster a major political crisis — and Wall Street’s leading figures wasted little time in taking advantage of it.

The fiscal crisis served as the battering ram for a ruling-class agenda that sought to disempower local elected officials, bring public-sector unions to heel, and justify a brutal austerity program that became the template not just for domestic Reaganism, but for neoliberal “structural adjustment” measures in Latin America and around the world.”

What happened in the US is nothing new. Rulers throughout the history of the world have implemented divide and rule. For example, the English enclosure acts, drove peasants out of a largely self-sufficient village into the maw of the Industrial Revolution, while pitting them against each other as wage slaves. In the process political and economic power was concentrated and consolidated by a new capitalist over-class, while a new working-class was once more placed into chains.

History, however, offers many examples of resistance.

This alternative history of resistance is probably the number one reason that Howard Zinn’s–A People’s History of the United States, engenders such hatred.

The history of resistance reveals that if we want to defeat neoliberalism, we need to recreate communities that are self sufficient and resilient.

In our world, creating and nurturing community is a revolutionary act.

 

 

 

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The flight to serfdom (Part 2)

 

Another example of neoliberalism working as planned.

“Mom feared being beaten by United crew, so she didn’t complain when her son’s seat was given away.”

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

Sorry, here’s Part-1 

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All the fake news that’s fit to print

 

The corporate-media is still freaking-out over fake news. Their concern would have a lot more credibility and sympathy if these so-called respectable news outlets hadn’t been responsible for so much propaganda. Does anyone remember mushroom clouds, aluminum tubes, and weapons of mass destruction, or are they down the memory hole?

In my opinion, the corporate-media is the largest disseminator of fake news, in the interest of promoting endless war.

The election of Donald Trump, who admittedly has a tenuous relationship with the truth, seems to have set the corporate-media off. They’ve spent the entire time since his election in attack mode, hammering him as some sort of Manchurian candidate, controlled personally by Russian leader–Vladimir Putin.

However, when Trump launched a volley of cruise missiles at Syria in response to the supposed chemical attack that Trump saw on CNN, the corporate-media turned on a dime from from attack to praise. The formerly adversarial press couldn’t find enough nice things to say about our kayfabe president.

I always thought the story was bullshit. That the Syrian military would employ chemical weapons when they were winning on the battlefield was always suspect, especially when the opposition, led by Al-Qaeda, has been known to use chemical weapons and has a powerful motive to perpetrate a false-flag attack.

And now we have confirming evidence that the chemical attack was fake news, seized upon by the corporate-media to smear Syria and Russia, all in a dangerous gambit to bring about the conflict that they lust for.

Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, with sources with first hand knowledge about what the U.S. military and intelligence community actually know, has just published another muckraking article–Trump’s Red Linein the German newspaper Die Welt.  Hersh reports US intelligence actually warned president Trump it had no evidence that the Syrian military had used sarin gas. Hersh writes that Russia had warned the U.S. about a Syrian military strike before Khan Shaykhun was bombed, and he says that bombing set off secondary explosions that released poisonous gases on the ground.

“The available intelligence made clear that the Syrians had targeted a jihadist meeting site on April 4 using a Russian-supplied guided bomb equipped with conventional explosives. Details of the attack,  including information on its so-called high-value targets, had been provided by the Russians days in advance to American and allied military officials in Doha, whose mission is to coordinate all U.S., allied, Syrian and Russian Air Force operations in the region.

Some American military and intelligence officials were especially distressed by the president’s determination to ignore the evidence. “None of this makes any sense,” one officer told colleagues upon learning of the decision to bomb. “We KNOW that there was no chemical attack … the Russians are furious.”

So far the corporate-media has completely ignored Hersh’s story, arguably his most explosive, because it shows a President Trump risking triggering a World War III with Russia based upon his own rash decision, over the objections and to the dismay of his own military and intelligence advisers.

Hersh wasn’t able to find a mainstream publisher in the US or the UK. Instead, he had to run it in a German newspaper. Hersh, a longtime reporter for the New York Times, used to be able to publish his signature investigative articles in the New Yorker. However, this time, as Hersh relates, ”I had a hell of a time getting it published.” 

In an interview, Hersh has some perceptive musings on how and why the corporate-media employs fake news in the service of endless war.

“The next few days were Trump’s most successful as president. America rallied around its commander in chief, as it always does in times of war… One prominent TV anchorman, Brian Williams of MSNBC, used the word ‘beautiful’ to describe the images of the Tomahawks being launched at sea. Speaking on CNN, Fareed Zakaria said: ‘I think Donald Trump became president of the United States.

…If you remember, the cry immediately was that Bashar had gassed his own people again with sarin as he allegedly did four years earlier. Then the Russians chimed in by denying it. Here you had Syria which is obviously very much hated by most Americans I guess. The polls probably show that. We don’t like Bashar Assad, and so for the president it was the easy win. He’d bomb somebody nobody likes. From the press reaction today, it’s clear that not liking Syria and not liking Russia for the mainstream press is much more important than what the president did which always surprises me but maybe it shouldn’t.”

As you can see, the corporate-media fake news conforms to the official Washington consensus of US empire, which is why the deep state, the military-industrial complex, the neo-cons or whatever one wants to call the permanent war-party will never allow Trump to pursue a detente with Putin.

Fifteen years ago, the Bush administration used fake news about weapons of mass destruction to start a war in Iraq that led to the deaths of millions. Now the Trump administration, with the full support of the corporate-media and the entire political establishment, is using fake news to escalate a war that could result in a nuclear exchange between the United States and Russia.

War, as they say, truly is the health of the state.

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Concentrated

 

Amazon’s takeover of Whole Foods has raised alarms about economic concentration. No corporation epitomizes monopoly better than Amazon, who’s business model is predicated on losing money with their super-low prices in order to capture market share. Their dominant position then allows them to chose how to extract more profit, which is usually a combination of squeezing suppliers and raising prices. There’s also a long term strategy: The reason investors are pumping cash into Amazon is so that it can grow so big that eventually it will control enough market share to jack up prices and make a killing.

Even neoliberal publications are starting to take notice of the economic concentration represented by corporations such as Google, Facebook and Amazon. “A report by The Economist found that two-thirds of the U.S. economy became more concentrated between 1997 and 2012, and dominant companies are using their growing control to squeeze cash from customers. However, since the 2008 financial crisis, U.S. markets have become anything but free. Mergers worth $10 trillion have reduced consumer choices. Domestic profits are at record highs, competition has plummeted and the rate of small-business creation is close to its 1970s-era nadir. The problem is worst in the tech sector. Facebook and Google each control at least 40 percent of their markets.”

These high-tech monopolists, based out of Silicon Valley, are largely represented by the Democratic Party, and their rise has been nourished and cheered on by recent Democratic presidents–Bill Clinton and Barak Obama. This political/economy is part of a larger phenomenon that writer Thomas Frank has detailed in Listen Liberal, where the Democratic Party abandoned labor and embraced affluent white collar professionals who’ve been the big winners in our milieu.

The only problem with the Democrats strategy of assuming that workers and labor had no here else to turn in our duopoly is this guy that’s currently the president. Maybe you’ve heard of him?

In the process of abandoning labor and workers, the Democrats have turned away from promoting economic fairness. This political transformation has separated the Democratic party from it’s historical appeal and in the process handed the issue to Trump, who based his populist campaign on disgust with the status quo. The Democratic Party used to see itself as standing up for the common man and promoting economic fairness as part of the concept of political freedom. Now they’re reduced to throwing crumbs at the Americans who’ve been left behind by their “New Economy”, while describing them as “deplorable”.

If the Democrats were not so beholden to their wealthy benefactors they would have a ready made campaign, that would resonate with down-trodden Americans. After all, you’re not free if a giant corporation controls what you can buy, what you can read or even what you can think.

Political and economic writer, Matt Stoller makes an important point that bears repeating. “The Democratic Party was founded on the premise that citizens can self-govern, that the rich or educated aren’t better or more virtuous. The point of politics is for ordinary citizens to protect and preserve their political liberties. As William Findley, a Revolutionary-era Congressman, put it, “Wealth in many hands is many checks.” Most Democrats do not take this seriously; they certainly do not act on it. They think the agenda is to tax the wealthy and redistribute their wealth through social programs, or compel corporations to pay workers more, rather than taking on the historic concentrations of corporate power already corrupting our democracy at the root.”

Libertarians see the government only as capable of vast oppression, but that’s not the world we live in. American corporations, through their capture of the US government, have emerged as the new oppressor, with a control over our lives that would have shocked George Orwell, but maybe not Aldous Huxley.

Indeed, more and more of us are having our liberties crushed by this “Gov-Corp” behemoth. Small business owners, like myself, are burdened by costly regulations and taxes while mega-corporations are allowed to skirt them. New graduates are weighed down with student debts. Small farmers are driven out of business by meatpacking monopolists and seed and herbicide monopolists like Monsanto. We are all subjected to a for-profit healthcare system run by powerful health-insurance and pharmaceutical corporations.

What really pisses me off about this neofeudal arrangement is that the winners are described as “innovators”, when they’re just like the robber-barons of a century ago. Rent-seeking, monopoly, tax avoidance and regulation arbitrage are nothing new. The only thing that’s different is the Silicon Valley high-tech gloss, and the breathless hagiography of our corporate media.

 

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We Live in a Political World

 

Why hasn’t a left-wing populist party arisen in the US in the wake of the Wall Street crash and bail-out by the government? Why have labor unions, environmentalists, racial and ethnic minorities not created an alternative to the fully corporate Democratic Party? Why have activists shied away from the central issue of our milieu–rampant inequality brought about by the financialization of our economy?

For all the talk about the US as the “exceptional democracy” there’s an elephant in the room. You can’t have meaningful “democracy” in a nation where the top tenth of the upper 1 Percent owns as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent.

The issues certainly exist for the rise of a genuinely left-wing, labor party to represent the millions of Americans who’ve been disenfranchised by our two party duopoly, as the enthusiastic rallies and record amounts of small donations for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential election can attest. The austerity, the mounting student and consumer debt, the privatization and hollowing out of essential government services are all deeply unpopular.

The question of our time, one that we should be asking at every opportunity is–what kind of society allows this sort of fate to befall its citizens?

To answer this question is to understand the means by which our elite maintain their control, by dividing and ruling, making sure that we live in a society where social solidarity does not exist. Right now there is a sullen anger, percolating below the surface of polite society, that erupts sporadically with the mass shootings that have become a hallmark of American life.

If there’s any hope of avoiding a dystopian future where this sort of violence escalates then we need a real opposition party not a faux-opposition party like the Democrats who are caught between what Democratic activists want and what the donor class wants, as journalist David Sirota relates.

“Well I mean, you’ve got to ask the question why hasn’t there been more of a forceful, coherent policy resistance to Trump? I think it’s because the Democratic Party is constantly caught between knowing what it should do to win elections, which is propose a positive policy vision on issues that are popular. They’re caught between that and their donor class, and so there is this constant search by Democratic operatives and pundits and politicians to try to find on the Venn diagram, some middle ground. “Where can we satisfy the public and also appease our donors?” That crossover in the Venn diagram is getting narrower and narrower because what the public wants is becoming in direct opposition to what the donor class wants.”

This dilemna represents why Bernie Sanders was so threatening to the powers-that-be controlling the Democratic Party.

Sirota.“…  you can run competitive campaigns with a completely different paradigm, where you don’t have to answer to a donor class, and which frees you to run on issues that are wildly popular with the public. In fact, in the last election what we saw was that the corporate wing of the Democratic Party, if forced to choose, would choose the Democratic Party losing to a Republican rather than winning with a socialist, or somebody who was a true progressive.”

Come on down–Donald Trump.

Sirota also makes an interesting point that fleshes out some of what I’ve been thinking about the recent election, where the best thing about Trump’s victory was the fact that he awakened  somnolent Americans to the political world that we live in.

“Does resistance to Trump just become a slogan, a pop culture slogan that doesn’t mean anything? Yeah, it’s possible, and that goes back to what we were talking about originally, which is that a resistance that’s devoid of any meaning other than “Anybody but Trump,” if the resistance is, “Anybody but Trump,” or, “Anything but Trump,” then it I think misses an opportunity of political awakening to actually make that political awakening mean something for the policies that will govern us for the next many decades.”

It’s time to get going. With President Trump and mean-spirited Republican Congress, things are only going to get worse.

If you need an example of what’s coming down the pike, look to our mother country–Great Britain, where the recent Grenfell Tower fire has exposed the Conservative government of Theresa May as cold and uncaring to the tragedy. Going further, the Grenfell disaster has finally brought into sharp focus what Thatcherism and neoliberalism, has done to our world. The 58 people who died in the preventable fire did so because of austerity, deregulation, outsourcing and greed.

 

We live in a political world
Love don’t have any place
We’re living in times
Where men commit crimes
And crime don’t have any face

Bob Dylan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Washington Generals (Part 2)

 

How can the Democratic Party effectively oppose Trump and get back into power after they’ve lost over a thousand seats nation-wide since 2008?

Oh, I know. Maybe former Vice-President Joe Biden, a Democrat, can show up at a swanky Deer Valley con-fab and urge Republican Mitt Romney to run for the Utah Senate seat that may or may not be vacated by Republican Orrin Hatch.

Jesus-fucking-Christ, Mitt Romney, the rapacious Bain Capital executive who made a fortune by loading up American manufacturing companies with debt then firing the workers and off-shoring the jobs to some third-world hellhole, while Mittens and his pals walked off with millions?

Romney’s behavior, enabled by US tax law and encouraged by a cheerleading business press, was directly responsible for millions of Americans losing their previous middle/class status. These sorts of policies were not the result of technological or economic forces beyond our control but were political and economic decisions made by the US elite–people like Joe Biden and Mitt Romney.

Rolling Stone, gonzo-journalist–Matt Taibbi–well describes the morality of Romney when he was running for President in 2012 against Barak Obama, and his running mate–Joe Biden.

“The unlikeliness of Romney’s gambit isn’t simply a reflection of his own artlessly unapologetic mindset – it stands as an emblem for the resiliency of the entire sociopathic Wall Street set he represents. Four years ago, the Mitt Romneys of the world nearly destroyed the global economy with their greed, shortsightedness and – most notably – wildly irresponsible use of debt in pursuit of personal profit. The sight was so disgusting that people everywhere were ready to drop an H-bomb on Lower Manhattan and bayonet the survivors. But today that same insane greed ethos, that same belief in the lunatic pursuit of instant borrowed millions – it’s dusted itself off, it’s had a shave and a shoeshine, and it’s back out there running for president.”

The dirty little secret is that under the guidance of looters like Mittens, the American economy has become extractive rather than productive, switching from making stuff and providing services to engaging in complex financial shenanigans, as Taibbi relates.

“Romney’s been right with them on the front lines of the financialization revolution, a decades-long campaign in which the old, simple, let’s-make-stuff-and-sell-it manufacturing economy was replaced with a new, highly complex, let’s-take-stuff-and-trash-it financial economy. Instead of cars and airplanes, we built swaps, CDOs and other toxic financial products. Instead of building new companies from the ground up, we took out massive bank loans and used them to acquire existing firms, liquidating every asset in sight and leaving the target companies holding the note. The new borrow-and-conquer economy was morally sanctified by an almost religious faith in the grossly euphemistic concept of “creative destruction,” and amounted to a total abdication of collective responsibility by America’s rich, whose new thing was making assloads of money in ever-shorter campaigns of economic conquest, sending the proceeds offshore, and shrugging as the great towns and factories their parents and grandparents built were shuttered and boarded up, crushed by a true prairie fire of debt.”

Think about it–if an economy stops providing real wealth by making products and providing services, the only way for the top 10% to continue to become “wealthier” is by cannibalizing the bottom 90%, and extracting their wealth through the misery of others. This arrangement is the “New Economy” that the business press breathlessly reports on.

The whole edifice is built on debt. Many Americans are trapped in debt with virtually no possibility of paying it off.

And, guess what?

This sort of economic arrangement has consequences. While American may not understand all the details, they do understand that something is rotten. Trust in government, corporations and the press is at all time lows. The American people have also grasped the fact that the two major political parties do not promote the public interest, preferring instead to serve political/economic elites.

The Democrats are currently casting about for why they lost the Presidential election to an orange-haired freak. The fact that Biden would support a Romney Senate run well summarizes the abject corruption of US politics by an utterly selfish and hypocritical oligarchy.

If the Democrats were a real opposition party, Biden wouldn’t have been there glad-handing with Mittens and his greed-head friends. He’s have been there with a phalanx of workers protesting Mitten’s swanky affair while offering a different version of what America could be.

Update: From Black Agenda Report:

“Any real “resistance” to the Trump Administration’s policies in this period must be equally opposed to the machinations of the Clinton camp of the state. Anything less should warrant suspicion from resistance forces. One cannot separate the rise of Trump from the failures of the Democratic Party. It was the Democratic Party, not Trump, that pushed the political trajectory of the US even further rightward through its incessant collaboration with capital. Since the 1980s, the Democrats have led the way in the projects of austerity, mass incarceration, and war. These policies have understandably bred a high degree of cynicism among more left-leaning Democrats, requiring the intervention of the first Black President to keep “hope” for the party alive.”

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