Confessions of an economic imperialist

The US uses finance and debt to maintain its empire, working through its minions the IMF and World Bank to immiserate developing countries so they can be plundered. What is evangelized as U.S.-style democracy is really a financial oligarchy privatizing basic infrastructure, health and education.

Instead of increasing the ability of borrowers to pay off their debts US economic imperialism has made developing countries more dependent on their creditors, worsened their terms of trade by promoting raw materials exports and food dependency, and forestalled needed social modernization such as land reform and progressive taxation. Washington is guided by the economic imperialism of American financial interests and it becomes belligerent in an attempt to make other countries just as equally paralyzed by making these countries pay tribute to the U.S. by means of financial engineering, by means of debt service, by means of selling their mineral resources, their public utilities, their land, their roads all to foreign investors. America’s international diplomacy aims to dictate financial, trade and military policies that will lock other countries into dollar debt and trade dependency by preventing them from developing alternatives.

Going further, the reason that the “too big to fail” banks and their criminal CEO’s were bailed out in the aftermath of the 2008 Wall Street Crash is that they are deemed to be essential to the US’s financialized foreign policies.

While US capital markets are perceived as the most open and liquid and the US has long been a bastion of economic stability, the “exorbitant privilege” enjoyed by America is backed up by the Pentagon. Globalization fan-boy, Thomas Friedman wasn’t wrong when he wrote–“The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist. McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the U.S. Air Force 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.” US financial imperialism threatens to destabilize countries and perhaps bomb them until they agree to adopt neoliberal policies and privatize their public domain. Military coups, like the one in Ukraine in 2014 are described as democratic if they are sponsored by the United States in the hope of promoting financial imperialism.

The “exorbitant privilege” of maintaining the worlds reserve currency allows the US to issue paper for raw materials, resources and finished products, flooding the world with dollars to absorbing foreign countries material output, increasing US domestic consumption levels and appropriation of foreign assets. Since dollar convertibility into gold ended in August 1971, dollarization of the world’s trade and investment has created a need for other countries to hold most of their new international monetary reserves in U.S. Treasury securities and bank deposits. The US also spends an enormous amount of money on military spending but since the it went off gold in 1971 America now had a cost-free means. Meanwhile, that huge foreign debt that deficit scolds are always warning about will be paid back with more paper.

As the author of Super Imperialism, Michael Hudson puts it–“Suppose you were to go to the grocery store and just pay in IOUs. You could just keep spending if you could convince the owner, the grocer to use the IOU to pay the farmers and the dairy people for their products. What if everybody else used these IOUs as money? You would continue to get your groceries for free.”

This “Washington Consensus” would not be so problematic if America used the advantages of its reserve currency to invest in productive capitalism that supported rising living standards and environmental balance. Instead, the dollars in which foreign central banks hold their savings have financed an imperial military and financial superstructure that imposes dependency rather than self-sufficiency on its client countries.

Indeed, the tendency of US economic imperialism is to retard world development, loading down Third World countries with dollar-denominated debt while requiring America’s own dollar debts as the medium to settle payment imbalances in every region. At the most basic level this involves extending its own financialized economy to the entire world. This distorts the economies of other countries because the aim of finance capital is not to hire labor to make profits from tangible capital investments raising productivity and living standards. Rather, it is to extract economic rent from land, natural resources and monopolies. That is why the IMF and World Bank, US economic actors, sponsor privatization of rent-yielding assets away from the public domain throughout the world.

This is what led China, Russia, Iran and other countries to say that they are done giving America a free ride. They claim that these dollarized IOUs are being used to surround them of military bases, to overthrow them and to threaten to bomb them if we don’t do what American diplomats tell them to do and it’s hard to argue contrary.

This paradigm is the key to understanding recent US foreign policy machinations from the proxy war in Ukraine against Russia, to the never ending economic sanctions against Iran, Cuba, Venezeala, etc, to the continuation of the Trump tariffs against China, to Nancy Pelosi’s provocative junket to Taiwan.

What’s darkly amusing is that US provocations are achieving just the opposite of America’s aim of preventing China, Russia and their allies from acting independently of U.S. control over their trade and investment policy. What’s depressing is to see so much arrogance and evil combined with so much incompetence from our leaders.

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Jubilee

We’re constantly told that mass defaults would destroy the economy, but this is more of the great lie promulgated by the corporate media. Mass defaults would destroy much of the wealth of the financial elite which has been greatly enriched by the global expansion of debt, while freeing the debtors of their obligations.

Going further, this insistence on creditors uber alles is historically false. Debt jubilees, land distribution, proclamations cancelling debts, liberating bond-servants were what kept liberty for citizens in ancient times. Modern economists wedded to neoliberal shibboleths have distorted this history to favor creditors, ie the bankers who control our society. But facts matter little when it comes to dishing out propaganda to a largely clueless American public. 

David Graeber’s book, Debt: The First Five Thousand Years, summarized how royal debt cancellation in the ancient Near East to show that interest-bearing debt originally was adopted with checks and balances to prevent it from polarizing society between creditors and debtors. In fact, all ancient societies had a mistrust of wealth, above all monetary and financial wealth in creditor hands, because it generally tended to be accumulated at the expense of society at large. 

Sound familiar?

Heterodox economist Michael Hudson also writes about debt, from antiquity to the present. “As I have sought to emphasize, oligarchic control of government has been the distinguishing feature of Western civilization ever since classical antiquity. And the key to this control has been opposition to strong government – that is, civil government strong enough to prevent a creditor oligarchy from emerging and monopolizing control of land and wealth, making itself into a hereditary aristocracy, a rentier-class living off land rents, interest and monopoly privileges that reduce the population at large to austerity.”

The US economy is based on financial capitalism. Financial capitalism, especially since 1980, is the nationalistic doctrine of American banks and the American 1%, and the American financial sector that is sort of merged into a symbiotic unit with the insurance and real estate industries (FIRE). Unfortunately financial capitalism is ultimately extractive rather than productive. The US has been essentially cannibalizing its productive economy for decades while loading Americans up with debt to make up for their diminished salaries. Instead of subsidizing essential infrastructure–education, health care, transportation–to enable a low cost economy the US has, under the influence of neoliberal ideologues, privatized it’s infrastructure so that everything is too expensive.

The reason the neoliberal financial engineers have been able to cannibalize the tremendous source of wealth is that the US developed through productive, industrial capitalism. Industrial capitalism in the nineteenth century was all in favor of strong government infrastructure. The ideal of industrial capitalism was to keep the wage costs of production down not by reducing wages but having government provide a basic infrastructure to cover the basic needs of employees. The governments would provide free education so that employers didn’t have to pay for it. The governments would provide medical care so that employees didn’t have to pay for it and employers wouldn’t have to pay employees enough money to cover the education costs and to cover the medical care costs. The government would build roads and infrastructure and everything to facilitate the overall cost of doing business by industrial capital.

Financial capitalism is just the opposite. Finance capitalism wants to privatize and take education, medical care, and roads and erect tool booths across these vital parts of the nations infrastructure. That way they can pay out their economic rent to the bondholders and the stockholders and this economic rent adds to the cost of education, health care, internet and everything else that workers need to live on so the result is to make it a high cost economy, that’s up to its eyeballs in debt.

As you might have noticed from Obama’s time in office when he bailed out the bankers and kept the debts in place, the government has become the protector of the wealthy, and so defaults that actually impact the wealthy are off limits. The wealthy will demand the state absorb their losses (recall that profits are private while losses are socialized). However, and this is the ultimate explosive political question, the only equitable solution is to force the losses on those who have profited so handsomely off of the mountains of debt.

We need a debt jubilee.

Update: I’ve come to believe that a right-wing populist campaigning on a debt jubilee could capture the presidency.

Just saying.

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Deluge

We are being smashed with a deluge of war propaganda

In the first full month of the US proxy-war against Russia in Ukraine, American network TV stations gave more coverage than any other war that the US has been directly involved in, including Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam. Meanwhile,  Iraq war architects were some of the first pundits sought out for analysis of the conflict by the mainstream press, and their calls for insane escalations against Russia succeeded in pushing the window of acceptable wisdom in the direction of a never-ending proxy-war against Russia while sabotaging support for diplomatic solutions.

Because of Russia-gate, liberals were some of the worst offenders when calling for escalations. Remember all of the cries among liberals for a No-fly zone? Good times. And this was all easily piped into mainstream consciousness because of the years of Russia hysteria resulting from the mass scale psychological operation known as Russia-gate. Think about it. America’s most dangerous confrontation in generations just so happens to have been preceded by years of media-generated panic about that very same country, despite the Ukraine invasion having nothing whatsoever to do with the conspiracy theory that the Kremlin had made Trump their puppet.

I think it was the height of projection the way in which the entire elite political and media class continuously repeated the phrase “unprovoked invasion” over and over again. Maybe it was a confession that they know they’re simply regurgitating imperial propaganda? Going further, liberal imperialists were outraged yet relieved that another country was acting in the same manner as the US. Never a public outrage during the innumerable atrocious “collateral damage ” incidents in Iraq and Afghanistan, even as the US bombed Afghan wedding parties and machine-gunned Iraq civilians. Worthy victims in Ukraine, unworthy ones in all of the countries that the US has destroyed.

Still, the way in which they can get away with the “new and improved” war propaganda is part of a broader trend in which many of the ugly things the US empire used to do in secret it now does openly. The US has found that you don’t need to hide as much from public visibility as long as you can manipulate what people think they’re seeing. If the public is sufficiently propagandized and consent has been adequately manufactured, you can get away with murder–literally.

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Jab

I’ve written before about the Democratic Party but the recent Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v Wade has made millions of Americans aware of their treachery.

Many Democrats will simply blame the right-wing activists judges on the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Roberts. And yet, Roberts, Thomas, Alito, etc. are not the only reason this happened. They were enabled by a Democratic Party, who in the name of bipartisanship and comity but more precisely, because they secretly agree with these policies. The Democratic Party is simply one of the two parties that are controlled by the the feral elite that own our country, who use narrative manipulation to divide the population into a roughly 50/50 ideological split. Then they convince everyone that the only reason nothing changes is because their team doesn’t win enough elections. Remember–vote harder!

(Picture of a mechanical ratchet)

For a long time I’ve envisioned the Democrats as the pawl in the ratchet–where the Republicans apply the rightward force then the the Democrats click into place to prevent any movement back, but I just read a Caitlin Johnstone piece that argues that the Democrats are the jab. “Most good boxers will tell you they’d rather fight someone with a solid cross than someone with a solid jab. Sure the jab does less damage at first, but it’s such an effective strike that it can nullify your entire offense and grind you down until you can’t continue. In exactly the same way, the Democratic Party is far more effective in shutting down revolutionary movements and stagnating progress than the Republicans, and, just like a jab-cross combination in boxing, is used to set up the Republicans to deliver the knockout blow.”

Every ruling class throughout history advances various claims about its own legitimacy, without which a stable political order is impossible. In the US we have a two party system to provide the appearance of options but it’s really one ruling party with minor differences most cultural. Above all, the Democrats are the managerial class, with their claims to authority not necessarily on the idea of the democratic will of the people, but on the historical inevitability of technocracy as such. It is rule by the professional/managerial/class (PMC), who aren’t nearly as smart as they like to think, judging by the ongoing cavalcade of failure.

The Supreme Court decision may have finally broken through some of the stanch support for team blue but the new narrative has fallen back to the defensive line of passivity in the face of red team aggression.

While this cartoon portrays a certain truism about the Democrats, it doesn’t go far enough. It’s the difference between a pawl and a jab. The Democrats are not just a passive facilitator of evil, they are an active participant. There needs to be a second panel where the Democratic cop goes into the classroom and shoots the wounded, while helping the assassin reload.

I say this because at this point I’ve realized that the Democratic Party exists only to kill leftward movement in the United States and ensure the continual functioning of a globe-spanning empire by ensuring neoliberal economic policies and neoconservative foreign policies. The Democrats are just the kinder, gentler face of the rules-based international order, also known as the liberal world order, also known as the US-led world order. It presents the facade of humanitarianism and democratic ideals, but underneath the performance it’s just as savage and bloodthirsty as any other empire in history

The problem for our ruling elite is that legitimacy can take many different forms and may change over time, but once it become exhausted or loses its credibility, that is pretty much it. In essence, when the legitimating claim for a particular form of elite is used up, when people no longer believe in the concepts or claims that underpin a particular system or claim to rule, the extinction of that particular elite becomes a foregone conclusion. 

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Times they are a changing

The outbreak of the Ukraine conflict, the way it’s turning out, and the outraged but limited US/NATO response, are only a surprise to those who haven’t been paying attention to the fundamental changes already underway for some time.

Even though the US spends more on its military than anyone else the performance of this so-called “finest fighting force in the worlds history” leaves much to be desired, thanks to the military/industrial/complex’s desire for profits over effectiveness. Russia by dint of steadily rebuilding its real economy after the US sponsored and profited from the plutocratic looting of the 1990s, has not only achieved a decent standard of living for most citizens, but has built a advanced, first-rate military for a fraction of what ours cost. Russia also has the perspective of being invaded and suffering 20 million casualties in WWII, a fact that most Americans are oblivious of in this United Staes of Amnesia.

However, the US continues to act as though it’s economically and militarily superior, and to tries to coerce nations on which they are economically dependent (China), as well as fighting a proxy war against a nation which has more combat capability than they have. For instance, Russia beat us in Syria and is on their way to defeating us in the proxy war in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the US has lost all of its wars in the Middle East, unless you define nation breaking as victory. The fact that India, China, Saudi Arabia, and the Global South have all ignored America’s demands for support in the Ukraine conflict despite considerable arm-twisting speaks volumes (even backed up by threats to emissaries in the US along the lines of: “We know where your kids go to school in the US. We know where you have your bank accounts”.)

All of this is organized by the so-called “smartest guys in the room”, most of whom went to Harvard or Yale, etc. So what does that say about the state of our advanced education complex? Unfortunately, states and elites do not make a fresh calculation every time they are confronted with alternatives; they tend to do what they did last time, or what they always do–which is to focus on next quarter bonuses.

But we’re at a point where the US empire is increasingly unable to cope, and is facing a cascade of disasters. One of the major problems is that the American political class completely buys its own false narrative of US economic and military power exceptionalism and is not dealing well with the cognitive dissonances which manifest themselves with increasing frequency, proving its exceptionalism narrative wrong in a most dramatic way. The reality of the US’s loss of military superiority is slow to dawn on most American policy makers who, for the most part, lack the necessary education and awareness for grasping the unfolding geo-strategic reality where Russian, and Chinese weapon development has dramatically downgraded the always inflated US military capabilities and put a serious hitch in American self-declared hegemony.

As for the corporate media, may they rot in hell for the lies and misinformation that they have been flogging. If one were to go by the laughable assessments of western think-tank propagandists and their dutiful lackeys in the media, “Ukraine is winning” and “the inept Russian military has been humiliated”.

But more discerning observers around the world know better.

In a sense, the US proxy war against Russia in Ukraine is a test to destruction of both US/NATO and the EU, and the wider, western-dominated multilateral system they are both part of. NATO, in particular, has just been confronted by exactly the kind of situation that it was founded for–to deter the exercise of Russian military power–and it did effectively nothing. No amount of hand-waving, no amount of sanctions or arms deliveries, can change that fact, which in turn changes everything. NATO and the EU can prolong the war, cause more suffering, and destroy many economies, including their own. But they can’t fundamentally affect the result, and the nature of their responses, beneath the surface posturing, demonstrates that they know this.

Ultimately, a country’s ability to wage war is base on its industrial and manufacturing prowess. Too bad our feral elite packed up our industrial base and shipped it off to China all to decimate labor and empower capital. Brilliant work, one and all.

There is another new normal now: Europe in which Russia is the largest military power, and where the West as a whole is dependent on Russia, China and India for its economic prosperity. This is not new, of course, but it’s a shame that it hasn’t dawned on policy makers before. In theory, that could be remedied with massive programs of investment, construction and training, with wartime levels of military mobilization and the return of conscription, as well as the reintroduction of import controls, tariff barriers and other bygones of the pre-neoliberal past. In theory. Even if we do all that–a dubious proposition–the US will never again be in a position of military and economic dominance.

For our feral elite all of this a non-starter. They cling to a world where the US is the lone super-power taking out the bad guys and upholding the “rules based liberal order”. The new Top Gun movie perfectly encapsulates this nostalgia for the “end of history” moment that existed after the dissolution of the USSR. In reality, the movie is a propaganda extravaganza to rehabilitate the US military’s image in the wake of numerous failed wars. 

I believe that the American people are generally decent. They genuinely want to help the less fortunate or the beleaguered. But, during the last 75 years, American elite policy makers cynically have used this trait to convince the public to back expeditionary wars that killed millions of civilians. All of this bloodshed was done under the banner of promoting freedom and democracy. Of course, these foreign interventions were bolstered by massive amounts of propaganda.

Today’s changes in military technology, economics and in international politics are tectonic and revolutionary. US elites are in a state of delusion, clinging on to the shadow of the past and denying changing reality. They had better get used to this new normal. It’s not going away any time soon.

Update: Uber intelligence-analyst Alastair Crooke makes the wider connection. “The West, in its cavalier manner, entered upon war with the Russia-China axis, without due care.  It expected easy ‘wins’ with sanctions imploding the Russian economy, and with military urban-war tactics borrowed from Syria, bleeding out the Russian army. Instead, it is turning-out to be a monumental débacle. More than that, its multiple failures and insultingly-cocksure propaganda are proving a breakpoint, ushering-in a new era rather than nailing down the old order, as the West had hoped.”

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The revolution is in your mind

All governments employ propaganda because even the most despotic requires a modicum of consent. Perversely, democratic governments employ the most propaganda because their utilization of force is limited.

Which brings us to the US, with the most sophisticated propaganda apparatus in the history of the world. No country in the world has a media as censored and obsessed with manufacturing consent as the American corporate media. North Korea is literally the only example of a country with a media that is more strictly controlled than the American media.

Our power elite have learned that the best way to dominate Americans is to manipulate them into serving your interests while giving them the illusion of freedom and control. The invention of mass media has facilitated this new form of tyranny, as has the emergence of psychology as a field of study. These two factors have combined together to give rise to the steadily advancing science of modern propaganda.

No part of the new Cold War with Russia would be possible without copious amounts of such training. Without massive amounts of propaganda, people would never consent to being made poorer in order to facilitate the sociopathic maneuverings of our elite. Without massive amounts of propaganda, people would never consent to the increasing threat of nuclear war as US escalations continually ramp up brinkmanship between the world’s two nuclear superpowers. Without massive amounts of propaganda, people would never consent to agendas which directly harm them and threaten everyone they know while providing no material benefit to them whatsoever.

Indeed, the real goal of U.S. foreign policy is to generate benefits for the U.S. (or, more accurately, ruling American elites), not to crusade for democracy and human rights. But we can’t have the rubes hearing about any of this, hence the need for the all-encompassing propaganda campaign.

Of course U.S. foreign policy is not devoted to spreading freedom and democracy and fighting despotism and tyranny in the world. How can a country that counts the Saudi monarchs, the Egyptian military junta and the apartheid regime of Israel as its closest partners and allies possibly claim with a straight face that it opposes tyranny and fights wars in order to protect democracy? The U.S. does not give rats ass whether a foreign country is ruled by democracy or tyranny. It only cares about whether the government of that country facilitates or obstructs U.S. interests.

This has been most apparent in the non-stop propaganda around the US proxy war against Russia in Ukraine. If the Biden Administration had simply acknowledged from the start the obvious truth that they seek to exploit the war in Ukraine to regime-change Russia then at least an honest debate would have been possible. Instead, they and their corporate media pals did what they always do whenever a war is newly marketed: they draped it in fabricated moral fairy tales about evil Russian invaders and brave Ukrainian freedom-fighters.

And it was damn successful as the millions of blue and yellow Ukrainian flags draped across liberals porches attest.

But here’s the thing–to sustain popular support for the expenditure of hundreds of billions of dollars in new foreign wars, Americans must continuously be fed a morally uplifting framework, a sense of righteous purpose that leads them to believe these new wars are just and noble. Thus, rather than self-interest in Ukraine, the U.S. is acting benevolently, with the purest of motives, with nothing but a desire to help the scrappy underdog.

But this is also true of our entire society in general. Our entire civilization is marinating in propaganda produced and promulgated by the powerful in order to manipulate our collective psychology into consenting to a status quo which serves them and not us.

However, there’s a disruption in the matrix. The US proxy war in Ukraine has made our elite so crazy and desperate that their propaganda efforts are becoming more obvious. For instance, They’ve pretty much openly acknowledged lying about this very war

Nevertheless, they are still at it, following the Goebbels script of repeating the big lie endlessly. On Wednesday, a US Department of State spokesperson accused Beijing of “still standing with Russia … echoing its propaganda … denying Russia’s atrocities in Ukraine” before saying that “nations that side with Vladimir Putin will inevitably find themselves on the wrong side of history.”

Man, the projection, it burns.

This is the level of delusion and illusion we are dealing with, and no one who cares about truth or facts could ever go along with any of this nonsense.

Hopefully all of this lying and propaganda is so obvious that Americans will begin to discern the reality of the fairy tale our elite have constructed.

After all, the revolution is is your mind.

Update: This decision to extradite Julian Assange for the crime of investigative reporting is unsurprising. After all, it has been obvious for years that the U.S. and UK are determined to destroy Assange as punishment for exposing their crimes. This process further demonstrates the farce of American and British propaganda about freedom, democracy, a free press and the whole nonsense about being on the “wrong side of history”. 

As Glen Greenwald states–“Free speech and press freedoms do not exist in reality in the U.S. or the UK. They are merely rhetorical instruments to propagandize their domestic population and justify and ennoble the various wars and other forms of subversion they constantly wage in other countries in the name of upholding values they themselves do not support.”

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The Surge

If Robert Parry were still alive he wouldn’t be surprised. He was always perceptive to the neocon’s proclivity to double down when one of their plans went off the rails.

What’s clear is that the US does not pursue pragmatic goals with its foreign/military policy. It pursues ideological or dogmatic goals, such as US supremacy, anti-communism, anti-terrorism, etc. As history shows in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, the US response to military failure is “The Surge”, which eventually becomes self-defeating. In line with this state of affairs, the US initiates ideological rather than pragmatic intelligence dissemination, as we witnessed in the run up to the invasion of Iraq and presently with the proxy war against Russia in Ukraine.

I’m sure that there are intelligence analysts somewhere at the CIA or Defense Intelligence Agency who know the real score, but those people are excluded from media and decision making circles. The real problem is not the lack of intelligence. Nope. It is the fear of telling the politicians and neocon functionaries hard truths they do not want to hear.

And, here we are. With the proxy war against Russia in Ukraine going south the neocons who call the shots in the Biden Administration have some choices to make. For make no mistake, the proxy conflict is the neocon’s baby. They planned it as a way in which to weaken and ultimately dismember Russia.

Within the first few months of the war President Biden publicly voiced a desire to avoid direct escalation with Russia by sending in larger, more advanced weapons systems that would be capable of striking Russia. The fears are that such weapons would lead to a rapid spiraling toward a direct NATO-Russia shooting war. But that apparently is becoming less of a concern as week by week there’s been escalation, in what’s increasingly openly acknowledged as a de facto proxy war. What’s more is that reports of Ukrainian forces being encircled in the Donbas, and perhaps increasingly in key places south, appears to have US defense planners scrambling to avoid defeat but without weighing consequences of escalation.

As for escalation, that’s going to be an “all or nothing” prospect. Anything short of a massive NATO intervention was going to be useless from the start and at this point the Russians are a fearsome adversary so it wouldn’t go well to say the least. That would leave nukes as the only option and then we’d have to depend on any senior officers in the Pentagon who haven’t gone completely batshit insane like the neocons.

As far as the vaunted economic “sanctions from hell”, they didn’t have the hoped for effect, to say the least. Even as the US, NATO and the EU continue to insist–against all observable reality–that the conflict in Ukraine is going well for Kiev, major media outlets are becoming increasingly uneasy with the situation on the economic front. More and more observers are admitting that the embargoes imposed by the US and its allies aren’t crushing the Russian economy, as originally intended, but rather their own. “Russia is winning the economic war,” the Guardian’s economics editor Larry Elliott declared on Thursday. “It is now three months since the west launched its economic war against Russia, and it is not going according to plan. On the contrary, things are going very badly indeed,” he wrote.

The tragedy is that this whole conflict was easily avoidable but for the incompetence and/or maliciousness of the US foreign policy establishment.

But that’s how the neocons roll. They are smarter than everyone else to the point where they believe they can shape reality. Remember what Karl Rove said about being an empire that makes its own reality? They really believe that shit. As for the the managerial class, they have no option but to embrace every lie. To reject one is to be a heretic. The more obvious the lie, the more it serves as a loyalty test.

Winston Smith would so get it.

So there is only one choice. The neocons have to Surge. It’s time for one more bet. Put it all on black and spin wheel. They cannot afford to lose. They have bet the house on winning. Their identities are at stake.

Unfortunately it doesn’t look good.

The blame game is already beginning and it’s becoming harder by the day to avoid the idea that this seems to be a theme in US foreign policy–who lost China,Vietnam, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and now Ukraine?

What’s that adage about being in a hole again?

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Highway to Hell

There’s been a lot of books and articles written about America’s love affair with the automobile. This is not one of those.

Most of us have heard the urban legend about how the car, oil and tire companies bought up American public transportation and junked it but I found an article entitled–Americans and Automobiles: Capitalism and Propaganda, by Larry Romanoff that goes into much more detail.

Romanoff says the cover story has always been that–“inexpensive mass transportation failed to evolve due to Americans’ individuality and desire for freedom. But this historical narrative is wrong. Today’s US ‘car culture’ was the result of a massive conspiracy contrived by the auto and oil oligarchs and, like the consumer society, imposed on an unsuspecting nation through deceit and propaganda. Most of the truth has been deleted from the historical record and replaced with a ‘feel-good’ fairytale.

…GM and its friends realised their only hope for salvation was to eliminate their one rival – mass public transit, and hatched a plan that would forever change the course of the US economy, its transportation, culture, and society itself. One hundred years ago General Motors, John Rockefeller, and a few close friends, using very large sums of money and every form of deception, coercion and intimidation short of murder, singlehandedly killed the US electric auto and train industry, buying up and destroying the rolling stock of almost 1,000 US railroads and tramways so it could sell them gasoline-engined vehicles instead, and virtually killing off mass public transit at the same time.

According to the company’s own files, GM created a special secret division charged with the task of exterminating mass transit and replacing it with gasoline-powered propulsion, eliminating all traces of electric vehicles… Most of this was done in the name of a holding company named National City Lines, which was jointly owned by GM, Standard Oil and Firestone Tire. In each case where these rail systems converted from electric to gas, they experienced a rapid and large decline in revenue, since passengers abandoned the slow and foul-smelling gasoline buses and purchased autos instead – which was part of the plan.”

In the process Americans cities and suburbs were planned to make private transportation mandatory. All for cars. Lots and lots of cars.

If you think this all happened in the past I have a bridge I’d like to sell you. As Romanoff relates, “GM and the oil companies are still trying to delay, divert and destroy electric cars and electric public transportation, even as climate change ravages America. After California passed a law mandating a percentage of new cars being electric GM and others created pressure groups to lobby against electric cars, pretending to be citizen action committees but who were financed by the auto industry. Intense and unremitting pressure was put on California to rescind its zero-emission laws until the state finally capitulated. The instant that happened, GM repossessed all its electric cars and crushed them for scrap. And so, for the second time, General Motors killed the electric car.

The long-term negative effects of this conspiracy of some of America’s most powerful and ruthless corporations are literally beyond calculation. The forced switch from environmentally-friendly public transit to the private car and diesel buses results in squandering irreplaceable petroleum resources and all the murder and mayhem which has gone to secure or steal oil around the world. Which brings us to the whole foreign policy aspect of oil and gas. The world of the car brought with it the need for worldwide control over hydrocarbons, especially after the US hit peak oil in the early 70’s. Think our worldwide complex of military bases is about freedom and democracy rather than the need to control the flow of oil and gas?

The proxy-war against Russia in Ukraine can be thought of as part of this same dynamic, even obliquely. For example, President Biden will reportedly visit Saudi Arabia with the goal of persuading Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to pump more oil to help the US alliance win its economic war against Russia. So, the US has banned Russian oil because they don’t want to give money to a “dictator”, but Biden is traveling to Saudi Arabia, governed by one of the most despotic and murderous tyrants on the planet, to grovel for oil. This is the guy who had a critical journalist–Jamal Khashoggi–kidnapped then dismembered with a bone saw, so it should be a real warm and cozy visit for the president.

These are simply immediate concerns. The real freight train bearing down on humanity is global warming, or as I refer to it–global weirding. This is why climate scientists insist that we should do everything we can to avoid tipping these critical elements on the Holocene environment in the first place: the impact of the change in the environment on the sustainability of human civilization is just too destructive—and incalculable—to contemplate.

I’m pretty sure that gas prices are a more immediate concern, judging by Biden’s trip. I also have a feeling that “drill baby drill” will be our new and improved policy going forward.

In addition to driving ourselves straight down the highway to hell there’s another moral aspect of America’s car culture that gets lost. Indeed, the design of cities and city centers we see in the US is a travesty, but few Americans are aware of this because they don’t travel abroad. They cannot imagine the ease and comfort of life in well-planned cities. When my wife and I traveled to Amsterdam pre-Covid, I was struck by how happy the people were in the bike and pedestrian friendly city. I was also struck by how unhappy Americans are. I attribute much of this dichotomy to the car culture in the US where drivers are distracted, angry and spiteful while driving. Maybe this is because of the way in which American cities developed because of the automobile, with the devastation of urban neighborhoods, the destruction of urban small business and countless other economic and sociological effects. Instead of Americans allowed to be social with their neighbors, they’re alone behind the wheel, pulling into the garage and hitting the remote.

This is one more aspect of the American Dream, that’s not to be questioned under any circumstances. And it doesn’t get more worldview-disrupting than questioning mainstream consensus reality which is what the American Dream obviously is. Because on the other side of that investigation is the realization that pretty much everything you’ve been trained to believe about your society, your nation, your government and your world, is a lie. In this case the awareness that powerful corporations, working as part of a secret conspiracy to effect sweeping changes in public life and culture, without public accountability or debate, or even awareness.

Because if the powers that be are lying about our whole freedom thing with the automobile and transportation, maybe they’re lying about other things? And if you’ve been digesting lies from the very start of your education, that means that every thing you think you know is suspect or potentially a lie, which leads to the questioning of your social and political ideology.

Maybe this is one more piece of the puzzle and a growing awareness of the duplicity. Unfortunately, awareness does not come without a cost.

As the brilliant Caitlin Johnstone says. “If you really think about what this kind of confrontation means for the individual, is it any wonder that most people fight tooth and claw against the suggestion that they should even begin to enter that investigative rabbit hole?”

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Personal Responsibility

The American Dream rests on a series of myths or fantasies, some more true than others. Free enterprise, social mobility, the business mogul as a rebellious hero, work hard and get ahead, we’re all in this together as a vast middle-class, etc. Unfortunately, it’s often a long, painful process learning that there’ isn’t a common good after everything you’re taught in school about our sacred republic that promotes the “general Welfare”.

As an internet sleuth I was delighted to find a fascinating article that helps explain how and why we became such a hyper-individualistic society.

Our story starts in 1971, with an ad created by the anti-litter organisation: Keep America Beautiful. The ad is known as The Crying Indian. It won many awards, but it is based on many duplicities, and its intentions, in retrospect, are sinister.

The seemingly independent KAB aired the highly praised commercial of the romanticized Indian with deep respect and connection to nature. Now, KAB at the time consisted of Coca-Cola, the Dixie Cup Company, and was founded by the Owens-Illinois Glass Company in 1953. Knowing what companies were behind the Crying Indian ad makes you think about their intentions, doesn’t it? They certainly weren’t concerned about random people littering.

Going further, the Crying Indian ad does not represent KAB’s approval and love for the environmental movement, but their fear of it. Moreover, the insidious part was when they had the fake Native American actor, announce: “People start pollution. People can stop it.”

Right. Because you and I are the ones packaging everything in cheap, disposable, plastic crap, belching smog into the atmosphere and pumping effluent into our rivers. By making you feel guilty for pollution, the industry deflects blame from itself. The deceptive messaging the ad started is now ingrained in our psyche. They made individuals feel guilty and responsible for the pollution. They laid the foundation for deflecting the question of responsibility away from corporations. They placed the blame in the arena of individual action.

It’s just you.

So do better.

And by the way, buy more crap, artfully marketed as environmentally friendly, while you’re at it.

The pandemic further demonstrated that the idea of a common good is a myth. Instead of a robust public health response we were encouraged to engage in sanitary theatre, get vaccinated and make personal risk assessments. A million and counting Americans have lost their lives, but it’s really about your personal responsibility.

And now the US proxy-war against Russia in Ukraine has sent world-wide supply chains into a tizzy after our feral elite assured us that outsourcing all kinds of products and systems was the efficient way to organize our economy. The upshot is that capitalism-read neoliberalism-in advanced economies is at real risk of not delivering on its promise of provisioning at least adequately for the majority of people, particularly those who work.

Gig work, housing insecurity, medical debt, and student loan debt are all common experiences for people in the U.S. Now, to add insult to injury, the system said to be so superior can’t even keep little babies fed. Skyrocketing prices and food shortages are already looming, and are likely to become worse in the coming months. At present, many parents across the U.S. are running from store to store in search of baby formula and finding only empty shelves.

Every once in a while one of our feral elite gives the game away in an unguarded moment as W. demonstrated last week.

This week it was the Boot’s turn. Sitting down on CBS’s “Face the Nation” transportation secretary and billionaire darling Pete Buttigieg addressed the infant formula shortage that’s sent parents around the United States scrambling to find some way to feed their babies. Asked about the sluggish federal response to a crisis regulators were informed about as far back as October, Buttigieg absolved the Biden administration through a little bit of neoliberal sleight of hand.

“Let’s be very clear,” he said. “This is a capitalist country. The government does not make baby formula, nor should it. Companies make formula.”

Think about it. Buttigieg is basically suggesting there are simply some lines too sacred to be crossed even in a crisis–in this case, the government directly producing baby formula. It’s not just that in a capitalist system, according to Buttigieg, the government does not make baby formula; it’s that it should not.

Again, it’s on you. Mom’s–why aren’t you breastfeeding, dammit?

Neoliberal capitalism creates all these crises but levels of indoctrination are so high that very few people make the connections. Even as the quality of life diminishes in a myriad of ways, there is little  improvement in the willingness to reject the American Dream and its many lies. The cognitive dissonance required to face these many predicaments is too great for many people to experience, even as their expectations of basics such as a steady supply of infant formula crumble around them.

Personal responsibility is one of those things that sounds appropriate. I mean who the fuck doesn’t want people to take personal responsibility for their actions? But as an operating system for a country of 300 million it sucks. Going further, this line of thinking is morally bankrupt. Ultimately it’s the reasoning and logic of neoliberalism. Remember what Margaret Thatcher said? “There is no society, only individuals and their families.” Furthermore, “there is no alternative”.

It’s pretty obvious that individual responsibility, like the ideology of neoliberalism, is useful in that it can explain so much social injustice and apparent cruelty as inevitable in the ark of progress, and that to attempt to change it would cause more harm than good. That it provides justification to the free activities of the wealthy and their corporations is just a happy coincidence.

William Butler Yeats put it well:

We have fed the heart on fantasies

The heart has grown brutal from the fare

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Information Battle Space

There has been an obsessive focus on disinformation and “fake news” since Trump’s surprise election in 2016 as our feral elite seem determined to blame unofficial narratives rather than their disastrous mismanagement of the American empire.

Increasingly, it does not truly matter what the “facts” are, but the question of who do these “facts” serve and reward? For instance, lying is not a liability for a thriving career in corporate journalism but rather a vital asset — provided that the lies are in service of ruling class policies and the US empire.

Paraphrasing George Orwell–some lies are more equal than others.

The US/NATO proxy war against Russia in Ukraine has only made this dynamic more pronounced. Indeed, they’re not worried about the spread of disinformation, they’re worried about the spread of information that challenges the official narrative. 

What’s crazy is that the US political/media class constantly rends its garments over “disinformation” about the Ukraine war even as US officials openly admit they’ve been using the media to circulate disinformation about that same war while the Biden administration imprisons and persecutes a journalist for exposing US war crimes.

Then we get the surreal spectacle of a former president accidentally blurting out that that the US is no better than Russia and that the only thing obscuring this is the fact that we are all swimming in a sea of disinformation and propaganda provided by that same political/media class. Because, “aw shucks gee willikers”, the US would never do anything like “launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq. I mean, of Ukraine.” George W. Bush’s Freudian confession illuminated all that spin and narrative management they’ve been pouring into the US proxy war in Ukraine, and then undoes it all with the Bush-ism to end all Bush-isms.

Of course, one expects the corporate media to follow the script and blame the evil Russians for the conflict in Ukraine but even anti-propaganda guru’s like Noam Chomsky have been chiming in. “I don’t think there are ‘significant lies’ in war reporting. The U.S. media are generally doing a highly creditable job in reporting Russian crimes in Ukraine. That’s valuable, just as it’s valuable that international investigations are underway in preparation for possible war crimes trials.”

Instead, I’ve come to believe that it’s all projection. While the US and western propaganda has consistently blamed Russia for massive war-crimes in Ukraine and depicting them as brutal villains there’s much evidence coming out of Ukraine that all is not what it seems.

For instance, there’s that whole bio-weapons thingy that got flushed down the memory-hole.

The provisional results of evidence being collected about the work of U.S. bioweapons in Ukraine are simply astonishing. These are the main takeaways.

1. U.S. bioweapon ideologues comprise the leadership of the Democratic Party. By linking with non-governmental biotechnology organizations, using the investment funds of the Clintons, Rockefellers, Soros and Biden, they profited from additional campaign financing – all duly concealed. In parallel, they assembled the legislative basis for financing the bioweapons program directly from the federal budget.
2. COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna, as well as Merck and Gilead – of Donald “known unknowns” fame, and affiliated with the Pentagon – were directly involved.
3. U.S. specialists tested new drugs in the Ukraine biolabs in circumvention of international safety standards. According to Kirillov, acting this way “Western companies seriously reduce the costs of research programs and gain significant competitive advantages.”
4. According to Kirillov, “along with U.S. pharmaceutical companies and Pentagon contractors, Ukrainian government agencies are involved in military biotechnology activities, whose main tasks are to conceal illegal activities, conduct field and clinical trials and provide the necessary biomaterial.”
5. The Pentagon, Kirillov pointed out, expanded its research potential not only in terms of producing biological weapons, but also gathering information on antibiotic resistance and the presence of antibodies to certain diseases among the population in specific regions. The testing ground in Ukraine was practically outside the control of the so-called “international community”.

Then there’s the prisoner torture that our erstwhile allies have been engaged in. Remember–stand with Ukraine? Le Monde has verified and published a video that shows a Ukrainian ‘volunteer battalion’, led by a known criminal, torturing Russian prisoners of war. The upshot is that the US has introduced into Ukraine, the spores of a particularly virulent variant of European fascism that “combine all the features” of Nazism (such as antisemitism, extreme nationalism, violence, etc.) in order to attack Russia.

I know. Color me surprised that the US would employ Nazi’s as proxies after essentially doing the same thing with al-Qaeda in Syria. Ditto on the bio-weapon labs. This is what the US empire does in a normal working day to maintain control over a contentious world and for you to make sense of all the propaganda it’s important to recognize that the US is a failing empire and our elites want constant war because they see no other way to preserve the American-centric world order. 

Presently, they are laying the propaganda so thick and I’m hardly being hyperbolic calling it an information battle space.

Update: In a surprising bit of good news it seems as if the ministry of truth has bitten the dust–“Biden puts disinfo ‘Mary Poppins’ on ice, scraps Orwellian DHS board”.

Of course, it was all blamed on people harshing-on poor Ms Jankowicz and saying mean things about the Homeland Security Administration.

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