Go Die

The Texas black-out debacle is providing as pure an expression of neoliberalism that I’ve seen. The two simple rules of neoliberalism are Rule #1: Because markets. Rule #2: Go die!

As Texas battles a severe snowstorm and mass power outages, Tim Boyd, the now-former Republican mayor of Colorado City, revealed his party’s plan for the deadly extreme temperatures linked to climate change. In a lengthy Facebook post that was deleted soon after it went viral, then-Mayor Boyd told his residents that they were entirely on their own as the brutal winter weather caused mayhem and deaths across the Lone Star state.

His outburst was revealing. “Sink or swim it’s your choice!” he wrote. “The City and County, along with power providers or any other service owes you NOTHING! Only the strong will survive and the weak will perish.” For such honesty to come from the elected leader of a city–a man literally chosen by his people to ensure that local government works for them–was shocking.

What was not shocking was that conservative ideologues immediately blamed communist windmills and non-existent Green-New-Deals for the loss of power. However, while the non-weatherized windmills went offline, they were a small part of the story. The real story is that millions of Texans have suffered the effects of a design, invented by economists, aided by a myth, that served the fossil fuel industry and the politicians it funds. One of these politicians, US Senator Ted Cruz, acted in perfect synchronicity with the system’s free-market logic by leaving for Cancún. Meanwhile, former Governor Rick Perry claims that Texans are prepared to sacrifice themselves to avoid the curse of socialism. 

How noble.

The conservative mindset can be counted on to prioritize private interests over public ones. In a Republican utopia, the rich are noble and deserving of basic necessities, comforts, and life itself. If they have rigged the system to benefit themselves, it means they are smart, not conniving. In the future that Republicans promise, “Only the strong will survive and the weak will perish,” as Boyd stated. Our lives are expendable, and if we die, it is because we deserve it and we were not smart enough to survive.

Meanwhile, Democrats, while not as callous, are also down with organizing our country according to the rules of neoliberalism. Take education, another public service that has been privatized through the use of tax credits and charter school funding. Both Republican, Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos and Democratic, Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan believe fervently in the magic of private charter schools with the only difference being that Arne knows to keep the sociopathy on the down-low while Betsy expresses it full-throatedly.

What this latest tragedy makes blindingly obvious is that the 2 rules of neoliberalism apply unevenly. The 1% and their economic and political allies are not held to the same market logic as the rest of us. No, it’s socialism and a vacation in Mexico for them, while the savagery of the “free market” is reserved for the rest of us. And, they certainly don’t go die. They and their malign offspring live forever.

What’s also become apparent is that what happened in Texas is not a bug but a feature. Neoliberalism is an ideology that prioritizes profits above people and maintains that the “market” is sacrosanct then describes its brutality as the workings of the “Invisible Hand”. All of this to keep you afraid of what could happen in case you lose your job or insurance or can’t make rent and end up living under a bridge. Death and suffering isn’t an accidental outcome or an oversight–it’s part of the plan.

What all this means is that if you reside in a neoliberal austerity country like the US, which has spent 40 years de-regulating and privatizing public infrastructure and downsizing the public service into incapability, you end up with a situation where you can’t count on the State for water, food, or power during emergencies.

In the meantime our elected leaders are literally hoping you go die.

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Of the erosion of international norms of war and the Western commitment to them

For the last five years we’ve been bombarded by story after story of Trump being a secret Russian agent directed personally by Vladimir Putin, while the Russians are portrayed as being particularly villainous.

Why, dear reader, do you think that is?

I believe that this propaganda campaign is in direct response to the maneuvers of the Russian military to stymie the US empire in the Ukraine and in Syria. But Russia, as a country free from the clutches of the American empire, would always be targeted. Going further, the deep state that manages US foreign policy, irrespective of parties or personal, attacked Trump with Russia-gate for his declaration to improve relations between the two nuclear armed super-powers.

I like to read. In so doing I try to follow the example of the legendary citizen journalist Izzy Stone. Stone didn’t bother trying to interview government officials or cultivate sources. He simply read official government documents and used his critical thinking to question the official “narrative”. I’m also partial to C. Wright Mills term “crackpot realism” that he used during the first Cold War as a way to describe the insanity of our leaders.

In 2019 a report from the Pentagon centric RAND think-tank, evaluated how to best ‘unbalance and overextend’ Russia. In the end it was clearly aimed at regime change in Russia, or if not otherwise possible, war.

Meanwhile, Gabriel Felbermayr, the president of the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, was asked by a German radio station about new sanctions the EU might impose on Russia. He is skeptic that those might work because: The aims we have towards Russia are very big. We do not want anything less but regime change in Russia, which is difficult to achieve by economic pressure.

President Biden’s new pick to be the Under-Secretary of the State Department was the author of a very interesting  final report that was presented to Congress in September 2019 by the Syria Study Group: “…The threats the conflict in Syria poses—of terrorism directed against the United States and its allies and partners; of an empowered Iran; of an aggrandized Russia; of large numbers of refugees, displaced persons, and other forms of humanitarian catastrophe; and of the erosion of international norms of war and the Western commitment to them—are sufficiently serious to merit a determined response from the United States. The United States underestimated Russia’s ability to use Syria as an arena for regional influence. Russia’s intervention, beginning in 2015, accomplished its proximate aim—the preservation of the regime in defiance of U.S. calls for Assad to ‘go’—at a relatively low cost. Russia has enhanced its profile and prestige more broadly in the Middle East.

What goes unmentioned in this report is that Russia intervened in both Syria and Crimea as a direct response to US regime change actions. The US, despite its commitment to the “international norms of war”, utilized al Qaeda terrorists in its campaign to oust Syria’s Assad, and neo-Nazi’s in the Ukrainian coup.

Despite this being an open secret, a DC Circuit has ruled that the CIA is under no obligation to comply with Freedom of Information Act requests pertaining to its involvement with insurgent militias in Syria, overturning a lower court’s previous ruling in favor of a Buzzfeed News reporter seeking such documents.

As Sputnik‘s Morgan Artyukhina clearly outlines, this ruling comes despite the fact that mainstream news outlets have been reporting on the CIA’s activities in Syria for years, and despite a US president having openly tweeted about those activities.

Indeed, it’s public knowledge that the CIA trained, armed and directed these violent jihadists as part of Timber Sycamore. It’s public knowledge that the CIA has a well-documented history of doing extremely evil things. And it’s public knowledge that the US government has long sought control over Syria.

The US empire deploys the military, intelligence agencies and regime-change NGO’s like the National Endowment for Democracy for three main reasons: (1) to forcibly open up countries to foreign investment, (2) to ensure the free flow of natural resources into the hands of multinational corporations, and (3) because war is profitable.

And now the Biden administration, as evidenced by its endless coterie of neocon picks to staff their foreign policy, is demonstrating that they are set to resume the very same evil policies that make a mockery of the their commitment to “international norms of war”.

What’s beyond insane is that this extraordinary contradiction can go unnoticed for years while Washington justifies bombing and dispossessing millions of people in eight countries as “bringing them democracy”.

We are so living in George Orwell’s 1984, where we’ve always been at war with East Asia, while Newspeak limits our ability to think and articulate subversive concepts such as those expressed on this blog.

Hope that doesn’t’t make me a “domestic terrorist”.

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Hedge Fund Nation

It has become apparent that we are ruled by economic sociopaths, more commonly known as hedge funds.

This dynamic has not gone unnoticed. A new survey suggests the GameStop saga has become a very real lightning rod for anti–Wall Street sentiment. In her introduction to the study, Morning Consult reporter Claire Williams was unequivocal: “One of the biggest takeaways of the GameStop Corp. market mayhem so far, according to new Morning Consult polling, is that Wall Street remains the public’s top villain.”

In an amazing new article Matt Taibbi finds that one Reddit investor saw GameStop as a way to send a message to this “villain”.

This is just a small sample but it speaks to a larger truth–Americans increasingly hate Wall Street and especially hedge funds. Millions of Americans have come to correctly recognize that Wall Street is antagonistic to their interests. Of course the pandemic has only poured fuel on this sentiment–the astonishing boom enjoyed by major corporations and financial firms amid widespread poverty and unemployment is highlighting yet again just how severed from the country the Wall Street prosperity really is.

The economic damage is literally incalculable–millions have been plunged into desperate poverty, countless independent businesses crushed, whole industries crippled, as billionaires amassed over $1 trillion in wealth and their vehicles for enrichment–hedge funds–consolidate their dominance over our country.

A recent headline in our local paper–Hedging Bets on Water’s Future–detailed the extent of our subservience to the new financial lords. “Hedge funds and other Wall Street interests want to rewrite the ‘Law of the River’ in the Colorado River Basin and use the free market to solve the problem of scarcity–while potentially raking in immense profits”

I’m sure that letting hedge funds get their hand on our water supply will work out swimmingly. (Pun intended). Perhaps the citizens of Flint Michigan can offer up a lesson or two on such folly?

The financial world we live in is the end result of neoliberalism – a financialized world order that intends to privatize all infrastructure and create monopoly rents for transportation, education, healthcare, and let banks and hedge funds control our economy. Presently our economy is based largely on debt and asset price bubbles.

Heterodox economist Michael Hudson says that, “in the United States the center of economic planning has been shifted from Washington to Wall Street financial institutions.” These financial parasites goal is “to take it over and turn public infrastructure – the education system, healthcare, transportation and communications – into rent extraction devices. The American economy is no longer a productive economy. It is a rent-seeking economy.

All of it was brought about by decisions to favor finance over the real economy, starting with the decision to offshore American manufacturing. Offshoring served the interests of corporate executives and shareholders. The lower labor costs raised profits and, thereby, executive bonuses and the prices of the stocks, resulting in capital gains for shareholders. These benefits accrued to a small percentage of the population. For everyone else these closely held benefits imposed huge external costs many times greater than the rise in profits.

The offshoring of high productivity, high value-added manufacturing jobs reduced American incomes, US aggregate domestic demand was impacted and economic growth fell. The Federal Reserve expanded credit and substituted an increase in consumer debt for the missing growth in consumer income, while the effective zero percent interest rates extended to Wall Street in the wake of the Crash of 2008 blew an enormous asset bubble inhaled by our ruling plutocracy.

As incomes fell for the bulk of the American population, incomes rose for the financial 1%. Income and wealth gains have been concentrated at the top resulting in the United States today having one of the most unequal distributions of income and wealth in the world.

This is the milieu we inhabit. A hedge fund nation, where the well-heeled perpetrators–the ones who crash our economy and invade and destroy countries–fail upwards, while the rest of us sink downwards.

Update: Chris Arnade, who writes of the devastation visited on our country by the economic sociopaths, predicts where this all goes.

“The lesson taken away by those losers, and everyone else not on Wall Street, is more important, insightful, and dangerous though. It will be that there isn’t a meritocracy, or at least a justified one. It will be that everyone is just playing games. Those at the top get to dress up their game, even though it is destructive to everyone else, as legitimate, call playing it a career, and get rewarded mightily for it. Others, like them, have to make it a hobby, and even though it is just harmless fun, get scolded for it.

This will harden a cynicism that already exists in large parts of America. A cynicism that will convince more and more people to play all of their life, recklessly. To do what is known in gaming circles, as Int-ing, or Intentionally dying. Running madly at the boss, unworried if they are going to lose, suffer, or die.

Because if you are not going to be allowed to win a rigged game, you might as well ruin it, and extract just a tiny moment of joy from that.”

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Friends and Family

There was a meme a few years back during the Obama administration where liberals were encouraged to relate how they had lost a family member to Fox News propaganda.

During the Trump administration the narrative managers flipped the script, with the New York Times taking on the role of Fox News.

While the Fox News watching cohort believed all of the rumors and innuendos about Obama’s citizenship, with the whole Birther thing, the friends and family reading the Times have come to believe all of the rumors and innuendos about Trump being a Russian agent and Putin specifically as some sort of super-villain who has personally soiled American democracy.

What’s been the most craziest thing is that these liberals have come to see the CIA as a Resistance hero against the dastardly Trump. They were aghast because the poor CIA had been maligned and disrespected by Trump, who (among other things) claimed it exaggerated the role played by Russia in the 2016 election.

Not long ago, the CIA was viewed with disgust by like-minded liberals. It was the government agency that overthrew foreign governments, deceived and misled people in distant lands and fought for dictatorship around the world. Its list of crimes against democracy was long and disturbing.

But over the last four years this picture changed completely. Now liberals love them some CIA.

The CIA. Crazy, I know.

If it wasn’t so disconcerting and frankly sad it would be quite funny. But I love my family and friends and struggle with how to confront them. Or not. A recent interaction with a dear friend has led me to write this in hope that readers can relate their own stories of Times reading liberals.

A huge problem is the fracturing of information sources which has basically broken a certain fundamental consensus about reality. Narrative and reality are becoming further and further apart.

I don’t think that’s an accident. Furthermore, I’ve come to view Russia-gate as instrumental to the process.

The basic element of the scandal was ‘collusion’: that Trump had in some way conspired with or been compromised by the Russian government as it tried to intervene in the 2016 election. Which was to say that Trump was not merely incompetent or crooked but he was the agent of a hostile foreign power.

This was the dominant news story day in and day out during the Trump years, and revelations of his guilt were always, just around the corner. But somehow never quite revealed. Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted several Republican officials for other offenses, but he prosecuted no one for coordination or conspiracy with the Russian government. His report concluded in March 2019: ‘Ultimately, the investigation did not establish that the campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election-interference activities’.

So the most heavily covered story of a monstrous Trump scandal turned out to not be true. Talk about journalism malfeasance. In the fervor to bring down a president they despised, the people of the press gave up any pretence of fairness or balance. They did not try to conceal this change, but bragged about it as some sort of moral choice made necessary by Trump’s constant lying.

A new article entitled–Slouching Towards Post-Journalism, helps make sense of the new face of liberal media. It describes how with the election of Trump the New York Times and other elite media outlets have openly embraced advocacy over reporting.

“During the 2016 presidential campaign, the Times stumbled onto a possible answer. It entailed a wrenching pivot from a journalism of fact to a “post-journalism” of opinion—a term coined, in his book of that title, by media scholar Andrey Mir. Rather than news, the paper began to sell what was, in effect, a creed, an agenda, to a congregation of like-minded souls. Post-journalism “mixes open ideological intentions with a hidden business necessity required for the media to survive,” Mir observes. The new business model required a new style of reporting. Its language aimed to commodify polarization and threat: journalists had to “scare the audience to make it donate.” At stake was survival in the digital storm.”

Hopefully, this will clear up a few mysteries about your own friends and family’s behavior during the last 4 years.

The corporate media exists for a reason and the surest way to get rich in this environment is to spread lies which serve the interests of the powerful. It’s becoming more and more like Orwell’s Ministry of Truth, with our establishment news regularly dishing out Two Minutes Hate pieces to us to demonize countries like Russia.

I believe that a true intellectual should spend his or her time criticizing their own country–its ruling ideologies, dominant culture, foreign and domestic policies–especially when their own country is the most powerful and destructive government on earth. Critiquing another country, especially one that the dominant hegemon has been trying to absorb into its empire makes one an accomplice in the dissemination of propaganda.

But, that’s just me.

Update: Now that I’ve lost my friends and family to the Gray Lady I wonder if I can get a discount on my online subscription?

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Liberals are in for a rude awakening with the blue team in charge where they can’t blame everything on Trump. (Of course, they will still blame the Russians but that’s another story.) Now all of the devastating economic and foreign policies of the US empire are theirs. They own it all.

Luckily they will be shielded from this reality thanks to the heroic efforts of the corporate media, who are already fawning over the new administration. Indeed, the Biden inauguration has been treated like the Second Coming of Christ.

What’s fascinating is that we’ve seen this movie before. Bill Clinton followed the horrible Reagan/Bush administrations and was lionized by the corporate media even as he codified the Reagan revolution and turbo-charged neoliberalism. Barack Obama followed a murderous George W. Bush administration and normalized torture, assassinations and drone strikes against American citizens while failing to crackdown on Wall Street after the financial crisis and sub-prime housing meltdown because that might have required “violence to the social order.”

And now we get Biden, who already readying a domestic War-on Terror against half of the country that voted for Trump, while promising his wealthy donors that “nothing will change”. Moreover it appears that the Biden administration is determined to protect the continuity of U.S. never-ending war policies and regime-change machinations. Indeed, after 4 plus years of Russia-gate it’s clear that the Democrats have become the more aggressive party.

If the Democrat’s and by extension liberals really were the “good guys” they imagine themselves to be there would be a modicum of hope. But liberals and Democrat’s are rotten too, in a different way to be sure, but as will soon be all too apparent. Thanks to the efforts of successive Democratic administrations, it’s hard to imagine an alternative to our bi-partisan tag-team. Thus the Biden administration represents the final triumph of neoliberalism with its withering of the state leaving only its core military and police functions intact.

Neoliberalism should be thought of as a political project, re-establishing the conditions for capital accumulation while restoring the power of economic elites. It’s important to stress that the “liberalism” of neoliberalism refers to economic rather than political liberalism.

My critics rightly insist that the Republicans are much worse but that misses the point. The Republicans don’t pretend to be something they are not like the Democrats do. The Democrats have come to resemble the compradore elite that the US empire uses to maintain control over its colonies. They pretend to be patriotic and loyal to their citizens but in actuality function as agents for exploitation. Moreover, they are traitors who sold out the country for the wealth and power.

So, what I’m trying to say is that I don’t view Biden’s victory as a triumph of light over darkness the way so many corporate media writers and commentators do. While we might have seen the last of Trump, the conditions for the return of someone like him remain. The more the Biden administration pursues the same neoliberal economic policies while strengthening the security state against the “deplorables” the more they will be tempted to turn to a more competent populist. Trump was hated by the elite, “woke” liberals and the corporate media because of his boorish behavior not because of his policies which were average for a Republican president.

Going further, the Obama administration and Democrat’s prepared the ground for Trump not only with their bailout of the banks and kid-soft treatment of Wall Street that engendered massive unrest, (see–the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street), but with their diminishment of the demos through their neoliberal economic policies. As neoliberalism converts every political or social problem into market terms, it converts them to individual problems with market solutions. Think the Obama administration fascination with voucher systems as a response to the collapse of quality public education, or the Affordable Care Act with it’s endless online shopping for the right health-care plan. As this neoliberal political rationality devolves both political problems and solutions from public to private, it further dissipates political or public life: the project of navigating the social becomes entirely one of discerning, affording, and procuring a personal solution to every socially produced problem.

So after all of this why wouldn’t the American people choose the host of The Apprentice to be the president?

The way to eliminate or minimize Trumpism, or fascism, or whatever you want to call it, is to eliminate the conditions–neoliberalism–that gave rise to it in the first place.

The Biden administration could take actions to heal the nation by offering universal policies, like Medicare-for-All, student aid, mortgage and rental assistance during the pandemic, etc., you know, left-wing solutions like FDR offered during the Great Depression. Here’s an idea–“put Americans to work and print money to pay for it“.

But, they won’t.

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Desert Solitaire

I had to get away from the pomp and ceremony of the inauguration and take a break in the desert.

Back next week with some things to say about the incoming administration.

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I’ve come to realize that Gore Vidal seriously underestimated the amnesia of the American public. Especially New York Times reading, MSNBC watching, liberals, who’ve come to resemble “Moonies” handing out literature at the airport. To them I say–you can’t accuse Trump of treason for 4 years, call for his assassination then act as if the dangerous escalation in poisonous rhetoric and protest are all his fault.

Liberals freaking out about the Instagram Insurrection seem to have completely forgotten the protests and #Resistance following Trump’s surprise election in 2016, where they believed the claims of voter fraud and of the election being stolen from Hillary Clinton. Trump’s inauguration was met with massive protests that saw police arrest 234 people. Immediate vows of insurrection and protest were issued by not only liberals and members in good standing in the DNC, but, more ominously, by the corporate media and the deep state, who were alarmed at Trump’s vow to end America’s forever wars and reset relations with Russia.

Trump was demonized because he was correctly perceived by the deep state and corporate media as a threat to the Establishment. Trump’s election surprised the Establishment. They thought that control over the corporate media guaranteed their power and were astonished to realize that enough American voters saw through their lies and propaganda to elect a non-establishment figure. Indeed, the corporate media and DNC engaged in probably the most hysterical candidate bashing propaganda operation in history only to find out that the “deplorables” did not vote as they were told to, they voted for “Trump The New Hitler” instead.

Personally, I think the result was a vote against Hillary Clinton and moreover a giant fuck-you to the Establishment from the American people as much as support for Trump.

Russia-gate was the immediate response to the challenge Trump represented. Indeed, the reasons for Russia-gate were spelled out from the beginning. A journalistic insider’s account of the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, Shattered, revealed that “in the days after the election, Hillary declined to take responsibility for her own loss.” Her top advisers were summoned the following day, according to the book, “to engineer the case that the election wasn’t entirely on the up-and-up … Already, Russian hacking was the centerpiece of the argument.”

Going further, it was a coup, initiated by British intelligence agencies and carried forward by the CIA and FBI. It is extraordinary that anyone could have fallen for the Establishment’s story that Trump conspired with Putin to steal the election from Hillary, but so many did. The Establishment could not permit the realization that the American Establishment had been rejected by the American people in the 2016 election. Using the CIA and FBI the Establishment went to work on Trump. His entire four years was used in fighting orchestrated Russia-gate investigations and an orchestrated impeachment.

As Trump leaves office, voluminous public records – including investigative reports from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Congress and the Justice Department’s inspector general – have established that Trump and his associates were targeted with a baseless Russian collusion allegation. The fraudulent claim originated with the Hillary Clinton campaign, was fueled by a torrent of false or deceptive intelligence leaks, and was improperly investigated by the FBI, potentially to the point of being criminal.

A just released memo confirms what was already known. ““In late July 2016, US intelligence agencies obtained insight into Russian intelligence analysis alleging that US Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton had approved a campaign plan to stir up a scandal against US Presidential candidate Donald Trump by tying him to Putin and the Russians’ hacking of the DNC.”

The allegation that the Russian hacked the DNC servers has also likewise been shredded. Beginning back in January 2017,- Person X received information from Seymour Hersh, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, that one of his sources had received information from an FBI report stating that Seth Rich had leaked emails to Wikileaks, requested payment and made copies of the emails as a precautionary measure.

Public comments from former intelligence officials, with their false insinuations about a Trump-Russia connection, followed a longstanding pattern. In the early months of Trump’s presidency, anonymously sourced stories fueled collusion innuendo, helped oust Michael Flynn on false pretenses, and built momentum for Mueller’s appointment as special counsel. Key among them was a February 2017 report in the New York Times asserting that U.S. investigators had obtained “phone records and intercepted calls” showing that members of Trump’s campaign and other associates “had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election.” Four months later, James Comey testified that the story was “not true.”

More evidence of Russia-gate nefariousness can found: here, here, here, and here.

In the aftermath of the Capital protests, it’s hard not to notice the double standard the political class and corporate media have imposed. Not only was the raid declared to be a coup regardless of the fact that at no point was there any risk of the United States government being toppled, but there was also the cry for immediate censorship of social media here in the US. This call for censorship of social media is, of course, completely different from the reaction to other countries targeted by the US, like Iran, Venezuela, Ukraine, etc., where the governments are castigated for censoring social media. Thus the Capital protests were a coup but the events in the countries the US is attempting to overthrow using a “color revolution” are just heroic citizens expressing their democratic yearnings. The dirty little secret, kept on the down-low by the corporate media, is that America is the world leader in coups. America overthrows governments regularly, including democratic ones.

Because the Capitol riot story feeds into partisan narratives and manufactures consent for authoritarian domestic terrorism laws, while overthrowing governments the US doesn’t approve of is bi-partisan foreign policy, this double standard passes unnoticed. In fact, it’s a good example of the propaganda function of the corporate media, where they keep the America people focused on demonizing the unworthy victims while lionizing the worthy ones.

It’s no wonder that the corporate media has lost credibility over many years from the prevalent lies they have told concerning false pretexts for foreign wars, and, in the past four years, regarding the whole baseless Russia-gate scandal embroiling Trump. Nevertheless, America at large seems to have become mired in conspiratorial thinking that is bordering on mass delusional, preventing normal cognitive function and rationale dialogue based on any consensus around objective reality.

I’ve worked for the last 5 years debunking Russia-gate and at this point it’s tiresome. Along the way I’ve come to realize that liberals with their Trump Derangement Syndrome, have so much invested in the smear precisely because they can’t come out and admit that all the policies and candidates that they cheered on led directly to the election of Donald Trump. It’s much better for their psychological well being to blame it all on a demonizable villain like Vladimir Putin. As an added bonus, Russia-gate with its incessant valorizing of security and intelligence officials and general atmosphere of emergency, turbo-charged liberal support for a new Cold War with Russia. Now, it is not just the right-wing which is a gullible audience for such psychological warfare regarding Russia but credulous Western liberals.

If all this sounds like a defense of Trump, it’s not. I’m not a Republican or a Democrat but a critical thinker who has become alarmed at the hateful rhetoric on both sides. None of us who remain silent and impassive in the face of evil, racism, extreme materialism, meanness, intolerance, cruelty, injustice, propaganda and ignorance get a free pass.

Unfortunately the Capital protests and aftermath have made clear that many Americans have lost faith in our political and economic systems and are at loggerheads, where one side believes the election was stolen while the other insists what happened Wednesday was a coup.

And, as long as Congress and the rest of the Establishment continue to ignore ordinary Americans’ interests and serve only their own, the anger and the desperation in the land will explode, rendering Wednesday’s events merely a dress rehearsal for what may well turn into a full-blown insurrection.

Update: Too funny.

Aaron Maté@aaronjmate· Overlooked irony: this time Trump is being rightly impeached for inciting a violent far-right mob. Last time Trump was impeached for, in part, briefly pausing weapons that were aiding far-right Ukrainian forces in a violent proxy war incited by the US.

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Instagram Insurrection

Holy fucking shit! I take a holiday break from blogging and all hell breaks loose.

However, the Instagram insurrection can hardly be a surprise to those of us paying attention.

With apologies to Gil Scott-Heron, the revolution will be Instagramed.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2021-01-08-at-11.50.32-AM.jpg

What seems to be clear in the aftermath is that contrary to the aphorism that history occurs “first as tragedy, then as farce,” in America we’re going to have the farce first.

Speaking of farce. It can hardly be surprising that the corporate media immediately rushed to blame the Russians, while Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Michael McFaul, the former U.S. ambassador to Russia, each complained that the events were a “gift to Putin”.

In the next couple of weeks I’ll have a whole lot more on the protests and attempt to put them into context using the categories of my blog. These will include critical articles on neoliberalism, neoconservatism, our feral elite, and propaganda, because not only are these subjects that interest me but are key to making sense of our increasingly chaotic world.

With each of these topics I can simply watch raw data and ignore all the ways in which the corporate media shapes these stories. Nearly everything that makes up a breathless headline is either propaganda or distracting bull-shit, like summer of the shark in the run up to 9/11, and either way you can safely ignore it. Just watch where the money is going, where the resources are going, where all the weapons are going and what the feral elite are doing, and ignore all the corporate media narrative.

What you’ll find here may be cynical and even depressing at times. For instance: I despise both political parties and don’t expect an improvement from Trump to Biden; I loath identity politics with a passion; and I’m firmly convinced that our feral elite are plotting to get rid of us.

I’ve mentioned this before, but the biggest obstacle to any reform is the refusal of activists to understand the shuck and jive perpetuated on them by both political party’s elite, and the way in which they’re enlisted in tribal rituals against the other team. Unless we develop and disseminate an accurate understanding of exactly how and why things are so badly fucked-up right now we’ll never be able to fix any of it.

2020 brought us sustained lock-downs and with it the demise of small businesses. It also brought massive state-mandated pandemic support flowing primarily to corporate elites contrary to the oft repeated shrieking about austerity. This outpouring of federal largess has left our oligarchs, together with their Silicon Valley and Wall Street allies, further entrenched, with literally unassailable economic and political power.

Meanwhile, you get a check for $600.

Indeed, the pandemic has forcefully illuminated that we have two economies–one for our feral elite and another for the rest of us–and they are diverging fast. They do different jobs, in different industries, in different places, for much different pay. Moreover, this imbalance has consequences as Americans are moving from being financially squeezed, to going hungry. Historically, the US has spent 40 to 50 years dealing with economic decline for a plurality to a majority of the population, especially the young. Add it up and you have a classic recipe for bad times. This generalized precarity brought on by decades of neoliberalism have only been intensified by the pandemic.

In the process of this decline many Americans have come to distrust the corporate media and are searching for the reasons for all of it. Unfortunately our feral elite, who are busy destroying our country, have power, wealth, and hundred year experience in crafting propaganda. Since Trump’s surprise election we’ve been bombarded by breathless accounts of “fake news” polluting our body politic but if we’re honest the biggest purveyors have been corporate media accounts like the New York Times, the Washington Post, MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, etc.

As America enters the terminal stage of empire this “fake news” we’re subjected to will only become more pronounced. The challenge going forward will be between those of us who desire the truth and those who desire confusion.

Here’s to a happy new year.

Be safe out there.

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

Rioters livestreamed their crimes, took selfies to commemorate the occasion, and chatted about their experiences later on social media services…. ‘I don’t think there are enough words in English to describe the way emotion works in a mob like that,’ she said. ‘It’s like an electrical current. It’s joy, but it’s menacing. And there’s also this forward momentum that’s just unstoppable.’ ‘Because this was an older crowd,’ she [Reeve, I am guessing, is mid-30s] added, ‘it was even all the more jarring. I mean, I think even on a basic level, you know, like what you learn as a kid, like respect your elders, it is shocking to see people who could be your parents scrambling over walls, acting crazy, acting immorally.’ And it seemed like almost everyone was recording almost everything. ‘Everyone is making media at all times,’ she said. ‘It’s crazy. It’s like ‘Were you there if you didn’t livestream it?’ And they’re all hoping for that viral moment that will give them more clout on social media.’”

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Last week I stated that the Democrats are not the party of the Left. Instead, their job is to prevent a real party of the Left from coming to power. To put it in crude sexual terms–they are a cock-block.

This should be readily apparent to any observer after the last two Democratic primary cycles, where the DNC ensured that Bernie Sanders and his enthusiastic supporters were denied the nomination. It should also be apparent that no matter what Democratic voters think–and most of them like the policies proposed by Bernie Sanders–elite Democrats and the DNC oppose them both with an organized vigor they rarely deploy in their partisan battles with the Republicans. Instead the Democrats modus operandi remains unchanged: expend political capital on social issues while enriching their wealthy patrons with the added bonus of being wealthy, liberal, and sanctimonious.

The Covid pandemic is graphically illustrating what happens to a middle-class society when the party of the left decides it doesn’t want to be a party of the left anymore. That has been as consequential for our society as has the Republicans becoming reactionaries. I’m pretty sure they’re connected. As Republicans become more radical, the Democrats concede more and become in the process the other party of the elite. So now we have two parties of the elite in this country.


What’s amusing is the subterfuge of this arrangement. Republican elite portray the Democrats to their base as socialists or even communists, while Democratic elite portray the Republicans to their base as racist-authoritarians, when in reality both parties elite are composed of corporatists. What’s not amusing is that this method of governing basically gave us Donald Trump.

That they are like this is no longer a mystery, the question is what are we going to do about it?

The issue here is power. As I’ve stated here before–politics is about who gets what and who bears the costs of these policies. There used to be space for incremental progressive change, via politics. Today, there is not. Today the power relationship has changed to where they have all the power while we have none. All the hue and cry of our so-called political process is kayfabe, designed to lull us into the belief that we have some semblance of power. Unfortunately, we have none. The brutal reality is that the US has become a state where only a tiny elite, a de facto plutocratic oligarchy, rules.

The human consequences of Left powerlessness are becoming more visible every day, and recent reporting from the Washington Post underscores just how dire the situation has become.

According to a recent analysis by the paper, more Americans are currently going hungry than at any point in at least the past twenty-two years (1998 being the first year the Census Bureau started collecting the relevant data). According to a Census Bureau survey conducted in late October and early November, one out of every eight people reported not having enough to eat “sometimes or often” throughout the past week. Widespread hunger is now affecting some 26 million American adults, and the bureau’s top-line figure narrows to one in six in households with children.

I’ve been rereading Karl Polanyi’s The Great Transformation, where he lays out the dangers of unregulated capitalism and great concentrations of wealth. He demonstrates that as income inequality grows, so does social unrest and populism. The threat of fascism increases exponentially. In Polanyi’s view, the fascist impulse stems from society attempting to protect itself from the market by sacrificing human freedom.

Abolitionist Fredrick Douglas said, “The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both.

He also said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

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Life on the Left

I’ve criticized liberalism enough that I should probably unpack my version of the Left.

Hint–it’s not communism.

Marx, as an economist was a trenchant and amazingly accurate critic of capitalism but his blueprint for utopia, at least as enacted by his followers, has been a series of dumpster fires. Indeed, as practiced, state communism veered so dramatically from Marx’s vision of communism as a form of emancipation, equality, and the withering away of the state, where we reduce labor time to a minimum and we are finally free to be creative and ultimately human. Instead, communism, as practiced, produced a dystopian, bureaucratic hellscape.

As we shall see, my Left is conservative in the conservation of culture, customs, mores and our natural world. It’s a traditional conservatism before it was hijacked in the US by reactionaries, although my Left is certainly in reaction to neoliberalism, the political/economy I’ve been subjected to my entire adult life.

Neoliberalism as practiced has been an economic program that crushes labor, privatizes public services, deregulates industry, unleashes capital mobility, and slashes tax on the rich. And far from being classic liberalism or a Laissez-faire system, neoliberalism absolutely requires the takeover and utilization of government to implement its market-centric system, and is ultimately a technocratic state ruled by experts to protect the market from democracy.

Sound familiar?

But neoliberalism is much more than simply a set of economic policies; it’s also something that governs us–society, culture, ways of understanding ourselves, and ways of configuring social relations. Neoliberalism transforms us not just at the level of economic policy, but at a much deeper level pertaining to how we are to understand freedom, the state, our relations with one another, society, and morality.

Why does this matter? Because neoliberalism delivers a full-frontal attack on the very notion of the public good and society. Margaret Thatcher said it best: “There is no such thing as society. There’s only individual men and women.”

Moreover, neoliberalism literally converts workers into human capital, not just by generating a gig economy, but also by disseminating the idea that your task is to enhance your own value, keep it from depreciating, and do this at every level, from your social media profile to your résumé.

That’s hardly what it means to be a citizen in a democratic republic.

Going further, neoliberalism has had disastrous effects on our world, breeding a sort of nihilism that has destroyed any attempt at representative democracy. That democracy, with its promise of self-government, and achieving through such self-government a caring society and a humane future on this planet, has been curtailed by neoliberalism.

It’s the task of the Left, then, to fight for the social and for democracy, to build power while expanding people’s horizons, to insist that our fates are linked, and that we can together, imagine, and fight for a livable future.

Following that logic, my Left is a vision of a more radical democracy, a more socially just world, a more sustainable one. But it’s also a vision of a world in which we have a much more decentralized system of governance and commerce. Most importantly, it’s a rediscovering of community where we can be human.

I truly believe that that’s the way out of the mess we’re in right now. The way in which we defeat the crazy nihilism that Trump represents is actual material politics where Americans feel like government is actually working for them and delivering for them.

Therefore, my Left is an economy that is planned by the state and enacted through representative democracy; yet a hybrid: a mix of public and private ownership without the wholesale reliance on market structures that neoliberalism dictates. As I’ve stated here more than once–every economy is planned. Right now we have one that’s planned by Wall Street, resulting in the capture of the state by plutocrats, that has not only made the rich richer, but has also throttled our economy at the level of productivity.

My Left is also an economy mobilizing the people for popular power, for social movements, for popular demands, for all the right things. Education, health care, transformation of the way we understand public goods and public provisioning. It’s universal policies that help all Americans, rather than means tested like a lot of liberals want to do policy.

Right now liberals in the Democratic Party seem incapable of imaging what a party of the Left could offer working-class Americans. But if we examine history parties of the Left are supposed to be about working-class people. Moreover, it’s incredibly easy to come up with things that a party of the Left would do for working-class people. For one thing, universal health care. For another thing, make it easy for them to form labor unions again. I firmly believe that it will negate some of the powerlessness instilled by neoliberalism. It changes people’s attitudes about their whole life. Also, make school good, accessible and cheap again. And make housing affordable. These are all no-brainers, off the top of my head that a party of the Left could do.

Of course, the Democrats, as presently configured, are not the party of the Left but that’s a story for next time.

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