A low and dishonest century

 

9/11 ushered in a low and dishonest century.

And because we have a low and dishonest corporate media we get shit like this from Paul Krugman: “Overall, Americans took 9/11 pretty calmly. Notably, there wasn’t a mass outbreak of anti-Muslim sentiment and violence, which could all too easily have happened. And while GW Bush was a terrible president, to his credit he tried to calm prejudice, not feed it.”

It’s hard to know where to begin.

Let’s start with the obvious rejoinder. America didn’t take 9/11 calmly. We lost our mind and went bat-shit crazy. Freedom fries, anyone? We’re still dealing with the consequences of our descent into madness.

9/11 was used to turn the US into a police state thru the Patriot Act. America went on to openly torture, invade a country which had nothing to do with 9/11 and set up a worldwide assassination program. Congress also signed over essentially all of their war powers, so that any President could declare war any time for any reason. Since then we’ve invaded numerous countries in the Middle-East, following the blueprint laid out by The Project for the New American Century. Indeed, for the neocons 9/11 was the new Pearl Harbor they had dreamed about.

The vile consequences of the US’ response to 9/11 also include the financial burden on future generations. The “war on terror” conflicts are estimated to have cost $6 trillion for the US alone. That is, nearly a quarter of that nation’s total and unsustainable national debt has been saddled from the trail of destruction. The long-term detrimental impact on social development is inestimable.

For the American military-industrial complex, it has been a period of rich pickings. As historian Daniel Bessner writes: “9/11 was a godsend for an increasingly adrift American Empire.”

As we approach what could be the most contentious election since 1968 it’s crucial to acknowledge that our reaction to 9/11 made President Donald Trump possible.

It’s also important to note that we’re in this place because we have two low and dishonest political parties working together with our low and dishonest corporate media. Remember how the Republican party, led by snarling Dick Cheney, ripped the Democrats for coddling terrorists in the aftermath of 9/11. In fact, since the early years of the Cold War the GOP has attacked the Democrats as weak on defense as a way to tarnish the New Deal. Thanks to the dishonesty of our corporate press, who goes happily along with charade, this tactic is highly successful as evidenced by the continuation of the same aggressive war policies by the Obama administration.

Trump’s presidential campaign threw a monkey wrench into this tag-team affair of war and empire with his criticisms. Remember when Trump lambasted the invasion of Iraq? “Obviously, the war in Iraq was a big, fat mistake,” Trump said. “George Bush made a mistake. We can make mistakes. But that one was a beauty. We should have never been in Iraq. We have destabilized the Middle East.”

The corporate press and Beltway pundits were aghast, proclaiming in unison that Trump had sunk his presidential hopes with this foreign policy apostasy. Of course they were completely wrong. Going further, Trump won the presidency in 2016 in no small part because a considerable number of Americans had lost confidence in establishment policies that left the United States mired in what he and other critics of a militarized U.S. policy called “endless wars.” 

Since then, the tag-team effort has been switched. Now the Democrats portray the Republicans, under Trump, as weak on defense, suggesting that Trump is even a Russian secret agent under the malign influence of Vladimir Putin. The upshot is that the US political system is hard-wired for endless war to maintain the American empire. 9/11 was used to super-charge this Pax-America following the neocons blueprint for martial re-invigoration following the end of the Cold War. Anyone or party who suggests otherwise will be attacked unmercifully. After all, war is the health of the state.

For those liberals who pray for Trump to be defeated so that we can return to a more sane and peaceful world, I have to say you’ve not been paying attention. 9/11 made the Democratic Party bat-shit crazy too. There’s good reason to expect that a Biden administration would be more bellicose than a Trump one. Even though Biden has occasionally suggested we should end the “forever wars”, overall he’s been campaigning for his first term far closer to the militaristic end of the spectrum than any president in recent memory.

America’s reaction to 9/11 made all of this not just possible but inevitable. Going further, America under Trump is like a patient who needs to be dragged kicking and screaming into therapy.

Look in the mirror–this is you.

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Neither New nor Liberal

Thomas Frank’s The People, No, is an amazing guide to our political milieu, tracing the history of populism from the 1890’s to the era of Trump. Frank examines not only the history of populism but that of anti-populism, especially as it transforms from an ideology of wealthy conservatives to that of elite liberals. However, I feel that he could have made the more obvious connection to the ideology of neoliberalism and how it strengthens this modern anti-populism bent.

The stock market crash of October 1929 and the onset of the Great Depression destroyed much of the wealth of the top one percent and discredited capitalism for generations. In the financial crisis of 2008-2009, by contrast, the Bush and Obama administrations, and the Federal Reserve, pulled out all the stops to prevent Wall Street and financial interests from losing, by pouring $29 trillion in the banking and financial systems.

In the 1930’s FDR epitomized the populist sentiment of trusting the people while rejecting the expertise of economic orthodoxy, famously condemning the malefactors of great wealth and welcoming the hatred of Wall Street. Barack Obama did the opposite, proclaiming that Jaimie Dimon and his Wall Street cohort were the smartest guys in the room.

From 1933 to 1971, global capitalism was centrally managed and planned under different versions of the New Deal, that included the War Economy and the Bretton Woods system. Following the demise of Bretton Woods in the early 1970s, capitalism returned to a version of the 1920s: Under the ideological guise of neoliberalism the bankers and financial interests again took over the role of planning the economy.

Neoliberalism represents the power of the capitalist class with their “free market” ideological cheerleaders. Indeed, the return to a “new-liberal” capitalism was an intellectual endeavor. Businesses-owners and the wealthy conducted a very successful class war against workers, particularly organized labor whose negotiations provided an anchor for both other blue collar and white collar wages and working conditions.

In a Mont Pelerin Society tract dated 1949, Friedrich Hayek, funded by the Foundation for Economic Freedom among others, wrote, “the question of how the powers of the trade-unions can be appropriately delimited by law as well as in fact is one of the most important of all the questions which we must give our attention.” Corey Robin has revealed how Hayek and his collaborator, Ludwig von Mises, both shared and were shaped by, Friedrich Nietzsche’s contempt for Europe’s workers, and enchantment with European aristocrats, in whose image they molded the mythical hero of the capitalist “entrepreneur.”

In the process of this new turn towards capital, the Democratic party went from representing workers to coddling Wall Street. These “New Democrats” respected education and credentials, internalizing Margaret Thatchers admonishment that “there is no society”, only individuals striving to maximize their human capital. The ultimate value system should be the market–one that inevitably is dominated by financial fortunes, banks and property owners.

And now, with the aid of the intellectually smitten “New Democrats” these interests have regained control of economies, opposing public regulation by waving the flag of free-market individualism. Idealizing greed without concern for how this affects the public good, these financial interests have hollowed out our economy through looting. The economy is seen as a market to grab as much as you want by whatever means required, not as a social system regulating property, credit and debt to prioritize social stability and rising living standards.

Going further, this is the result of deliberate choices and policies, justified by a neoliberal intellectual edifice.

In The People, No, Frank does make abundantly clear the political costs of the Democrat’s neoliberal turn towards rule by a credentialed elite. The American people, rightfully, see this elite not as the “smartest guys in the room” but as colossal fuck-ups, who looted the country and destroyed their livelihoods.

On that note, I’ll let Mr. Frank have the last word.

“Most non-elite Americans, however, because they have, at this point in our history, endured over two generations of breathtakingly spectacular meritocratic failures — including the unending trillion-dollar wars that the elites never fight in and never win, including the elites’ financialized ransacking of the once-industrial American heartland, including the elites’ perversion of medical care and higher education into grotesque unaffordable rackets — would, if asked, give a more precise answer to the intriguing question of class nomenclature — Liberal Class? Creative Class? Learning Class? — by describing the ascendant meritocracy as our gleefully parasitic Fuck-Up Class.”

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It Was Always Bullshit

The recent Democratic Convention was missing something.

Oh, I know what it was–Russia-gate.

The 4 year investigation of the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, which Democrats once thought could topple Trump for obstruction of justice, went unmentioned, even as it was a defining feature of Trump’s nearly four years in office.

Of course, for those of us who were paying attention, Russia-gate was always bullshit.

Instead, Russia-gate flowed from the same impulse as the great anti-populist crusade that our feral elite have waged since the moment Trump was elected. “Populism,” became a synonym for plague or menace. Trump and Bernie Sanders both were depicted as xenophobic, bigoted, emotion-laden, resistant to modernity, susceptible to foreign influence, and captured by “unrealistic” ideas they lacked the expertise to implement.

It was all about finding a scapegoat for the 40 odd years of elite failure, culminating in Hillary Clinton’s disastrous presidential campaign. Trump may not be the “very stable genius,” he claims but he was smart enough to take advantage of the gigantic opportunity that Democrats like Clinton and her husband created by abandoning working-class voters. These voters now sense that economic justice is permanently out of reach. The class war is over and the rich won. Even worse, these working-class voters haven’t forgotten that the Democrats exported their jobs then turned around and labeled them “deplorable”.

And that is indeed why the Democrats saw no need to mention it at their own four-day convention despite dominating news cycles with it for years. Russia-gate was never the “scandal” that the Democrats and the corporate media made it out to be. It wasn’t even actually about getting rid of Trump. Russia-gate was extremely useful in accelerating a new Cold War with Russia, something that the deep state with it’s military/industrial/complex, intelligence and Wall Street actors desperately wanted. Russia-gate was sustained by a deep-state establishment of think-tank planners, the military-industrial complex, security-intelligence careerists, lobbyists and the corporate nexus of Wall Street and big business.

I also know that the original Russia-gate narrative was completely dismantled from the very beginning by journalists like the late Robert Parry. In 2017 Parry documented how the original assessment that Russia meddled in the US election in the first place was put forward without proof by just a couple dozen officers from three intelligence agencies hand-picked by the notoriously Russo-phobic then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Parry also noted how if there had been any solid evidence to find that the Kremlin was blackmailing Trump, or that his campaign had conspired with the Russian government to steal the 2016 election, the US intelligence community would have found some of it and leaked it to The Washington Post long before Trump took office. At this point a new Cold War was already ramping up under the Obama Administration and with Hillary Clinton assumed to be the heir apparent it was assumed to be a foregone conclusion.

Then what happened?

Somehow a novice politician/real estate developer who’d been talking about making nice with Russia got in instead. Trump campaigned promising to reduce the military’s presence abroad, end our wars of adventure, withdraw from NATO, and negotiate with Russia to ameliorate the unnecessary hostilities Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, his Secretary of State, left behind. These positions won him votes perhaps the election.

Can’t have that now can we?

Since then the Empire has struck back, in fact I think the main reason the Democrats didn’t feel the need to mention Russia-gate is that it’s been wildly successful in stymieing any change to US foreign policy, uniting Democrats with neoconservative Republicans in an iron-clad Beltway consensus for continued American primacy and Cold War with Russia and China. It’s the same thing with the war on populism now that the Democrats have beaten back the Sanders insurgency with the nomination of Joe Biden, who gave the game away when he assured his donors that “nothing will change”.

We’ll see.

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Year of the Comet

2020 has been a real bitch, and we still have an election that promises to be the most divisive in history to look forward to.

Speaking of which, in my travels I saw exactly one Biden sign but hundreds of Trump flags and hand scrawled signs of support.

Most of my liberal friends remain baffled by this phenomenon but I have been giving it a lot of thought since Trump’s surprise victory in 2016.

I’ve come to believe that the reason for Trump’s support out in “flyover country” is that these are the citizens who have felt the brunt of our 40 year abandonment of any shared commitment in America. These Trump supporters think they are getting screwed-over by an unfair system. They think “free trade” only benefits the rich, they think the government is unresponsive to their needs, they think the system is rigged, and they’re really, really mad. Trump won due to Clinton’s support for free trade and immigration policies that cost jobs and imposed unwelcome demographic changes on the working people of these places. Critical battleground states tilted in Trump’s favor because Democratic policies had decimated their communities and eviscerated their standard of living.

Going further, I believe that the grievances expressed by these “flyover” Americans are the same ones discussed in Thomas Frank’s new book–The People, No. Frank traces the history of mass democratic movements through the social upheaval of the last century, revealing a force for enlightenment and liberation–the essence of democracy itself. More importantly, Frank details the elite groups–today’s Professional Managerial Class (PMC’s)–that have and still oppose populism and denounce it. He also shows how this anti-populism has morphed from being a policy of wealthy conservatives in the 1890’s to the faith of liberal elite PMC’s today.

Of course liberals don’t want to hear this analysis. It’s far easier for them to imagine all Trump supporters as “white nationalists” and “racists”. That these liberals have largely been on the winning side of the great free-trade transformation of this country is conveniently ignored. I’ve got mine, jack. Learn how to code.

There’s a history to our populist moment. Going back to Reagan, wealthy and middle-class Americans were happy to trade tax cuts for a good and decent country. This abandonment provided the justification for eliminating well-paying jobs that didn’t require a college degree and shipping them to China to profit from much lower labor costs, and the refusal to invest in infrastructure while privatizing essential services. Even worse has been the callous disregard shown by wealthy liberal elites to the opioid epidemic and deaths of despair that are destroying families and communities all across the country.

There are numerous explanations but I think it’s largely that we don’t do socialism in America–full stop. Americans are trained from birth to “look out for yourself” and not expect help from others. But the fact is that nobody can actually look out for themselves. Interdependence is simply a fact of life in any complex economy. We all depend on state-created laws, regulations, subsides, and policies. Average Americans used to understand these things as part of their political education, but no longer. One hundred years of increasingly sophisticated propaganda will do that. The media’s success in bringing about subservience to their propaganda, public relations and advertising represents a huge incentive for more of the same to come.

Our two party system of governance also abets our disregard for fellow Americans, specifically where one political party moves dramatically to the right while the other follows along while pretending to provide an alternative. In reality both parties use their supporters as props. White nationalists and Black Lives Matter to the extent global capital deems absolutely necessary. Moreover, it’s apparent that both parties need each other. The increasing lunacy of the GOP that keeps frightened liberal voters satisfied with the meager crumbs of progress promised and unevenly delivered by the Democrats. The Democratic Party’s abandonment of the New Deal and embrace of shallow corporate liberalism keeps white working-class voters flocking to a GOP that only uses and abuses them.

The challenge for us with a deadly virus that’s shut down much of our country, destructive fires smoking out the west and hurricanes punishing the Gulf is that we are going to need to rediscover how to work together as Americans.

Unfortunately, as we head into fall, mass despair and this division into two opposing camps is just waiting for a spark to blow into a conflagration of rage. The result could easily spin out of anyone’s control.

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Time to hit the road. Be back soon.

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So much winning

I must confess to getting a key point completely wrong.

Last week I claimed that we’ve had an unbroken string of elite failure, but that’s not correct.

Their failure only effects us. For them, it’s so much winning.

Allow me to explain.

The crucial thing to understand is that our elites are predators. They are taught that they have no obligation to other people. Their operating principles are the same basic neoliberal ones that Maggie Thatcher articulated: There is no such thing as society. Greed is good. There is no alternative (TINA). This is the most important thing you can understand about our country today. You can’t count on US elites to care about you at all. If it is in their best financial interest to impoverish you, or make you homeless, or even kill you, they will do so.

This is where neoliberalism leads, It’s what its internal logic demands.

Meanwhile, because our society has become bifurcated between the feral elite and everyone else, there are two outcomes. They win, we lose. Indeed, the salient question is why shouldn’t our country just get worse and worse, if making it worse will only cause the people who worsen it to grow wealthier and wealthier?

The vaunted US military is a great example of how it works. Since 9/11 we’ve been at war continuously but have a series of failed or at best inconclusive military campaigns to show for it. Meanwhile we been told repeatedly that we’ve got the best military in the history of the world, certainly the most expensive, and yet we can see with our own eyes that it’s not actually doing a lot of winning. Except, even while the US military has lost our elite, who own the defense corporations that construct the high-tech weapons systems that a modern military depends on, have been reaping a fortune.

So much winning.

You can see something similar by looking at the actions of our elite during the pandemic. For instance, billionaires have seen their collective wealth increase by nearly $700 billion while ordinary Americans face increasing economic insecurity amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The impending evictions may soon kick 28 million people/families out of their homes. At the end of this, US elites will control a larger percentage of the US economy than before. They will be wealthier and more powerful. And if that means tens of millions of Americans are homeless and hungry, then that is a price US elites are willing for you to pay.

They are just not that into you.

And it’s not just the Trump administration though they deserve plenty of blame. Without a huge supporting cast, including Congress, Trump could not have done what he did (and didn’t). If his incompetence had been affecting elites negatively and not making them richer, you can be damn sure the pandemic would have been dealt with forthrightly. It wasn’t because it was making them richer and furthering their plans.

Despite everything else the real outrage should be over the fact that our political and business elite have massively prospered even as they’ve presided over a stunning level of national decline, degradation and loss. An elite that grows richer and more powerful by the day while our government declines to the status of a banana republic amid the gradual collapse of public infrastructure.

This should be the headline news every-single-fucking-day.

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Year Zero

One of the strangest things about Trump’s election victory is that 2016 became Year Zero. Everything bad with America began at that point and no history is allowed before.

This willful blindness has the considerable advantage to our feral elite, absolving them of all of the horrible policies that made the election of Trump possible. Once that reset is finalized, everything that happened before Year Zero will effectively be off-limits. Everything that happened after that is a damn shame. And no one but Donald Trump are to blame for any of the havoc and tragedy you see all around you. Indeed, political operatives in both parties are busy erasing evidence of their culpability in the crisis that’s overtaken our country.

Nothing to see here.

I’m sure that Trump’s election wasn’t caused by the Bush administration’s lawless invasion of Iraq, and aggressive neoconservative foreign policies of murder, torture and endless war. Or the imposition of a corporate healthcare monstrosity like Obamacare, that was modeled on a right-wing Heritage Foundation plan.

No sir.

Trump’s election certainly wasn’t caused by greedy US corporate executives outsourcing American manufacturing jobs to China. Or the de-industrialization of America, which saw the systematic shutdown of auto, steel and other factories across our country, devastating working-class cities such as Detroit, Milwaukee, and Youngstown, Ohio. All of these places that voted for Trump.

I wonder why?

The bi-partisan deregulation of finance, followed by the largest banking crash since the Great Depression, leading to skyrocketing inequality, had nothing whatsoever to do with Trump’s surprise victory.

No way.

The GOP never utilized a Southern Strategy, and Trump is definitely the first racist president.

It’s true.

The crazy idea that there’s some kind of an American empire is Russian disinformation. Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, was the epitome of peace. His administration didn’t overthrow the Libyan government, or overthrow the Ukrainian government, or attempt to overthrow the Syrian government using Al Qaeda terrorists.

We’d never.

Identity politics at the expense of class based politics by our so-called opposition party certainly had nothing whatsoever to do with Trump’s election.

It’s impossible.

The idea of a competent national governance that cares for all Americans has never been questioned. We never had a cadre of neoliberal ideologues claiming that government should be “drowned in a bathtub”. We’ve also never privatized basic services such as education and health, or allowed public facilities and infrastructure to fall into disrepair.

Never would do it.

And, finally, we never had an unbroken record of elite failure after elite failure, after elite failure.

They couldn’t.

Yet suddenly and without warning the Orange-Man-Bad showed up and body snatched the entire virtuous, enlightened and competent American government while we weren’t looking.

The whole shuck and jive is darkly humorous, as well as extremely enlightening about the corporate media’s propaganda role.

What’s not funny is that the election of 2020 is an election of zero’s. A choice between Donald “grab them by the pussy” Trump and Joe “creepy uncle” Biden.

Some fucking choice.

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It’s the empire, stupid!

9/11 and the “War on Terror” radically transformed America. Since the end of WWII the US has been the dominant world power but after the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon the “gloves came off”. The neocons had been plotting this transformation since the fall of the Soviet Union but liberal intellectuals and the liberal corporate media were maybe worse in their embrace of a lawless and heavily militarized empire. I remember being shocked listening to a liberal academic on NPR calmly speculating that, just hypothetically, at some point in the not-too-distant future, we might need to sacrifice our principles a bit, and torture some people, to “keep America safe.”

It didn’t end with the Bush Administration. For all the campaign blather about Hope and Change, Obama maintained the neocons foreign policy of murder, torture and endless war, while adding indefinite detention. The WikiLeaks Collateral Murder video offers a chilling glimpse into the actions of our lawless empire, where US helicopter pilots casually gun-down civilians, like it was just another day at the office. This revelation of the dark underside of empire is, by the way, the source of liberal anger against Julian Assange, who is smeared as an agent of Russia.

As you may have heard, masked men without badges are jumping out of unmarked vans and grabbing people in Portland. This is what empire brings. It is what Americans have inflicted on others, and it is coming home. As I’ve stated here before: what happens on the periphery of empire always come home. It’s essentially a lesser version of what America taught Latin American nations to do at the School of the Americas. Americans have also spent a lot of time teaching other people how to do this, and in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere where they were “advisors” have engaged in such behavior themselves. When American citizens started to question our system of inequality, it was inevitable that such tactics would be used against them also.

Going further, I’ve come to believe that empire is the real cause of liberal angst in the age of Trump. After all, it’s liberals who’ve been behind all the deep state machinations because they find Trump wholly undependable as manager of U.S. empire. If you will recall from the way-back machine, Trump ran against our worldwide empire and in the Republican debates criticized the invasion of Iraq as a huge mistake while linking this criticism to Obama’s regime-change policies. All of the attacks on Trump have come from this bi-partisan defense of empire, from Russia-gate to Ukraine-gate to the criticism of Trump failing to establish a no-fly zone in Syria, etc. With this perspective, is it any surprise that liberals joined the intelligence agencies to spy on members of the Trump campaign?

Indeed, the most amazing thing about the Trump presidency has been the response by liberals, where they’ve continuously attacked him from the right.

Of course, this behavior has consequences.

Right now our bi-partisan deep state insists that we initiate a new Cold War with both Russia and China. All of this in the teeth of a terrifying pandemic that our vaunted National Security State seems powerless to do much about.

A new Cold War does have the great advantage of diverting attention from our government’s incompetence in coping with the pandemic. It is just possible to get distracted amid the threat of a new Cold War, and their intention is certainly that we forget and don’t blame them for fucking-up the response to a pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans.

Unfortunately, this is the behavior of an empire in its twilight, where it thrashes around, desperately engaging in more and more of the destructive actions that led to its decline.

Hold on tight.

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Opaque

I’m re-reading Matt Taibbi’s, Hate Inc., and enjoying it even more than the first time. Written as an update to the classic–Manufacturing Consent–it’s a great primer on media malfeasance and how we came to have a con-man as our president. The chapter where he deconstructs Trump’s campaign through the lens of pro-wrestling is priceless.

I do have one minor quibble.

Taibbi is basically writing a mea culpa for his part in feeding the corporate media beast raw meat and he makes plenty of great points about how the news is simply another product they sell us. And he has some great advice about not getting to caught up in the voluminous product in that we can’t do anything about it. But the part about financial products caught my eye. He says we can’t hope to understand any of these financial products like credit default swaps or derivatives because they are too opaque.

My quibble is that Taibbi is relegating this opacity to economics. Instead, it’s clear that the reason these financial products are opaque is political. It’s predicated on the immense power of the financial and banking industry with their legions of lobbyists and riches of campaign donations.

As we’ve witnessed, over the last several decades Wall Street has carried out an epic crime spree due to opacity. As heterodox economist Michael Hudson, repeats endlessly–opacity is the necessary first step to looting.

This state of affairs hasn’t always been thus. From the banking reforms of the New Deal until a bi-partisan push to deregulate finance in the 1990’s, banking was highly regulated and as a result was staid, boring and modestly profitable, while the productive economy boomed.

Now the fiendishly complex field of finance has become a lot more exciting, and immensely more lucrative for Wall Street, while the productive economy has stagnated.

This state of affairs is the ultimate political question– how do we maintain a productive economy rather than an extractive one?

Right now it’s not looking good for the home team. In the face of a new a terrifying pandemic our corporate governance responded with the largest upward transfer of wealth in history, leaving banks and corporations with record-high stocks while killing small businesses and abandoning the public after handing some of them a paltry $1200, all while failing spectacularly to address the threat of the virus itself.

This financial abuse is happening right out in the open, right in front of everyone.

I don’t profess to understand credit default currency swaps anymore than Taibbi but I do know the consequences of an opaque financial system.

Bad-shit happens.

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Cultural Revolution

It appears that the Chinese have exported their Cultural Revolution to the US in return for US corporations exporting American manufacturing jobs to China. This Cultural Revolution has been enormously beneficial to our feral elite in dividing and ruling, by using group antagonism to distract from the problems created by globalized markets while blaming individuals for social problems to prevent those problems from becoming political questions. This means that the conversation is always focused on race, gender, sexuality, religion, and other cultural touchstones. These “identity politics” have produced the cancel culture in which individuals face social and political sanction if they refuse to fight the Cultural Revolution, fight for the wrong side, or fight with insufficient fervor.

Mao would be so proud.

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