The political/economy of evil

I have stated it before and will go on saying it–evil is easy, while good is incredibly difficult.

Nowhere are these truths more obvious than in the way in which neoliberalism has hollowed out our republican method of governance.

Just as an example, the rich, through the use of think-tanks in order to intellectually propagandize have sold the public a bill of goods on how taxation is theft, reducing their taxes dramatically in the process. However, there is a vital reason to tax the rich besides funding government services. The idea behind civic republicanism, which has been deliberately obfuscated, is that taxation is a means to prevent the rise of oligarchs. In a republic, citizens can be rich. But being ungovernably rich is a dire threat to the republic, as we can observe in our own milieu.

Then there’s the parallel tactic–the way in which neoliberal ideologues have defunded government over the last half century then turned around and ran against government dysfunction. It’s worked like a charm. Government has been degraded at every level while services have been privatized. In the process, our civic culture has coarsened while everything has gotten way more expensive.

Like I said–evil is dead easy.

Probably the main way in which this happened historically was when movement conservatives, like Murray Rothbard, deployed race as a cultural wedge issue in order to fracture the New Deal consensus. The Civil Right Act, the Federal attempt to integrate housing and busing, as a way to ameliorate segregated schools, were all attacked by white racism and supremacy as a means to animate their monopoly-tolerant, union-busting economic policy agenda.

Professor emeritus of political science at the University of Pennsylvania, Adolf Reed Jr. makes some excellent points about how this process has unfolded.

“The cycle of strategic pillaging of public goods that produced the Katrina disaster is by now well documented: Free-market ideologues neglect the public welfare for decades; they then privatize and starve out funding for public goods and services; and finally point to the resulting shortfalls in public-sector performance created by their handiwork as a rationale for cutting funding and neglecting these critical services and infrastructures even more…. The yearlong-and-counting Covid catastrophe bears similarly painful witness to the entirely predictable results of four decades’ worth of leaders blatantly and cynically discrediting government while also hollowing out the country’s social and physical infrastructure—very much including the anemic public health systems that prolonged and worsened the pandemic’s course…. The orchestrated mass forgetting of the idea of the public good reinforces the broader suspicion of government as a knee-jerk principle. And this distrust in turn ratchets up rampant vulnerability to the frighteningly solipsistic—if not nihilistic—notion of “rights” as unqualified individual entitlement expressed in anti-masking propaganda and gun rights absolutism. The long-running atrophy of the public good as a framework for governance also creates an enormous opening for malevolent conspiracy theories that at least offer internally consistent accounts of the sources of people’s anxieties and concerns and promise to resolve them—even if through a mass purge of the political opposition or an apocalyptic reckoning. That, indeed, is the big punch line here. The neoliberal regime of intensifying economic inequality may be exhausting its capacities—in this country and elsewhere—for delivering sufficient benefits to enough of the population to sustain a nominally democratic order.”

I saw a billboard the other day that got me thinking about how there’s even a political/economy of evil. It depicted a young African-American girl and extorted the value of Head Start as a way in which to make our society better. A noble sentiment but good rather than evil. However, the reality far too often is that instead of early education the young girl is shunted onto the prison pipeline. Now she becomes fodder for the prison/industrial/complex where working-class white men have job opportunities after their former manufacturing ones were off-shored to China. For the evil architects it’s win-win. Give these former factory workers employment while pitting blacks against whites like crabs in a bucket to preclude any sort of bi-racial class struggle.

Of course if we had a political party that actually believed in republican governance instead of one that played one on TV the present moment would be a marvelous opportunity to show that government can and should work for the American people. For the Democrats, stimulating the economy to create jobs building stuff would mean a better political environment in the 2022 and 2024 elections, while raising taxes on the rich and corporations that offshore jobs and profits would make it way more popular.

Just saying.

If we want a better world we need a way in which good can be a force-multiplier rather than evil. A good start would be to reimagine our early republican form of government. One of the great tragedies of American history is that we have allowed liberal capitalism to supplant civic republicanism as the primary driver of governance. 

It is not until people are reintegrated into the society, not until corporate and oligarchic control over our educational, political and media systems are removed, not until we recover the ethic of the common good, that we have any hope of rebuilding the positive social bonds that foster a healthy society. 

I have seen what can be done. My neighbor was elected to the school board where he’s become an advocate for poor and marginalized students and teachers. My other friend helps deliver food while his wife organizes to keep elderly pensioners in their homes.

It will not be easy. The most necessary organizing is difficult, unpaid, and largely unheralded. Working people are busy and tired and stressed out; why should they spend their free time doing something that will leave them even more drained as often as it energizes and restores them?

Unfortunately, we have no choice.

Update: That didn’t take long to find an example of my theory. It’s even more evil than I imagined.

“For example: “60% of Illinois’ prisoners are from Cook County (Chicago), yet 99% of them are counted outside the county.”

Pretty slick shit right? First you arrest predominantly Black people from large population centers that tend to vote Democrat. Next you cage them in more rural places where the prisons are thereby inflating that district’s raw representational power. Now areas who rely on prisons for jobs and power and wealth can have a leg up on passing legislation that will send more Black people into those same prisons in a massive feedback loop of disenfranchisement.”

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Conscience

Why is it that we are led by sociopaths?

If we’re honest about our milieu it’s apparent that the commanding heights of business, politics and media are filled with sociopaths. It’s really not that hard to see and understand; there’s more than enough evidence to make it abundantly clear to anyone with the time and willingness to look. Especially after the sordidness of the Epstein saga where we learned that powerful intelligence agencies have been using child sex slaves to manipulate our society via blackmail.

I’ve been exploring this phenomenon with my focus on our feral elite and was hoping for improvement after the disaster of the Trump years. But watching the Biden crew lurch towards nuclear war with Russia and, or China it’s clear that this remains a major, if largely undiscussed, problem.

The corollary is why are there so few in power with a conscience?

Maybe it’s the way in which we organize our economy via neoliberal capitalism and the way in which we reward leaders of the dominant corporate actors? Though it’s more than just perverse incentives.

For example, it’s illegal for corporate executives to do the right thing, even if they wanted to: “The law forbids any motivation for their actions, whether to assist workers, improve the environment, or help consumers save money. They can do these things with their own money, as private citizens. As corporate officials, however, stewards of other people’s money, they have no legal authority to pursue such goals as ends in themselves – only as means to serve the corporations own interests, which generally means to maximise the wealth of its shareholders. Corporate social responsibility is thus illegal – at least when it’s genuine.”

Or, maybe it’s that instead of a peace-loving democracy the US is a violent world-wide empire who requires sociopaths to manage its affairs the same way in which McDonalds requires fry cooks?

Let’s look at one of the most egregious examples. Former National Security Advisor and literal psychopath John Bolton has a new opinion piece out in Foreign Policy titled “‘Bring the Troops Home’ Is a Dream, Not a Strategy“.

The fact that after all of the disastrously wrong policies he’s been responsible for Bolton still is afforded a platform to spew more of his foreign-policy “wisdom” says a lot about our true values. Rogue journalist, Caitlin Johnstone notes, “In an even remotely sane civilization, such a creature would be driven from every town he entered until he is forced to crawl into a cave for the rest of his miserable life eating bats alone in the darkness.” 

Unfortunately, Bolton is hardly an exception. Our country is led by a series of monsters. It’s not a bug but a feature. We are ruled by bad people. Simply replacing “bad people” with “good people” does not have a record of success, since the “good” quickly become “bad”.

If genuine social responsibility is illegal, it makes perfect sense that conscience is a threat to be stifled at every turn. In the 1930s, political analyst Rudolf Rocker wrote: ‘It is certainly dangerous for a state when its citizens have a conscience; what it needs is men without conscience… men in whom the feeling of personal responsibility has been replaced by the automatic impulse to act in the interests of the state.”

Rocker was writing about the Nazi’s, of course, but the same dynamic applies here.

Even those with a conscience have to continue to tolerate an increasingly dysfunctional, stagnant, yet predatory society. “Insecure people are much more willing to engage in desperate and crooked behavior than those who think they have less to lose. Increasingly, if you want to get and hang on to a middle class job, that job will involve dishonesty or exploitation of others in some way. It means tolerating or turning a blind eye to the deaths of despair of fellow Americans, even as they hustle desperately to try to ensure that they are not their deaths, or their children’s. Even for its current beneficiaries, the present system is a game of musical chairs. As time goes on, with each round, yet more chairs are yanked from the game.”

Meanwhile, because of the loss of unionized jobs, the real decline of wages, de-industrialization, chronic underemployment and unemployment, and punishing austerity programs, the country is plagued by a plethora of diseases of despair including opioid addictions, alcoholism, suicides, gambling, depression, morbid obesity and mass shootings.

For those of us who are increasingly appalled by the moral decay exhibited by some of our most powerful private sector operators which, naturally, lack any sort of democratic oversight, we quickly learn that attempting to effect change from within is usually a futile gesture.

It’s a sure bet that much of the mental illness in this country is borne by the the people who discovered, to their horror, that they work in the belly of the beast. I’ll bet there’s a lot of alcohol and substance abuse.

Anything to quiet or, better yet, disappear that pesky conscience.

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Tribal Narrative

I was joking about our putative leaders substituting PR for policy, but only slightly.

This is important because our whole worldview is constructed from narratives that we’ve decided are true.

The only problem for the powers that be is that after Trump the whole narrative thingy is wobbly. Americans have gotten to the point where their trust in the corporate media is at an all time low. The majority of people get that the news is at least somewhat bullshit; the problem is there’s no consensus on why. Is it incompetence? A liberal conspiracy? Or is it simply he plutocratic class, which owns the media, protecting its interests?

If you answered C give yourself a cookie.

As I’ve mentioned before my MO is to ignore the narrative and follow the money, weapons, resources and what our feral elite are really doing. Jeffrey Epstein, anyone?

However, I do seem to be an exception with most Americans lacking the time and diligence to make any sense of the world without their trusty tribal narratives to guide them. For instance, conservatives believe the narrative promulgated on FOX News, while liberals take their cues from CNN, MSNBC and the New York Times.

The Biden administration certainly appears to be following the tribal script, with the corporate media playing along.

Rouge journalist Matt Taibbi, has this to say about the efforts of the corporate media to massage the message. “With a partisan divide wedded to a hyper-concentrated landscape, commercial media companies can now sell almost any narrative they want. They can disappear the past with relative ease, and the present can be pushed whichever way a handful of key decision-makers thinks will sell best with audiences.”

The fact that the Biden administration is doing it rather than Trump seems to make all the difference in the world. This has so much been the story of Biden’s presidency, which is certainly less chaotic than Trump’s and does have some clearly different ambitions, but in many ways represents continuity with both his predecessor and his predecessor’s predecessor.

Unfortunately, we are entering an extremely dangerous period of world history, where the US, as the dominant world hegemon, is losing primacy and threatening war with Russia and China. In this super-charged atmosphere tribal narratives are extremely dangerous, emboldening the bi-partisan National Security State to play chicken with nuclear armed rivals, where any misunderstanding has the potential to end life on earth.

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The enemy within

I wonder why there’s an upsurge in anti-Asian bias, hatred and violence?

Maybe it has something to do with the demonization campaign against China that began in the Trump administration and carried into the Biden one?

I’m asking, because the corporate media won’t connect the dots, especially when they’ve been playing along.

Going further, this is another of those events that the elite political and media Poobah’s won’t discuss forthrightly because it casts them in a very unfavorable light.

The dirty little secret, which should be apparent to anyone with more of an attention span than a gnat, is that our corporate and political elite made a deal with the devil. They assured us that offshoring all of our manufacturing to China would be a win for everyone. It would lift millions of Chinese out of poverty, help democratize China’s autocratic government, and bring low, low prices to the American consumer. Besides, it was the inevitable fruits of “globalization”, so get over it hippy.

President Bill Clinton well described the elite view of the policy. “If the Senate votes as the House has just done, to extend permanent normal trade relations with China, it will open new doors of trade for America and new hope for change in China. Seven years ago, when I became president, I charted a new course for a new economy—a course of fiscal discipline, investment in our people and open trade. I have always believed that by opening markets abroad we open opportunities at home.”

To say “blowback” would seriously understate the affects of this Faustian bargain.

This “free trade” policy decimated America manufacturing in all kinds of critical areas, but, strangely enough, not banking or financial consulting. The geniuses that make policy gave away the key component of economic prosperity—manufacturing capacity. This “offshoring” of US manufacturing turned former prosperous areas into desolate “Rust Belts” and plunged the residents into a crisis of opioid addiction, spousal abuse, crime, and “deaths of despair”. It’s not too much to say that these policies helped bring about the election of Donald Trump, who campaigned against these ruinous “free trade” policies on his way to the White House.

But it did make Wall Street and corporate America fabulously wealthy by drastically reducing wages, so there’s that. In fact, the cynical part of me has come to believe that this wage arbitrage was the true reason for offshoring.

Only now, this short term, get rich scheme is really starting to bite. In all kinds of ways, but crucially in that whole empire–force projection ability. The US has seen its capacity to manufacture advanced weapon systems take a nose dive, as the performance of the vaunted F-35 fighter suggest. While still being able to produce some state-of-the-art platforms and enablers, such as signal processing, combat computer and communications networks, recon assets, in terms of actual weapons the United States has begun to lag behind Russia and China not just in years but in generations. As recent, February 2021, Congressional Budget Office report on missile defense admitted, the United States is defenseless against salvo of combination of new Russia’s cruise missiles and that there is nothing to stop them. 

Meanwhile, it has suddenly dawned on the leading lights of our defense and foreign policy “thinkers” that China is our number one peer competitor. Even worse, due to more of that all-America foreign policy acumen, the US has managed to unite the former enemies, with China’s immense manufacturing capacity and Russia’s advanced military might.

Great job, one and all.

We are endlessly exhorted to hate the Russians or the Chinese or the Iranians but the real enemy, when we stop and look past the propaganda, is our very own feral elite. These rapacious oligarchs are imposing more and more severe domestic austerity measures and relying on a racist, violent and increasingly militarized police force to bash its most impoverished populations into line rather than simply helping them. Instead of healthcare and spending on infrastructure to help our nation prosper they fund a nonstop propaganda campaign against evil foreigners so that they can wage endless wars for empire.

It’s not like this is a new concept. George Orwell wrote in 1984 that war’s purpose is to perpetuate hysteria, ignite anger and hatred, and control the population. Fear of a foreign enemy keeps the masses in control. By whipping up the hatred, the government keeps people’s focus outward.

It’s so much better for them that the American people focus on a foreign enemy rather than the enemy within.

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Build Back Better

We’ve been instructed for 40 odd years that there’s no alternative to neoliberalism when it comes to how we organize our economy, but the attempt by the Biden administration to enact an infrastructure spending program looks to challenge this sentiment.

It’s not like an infrastructure spending program isn’t desperately needed after decades of neglect, it’s just that we’ve advanced the neoliberal project of hollowing out government to such a degree that it will be interesting to see how it all plays out.

For instance, how will the policy makers describe–intellectually–what they are trying to do?

It will be tempting to turn to US history with the New Deal and Great Society programs as a template. But any such gaze backwards will need to be tempered with a clear-eyed assessment of the shortcomings and historical anomalies of such programs. In other words, it’s not the 1930’s or even the 1960’s when the US was a much more rich, productive and blessed with an overabundance of natural resources.

We will also have to be cognizant of the actual political/economy of our present day country with its penchant for a permanent warfare state dominated by the military/industrial/complex and Wall Street. The notion that our government that’s waging nonstop disastrous wars and circling the planet with hundreds of military bases can spend money on “we the people” seems ludicrous.

We know, of course, where the Republicans stand on government after 40 odd years of describing it as the problem. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) told reporters that the $2.2 trillion plan that the White House unveiled Wednesday — which features major investments in infrastructure, climate measures and proposals to tackle inequality — “is not going to get support from our side.” He also reiterated his intention to oppose the broader Democratic agenda under Biden. “I’m going to fight them every step of the way because I think this is the wrong prescription for America.”

Republicans are also predictably opposed to the tax hikes on corporations and the wealthy that are included to pay for the plan. But, without the tax hikes to pay for the plan, the plan would likely be paid for by adding to the federal deficit, which Republicans have renewed their concerns about with Democrats in charge.

At this point it’s obvious that Republicans aren’t opposed to socialism per se but only socialism that benefits poor people and minoritiesSocialism for farmers and industrialists is just fine as far as they are concerned.

Sadly to say the Republican view has become the norm. Like I stated at the the beginning, we’ve been so far down the road of neoliberalism, with it’s penchant for privatization and financialization of infrastructure to even envision an alternative. Which sucks because the way in which government funded infrastructure before is what made America the envy of the world. It was a mode of economic development that represented the notion that any rent-yielding resource – banking, land, natural resources and natural infrastructure monopolies – should be in the public domain to provide basic needs to everybody – freely.

The impulse goes back to economists like Simon Patten who believe that to have a true free market the state needs to subsidize infrastructure to keep costs down, rather than having powerful monopolies enacting tollbooths at critical chokepoints. Patten said that public infrastructure is a fourth factor of production. But its role isn’t to make a profit. It’s to lower the cost of public services and basic inputs to lower the cost of living and lower the cost of doing business to make the economy more competitive.

The alternative way simply is to privatise these ‘public goods’ (as in the US), where they are provided at a financialized maximum cost – including interest rates, dividends, management fees, and corporate manipulations for financial gain. Presently our economy has become debt-driven, hyper-financialised, yet stagnant, making it hard to create a new business or spend money into the economy.

Debt eats us alive. Think about it: the biggest element in anyone’s budget today is housing at 40%, which simply reflects high house prices, based on a debt-fuelled market. Suppose too, you have low-cost public education. Well then, you are rid of education-led debt, and its interest cost. Suppose you have public healthcare, and low priced transport infrastructure. Then you would have the capacity to spend – It becomes a low-cost economy, and consequently it would grow.

Crazy talk, I know.

Going further, it’s been a long time since the U.S. was even a capitalist economy; it’s hardly even a market economy today. It has become, more and more, a rentier economy, dominated by financial interests controlled by the 1%.

Which brings us to the crux of the issue with the infrastructure proposal. Any such plan must be coordinated within an industrial policy that all advanced economies operate by. Critics of US economic policies lament that the country doesn’t have an industrial policy but they are missing the obvious. Every economy is planned it’s just that ours is planned by Wall Street, with its short term focus on next quarter’s bonuses.

Even if it was only up to the Democrat’s it appears that we are fucked. Because they’ve transitioned from a party that represented and wide panoply of American workers to one that represents the professional/managerial/class, there are serious problems with Biden’s infrastructure program, which ultimately doesn’t offer a realistic framework to upgrade America’s decaying infrastructure, revitalize U.S. manufacturing, and create the kinds of high-quality jobs that Biden promised to provide during his campaign. 

Instead, economist Marshall Aurerback, says that the new plan is a dog’s breakfast of neoliberalism and “woke” placebo reforms that avoid a lot of hard choices that might offend the party’s main constituencies. The historic, broadly based New Deal majoritarian coalition is no more. Today the Democratic Party exists to expand employment opportunities for college-educated, socially “woke” professionals, while adding new goodies for the personal needs of the professional managerial class. 

From the slogan that they have chosen it seems that Biden and the members of his team learned a valuable lesson from their time in the Obama administration. Don’t do better policy when you can do better PR.

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Oh, So Super

Have you wondered why US foreign policy never seems to change irrespective of which candidate or party resides in the White House? Or why it seems that the route to riches in America is through looting? Or why it seems that we’ve entered a new Gilded Age, with vast inequality, enormous monopolies, and our so-called public servants captured by the rich?

You’re in luck for in this weeks episode I’m going to connect these seemingly unrelated topics and see if we can’t make some sense of this crazy old world.

So much of our society is constructed from narratives. Freedom, democracy, ideology, religion, law, politics, government, language, money and economics. These are all made up conceptual constructs from the narratives we’ve decided are true and real.

Making sense of these narratives is crucial in regard to our economy, and especially to the creation of money. For example, we’ve become so disconnected from money and credit that we allow Wall Street to create it for us at an enormous cost.

To embark on a counter economic narrative it’s imperative to have a trusted guide. As far as heterodox economist’s go there’s no one better than Michael Hudson.

Michael Hudson is an American economist and professor of economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City and a researcher at the Levi Economics Institute at Bard college. He’s a former Wall Street analyst, political consultant, commentator, and journalist.

Hudson is the author of J is for Junk EconomicsKilling the HostThe Bubble and Beyond, and Super Imperialism: the Economic Strategy of American Empire (He released an updated version in 2003).

Hudson first wrote Super Imperialism, about how America dominates the world financially, and gets a free ride, back in 1971. It was a small printing without a lot of buzz. The largest customers were the CIA and the Pentagon who viewed it as a sort of how-to manual.

At the time the US was trying to wind down the Vietnam war – which was responsible for the entire balance-of-payments deficit, and which forced the country to go off gold. And everybody at that time worried the dollar was going to go down. There’d be hyperinflation. But what happened was something entirely different.

Once there was no gold to settle U.S. balance-of-payments deficits, America’s strong armed its allies to invest in US Treasury bonds, because central banks don’t buy companies. They don’t buy raw materials. All they could buy is other government bonds. So, all of a sudden, the only thing that other countries could buy with all the dollars coming in were US Treasury securities. The securities they bought essentially were to finance yet more war making and the balance-of-payments deficit from war and the 800 military bases America has around the world.

The Super Imperialism Hudson describes is the basis of the US empire, one that we seized from Great Britain at the close of WWII. Reading it today clarifies why the Biden administration has continued to maintain cordial relation with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) despite their penchant for dismembering critics. It also explains why the US is bound and determined to accelerate a new Cold War with Russia and China.

Maintaining the dollar as the worlds reserve currency and preserving the US’s financial hegemony is paramount. US foreign policy flows from this crucial dynamic. The KSA, as the worlds largest producer of oil, is required to price its oil in dollars. Russia and China were supposed to follow the Washington Consensus, and allow crooked comprador’s, backed by US financial interests, to seize control of the commanding heights of their respective economies, rather than forge their own economic path. Especially galling to US planners is the attempt by both countries to create a alternative economic arrangement that eschews dollars.

Hudson also describes how Super Imperialism has wrecked havoc here at home. This is where Hudson is so invaluable in cutting through the deeply misleading and harmful narratives about money, credit and the economy. Hudson’s key insight is that our economy has devolved from a productive one to an extractive one. He reminds us that all economies are planned, but the US economy is planned by Wall Street, who is focused on looting our once productive economy and putting American citizens into debt.

For instance, the banks and hedge funds who created the 2008 Wall Street Crash continue to be the big winners, thanks to the Federal Reserve policy of Quantitative Easing. The losers are the working-class Americans who were encouraged to borrow recklessly, while being blamed for the crisis.

The problem is that our society, with its focus on hyper individualistic striving, creates and rewards manipulative sociopaths and psychopaths and promotes a system which rewards a lack of empathy. This focus, to no ones surprise, has produced an extractive economy with gross inequality and a political system captured by an unaccountable oligarchy of greedy sociopaths.

Thus we get a domestic economy dominated by finance, focused on extraction rather than production. It’s systemic, where the rewards are tilted with the looters lionized as “masters of the universe”. My own senator is emblematic of this dynamic. Even as he “earned” his fortune by buying companies, firing the workers and loading them up with debt, so that he and his partners could walk away with millions, he’s celebrated as a savvy businessman and statesman of integrity. Of course it didn’t hurt that he was a critic of Trump, but that’s another story.

By allowing finance to come to dominate our economy we get a situation that Hudson describes as neofeudalism. “What you’re having today is an attempt by the financial sector to take on the role that the landlord class had in Europe, from feudal times through the 19th century. It’s a kind of resurgence of feudalism.”

We also get an extremely dangerous foreign policy with its desperate attempt to maintain financial dominance even at the risk of world war.

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Do Good

The signs are everywhere. On cars, hats, even face masks, but what does this ubiquitous saying–“Do Good”–really tell us about our milieu?

I’m pretty sure that this saying, like pretty much everything else in our world, is public relations (PR)–bullshit.

Going further, I believe that the “Do Good” saying relates to the American empire, where our feral elite are desperately trying to recast the project with a liberal patina. This is the ultimate reason for the policing of language, cancel culture, and woke, even the faux environmentalism that liberal’s profess.

The reek of colonialism is being exorcised from the imperial project through the launch of war on ‘white supremacy’ and on racial and social injustice. The “Washington Consensus” has been recast as ‘saving the planet’ from climate change; saving all humanity from the pandemic; and safeguarding us all from a coming global financial crisis.

It’s called the Great Reset.

The current Great Reset is a process of metamorphosis – a change in Western values, and paradigm. It is the passage to a new kind of liberalism, one that sweeps gender and identity into fluidity. This latter aspect is not some anomaly–it is ‘something’ essentially embedded within in the logic of liberalism.

Unfortunately, as Trump’s election, Brexit and a host of other populist challenges have demonstrated, once control over the justifying myth of the American “liberal order” was lost, the mask was off. This is the foreign policy challenge the Biden administration faces as they desperately attempt to reestablish American hegemony. So far, as the Alaskan Summit with China where the tone deaf Secretary of State Blinken insulted the Chinese, followed by the disastrous interview where Biden called Russian President Putin a “killer”, it’s not going well.

The essential problem for the US is that nothing has really changed. It’s been 18 years since the invasion of Iraq–a monstrous war crime–and the same political and media class who supported it are still in power. The same corrupt, depraved power establishment which facilitated the Iraq war are still our leaders! And these are the same people who going to be in charge going forward with their fucking Reset, or whatever fucking makeover they foist on us.

Thus we arrive at the new, kinder and gentler empire. One with a smiley face and the proper pronouns.

With a perfect slogan–Do Good.

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Who is it good for?

My liberal friends and family are exited about the Biden administration’s domestic policies: the $1400 checks; the assistance to children; potential infrastructure spending; and progressive cabinet picks. The liberal corporate media, exemplified by the New York Times, probably has something to do with it. For example, the ridiculous accolades about the Biden administration’s pathetic, paltry relief package demonstrates how the corporate media is in the bag for the new administration after their horror at Trump.

There is little mention, however, of Biden’s foreign policies.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration appears to be moving towards war in a number of areas. Not war, where the US commits troops–silly. Those days are over thanks to the ham-fisted efforts of the Bush neocons: the gang that couldn’t shoot straight. Now the US wages war via proxy with some special-forces training super-sauce, covert weapons provision and support.

I’ve discussed it before but my method to make sense of our world is to watch the movements of money, resources, weapons, and ignore all the corporate media narrative.

Following that logic, it sure looks like the US is determined to continue a Cold War with Russia.

They’re hardly being shy about it.

new report from the US National Intelligence Council assesses that Russia attempted to meddle, once again, in our sacred elections. “We assess that Russian President Putin authorized, and a range of Russian government organizations conducted, influence operations aimed at denigrating President Biden’s candidacy and the Democratic Party, supporting former President Trump, undermining public confidence in the electoral process, and exacerbating sociopolitical divisions in the US,” the report informs us. “The Biden admin is expected to announce sanctions related to election interference as soon as next week,” sources say.

To no ones surprise, this completely unevidenced narrative is being used to justify support for increased “defense” spending, and new Cold War escalations. Going further, I believe that this report is a continuation of Russia-gate despite the failure of the three-year Mueller investigation to find a scrap of evidence. Also, to no ones surprise, the corporate media all rushed to treat it as gospel: no questioning of it, no skepticism, no demands to see evidence for it, not even any acknowledgement that no evidence was provided. They just instantly enshrined claims from US intelligence agencies as Truth

One of the features of this new and improved Cold War is to provoke multiple crisises in the former Soviet republics. From the Balkans to Georgia to Armenia to Belarus, well, you get the picture.

Yet nowhere is the potential for violence greater than in the Ukraine. Several Russia watchers – Patrick ArmstrongAndrei Martyanov and Andrei Raevsky–are warning of a renewed attack by the government of Ukraine on its eastern Donbass region. The Donbass separated in 2014 after the U.S. driven coup in Kiev installed an anti-Russian government which then waged a war on its ethnic Russian east.

To make sense of this it’s crucial to remember that Washington’s role in the ouster of the former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who was democratically elected, caused Russia to annex Crimea, rather than the oft repeated canard about the Russians “invading”. The US fully supported the opposition in Ukraine during demonstrations in 2013 and 2014, an opposition that even had a neo-nazi element. They were hardly shy about it. A few weeks before Yanukovych was forced out, a recording of a phone call between then-US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt and Victoria Nuland, who was working in the State Department at the time, was leaked and released on YouTube.  In the now-infamous phone call, Nuland and Pyatt discussed who should replace the government of Yanukovych.

Like the ethnic Russians in Crimea, the ethnic Russians in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region vehemently rejected the post-coup government in Kyiv, sparking the war that has killed tens of thousands. The context of US involvement in the coup that sparked these events is crucial, especially when discussing US foreign policy in the years since the dissolution of the USSR with the maniacal focus on color revolutions and regime change. There’s an argument to be made that neither the annexation of Crimea nor the war in the Donbas would have happened the way it did if not for US intervention.

Since the coup, the Ukrainian military has received a great deal of assistance from the US, both in terms of equipment/money and in terms of training. And now, most ominously, there are clear signs that the Ukrainian military is moving heavy forces towards the line of contact in the Donbas.

What would happen if the Ukrainians restart the conflict and attack? I’ve come to believe that the real point of a Ukrainian attack on the Donbass would not be reconquer the region, but to force Russia to openly and, therefore, undeniably intervene. This is the Biden administration’s unspoken objective and has been a Neocon wet dream since 2014 and it is still their ultimate endgame. 

Thus nothing will happen on the frontline without the consent or even encouragement from Washington DC. The Biden administration is filled with the same delusional people who managed the 2014 coup in Kiev. They may believe that the NATO training the Ukrainian army received and the weapons the U.S. delivered are sufficient to defeat the separatist. But the state of the Ukrainian military is worse than one might think and the separatist will have Russia’s full backing. There is no question who would win in such a fight.

Perhaps updating Edwin Starr’s classic R&B hit to War (Who is it good for?) would help provide a clue as to why the US seems determined to accelerate a new Cold War that threatens to turn hot at any time. The Military/Industrial/Complex (MIC), with its interlocking nodes in every congressional district, spurred on by the financial aristocracy on Wall Street, is the ultimate beneficiary of any such conflict, with trillions of dollars at stake. While a continuation of the Cold War with Russia does nothing for the average American, for the MIC–war is good for them. Very good. As the saying goes–there’s gold-in-them-thar-hills.

The MIC depends on influential think-tanks for its ideological justification and legitimacy, and a great representation of the MIC’s ideology would be the Atlantic Council. The think tank receives contributions from the top US weapons makers, including Raytheon, General Atomics, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman. The Atlantic Council is also funded by NATO, an alliance that has an interest in keeping tensions high and presenting Russia’s annexation of Crimea as an unprovoked “invasion.”

Red and blue partisans are equally convinced that their team is on the side of the angels, while the other team is the devil incarnate. However, observing our bipartisan foreign policy suggests that the both have a passing familiarity with Satan.

How surprising.

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Invisible Government

Walter Lippmann, Edward Bernays and the other social scientists who made up the Creel Commission developed the techniques of advertising, public relations and propaganda. These men manipulated the American public into World War I at the behest of US and British bankers.

Wait. World War I wasn’t about freedom and democracy?

No.

US President Woodrow Wilson, who ran on a platform of neutrality, was desperate to fulfill his obligations to these bankers, who stood to lose everything if Germany should prevail, by putting the US into the war as they wished. But Wilson was having little success with public opinion at home as few Americans wanted to enter the European conflagration. In 1917 Wilson founded what was called The Committee on Public Information, or more commonly known as the Creel Commission after the name of the leader of the commission. They used every weapon available to spread their message to, as George Creel would later say, “turn the American people into one white-hot mass of hatred . . .”

It’s not too much to say that the Creel Commission shaped our modern world beyond our knowledge, creating a cluster of images and ideas so powerful that, in a sense, they colonized the American imagination. It is impossible to fundamentally grasp the social, political, economic and cultural developments of the past 100 years without some understanding of their legacy. Everything we have seen, read, or heard that demonized other nations, usually leading to military intervention or “color revolutions”, stems from their template.

The propaganda they developed drives the entirety of US foreign policy on the global stage today. No ordinary American benefits from the US having troops in Syria, sanctioning Venezuelans to death, supporting Saudi Arabia while it destroys Yemen, garrisoning the planet with military bases and working to subvert any nation which refuses to bow to its diktats.

The only way to get Americans to consent to any of these agendas is to propagandize them into doing so.

Until the First World War, these theories of creating an entirely false public opinion based on misinformation, then manipulating this for population control, were still only theories, but the astounding success of propaganda by Bernays and his group during the war laid bare the possibilities of perpetually controlling the public mind on all matters.

In his main work titled Propaganda, which he wrote in 1928, Bernays argued that the manipulation of public opinion was a necessary part of democracy in which individuals were inherently dangerous (to the elite control of America) but could be harnessed and channeled by these same elites for their economic benefit. “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.”

Bernays, who was Sigmund Freud’s nephew, was apparently stunned by the outstanding success of the Creel Commission in swaying public opinion in favor of war, and so immediately began to apply his model to peacetime enterprises. For example, he deployed the same techniques of manipulation to encourage cigarette smoking amongst woman, with his Torches of Freedom advertising campaign.

The propaganda developed by the Creel Commission is the single most overlooked and under-emphasized aspect of our society, bar none. It’s so pervasive that most of us don’t even notice it. It’s like that old joke about the two fish who are asked “How’s the water?” and then turn to each other and say “What’s water?”

Most American vehemently reject out of hand the notion that they are propagandized. They consider themselves “rugged individuals” who make up their own damn mind, without any pointy-headed, psychologists funny ideas, thank-you very much.

They would be wrong. Propaganda is as American as apple pie. This is what led CIA Director William Casey to state, “We’ll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false.” 

I’ve personally witnessed four propaganda campaigns designed to whip Americans into a war fever. The first Gulf War, where the conflict was sold to the American public by the Rendon Group. The invasion of Iraq, where the men who sold the war were so sure of the outcome that they could boast that “From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.” Russia-gate, which I’ve written about exhaustedly; and now the, ongoing effort to demonize China.

The latest polling data on American’s attitudes towards Russia and China demonstrates just how powerful our all-American propaganda system is.

US military force is never, ever conducted with the American people’s informed consent. Literally never. Consent is always manufactured for US wars by lies and mass media propaganda, one hundred percent of the time, without exception. The bigger the military operation, the more egregious the deceit used to manufacture consent for it. 

Americans are subject to a nonstop deluge of distorted and outright false narratives about their military and the nations it targets for destruction. Every aspect of the US-centralized power alliance is propped up by a relentless deluge of mass-scale propaganda that was scientifically refined by Bernays and Lippmann.

It’s getting worse.

The increasing censorship on the internet and control over information is but one manifestation of elite fear of popular rage and desperation. So, too, is the related attempt by the corporate media to regain their monopoly over news and discourse by discrediting anyone in opposition to them. It’s why Julian Assange rots in a British prison.

Indeed, the increasingly despised corporate elite will seek to weaken that which most threatens their interests and power: a discourse and a democracy that they can no longer manipulate and control. After all, if you let people think for themselves, you lose the ability to control everything.

All our major problems are caused by a lack of awareness and can be alleviated by exposing the “invisible government” that manipulates our country. This is why fighting propaganda, opposing censorship, protecting press freedoms and exposing the truth of what’s really going on in our world is so important.

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On a path towards radicalization

I’ve always been fascinated by understanding how our world really works. Not the bedtime stories told by our parents, teachers and corporate media talking-heads but the real events that shape our world. It’s why I try to read everything I can get my hands on from a disparate variety of sources.

These bedtime stories, better known as propaganda, buttress the official narrative promulgated by our corporate deep-state. Unfortunately, the political, economic and media elite have come to believe this propaganda after decades of marinating in it.

Thus, no viable ideas or solutions to the current unfolding economic, social and cultural catastrophe can originate within this elite, who see the world only through a New York Times or Washington Post lens. 

Instead the elite are solely focused on maintaining their wealth, power and status as America disintegrates. And why wouldn’t they? Generations of bi-partisan economic policies have left the 1% not only in possession of massively increased wealth, but also political power. 

Time magazine’s article on this dynamic is remarkably direct: The Top 1% of Americans Have Taken $50 Trillion From the Bottom 90% — And That’s Made the U.S. Less Secure.

“The $50 trillion transfer of wealth the RAND report documents has occurred entirely within the American economy, not between it and its trading partners. No, this upward redistribution of income, wealth, and power wasn’t inevitable; it was a choice–a direct result of the trickle-down policies we chose to implement since 1975.

We chose to cut taxes on billionaires and to deregulate the financial industry. We chose to allow CEOs to manipulate share prices through stock buybacks, and to lavishly reward themselves with the proceeds. We chose to permit giant corporations, through mergers and acquisitions, to accumulate the vast monopoly power necessary to dictate both prices charged and wages paid. We chose to erode the minimum wage and the overtime threshold and the bargaining power of labor. For four decades, we chose to elect political leaders who put the material interests of the rich and powerful above those of the American people.”

For our corporate media the focus is not on the way in which our country has been looted but on how they as the gatekeepers are being disrespected. Seriously. You can’t make this shit up.

I think it’s a little too late for that nonsense. Most Americans have lost faith in the feral elite and their institutions. Going further, they’ve come to understand that traditional news outlets like the Times and Post have become tools of the very corporate and political interests they’re supposed to be overseeing. Indeed, the corporate media has become increasingly, arrogantly dysfunctional as traditional competition in the form of local newspapers and urban alt-weeklies has died out.

Americans increasingly sense the vast betrayal. In the middle of a pandemic they feel vulnerable and afraid. More than that they feel an inchoate rage at being abandoned by their putative leaders. People give different reasons for that unhappiness but the broad mass of America is getting pretty ready to rip the place apart. This rage is often expressed as hatred of foreigners or those who are different or vengeance against scapegoats, religious and ethnic chauvinism and nihilistic violence. It drives the tribal hatred that powers both sides of the corporate media, who monetizes this hate to sell ads. It drives Americans into the arms of rancid and insincere populists like Donald Trump.

The Biden administration, in the thrall of neoliberal Austerians, has reduced the promised checks from $2000 to $1400 that will be means-tested. The eviction and foreclosure bans, debt relief and enhanced unemployment insurance are all about to end, replaced with nothing. The gig economy appears to be the future of work, fueled by the recent California Proposition 22. Millions will lose healthcare.

And now, just in time, the liberal intelligentsia has proclaimed that the real villain is Dr. Seuss. 

Unfortunately it’s a dangerous time to be such a trenchant critic. The last 4 years of the Trump administration have demonstrated that any person criticizing America along similar lines, must therefore be a Russian agent or a traitor or, worst of all–on the path towards radicalization. For example, in America, you cannot be patriotic while condemning neoliberal capitalism or the frequent wars for empire, and it is distinctly unpatriotic to express a wish for a single-payer healthcare system or to protest against the banksters who caused much of the population to lose their homes in 2008. 

Yet, to fail to act, and to protest this state of affairs is a form of spiritual death. It means succumbing to nihilism, cynicism and ultimately numbness, robbing us of our humanity. It’s to be an accomplice.

To refuse to cooperate and protest is the path to maintaining our humanity, our personal autonomy and life itself. Rebellion is its own justification, especially against the theatre of cruelty our feral elite have constructed to oppress us. Rebellion helps keep alive the hope that there can be an alternative.

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