Fight to the Finish

New readers get confused because I criticize liberals but then espouse what they believe to be “liberal” values. So, let’s get one thing straight–the left and liberals are different–but this fact is routinely obfuscated.

As the Biden administration takes shape this distinction will become more apparent especially when it becomes crystal clear that liberals despise the left. Biden’s presidency looks set to be worse than Obama’s in every way. This dynamic has only become more pronounced as the Biden administration staffs up with corporate and Wall Street drones. And, of course, the corporate media is enabling them. The New York Times is warning of the pressing danger of the Biden administration conceding too much to “the far left” at a time when progressive politicians have reportedly already been ruled out as candidates for cabinet positions due to concerns of appearing to be too far left, and when members of the Biden camp are already waving off demands from progressives using the phrase “we don’t negotiate with terrorists“.

There will be a backlash against this by the right, who will portray all of it as socialism, or something. And of course the corporate media will play along because that’s what they do. Also, they hate the left more than liberals do.

I probably should unpack my definition of liberal. Liberals, I believe, are an inauthentic opposition that secretly apes the feral elite that rule us. They cheered when the service economy was introduced, and lectured us on the glories of a “new economy” when production and manufacturing were eviscerated. They embraced rather than battled corporate culture, big money and its worship, and have fully internalized meritocracy as education became a luxury. In the process liberals have become the technocratic class who run our global institutions. Their job, for which they are so richly rewarded, is to justify our increasingly unequal world.

Thomas Frank wrote a whole book on the phenomenon entitled–Listen Liberal–but the concept still seems to elude many astute commentators.

Moreover, the takeover of the Democratic party by liberals starting with the Clinton administration has left the party trending towards becoming a party of the educated professional class alone. In the process working-class Americans were ignored with the rational that they had nowhere else to go. This has given large chunk of the population the idea that Democratic elites don’t like them very much and that their policies don’t do much for them. This is also why the Republican party is poised to represent the working-class. Go figure.

To hide their malfeasance liberal intellectuals substituted identity politics for a class based critique of our political economy. Liberals taught us to identify ‘as women,’ ‘as a gay,’ ‘as trans,’ ‘as a Jew,’ ‘as a Latino,’ ‘as a Black.’ We’ve practically learned to fight each other instead of coming together. In the process instead of identifying Wall Street, the military/industrial/complex, corporate media propaganda and Silicon Valley as our true enemy liberals embraced them. This reached a fevered apotheosis during Russia-gate when liberals celebrated the CIA and FBI as hero’s. This follows a pattern going at least to 2016 and the aftermath when liberals refused to examine why why Trump beat Hillary Clinton. The reality, far too troubling for most liberals to admit, is that Trump proved popular because a lot of the problems he identified were true, even if he raised them in bad faith himself and had no intention of doing anything meaningful to fix them.

The problem for us is that liberal elite have lost the ability to offer up incremental reforms after 40 years of drinking neoliberal Kool-aid: where a self-regulating market should rule society. Because this is impossible, it amounts to saying that governance should be bold and aggressive only if it is protecting market institutions. A financial crisis means banks should get bailed-out and their executives suffer no jail time even when they rob us blind, but any stimulus package should be timid. Health-care reform should be small, Byzantine and operate through market structures. Social welfare should only occur through a Kafkaesque bureaucracy, and a “workfare system” that require people to work to obtain benefits.

This is a very dangerous moment. With Trump, while he might have had dangerous tendencies, he was inept, clueless and lacked the sort of Beltway acumen to be a true despot. The next right-wing politician who seizes on the disgust for liberal malfeasance will be a lot more competent. It is absolutely imperative that the US left fight like never before to make sure it’s more of a leftist backlash than a rightist one, or things will get very ugly very quickly. If we don’t take the fight to liberals, the right will. If you don’t seize control of the dominant narrative, the right will. This is guaranteed.

Our milieu is similar to the Weimar Republic where liberal malfeasance set the table for the rise of Hitler and the Nazi Party. The public is losing its trust in the democratic process and democratic institutions. Poverty and public unrest is spiking. The corporate media is becoming more and more detached from larger segments of the population. Amidst all of this, Wall Street is booming.

This is what happens when the very wealthy stop having a stake in the outcome of a country’s future. Having long ago stopped investing in America, they stop bothering with unifying national legends, too, letting long-simmering divisions rise. Essentially, the political class is accepting the inevitability of culture war, and urging it on, as something preferable to populist revolt.

At this stage our goal should be to oppose liberals while forging a true working-class coalition between those on the right and those on the left. We have much in common including the need to avoid the sort of divide and conquer traps used by liberals to fracture unity.

Update: Matt Taibbi explains one of the reasons why liberals despise the left.

“The Blue Apparat has always despised Bernie and his various precursor movements far more than it hated Republicans, and for good reason. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of Clintonite hacks in cushy Washington sinecures who would have retained their spots in the event of a loss to Trump. A Sanders win would have put them all out of the politics business for a while.”

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Figurehead

It turns out that the president of the US is not that powerful when it comes to dealing with the deep state. The deep state can be thought of as a permanent, entrenched bureaucracy representing the military/industrial/complex, the alphabet intelligence agencies, Silicon Valley and Wall Street. This amalgamation’s objective is to perpetuate the American empire irregardless of which political party controls the presidency.

This picture, where the older brothers hand their kid brother a game console that isn’t plugged in is a good representation of how the deep state has treated Trump during his tenure. They have been amazingly successful because Trump has the attention span of a gnat but any president who complained too much could be shown the Zapruder Film again, although the deep state actors probably wouldn’t have to even bother. All presidents are extreme narcissists and the last thing they would want known is that they are merely a figurehead who lacks power.

And Trump is hardly the first president to be told what to do. If you’ll recall from the way-back machine–Citigroup chose Obama’s cabinet.

The latest evidence of the president’s irrelevance comes from US envoy Jim Jeffrey, who has been particularly noxious in his support of Sunni jihadists in the attempt by Washington to overthrow the Syrian government of Bashar Assad.

In an interview, Jeffrey said: “We were always playing shell games to not make clear to our leadership how many troops we had there.” The actual number of troops in northeast Syria is “a lot more than” the two hundred troops Trump agreed to leave there in 2019.

“What Syria withdrawal? There was never a Syria withdrawal,” Jeffrey said. “When the situation in northeast Syria had been fairly stable after we defeated ISIS, [Trump] was inclined to pull out. In each case, we then decided to come up with five better arguments for why we needed to stay. And we succeeded both times. That’s the story.”

Officially, Trump last year agreed to keep about 200 U.S. troops stationed in northeast Syria to “secure” oil fields held by the United States’ Kurdish allies in the fight against ISIS. It is generally accepted that the actual number is now higher than that — anonymous officials put the number at about 900 today — but the precise figure is classified and remains unknown even, it appears, to members of Trump’s administration keen to end the so-called “forever wars.”

So even as Jeffery’s praises the president’s support of what he describes as a successful “realpolitik” approach to the region, he acknowledges that his team routinely misled Trump about troop levels in Syria, demonstrating, once again, that the deep state is a autonomous entity with its own permanent objectives and agendas, independent of the White House. No matter that Trump expressed a desire to remove US troops from the Middle-East, the so-called “Blob” had their own plans irrespective of the president.

We can observe the same dynamic in regards to Trump’s desire to bring the troops home from Afghanistan, where the Pentagon and CIA had other ideas. Trump didn’t persevere and he was never hands-on when it came to the Afghan war. The military commanders could string him along with their dog and pony show. Finally, they simply exhausted him in a waiting game right up to the home stretch of his 4-year term.

That the Pentagon, the State Department and the various secret services were and are lying to Trump is not new. That one of their guys now openly admits this is illuminating.

The depressing reality is that whether there is a Republican or Democrat as president, American foreign policy remains constantly aggressive and militarist. After the last 4 years it’s abundantly clear that the American presidency exists as a figurehead to conceal the machinery of empire and endless war. The only changes are rhetoric and personal style.

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The Unknowing

I’ve come to realize that most Americans don’t want to know about the problems that confront our country nor the actors that are responsible. Moreover, they prefer fairy tales, relayed by their tribal corporate media source, that depict their hero being stymied by the evil players on the other team. Or they prefer fairy tales that the intractable problems we face as a country can be remedied by another dose of technology and or faith.

This unknowing has had health ramifications during the Trump administration with many liberals suffering “Trump Anxiety Disorder”. The narrative has been that Trump is so horrible that he is somehow causing liberals to have psychological breakdowns with his awfulness. This continued right up to the recent election with liberals believing that Trump was a secret Russian agent while simultaneously believing that they voted against fascism.

I believe the unknowing of liberals has precluded the perspective to understand that Trump wasn’t any more awful than our previous presidents just far more uncouth and vulgar. For example, although Obama bombed seven Muslim countries from 2009 to 2017, all but destroying Libya, liberals viewed him as a progressive champion.

Such is the unknowing.

Perhaps the apogee of unknowing during Trump’s reign came with the rehabilitation of former George W. Bush administration neocons into Resistance hero’s. From David Frum to William Krystal to Nicolle Wallace to the former president himself, there appeared the worst and most dangerous participants and enablers of the invasion of Iraq and the War on Terror madness. It is literally impossible to say Trump is uniquely evil among presidents without rehabilitating George W. Bush. It can’t be done, because nothing Trump did is as bad as an invasion which killed over a million people, destabilized the Middle East and ushered in an unprecedented era of military expansionism which displaced tens of millions of people.

Yet because W. and members of his administration have come out and opposed Trump they been magically transformed into hero’s of the Resistance because of the vast liberal unknowing. I can’t tell you how many liberals have confided to me that they long for the Bush administration.

Meanwhile, conservatives are just as susceptible to unknowing. Biden is not going to enslave you to communism. He’s going to administer the late-stage, neoliberal, all-American empire, just like his predecessor. In fact Biden will be the first president in recent memory who promised to be more interventionist and attacked his opponent for being insufficiently hawkish. Trump ran on reducing interventionism, so did Obama, even Bush. Biden’s starting out from a much more militaristic position.

Such is the unknowing.

This unknowing of liberals and conservatives is starting to be a real problem. All our problems are fundamentally due to the fact that things aren’t happening the way we think they’re happening. Power structures–financial, economic and political systems–are the things that enslave us and they exist and prosper irrespective of which party controls the White House.

As usual it’s all about narrative. Wealthy liberals have ceased to understand working-class Americans, persuaded by the New York Times that these fellow citizens are a deplorable bunch of white-supremacist neo-Nazis. And wealthy, Wall Street Journal reading, conservatives have ceased to understand the meaning of patriotism, happy to ship jobs overseas to fatten their “defense” portfolios, while pretending to support the troops. They are completely oblivious when it comes to US foreign policy, especially that detail about the US being a violent worldwide empire that protects transnational capital rather than the American people. I can’t tell you you how sick I am of being “thanked for my service” by these hypocrites.

I’ve come to understand that a lot of the unknowing concerns class, socio-economic status, and career prospects rather than simply identity politics. Both wealthy liberals and conservatives are happy to sacrifice their fellow working-class compatriots as long as they can maintain their social position and status in our increasingly precarious economy.

Meanwhile, for our feral elite, the divide and rule that results from this class-based unknowing suits them just fine.

All of this is a long-winded way of saying that we are on our own. Nether political party represents average Americans anymore, having both been captured by different members of our feral elite. As we head into a tumultuous future the inevitable social unrest will see the federal government, no matter which party controls it deploy its militarized police force and vast surveillance infrastructure to ruthlessly crush dissent.

To avoid this our goal must be to reclaim politics–a politics that cares about the future and about all Americans.

To do so we must first reclaim the unknowing.

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The Damage Done

I despise Donald Trump but the thought of a Biden victory makes me want to gargle anti-freeze. Mostly because of Russia-gate but the whole brunch thing really grates on my nerves too.

With Russia-gate, liberals have been in a hysterical state of resistance to President Trump for the last 4 years, going so far as to embrace deep state actors like the CIA and FBI. Meanwhile it’s been apparent that the corporate media is in cahoots with an avalanche of stories claiming Trump is literally a secret agent for a hostile foreign government.

For those of us who hate Trump but also are dismayed by these dangerous actions, we will have to deal with the aftermath if he loses to Sleepy-Joe. The same liberals who brought us Russia-gate will feel emboldened. All of the crazy stories about Trump being a Russian agent for decades, the insinuations that he a Vladimir Putin were gay-lovers, all the fantasies and deceptions that obscured far more than they ever revealed about the country’s actual problems — all of it will have been vindicated. Because it will have been done in service of accomplishing the desperately-craved goal of removing Trump.

Trump is routinely decried as a singularly menacing destroyer of democracy, at once a Russian agent and a Nazi, if that actually makes any sense. But the damage his opponents have done with Russia-gate is arguably far more significant and will reverberate long after he’s gone.

If Trump goes on to lose the election— barring some unforeseen shift or major polling error — then we’re just hours away from the final vindication of the Resistance’s tactics. Trump may not deserve another term on his own merits. But a loss for Trump is nonetheless a win for the lunatics who’ve spent four years subjecting the rest of us an unceasing tsunami of freakish nonsense.

For instance, there’s California Democrat congress-critter Adam Schiff, who’s been the outspoken leader of the witch hunt. Sometimes hinting that he’s seen intelligence he can’t speak of publicly, Schiff has repeatedly made statements that later proved false. In March of 2017, he told Chuck Todd, “I can’t get into the particulars, but there is more than circumstantial evidence now” that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government to interfere with the 2016 election. He would continue making statements like this for nearly two years, until information was declassified showing that Schiff early on had been told in secret testimony, by people like the aforementioned Clapper, “I never saw any direct empirical evidence that the Trump campaign or someone in it was plotting/conspiring with the Russians to meddle with the election.”

Moreover, Russia-gate was cynically used by the Democrats as a way to obscure the reasons that Trump prevailed in 2016. For starters, the Democrats for years have abandoned working class Americans for the wealthy. People simply are not going to support a party which does not advance their interests. If the Democratic Party were obtaining material benefits for people, they would dominate the US government. But that would mean taking things away from the donor class, so it’s been a no-go. Instead, They court wealthy donors who in exchange demand policies which hurt ordinary Americans. There’s also been the Democrat’s decades long embrace of neoliberal economics with its outsourcing of manufacturing jobs combined with encouragement of immigration to replace well paying service work that has devastated working-class Americans.

While the Barr investigation into the history and particulars of Russia-gate is being slow-walked, the central claim–that the Russians hacked Hillary Clinton’s e-mails–is now being exposed as the fraud it always was. It turns out that the FBI has documents that prove that the e-mails were leaked to Wikileaks by DNC staffer, Seth Rich, just like Julian Assange, always maintained.

Of course, if Biden wins everyone will move on and no one will be held responsible.

Bygones.

The problem however is that when you suppress what is really going on and the reasons for it, you are left with increasingly unconvincing narratives—as happened in the late USSR. My takeaway from all this is that the US is becoming like the former Soviet Union where everyone knew that the official media could not be trusted, but underground Samizdat documents were treasured.

If anything, the overt reliance by Democratic partisans and “Resisters” on officials associated with the CIA, FBI, NSA, and other intelligence agencies and operatives has taken us in the direction of the USSR, where the KGB had such power to make people disappear into the gulag.

Indeed, at the end of all this it will be impossible to deny that these agencies intruded to an extraordinary degree in US domestic political affairs over the course of the past several years. But because it was largely done to hurt Trump, by creating the impression that he’s an agent of Russia, the long-term consequences of this development were not really thought out.

Let’s just say it doesn’t bode well for the future of political freedom when intelligence agencies can stage a coup against a sitting president.

Update: Once again, I hearken back to the pivotal scene in A Man For All Seasons.

“ROPER: So! Now you’d give the Devil benefit of law!

MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

ROPER: Yes! I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

MORE: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat?

This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast — man’s laws, not God’s — and if you cut them down — and you’re just the man to do it — do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?

Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!”

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Decorum

I’ve decided that what really bothers liberals about Trump is his lack of decorum. They claim that oh, no, it’s his policies that they object to but I’m certain that if Biden is elected and continues the very same policies but with better public-relation, it will be crickets. There is a precedent. Liberals were up in arms during George W. Bush’s tenure but as soon as Obama was the one ordering drone strikes it was all good.

Trump’s lack of decorum is only part of the problem. There’s also the wholesale distrust of the elite institutions that form the vaunted liberal order portrayed by shows like The West Wing.

However, our feral elite would have us believe that this distrust is beyond the pale and that only a fool or a “deplorable” would believe in “conspiracy theories.”

I believe that those of us portrayed as “conspiracy theorists” have made a calculated decision that in a world where corporate and government elites engage in immoral and illegal actions daily believing in conspiracies is simply to acknowledge reality. We’ve lost faith in science and experts; we’ve lost faith in our political institutions; we’ve lost faith in the American dream; and we’ve lost faith in our Republic itself.

Why? Because many of the feral elite that rule our country have disconnected themselves from the rest of the country. Their culture and values are hostile to the beliefs of their non-elite countrymen. They suck money and power out of the rest of the country and use them solely for their own benefit. And they care about only one thing: remaining the elite.

Meanwhile, their behaviors are generating a growing crisis of legitimacy for the United States irregardless of which party is managing its affairs.

Electing Joe Biden won’t end our oligarchic empire but his administration will be sure to use racially sensitive language while they go about the business of dominating the planet.

Remember–Black Lives Matter.

Update: For those of you who don’t get satire, I do believe Black Lives Matter. I also believe that the best way to ensure they do is to pass Medicare For All and declare a debt jubilee.

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Narrative Management

The last four years of Russia-gate, the fairy-tale collection of made up connections between Donald Trump and Russia, has been one long process of narrative management.

All the “cool kids” (meaning the elite-corporate media stenographers) settled on a narrative that the Russians colluded with Donald Trump to steal the election from the rightful winner, and internalized the fable that their critical reporting on Hillary Clinton’s e-mails, among other scandals, contributed to her loss. In a crazy, fun-house mirror of McCarthyism, liberals, with their maniacal Russia hysteria, eagerly embraced the CIA and FBI and other deep state actors that engineered a new Cold War against Russia using Russia-gate.

And now the corporate media and elite liberals are determined to manage any story that helps Trump as their reaction to the latest expose of Hunter Biden’s Ukrainian connections demonstrates.

To no ones surprise, the New York Post expose of Hunter Biden’s laptop is being portrayed as another Russian plot to tarnish the nobility of our electoral process. At this point, I’m pretty sure that the Russians are responsible for all of America’s problems. From wildfires in California to the hurricanes in the Gulf to the long voting lines in Georgia. It was the Russians.

Meanwhile, it certainly is convenient for our feral elite that America’s precious democracy keeps getting attacked by states like Russia that they want to absorb into their “liberal world order”, and always in ways that are completely opaque to the American people while the evidence for the attacks is always highly classified.

As I’ve stated before, in America we do our censorship and propaganda through private corporations so our officials can claim with a straight face that we don’t have a government system of control. As Facebook and Twitter are private companies, they can legally do whatever they want, but when the two most powerful social media companies insist on censoring a expose about a presidential candidate’s possibly corrupt son less than three weeks before the election it suggests a more sinister motive.

The New York Times has just straight admitted that they create a narrative that their writers are required to work towards with their reporting. Instead of requiring well checked facts the editors are instead asking for confirmation of preconceived stories.

It’s not like this is a new thing. For those of us keeping score at home, this all sounds a lot like what the corporate media did in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq where they scripted their stories around the narrative they had settled on. Paging Judith Miller? Oh, right, she’s not at the Times anymore. She’s working at FOX NEWS now.

Even in 2002 this was not a new thing. The concept goes back to the early days of the Cold War, when CIA director Allen Dulles was determined to counter Soviet propaganda by controlling the (wait for it) narrative. In order to combat the threat of Soviet propaganda entering the U.S. and seducing Americans, Operation Mockingbird was created as a form of control over information dissemination during the period of McCarthyism. Operation Mockingbird was a CIA program that was started in the early 1950s in order to control the narrative of the news. The CIA was complicit in actually detailing the specific narrative that they wanted disseminated, and often going so far as to write the narrative and have a “credible” reporter’s name stamped on it.

Russia-gate and the the latest actions of the corporate media suggest that Operation Mockingbird never ended, although the narrative management has certainly become more sophisticated. In The Grand Chessboard, written in the late 1990’s, Zbigniew Brzezinski warned his fellow ruling class cohorts that the onset of the information age would require disinformation strategies to mitigate any potential threat from an increasingly politically-aware population.

For the corporate media it appears that anything goes if implicating Russia solves a political problem for the Democrats and keeps the war machine going for the Pentagon and the national security state.

It also defers the moment when the press is exposed for its radically stupid over investment in the Russia-gate fiction. At this point the only way they could win back the full trust of their readers is to admit that virtually every aspect of their reportage over the past four years was inherently false or manipulated by their “sources” who helped manage the narrative.

Think about a New York Times, CNN, New Yorker, Wall Street Journal, Mother Jones, Yahoo News or Washington Post journalist having to write an article deconstructing a foundation of four-years worth of lies they participated in creating.

The essential problem is that there are virtually zero standards when our corporate media want to sell the world on a narrative which benefits the power-elite that owns said media. News stories will be confirmed on an assertion by some anonymous government operative if they are harmful to Russia, Iran, China or any other US-targeted nation.

They lie overtly and by omission because the corporate mass-media within the US-centralized empire functions as the propaganda department for the empire.

The elite managers of our all-American empire understand that whoever controls the narrative controls the world, so they ensure that all points of narrative influence are tightly managed by them.

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Missed Opportunity

What’s fucked is that after the Wall Street crash of 2008, (an event that should have discredited our all-American brand of financial capitalism for a generation), the bi-partisan Washington Consensus sabotaged any effort to re-leash our financial oligarchy.

The obscene inequality that plagues our country is a political problem as well as an economic one. Having a class of billionaire plutocrats comes with a heavy cost because policies that benefit us are antithetical to them. Since Aristotle the great thinkers have been concerned with how concentrated wealth deforms politics. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis warned: “We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”

Our class of oligarchs has spent decades burnishing their reputation through massive propaganda and public relations efforts, portraying themselves as “job creators” and “masters of the universe.” Unfortunately, after the 2008 crash all their effort was in tatters.

If only there had been an intrepid, newly elected president who could utilize an investigative committee, (like maybe a Pecora Commission? ), to uncover the causes of the financial collapse, expose the criminal actions of leading financiers and galvanize broad public revulsion at Wall Street.

Alas, newly elected President Barack Obama proved to be no FDR, who famously welcomed the hatred of the oligarchs. The Crash of 1929 discredited Wall Street, and capitalism more generally and FDR was able to take advantage, while Obama, because of his closeness to the financial oligarchs, did not.

The New Deal, FDR’s response to the Great Depression, ushered in 50 years of prosperity for the lower and middle-classes. Moreover, the New Deal strengthened socialistic characteristics of the capitalist economy, and of course, Wall Street despises this because they think any strengthening of those characteristics points to the advantages of it, which means people may say, well, we don’t just want public health care, we maybe we should have public banking too.

The horror.

As I’ve stated before, the ultimate political question is who gets to plan the economy. There is no such thing as “free market.” It’s a propaganda construct. Every economy is planned, the crucial part is who gets to do the planning, the government that represents we the people, or Wall Street?

Personally I believe that there needs to be a balance. Markets work great for some things but other aspects of the economy, like utilities and infrastructure requires public ownership.

But these are political questions that need to be decided through our representative democratic process. And with a dominant oligarchy, this has proved impossible, as we have witnessed.

This quote by Thomas Jefferson well describes the essential conflict. “If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their Fathers conquered…

I’ve come to believe that we weren’t able to bring the oligarchs to heel after the 2008 Wall Street Crash because they’ve spent every waking minute since the New Deal lobbying, rigging elections, making campaign contributions, compromising research and public discourse, while laundering their reputation with philanthropy and public relations. They’ve also proved more than adapt at manufacturing discontent. Stoked for decades by an extremist capitalist oligarchy which has slowly and methodically disabled the levers of democracy to achieve its interests by pitting American against American to divide and rule.

Historically, the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and onset of the Great Depression provided space for progressive, democratic reforms. It was a close thing, however. Instead of the New Deal, many American industrialists wanted to install a system of fascism, similar to the ones in Italy and Germany, as the response to the economic collapse. After FDR was inaugurated they even went so far as to organize a coup against him. Luckily, because of FDR’s fortitude and superlative political skills, the “malefactors of great wealth” were defeated and the New Deal reforms ensured a 50 year period of prosperity.

Unfortunately for us, the missed opportunity in 2008 has ensured a rolling series of catastrophes, culminating in our botched response to Covid-19. Think how much better we could have handled the health crisis if we had used the 2008 crash to create space for progressive reforms, such as a single-payer health care system rather than the corporate boondoggle that is Obama-Care?

If you’ll remember from the way back machine, privately, Obama told Wall Street executives that he would protect them instead of demonizing or prosecuting them. On 27 March 2009, Obama assembled the top executives of the bailed-out financial firms in a secret meeting at the White House and he assured them that he would cover their backs; he promised “My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks”. Meanwhile, the outrage Americans felt towards Wall Street was channeled by the Tea Party, stymieing any chance of progressive reforms.

I started blogging in the aftermath of this debacle, outraged at the duplicity of our bi-partisan elite and determined to probe the dark underbelly of the American political/economy. The knowledge I’ve gained is why I was hardly surprised at Trump’s election.

Like so much else, it all comes back to this missed opportunity.

Update: It is a misnomer to call our speculative financial system “capitalism.” It should be seen as a cancer. It exists inside of our economic system, but it destroys capital, just as cancer feeds off of the body but ultimately destroys the body.

This is the extractive system that dominates our political/economy. It takes money and resources from the productive economy and destroys it by investing in paper (nothing). This is how it thrives. All governments, laws, academia, social mores, mass media, culture and, of course, economics and finance are shaped by this system. It cannot change.

Unless we force it to.

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Lies on top of lies

For the last 40 years we’ve been told lies on top of lies and we can’t process them anymore without losing our minds. Indeed, what we witnessed the other night at the presidential debate is evidence that America is suffering a nervous breakdown.

Speaking of which. With the “most important election in our lifetimes” approaching we are endlessly exhorted to vote, vote, vote!

If your sole goal is to replace Trump then yes voting matters. But if you are interested in changing the policies of our country, you’re shit out of luck.

For instance, while they may strongly disagree on cultural or social issues when it comes to economic policies both Democrats and Republicans are in lockstep. Both parties loudly insist that they are capitalists and promote a system where incentives, economic imperatives and shareholder value promote a race to the bottom. While maybe they don’t set out to be evil that’s the end result because “evilness”–the psychopathic pursuit of profit above all other values–is the business model for the corporations that control our country.

Following this insane logic both parties agree that income and wealth inequality should persist in the US and that the plutocrats should continue to rule America. They do, however, differ on which plutocrats get to call the shots. Pick your poison–Koch or Soros?

Meanwhile, everything is commodified according to the logic of the market. A sort of short-term thinking based on the religion of profit at all costs. As if somehow, magically, each corporation acting in its selfish interest is going to produce a utopia. This thinking is contagious. Most of our political and business class have imbibed this corporate culture as a sanity survival strategy, as way to placate the cognitive dissonance that would overwhelm them if they did not. For the rest of us, I believe that the mental illness that plagues so many Americans is caused by the temporary, precarious nature of jobs and work. We’ve become aware that we’ve been commodified too and are ultimately superfluous.

Foreign policy offers a similar dynamic. Both political parties agree that the US government should remain the dominant global hegemon and that there should be a massive US military presence around the world to garrison this empire, but they angrily argue over the details of how that empire should be organized. Should we confront China as the Republicans desire or Russia as the Democrats insist? Or both? And while maybe our foreign policy officials, intelligence and elite military units (of which I was a member) don’t set out to be evil that’s the end result of managing and policing the empire.

The problem with all this elite agreement while pretending to be in utter disagreement is that the lies have piled up to such a degree that they have lost the plot, as we witnessed with the crazy debates between Trump and Biden and now Pence and Harris.

The dirty little secret is that on economic and foreign policy issues the Democrats and Republicans are in emphatic agreement. They just manufacture lot of sound and fury into the cultural and social policies wherein they have some disagreement. The Republicans rile up their base with abortion, gun control and immigrants while the Democrats are down with Identity Politics.

This lie of omission is why partisan politics feels so hollow. Team red insists that all our problems are caused by team blue and vice versa, when in reality it’s a tag team project. The real debate in US politics is not between the Democrats and Republicans. Instead, the debate should be between the oligarchs and their political sock-puppets and the rest of us.

If politics were real in America, this would be the debate we are having. Not the fake one between two sociopaths about who hates socialism more, but between the side which opposes the oligarchic empire and the side which promotes and protects it.

In the meantime the lies continue to pile up.

Update: Here’s all you need to know about our vicious partisanship.

First…the elite wing of the Republican Party is being folded into the Democratic Party — not just in theory, but in practice, in dollars, as well. It’s clear that the Chamber and those who give it their money have made the calculation, at least for this presidential cycle, that their interests will be genuinely served by a Biden White House and a unified Democratic Congress.

In other words, they want a united government controlled by the Democratic Party. They know Trump is going to lose (Trump was scheduled to lose even before the recent Covid incident), and they’re working to both maintain a Democratic House majority and to sabotage the current Republican Senate majority.

Second, as stated above, the Chamber of Congress and the big-league donors who support it know that a Biden White House and Democratic Congress will further their interest far more than a Trump-led divided or Republican government.”

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Discontents

Rick Perlstein’s new book Reaganland chronicles the cultural discontents roiling America during the tumultuous administration of Jimmy Carter (1977 to 1981) that led to the election of Ronald Reagan and the end of the New Deal consensus.

Perlstein describes the “New Right” that swept Reagan into office–a network of evangelical Christians, neocons, tax revolters and corporate lobbyists–that used these discontents to radically transform American politics. He makes clear that the “New Right”, a movement that he’s written so much about, (Before the Storm, Nixonland and The Invisible Bridge), was consolidated on cultural fronts as much as political ones.

One of the biggest challenges for Reagan’s was that most Americans didn’t actually agree with his views on policy. Reagan’s political genius was putting a genial face on the radical, right-wing policies of Senator Barry Goldwater even though Reagan touted many of the same policy beliefs that had led Goldwater to be dismissed as a crank both before and after his 1964 election drubbing.

Conventional political wisdom had Reagan too far out of the mainstream with his devotion to antiquated economic theories, John Birch-anti-communism, and his wholesale rejection of the New Deal economic and political consensus.

Reagan’s amazing timing allowed him to take full advantage of cultural discontents that included race, religion, abortion, gay rights and the ERA. These cultural discontents were piggybacked on by discontents against government regulations by savvy “New-Right” strategists (Perlstein describes them as “boardroom Jacobins”) who super-charged corporate power during this pivotal period.

It’s in the battle over religious private-schools that we get a glimpse of the ferocity of this new political movement: the “get government off our back” efforts of the corporate lobbyists coalescing with the culture war grievances of evangelical Christians, all energized by dog-whistle racism. Reagan and the “New Right” proved masterful in harnessing Americans social-atomization–individualism, selfishness and consumerism–in their quest for a political revolution.

One of the main reasons these cultural discontents had such power is that the nominal “left party” in the US stopped promoting universal economic policies and moved to the right economically, following the ‘neoliberal’ counter-revolution of the late 1970’s. Moreover, it’s fair to say that Carter was the first neoliberal president.

Perlstein relates how Carter’s administration was racked by one crisis after another leading to his crafting his controversial malaise speech, where he spoke about resetting American values and calling for universal sacrifice. However, the sacrifice was confined to American workers who were devastated by Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker actions to combat inflation. Carter had previously nominated Volcker. Carter also didn’t follow his aides advice to stress that, “national revival was impossible until corporate power was checked”.

This set a pattern. Democrats who came after could have depicted the Reagan Administration as a radical project that violated every American principle of government to benefit “we the people.” Instead they turned it into a bipartisan project.

I’m looking at you Mrs Clinton and Obama.

We chose to allow corporations to gut America’s industrial and manufacturing infrastructure and off-shore millions of high-paying jobs. We chose to cut taxes on billionaires and to deregulate the financial industry. We chose to permit giant corporations to control monopolies astride choke points in our economy. We chose to punish the workers who still had jobs by making work temporary and precarious. Moreover, we chose to get government out of the way of the “free market.”

Getting government out of the way has made the rich a lot richer. Indeed, a cynic might conclude that the “New Right” was an ideological conspiracy by a tiny and ever more fabulously wealth elite to further enrich themselves and to maintain their power, their dominance, at all costs. Indeed, the wealthy and corporate backers of the “New Right” have to be extremely pleased with their efforts to mine the cultural discontents in the decades since the election of Ronald Reagan.

Reviews of Reaganland don’t go there but I believe there to be a direct correlation between the efforts of the “New Right” and the remarkable RAND report that documents the $50 trillion in earnings that’s been transferred to our feral elite from the bottom 90% of American households in the past 45 years.

Going further, it’s apparent that Make America Great Again is the new version of Reaganland. MAGA supporters voted against abortion and got cuts in capital gains. They voted against transsexuals using women’s bathrooms and got lower corporate taxes. They voted for a wall to keep Mexicans out then watched as US corporations fled across the border to avoid safety and environmental regulations and screw American workers.

Maybe Reaganland is a state of mind where–“You can check out any time you like. But you can never leave.”

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Enclosure

 

Capitalism requires the enclosure of the commons.

The reasons are twofold. The first is straightforward primitive accumulation, whereby the commons (land, and natural resources) are seized through force. This process is essential to the creation of capitalist surplus, or profit because capitalism always needs an outside, external to itself, from which it can draw uncompensated value.

But there is also something even more important. The enormous productive capacity that defines capitalism depended in the first instance on subjecting humans to artificial scarcity. Scarcity and the threat of hunger, driven by enclosure of the commons, creates the surplus value of labor that’s essential to capitalism

To understand this relationship it helps to synthesize the basic economic equation. Less public wealth means more private wealth and vice versa. Examining the history of capitalism reveals that growth has always depended on enclosure, or taking the public wealth and making it private. In fact capitalism owes it’s beginning to the primitive accumulation made possible by the enclosure movement in England, during which wealthy elites–“empowered by the Statute of Merton of 1235–fenced off commons and systematically forced peasants off the land in a violent, centuries-long campaign of dispossession.”

The enclosure of the commons led to scarcity and hunger which made people willing to labor in the “Satanic mills” of the early industrial revolution. The historical record is full of commentary by British landowners and elites celebrating enclosure as a tool for enhancing the “industry” of peasants whose access to abundant commons rendered them given to leisure and “insolence”. The agriculturalist Arthur Young (1771) noted that “everyone but an idiot knows that the lower classes must be kept poor, or they will never be industrious”.

The Photographs of Lewis Hine: The Industrial Revolution and Child Laborers  [Photo Gallery] | EHS Today

I’ve come to believe that the New Deal and progressive reforms culminating in the Great Society programs of Medicare and Medicaid was the attempt to create a government established “commons” and to promote the general Welfare of the American people. Neoliberalism has thus been the capitalist counterattack to enclose this new commons.

Remember, less public wealth means more private wealth. 

Coincidentally there’s a new study out that shows the dollar amount of the modern day enclosure. A remarkable report has been released that documents the $50 trillion in earnings that’s been transferred to our feral elite from the bottom 90% of American households in the past 45 years. The RAND report makes clear that this upward redistribution of income, wealth, and power wasn’t inevitable; it was a choice–a direct result of the 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.

Moreover we chose to re-enclose the commons.

We can observe this process with the endless waves of privatization that have been unleashed all over the world since 1980, of education, healthcare, transportation, libraries, parks, swimming pools, water, even social security. Indeed, the push to privatize the public space is part of a larger ideological project to erode faith in the commons.

In the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic people continue to feel the force of scarcity in the constant threat of unemployment. Workers must become ever-more disciplined and productive at work or else lose their jobs to someone who will be more productive still –usually someone poorer and more desperate. Meanwhile, Congress fails to provide aid to states, counties and cities ravaged by the economic downturn.

But, of course, there’s plenty of money to shower Wall Street with cash.

What does that say about the power relations in this country? And, if this isn’t a political question, no, the ultimate political question, I don’t know what is. Politics, after all is about who get what and who pays the costs, or to take it further, who owns what and who should control our commonwealth.

 

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