Double Truth

Neoliberalism, as a political ideology focused intently on maximizing the power of “capital,” deploys a double truth to cover its inherent contradictions: 1) that an ideology dedicated to liberal values has to continuously resort to illiberal practices; 2) that an ideology that venerates spontaneous order has to resort to authoritarian regimentation and control; 3) and that an ideology that claims that a free and open “market” is the pinnacle of information processors engages in the promotion of ignorance.

As you can see, these contradictions pose a problem, one that has confounded neoliberals since their initial conclave at Mont Pèlerin. For instance, if their comprehension of an ideal society is correct, then why don’t the intellectuals and vast mass of the public simply get with the program?

Instead, there’s an esoteric truth for members of the inner circle, who act like a Leninist “vanguard of the proletariat, poised to infiltrate the government and immunize policy from the optimally stupid electorate,” who are to be content with an exoteric truth. Members of the inner circle, technocratic elites, maintain the veneer of democratic consent while reconfiguring government functions in a neoliberal direction.

The key objective of a double truth is to maintain power. Double truth world-views are what hold the empire together; the powerful spend so much energy propagandizing us because they need to in order to retain power. In case this wasn’t already abundantly clear, the neoliberal ruling classes have no intention of giving up control of the global capitalist pseudo-empire they’ve been working to establish these last sixty years. Freedom has nothing to do with democracy or speech or individual rights: for the neoliberal it is about the freedom of the market and the elites who control those markets. 

Double truth is not exactly propaganda, although there are some similarities. While official propagandists are definitely pleased if anyone actually believes whatever lies they are selling, deception is only part of it. The primary aim is to generate an ‘official narrative’ that can be mindlessly repeated by the ruling classes and those who support and identify with them. This official narrative does not have to make sense, or to stand up to any sort of serious scrutiny. Its factualness is not the point.

Instead, the whole concept of “fake news,” that’s been with us since the election of Donald Trump, should be thought of as the culmination of double truth. As the foremost neoliberal historian, Phillip Mirowski says, “The aim is not nihilism for the hell of it, but rather, represents the pursuit of two objectives dear to neoliberals: [1] The transformation of the endless befuddlement of the masses into a lucrative source of recurrent profit; and simultaneously, [2] the rendering of the populace more docile in the face of neoliberal takeover of the government.”

Unfortunately, double truth hasn’t been simply confined to economics and has become an integral part of our ruling elites skill set. We witnessed it in the run up to the invasion of Iraq when Bush chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr. blurted out, that from a marketing point of view you don’t introduce new products in August. We heard it from Karl Rove when he told Ron Suskind that “guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’ […] ‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore,’ he continued. ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

Far from chastising our feral elite, the invasion of Iraq and disastrous aftermath seemed to signify a new phase of lawlessness and contempt for honesty. The Wall Street Crash, where the lies came fast and furious. The Syrian misadventure, where the US partnered with Al Qaeda to overthrow the government of Bashar Assad while simultaneously waging a “War on Terror” against Sunni extremists. The attempt to overthrow the Ukrainian government using Nazi’s while decrying anti-Semitism in Europe.

In fact, I’ve come to believe that the deep state that I’ve discussed ad infinitum is the perfect representation of double truth, where there’s an exoteric truth that the US is a noble if imperfect republic, while the esoteric truth is that the real decisions are made by shadowy intelligence agents, Wall Street bankers and Silicon Valley billionaires.

Thanks to the gallant efforts of the corporate media, with their partisan echo-chambers, it has never been easier for our putative leaders to deploy double truth. Hell, they could deploy a triple or quadruple truth in our hyper-partisan media environment and I doubt anyone would notice. Unfortunately, reality, as they say, has a liberal bias. And so the people who have spent their entire lives doing nothing but manipulating other people’s beliefs are incapable of dealing with Covid or climate change or all of the myriad of other problems that are barreling down the pike at us.

As it stands I don’t think they have any intention of saving us. I believe that the end game is clearly in view. If your plan is to allow the world to spiral towards mass death and destruction while you retreat to a bunker in New Zealand or some other isolated area to live out your days in comfort, protected by armed guards, you’re unlikely to win much in the way of public support. Better to keep the militarized bunker thing on the low-down and keep people thinking that “we’re all in this together” and if we just install solar panels, recycle more, ride their bikes to work and so on we’ll somehow turn it all around and march arm in arm towards a happy and sustainable future.

I think that if I learned anything with this little exercise it’s to know them by their deeds rather than their double truths. Ignore the narrative in your partisan news feed and follow the money, follow the resources and weapons, and follow what our feral elite are doing rather than saying.

PS: Bezos, Branson and Musk are rocketing into space.

I hope they don’t come back.

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Debt as a Weapon

Michael Hudson has a new post up discussing the future of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. Here’s taste:

“Since Roman times, creditors have forced debtors who could not repay to forfeit their assets through foreclosure or forced sale. Though the medieval age recognised the ills of debt in its injunctions against usury, capitalism resurrected this aspect of Roman law. To be sure, the tyranny of creditors was sometimes vanquished by powerful debtors: Philip IV of France destroyed his creditors, the Knights Templar and Edward III of Britain defaulted against Italian banks, bankrupting them. Overall, however, the creditor interest has asserted itself repeatedly. In the post-Civil War US, it imposed a deflation that led to widespread farm bankruptcies, impoverishing farmers in an infamous monetary deflation. This was repeated in the Great Depression of the 1930s, by President Obama after 2009, as well as by the IMF and its Structural Adjustment Programmes in the developing world in the 1980s and 1990s.

Enforcing the legal fiction of debt as an exchange relation was the necessary condition for commodifying paper money. The sufficient condition involved capitalist states imposing on themselves a monetary self-abnegation when it came to issuing money. Government-created money never needs to be paid back, and does not expand the power of private creditors. So, when governments began limiting their own issuance of money and even borrowing form private creditors, they left the overwhelming amount of money creation as a source of profits for private creditors, banks and financial institutions and founded veritable creditocracies, by backing their financial interest with political power. Such arrangements were already being made in the earliest years of capitalism, when private creditors made their pacts with states hungry for funds to fight wars. Lenders ensured that states did not tax them but borrowed from them (Ingham, 1984, 48-9, 99-100) and states often settled war loans by giving creditors monopolies, such as the East and West India Companies, South Sea Company and the Bank of England.”

This is how capitalist states have used their power to create, preserve and extend that of their financial sectors, including over themselves. There is a cost to this. Leaving the issuance of the overwhelming amount of money in circulation to competing profit-seeking private creditors makes them touts and pushers of debt and their activities regularly lead to crises, followed by state bailouts and new financial regulation.”

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I’m pretty sure that a lot of leftist’s have not realized that Marxism, as a way in which to critique industrial capitalism, has been made largely irrelevant by neoliberalism.

Moreover, by insisting that the “market” is the most advanced information processor, neoliberalism makes socialism impossible, since the main motive behind socialism was to impose “rationality” upon a putatively irrational and destructive market system. Socialists like Marx and Polanyi, generally based their argument upon an Enlightenment conviction that markets produced debilitating consequences that could only be rectified by intelligent planning and government intervention. However, since socialist planning presupposed the planner knew more than the market, and since that was impossible, so, too was socialist economics. The end result is that neoliberal philosophy developed over the decades since the 1940s constituted a profound break from this entire tradition, with the divorce leaving Enlightenment conceptions of reform stranded, hollow and ineffectual. In essence, socialism and Marxism were stripped of any rational philosophical basis and socialist political movements no longer make any sense.

In Never Let A Serious Crisis Go To Waste, Phillip Mirowski, says that “Not only does neoliberalism deconstruct any special stays for human labor, but it lays waste to older distinctions between production and consumption rooted in the labor theory of value, and reduces human beings to an arbitrary bundle of investments, skill sets, temporary alliances, and fungible body parts. Government of the self becomes the taproot of all social order.” Mirowski claims that neoliberalism “acts as a solvent dissolving” Marxism and socialism, where concepts like proletariat and class are drained of any meaning.

As Margaret Thatcher, made abundantly clear, under a neoliberal regime, “there is no such thing as society.” This comprehension is fundamental to understanding our modern world. Neoliberalism is ultimately a political philosophy rather than an economic ideology and as such has become our societies operating system-OS

All of this and more is why I’m a Hudsonist.

Michael Hudson is a heterodox economist and trenchant critic of the financialized, neoliberal capitalism that organizes the US. Hudson started his career as a balance of payments economist for Chase Bank and began to comprehend how debt is used as a method of control, both domestically and internationally. He harkens back to a pre-capitalist political/economy where intellectuals such as John Stewart Mill sought to create an economy that was free from land and financial “rents,” by examining the contrast in whether money and credit, land and natural monopolies will be privatized and duly concentrated in the hands of a rentier oligarchy or used to promote general prosperity and growth. He advocates for a cancellation of debts to save populations from being reduced to debt bondage and dependency (and ultimately to serfdom), and redistribution of lands to prevent its ownership from becoming polarized and concentrated in the hands of creditors and-landlords. This polarization is the key feature of US neoliberal political/economy.

Furthermore, Hudson argues that this dynamic is the key to understanding why the US has declared war on Russia and China. China and Russia are existential threats to the global expansion of financialized rentier wealth. Today’s Cold War 2.0 aims to deter China and potentially other counties from socializing their financial systems, land and natural resources, and keeping infrastructure utilities public to prevent their being monopolized in private hands to siphon off economic rents at the expense of productive investment in economic growth.

As you can see, Hudson makes the crucial distinction between productive and extractive economic activities, something the neoliberals have spent decades obscuring. The key to Hudsonism is a robust infrastructure that creates a productive, low cost economy, open to small businesses and entrepreneurs, rather than the toll-booth economy 40 years of neoliberalism has produced.

Presently, Congress and the Biden administration is struggling to pass an infrastructure bill that illuminates our situation. In a perverse twist, the pandemic has provided a space for an appraisal of past behavior. The intolerable costs of austerity and a culture that celebrated individualism and undermined the state has been starkly revealed. 

Not only do members question whether Congress can work, some of them don’t think it should. One of the “pay-fors” in the bipartisan package involves privatizing the government’s assets, or selling off public assets to find the money to build the infrastructure. (This is sometimes called “asset recycling.”)

“Asset recycling” contradicts the essence of Hudsonism, where a muscular public sector can benefit everyone’s interests. Instead, thanks to the indefatigable efforts of neoliberals, there’s this deep-seated belief that government can’t do things it did routinely in the past, and only by creating private toll roads and selling water systems can we improve the country’s infrastructure. It’s untrue, but it’s part of a belief system that government shouldn’t be a factor in people’s lives.

Understanding this dynamic allows us to glimpse the endgame where the infrastructure bill will be more of the same privatization of governance through public/private partnership. In the name of building world-class infrastructure, these lawmakers would sell it off in fire sales to private financiers.

As the American Prospect’s David Dayen has pointed out, the bill is, quietly, a vehicle to retry Trump’s failed attempt to sell the country’s public infrastructure to corporate America, so they can jack up road tolls and other user fees and further pick the pockets of ordinary working Americans. Wall Street is positively licking its lips at the prospect.

Presently the stakes could not be higher. It’s not an exaggeration to state that every critical problem facing our country is caused by neoliberalism.

Even as hundreds of thousand Americans died and millions lost their livelihoods, America’s billionaires made out like bandits, but neoliberalism treats inequality not as a problem but a “necessary functional characteristic of their ideal market system.” The privatization of infrastructure, schools and other key governmental functions are to be applauded not decried. The ongoing wars of empire where the U.S. continues to spend more on its military than the next thirteen countries combined, while Americans they are told that they cannot enjoy a sustainable let alone quality standard of living without working two or three dreary hourly-wage, benefits-free jobs for rapacious corporations.

If there’s any chance of stopping this assault it’s crucial to understand our enemy. But it’s also crucial to devise a path forward from “there is no alternative” to neoliberalism.

Hudsonism is our travel guide.

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Winter Patriot

In almost every action movie made by Hollywood, an intrepid, heterodox hero confronts an evil, authoritarian empire. Even though the odds are stacked against our intrepid hero, he or she somehow manages to overcome the odds through sheer pluck and defeat the evil empire.

Yet, in the US the opposite is true. The political elite in concert with corporate media has convinced its citizens that the American empire is the hero, while plucky, heterodox journalists, like Julian Assange are the villains.

This suppressed reality is a major reason why I’m such a trenchant critic of the American empire. The elite managers of imperialism, the masters of war, the corporate manipulated legislative, judicial and executive branches of government and their obsequious stenographers in the corporate media, are the mainstays of the evil empire. Yet to state this simple truth is to be banished from polite society, or worse. 

I get reader criticism suggesting I am a traitor or Russian bot, but I am a patriotic American who desires a republic rather than an empire. Moreover, I am following in the footsteps of our forefathers who waged revolution against the empire of the day–Great Britain.

Our modern day empire does not work for the average American but for the feral elite, who’ve basically renounced their citizenship to become globalized. It’s obvious that they could care less about you and I as any number of destructive actions against their fellow Americans make blindingly obvious. (The Wall Street Crash and resulting theft of homes with the robo-signing scandal, and the Sackler’s opioid death count spring to mind as particularly depraved). At this point we should take the studies about the percentage of American CEOs being psychopathic maniacs seriously. Going further, the structure of our elite society, if you look at it, is just designed to incentivize criminal behavior, lying, cheating, and stealing at the highest level. The end results are all around us if you care to look.  

However, the genius of the American empire is that it’s convinced the majority of our citizens that it is no such thing. America is the “leader of the free world” whose task is to guide the world. It is not imperialism, it’s is the “duty” and “responsibility” placed upon the US by history. 

In authoritarian regimes, like the former Soviet Union, the average citizen well understood that the government engaged in widespread propaganda and censorship but here we have outsourced it to the corporate media to such an extent that most people are oblivious. Thanks to the partisan and tribal enclosures created by the red and blue corporate media our system is far superior to clumsy state propaganda. Conservatives have typically been the most fervent proponents of empire, particularly after 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq where America–Fuck–Yeah! was their battle cry and critics like the Dixie Chicks were smeared as liberal traitors. Now, after Trump and Russia-gate, liberals have transformed into fervent Cold warriors with a pathological hatred of Russia.

While the American empire propaganda is tailored to its partisan audience it is very subtle. In authoritarian regimes they have massacres and wars. In free democracies we have humanitarian interventions and R2P. In authoritarian regimes you know exactly who rules over you. In free democracies the true rulers hide behind fake puppet governments. In authoritarian regimes a single party upholds and enforces the status quo. In free democracies, two parties uphold and enforce the status quo. In authoritarian regimes the people are kept too brutalized and cowed to rise up against their rulers. In free democracies the people are kept too propagandized and brainwashed to rise up against their rulers. In authoritarian regimes you are not free, and you know it. In free democracies you are not free, and you don’t know it.

Unfortunately, the US cannot give up its messianic ideology and claims of exceptionalism. This would be truly unthinkable for the vast majority of US Americans. However, the US empire and the current political system are neither sustainable, nor reformable. Besides, empires are almost impossible to reform. The real problem for Americans is that it’s infinitely hard to renounce empire when imperialism is what you were born, raised, educated and conditioned to live with and when you sincerely believe that your brand of imperialism is somehow benevolent, even altruistic. 

But the American empire is the supreme issue affecting all others. The idea that the United States can pursue progressive policies domestically and imperial policies abroad is crazy. Everything is connected. We will never have a single-payer healthcare with an empire. We will never have a robust green infrastructure with an empire. We will never solve our runaway inequality with an empire. We will never have a republic with an empire.

Update: Every time I think I have hit peak cynicism I see shit like this.

“During an astonishingly sycophantic press conference after the Geneva summit with Vladimir Putin, President Biden claimed that the US never interferes in the domestic affairs of other countries.

The fact that the entire press corps did not erupt in side-splitting laughter at this ridiculous utterance is in itself proof that western news media is pure propaganda. The United States has directly interfered in scores of foreign elections since it began its ascent to global domination at the end of the second World War, to say nothing of all the coups, color revolutions, proxy conflicts and regime change military invasions it has also participated in during that time. The US openly interfered in Russia’s elections in the nineties, and literally just tried to stage a coup in Bolivia by interfering in its democratic process. The US is far and away the single most egregious offender in the world on this front, which is largely why it is perceived around the world as a greater threat to democracy than any other government.

This is not a secret, internationally or in the United States. Anyone who has done any learning about the US government’s actual behavior on the world stage knows this. Hell, a former CIA director openly joked about it on Fox News a few years ago.”

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In last weeks post I presented evidence that the US attacked China with Covid 19.

My evidence is largely sourced from the Unz Review, where Ron Unz has written a series of articles arguing that COVID-19 is the result of a US biological warfare strike against China and Iran. Much of the evidence he cites is circumstantial. But his circumstantial evidence is very convincing. What are the odds that COVID-19 would appear at the worst possible place and time for China (Wuhan on Chinese New Year) and then miraculously traveled to Iran to kill a sizable number of their government elite? What are the odds that this would randomly happen when the neocons are waging a hybrid war against China, Russia and Iran? What are the odds that this virus would turn out to be a perfect anti-economy bioweapon, combining super-contagiousness with .5% to 1% lethality? What are the odds that a US military games team would have shown up in Wuhan when COVID was first unleashed? And above all, what are the odds that the US Defense Intelligence Agency would just happen to issue a strongly-worded warning to guard against an impending pandemic in Wuhan more than one month before anyone knew of any such outbreak?

What’s worse, in retrospect, is that the US has a deep state that is capable and willing to carry out such a nefarious plan. Furthermore, the fact that this deep state would carry out such a plan when the chances for global blowback are so great is more evidence of their psychopathy. Unz gives them credit for imagining that the US healthcare system would rise to the occasion and minimize any outbreak here but I’m not so generous.

It’s obvious to see how the people who want a war with China would use the new reports of the Coronavirus emerging from a lab in Wuhan to make it happen. It fully fits into the logic of the global hybrid war, unleashed by the American financial oligarchy in order to maintain world domination in the confrontation with the rapidly growing China. Presently, they feel emboldened enough to go on the offensive, blaming China for the Wuhan lab leak.

At a recent appearance on Sunday Night in America with Trey Gowdy, Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, made crystal clear their game plan going forward. “I think the American people deserve to know what caused the worst pandemic in a century,” Cotton told the show’s host. “Look, China should be made to pay for their negligence and their deceitfulness at the outset of this pandemic: covering up its origins, not being open about what was happening in that lab in Wuhan.”

Cotton continued. “But if it turns out that the Chinese Communist Party and their labs were responsible for a lab leak that caused this pandemic, just imagine what the American people would demand in terms of accountability; what I said would just scratch the surface,” the senator said. “And the American people would be right to demand that kind of accountability.”

Thanks to the oligarchic propaganda bubble that envelopes the American people, there will probably never be accountability for the true villain even if all of this leads to a nuclear exchange. There is no reason to believe any investigation into the Wuhan lab would not be heavily biased toward a pro-US narrative and used to manufacture international agendas to attack China, while it’s probable to believe it would be.

The corporate media nowadays often show more opposition to peace than to war. The Trump administration faced hysterical media backlash for its attempts to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan, Syria, and even Germany. Columnists from the New York Times and Washington Post openly championed the deep state because the CIA, FBI, and other intelligence agencies opposed President Trump.

After last weeks post it’s probably time to reiterate that I’m not a Trump supporter even though I spend a fair amount of time criticizing liberals. Instead, I find our whole political system to be kayfabe, in that both tribes pretend to have substantial differences even when the same economic and foreign policies of empire are implemented.

The election of Donald Trump made all of this crystal clear.

In 2008 the American public was sick of George W Bush and his crew of neocons, so they elected a progressive candidate who campaigned on hope and change to replace him.

But it didn’t happen; the hope and change never came. Barack Obama continued and expanded all of his predecessor’s most depraved policies at home and abroad, and it wasn’t long before Americans became disillusioned. It was as if Obama served Bush’s third and forth term, even though many of my liberal friends and family won’t admit it.

Worn out and disgusted by crushing neoliberal policies at home and murderous neoconservative policies abroad, Americans elected a reality TV star who ran on a populist platform which criticized both Bush and Obama. Trump promised to “drain the swamp”, end the wars, and fight the establishment in the interests of ordinary people. Americans thought this time for sure there would be change.

But the wars kept going, and the swamp got even fuller, and the US empire maintained the same destructive policies of the Bush administration and the Obama administration. Despite all this, the Democratic Party and the corporate media acted as though a coup had taken place, insisting that the United States had transformed from a free democracy respected around the world into a fascist dystopia.

And now that we’ve replaced the fascist with Joe Biden we will finally–“Make America Kind Again”.

Or not.

It’s become obvious that no matter who is president the US empire will continue to carry out unspeakable acts for the benefit of the tiny group of oligarchs who actually call the shots. As Gore Vidal once said. “It doesn’t actually make any difference whether the President is Republican or Democrat. The genius of the American ruling class is that it has been able to make the people think that they have had something to do with the electing of presidents for 200 years when they’ve had absolutely nothing to say about the candidates or the policies or the way the country is run. A very small group controls just about everything.”

We get the theatre of change because of the reality of empire. Politicians cannot change the status quo to one which benefits ordinary people instead of their oligarchic owners, because the oligarchic empire is built upon the need for endless war, poverty, and oppression. You cannot have a unipolar global empire without using violent force (and the threat of it) to uphold that world order, and you cannot have a plutocracy without ensuring that a few rulers have far more wealth control than the rank-and-file citizenry.

A little blowback now and then is just another cost of empire.

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Science and the Unspeakable

Ever since the election of Donald Trump science has become a shibboleth for the liberal, professional/managerial/class (PMC’s), and–trust the science–has became their rallying cry.

But science is an abstract concept. Trust what science? Science has been responsible for clean water, space travel, solar power and vaccines but it’s also been responsible for eugenics, Zyklon-B, the atomic bomb and Agent Orange. There has been Dr. Salk but also Dr. Mengele. Indeed, any cursory appraisal of history makes it quite apparent that science and its cousin technology have raced ahead of the morality of their applications far too often. Going further, it’s no accident that science in the US is tied to either war or the logic of capitalism. This has been especially true during the present pandemic when we find that a large number of vaccines are for-profit, even if they have been funded by public money.

It’s also apparent that since the beginnings of the pandemic and Trump’s response, liberals have politicized the science behind its origins, spread and implications. Liberals were quick to dismiss any and everything Trump proclaimed with snide remarks about–trust the science. The origins of Covid was no exception. When Trump suggested that Covid originated in a lab in Wuhan he was ridiculed by the the PMC’s and the corporate media, with only MAGA supporters believing his reports. This official party-line was often harshly enforced by our leading social media monopolies, with Facebook summarily banning all posts suggesting otherwise. In other words, our understanding of the origins of Covid has been narratively managed over the past 15 months and is still being narratively managed. We are being told only what suits powerful political, scientific and commercial interests. There were a lot of noble lies told.

My how times have changed.

As it turns out, the coronavirus origin story may be another noble lie. A year ago, the idea that Covid-19 leaked from a lab in Wuhan–was dismissed as a crackpot theory, supported only by Donald Trump, QAnon and hawks on the right looking to escalate tensions dangerously with China.

Now, after what has been effectively a year-long blackout of the lab-leak theory by the corporate media and the scientific establishment, President Joe Biden has announced an investigation to assess its credibility. And as a consequence, what was treated until a few weeks ago as an unhinged, rightwing conspiracy is suddenly being widely aired and seriously considered by liberals.

The triggering event for this remarkable reversal in American elite sentiment was a closely reasoned and persuasive 11,000 word article by journalist Nicholas Wade, entitled, Origin of Covid — Following the CluesDid people or nature open Pandora’s box at Wuhan? Wade began his long article by explaining that from February 2020 onward a huge ideological bubble had been inflated by political propaganda masquerading as science, a bubble that was afterwards maintained through a combination of journalistic cowardice and incompetence. President Donald Trump had proclaimed that the virus was artificial, so our media therefore insisted that it must be natural, even if all the evidence seemed to suggest otherwise.

Meanwhile, there’s another theory out there, (one that I’ve given a lot of thought to), that asks–Was Coronavirus a Biowarfare Attack Against China?

I know this sounds even crazier than anything found on QAnon but the logic behind it is straight forward. The US is a global hegemon in free fall, desperately attempting to hold onto its empire. The deep state actors behind the plot have already proven that they are psychopaths willing to commit any atrocity to maintain the power of the US empire (The invasion of Iraq and utilizing Al Qaeda to overthrow the Syrian government spring to mind).

Also, this would not be the first time that the US attacked China with biological weapons. During the Korea war U.S. pilots, captured by China, admitted to dropping biological weapons on China. The U.S. long denied the use of biological weapons and claimed that the pilots had been tortured and made false confessions. Decades later secret files were released which proved that the claims the pilots had made had been correct.

During the Cold War the US engaged in a massive build up of nuclear/biological/chemical weapons. On the biological front, US scientists have long been working on offensive applications while claiming it’s all about defending the American people. Researchers at a BSL-3 lab tied to the post-9/11 biodefense industrial complex are genetically modifying anthrax to express Covid-19 components, according to FOIA documents.

Moreover, there have been a number of training exercises, like the 2001 Dark Winter simulation, that have occurred in recent years that imagine the very type of pandemic outbreak we’ve experienced.

Read the articles, there are a number of them and they make a very persuasive case.

Breaking the Silence on the Origins of Covid-19

American Pravda: George Orwell’s Virus Lab-Leak

American Pravda: “The Truth” and “The Whole Truth” About the Origins of Covid-19

Next week I’ll discuss this unspeakable subject in more detail.

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Buying Immortality

I’ve come to realize that philanthropy, at least for the feral elite, is more about public relations and ultimately buying immortality than about doing good for other people.

That’s certainly my takeaway from reading Empire of Pain–The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty.

The Sackler’s philanthropy was also a way in which to burnish their reputation and obscure the manner in which they made their fortune as legal drug dealers. Rather than marijuana or cocaine, OxyContin was their gateway drug. The Sackler’s marketed it relentlessly as safer and less addictive than morphine. (It was twice as strong and insidiously addictive.) They maintained that it couldn’t be abused because of the buffered coating and timed release. (From its introduction, OxyContin was immediately the drug of choice for black-market drugs dealers, while addicts were grinding it up and injecting it.) Since the Sackler’s introduced OxyContin in the late 1990’s, opioid-related deaths have risen more than fivefold. By the numbers, opioids have killed more than 450,000 in the US in two decades.

Polite American society recoiled in horror when Trump bragged that he could shoot someone on the streets of New York City and get away with it. But the Sackler’s whacked hundreds of thousands of Americans and did get away with it, possibly because they had a wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art named after them.

Or maybe it’s because much of polite American society is composed of sociopaths with little or no regard for their fellow Americans. Maybe because money is power and money rewards sociopathy, we wind up ruled by greedy sociopaths. Indeed, it’s more evidence that the people who rule this country–conservatives or liberals–have no desire to reform any aspect of this country. The bipartisan consensus is that the only role of government should be to ensure that the wealthy and banks and corporations they own continue to prosper. They are uniform in their dedication to austerity and privatization of public resources. No one is any position of influence appears to have more than the passing regard for human life. They all believe, regardless of their partisan differences, that American citizens should accept brutalization as the baseline of existence. This vision of an ideal America is uniform among our ruling class. The Sackler’s are not outliers. Biden spent his career helping build it. Trump was created by it, and he strengthened many of its most malignant aspects. Obama, Bush, Clinton, and Reagan all worked toward the same general goals. 

A society in which precarity is the norm and decency is nonexistent is going to give rise to violence, drug abuse and widespread discontentment. In such a society there’s no shortage of pain. Indeed, the Sackler’s always maintained that the impetus for marketing and selling OxyContin was the heartfelt concern they felt for their fellow Americans who were in such pain.

In a way the Sackler’s are fulfilling the promise of neoliberalism with its celebration of individualism and entrepreneurship by providing a marketable commodity. If you abuse OxyContin in a desperate quest to dull the pain of modern day America it’s your own damn fault and you are a junkie lacking self-control. Meanwhile, the Sackler’s, through their bankruptcy machinations and legions of high-powered lawyers, have been able to squirrel away billions in off-shore accounts, leaving Purdue Pharma an empty corporate husk.

Philanthropy is simply used as a way to whitewash all of this. It’s not just the Sackler’s, either. The outing of Bill Gates as a monster is more of the same dynamic.

There are larger questions that we need to deal with as a society. I mean, do we really believe that these individuals deserve the political privilege that billionaire philanthropy affords—to remake the world according to their own worldview, with no checks or balances—because they’ve managed to become so obscenely wealthy? No matter how well-meaning or virtuous we fantasize such individuals to be, what can these outrageously rich people know about the lives of the poor people they claim to help?

Fully reckoning with the Sackler’s or Gates means confronting our own deep-seated worship of wealth and hard-wired belief in hero narratives. If we really want to fix the world—eliminating inequities in how we educate, medicate, feed, house, pay, and otherwise treat people—we can’t rely on billionaires with big ideas.

Especially when they’re killing us.

Update: The Sackler’s are asking a federal court to grant sweeping legal immunity to their family and to more than a thousand parties linked to the family and the scandal, including one of their companies peddling opioids across the globe, according to new court records.

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A Great Crime

“Behind every great fortune lies a great crime.” 

I’m reading The Empire Of Pain, the new book that chronicles the Sackler dynasty, an extended family who marketed and sold OxyContin, the opioid that has ravaged the United States. And yes, behind their great fortune lies a great crime.

Unfortunately, like other criminals who became wealthy through predation, the Sackler’s will probably get away with it.

Next week I will be doing a much deeper dive into the family and their decades long crime spree but for now one of the paragraphs in the book jumped out at me. The author, Patrick Radden Keefe, describes their sociopathy, and how the Sacklers, unlike other human beings, didn’t seem to learn from what they saw transpiring around them. “They could produce a rehearsed simulacrum of human empathy, but they seemed incapable of comprehending their own role in the story, and impervious to any moral epiphany. They resented being cast as villains in the drama, but it was their own stunted, stubborn blindness that made them so suited to the role.”

The larger problem is that our culture, with its relentless focus on money as the ultimate signifier of meritocracy, promotes the type of sociopathy exemplified by the Sacklers.

Going further, the uncomfortable truth is that many of our “feral elite” are similar to the Sackler’s, in that they too are monsters who’ve managed to perpetuate great crimes (the invasion of Iraq, for starters) then make a clean get-away, and if we don’t want these great crimes to continue we need a way in which to punish the perpetrators rather than reward them.

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The Medical/Industrial/Complex

Back when President Obama was proposing health care reform I, naively, thought that the way to overhaul health care was to ask why Americans were so unhealthy to begin with and that question would inevitably lead back to our industrial method of food production.

Silly, silly boy.

What I hadn’t quite figured out back then was that Americans were unhealthy for a reason. If the industrial food production system, which is highly profitable for monopoly, big-agriculture corporations, makes Americans unhealthy, all the better. Unhealthy people don’t generally have the wherewithal to protest or revolt, plus as a bonus they make excellent customers for the medical/industrial/complex.

It’s a feature of our system rather than a bug.

Meanwhile, this is how the medical/industrial/complex, approaches public health.

On an investor call last month, the CEO of Pfizer, Frank D’Amelio, discussed what would happen to revenue from his vaccine product as the Covid pandemic ends, what he called the “durability of the franchise.” He told analysts not to worry. People in rich countries will need annual booster shots, and that is where Pfizer will make real money.

For these annual treatments, Pfizer will be able to charge much more than it does now. The current price for a covid vaccine, D’Amelio noted, is $19.50 per dose. He told analysts of his hope Pfizer could get to a more normal price, “$150, $175 per dose,” instead of what he called “pandemic pricing.”

That sounds like a real business opportunity to a guy like me. If Covid is not brought under control, then Pfizer and Moderna can charge everyone who can afford it $150 per year (and maybe twice a year) for the rest of their lives. Pretty good cash flow based on simple medical/industrial/complex economics where selling a palliative which patients have to keep buying is a lot more profitable than selling a cure. Pharma doesn’t want cures: they want you on their pills or shots for the rest of your life.

It gets worse. The part that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that our world is run by sociopaths is why there will need to be annual boosters. It’s not because the vaccine strength wanes over time, though there’s a distant possibility that might happen. It’s because, as D’Amelio told Wall Street, there will be new variants emerging from abroad that can evade the vaccine. And how will variants emerge abroad? Well as outbreaks occur in non-vaccinated parts of the world, new strains will naturally occur as the virus mutates. If the rest of the world gets vaccinated, however, new variants won’t arise.

It’s a good bet that Pfizer is hoping that there won’t be a global effective vaccination campaign because while their main goal is to keep prices high it is actually against Pfizer’s financial interest to have the rest of the world vaccinated. If the world gets vaccinated, Pfizer won’t necessarily be able to sell expensive booster shots in rich countries who can afford them.

The unstated part in all of this is that D’Amelio, Pfizer and Wall Street could give a rats ass about anyone in the Third World, but if you’ve been paying attention you already know that.

This is also the logical result of a system that relies on a profit-driven pharmaceutical industry to produce lifesaving drugs. These companies’ business models are predicated on high prices and weak regulation, not altruism and the common good. Can we really be surprised when for-profit companies attempt to profit off their products even as people die?

It’s the same thing with the rest of the medical/industrial/complex. In a for-profit healthcare system can we really be surprised that we have a lot of sick people who are drugged to the gills yet don’t seem to get better?

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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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