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Half A Loaf


From the keyboard of Surly1
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Originally published on Daily Kos on June 17, 2017

“Half a loaf is better than no bread.” —Thomas Jefferson 


I wrote about this briefly last month in a Facebook status update, but recent events suggest that I revisit it. It was the episode wherein a so-called (and former) FB “friend” announced,

“I am unfriending any idiot who calls Trump a Putin puppet. You're hating for all the wrong reasons.”

Didn't know I required a full portfolio of reasons. I thought emolument clause violations, grifts of various sizes, and treason was quite enough.

This person is a Michigan resident who proudly announced her unswerving support for Jill Stein, along with her unwavering hatred for "the Hillbot." She was one of 10,000 Stein voters in a state where the margin for Trump was 10,000, so we can fairly argue that she and voters like her helped elect Trump in Michigan. Because math. And logic.

Finding this thread a target rich environment, I explained how dozens of intelligence agencies had found a reason to investigate Trump before the election, that subpoenas were tumbling out the Eastern Virginia district, and that Trump is in the process of handing over Russian real estate seized by the Obama administration as part of sanctions. This last in direct response to a Russian threat of "countermeasures." Acting like nothing so much as the target of Russian kompromat. And this was before the spate of recent headlines, some of which have Bannon barring WH staffers from leaving the building, and a barking-mad President yelling at TVs.

I added that, in the fullness of time, it would be found at the Trump organization was a grift held afloat by Russian money, for the simple reason that no domestic bank, and no western bank (aside from Deutsche Bank) would touch him due to multiple bankruptcies and a long, slimy tail of lawsuits and mechanics' liens…. Hasn’t Young Eric admitted as much?

That got me blocked. That and my comment, "Enjoy your Trump. You elected him."

I understand voting for principle, and I also understand that many people (including me) justifiably looked askance at the Dem party after the incredibly shabby treatment of Bernie, who was my candidate. My wife and I rallied for him, made calls for him, donated and worked for him. And regretted his loss, and despised the shenagigans pulled on behalf of “Ms. It’s-My-Turn.”

Yet when Bernie came out and supported Hillary, in spite of all the D machine machinations, that was good enough for me. The alternative was unthinkable.

Well think again, motherfucker.

We’ve now come to a place in our party-over-country politics where among the flag-and-cross bearing extreme right now views Russia and Putin more favorably than Germany and Merkel. And view the NATO alliance, which has kept the peace for 60 years whatever its faults, as full of deadbeats sucking off American largesse. And who want to blame intemperate “left wing hatred” for this week’s shooting, even though the right engaged in an eight year orgy of Obama-as-joker and lynching pictures.

And if you want to argue NATO encroachment on Russia’s borders, and the neocon wet dream of a shooting war with Russia, I get that. In fact, the only thing that candidate Trump said that was remotely palatable to me was his stated desire to have a better working relationship with Russia. That was before obstruction, dossiers filled with Russian kompromat, pee tapes, election tampering-for-hire, and the entire sordid apparatus of the Trump money laundering grift grinding to a slow motion foundering in the public prints.

As Robert Mueller follows the money, in time we will find that The Trump Organization of interlocking grifts is held together with Russian oligarch money, just as Eric Trump admitted.

At the time, better relations with Russia sounded better than the several decades of neocon warmongering we have had to endure. To say nothing of the coarsening of our political discourse, and the re-embolding of an ignorant wing of white nationalists and alt-reich types whose presence could curdle milk.

When zero energy is devoted to unity or understanding and all energy is spent on division and demonization, war is inevitable. While Steve Scalise fights for life in a hospital bed, we are told that it is left-wing hatred that is out of control. Even Ivanka' feels were bruised by "a level of viciousness that I was not expecting,” she told Fox News last week, adding that she was “blindsided” by the “ferocity.”

Well.

Remember the wall-to-wall TV coverage and the prayers in the House, and the talk about unity and toning down rhetoric when Rep. Gabby Giffords took a bullet to the brain? Me neither. Let’s review the bidding, shall we?

GOP House candidate Robert Lowry held a campaign event at a Florida gun range in October 2009, where he fired gunshots at a silhouette that had his opponent Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz’s printed on it.

“You know, if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies.” – Sharon Angle

“If I could issue hunting permits, I would officially declare today opening day for liberals. The season would extend through November 2 and have no limits on how many taken as we desperately need to ‘thin’ the herd.” -Brad Goerhing

“Get on Target for Victory in November. Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office,” read an advertisement for the event called “Shoot a fully automatic M16 With Jesse Kelly.”

“Don’t retreat, instead- RELOAD!” – Sarah Palin after circulating a map with crosshairs over lawmakers who supported the ACA

“You know but other than me going over there with a gun and holding it to their head and maybe killing a couple of them, I don’t think they’re going to listen unless they get beat.” – John Sullivan

“If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people — maybe there is, I don’t know.” -Donald Trump

And leading the charge are the bleats, farts and other bodily emanations of one N. Leroy Gingrich, defender of all that is Good and Holy in western civilization, and soon to be know as Mrs. Vatican Ambassador.

A month ago, Gingrich tweeted that Mueller was “a superb choice” whose “reputation is impeccable for honesty and integrity.” After it was learned that Mueller would look at potential malfeasance on Trump’s part, Gingrich decided that Mueller is actually “the tip of the deep state spear aimed at destroying or at a minimum undermining and crippling the Trump presidency.” Thus reversing himself on his opinion of Robert Mueller completely within 30 days.

And let’s never forget he is a shameless opportunist who attempted to get his drug-addled wife to sign off on a divorce punch list as she lay in a hospital bed after cancer surgery. To cite Gingrich as an authority on anything except underwear stains is to reveal a lack of critical thinking. A consideration I deem as kind.

The episode with my erstwhile friend shows that the profoundly left can be as stupid and intractable as the drooling right. If the practical effect of your opinions makes you indistinguishable from a Breitbart troll, what good are your beliefs?

Politics is the art of half a loaf. It's the art of compromise. Hillary wasn't my first, second,or third candidate, and it took me a good long while of hostage negotiation with myself before I cast a vote for her. But if you don't believe she would have been a damned sight better than President* Stupid, and that the problems we would have had with her as President would not have been a damned sight better than the ones we have now, unfriend me immediately. And hit yourself in the head with a hammer for me on your way to the airlock.

True believers, Stein voters and single issue enviros keep relitigating the last primary and fighting the last war. Which by the way, people, we lost. In large measure because ever individuals and their feels are more important than a sense of working together for a common purpose.

Look forward, upward, and to the future. Work for change, but deal with reality. Failure to do so means more of what we have now. When you are hungry, half a loaf looks awfully good.


banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. Author of numerous rants, screeds and spittle-flecked invective here and elsewhere, he was active in Occupy. He lives in SE Viirginia with Contrary, the woman who now shares his old Virginia home and who, like he, will be disappointed to not be prominently featured on an Trump enemies list.

Trending

gc2smFrom the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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Anthony-Freda_web15

 

Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation  August 29, 2016

 


Would fate permit it, the election of Hillary Clinton will be the supreme and perhaps terminal act in an Anything-Goes-And-Nothing-Matters society. Yet, even with the fabulous luck of running against a consummate political oaf, she struggles to get the upper hand, and she may land in the White House with the lowest voter turnout in modern history. And then her reward in office may be to dodge indictment for four years while the nation crumbles around her. This is the way the world ends: not with a bang or a whimper but with a cackle.

Imagine the scene following Hillary’s election. In order to salvage the last shred of its credibility, the Federal Reserve raises its overnight funds rate another quarter percent and crashes the last Potemkin semblance of a “recovering” economy, that is, the levitated stock markets. Tens of millions of retired individuals previously driven into them by zero interest rate policy are wiped out. Even more gravely, pension funds and insurance companies are destroyed, but not before their troubles trigger derivative contracts with big banks which then explode and expose the inability of counterparties to make good on their ends of the bet.

In a blind panic, the Federal Reserve reverses its policy in December, drops the Fed Funds interest rate back to 25 basis points and announces the grandest new round of “quantitative easing” (money printing) ever, while congress is coerced into voting for the greatest bailout of institutions the world has ever seen, along with a “one time” helicopter drop of a cool trillion dollars in the form of combined tax cuts and “shovel-ready infrastructure projects.” The media rejoices. The US Dollar tanks. Absolutely nobody wants US treasury bonds, bills, and notes. The pathetic remnant of the American middle class stares into the abyss. (If it looks hard enough, it sees the US government down there.)

We’re now living in the setup for this, treating the election shenanigans so far as just another sordid television entertainment. It’s more than that. It’s an engraved invitation to the worst crisis since the Civil War. The crisis may even feature events like a civil war with identity groups skirmishing around our already-ruined “flyover” cities just like the factions in Aleppo and Fallujah. Thank the “Progressive” Left for that. Believe me, history will blame them for chucking the idea of a unifying common culture onto the garbage barge.

And yes, for all our tribulations here in America, the rest of the world will be struggling with its own epic disorders. It remains to be seen whether they will lead to war as, say, the Chinese ruling party attempts to evade the crash of its own rickety banking system, and the inflamed millions of ruined “investors,” by starting a brawl with Japan over a few meaningless islands in the Pacific. Could happen. And, oh, is North Korea for real with its right out front nuclear bomb-and-missile program? What does the rest of the world plan to do about that?

You don’t even want to look at the Middle East. The grisly conflicts there of recent decades are just a prelude to what happens when the House of Saud loses its grip on the government. That will happen, and then the big question is whether Aramco can continue to function, or whether the critical parts of it end up damaged beyond repair as competing tribes fight over it. In any case, the world will begin to notice the salient fact of life in that part of the world: namely, that the Arabian desert, and much of the great band of arid territory on either side of it, cannot support the populations that mushroomed in the nutrient bath of the 20th century oil economy. And they won’t all be able to self-export to Europe either.

Speaking of that interesting region, around the same time Hillary sets up for intensive care in the third floor of the White House, the old order will be swept away across Europe. Farewell Merkel and Monsieur Hollandaise. Farewell to the squishy Left all over the place. Enter the hard-asses. You’d think if anything might unite that continent it might be the wish to defend secular freedom under the rule of law, but even that remains to be seen.

Yes, the world following 3Q 2016 is looking like one hot mess. If you remember anything, let it be this: the primary mission of your cohort of the human race is managing contraction. The world is getting wider and poorer again and the outcome everywhere will be determined by the success of people to manage their lives locally. The big things of this world — governments, corporations, institutions — are losing their traction and whatever we manage to rebuild will get done locally. In victory, Hillary may utterly cease to matter.

 


James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

The Days After Tomorrow 5: None So Blind

gc2smFrom the keyboard of Thomas Lewis

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Bill-Gates-768x548

Think the days of arrogant white ignorance are over? Consider that just a few weeks ago, American Geek-in-chief Bill Gates grandly offered to give Bolivia, which he referred to as a poverty stricken country, 100,000 chickens. (Sort of a “Let them eat eggs” statement — or, with a little extra trouble, cake.) Bolivia, it turns out, has a thriving economy, exports 36 million chickens a year, produces nearly 200 million. But thanks anyway, Great White Father.

 

Published on The Daily Impact on July 7, 2016


This is one of a series of meditations on what we might have learned, and might still learn, from the history of Native Americans about how to live without modern technology and industry, which we may have to do in the near future.]

One cannot answer a question that has not been asked (if you are a parent, you know exactly what I mean). And one cannot ask a question of which one cannot conceive. Thus does ignorance remain locked in place. Before we can learn anything useful from or about any other culture, we have to remove any blinders that prevent us from conceiving of questions: things like bigotry, racism, intolerance, delusions of superiority and exceptionalism, convictions of a special and exclusive relationship with God.

Fellow white Europeans, we have some work to do. The toxic brew that characterizes our relationships with others races did not begin with our contact with Native Americans, but it sure reached a kind of an apex before our mutual story was done. We can’t atone for that behavior, of course. But it would be good if we would stop it.

Columbus set the bar by mistakenly calling the first people he saw on the west side of the Atlantic Ocean “Indians,” because that’s what he was looking for, and in his culture, believing was seeing. That was just the beginning of the ignorance.  As European traders, explorers and then settlers began moving inland, they would get to know a tribe, eventually become aware of another tribe some distance away, and would ask their hosts, “Who are they?” “Oh, you’d better steer clear of them,” would come the reply, “they are rattlesnakes, (pronounced Iroquois).” Or, “You mean those people out west? They are cutthroats (Sioux). The ones down south? Cannibals (Mohawk).” Almost all the names assigned to the tribes of North America were in fact vile pejoratives, often words from a language other than their own. (And today, the PC Police get overwrought about the Washington “redskins.”)

Anyone who cared could find out that each tribe referred to itself as “The People,” perhaps with some modifier. The “Iroquois” were the People of the Longhouse (Haudenosaunee); the “Sioux” were just the People (Lakota); and the “Mohawks” were the True People (Ongwe Honwe). But who cared?

Is there any right more fundamental to human dignity than the right to be called by your own name, in your own language? Is there any worse insult than refusing to do that? But wait, there’s more.

Every Native American had an identity with two parts; asked for it, he or she would offer a name and a clan. One’s clan membership was as vital to knowing who a person was, as our last names are, to us. Clan membership determined who one could and could not marry. It was the clan that defined and preserved and passed on the behaviors and beliefs that comprised the character of its members. Hardly any white people knew then, or know to this day, that the clans even existed.

Moreover, most of the clans in North America were matrilineal, meaning:

  • when a couple married, they went to live with the wife’s clan;
  • when a child was born, it was born into its mother’s clan;
  • when a person died, any possession or title that could be inherited —  not many could — went to daughters, not sons.
  • a child was taught the ways of the clan, i.e. virtually everything about life, from how to hunt to how to cook to how to dress, by aunts or uncles who were fellow clan members. Fathers, who were not,  had little to do with their progeny, but had major responsibilities for their sisters’ offspring.

Think what this means for the Europeans’ attempts to establish religious and political authority by invoking — as they did constantly for centuries — to the presumed authority of a “great white father” residing somewhere overseas, or in Washington, or in heaven. If you ever come across a carefully done transcript of an exchange of views between whites and natives, you will note that when the natives wish to convey respect they use the appellation “uncles.” And their responses to the notion that they are in the care of a “great white father” fairly drip with sarcasm.  

“Hey, lighten up,” I can hear someone calling. “Why are you so down on your ancestors for not knowing enough about Indians? They didn’t have Google.”

Well, I am down on them, and the culture they bequeathed us,  not only because its baked-in bigotry enabled one of the most evil episodes of genocide in the history of the world — but because the habit of racist condescension is still here, still killing people, still poisoning relations among people of color and white people everywhere..

We fought and lost a terrible war in Vietnam convinced that the people of Vietnam were allied with the people of China against us; in fact, they had been mortal enemies for a thousand years. We fought our longest war, in Afghanistan, and our dumbest, in Iraq, with little knowledge of the religious sects and familial clans that are central to life in those countries.

If we can’t change our own culture’s nature, change its tendencies to racism, violence, exploitation and greed, we have no hope of a better future. Because bound as we are by chains of traditional ignorance, we can’t even see the multitude of paths that could lead us to a better place.

Fortunately, the ignorance I’ve been describing was then and is now dominant, but not universal. There is another thing that happened during our early history with Native Americans that is virtually unknown, and has immense significance for our present inquiry. We’ll get to that, next time.

 


Thomas Lewis is a nationally recognized and reviewed author of six books, a broadcaster, public speaker and advocate of sustainable living. He also is Editor of The Daily Impact website, and former artist-in-residence at Frostburg State University. He has written several books about collapse issues, including Brace for Impact and Tribulation. Learn more about them here.

On the Road to United Eurasia

gc2smFrom the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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putin xi2

Originally published in Russia Insider on July 5, 2016

 


Whenever President Vladimir Putin stresses Russia’s "all-embracing and strategic partnership" with China, one can hear the proverbial howls of anger emanating from the neocon/neoliberalcon axis in the Beltway.

As he met Chinese president Xi Jinping in Beijng this past Saturday, Putin even allowed himself an understatement; "To say we have a strategic cooperation is not enough anymore. This is why we have started talking about a comprehensive partnership and strategic collaboration. Comprehensive means that we work virtually on all major avenues; strategic means that we attach enormous inter-government importance to this work."

Why understatement? Because this really ventures way beyond a stream of business deals.

Deals, of course, matter; in Beijing, China and Russia advanced 58 projects worth $50 billion. These include a $6.2 billion loan from Beijing to build the 770 km-long high-speed railway between Moscow and Kazan and $12 billion in loans to build an LNG plant in the Russian Arctic.

Russian Railways, Russian investment company Sinara Group, China Railway, and Chinese CRRC will also invest in a plant in Russia to build 100 high-speed trains, designed for the Moscow-Kazan high-speed railway. The railway inevitably will be connected to the future, $100 billion, high-speed expansion of the Trans-Siberian between Moscow and Beijing.

It goes without saying, this is all part of an essential node of the New Silk Roads. And as if this was not enough, in a further, graphic instance of geoeconomic interpolation, Russia and China’s central banks are setting up a yuan clearing mechanism in Russia.

The inter-connectivity bonanza

Putin and Xi met for the 15th time just after Xi concluded a three-nation Eurasia tour – Serbia, Poland and Uzbekistan – where, alongside Foreign Minister Wang Yi, he explicitly laid down the bridge between the New Silk Roads, or One Belt, One Road (OBOR), as they are officially referred to in China, and the development of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

Not by accident China has now also struck a "comprehensive strategic partnership" with Serbia, Poland and Uzbekistan – on the way to weaving a broad "China-Europe strategic partnership" in parallel to the development of the SCO.

This already translates into projects such as the Hungary-Serbia railway; the Pupin Bridge on the Danube River in Belgrade; the expansion and upgrading of a power plant in Kostolac; what Beijing calls the China-Europe freight train service (from eastern China to Duisburg in Germany and also Madrid); the Kamchiq Tunnel in Uzbekistan; and last but not least the massive China-Central Asia natural gas pipeline system.

No wonder Xi keeps stressing the "inter-connectivity" theme over and over gain, as economic corridors are being built at breakneck speed, and the China Railway Express all the way to Europe – although not yet on high-speed rail – is already a go.

So there was plenty to talk about at the 16th SCO Council in Tashkent. Plus, the acceleration of full membership to both India and Pakistan; next year will be Iran’s turn.

What this translates to in practice is the amalgamation of the New Silk Roads/OBOR; the Eurasia Economic Union, EEU (as Putin stressed in the St. Petersburg forum); the SCO; financing mechanisms such as the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB); and the overarching Russia-China strategic partnership.

No wonder a certain Sultan Erdogan was watching all this in Ankara with trepidation, and decided to make a move. Erdogan’s attempt at a rapprochement with Russia involves not being hopelessly sidelined in this OBOR/EEU/SCO amalgamation. Turkey cannot afford to be alienated from Russia; the Turkish Stream gas pipeline will be essential to consolidate Ankara’s position as a key energy crossroads towards Europe. At the same time, Ankara must imperatively position itself as a key hub in OBOR.

With India and Pakistan, and later Iran, as full members, the SCO will be able, in the medium term, not only to interface with OBOR on all sides (via the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, CPEC, and also the Indian investment in the Iranian port of Chabahar); but also to be the key player in brokering a solution to the Afghan drama, something that the Americans and NATO would never be able to accomplish. Russia and China have always insisted that Afghanistan needs an Asian solution.

Lean, clean and green

Almost simultaneously to the Putin-Xi meeting in Beijing, and also not by accident, the AIIB turbo-charged its operations.

The AIIB started doing business only six months ago, with 57 founding member countries and $100 billion in committed capital.

It’s scheduled to invest $1.2 billion in 2016. Once again with trademark understatement, Chinese Finance Minister Lou Jiwei said, "the AIIB needs to establish its comparative advantage", profiting from «lessons of developing countries' years of development».

The board approved its first four deals, worth $509 million, with three projects co-financed with the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the United Kingdom Department for International Development and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. They refer to a slum renovation in Indonesia and highways in Pakistan and Tajikistan. A power grid upgrade in Bangladesh will be solely AIIB financed.

And this is just the beginning. The head of AIIB may be Chinese, Jin Linqun (he has promised a "lean, clean and green" AIIB), but one of the five vice presidents is British, Daniel Alexander. Beijing holds 30% of the initial capital but has only 26% of voting power. India holds 7.5% and Russia 5.9%, followed by Germany and South Korea. This is a real multipolar project.

Almost simultaneously to the AIIB in action, Russia and China’s foreign ministers signed a declaration supporting the role of international law, stressing sovereign equality of states; non-interference into internal affairs; and peaceful resolution of disputes. Considering the recent historical record, not exactly The Empire of Chaos’s cup of tea.

Commenting on Brexit, Boris Titov, the Kremlin’s small business ombudsman, ventured, "it’s not long until a united Eurasia – about 10 years". Considering the slowly but surely interpenetration of OBOR, EEU, SCO, AIIB, the NDB and the solid Russia-China partnership inside the G20, that’s more than feasible.

In Beijing, Putin and Xi did discuss their common position in the upcoming G20, only three months away in China; that’s where the real action is, not the G7. Compare it also with NATO’s upcoming warmongering summit in Warsaw; that’s what the West has to "offer" the global South.

In a nutshell; the option to a united Eurasia is chaos. And there’s no question the Empire of Chaos will stop trying to sow chaos. Expect Beijing ordering 1,000 heavy transport aircraft from Russia and Russian ships possibly spotted sooner or later in the South China Sea to add to those perennial howls of anger in the neocon/neoliberalcon galaxy.


PepePepe Escobar  is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia Times Online. Born in Brazil, he's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, and has lived in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Washington, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Even before 9/11 he specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central and East Asia, with an emphasis on Big Power geopolitics and energy wars. He is the author of "Globalistan" (2007), "Red Zone Blues" (2007), "Obama does Globalistan" (2009) "Empire of Chaos" (2014),and "2030" (2015), all published by Nimble Books. 

The Waning of the Modern Ages

Anthony-Freda_empty-kingdomgc2smFrom the keyboard of Morris Berman
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Anthony-Freda_empty-kingdom

Published on Counterpunch on September 20, 2012


La longue durée —the long run—was an expression made popular by the Annales School of French historians led by Fernand Braudel, who coined the phrase in 1958. The basic argument of this school is that the proper concern of historians should be the analysis of structures that lie at the base of contemporary events. Underneath short-term events such as individual cycles of economic boom and bust, said Braudel, we can discern the persistence of “old attitudes of thought and action, resistant frameworks dying hard, at times against all logic.” An important derivative of the Annales research is the work of the World Systems Analysis school, including Immanuel Wallerstein and Christopher Chase-Dunn, which similarly focuses on long-term structures: capitalism, in particular.

The “arc” of capitalism, according to this school, is about 600 years long, from 1500 to 2100. It is our particular (mis)fortune to be living through the beginning of the end, the disintegration of capitalism as a world system. It was mostly commercial capital in the sixteenth century, evolving into industrial capital in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and then moving on to financial capital—money created by money itself, and by speculation in currency—in the twentieth and twenty-first. In dialectical fashion, it will be the very success of the system that eventually does it in.

The last time a change of this magnitude occurred was during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, during which time the medieval world began to come apart and be replaced by the modern one. In his classic study of the period, The Waning of the Middle Ages, the Dutch historian Johan Huizinga depicted the time as one of depression and cultural exhaustion—like our own age, not much fun to live through.  One reason for this is that the world is literally perched over an abyss. What lies ahead is largely unknown, and to have to hover over an abyss for a long time is, to put it colloquially, a bit of a drag. The same thing was true at the time of the collapse of the Roman Empire as well, on the ruins of which the feudal system slowly arose.

I was musing on these issues some time ago when I happened to run across a remarkable essay by Naomi Klein, the author of The Shock DoctrineIt was called “Capitalism vs. the Climate,” and was published last November in The Nation.  In what appears to be something of a radical shift for her, she chastises the Left for not understanding what the Right does correctly perceive: that the whole climate change debate is a serious threat to capitalism. The Left, she says, wants to soft-pedal the implications; it wants to say that environmental protection is compatible with economic growth, that it is not a threat to capital or labor. It wants to get everyone to buy a hybrid car, for example (which I have personally compared to diet cheesecake), or use more efficient light bulbs, or recycle, as if these things were adequate to the crisis at hand. But the Right is not fooled: it sees Green as a Trojan horse for Red, the attempt “to abolish capitalism and replace it with some kind of eco-socialism.” It believes—correctly—that the politics of global warming is inevitably an attack on the American Dream, on the whole capitalist structure. Thus Larry Bell, in Climate of Corruption, argues that environmental politics is essentially about “transforming the American way of life in the interests of global wealth distribution”; and British writer James Delinpole notes that “Modern environmentalism successfully advances many of the causes dear to the left: redistribution of wealth, higher taxes, greater government intervention, [and] regulation.”

What Ms. Klein is saying to the Left, in effect, is: Why fight it? These nervous nellies on the Right are—right! Those of us on the Left can’t keep talking about compatibility of limits-to-growth and unrestrained greed, or claiming that climate change is “just one issue on a laundry list of worthy causes vying for progressive attention,” or urging everyone to buy a Prius.  Commentators like Thomas Friedman or Al Gore, who “assure us that we can avert catastrophe by buying ‘green’ products and creating clever markets in pollution”—corporate green capitalism, in a word—are simply living in denial. “The real solutions to the climate crisis,” she writes, “are also our best hope of building a much more enlightened economic system—one that closes deep inequalities, strengthens and transforms the public sphere, generates plentiful, dignified work, and radically reins in corporate power.”

In one of the essays in my book A Question of Values (“conspiracy vs. Conspiracy in American History”), I lay out some of the “unconscious programs” buried in the American psyche from our earliest days, programs that account for most of America’s so-called conscious behavior. These include the notion of an endless frontier—a world without limits—and the ideal of extreme individualism—you do not need, and should not need, anyone’s help to “make it” in the world. Combined, the two of these provide a formula for enormous capitalist power and inevitable capitalist collapse (hence, the dialectical dimension of it all).  Of this, Naomi Klein writes:

“The expansionist, extractive mindset, which has so long governed our relationship to nature, is what the climate crisis calls into question so fundamentally. The abundance of scientific research showing we have pushed nature beyond its limits does not just demand green products and market-based solutions; it demands a new civilizational paradigm, one grounded not in dominance over nature but in respect for natural cycles of renewal—and acutely sensitive to natural limits….These are profoundly challenging revelations for all of us raised on Enlightenment ideals of progress.”

(This is exactly what I argued 31 years ago in The Reenchantment of the World; it’s nice to see it all coming around again.) “Real climate solutions,” she continues, “are ones that steer [government] interventions to systematically disperse and devolve power and control to the community level, through community-controlled renewable energy, local organic agriculture or transit systems genuinely accountable to their users.” Hence, she concludes, the powers that be have reason to be afraid, and to deny the data on global warming, because what is really required at this point is the end of the free-market ideology. And, I would add, the end of the arc of capitalism referred to earlier. It’s going to be (is) a colossal fight, not only because the powers that be want to hang on to their power, but because the arc and all its ramifications have given their class Meaning with a capital M for 500+ years. This is what the Occupy Wall Street protesters—if there are any left at this point; I’m not sure—need to tell the 1%: Your lives are a mistake. This is what “a new civilizational paradigm” finally means. It also has to be said that almost everyone in the United States, not just the upper 1%, buys into this. John Steinbeck pointed this out many years ago when he wrote that in the U.S., the poor regard themselves as “temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” The Occupy movement, as far as I could make out, wanted to restore the American Dream, when in fact the Dream needs to be abolished once and for all.

Naomi then provides us with a list of six changes that must occur for this new paradigm to come into being, including Reining in Corporations, Ending the Cult of Shopping, and Taxing the Rich. I found myself writing “good luck” in the margins of much of this discussion. These things are not going to happen, and what we probably need instead is a series of major conferences on why they won’t happen. But note that part of the answer is already embedded in her essay: vested interests, in both the economic and psychological sense, have every reason to maintain the status quo. And as I said, so does the man or woman in the street. What would our lives be without shopping, without the latest technological toy? Pretty empty, at least in the U.S.  How awful, that capitalism has reduced human beings to this.

In terms of recommendations, then, Klein’s essay is rather weak. But it offers something very important by way of analysis, and also by implication: Everything is related to everything else. Psychology, the economy, the environmental crisis, our daily mode of living, the dumbing down of America, the pathetic fetish over cell phones and electronic gadgets, the crushing debt of student loans, the farce of electoral politics, Mr. Obama’s rather rapid conversion from liberal hero to war criminal and shredder of the Bill of Rights, the huge popularity of violent movies, the attempt of the rich to impose austerity measures on the poor, the well-documented epidemics of mental illness and obesity—these are ultimately not separate spheres of human activity. They are interconnected, and this means that things will not get fixed piecemeal. “New civilizational paradigm” means it’s all or nothing; there really is no in-between, no diet cheesecake to be had. As Ms. Klein says, it’s not about single “issues” anymore.

What then, can we expect, as the arc of capitalism comes to a close? This is where Naomi shifts from unlikely recommendations to hard-nosed reality. She writes:

“The corporate quest for scarce resources will become more rapacious, more violent. Arable land in Africa will continue to be grabbed to provide food and fuel to wealthier nations.  Drought and famine will continue to be used as a pretext to push genetically modified seeds, driving farmers further into debt. We will attempt to transcend peak oil and gas by using increasingly risky technologies to extract the last drops, turning ever larger swaths of our globe into sacrifice zones. We will fortress our borders and intervene in foreign conflicts over resources, or start those conflicts ourselves. ‘Free-market climate solutions,’ as they are called, will be a magnet for speculation, fraud and crony capitalism, as we are already seeing with carbon trading and the use of forests as carbon offsets.  And as climate change begins to affect not just the poor but the wealthy as well, we will increasingly look for techno-fixes to turn down the temperature, with massive and unknowable risks….As the world warms, the reigning ideology that tells us it’s everyone for themselves, that victims deserve their fate, and that we can master nature, will take us to a very cold place indeed.”

To put it bluntly, the scale of change required cannot happen without a massive implosion of the current system. This was true at the end of the Roman Empire, it was true at the end of the Middle Ages, and it is true today. In the case of the Roman Empire, as I discuss in The Twilight of American Culture, there was the emergence of  monastic orders that began to preserve the treasures of Graeco-Roman civilization. My question in that book was: Can something similar happen today? Naomi writes:

“The only wild card is whether some countervailing popular movement will step up to provide a viable alternative to this grim future. That means not just an alternative set of policy proposals but an alternative worldview to rival the one at the heart of the ecological crisis—this time, embedded in interdependence rather than hyper-individualism, reciprocity rather than dominance, and cooperation rather than hierarchy.” She believes that the Occupy Wall Street movement—remember, it was quite vigorous last November—embodies this; that they have taken “aim at the underlying values of rampant greed and individualism that created the economic crisis, while embodying…radically different ways to treat one another and relate to the natural world.”

Is this true? Four things to consider at this point:

1. I personally never visited Zuccotti Park, but most of what I saw on the Web, including very favorable reportage of the Occupy movement, seemed to suggest that the goal was a more equitable American Dream, not the abolition of the American Dream, as I indicated above. In other words, the basic demand was that the pie be cut up more fairly. I never had the impression that the protesters were saying that the pie, in toto, was rotten. This reminds me of an anecdote about Martin Luther King, who apparently said to Harry Belafonte, just before he (i.e., King) was assassinated, that he thought he might have been making a big mistake; that he sometimes felt like he was herding people into a burning church. This is a very different insight, quite obviously, than the notion that black people should be getting a larger share of the pie. After all, who wants a larger share of a rotten pie, or to live in a church that is burning down?

2. The Annales historians, along with the World Systems Analysis thinkers, have been accused of projecting an image of “history without people.” In other words, these schools tend to see individuals as somewhat irrelevant to the historical process, which they analyze in terms of “historical forces.” There is some truth to this, but “historical forces” can become a bit mystical. Just as it is forces that motivate people, so it is people that enact or manifest those forces. I mean,

someone has to do something for history to occur, and at least the Occupy crowd was trying to throw sand on the wheels of the machine, so to speak, as have their counterparts in Europe.  But I confess that for a number of reasons, I was never very optimistic about the movement; at least, not as it existed in the United States. As many sociologists have pointed out, America has no real socialist tradition, and it is no surprise that the serious maldistribution of wealth that exists in the U.S. is no issue whatsoever in the forthcoming presidential election.  In fact, a recent poll by the Pew Charitable Trust revealed that most Americans have no problem at all with the existence of a small wealthy class; they just want to be able to join it—which takes us back to the quote from John Steinbeck. My own prediction, several months ago, was that OWS would turn into a kind of permanent teach-in, where the disaffected could go to learn about a “new civilizational paradigm,” if that would indeed be taught. This is basically the “new monastic option” I wrote about in the Twilight book. On one level, it’s probably innocuous; it hardly threatens the power elite. But that may not be the whole story, especially in the long run—la longue durée.  After all, as the system collapses, alternatives are going to become increasingly attractive; and you can be sure that 2008 is not the last crash we are going to live through. The two sides go hand in hand, and ultimately—I’m talking thirty to forty years, but maybe less—the weight of the arc of capitalism will be too onerous to sustain itself. In la longue durée, one is far smarter betting on the alternative worldview than on capitalism. Thus the biologist David Ehrenfeld writes: “Our first task is to create a shadow economic, social, and even technological structure that will be ready to take over as the existing system fails.”

3. What, then, is that alternative worldview, that “new civilizational paradigm”? In Why America Failed I lay out, unsurprisingly enough, the reasons for why America failed, and I say that it was primarily because throughout our history we marginalized or ignored the voices that argued against the dominant culture, which is based on hustling, aggrandizement, and economic and technological expansion. This alternative tradition can be traced from John Smith in 1616 to Jimmy Carter in 1979, and included folks such as Emerson, Thoreau, Lewis Mumford, Jane Jacobs, Vance Packard, and John Kenneth Galbraith, among many others. In England it is particularly associated with John Ruskin and William Morris, who argued for the need for organic communities with a spiritual purpose, for work that was meaningful rather than mind-numbing, and who did manage to acquire a large number of American disciples. In a forthcoming book by a colleague of mine, Joel Magnuson, entitled The Approaching Great Transformation, the author states that we need concrete models of a post-carbon economy, ones that break with the profit model of capitalism—and not in cosmetic or rhetorical ways. He gives a number of examples of experiments in this vein, ones that I would term elements of a steady-state or homeostatic economy: no-growth, in other words. After all, writes Magnuson, “permanent growth means permanent crisis.” Or as I have put it elsewhere, our job is to dismantle capitalism before it dismantles us. Again, this does not mean taking on Wall Street, which I don’t believe can succeed. But it does mean leaving the field: for example, seceding. (Movements for secession do exist at this point, Vermont being a prominent example.) And if that’s not quite viable right now, there is at least the possibility of living in a different way, as David Ehrenfeld suggests. My guess is that “dual process”—the disintegration of capitalism and the concomitant emergence of an alternative socioeconomic formation—is going to be the central story of the rest of this century. And I suspect that austerity will be part of this, because as capitalism collapses and we run out of resources—petroleum in particular—what choice will we have?

4. This does not, it seems to me, necessarily mean a return to some type of feudalism; although that could well happen, for all I know. But we are finally talking about the passing not only of capitalism, but of modernity in general—the waning of the modern ages, in effect. In her interesting biography of the Hegelian scholar, Alexandre Kojève, Shadia Drury writes: “Every political order, no matter how grand, is doomed to decay and degenerate.” As for modernity in particular, she goes on:

“[M]odernity’s inception and its decline are like those of any other set of political and cultural ideals. In its early inception, modernity contained something good and beguiling. It was a revolution against the authority of the Church, its taboos, repressions, inquisitions, and witch burning. It was a new dawn of the human spirit—celebrating life, knowledge, individuality, freedom, and human rights. It bequeathed to man a sunny disposition on the world, and on himself….The new spirit fueled scientific discovery, inventiveness, trade, commerce, and an artistic explosion of great splendor. But as with every new spirit, modernity has gone foul….Modernity lost the freshness and innocence of its early promise because its goals became inflated, impossible, and even pernicious. Instead of being the symbol of freedom, independence, justice, and human rights, it has become the sign of conquest, colonialism, exploitation, and the destruction of the earth.”

In a word, its number is up, and it is our fortune or misfortune, as I said before, to be living during a time of very large, and very difficult, transition. An old way of life dies, a new one eventually comes into being. Of this, the poet Mark Strand remarks: “No need to rush; the end of the world is only the end of the world as you know it.” For some odd reason, I find that thought rather comforting.

 

©Morris Berman, 2012 


Morris Berman is well known as an innovative cultural historian and social critic. He has taught at a number of universities in Europe and North America, and has held visiting endowed chairs at Incarnate Word College (San Antonio), the University of New Mexico, and Weber State University. During 1982-88 he was the Lansdowne Professor in the History of Science at the University of Victoria, British Columbia. Berman won the Governor’s Writers Award for Washington State in 1990, the Rollo May Center Grant for Humanistic Studies in 1992, and the Neil Postman Award for Career Achievement in Public Intellectual Activity (from the Media Ecology Association) in 2013. He is the author of a trilogy on the evolution of human consciousness–-The Reenchantment of the World (1981), Coming to Our Senses (1989), and Wandering God: A Study in Nomadic Spirituality (2000)–and in 2000 his Twilight of American Culture was named a “Notable Book” by the New York Times Book Review.

The Agonies of Sensible People

B1_bloom_by TJ gc2smFrom the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation January 25, 2016
 

 


Much as many people-who-ought-to-know-better have been enjoying the disruptive antics of Donald Trump, surely other cohorts and coteries have endured dark nights of the soul as they witness the 2016 election spin into a perfect storm of rebellion, corruption, and idiocy. Imagine the scenes in Michael Bloomberg’s drawing room the past eight months, the agonies of sensible people! And so after the close of business Friday comes news that the former three-time mayor of New York City is laying concrete plans to run for president on a third-party ticket. Extreme times call for extreme moves by non-extremists.

The Trump phenomenon is pretty well-understood: a politically paralyzed nation hostage to malign forces, mired in racketeering, captive to PC witch-hunters, and pitching into bankruptcy, turns to a TV clown with no filter on his angry brain and he acts out all the discontents of our time. Does anybody doubt that the perfidies of the day beg to be opposed? But those shadowy figures in Bloomberg’s drawing room must be saying, “is this the best we can do?” And so an honorable man steps forward. Someone had to.

A couple of gigantic problems. First, what about Bloomberg being Wall Street’s pet politician? To many, I suppose, Bloomberg is exactly that. I’m not so sure. While he made his multi-billion dollar fortune building a computerized information service for Wall Street, with a news service and some other apps pinned on, he was not a bankster. He consorted with them all the livelong day, day in and day out, for decades. Maybe that was bad enough. Maybe it also puts him at a very special advantage, since other public figures can only pretend to understand the esoteric rackets lately engineered in lower Manhattan.

For instance, Bloomberg must know what a CDO is, and how outfits like JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs used them to swindle the taxpayers. I’m not convinced that Donald Trump could explain that to an audience if given an hour of airtime. He rarely speaks in two consecutive coherent sentences, for all his entertainment value. The next president will be on duty during the gravest and most powerful financial unwind in history, and it might be a good thing if he understood how it worked. He will probably be blamed for it in any case, but at least he will be a true mariner in a storm, not just a bigmouth passenger on the ship. Anyway, the salient question is whether the voters could ever accept him as something besides a tool of the banks?

The public that Bloomberg would have to appeal to has become a weird amalgam of cultural mutants, zombies, and special pleaders — Duck Dynasty and Straight Out of Compton meet The House of Wax. Worse, they are inflamed, not exactly disposed to weigh political fine points. They’re just out for blood against a system that has been bleeding them badly. Did I leave out some big wad of voters between the extremes who retain a few shreds of critical thought? I’m not sure they exist anymore. We’re about to find out in the months ahead. The group in Bloomberg’s drawing room may be deluding itself that there is any thread of clear thinking on the street outside. It would be very sad, if so.

I think it is fair to say that Michael Bloomberg’s success as the three-term mayor of New York City (2002 – 2013) was due almost completely to the financialization of the economy. A Niagara of money flowed into the city as banking ballooned from 5 percent to 40 percent of the US economy. As all the formerly skeezy neighborhoods of New York — the Bowery, the Meatpacking District, etc —got buffed up, the desolation in places like Utica, Dayton, Gary, and Memphis got worse. You might say New York City benefited hugely from all the assets stripped out of the flyover states. All of which is to say that that recent revival of New York City was not necessarily due to Michael Bloomberg’s genius. He presided over a very special moment in history when money was flowing in a particular way, and he went with flow.

For all that, it seems likely that he was also an able administrator as this occurred. A lot of out-front elements of city life improved visibly while he was around. Crime went down, the subways ran better, public spaces were improved. What would he be able to do in the compressive deflationary depression that I call the long emergency? Could he restore faith in authority? Could he comfort a battered public on the airwaves? Could he begin the awful task of politically deconstructing the matrix of rackets that has made it impossible for this country to move where history is taking us (smaller, finer, more local)?

Finally, on top of his Wall Street connection, Bloomberg is Jewish. (As I am.) Is the country now crazed enough to see the emergence of a Jewish Wall Streeter as the incarnation of all their hobgoblin-infested nightmares? Very possibly so, since the old left wing Progressives have adopted the Palestinians as their new pet oppressed minority du jour and have been inveighing against Israel incessantly. Well, that would be a darn shame. But that’s what you might get in a shameless land where anything goes and nothing matters.

For now, anyway, the real disrupter is turning out to be Michael Bloomberg. Finally a serious man enters the stage.

 

James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

Malheur Militia Machinations

ritzheimer dildogc2smFrom the keyboard of Surly1
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Please Send Snacks

Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on January 18, 2016

“There is no character, howsoever good and fine, but it can be destroyed by ridicule, howsoever poor and witless. Observe the ass, for instance: his character is about perfect, he is the choicest spirit among all the humbler animals, yet see what ridicule has brought him to. Instead of feeling complimented when we are called an ass, we are left in doubt.”

 ― Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson   


During the first weekend of the year, a remote bird watching facility known as the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was seized by a group of armed insurrectionists associated with a variety of "patriot" and right-wing causes.  These militants, led by Ammon and Ryan Bundy (sons of noted millionaire rancher and scofflaw Cliven Bundy) and a veritable sideshow of lesser-known cosplayers and heavily armed professional victims, showed up ostensibly to demonstrate support for a pair of Oregon ranchers. Dwight Hammond Jr. and son Steven had been previously convicted under federal law of arson for setting fires on their own property, which subsequently spread to federal land, earning a verdict which rankled and seemed excessive to some.

The story of the Hammonds is more complicated than a brief gloss will permit and has roots in conflict over federal land management and administrative policies that began decades before during the Reagan administration. And now the conflict bears further encrustations of so-called "patriot" fervor, right-wing conspiracy theories, Mormon fanaticism, White Power rebranded, and wingnut entitlement fantasies.

Note that this overheated screed is assembled from a variety of news reports, and pasted together with the kind of surly attitude that those who blunder into this occasional space will recognize.  We are not on the ground in Oregon, have no direct line into the Bundy's Klaven, nor make common cause with their complaint or their remedy. Rather, this space recognizes that public land is an asset held in public trust for all of us. And in our current depraved time when, if an honest profit cannot be made, a dishonest one will have to do, the push to privatize public land is nothing more than wholesale theft of the commons. Like most, I resent theft. With such a jaundiced eye do I regard the Bundys and their fellow travelers, while recognizing that federal land use issues and lease conditions may look very different west of the Mississippi.

And before we dig in, one more bitch: let's not call these heavily-armed proto-fascists "occupiers."  A sloppy and craven corporate media has taken to referring to their armed militia as "occupiers" just because they have taken up residence in federal buildings. Both the means and agenda of these right-wing fantasts are as different from those of Occupy Wall Street and the hundreds of uniformly peaceful Occupy groups that sprang up peacefully in 2011 as Donald Trump is from Mother Theresa. As is the response from those charged with maintaining public order.


The Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was established 1908, by noted communist revolutionary and property confiscator Theodore Roosevelt as “as a preserve and breeding ground for native birds.” The original purpose was to protect herons and other species of birds whose populations had been decimated by plume hunters toiling for the hat industry. Before that, the land was inhabited by the native Paiute, then cleared by the Army, after which the government sold much of it to ranchers for grazing. Cattle ranching in Harney County has always been first and foremost a corporate concern.

The U.S. military first had to ethnically cleanse the land, getting rid of the various native peoples that had lived in these stretches for thousands of years. But even after the land had become "free" to white settlers, prospective ranchers still needed markets for their cattle, especially once their primary market for meat, the Army, had moved on to other territories. It was the federal government that stepped in and bailed them out, taking on debt by an act of Congress to finance and build a railroad system. Without the Central Pacific Railway, those thousands of cattle could never have been sold.

So the foundation myth concocted by the Bundyites, of "individual homesteads headed by patriarchal Free Men" is a fiction concocted to justify an armed land grab. Little wonder that the reaction of many to the news of the armed seizure of federal facilities was a wonder at the lack of immediate forceful response from law enforcement, followed by laughter.


"Jamokes, dildos and lube."

An article in Deadspin set the tone for the way in which the remaining 97 per cent of the population not subscribing to right-wing fever dreams or getting their daily news from Infowars or Facebook reacted to reports of the armed clownboys.

Those Jamokes In Oregon Aren't Terrorists, They're Jamokes

Imagine the grade of sad, stunted halfwit who decks himself out in paramilitary regalia and lethal weaponry to stage a sit-in at what is for all intents and purposes a remote wildlife park’s visitor’s center. Okay, men, when I kick in the door, you three move on the 74-year-old v0lunteer who shows the birdwatching slideshow to elementary-school field trip groups; if she makes a move, be ready to take her down with force. The rest of us will establish a defensive position behind the cardboard beaver. If bigger goobers than these exist on our planet, you identify them by the bruises from where they poked themselves in the eye while trying to pick their noses.

On his Facebook page, one John Ritzheimer put out a meandering video declaration from behind the wheel as he was driving to join his brokeback assemblage of cosplayers.

Things we could use:
cold weather socks
snacks
energy drinks
equipment for cold weather
snow camo
gear
anything you think will help. 

Hilarity ensued. Woodwork creaks, and out come the freaks… and  their memes. My favorite:

And then the public responded, and Ritzheimer displayed as deft a grasp of public relations as of the version of the Constitution he famously worships.

Well as it turns out, some “sympathizers” did indeed have ideas about “what would help.”

“The occupiers, who took over buildings at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on Jan. 2 in the latest conflict over the U.S. government's control of land in the West, had been hoping for snacks, fuel and warm clothes when they provided sympathizers with a local mailing address,” Reuters notes. “Instead, as they angrily showed online, they received sex-related toys and food that would be of little use as they braced for a long standoff with federal law enforcement agents who have kept watch from a distance.”

Thus was outright ridicule the initial reaction of those who don't share the curious "sovereign citizen" and Posse Comitatus– inspired interpretation of the Constitution and common law of the Patriot/Militia movement. And these jamokes make it easy.

To our way of thinking, those solons at Salon got it about right:

Every day that these yahoos are out there, they expose how empty and stupid the myth of the “rugged individual” that the right so romanticizes really is. Instead, we get to see that these supposedly rugged individuals are, in reality, extremely silly people who are mostly there to play dress-up, engage in fantasies of self-importance, and beg the government to give them free money so they can get rich.

ritzheimer dildo


What if they were black?

The federal government used a very light touch to Cliven Bundy's armed tantrum in 2014, in stark contrast to the outright violence/police riots that greeted Occupy in 2011-12. The response of the government thus far to the armed militancy of his sons and their followers has been likewise restrained. If not visible. Many have posed the question, "What if these occupiers were black?"

Well, we have a pretty good answer, based on actual history. The racist double standard is stark. Remember MOVE?

30 years ago, a similar standoff between police and a black anti-government group in Philadelphia played out very differently. Armed members of a fringe liberation group called MOVE were bombed and burned alive for directing their weapons at police…


Members of the liberation group sought a natural lifestyle, free of government control, law enforcement, and technology. They lived together in a barricaded house, protested for animal rights, and ate raw foods. Similar to Bundy’s supporters, they believed the federal government violated their constitutional rights. And with a cache of weapons in their possession, they also advocated armed defense if targeted by the city’s authorities.


On May 13, 1985, officers with warrants and military-grade weapons surrounded their house. Police claimed they were there to evict the group, in response to complaints from locals about MOVE’s use of blow-horns to proselytize late into the night. They pointed deluge guns at the house and yelled at the people inside to evacuate. Tear gas was thrown into the building to smoke them out. But when someone started shooting back, the officers returned the gunfire with 10,000 rounds. Without knowing how many people were inside, they began throwing explosives at the house. And when nobody came out, they dropped a bomb from a helicopter — setting off a fire that spread to 65 homes and that firefighters were ordered not to put out.


In the end, one woman and one child made it out of the house alive. Five children and six adults were killed.

But that was local police in Philadelphia, you might reasonably observe, not the Feds  You might also bring up the fact that this was not the local cops' first run in with armed radicals at the MOVE house, and in that you would be correct as well. So, you might wish to compare apples and apples and ask, what would happen if black people attempted to occupy a federal installation? 

 And here's your answer: 

Unarmed black protesters were ‘forcibly removed’ and jailed after they tried to occupy federal land in 1979

In 1979, 40 members of People Organized for Equal Rights set up camp on a federal nature preserve south of Savannah, Georgia — where their ancestors had lived for generations.

A white plantation owner had deeded the land to a former slave after the Civil War, and other freed slaves and their descendant moved to the area — known as Harris Neck — to live, work, fish and farm for decades.

That all came to an abrupt end in 1942, when the U.S. military took over Harris Neck through eminent domain and gave residents three weeks to leave.

Black landowners were paid significantly less for their land than white landowners in the area, the newspaper reported, and the government destroyed the houses, factories and farms they had built. The government abandoned the airbase it built in their community after World War II, and the land was eventually converted into the Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge.

In 1972, 26 families who are direct descendants of the original inhabitants organized to reclaim the land — and they staged a “camp-in” seven years later to force the government to recognize their cause.

The unarmed protesters set up a camp at the nature preserve, and they asked for $50 million in reparations to rebuild the churches, schools, businesses and homes that were bulldozed by the government almost 40 years earlier.

Well, you already know how this ended. Federal authorities immediately secured a court order to remove the “squatters” within a day of setting up camp at Harris Neck — but four of the unarmed protesters refused to leave.They were “forcibly removed” May 2, 1979 — within three days of their arrival on land where their parents and grandparents had farmed, hunted and fished.

Each of the four men was sentenced to a month in jail for trespassing, and courts have subsequently ruled the land belongs to the U.S. government — and not to the slaves’ descendants.

Since this case echoes some of the circumstances and the complaints lodged by the Bundys and their ilk, it will be instructive to see how it is resolved, especially the so-called "land claims."  The treatment of the so-called "militants" by so-called "law enforcement" already speaks for itself.


 

A Land Grab With Guns

‘Patriot’ groups are a spinoff cult of white supremacists and are providing well-armed useful idiots for an armed land grab by people with a curious reading of the Constitution and a bloated sense of entitlement. The excuse for supporting the Hammond family provides the thinnest of pretexts for this latest installment of a long-standing soap opera by radical right-wingers to dismantle federal land ownership in the West. Some elected officials are attempting to get lands transferred to state or county governments, or to allow them greater input regarding their use via the introduction of legislation.

But the Malheur takeover seems to be an attempt to spread a tactic of armed federal land takeovers, emboldened by the facedown of the federal Bureau of Land Management by Cliven Bundy in 2014. (Bundy was at first praised by conservative politicians and personalities until he was quoted suggesting that "the Negro" would be better off as slaves than under government subsidies, thus becoming socially radioactive.)

These armed “Patriot movement” groups have seen a rebirth since the 2008 election of the Kenyan Anticolonial Socialist. The ‘Patriot’ movement relies on a sense of victimhood as aggrieved as it is imaginary: a vision of repeated injuries and usurpations by an oppressive government, all having as their direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny.  The "Patriot" movement relies upon a highly idiosyncratic reading of the Constitution, including crank legal theories such as "sovereign citizenship," the idea that the United States is a private corporation operating under maritime law, and the notion that a county sheriff was the highest elected official that should be obeyed. Infer for yourself their concept of federal environmental restrictions. (The Pacific Standard has a detailed account of this far-right rationale here.) Under such fairy tales can activists claim that what is happening to the Hammonds is unconstitutional.

The Boston Globe published an article tracing the historical animus between the Mormon church and the US government.

When the Mormons reached Utah in 1847, Smith’s successor Brigham Young founded the breakaway state of Deseret (the word for “honeybee” in the Book of Mormon), which rejected many US laws, specifically those that forbad the Mormon practice of polygamy. US troops invaded Mormon Utah in 1857. Last-minute diplomacy narrowly averted a bloodbath.

Like Joseph Smith, Brigham Young preached that the American Constitution was a divinely inspired document being perverted by secular politicians in Washington. In a famous speech recorded in the church’s “Journal of Discourses,” Young “said if the Constitution of the United States were saved at all it must be done by this people” — meaning the Mormons.

But Mormonism is just one facet of this issue. The current conflict has roots in the so-called “Sagebrush Rebellion,” resistance to Federal control of Western lands dating back to the Reagan Administration in the 1980s, and emboldened and nurtured by Reagan's Interior Secretary, James Watt. And then there is the pro-logging, pro-ranching, pro-mining "Wise Use Movement," which emerged in the early 1990s during the Clinton Administration.  All of which has been nurtured and fanned into flame by the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.  Anyone who wants to understand the politics of public land, the environmental impacts (none of them good) of overgrazing those lands, and with the eventual endgame might look like would do well to read The Great Republican Land Heist By Christopher Ketcham in the February 2015 Harper's. Ketcham details the attitudes of the Bundys and the assistance these "welfare parasites" (in Edward Abbey's phrase) have had along the way from influential right wing friends.

Ketchum quotes from Historian Bernard DeVoto, who covered the same issue for Harpers in the 1940s. Ketchum cites DeVoto, 

cautioning that the livestock industry was attempting “one of the biggest land grabs in American history.” The public lands “are first to be transferred to the states on the fully justified assumption that if there should be a state government not wholly compliant to the desires of stockgrowers, it could be pressured into compliance,” he wrote. “Nothing in history suggests that the states are adequate to protect their own resources, or even want to, or suggests that cattlemen and sheepmen are capable of regulating themselves even for their own benefit, still less the public’s.”The push for state ownership of public lands was part of a larger ideological struggle, DeVoto concluded, “only one part of an unceasing, many-sided effort to discredit all conservation bureaus of the government, to discredit conservation itself.”

Reaching a conclusion that will surprise no one:

Bernard DeVoto observed in the 1940s that no rancher in his right mind wanted to own the public lands himself. That would entail responsibility and stewardship. Worse, it would mean paying property taxes. What ranchers have always wanted, and what extractive industries in general want, is private exploitation with costs paid by the public.

The net takeaway for each of these is the transfer of public assets into private hands for private enrichment. As it has ever. But now a lavishly funded extreme right wing with money to burn has its own private army of "useful idiots" to deploy as brown shirts to extend and apply its coercive will. And every day that the Federal government affords the hands off, “kid-gloves” treatment to these domestic terrorists, it sends an unmistakable message of tolerance, if not outright support.

 


As we consider the eventual denouement,  The militia members say that they will remain in place for the indefinite future.  Given that stated intention,  the fact that they recently attended a town meeting in Burns, Oregon where the townspeople gave them an earful, and then returned to the wildlife sanctuary, one is obliged to wonder, "Why no blockade in or out? Why do they still have power? Mail delivery? Free access in and out?"

In a letter to FBI Director James Comey, Oregon Governor Kate Brown urged a swift Federal response, stating

While it is easy to assume that an occupation in such a remote location does not threaten public safety and does not harm any victims, that perception is far from accurate," the governor wrote. Adding to community tensions is that "the criminals on the refuge are allowed to travel on and off the premises with little fear of law enforcement contact or interaction.

Indeed. Ultimately, we are left to wonder what it all means, and how long the federal authorities, otherwise so fond of control and eager to hoover up all of our online and voice communications and fervently track our media consumption, will allow the situation to fester. And ultimately why it is that a handful of right-wing zealots bristling with arms and determined to seize for themselves what they cannot legitimately earn through the political process are able, once again, to get a pass from the authorities.

[The above article created with a big assist from Contrary, who revealed to me the ALEC connection from her own reading and dredged up some relevant articles, including the Harper’s article cited above.]


Late Breaking News and Further Reading:

Police Make First Arrest In Connection To Oregon Militia Standoff
Police say Kenneth Medenbach was driving a government vehicle stolen from the occupied wildlife refuge.

Oregon Lawmakers Chastizes Justice Dept. for Sitting on Their Hands

The Nightly Show Has A Field Day With Oregon Militia Group Receiving Sex Toys

Connecting the Anti-Environmental Movement and the Oregon Armed Occupation of National Wildlife Refuge

A superb article surveying media coverage and providing in-depth context from FAIR: The Good, Bad, and Ugly in Oregon Standoff Coverage

Kate Brown presses top federal officials for 'swift' action

Bill Maher Explains Why the Oregon Protesters Are Not Patriots
And what they have in common with student protesters at Yale.


banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, articles and spittle-flecked invective on this site, and quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be active in the Occupy movement. He shares a home in Southeastern Virginia with Contrary in the triumph of hope over experience and is grateful that he is not yet taking a dirt nap.

 

Worse Than 1860

four candidatesgc2smFrom the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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four candidates
 
Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation January 18, 2016
 

The lost story-line amid the food-fights and boasting contests that the “debates” have turned into is the destruction being wreaked on the two major parties themselves. I don’t see how either the Republicans or Democrats get out of this thing alive. The primary season now upon us is the event horizon that sucks these two purposeless clubs into the bottomless hole of historical bad memories. Both parties have failed so fundamentally to represent or even apprehend the interests of the nation that they are now merely obstacles to any sort of plausible future, two infernal machines blocking the road, shaking themselves to death.

The Republican Party may be closer to outright blowup since the rank and file will never accept Donald Trump as their legitimate candidate, and Trump has nothing but contempt for the rank and file. If Trump manages to win enough primaries and collect a big mass of delegate votes, the July convention in Cleveland will be the site of a mass political suicide. The party brass, including governors, congressmen, senators and their donor cronies will find some device to deprive Trump of his prize, and the Trump groundlings will revolt against that move, and the whole nomination process will be turned over to the courts, and the result will be a broken organization. The Federal Election Commission may then have to appeal to Capital Hill to postpone the general election. The obvious further result will be a constitutional crisis. Political legitimacy is shattered. Enter, some Pentagon general on a white horse.

Parallel events could rock the Democratic side. I expect Hillary to exit the race one way or another before April. She comes off the shelf like a defective product that never should have made it through quality control. Nobody really likes her. Nobody trusts her. Nobody besides Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Huma Abedin believe that it’s her turn to run the country. Factions at the FBI who have had a good look at her old State Department emails want to see her indicted for using the office to gin up global grift for the Clinton Foundation. These FBI personnel may be setting up another constitutional crisis by forcing Attorney General Loretta Lynch either to begin proceedings against Clinton or resign. Rumors about her health (complications from a concussion suffered in a fall ) won’t go away. And finally, of course, Senator Bernie Sanders is embarrassing her badly at the polls.

The Democrats could feasibly end up having to nominate Bernie on a TKO, but in doing so would instantly render themselves a rump party peddling the “socialist” brand — about the worst product-placement imaginable, given our history and national mythos. In theory, the country might benefit from a partial dose of socialism such as single-payer Medicare-for-all — just to bust up the odious matrix of rackets that medicine has become — but mega-bureaucracy on the grand scale is past its sell-by date for an emergent post-centralized world that needs its regions to get more local and autonomous.

The last time the major political parties disintegrated, back in the 1850s, the nation had to go through a bloody convulsion to reconstitute itself. The festering issue of slavery so dominated politics that nothing else is remembered about the dynamics of the period. Today, the festering issue is corruption and racketeering, but none of the candidates uses those precise terms to describe what has happened to us, though Sanders inveighs against the banker class to some effect. Trump gets at it only obliquely by raging against the “incompetence” of the current leadership, but he expresses himself so poorly in half-finished sentences and quasi-thoughts that he seems to embody that same mental incapacity as the people he rails against. Corruption and racketeering go unobserved and unchallenged. Even the amazing effrontery of Ted Cruz failing to report his Goldman Sachs campaign contributions to the FEC (with his wife employed as a managing director of that company!) hardly made an impression on public opinion last week.

Political uncertainty has never been so dangerously high in this country since the election year of 1860. Even the Watergate years pale against today’s sick scene because for all of Richard Nixon’s turpitudes and evasions in the White House, the institutions of democracy elsewhere were sound and worked impressively well. The senate committee steadfastly and systematically uncovered the crimes of Nixon and his cohorts over two years of hearings, and the House judiciary committee chugged efficiently through the preparatory work of impeachment — and then, old Tricky Dick boarded his helicopter to San Clemente with a ragged smile and a wave.

Nobody knows where the shit show of 2016 is leading. The uncertainty around it is helping to sink what remains of the old economy, and one can easily discern a very dangerous set of feedbacks creeping into place.

 

James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

Fear And Loathing in the House of Saud

saudi wellgc2smOff the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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saudi well

Originally published in Sputnik on January 8, 2016


Desperation does not even begin to describe the current plight of the House of Saud.

Riyadh was fully aware the beheading of respected Saudi Shi'ite cleric Nimr al-Nimr was a deliberate provocation bound to elicit a rash Iranian response.

The Saudis calculated they could get away with it; after all they employ the best American PR machine petrodollars can buy, and are viscerally defended by the usual gaggle of nasty US neo-cons.   

In a post-Orwellian world "order" where war is peace and "moderate" jihadis get a free pass, a House of Saud oil hacienda cum beheading paradise — devoid of all civilized norms of political mediation and civil society participation — heads the UN Commission on Human Rights and fattens the US industrial-military complex to the tune of billions of dollars while merrily exporting demented Wahhabi/Salafi-jihadism from MENA (Middle East-Northern Africa) to Europe and from the Caucasus to East Asia. 

And yet major trouble looms. Erratic King Salman's move of appointing his son, the supremely arrogant and supremely ignorant Prince Mohammad bin Salman to number two in the line of succession has been contested even among Wahhabi hardliners.

But don't count on petrodollar-controlled Arab media to tell the story.

English-language TV network Al-Arabiyya, for instance, based in the Emirates, long financed by House of Saud members, and owned by the MBC conglomerate, was bought by none other than Prince Mohammad himself, who will also buy MBC.

With oil at less than $40 a barrel, largely thanks to Saudi Arabia's oil war against both Iran and Russia, Riyadh's conventional wars are taking a terrible toll. The budget has collapsed and the House of Saud has been forced to raise taxes.

The illegal war on Yemen, conducted with full US acquiescence, led by — who else — Prince Mohammad, and largely carried out by the proverbial band of mercenaries, has instead handsomely profited al-Qaeda in the Arabic Peninsula (AQAP), just as the war on Syria has profited mostly Jabhat al-Nusra, a.k.a. al-Qaeda in Syria.

Three months ago, Saudi ulemas called for a jihad not only against Damascus but also Tehran and Moscow without the "civilized" West batting an eyelid; after all the ulemas were savvy enough to milk the "Russian aggression" bandwagon, comparing the Russian intervention in Syria, agreed with Damascus, with the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.   

US Think Tankland revels in spinning that the beheading provocation was a "signal" to Tehran that Riyadh will not tolerate Iranian influence among Shi'ites living in predominantly Sunni states. And yet Beltway cackle that Riyadh hoped to contain "domestic Shi'ite tensions" by beheading al-Nimr does not even qualify as a lousy propaganda script. To see why this is nonsense, let's take a quick tour of Saudi Arabia's Eastern province. 

All Eyes on Al Sharqiyya

Saudi Arabia is essentially a huge desert island. Even though the oil hacienda is bordered by the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, the Saudis don't control what matters: the key channels of communication/energy exporting bottlenecks — the Bab el-Mandeb and the Straits of Hormuz, not to mention the Suez canal.

Enter US "protection" as structured in a Mafia-style "offer you can't refuse" arrangement; we guarantee safe passage for the oil export flow through our naval patrols and you buy from us, non-stop, a festival of weapons and host our naval bases alongside other GCC minions. The "protection" used to be provided by the former British empire. So Saudi Arabia — as well as the GCC — remains essentially an Anglo-American satrapy.         

Al Sharqiyya — the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia — holds only 4 million people, the overwhelming majority Shi'ites. And yet it produces no less than 80% of Saudi oil. The heart of the action is the provincial capital Al Qatif, where Nimr al-Nimr was born. We're talking about the largest oil hub on the planet, consisting of 12 crisscrossed pipelines that connect to massive Gulf oil terminals such as Dhahran and Ras Tanura.

Enter the strategic importance of neighboring Bahrain. Historically, all the lands from Basra in southern Iraq to the peninsula of Musandam, in Oman — traditional trade posts between Europe and India — were known as Bahrain ("between two seas").

Tehran could easily use neighboring Bahrain to infiltrate Al Sharqiyya, detach it from Riyadh's control, and configure a "Greater Bahrain" allied with Iran. That's the crux of the narrative peddled by petrodollar-controlled media, the proverbial Western "experts", and incessantly parroted in the Beltway.  

Workers rest at Ras Tannura's oil production plant near Dammam in Saudi Arabia's eastern province

There's no question Iranian hardliners cherish the possibility of a perpetual Bahraini thorn on Riyadh's side. That would imply weaponizing a popular revolution in Al Sharqiyya.  But the fact is not even Nimr al-Nimr was in favor of a secession of Al Sharqiyya. 

And that's also the view of the Rouhani administration in Tehran. Whether disgruntled youth across Al Sharqiyya will finally have had enough with the beheading of al-Nimr it's another story; it may open a Pandora's box that will not exactly displease the IRGC in Tehran.  

But the heart of the matter is that Team Rouhani perfectly understands the developing Southwest Asia chapter of the New Great Game, featuring the re-emergence of Iran as a regional superpower; all of the House of Saud's moves, from hopelessly inept to major strategic blunder, betray utter desperation with the end of the old order.  

That spans everything from an unwinnable war (Yemen) to a blatant provocation (the beheading of al-Nimr) and a non sequitur such as the new Islamic 34-nation anti-terror coalition which most alleged members didn't even know they were a part of. 

The supreme House of Saud obsession rules, drenched in fear and loathing: the Iranian "threat".

Riyadh, which is clueless on how to play geopolitical chess — or backgammon — will keep insisting on the oil war, as it cannot even contemplate a military confrontation with Tehran. And everything will be on hold, waiting for the next tenant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue; will he/she be tempted to pivot back to Southwest Asia, and cling to the old order (not likely, as Washington relies on becoming independent from Saudi oil)? Or will the House of Saud be left to its own — puny — devices among the shark-infested waters of hardcore geopolitics?


PepePepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

Boundary Problems

boundary_fullgc2smFrom the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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boundary
 
Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation November 23, 2015
 

I t’s no accident that Donald Trump’s vaunted wall along the US-Mexico border became such a potent metaphor for a floundering American polity. The US has boundary problems — and not just with illegal immigrants (whoops, undocumented visitors). A mighty flux of standards and principles is symptomatic of an economy in freefall. Nothing is settled. All values are put up for re-negotiation. Steamrolling and bullying are the new fair play. Foundational ideas, such as the first amendment, erode under a flood of special pleadings. There is no center left to hold.

The latest identity politics fracas at Princeton University is instructive. Princeton students’ Black Justice League demanded both the vilification of former university president Woodrow Wilson as an arch-segregationist at the same time they demanded a segregated “cultural safe space for black students.” The pusillanimous current Princeton president, one Christopher Eisgruber, entertained their “demands” perhaps knowing that the threatened “indefinite” occupation of administration offices would be cut short by the Thanksgiving week vacation. (So far, the occupying force of the Black Justice League has not demanded delivery of free turkey and cranberry sauce — turkeys problematically have distinct regions of white and dark meat.)

The past ten days have also seen protests against free speech at snooty eastern elite Amherst College and a “white privilege retreat” at the University of Vermont for students “self-identifying as white” — why not “students of whiteness?” — with required reading on “The Invention of the White Race,” “White Privilege, Male Privilege in Race, Class, Gender,” “The Feminist Classroom,” and “The Abolition of Whiteness.”

You might whiff a general drift in all this of antagonism against people of whiteness and men in particular. Hence it’s extra-specially unfortunate that the oafish and sadistic Donald Trump is so conspicuously out there representing that identity group. I suppose what that shows is that the process of boundary dissolution can really call out the demonic. The sad part is that white men of principle and reason are so beaten down that none dare oppose the forces of identity vengeance on the loose.

The fugitive truths surrounding the Black Lives Matter protests are too unpleasant for the public interest to digest. For instance, the behavior of the new Holy Trinity of Black Martyrs, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice, in the incidents where they lost their lives. All were doing something likely to get them into serious trouble: 1) beating up on an armed sentinel, 2) groping inside a patrol car for a policeman’s gun, 3) brandishing a pellet gun designed to look like a .45 automatic in a public place. I’d go so far to suggest that the Black Lives Matter movement has become so virulent because it’s increasingly obvious that black behavior is so embarrassingly bad and nobody knows what to do about it, especially black people. (Check the national murder rates.)

The colleges and universities have become the theater for these histrionics because they are institutionally so vested in the wish for better outcomes that evolved from the civil rights struggles of the last century. A general failure of those expectations has driven the colleges collectively crazy — or, more precisely, made them places for the enactment of craziness. The careers of reasonable people are hostage to the new campus Red Guards, who operate much like Mao Zedong’s lunatic minions of the 1960s, who were set loose to distract public attention from the enormous failure of Mao’s five-year plan economy.

A reasonable argument can be made that the temperament of the USA is worse than that of Germany in 1932. We’re more foolish, feckless, and savage, our politics more ridiculous, and the wave we’re riding is much more dangerous.

 

James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

This Week in Doom, 11/16: The Paris Aftermath Edition

That-Was-The-Week-That-W-That-Was-The-Week-473964gc2smFrom the keyboard of Surly1
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Seeing Paris

Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on November 16, 2015

 

"Something awful has happened in Paris. Out of it will be born something awful in the collective mind and the collective heart and the collective soul. "   –  Charles Pierce


Events in Paris have focused our attentions and energies like few other since 9/11/2001 and provided a serious harbinger of doom this week. Some people, lie-weary since 1963 and 2001, look first to the false flag and the shitmist of corporate media misdirection. Others look appropriately to the dead and the grieving. Others use the tragedy to weigh the heft of their favorite political cudgels, this with the blood still in the streets of Paris. A special House of Shame should be erected especially for these:

Mother Jones accumulated some of the worst reactions to the tragedy:

Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 9.48.08 AM

 

At this point the conversation turns, as it has inside the Diner Forum, to cui bono? What seems unmistakeable is that  some will benefit. Clearly those who share ends if not means with the terrorists, which includes the Gates of Vienna/Stormfront crowd, Marine LePen, and cultural rightists of all stripes, neocons, neofascists, nativists, xenophobes, war munitions-makers, overseas contractors, builders of fences, closers of borders, and those who arm them. Authoritarians all.

And to this point, Esquire's Charles Pierce noted how Paris will skew the political process and essentially redefine the terms of political engagement by starting every question with, "In light of what happened in Paris." As seen from the small gill-net sampling of tweets from the social media sewer, look for

a momentary spasm of unreason and an easily dispersed cloud of spittle in our national dialogue. At worst, there will be a sort of undeclared truce between our two major political parties—which, after all, are funded in whole or in part by the same people—that domestic issues will have to go on "the back burner" because this has been declared a national-security election again, that the campaign will be less about keeping people solvent and more about keeping them "safe."  

And we know cui bono from that. The same Deep State as always. Pierce cites Robert LaFollette, the populist hero in Wisconsin who rose to oppose Woodrow Wilson's effort to drag the US into the First World War:

The poor, sir, who are the ones called upon to rot in the trenches, have no organized power, have no press to voice their will upon this question of peace or war; but, oh, Mr. President, at some time they will be heard… when the people today who are staggering under the burden of supporting families at the present prices of the necessaries of life find those prices multiplied, when they are raised 100 percent, or 200 percent, as they will be quickly, aye, sir, when beyond that those who pay taxes come to have their taxes doubled and again doubled to pay the interest on the nontaxable bonds held by [J. P.] Morgan and his combinations, which have been issued to meet this war, there will come an awakening; they will have their day and they will be heard. . . 

LaFollette was wrong. The US went to war, the masses failed to rise, and the longed for progressive moment dissipated at the sound of the martial drumbeat. And was then dispersed as the troops came home by the specter of the Red Scare, the Palmer raids, and the rise of one J. Edgar Hoover. This time, we are presented with the prospect of eternal war, one that will be "merciless" according to Hollande, against a enemy eager to use terrorism as a tactic to illustrate what foreign policy "blowback" looks like in the global North. Causing a generalized fear and mutual loathing on all sides, and a shot of martial adrenaline into the heart of a war-weary and broke American populace. 

At this point it matters less whether this was just eight guys who rolled into shore on the French Riviera in a sailboat with a couple of homegrown accomplices, or whether they are picking up their Kalishnikovs from street vendors or from CIA-provided containers. They had a support network.  Although questions remain:

French authorities on Saturday said the horrific rampage of bullets and explosions that left 129 dead in Paris on Friday was carried out by suicide bombers connected to the Islamic State who broke into three groups with a single objective: to kill as many people as possible.

France — and Europe — was once again confronted with the violence of homegrown terrorism. At least one of the seven dead assailants was a French national — a 29-year-old with a criminal record who had been previously monitored by French intelligence and linked to Islamist extremism. Two others, a senior Belgian official said, appeared to be Belgian foreign fighters, including an 18-year-old who had fought in Syria. A Syrian passport was found near the body of another assailant.

Indeed. Interesting how intact passports are always found on the body of or near the crime scene. Remember the passport found in the Charlie Hebdo shooting? One the one found after 9-11? Is that cordite I smell, or 9-11? And as to the false flag allegations, our governments wouldn't lie to us, would they?

Social media is certainly a reflection of the national mood, as many move to turn their Facebook profile picture into an overlay of the French tricolor, a gesture of solidarity as meaningless as it is facile. I have not done that and probably won't for reasons best articulated by another Faccebook friend named Diane:

I will not be updating my profile to support France. Sorry. It sucks that people died, always does. But more totally innocent black people are killed by our own cops in a month, every month than were killed there by terrorists. We have our own, unmentionable terrorist here. BTW, they have started killing poor whites too. Will THAT make us finally care?
France is bombing the shit out of Syria, and still collecting taxes from a bunch of African nations for its "losses" to slavery and their colonies there. Who mourns that?
I will not indulge in Islamophobia, because the refugees in Europe are going to pay for this, when these are the people they are running from. The people the US and the EU armed, trained and paid for to a great extent. The people they are trying to demonize.
Lastly, so many people have died in the Middle East this week…ISIS suicide bombers detonated themselves in the southern part of Beirut last Thursday, killing 43 people and wounding 239 and none of us painted our image in their flag.
… And still, innocents died! Yes, I feel for them with the same Mother's instinct that makes every Palestinian child mine, every Somalian child mine, every young Black father my son, every trembling Iranian girl mine.

Another perspective from a FB friend named Michael:

While we mourn the carnage in Paris, and gnash our teeth, and pull at our hair-shirts, it's a good time to remember that people are not separated from the actions of their governments. Blowback is hell.

We can trot out our righteous indignation, and our sense of victim-hood at the hands of “terror,” but, really isn't it just one of Newton's laws of motion?  For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. 

Islamic fighting units are not birthed in a vacuum. The “west” has been meddling in the Middle East for a century.

“Persian oil … is yours. We share the oil of Iraq and Kuwait. As for Saudi Arabian oil, it's ours.” FDR to the British Ambassador.

We mourn the carnage in Paris. We imagine our innocent selves at a concert, or a ballgame, or a shopping mall, and gunned down by crazy terrorists who hate us for our freedom, and decadent lifestyle. We're taught we are victims of terror. We're innocent. We have nothing to do with anything. We're just minding our own business, and people attack us for no reason, but the fact they're evil.

But we know this isn't true. The war didn't begin with them. 

But we are victims. We're victims of the policies of our own government. Policies we either don't care enough about to change, or we agree with them, or we're helpless before them. But, whatever, the truth is, in war 90% of the causalities are non-military. And in the Forever War, the battlefield is everywhere.

After we've destroyed nations, wrecked societies, killed hundreds of thousands, and displaced millions, is it any wonder folks would attempt to fight back? And once in a while land a punch?The last thing we should be is surprised. 

We mourn. But we should also understand. And we can't do that if we sweep history under the rug.

 

But sweeping history under the rug is what we do. Not for nothing did Gore Vidal refer to this country as "The United States of Amnesia."

It is easy for us to bow our heads in sorrow for the people of Paris. Yet there are Lebanese and Iraqi dead as well that don't make the news. All human sacrifices made, ultimately, to the interests of a neocon policy cabal that has made military might the primary implement of foreign policy, as well as the military industrial complex, war profiteers and multinational corporations who grow fat on the "rebuilding."

My tax dollars have been diverted to one war effort or another my entire adult life. At some point, one gets sick of tallying the deaths, the endless skein of gratuitous and unnecessary violence. Especially knowing that a handful of Satan's minions are amassing obscene profits from a trade soaked in the blood of innocents. 

If you find yourself likewise sick of this violence, this unnecessary shedding of the blood of the young and innocent on foreign soil, then do your homework and vote. Many lives depend on it here and abroad. And if you find yourself wringing your hands and justifying your non-participation by saying it won't change anything, then congratulations, and check out a mirror: you're an accomplice. But maybe you can make your Facebook a profile pic a tricolor and show us how much you care. 

 

Mark Twain articulated the the true costs of war as well as anyone ever as in the short story know as "The War Prayer." Twain's "aged stranger" appears in the midst of a church service blessing the troops, and adds "the rest of the story" to the pastor's heartfelt prayer:

O Lord our God, help us tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended in the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames in summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it —

For our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimmage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet!

We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

The Great Culling is at hand.


banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, articles and spittle-flecked invective on this site, and quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be active in the Occupy movement. He shares a home in Southeastern Virginia with Contrary in the triumph of hope over experience, and is grateful that he is not yet taking a dirt nap.

 

NATO Invades Spain

 NATO Spaingc2smOff the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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NATO Spain

Originally published in SputnikNews on November 6, 2015

 

Fresh from its thunderous humiliation by the Taliban; its “liberation” of Libya for the benefit of militia hell; and while Russia was bombing the hell out of a Salafi-jihadi/”moderate rebel” constellation in Syria, NATO – in search for a “360-degree” response to Russia – resorted to invading… Spain.

And Portugal. And Italy. The whole “central Mediterranean” for that matter. Trident Juncture – the heroic denomination of NATO’s war games – is supposed to last a very long five weeks, involving 36,000 troops, 230 military units, 140 fighter aircraft, more than 60 ships, and Humvees spectacularly bogged down on Portuguese beaches.

Oh yes; it takes a lot of effort to find those elusive, evil tapas of mass destruction (TMDs).

NATO secretary-general, Norwegian figurehead Jens Stoltenberg, ceremonially landed in Zaragoza to “observe” Trident Juncture in person, spinning there were now “many threats to the South of the alliance”. No, he was not talking about himself.  

Stoltenberg was evidently oblivious to pan-European civil society protesting his weaponized Big Brother en masse. In Zaragoza. In Rome. In Sofia. In Montenegro.

An helicopter takes part in the NATO's Trident Juncture Exercice at San Gregorio training ground near Zaragoza on November 4, 2015.

Instead, he advanced that in early December NATO will come up with a new “southern strategy”. Essentially more patrols in the Club Med; deployment of NATO troops in “advisory” roles across Middle East-Northern Africa (MENA); and reinforced, permanent NATO military deployments all over Europe.

Trident Juncture involves what NATO calls “spearhead force”. So may the force be fit to invade not only PIGS but all points Africa as well.

Maybe we should copy DHL?

With Trident Juncture, we have a NATO invasion of some of the PIGS (Portugal, Italy and Spain) – all nasty, pejorative connotations included – essentially designed to reassure NATO’s “eastern allies” that Russia will not be able to invade them.

After all, Admiral John Richardson, the new chief of US Navy operations, had already confirmed the Pentagon is sending extra ships and submarines to deter “Russian adventurism”.

He was echoed by Gen. Adrian Bradshaw, NATO’s deputy supreme allied commander, who invoked perennial “freedom of navigation” to justify an escalation; “As we observe the deployment of more sophisticated [Russian] capabilities with considerable reach it becomes more and more important that we refresh our deterrence.”

So from now on expect a NATO “continuum of deterrence” all across southern Europe. That includes five Global Hawk surveillance drones based in Sicily that will allow non-stop spying across the Mediterranean to MENA.

Predictably, to justify Trident Juncture, Western corporate media turned up the excuse bullhorn to ear-splitting levels – from “wrong-footed US-led alliance” to “tactical surprises” by Russia – while praising NATO’s “biggest modernization since the Cold War”. Gen. Denis Mercier from France spun NATO’s new, multi-layered “deterrence” effort as, "We need to develop a strategy for all kinds of crises, at 360 degrees." Well, a few extra degrees towards the Eastern Mediterranean would pit NATO against Russia – but that’s too risky. Better try to find those tapas. 

 

Proverbially unnamed NATO officials were kept busy anyway spinning that Russia could deploy warships from the Eastern Mediterranean to Libya to “hamper” a NATO “effort” to support a future government of national unity. As if NATO’s “strategy” of creating a wasteland in northern Africa and calling it “victory” would qualify it for nation building.

Trident Juncture is just about – well — tapas. The full dinner takes place at a NATO summit in July 2016 in Russia-demonizing Poland. Europeans are advised to expect lots of brilliant ideas lifted from DHL and Amazon. As NATO’s Mercier indelibly put it, “We should look at what the civilian world does, to DHL and Amazon. How do they improve their logistics?"

Oh, those mysterious Russians

NATO’s cluelessness is a direct consequence of American military perplexity, as reflected in this priceless briefing by Dr. Strangelove, sorry, NATO supremo Gen. Philip Breedlove himself.

In his own words; “We cannot be fully certain of what Russia will do next. We still cannot fully discern Mr. Putin’s intent.”

And that perplexity in itself reflects the Pentagon’s deadly mix of ire and impotence. Take US Army Chief of Staff General Mike Milley, blasting at the Defense One summit in Washington that Russia is “aggressive”; “adversarial to the interests of the United States”; a violator of “the Westphalian order” since 2008 by “invading sovereign nations”; and in sum – fully subscribing to the latest US military doctrine — an existential threat.

Breedlove/hate at least admitted the Pentagon’s perennial obsession with (supposed) Full Spectrum Dominance, projected way beyond  Europe towards MENA and deep into Africa; “Most of the forces we have in Europe are also dual-hatted to Africa Command. While they are stationed in Europe, their focus is on AFRICOM missions on the continent. In this way, EUCOM is supporting across that seam into AFRICOM.”

And yet the number one issue in MENA remains Syria.

The Pentagon is deploying a dozen F-15C Eagle fighters to Turkey’s Incirlik base. The official spin is to “ensure the safety” of “NATO allies”, which should be translated as “protecting” US and other Coalition of the Dodgy Opportunists (CDO) allied jet fighters from… Russian jet fighters.

Theoretically the F-15Cs will be “escorting” the odd CDO attack planes that bomb ISIS/ISIL/Daesh once in a blue moon. Rubbish; the F-15Cs carry only air-to-air weapons. And their pilots are trained to only shoot down enemy aircraft.

 

The notion that the Pentagon would dare declaring its own no-fly zone over northern Syria to protect a gaggle of “moderate rebels” from Russian and Syrian Arab Army (SAA) bombing is preposterous. What next? “Red” fighters against “Blue” fighters on air-to-air combat? As much as he’s cornered by a neocon-infested Pentagon, Obama is not suicidal. Still, the wondrous plot of two divergent coalitions in Syria – the CDO versus the “4+1” (Russia-Syria-Iran-Iraq plus Hezbollah) — keeps thickening.

Adding to Pentagon freak out, Russia has sent missile systems to Syria, on top of fighter jets, bombers and helicopters, as Col. Gen. Viktor Bondarev told the Komsomolskaya Pravda. As Bondarev and other Russian military officials have kept mum on what sort of missiles, the Pentagon assumes they are the deadly accurate S-300 surface-to-air missile systems. Oh dear. Better scrap that Pentagon no-fly zone.

So it’s easy to see why the Pentagon and NATO are so dejected. It’s so much safer to keep looking for those elusive tapas of mass destruction (TMDs). And then go for a deterrence siesta.


Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

Trapped in a Millennial’s Daydream

 millennials  gc2smOff the keyboard of Thomas Lewis

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millennials

The meaning of life in one easy chart! It’s easy when you’re a Millennial. (Photo by ITU Pictures)

Published on The Daily Impact on November 3, 2015


Culture — the shared sense of who we are, and how we act — is now transmitted, in the main, by television. Once, our culture was preserved, protected and passed along by wise elders — heads of families and clans, priests, scholars and the like, whose motivation was to remind us of our shared history and values, and to summon us to a life of service to those values. Today, our culture consists of titillation, entertainment, distraction and falsehoods choreographed by 20-somethings who think history is something that happened last week, character is a part in a movie and wisdom is the name of a tooth.

The cable news shows on TV, for example, upon which many depend for information about the world and for clues about what to make of it, are produced by Millennials. They bring their ideas to the story conferences, advocate their inclusion in the lineup, book the guests, and write the copy. What is the purpose of these tasks? To inform, inspire, educate or motivate? No, to grab eyeballs (translation: attract viewers). How? By making it sexy, provocative, bloody, heart-wrenching (she breaks down, she cries, great TV!), hilarious, and if you can’t get any of that, make it fast. Dress it with dazzling graphics, surround it with pounding sound effects, and for those whose attention might wander after two consecutive seconds of anything, run crawls! supers! inserts! overlays! banners! Grab those eyeballs and never let them go!

Guests and pundits are sought who fill one or both of two requirements: one, they have proved on other appearances that they can get eyeballs (did you think that you have seen little but Trump on TV for three months because of the quality of his ideas? Eyeballs stick to him! Get him!); and two, they validate the booker’s pre-conceived idea of what will make good TV. A typical opening line from a booker calling a prospective guest goes something like this: “Hi, we’re looking for someone who will compare Hillary’s email scandal to Watergate. You willing to do that? Fine, we’ll send a car. You think that’s a dumb idea? Have a nice day.”

Ordinary people cannot be relied upon to deliver good TV, although they do seem to study and learn from each other’s performances as “witnesses,” “victims,” and especially “family members.” Producers stack the decks by writing pre-answered questions for the anchor bimbos and bimbettes: “So, how did you feel when he pointed the gun at you? Did your life flash before your eyes, did you have trouble breathing, did time slow down and stop?” Answer: “Uh, yeah.”

This is the world of the millennials, whose creative writing is done with their thumbs, whose idea of a good read is 140 characters long, who eyes glaze over if they are even briefly deprived of the stimulation of flash-bang video grenades. And they are the people who do most of the work on our news programs, commercials and TV shows — the shared experiences that fill our conversations, inform our thought, and after a while define us and our time.

Millennials are not stupid, but they are young, lacking in experience and consequently judgment. That is why we used to entrust culture to old people. A Millenial cannot imagine what will amuse or engage large numbers of people who live suffocated lives far from the trendy urban centers of New York, New York, etcetera. So the Millenial news producer, creative director or TV writer falls back on rules made up by other Millennials and tested by time for six months or so.

Which is why we are presented with endless parades of celebrities (everybody likes them, right?); endless repetitions of nostrums that are simple, obvious and wrong (trickle-down economics, just one example); and cartoons pretending to explain some wondrously complex process of nature with a crayon (see, the medicine goes in here and all the bad stuff runs away!).

Which is why, when a celebrity gets up on a stage and gives us a simple, cartoonish explanation of how he would handle the presidency of the United States, it doesn’t seem ridiculous. In our culture, that’s how things work.  I know. I saw it on TV.  


Thomas Lewis is a nationally recognized and reviewed author of six books, a broadcaster, public speaker and advocate of sustainable living. He also is Editor of The Daily Impact website, and former artist-in-residence at Frostburg State University. He has written several books about collapse issues, including Brace for Impact and Tribulation. Learn more about them here.

Death Watch in the Oil Patch

 Pumpjack-1024x768  gc2smOff the keyboard of Thomas Lewis

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Pumpjack-1024x768

Oil pumpjacks starting to suck oil instead of money. (You and I know, of course, that grasshopper pumps are not used in fracking, but have become a universal symbol for the oil bidness in the Mainstream Media, so there you go. And here you are.).

Published on The Daily Impact on October 28, 2015


In the same sense that brave individuals are said to “fight” stage four cancer, the American oil industry has spent a harrowing year fighting reality. Since oil prices tanked last summer, the industry has drawn down its strategic reserves of whitewash, pig lipstick, shinola and embalming fluid to keep things looking good even as they were decomposing. They did a pretty good job, but then they’ve had a lot of practice.Their theory, apparently; when you’re kicking the can down the road, a myth is as good as a mile. Consider a brief compendium of the lies, damned lies and statistics the oil guys have sold the country in the past few years.

Myth Sold: The Oil “Revolution.”  Hydraulic fracturing was a technological breakthrough that was going to make America number one in world oil production again, restore American energy independence and guarantee American hegemony for (pretty much) ever.    

Fact: Fracking is an extremely expensive and environmentally destructive way to wring the last few drops of  oil out of source rock. While it temporarily increased US oil production, it never equalled our peak production of 1970, and while it temporarily decreased our oil imports (which are now on their way back up), it never threatened our status as the world’s largest importer of oil.

Myth Sold: Technology Will Save Us. When oil prices cratered, the frackers reassured their investors, lenders and us that they could handle it. They had improved the fracking technology so much they could continue to make a profit producing $50-a-barrel oil.

Fact: The much-hyped changes were just so much tinkering, and profits remained illusory. Virtually every company involved in the fracking patch had negative cash flows from the beginning. Operating profits from the wells were wiped out by the costs of replacing the wells every three or four years, because of their hideous depletion rates. Conventional wells produce for 20 years, five time longer than fracked well.

Myth Sold: Efficiency Will Save Us. Like the old line about balancing the federal budget by eliminating waste and fraud, this sounds reasonable but never happens. The frackers concentrated on the “sweet spots,” the small areas of their holdings with the best returns, and they started placing four drilling rigs, instead of one, on each pad.

Fact: Thus their production actually increased for a few months after the price crash. But, well productivity is flatlining now and with the rig count down by about half, new wells are not being brought on line and production has started to fall sharply.

Myth Sold: Hedging Will Save Us. For the first year or so of depressed prices, frackers benefited from hedges — contracts to sell their product at last year’s prevailing prices. The theory was, prices would be back up before the hedges ran out.

Fact: The hedges have run out. The people who used to take the other side of the hedges are not answering frackers’ phone calls. Maybe because their phones have been disconnected.

Myth Sold: Junk Bonds Will Save Us. And so they did, for a while. Infusions of cash — from, among others, vultures hoping to acquire cheap oil company assets and ride the resurgence to a new, new oil revolution — in the form of junk bonds, leveraged loans, sub-prime loans, covenant-lite loans, etc., kept the bubble inflated.

Fact: What resurgence? Banks and other lenders, reluctant to recognize the mounting losses, continued to pretend that the oil companies whose assets’ worth had been cut in half were still solvent. Nothing wrong here! Why do you ask?

New Fact: Right now, the banks are conducting a mandatory review of the worth of the assets pledged against their fracking loans, that is, the value of the oil the companies still have to extract. This spring, the banks assessed the oil at last year’s prices, and with fingers tightly crossed rolled over the loans.

It was a stretch then; can they do it again, eke out a few more months of myths? On the one hand, maybe so, denial is not just a river in Egypt. On the other hand, good as they have been, the sellers of the myths appear to be sold out.  


Thomas Lewis is a nationally recognized and reviewed author of six books, a broadcaster, public speaker and advocate of sustainable living. He also is Editor of The Daily Impact website, and former artist-in-residence at Frostburg State University. He has written several books about collapse issues, including Brace for Impact and Tribulation. Learn more about them here.

Good Little Maoists

hand over mouthgc2smFrom the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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hand over mouth
 
Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation November 2, 2015
 

Sometimes societies just go batshit crazy. For ten years, 1966 to 1976, China slid into the chaotic maw of Mao Zedong’s “cultural revolution.” A youth army called the Red Guard was given license to terrorize authorities all over the nation — teachers, scientists, government officials, really just about anyone in charge of anything. They destroyed lives and families and killed quite a few of their victims. They paralyzed the country with their persecutions against “bourgeois elements” and “capitalist roaders,” reaching as deep into the top leadership as Deng Xiaoping, who was paraded in public wearing a dunce-cap, but eventually was able to put an end to all the insanity after Mao’s death.

America’s own cultural revolution has worked differently. It was mostly limited to the hermetically-sealed hot-house world of the universities, where new species of hierophants and mystagogues were busy constructing a crypto-political dogma aimed at redefining status arrangements among the various diverse ethnic and sexual “multi-cultures” of the land.

There is no American Mao, but there are millions of good little Maoists all over America bent on persecuting anyone who departs from a party line that now dominates the bubble of campus life. It’s a weird home-grown mixture of Puritan witch-hunting, racial paranoia, and sexual hysteria, and it comes loaded with a lexicon of jargon — “micro-aggression,” “trigger warnings,” “speech codes,” etc — designed to enforce uniformity in thinking, and to punish departures from it.

At a moment in history when the US is beset by epochal problems of economy, energy, ecology, and foreign relations, campus life is preoccupied with handwringing over the hurt feelings of every imaginable ethnic and sexual group and just as earnestly with the suppression of ideological trespassers who don’t go along with the program of exorcisms. A comprehensive history of this unfortunate campaign has yet to be written, but by the time it is, higher education may lie in ruins. It is already burdened and beset by the unintended consequences of the financial racketeering so pervasive across American life these days. But in promoting the official suppression of ideas, it is really committing intellectual suicide, disgracing its mission to civilized life.

I had my own brush with this evil empire last week when I gave a talk at Boston College, a general briefing on the progress of long emergency. The audience was sparse. It was pouring rain. The World Series was on TV. People are not so interested in these issues since the Federal Reserve saved the world with free money, and what I had to say did not include anything on race, gender, and white privilege.

However, after the talk, I went out for dinner with four faculty members and one friend-of-faculty. Three of them were English profs. One was an urban planner and one was an ecology prof. All of the English profs were specialists in race, gender, and privilege. Imagine that. You’d think that the college was a little overloaded there, but it speaks for the current academic obsessive-compulsive neurosis with these matters. Anyway, on the way to restaurant I was chatting in the car with one of the English profs about a particular angle on race, since this was his focus and he tended to view things through that lens. The discussion continued at the dinner table and this is what ensued on the Internet (an email to me the next morning):

On Oct 29, 2015, at 4:37 PM, Rhonda Frederick <rhonda.frederick@bc.edu> wrote:

This is what I posted on my social medias, am sharing with you and your agent.

Yesterday, novelist/journalist James Howard Kunstler was invited to give a talk at BC (see his bio at http://www.bc.edu/offices/lowellhs/calendar.html#1028).

At the post-talk dinner, he said “the great problem facing African Americans is that they aren’t taught proper English, and that … academics are too preoccupied with privilege and political correctness to admit this obvious fact.” No black people (I presume he used “African American” when he meant “black”) were present at the dinner. I was not at the dinner, but two of my friends/colleagues were; I trust their recollections implicitly. Whether Kunstler was using stereotypes about black people to be provocative, or whether he believed the ignorance he spouted, my response is the same: I cannot allow this kind of ignorance into my space and I am not the one to cast what he said as a “teachable moment.” I do think there should be a BC response to this, as the university paid his honorarium and for his meal. Here’s some contact information for anyone interested in sharing your thoughts on how BC should spend its money:

Lowell Humanities Series at Boston College (http://www.bc.edu/offices/lowellhs/about.html)

+++++++++++++++++

Rhonda—

That is not quite what I said.

I said that teaching black Americans how to speak English correctly ought to be the most important mission of primary and secondary education for blacks in order for them to function successfully in our economy. Moreover, I said that anyone mounting an argument against this was hurting the very people they pretend to help.

I stand by those statements.

Your attempt at Stalinist thought policing is emblematic of something terribly wrong in higher education, especially since you were not present.

Jim
James Howard Kunstler
“It’s All Good”

So I was subjected to attempted character assassination via social media by this Rhonda Frederick person — faculty or student, she did not say — who admits to not having been present at the incident in question. This is the new fashion in academia: slander by Twitter and Facebook. It is fully supported by the faculty and administration. While they have been super-busy constructing speech codes and sex protocols, it seems they haven’t had any time for establishing ethical norms in the use of the Internet. As it happened, I offered to come back and publically debate my statements about the benefits of teaching spoken English to black primary and secondary students — they’d have to pay me, of course — but received no reply on that from Rhonda Frederick. I also received no reply from James Smith (smithbt@bc.edu), director of the Lowell Lecture Series, when I emailed my objection to being vilified on the Web by his colleague.

Now, as to the substance of what I said to this table of college professors. I’ve written before in books and blogs about the issue of spoken English and the black underclass, but for the record I will try to summarize some of my thoughts about it (trigger warning).

True, there are various dialects of English among us, but it must be obvious that they have different merits and disadvantages. There is such a thing as standard grammatical English. It evolves over generations, for sure, but it shows a certain conservative stability, like the rule of law. It tends to be spoken by educated people and by people in authority. This implies people in power, of course, people who run things, but also people at large in the professions (medicine, engineering, etc.) and the arenas of business and government. Standard grammatical English tends to be higher status because competence in it tends to confer the benefits of higher living standards.

It also must be self-evident that there is such a thing as a black English dialect in America. With perhaps a few lingering regional differences, it is remarkably uniform from Miami, Florida, to Rochester, New York, to Fresno, California. It prevails among the so-called black underclass, the cohort that continues to struggle economically. Despite its verve and inventiveness, this black dialect tends to confer low status and lower standards of living on those who speak it. In popular mythology and culture, it is associated with violent criminality and other anti-social behaviors. If you don’t believe this, turn on HBO sometime.

I argue that black people who seek to succeed socially and economically would benefit from learning to speak standard grammatical English, not solely because it is associated with higher status and living standards, but because proficiency with grammar, tenses, and a rich vocabulary helps people think better. After all, if you employ only the present tense in all your doings and dealings, how would you truly understand the difference between now, tomorrow, and yesterday? I submit that it becomes problematical. You may not be able to show up on time, among other things.

Some of my auditors have argued that “code switching” allows black Americans to easily turn back and forth for convenience between two modes of speech, black and “white” (i.e standard grammatical English). I’d argue that this is not as common as it is made out to be. Not everybody has the skill of entertainer Dave Chapelle, a master amateur linguist (whose parents were both college professors).

It’s my opinion that American primary and secondary education does not put enough emphasis on teaching standard spoken English to those deficient in it. The pedagogues have been hectored and browbeaten by the hierophants in higher ed not to press the matter. It is not regarded as important (probably because the task seems too painful and embarrassing and may hurt some feelings). The results are plain to see: academic failure among black Americans. (Not total but broad.) Instead, we concoct endless excuses to explain this failure and the related economic failures, the favorite by far being “structural racism” (despite having elected a black president who speaks standard grammatical English).

Now to the touchier question as to why this is. After all, other ethnic groups in America are eager to fully participate in the national life. For example, I gave a talk to a large honors freshman class at Rutgers University a year ago. Due to the current demographics of New Jersey, the class was overwhelming composed of Indian (Asian, that is) youngsters, many of them as dark-skinned as Americans of African ancestry. They had uniformly opted to speak standard grammatical English. They were all succeeding academically (it was an honors class, after all). They were on a trajectory to succeed in adult life. What does this suggest? To me it says that maybe some behavioral choices are better than others and the color of your skin is not the primary determinant in the matter.

Here’s what I think has happened to get us where we are today (second trigger warning). I think the civil rights victories of the mid 1960s generated enormous anxiety among black Americans, who were thereby invited to participate more fully in the national life after many generations of hardship and abuse. (If you argue that this was not the sum, substance, and intention of the Voting Rights Act and Public Accommodations Act of 1964-65, then you are being disingenuous.) However, they were not comfortable with the prospect of assimilating into the mainstream culture of the day. They either didn’t believe in it, or feared it, or despised it, or worried about being able to perform in it.

Many would attribute this anxiety to the legacy of slavery. Can a people get over a particular historical injury? American blacks are not the only group traumatized by circumstance. When do you decide to move forward? Or do you nurse a grievance forever? Anyway, it was not a coincidence that in the mid 1960s a new wave of black separatist avatars arose around the time of the civil rights legislative victories. Malcolm X, Stokely Charmichael, the Black Panthers, to name a few. That was the moment when much of the black population slid into what has become essentially an oppositional culture, determined to remain separate. Language is part of that picture.

The diversity cult of the day is a smokescreen to disguise this fundamental fact of American life: much of black America has simply opted out. They don’t want to assimilate into a common culture — so common culture has been deemed dispensable by the confounded keepers of the common culture’s flame, the university faculty. Much of black America doesn’t want to play along with the speech, manners, rules, or laws of whatever remains of that common culture after its systematic disassembly by the professors, the deans, and their handmaidens in progressive politics — heedless of the damage to the basic social contract. We remain very much a house divided, as Lincoln put it, and he could see clearly what the consequences would be.

Is it racist to try to air these abiding quandaries in the public arena? Apparently so. And why is that? Because of the awful embarrassment of political progressives over the disappointing outcome of the civil rights project. Black news pundits such as Charles Blow of The New York Times constantly call for “an honest conversation about race,” but they don’t mean it. Any public intellectual who ventures to start that conversation is automatically branded a racist. Hey, I couldn’t even have a conversation at a private dinner on the merits of speaking standard English with three college professors whose life-work centers on race. They had a melt-down and used a proxy (who wasn’t even there) to slander me on the Internet.

They are cowards and I am their enemy.

 

James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

The Quality of Compassion

That-Was-The-Week-That-W-That-Was-The-Week-473964gc2smFrom the keyboard of Surly1
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Ben fields

Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on November 1, 2015


“The highest form of wisdom is kindness."
 
 –The Talmud


A man with whom I have crossed rhetorical swords many times over the past several years, a frequent contributor to the Diner Forum, recently made an important point that this week's news reaffirms: it's essential to look beyond the surface to get at the truth of a given set of news reports. Events of this past week bear this out.

In an age of bloggers, self-defined citizen journalists, paid shills, and clickbait sites that proliferate like mushrooms after a summer rain,  this is good advice. And anyone who has forwarded a Facebook meme only to be chastened to find it's a scurrilous rumor has lived to regret it, and learned from the experience.

This week, the big newz was the story of the cop in a Spring Valley, South Carolina classroom ejecting a black female student. By now you know the story and the upshot, which will not be improved by further retelling.

 

It appears that by any reasonable standard, the violence that the cop used in this situation was over-the top and disproportionate to the situation. Criticism went viral, and consequences for the deputy involved, Ben Fields, were quick to follow.

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott announces the firing of Ben Fields, a senior deputy who forcibly removed a female student who refused to leave her high school math class at Spring Valley High School on Monday.

Reaction was swift. As NPR reported,

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott has fired Senior Deputy Ben Fields over the white deputy's violent arrest of a black student at a South Carolina high school, which was filmed by several students. Lott said Fields broke department policy in the arrest.

"It's not what I expect from my deputies, and it's not what I tolerate from my deputies," Lott said.

The story goes in in a revealing fashion:

The teacher and administrator who were in the classroom during the altercation supported Fields, as did at least one student, Lott said, adding that they felt the deputy acted appropriately.

"They supported his actions," Lott said, adding, "even the physical part. They had no problems with the physical part."

"I'm the one who had problems with it," the sheriff said.

 

We're sure Sheriff Lott did. Bad optics coupled with national notoriety can lead to political retribution in the absence of swift action along the lines of, "If you don't get rid of him, we'll hire someone who will." 

And we learn that Fields had some previous complaints about excessive force in his record. One might wonder, given that record, what qualified him to be a school resource officer?  And we learn that the teacher and the principal, who had lost control of the classroom situation, were all in favor of Ben Fields' assault on the girl and her forcible removal. And people still wonder how Hitler came to power. Clearly, many Murkins agree.

Spoiler alert: if you do not agree from the video footage that Ben Fields' use of violence against a passive young woman was over-the-top and disproportionate, you should probably stop reading now; there is nothing for you here. The white/black issue wraps the entire episode in the ever present social layer of racial politics. Would a white child have been thus forcibly removed?

And as a topper, then Niya Kenny, the young woman who videotaped the incident was arrested and charged with "disrupting schools" and released on bond. This could only happen in the insane state of South Carolina, home to American sedition and east-coast distributor for authoritah-loving right wing insanity. A prediction: in the fullness of time, the Spring Valley school board will forbid possession of video recording-equipped technology on school grounds, for the "safety and integrity of the educational process, blah blah."  Videos of school violence making the system look bad? Outlaw the videos.

Many of us have teachers in our families, and get a birds-eye view of just how difficult it is to manage a classroom while preparing lesson plans, grading papers, and trying to outsmart young, media-savvy recalcitrants who know that if they get into "trouble" at school, their parents will come to the school and take their side of the argument against the teacher. There was a time when the social contract had the teacher and parent allied on the same side in a partnership to educate the child. That ship has sailed– one of many reasons why the average length of a public school teacher's career is five years. 

A Facebook friend from childhood who now lives in South Carolina offered this opinion:

Total disrespect for her elders. If you watch the video closely there is a black adult (probably either the teacher or the principal) standing there watching. They had a defiant incorrigible teen that was disrupting class that needed to be extricated from the class. When she wouldn't leave at the request of the teacher, then the principal and finally the policeman he had little choice but to extricate her physically. Yes he could have probably tried to extricate her less violently out of the chair and gotten himself into a wrestling match with both her and the chair at greater danger to himself… Kids these days are becoming more and more incorrigible and have no respect for their elders. Fire the officer? I say expel the student… When I was in high school or junior high you'd get your ass whipped if you came to school with a transistor radio. Now kids think they have some god given right to text and play with their IPhone in class… That officer could use a little well deserved support from the principal, the teacher, the other students whose education was being disrupted, and the officer's boss.

Those of us of a certain age recall the days when we walked to and from school, uphill in both directions, and a school environment far more ready to bring physical force to bear "in loco parentis." That was also a time when spanking was an accepted part of childrearing, and talking back to an adult was virtually unthinkable. Any incorrigibility at school was met with paddling, a punishment both swift and certain, often wielded by a strapping teacher who had drilled holes in the instrument, the better to hasten its decent and increase the pain upon the recalcitrant butt. But then the partnership between teacher and parent was more secure, and if you got in trouble at school you'd get it twice as bad at home. And your mother would be waiting for you there, having already received the evil news, and prepared to administer additional torments for one's moral uplift.

But those days are gone, times have changed, and kids are different. The legal environment is different. Parents are not to spank children anymore, and should an adult lay his hands on your little perfect snowflake? Unpossible! Deal with it.

In Spring Valley, none of us were there in the classroom. Yet one wonders how the incident came to be, and whether any of the adults nominally in charge asked any questions of the young woman, or simply took her behavior as an affront to authoritah, and manhoods. Compare Spring Valley with this response from a young student teacher to a similar incident:

One wonders if a little human compassion, or at least a question, might not be indicated before grabbing the truncheons? And all we know about the young woman in South Carolina is that she was devastated and traumatized by everything that's happened to her, and that she was recently orphaned and in foster care. We're gratified that in a different circumstance, at least one young teacher-in-becoming had enough courage of her convictions to ask a question, learn what was happening, and perhaps change a life. (H/t Katherine Bushman.)

We read of other ways of de-escalating tense circumstances, like the DC police officer who convinced some girls resistant to dispersing after a fight the chance to participate in a dance-off; absolutely inspired police work. 

On Monday afternoon, D.C.. police officers broke up two groups of fighting teenagers. A few minutes later, a female officer approached the lingering crowd and told the teens to disperse.

That’s when Aaliyah Taylor, a 17-year-old senior at Ballou High School, walked up to the officer and started playing “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)” on her phone. Then she did the Nae Nae dance.

The officer, according to Taylor, laughed and said she had far better dance moves than that.

What happened from there on the 200 block of K Street SW was a rather impressive dance-off between the police officer and the teen, and an example of positive community policing at a time when national attention is focused on discriminatory and abusive police tactics. The onlooking teens caught the dance battle on their cell phones while a song by rapper Dlow played in the background.

My wife Contrary has been involved with a group working to gather signatures to present a petition to suggest better policing methods and accountabilities in our community, the better to forestall episodes like Ferguson, Cleveland and New York City from happening here. I was part of a retinue of souls who appeared at a City Council meeting this past week to speak in favor of this petition, which had garnered hundreds of signatures. The leader of the group spoke first and presented the petition. She told council that while she was outside the chambers, someone came up to her and asked, "Why do you hate the police?" The irony is that most have us have many friends and close relatives who do police work. Few good cops oppose increased accountability. But the reflexive response to anything that threatens the status quo of thin blue line is, "Why do you hate the police?"

At the same meeting another of our number mentioned the fact that many troublesome cases police encounter involve mental health issues, and that officers need additional training in de-escalation. Even as a reasonably scrawny worker in a mental health facility, he had been trained to defuse potentially troublesome situations involving persons much larger. Why does the first response have to be violence?

Find the answer in the front page of your Sunday paper, which offers the prospect of boots on the ground in Syria, along with Naval dickwaving in the South China Sea. Even looking down the barrel of doom in the form of climate change, financial uncertainty and unrestrained war, we have to believe that it is still possible to make a difference in the lives of others. A little compassion and a bit of patience might go a long way to defusing tensions. Indeed, of all the qualities we would want to teach children or grandchildren, would not compassion be at the top? Our leaders won't do it; it has to start with us.

 


banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, posts, comments, interjections, articles and spittle-flecked invective on this site, who quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be active in the Occupy movement during its ten minutes of notoriety. He shares a home in Southeastern Virginia with Contrary in a triumph of hope over experience, and has an adult daughter that is, as of this writing, free on her own recognizance. He remains grateful for the life he has, the people in it and for the fact that he is not yet taking a dirt nap. 

 

The Caliph at the Gates of Vienna

Abu-Bakr-al-Baghdadi-300x183gc2smOff the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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AbuBakr_alBaghdadi-020515

Originally published in Asia Times on October 29, 2015

 


History has a jolly habit of repeating itself as surrealist farce. Is it 1683 all over again, with the Ottoman Empire laying siege to Vienna just to be defeated by the “infidels” at the last minute?

No; it’s 2015 and a Caliph simulacrum – Ibrahim, a.k.a. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi — has prompted a gaggle of world powers, lesser powers and assorted minions to converge to Vienna to discuss how to defeat him.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

Westphalians, we got a problem. None of this makes any sense if Iran is not at the table discussing a solution for the Syrian tragedy. Moscow knew it from the start. Washington — reluctantly — had to admit the obvious. But the problem was never Iran. The problem is the ideological matrix of goons who metastasize into Caliphs: Saudi Arabia.

Back — inevitably — to surrealism. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir stated, “The view of our partners … was that we should test the intentions of the Iranians and the Russians in arriving at a political solution in Syria, which we all prefer.”

Translation: “Our partners” means “His Masters’ Voice,” Washington; and the beheading-addicted oil hacienda does not “prefer” a political solution; they want regime change and a House of Saud satrapy.

Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, the EU, France and even Qatar — whose mini-emir wanted to launch his own military campaign for regime change before someone told him to shut up — are keeping company to Iran in Vienna, alongside the US, Russia, Turkey and the House of Saud.

Talk about parallel lives. One thing is a polite altercation inside a gilded Vienna palace. The shifting military sands across a Sykes-Picot-in-shambles “Syraq” tell a very different story.

Beware the new Global Jihad

The ideal solution is tempting; Russia dispatches the Spetsnaz and some extra commandos; beheads the ISIS/ISIL/Daesh goons from a C4i point of view; surrounds them; and wipes them out.

Yet it won’t happen, as long as Sultan Erdogan in Turkey, petrodollar GCC minions and the CIA persist to “support” and/or weaponize assorted Salafi-jihadi goons, “moderate” or otherwise.

The fake “Caliphate” will be a very tough nut to crack because they don’t – and won’t – care about their own mounting casualties. The “4+1” alliance – Russia, Syria, Iran, Iraq plus Hezbollah – already knows it, and has already experienced trouble in their ranks.

Hezbollah took casualties. So did Iran’s Quds Force – as in reliable mid-level commanders. Iran has around 1,500 fighters on the ground – many of them Afghans – on the “4+1” side. On the opposite side we have the House of Saud funneling a lot of cash and TOW anti-tank missiles to the Army of Conquest, which is nothing but an al-Qaeda-led coalition of the willing displaying relatively overlapping agendas (first regime change, then Caliphate or Muslim Brotherhood reign).

There’s no evidence – yet – that ISIS/ISIL/Daesh has been depleted of the bulk of their shoulder-fired anti-aircraft plus anti-tank guided missiles.

So while Vienna talks, what is ISIS/ISIL/Daesh really up to?

They are about to choose between two different strategies.

  1. They dig in in Raqqa – the former capital of the Abbasid Caliphate, before Baghdad – waiting for a Mother of All Battles. After all they can’t afford to lose it, as Raqqa, geostrategically, is the ultimate crossroads in Syria. Former Ba’athist military and a cluster of Arab nationalists are lobbying for this strategy.
  1. Forget about digging in. The best is to expand the frontline, into the deeper desert, to the max. This means no clusters of targets available to the Russian Air Force, with the added benefit of the “4+1” – as in the Syrian Arab Army (SAA)/Iran/Hezbollah ground units supported by the Russian Air Force — overextending their lines of communication/supply and being faced with extra logistical problems. Hardcore Turks, Chechens, Uyghurs and Uzbeks are lobbying for this strategy.

Arguably the ISIS/ISIL/Daesh command is leaning towards option 2 – because of the Jihad Inc. component. At least 2,000 fake “Caliphate” goons – most of them from Chechnya, Turkey, Central Asia and Xinjiang – were killed in Kobani, which, unlike Raqqa, had no strategic value. The Jihad Inc. gang now wants to expand all the way to Central Asia, Xinjiang, Russia and, if they manage to find an opening, Europe and the US.

Option 2 also carries the added benefit, for fighting purposes, of extra support for “moderate jihadis” (not “rebels”), which means more interaction with Ahrar al-Sham, Liwa al-Tawhid, a few Army of Conquest factions, the Islamic Front and a bunch of Turkmen Salafi groups. None of these, by the way, are “moderate rebels”.

All these outfits would perfect mesh into an ISIS/ISIL/Daesh “expanding frontline” strategy, defended, among others, by one Muslim Shishani, Chechen commander of the Jund al-Sham, which is currently fighting around Latakia.

Shishani, significantly, told al-Jazeera Turk, “Fronts [such] as Raqqa and Aleppo will have no significance in a ground war against the Russians. The real war will be on the Tartus-Latakia front line. Jihad must be moved to that area.”

So imagine all of these outfits coalescing on an internal jihad plus global jihad platform, and still flush with cash. It’s no secret that Russian intel is alarmed by the high number of Chechens in the fake “Caliphate” ranks, not to mention Chinese intel regarding the Uyghurs. These may find very hard to return to Xinjiang; but the Chechens will be back in the Caucasus. That’s the famous “Aleppo is 900 km away from Grozny” syndrome.

To add to the royal mess, FSB director Alexander Bortnikov has already warned about a concentration of Taliban – many of whom pledged allegiance to the fake “Caliphate” — at Afghanistan’s northern borders with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. For Putin and the Russian intel apparatus, the situation in Afghanistan is “close to critical”. A jihad spillover across Central Asia is all but certain.

The bottom line, thus, is stark. Move over, al-Qaeda; ISIS/ISIL/Daesh is using the “4+1” offensive to forge its identity as the leader of a Global Jihad. Saudi imams anyway have already declared jihad against Russia. And the decrepit Al-Azhar in Cairo is about to do the same thing.

Check the Iranian game

There’s no evidence the Obama administration is about to admit all “moderate rebels” are, after all, jihadis. The ISIS/ISIL/Daesh command, anyway, is waiting; were that to happen – as in Washington sharing Moscow’s analysis – all outfits will switch to Global Jihad mode, led by the fake “Caliphate.”

Russian airstrike against ISIS in Syria

 

 

 

 

Russian airstrike against ISIS in Syria

It’s already murky enough as it stands. The mix of Syrian/Iranian ground intel plus the Russian air campaign have to make sure not only that ISIS/ISIL/Daesh does not have the hardware nor the manpower to defend Raqqa; they also need to cut off all their communication/supply lines with those jihadis who are fighting the “4+1” in western Syria.

Even under attack by the Russian Air Force, which forced a large number of goons and their families to flee Syria for the Western Iraq desert, ISIS/ISIL/Daesh managed to make progress in southern Aleppo, infiltrating al-Safira, and keeping control of at least 10 checkpoints along the crucial supply line that runs from Hama, through Salamiyeh, Ithriyah and Khanaser, all the way to Aleppo. The SAA simply cannot afford to lose this corridor; now that’s priority number one. Hundreds of thousands of Aleppo civilians, meanwhile, are trying to survive as de facto hostages.

It’s crucial to check out the Iranian game on the ground. The best source so far has been the deputy commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Brig. Gen. Husayn Salami, who talked extensively to the Vision of the Islamic Republic of Iran Network 2.

Salami – that’s the IRGC speaking – frames Syria as the “focal point of strategic efforts made by an international coalition” to implement a “destructive political scheme in the Islamic world.” By “international coalition” he means NATO plus the Saudis. Iran’s role is “guaranteeing the political, psychological, economic and military stability of the Syrian system.”

He frames Iran’s role on four levels. “On a strategic level, we support the Syrian government, nation and army politically and psychologically. As advisors, we transfer our war experiences to top commanders in the Syrian army. Actually, we are helping them modernize and rebuild the structure of the Syrian army … When it comes to the operational level, we are helping brigade commanders for example … This is why a number of our commanders are there and are helping in planning and devising operational strategies.” Iran also helps at a tactical and technical (logistic) level.

And here’s something absolutely key – as well as anathema for the House of Saud; “Our national security is intertwined with the security of important parts of the Islamic world, the national security of Syria. This is the main philosophy behind our presence [in Syria].” The nuance that US Think Tankland is incapable of spotting is this doesn’t have anything to do with keeping Assad in power forever, as Iranian diplomats are now saying on the record.

Salami also stressed Russia went into Syria because otherwise it would have to fight jihad at home (that’s exactly what the Chechens at ISIS/ISIL/Daesh want). Putin’s Syria strategy, by the way, has been fully supported by the speaker of the Iranian parliament, Ali Larijani, who was a key guest at the Valdai summit last week.

I’m the Caliph; hear me roar

Faced with the Russian/Iranian strategy, what is the Empire of Chaos to do?

Murk the already murky sands, what else? That sorry lot that passes for Obama’s “senior national security advisers” has recommended positioning US Special Forces closer to ISIS/ISIL/Daesh in Syria.

This special “guidance” is supposed to help the coalition known as Democratic Forces of Syria – which is led by the YPG Kurds – to take Raqqa. But that does not necessarily mean US Special Forces will be fighting alongside the “4+1” towards the same objective. After all, we’re always thrown back deep into Geopolitics Surrealistan – where the US-led Coalition of the Dodgy Opportunists (CDO) totally ignores what the “4+1” are doing. And don’t forget intra-coalition hatred — as in Ankara abhorring the US insistence on working with Syrian Kurds.

As for Iraq, the Obama administration and the Pentagon now barely qualify as the butt end of running jokes. Sunnis in Anbar province are furious that the mightiest satellite surveillance system in history simply failed to register ISIS/ISIL/Daesh’s advances, from Tikrit to Ramadi and environs.

To add a final insult to (repeated) injuries – as in the “4+1” intel center in Baghdad, excluding the US, plus the authorization for Russia to bomb fake “Caliphate” convoys trying to cross from the Syrian desert – Baghdad and the EU have just agreed to set up yet another intel center to exchange data on ISIS/ISIL/Daesh. The bottom line is the Obama administration is absolutely terrified that the EU is inclined to support the Russian campaign – increasingly regarding the CDO for what it is; a joke.

The near future offers even more dangerous surrealist instances; think of the Obama administration helping Shi’ite militias to take Mosul in Iraq back from ISIS/ISIL/Daesh, and at the same time helping Kurds in Syria to take back Raqqa, an Arab city. All hell is bound to break loose between Sunnis across “Syraq” and Americans – and ISIS/ISIL/Daesh will mightily profit from it.

As it stands, there’s not going to be a frontal attack on Aleppo by the SAA and Iran/Hezbollah, covered by the Russian Air Force; instead, the “4+1” strategy will be to disrupt to the max the logistical supply routes to all Salafi-jihadi outfits, which implies trying to cut off the flux of cash and weapons smuggled via Turkey.

But once again; what about the Empire of Chaos?

The Obama administration is essentially fighting — sort of — ISIS/ISIL/Daesh in Iraq, where Washington lost a multi-trillion dollar war. Team Obama never bothered to fight the fake “Caliphate” in Syria — because they were contributing to the “Assad must go” agenda.

Sultan Erdogan – with Ankara at the table in Vienna – is still allowed to have a free-for-all border out of which ISIS/ISIL/Daesh profits handsomely. And the paranoid, Shi’ite-hating House of Saud – with Riyadh at the table in Vienna – is still allowed to shower all manner of Salafi-jihadi goons with all manner of weapons. This is what passes for Obama’s policy in Syria, as the Caliph’s roaring laughter can be heard all the way to Vienna.


Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

Something Happened

Bernankgc2smFrom the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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Bernank
Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation October 26, 2015
 

Ben Bernanke’s memoir is out and the chatter about it inevitably turns to the sickening moments in September 2008 when “the world economy came very close to collapse.” Easy to say, but how many people know what that means? It’s every bit as opaque as the operations of the Federal Reserve itself.

There were many ugly facets to the problem but they all boiled down to global insolvency — too many promises to pay that could not be met. The promises, of course, were quite hollow. They accumulated over the decades-long process, largely self-organized and emergent, of the so-called global economy arranging itself. All the financial arrangements depended on trust and good faith, especially of the authorities who managed the world’s “reserve currency,” the US dollar.

By the fall of 2008, it was clear that these authorities, in particular the US Federal Reserve, had failed spectacularly in regulating the operations of capital markets. With events such as the collapse of Lehman and the rescue of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, it also became clear that much of the collateral ostensibly backing up the US banking system was worthless, especially instruments based on mortgages. Hence, the trust and good faith vested in the issuer of the world’s reserve currency was revealed as worthless.

The great triumph of Ben Bernanke was to engineer a fix that rendered trust and good faith irrelevant. That was largely accomplished, in concert with the executive branch of the government, by failing to prosecute banking crime, in particular the issuance of fraudulent securities built out of worthless mortgages. In effect, Mr. Bernanke (and Barack Obama’s Department of Justice), decided that the rule of law was no longer needed for the system to operate. In fact, the rule of law only hampered it.

Mr. Bernanke now says he “regrets” that nobody went to jail. That’s interesting. More to the point perhaps he might explain why the Federal Reserve and the Securities and Exchange Commission did not make any criminal referrals to the US Attorney General in such cases as, for instance, Goldman Sachs (and others) peddling bonds deliberately constructed to fail, on which they had placed bets favoring that very failure.

There were a great many such cases, explicated in full by people and organizations outside the regulating community. For instance, the Pro Publica news organization did enough investigative reporting on the racket of collateralized debt obligations to send many banking executives to jail. But the authorities turned a blind eye to it, and to the reporting of others, mostly on the web, since the legacy news media just didn’t want to press too hard.

In effect, the rule of law was replaced with a patch of official accounting fraud, starting with the April 2009 move by the Financial Accounting Standards Board involving their Rule 157, which had required banks to report the verifiable mark-to-market value of the collateral they held. It was essentially nullified, allowing the banks to value their collateral at whatever they felt like saying.

Accounting fraud remains at the heart of the fix instituted by Ben Bernanke and the ploy has been copied by authorities throughout the global financial system, including the central banks of China, Japan, and the European Community. That it seemed to work for the past seven years in propping up global finance has given too many people the dangerous conviction that reality is optional in economic relations. The recovery of equity markets from the disturbances of August has apparently convinced the market players that stocks are invincible. Complacency reigns at epic levels. Few are ready for what is coming.

 

 

James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

Moscow doubles down on Washington

 putin obamagc2smOff the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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putin obama

Originally published in Ron October 15, 2015

 


History may eventually decide the ‘New World Order’ started on September 28, when Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama had a 90-minute face off at the UN in New York.
 

Irrespective of spin – “productive” according to the White House, “tense”according to a source close to the Kremlin – facts on the ground accumulated almost immediately.

Putin did press Obama for the US to join Russia in a real grand coalition bent on smashing ISIS/ISIL/Daesh. The Obama administration, once again, relented. I detailed here what happened next: an earth-shattering game-changer in the ‘New Great Game’ in Eurasia, straight out of the Caspian Sea, that caught the acronym fest of US intelligence – not to mention the Pentagon – completely off-guard.

So this was Putin’s first message to Washington, and the Pentagon/NATO combo in particular; your fancy ideas of stationing tactical nuclear weapons or expanding missile defense to Eastern Europe, or even Asia-Pacific, are just a mirage. Our cruise missiles are capable of wreaking real effective havoc; and soon, as this piece argues, there will be more hypersonic, high-precision long-range missiles added to the mix.

Old habits don’t die hard – they remain in a coma forever. The Pentagon’s response to the facts launched from the Caspian Sea was to conduct an airdrop of light weapons to “a select group of vetted leaders and their units,” as in those famously non-existent Syrian “moderate rebels.” The weapons will inevitably be captured by assorted Salafi-jihadi goon outfits in no time.

Then the British government was forced to deny a Murdoch-controlled Sunday Times “report” that British Tornadoes in Syria are now armed with air-to-air missiles to counter potential Russian aerial “attacks.”

And to top it off, the proverbial “military experts” infesting US corporate media started spinning that we are only 30 seconds from World War III.

The Glazyev nuclear plan

A still apoplectic Pentagon will take time to absorb the new military facts on the Syrian ground – and skies. That will add to the utter desperation displayed by the ‘Masters of the Universe’ in the Washington/Wall Street axis – itching to break the China-Russia strategic partnership by all means necessary. Quite a feat when the Pentagon is still fighting World War II, with its weapons, ships and monster aircraft carriers displayed as sitting ducks against Russia’s new batch of missiles.

But then there’s also Putin’s second – silent – message to Washington, which didn’t even have to be delivered in person to Obama. US intel though may have a hint about it, as they closely follow Russian media.

It’s about Sergey Glazyev’s (presidential aide) plan for Russia’s immediate economic future here is a summary of the plan, in Russian. The plan was formally proposed to Russia’s Security Council. Here is a very good summary on how Russia’s Security Council works.

There are at least three absolutely key points in Glazyev’s plan. We may summarize them like this:

1. If the emerging trend of freezing private assets of Russian legal entities and individuals continues, Russia should consider full or a partial moratorium on the servicing of loans and investment from the countries involved in the freezing.

2. The amount of foreign currency assets of the Russian Federation located in the jurisdiction of NATO countries accounts to more than $1.2 trillion, including short-term debt of about $800 billion. Their freeze may be partially offset by retaliation against NATO assets in Russia, which amounts to $1.1 trillion, including over $400 billion long-term. So this threat would be neutralized if Russian monetary authorities organized a timely withdrawal of Russian short-term assets in the US and the EU.

3.  Glazyev is adamant that the Russian Central Bank continues to serve the interests of foreign capital – as in the financial powers in London and New York. He contends that the high interest rates practiced by the Russian Central Bank led Russian oligarchs to borrow more cheaply from the West, making the Russian economy dependent, a debt trap which the West used to slowly squeeze Russia. Then the rigged Western oil and ruble collapse increased the pressure as debt service in ruble cost and interest doubled.

Sergei Glazyev, Presidential Advisor for Regional Economic Integration © Ramil Sitdikov

Sergei Glazyev, Presidential Advisor for Regional Economic Integration © Ramil Sitdikov / RIA Novosti

 

Essentially, once again, a Russian default on a $1 trillion-plus debt to private Western parties remains a possible scenario discussed at the highest level – assuming Washington will persist in its anti-Russia demonization campaign.

 

It’s clear the squeeze Russia is feeling has less to do with sanctions than the grip maintained by Western financial powers over the Russian Central Bank. The Russian Central Bank did create a debt trap by maintaining high interest rates in Russia while the West was lending at low interest rates.

Needless to add, such a default, if it ever happened, would collapse the entire Western financial system.

One should never forget the Big Picture; the Syria/Ukraine/sanctions saga runs in parallel to Russia-China and closer BRICS integration shifting the balance of geopolitical power. For the ‘Masters of the Universe’, this is beyond anathema. Enter, for instance, the use of cash settlement through their Wall Street proxies to raise the A shares of China to hysterical highs and then try to crash their entire stock market by a reverse cash settlement rig as in 1987.

China is moving toward their own SWIFT payment system, not to mention a whole new Chinese-led set of international institutions independent of US control. Russia, for its part, recently passed a bill that would allow the seizing of foreign assets if Russian assets in the West are seized. As Glazyev pointed out, investment in Russia by the West are more or less equivalent to investments of Russia in the West.

The ‘Masters of the Universe’ may keep insisting on using financial weapons of mass destruction. Russia, silently and with a few key facts in the Caspian Sea, is letting them know it’s ready for whatever scenario they can come up with.

A less apocalyptic ending may be healthy. So here’s a popular joke in Moscow nowadays, as told by William Engdahl. Putin is back in the Kremlin after his meeting with Obama in New York. He tells an aide he invited Obama for a game of chess. And then he tells it how it works: “It’s like playing with a pigeon. First it knocks over all the pieces, then it shits on the board and finally struts around like it won.”

 


Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

Open Letter to President Putin

Anthony-Freda_empty-kingdomFrom the keyboard of Morris Berman
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Anthony-Freda_empty-kingdom

Published on Dark Ages America on October 17, 2015


Dear Mr. President:

Gaspadin:

I am writing in response to your remark–accurate in the extreme, in my opinion–that members of the American government have mush in their heads instead of brains. Indeed, Mr. Obama has no coherent foreign policy, is basically adrift, and as you have no doubt figured out long ago, is a political and intellectual lightweight. He has no idea at all of what he is doing, and this applies to the majority of American politicians. 

However, what you wrote about the members of the American government also applies to members of the country at large: they have gavno inside their heads; they are a collection of duraki. After all, as a famous American comedian once remarked, our leaders come from the people; they don't originate on Mars. The remarkable thing is that in the US, even the smart ones are dumb, due in large part to our remarkable system of brainwashing. Let me remind you of that hilarious exchange you and Mr. Obama had a while back, regarding American "exceptionalism." Your response to his speech on this topic was to rebuke him, pointing out that regarding oneself as exceptional was a potentially destructive position to take. His response–I told you, he's not very smart–was more exceptionalist propaganda. The problem is that roughly 99.99% of the American public believes this nonsense, that we were chosen by God to lead the world by example. (A bit ironic, considering the fact that that example has not been very exemplary.) There is a knee-jerk reaction in this country, whenever we have a conflict with any other country, that we are good (always innocent) and they are evil, or at the very least misguided. We don't have a great talent for looking within, and the only president who asked us to do that–Jimmy Carter–is regarded by most Americans today as a loser and a fool.

You may well wonder how this nation of "individuals" wound up with a completely uniform ideology. The Australian journalist, John Pilger, tells the story–possibly apocryphal, I have no idea–of a project undertaken by America in the wake of Stalin's death in 1953, and the beginning of a thaw or detente between our two countries. The idea was to invite about two dozen apparatchiki over to the US to view a pluralistic society, "democracy in action." They could go anywhere they wanted, unescorted, and they did: the Senate, the Supreme Court, high schools, newspapers, universities–the works. At the end of the two weeks they all convened at the White House, and the official in charge of the project, beaming with pride, said, "Well?" The response was not exactly what he expected. After an embarrassed silence, one of the Russian officials spoke up:

"How do you do it?" he asked. "To get this extreme degree of conformity of opinion, everyone thinking exactly alike, we in the USSR have to beat our citizens, send them to Siberia, put them in psychiatric hospitals and fill them with drugs, shoot them, and so on. Here, in your country, you achieve the results we can only dream about, and with no coercion at all!"

Anyway, I don't mean to condone your own methods. The assassination of critical Russian journalists under your tenures in office is notorious (Anna Politkovskaya, for example), and forgive me, but I suspect your hands aren't completely clean in these abysmal events. So quite obviously, if you want a free society that allows for real dissent, you've got a ways to go. But Pilger's example, even if it never happened, is true to the spirit of how the United States operates, and to the very low level of citizen awareness of what's really going on in the world. All of which is to say that you might as well pursue your own interests (which you are already doing), and not worry too much about what we say, because all we are doing is pursuing our interests, and it is clear enough to most of the world that American "democracy" is a pretext for the projection of power into every corner of the globe, much of it for the purpose of economic gain.

In any case, it's not very likely that you will be reading this, inasmuch as I am a very minor intellectual figure in the US, not really on the radar screen of public discussion. But if you do happen to run across this, and would like to continue the conversation, I would be glad to do so with a nice samovar of tea from Sochi sitting between us. At the very least, I can assure you that it will be a far more interesting discussion than any you have had, or are likely to have, with virtually any American political figure.

Thank you for listening (if you did). Do svidanya, and vsevo haroshevo.

-Morris Berman

 

©Morris Berman, 2015 


Morris Berman is well known as an innovative cultural historian and social critic. He has taught at a number of universities in Europe and North America, and has held visiting endowed chairs at Incarnate Word College (San Antonio), the University of New Mexico, and Weber State University. During 1982-88 he was the Lansdowne Professor in the History of Science at the University of Victoria, British Columbia. Berman won the Governor’s Writers Award for Washington State in 1990, the Rollo May Center Grant for Humanistic Studies in 1992, and the Neil Postman Award for Career Achievement in Public Intellectual Activity (from the Media Ecology Association) in 2013. He is the author of a trilogy on the evolution of human consciousness–-The Reenchantment of the World (1981), Coming to Our Senses (1989), and Wandering God: A Study in Nomadic Spirituality (2000)–and in 2000 his Twilight of American Culture was named a “Notable Book” by the New York Times Book Review.

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