Elections

Collapse Cafe 8/6/2016

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Aired LIVE on Collapse Cafe YouTube on August 6, 2016

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Donald Trump, Anthony Bourdain, and the Plight of Their (Indentured) Mexicans

Off the keyboard of Allan Stromfeldt Christensen

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Published on From Filmers to Farmers on June 10th, 2016

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(photo by Gage Skidmore)

No doubt you've heard of presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump's infamous wall, the one ostensibly meant to keep out all those alleged Mexican "criminals, drug dealers, rapists, etc.," as well as to keep all those 8.1 million undocumented workers Trump intends to (somehow) deport from getting back in. On top of all that, while 3,200 km walls don't just pay for themselves, Trump had nonetheless promised to (again, somehow) make sure that the Mexican government ends up footing the bill for said wall.

After months of the now routine mockery and scorn laid upon Trump, Trump finally came clean with the method of how it was that he was supposedly going to force Mexico to cover the $8 billion tab for his pet wall – by halting money transfers from the nearly $25 billion that (underpaid, overworked) Mexican labourers send back home as remittances every year (a total that actually equates to about 2% of Mexico's GDP). As should go without saying, the vast majority of those 8.1 million undocumented workers are employed in the service industry as maids, cooks, and groundskeepers, as well as in the farming and construction sectors, earning some of the lowest wages in the country to send home to family members in need. In other words, Trump plans on paying for his infamous wall by extorting money from the Mexican government under the threat of confiscating money from the poorest of the poor. As would come as little surprise to many, that Trump "love[s] the poorly educated" was, and is, of course, nothing but a ruse.

Not only then did this zany fiasco to "Make America Great Again" attract its share of derision, but it inherently comes with the threat of "Making Mexico Even Worse": cut out that 2% from Mexico's books, and Mexico could very well be headed for recession, which would probably only stoke antagonism towards the United States. Irrespective of any of this, Trump went ahead and made an offer that Mexico couldn't refuse: "Make a one-time payment of $5-$10bn to ensure that $24bn continues to flow into their country year after year."

(photo by Lwp Kommunikáció)

It turns out though that while pulling all that money out of the Mexican economy would likely be a disaster for Mexico (and particularly for poor Mexicans), pulling out all those Mexican labourers out of the United States' (service) economy would also be a disaster – of sorts – for the United States. As American chef, author, and television personality Anthony Bourdain explained it, "If Mr. Trump deports 11 million people or whatever he's talking about right now, every restaurant in America would shut down." Perhaps Bourdain is overstating it a bit, but his point comes through. In my rough translation, Bourdain seems to be saying that "Mexicans hold the American restaurant industry upon their shoulders – or perhaps better yet, upon their stooped backs," with a side of "Are we really going to let Mr. Trump put our restaurant-hopping lifestyles at risk?"

In case you're like me and don't know your celebrity chef from your celebrity online gamer, here's another statement Bourdain gave while critiquing Trump's shenanigans, conveying a bit of his history and outlook:

I rolled out of a prestigious culinary institute and went to work in real restaurants. I walked into restaurants and always, the person who had been there the longest, who took the time to show me how it was done, was always Mexican or Central American. The backbone of the industry — meaning most of the people in my experience cooking, preparing your food. Twenty of those years in this business I was an employer, I was a manager employer. Never, in any of those years, not once, did anyone walk into my restaurant — any American-born kid — walk into my restaurant and say I’d like a job as a night porter or a dishwasher. Even a prep cook — few and far between. Just not willing to start at the bottom like that.

(Oops. I didn't realize I wasn't supposed to work that dishwasher job back in my university days.)

In other words, count yourself lucky non-Mexican Americans (and you token Mexicans who non-Mexican Americans can refer to as their "but I have a Mexican friend" friend "who isn't an underpaid labourer," or who can be pointed to as having TV shows), because you (like, say, non-Mexican Canadians) get to live the high(ish)-life while Mexicans (and a few others) do the menial work in perpetuity that makes that high(ish)-life possible in the first place.

That raises an even larger point: putting aside the lifestyle crimping notion that the United States' one million restaurants would supposedly shut down upon the deportation of all its undocumented Mexicans, who would be out in the fields planting and harvesting all the food if it weren't for said wage slaves? Who would be working the vines to cultivate and harvest the grapes to make the wine with? Who would be scrubbing those things where the effluents of all that food and wine are deposited into? Surely, one would guess, not the ones living it up(ish).

Hustling and bustling for Trump, Bourdain, and all the acolytes! (photo by Americanspirit)

(Or living it down. In the southern Ontario town next to the one I grew up in, Bradford, a "reclaimed" swamp was drained and turned into Canada's "vegetable basket" some hundred years or so ago. Migrant Mexican workers can be seen working those "fields," and it's not a generally regarded fact (but nor a secret either) that many natively born Canadians would much rather go on the dole than work those "fields," be it alongside (documented) Mexican migrants or not. And with the example that the more well-off Canadians give of avoiding the land like the plague, it isn't exactly easy to blame them either.)

It should go without saying then that without those documented and undocumented Mexican workers, not only would many of the United States' restaurants supposedly shut down, but the United Statesian way of life itself would likely be put at serious risk. Moreover, since fractional-reserve banking and interest bearing debt means that the American economy (like any other) must keep growing (or at least give that impression) in order to avoid imploding in on itself, this requires not only a static supply of Mexicans to keep the pyramid propped up, but an ever-expanding base of Mexicans (and/or equivalents) to do the scoffed at jobs that non-Mexicans generally don't want to do themselves. (That is, until Google's AI department comes up with a fossil-fueled alternative, or Elon Musk bestows upon us an army of benevolent replicas of the Jetsons' Rosie, running, of course, on (ahem) fossil-fueled "renewable energy.")

In other words, whatever would the United States (and Canada) do without their cross-border supply of malleable and readily replaceable Mexicans? Senator John McCain, as was said, suggested an answer to this: "Couldn't the children of illegal immigrants do those jobs?"

Awk-ward.

Fortunately, somebody did respond to that erstwhile comment of McCain's, none other than born-to-immigrant-parents Marco Rubio, a recent member of the Donald Trump love-in and now flop-flipper in that ongoing GOP love-hate relationship. As he was said to have put it, "Pardon me, Senator, but I have to say that the children of those illegal immigrants will be doctors and lawyers." Although there is at least a smidgen of truth to that statement (take Rubio himself as an example), it's mostly a cute sentiment offered by one of the fortunate/lucky few, since many if not most of those children will become burger flippers and, if they have enough pizazz and edgy enough haircuts, perhaps even baristas.

(photo by Eli Christman)

But supposing that said upward mobility were to a rather large extent actually true, that poses a serious problem: If the children of indentured service workers are able to escape the fate of their parents and climb that spiral staircase of the American Dream, who would raise and feed their kids while they're at the office and on all their restaurant jaunts? Who would work the fields harvesting all their food? Who would scrub all those unmentionables? Answer: more Mexicans (and their equivalents), documented or not.

So regardless of what some politicians may say in order to win votes, and what some chefs may say in order to win a larger following from armchair cooks, the United States – the United Statesian way of life – can't do without a steady supply of cheap labour to prop up the lifestyle of its Trumps, Bourdains, and all their acolytes. And when Bourdain states that United Statesians are "just not willing to start at the bottom like that," that "bottom" should refer to the fields, not simply dishwasher jobs at restaurants, and nor should such "bottoms" be something to scoff at as somewhere to merely "start," but a place to dig in and become familiar with, a place to build an affinity with.

Another post will be required to elaborate on that, recognizing the fact that this kerfuffle we face is ultimately an issue of ceilings and floors.

Hillarism

youtube-Logo-4gc2reddit-logoOff the keyboard of Albert Bates

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Published on Peak Surfer on April 24, 2016

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"The Irish Water crisis, the slow collapse of public health and education, resurgent child poverty, the epidemic of loneliness, offshore tax-avoidance havens, the collapse of ecosystems, Occupy Hong Kong, Australian greedy banks, and the rise of Donald Trump link to a single bad gene in our political DNA."

 


It is the political silly season, although these days it never seems to be otherwise. Delma Rouseff, Brazil’s heroic anti-establishment, anti-corruption President, has been impeached by the lower house on (dubious) charges of corruption, but the former, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva called it more accurately a "coup d’état.”

Iceland’s Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson resigned after it was revealed he owned an offshore company with his wife to channel millions of kroner. British Prime Minister David Cameron admitted he owned shares in a Bahamas-based trust up until 2010. In Malta, protesters demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat for the same tax-avoidance activities.

Scores of countries will hold national elections in 2016. In January, Portugal elected Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, former leader of the Social Democratic Party and supported by the Social Democratic Party and the CDS – People's Party. Portugal, which rationalized recreational drug policy in 2001, tilted left.

Ireland, which has a gender neutral election law, requiring any election to be supported by at least 30% male and 30% female voters, in February elected a right-leaning Dáil Éireann (parliament). Sadly the coalition is still too fractious to choose a Taoiseach (prime minister)

In 2013 Ireland consolidated separate county and local water authorities into a single national utility, which proceeded to install meters everywhere and raise rates. In 2014 and 2015 local protests blocked meter installers. Four percent of Ireland's population showed up at one demonstration in Dublin. Irish Water is a wedge between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, so no prime minister for Ireland.

Legislative elections for 450 Duma seats will be held in Russia on 18 September. Polls April 10th give Dmitry Medvedev’s conservative United Russia 46%, Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s right-wing anti-communist Liberal Democratic Party 11%, Gennady Zyuganov’s left-wing Communist Party 9%, A Just Russia People's Freedom Party 5% and the remainder to 10 other parties, including the Greens led by Oleg Mitvol.

In Peru, the first round on April 10th narrowed the field to Keiko Fujimori, daughter of former President Alberto Fujimori, of the Popular Force party, and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski candidate of the Peruvians for Change party. Fujimori has a healthy lead and the second round of voting comes June 5th. Peru is interesting if for no other reason than the names of its political parties (as translated): 

Popular Force
Peruvians for Change
Broad Front
Alliance for Progress
Popular Alliance
Popular Action
Direct Democracy
Possible Peru
Hope Front
Order Party
Developing Peru
Everybody for Peru

These names seem like something you might read on post-its on the wall of the “creatives” room in an ad agency.

In Australia, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said last November: "I would say around September–October is when you should expect the next election to be.” However, when parties predictably deadlocked over bills to reinstate the Australian Building and Construction Commission, a bone of contention for the opposition Labor Party, Turnbull this week announced he would dissolve Parliament on May 3 and call for new elections July 2. Turnbull himself is well known to Australians and his party the clear frontrunner. But lately he has been losing ground to Labor leader Bill Shorten in the polls. Labor needs to win 21 seats to take power, a swing of 4.3%. BBC reports:

“Mr Turnbull will attempt to paint Mr Shorten as a union lackey who cannot manage the economy; Mr Shorten will say Mr Turnbull is an out-of-touch protector of greedy banks leading a divided party that stands for nothing.”

The Philippines just concluded its presidential debate cycle and is headed to national elections May 9th. At the top of the ballot is the election for successor to Philippine President Benigno Aquino III. The leading candidate is the current VP Jejomar Binay. His opponents include Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago (People's Reform Party) who is suffering from stage 4 lung cancer. Called "the Iron Lady of Asia,” she was the widely expected winner of the 1992 Philippine Presidential Elections, but lost after an inexplicably unscheduled power outage during the counting of votes. The Supreme Court of the Philippines recently declared optical scanner counting devices “corrupt” and forced precincts to return to hand counts.

Santiago announced her candidacy for president in the launch of her book, Stupid is Forever, on October 13, 2015.

Other candidates include Rodrigo “Courage and Compassion” Duterte (PDP–Laban), Grace "Government with a Heart” Poe (Independent) and Mar "Continue the Straight Path” Roxas (Liberal).

While the People’s Republic of China will not be holding national elections this year, what is brewing at the grass roots in Hong Kong is QI — quite interesting.  Wikipedia reports:

The emergence of new political groups led by young activists is set to shake up the political landscape of Hong Kong. Hong Kong Indigenous, a pro-independence localist group, faired well in the February New Territories East by-election by receiving more than 66,000 votes, coming third after pan-democratic Civic Party and pro-Beijing DAB, gaining about 15 percent of the total votes. A day after the election, localist groups including Wong Yuk-man's Proletariat Political Institute, Wong Yeung-tat's Civic Passion and Chin Wan's Hong Kong Resurgence Order announced a plan to field candidates in all five geographical constituencies.

On 10 April 2016. six post-Occupy organisations, Youngspiration, East Kowloon Community, Tin Shui Wai New Force, Cheung Sha Wan Community Establishment Power, Tsz Wan Shan Constructive Power and Tuen Mun Community, political groups formed after the Umbrella Revolution, formed an electoral alliance planned to field candidates in four of the five geographical constituencies with the agenda to put forward a referendum on Hong Kong's self-determination. Hong Kong Indigenous and another new pro-independence Hong Kong National Party also stated that they will run in the upcoming election.

On the same day on 10 April 2016, the student leaders in the Umbrella Revolution, Joshua Wong, Oscar Lai and Agnes Chow of Scholarism and Nathan Law of the Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS) also formed a new party Demosisto which was inspired by Taiwan's New Power Party which was formed by the Sunflower Movement leaders and fared well in the 2016 Taiwanese legislative election. The new party calls for referendum on Hong Kong's future after 2047 when the One Country, Two Systems is supposed to expire. The party aimed at fielding candidates in Hong Kong Island and Kowloon East, facing competitions from other new political groups while posing challenge to the traditional pan-democracy camp.

Finally, turning to the USA: With Bernie Sanders’ inability to unset the Hillary Clinton base in New York (Manhattan 66% – 33%; Westchester County 67% – 32%) on Tuesday, it looks more and more like a Clinton victory at the convention is a lead pipe cinch. Who knows? She might even have the team to out-Diebold the Trump machine. In Brooklyn, tens of thousands of voters discovered too late that they were ineligible to vote. The New York City Elections Board confirmed that more than 125,000 Brooklyn voters had been scrubbed from the voter rolls and the NY Attorney General's office is on the case. Clinton can now win less than half of the remaining primaries and still gain the required number of delegates.

Can she throw some kind of a aikido move on the Trump steamroller? We don’t yet know who controls the machines, but it is a pretty good bet it ain’t the Donald.

This past week George Monbiot penned one of the best essays of his career, although it was actually a teaser for his new book, How Did We Get into This Mess? published by Verso for £12.99.

In naming Neoliberalism as the root of all our problems, Monbiot linked the Irish Water crisis, the slow collapse of public health and education, rigged Philippine elections, resurgent child poverty, the epidemic of loneliness, offshore tax-avoidance havens, the collapse of ecosystems, Occupy Hong Kong, Australian greedy banks, and the rise of Donald Trump to a single bad gene in our political DNA.

Monbiot writes:

Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that “the market” delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning.

Attempts to limit competition are treated as inimical to liberty. Tax and regulation should be minimised, public services should be privatised. The organisation of labour and collective bargaining by trade unions are portrayed as market distortions that impede the formation of a natural hierarchy of winners and losers. Inequality is recast as virtuous: a reward for utility and a generator of wealth, which trickles down to enrich everyone. Efforts to create a more equal society are both counterproductive and morally corrosive. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve.

When George W. Bush attributed the rise of Islamic jihadis to “they hate our freedom,” what he was doing was reinforcing the neoliberal meme. As Monbiot puts it:

Freedom from trade unions and collective bargaining means the freedom to suppress wages. Freedom from regulation means the freedom to poison rivers, endanger workers, charge iniquitous rates of interest and design exotic financial instruments. Freedom from tax means freedom from the distribution of wealth that lifts people out of poverty.

Hillary Clinton likes to tell audiences that because of the Affordable Care Act, "We now have driven costs down to the lowest they've been in 50 years.” Actually, health spending in the United States is higher than it's ever been, so the statement on its face is inaccurate. The U.S. spends more per capita than every other country in the OECD; and twice as much per capita as the system in France, with considerably worse average outcomes.

Monbiot writes:

The privatisation or marketisation of public services such as energy, water, trains, health, education, roads and prisons has enabled corporations to set up tollbooths in front of essential assets and charge rent, either to citizens or to government, for their use. Rent is another term for unearned income.

Unearned income is what buys elections, and not just in the United States.

What the history of both Keynesianism and neoliberalism show is that it’s not enough to oppose a broken system. A coherent alternative has to be proposed. And that is what none of the elections in 2016 seem to be doing.

Patriotism’s Game

hathawaygc2reddit-logoOff the keyboard of William T. Hathaway

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on March 17, 2016

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Once again in election season the drums of patriotism are being beaten. Politicians on the stump and their Madison Avenue flacks are exhorting us to rally around the tattered flag. Their drumming sounds feeble and hollow, though, like cheerleaders trying to rouse the fans while our military team goes down to defeat, bringing the economy with it.

 

The drummers persist because their patriotic noise drowns out the voices of those asking disturbing questions: Why are we playing this losing game to begin with? Why are we bankrupting the country with endless war? How can we love a nation that slaughters millions of our fellow human beings? These questions endanger the game, and the game must go on.

 

Patriotism keeps us in the game. It's an instrument of control that's cultivated in us as children through emotional rituals designed to make us identify our nation with our family and with some higher power. These rituals create a bond of feeling linking God the Father, the Founding Fathers, and our own fathers into a patriarchal hierarchy that rewards us if we're obedient and punishes us if we're rebellious. It's a tool for keeping us in our place.

 

Patriotism exploits the love we have for our parents by projecting it onto the nation. We love our country, so we react to criticism of it as an attack on our family. This criticism hurts our feelings on a deep personal level, so we reject it. It's too threatening to us. The emotionality of patriotism keeps us from thinking about what the USA is actually doing in the world: dominating other countries through economic, political, and military aggression.

 

Patriotism gives us the illusion that we're part of the system rather than victims of it. It helps us feel good about ourselves, a defense against the low self-esteem that this hypercompetitive society instills in us. Instead of personal pride, we are offered national pride, and we cling to that because it's all we've got. That's one reason poor whites are often so aggressively patriotic. They're desperate to feel like winners. The poor minorities know better.

 

If we can see that patriotism has been indoctrinated into us, we'll be a step closer to reclaiming our minds and freeing ourselves from these internalized control mechanisms that make us subservient to the corporate state and its owners. We will no longer be their loyal and obedient populace generating profits for them. When we finally evict them from their positions of power in our minds and in the world, we'll then be able to build a country we really could be proud of.

 

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William T. Hathaway is an adjunct professor of American studies at the University of Oldenburg in Germany. His new novel, Lila, the Revolutionary, is a fable for adults about an eight-year-old Indian girl who sparks a world revolution for social justice. Chapters are posted at www.amazon.com/dp/1897455844. A selection of his writing is available at www.peacewriter.org.

A Better Plan

Off the keyboard of John Ward

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Published on The Slog on March 27, 2015

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AD 2015: LABOUR ELECTION SLOGAN BRINGS 1972 ROBERT REDFORD SATIRE TO REALITY

LabourplanThe most vapid slogan since Cameron made ‘Change’ his slogan in 2010

“Everything – no matter how unlikely – will happen in the end,” said Marshall McLuhan nearly half a century ago. Today, the Labour Party fulfilled his prophecy; and in doing so, its leaders showed themselves to be as bereft of culture, sensitivity, creativity and sagesse as their allegedly sworn enemies, the Conservative Party.

There are two film-makers in the US I admire more than most – and it’s typical of me (the impossible to pigeon-hole nuisance) that they are at opposite ends of the political spectrum. The first – Clint Eastwood – made a movie seven years ago called The Changeling, starring Angelina Jolie. It was I think Jolie’s finest hour to date: a magnificent piece of acting about the instincts surrounding being a mother. And it was also typical of Eastwood (often branded a neo-fascist but actually just a bloke who asks questions that make pc-ers feel uncomfortable) in that it was a clinical examination of one-rotten-apple syndrome. As a study in how cultures turn to mire, its as non-didactic as anything I’ve yet seen in the cinema – apart from Ralph Fienne’s performance in The Duchess of Devonshire.

The second is Robert Redford. In 1972 he made The Candidate, in my estimation easily the most perspicacious film ever made about how the Big Party Machine grinds principled wannabe politicians into so much infertile dust. Redford is a liberal who carries the Party card on his person at all times, but so predictive has this movie been over the last 43 years, you have to admire it.

Now what both these actors-turned-directors have is searing, subtle intelligence. And both the films I’ve chosen above have things to teach the British Labour Party. The one rotten apple that sent Labour down into the sewers of tentative trimming was without question Tony Blair. And the line so amusingly parodied in Redford’s film – “A better Way” – has finally been almost exactly reproduced by the current Labour leadership as “A better plan”. More than anything I’ve seen since this ‘election’ got going, the adoption of such brainlessly insubstantial generality shows Labour up for what it is: an irrelevant grab-bag of hopelessly dumbed-down process.

Before Left-wingers switch off, let me make it clear that Labour’s wishfully unthinking wanking still has more appeal to me than the Tory sociopathy that pervades all their policies, obfuscations and Cabinet members. The thing that makes me want to slap The Ed Miller Band is their abject failure to provide The Resistance to a Tory belief system that is the side of a Kansas barn when it comes to political critique.

What are we, the electorate, to make of “A Better Plan”? Better than what? And what is the plan? When Barack Obama was first elected, I ridiculed his “Yes we can” with a post headed ‘Where’s the beef?’ It got me banned (for life, it seems) from Huffington Post…that right-on site whose owner trousered $50m and refused to pay off all those interns who’d made her rich. And I have no doubt that the Left’s tribalists will dump me once more for pointing out just how unutterably banal this latest bromide strapline is.

Prithee tell me: whatever happened to ‘Labour: your friend in tough times’? It fell by the wayside friends: I can hear the spin-doctor’s critique now:

“It’s good Ed, don’t get me wrong – I like it. But where’s the brighter future, eh, eh, eh? I mean, do you want a friend to be some kind of eunuch sympathising with you in Egyptian bondage, or do you need a tough leader taking the sort of tough decisions to get us up there in the sunny uplands of a vibrant economy competing in the globalist economy which is our inevitable fate, eh, eh, eh? Don’t be a tree-hugger Ed: be the tough guy with a better plan than Osborne but FFS steer clear of ever getting bogged down in what the plan is. I mean, am I right or am I right?”

God help us all from besuited barrow-boys like Grant Shapps.

To all those who attack my current position of ‘don’t vote’ in a UK context, I say “Name me one Party vying for my support next May that (a) grasps the cultural nature of Britain’s problem (b) has radical educational ideas that chuck away the old discredited shibboleths (c) rejects globalism (d) wants to scale down and localise the State (e) is prepared to name and shame the EU/ECB/EC axis as a bullying corporacratic perversion of the European idea, and (f) wants to legislate all the crooked lobbying money out of UK politics within a month of being elected”.

Answers on the head of a pin please to Sloggers’ Roost, somewhere in France. (The pinhead should provide ample space for your answers).

Greek Election Update

Off the keyboard of John Ward

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Published on The Slog on January 20, 2015

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GREEK ELECTIONS: Alexis Tsipras is heading for power – get over it and get behind him.

https://hat4uk.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/alexis.pngWhile 200,000 talented graduates have left a Greek population of just 13 million in the last few years, Western media, EC gargoyles and the failed Greek Establishment seem keen only to make Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras a bogey-man. Today’s piece by Andrew Lilico in the UK Telegraph is a classic of this spinning moral compass genra. But Yesterday’s polls in Greece show that the electorate isn’t having any of it: Tsipras can only be denied now by illegality. The Slog makes a plea for the men who care more for people than money to be given a chance.

Shortly before Christmas, I blogged several times about the likelihood of external forces putting pressure on the Greek electorate. I was right of course….and the blatancy of some of it should confirm to anyone who’s awake that there isn’t a scintilla of democratic soul left anywhere in Brussels, Frankfurt, Berlin or Washington. But dark internal forces have issued more than their fair share of threats and scaremongering.

Schäuble kicked off with his usual “yo muss not make ze mistakes”, and then various Sprouts, bankers and CDU fatheads jostled each other for the chance to say that Athens was courting disaster, but none of it would have the faintest effect on the euro. Bit of a disconnect there, but boneheaded irony was soon tossed aside in favour of Merkel saying renegotiation of the debt wasn’t on the radar, Draghi threatening to close every Frankfurt cash-tap in use, and business leaders on every continent warning of boil-plagues and bank collapses.

Predictably, Greeks withdrew funds from the banks in huge numbers – the self-fulfilling prophecy is a common banker tactic – but this week things have really begun to get out of hand: because now it looks 95+% certain that Syriza will play the dominant role in whatever government gets formed. In that dread context, Samaras told us of his fear that “vandals and hooligans” would surely destroy the recovery plan he had so painstakingly failed to turn into reality, right-wing ND backbenchers said they would fight rather than let Syriza take power, and Golden Dawn hinted at Colonels, putsches, juntas and civil war. Yesterday, Athens and Twitter were awash with rumours about a forced Grexit this Thursday before the election can take place.

A great deal of warning, myth and urging later, however, the latest poll still has Alexis Tsipras consolidating his lead, and unlikely to be short of coalition suitors. So now, the game has turned again – this time, to “Syriza is all over the place and will make a balls of it before collapsing in disunity”.

The piece in today’s Telegraph by Andrew Lilico (his name might be more aptly La-la-con) gives no consideration whatsoever to the subject of illegal and anti-libertarian interference in the affairs of a fellow Member State by bullies and gangsters. Instead, Mr Lilico says Syriza “doesn’t understand” the ECB’s world view, and lacks a grown-up coherent plan for dealing with the threats of the Protection racketeers.

The increasing degree to which Western media adopt this kind of insouciant amorality when dealing with World affairs concerns me far more than the idiot posturing of politicians. It reminds me of The Times (leader of the Nazi appeasement pack) telling the Czechs to stop dithering and just give Herr Hitler what he wanted in 1938. This extract is typical of the Telegraph piece, written in the light of what Lilico had heard at a Syriza press conference:

‘Overall, the impression I had was that Syriza is attempting to pitch itself as very responsible; that [of] sitting to the left of an emerging consensus that the economic programme imposed upon Greece since 2010 has failed, and something else must be tried. That “something else” must include forgiveness of Greece’s debts. But I could see nothing that I felt would appeal to a German politician or voter.’

Setting aside the obvious fact that Lilico is writing about a Party that had nothing to do with Greece’s current situation at all, the author here is clearly asking Tsipras to just please stop buggering about and name the ‘something else’ Greece needs immediately. Given Andy Pandy and his fellow economists have spectacularly failed to do this – or indeed condemn either austerity or QE – it seems to me a quite extraordinarily haughty position to take. Forgivenesss of Greek debt is precisely what is needed, and what I and others argued vehemently for from 2010 onwards.

But the sign-off sting had me boggling: whyTF should the voters of a Sovereign State give a monkeys about what CDU sausage-munching rednecks or Heinrich auf der Strasse thinks? The Greeks loathe the Germans…and it is an object lesson in Anglo-Saxon ignorance that its journalists have not realised this – or indeed ever observed the German holidaymaker’s bafflement about the attitude when in Greece.

There is a very important underlying point to this semi-rant – and if the rant dimension has been spotted as a reflection of my frustrated anger, then I’m well-pleased: it’s time more people got angry about the death of society and self-determination in favour of the 3% of wobbly-jobbly robots at the Top.

My point is, we have ample evidence to show that, running the EU, the following mobsters are in charge: a Goldman Sachs crook with various Italian clouds following him around, who has already lied about his Spanish banking Ponzi scheme, brutally pushed the Bundesbank and Swiss Gnomes out of his way to enable a pointlessly expensive QE exercise, and used financial blackmail to try and derail or at worst undermine the Greek electoral process; a former DDR Stasi-connected Jugendführer who has ruthlessly stitched up every rival on her way to power – including her current creature, a one-time spook in charge of interior spying who forbade Greek elections the last time around; and unelected European Commission fascists so corrupt, not even the auditors have felt able to sign off a single set of accounts in nineteen years.

Last June, Mr Lilico wrote a piece lauding his profession, which he began – without irony – as follows:

‘…economists are usually about as right as it’s possible to be. There, I said it.That shouldn’t be controversial. After all, that’s why economists get paid so much and why societies managed according to economic principles such as sound money, secure property rights and effective competition are much more prosperous than others…’

It is the neoliberal Believer in full flow. Do read the rest of the article…but only if you haven’t eaten for a few hours.

The economists who read Lilico’s Bible of abject failure understand nothing of any importance to humanity: nothing whatever. Not compassion versus money, not the human versus the machine, not up from down, not credit from balance, not good from bad, and above all, not right from wrong. They reject honour in favour of respecting those made ‘honourable’ by money.

In another absolute gem of didactic arrogance, Andrew Lilico writes, ‘Modern orthodox economics is a rich and broad field of endeavour….because orthodox tools are so powerful and fruitful. Some textbooks will tell you economics is the study of incentives. I unpack that as follows: economics is the discipline that tells you why behaviour makes sense’. Well, there you have it then: “no new ideas please, economics is settled science…now the rest of you oiks just f**k off out of the way while I continue to make you more prosperous than you deserve”.

But these people are perilously close to running the show. Don’t be afraid of Tsipras: he’s a bourgeois, good-family structural engineer. My main fear of young Alexis is that he’ll compromise too much. No: be afraid only of the carpet-bagging liberty-hijackers who know they’re right.

The Anti-Empire Report #134

From the Keyboard of William Blum
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Published originally in The Anti-Empire Report November 19, 2014

Russia invades Ukraine. Again. And again. And yet again … using Saddam’s WMD

“Russia reinforced what Western and Ukrainian officials described as a stealth invasion on Wednesday [August 27], sending armored troops across the border as it expanded the conflict to a new section of Ukrainian territory. The latest incursion, which Ukraine’s military said included five armored personnel carriers, was at least the third movement of troops and weapons from Russia across the southeast part of the border this week.”

None of the photos accompanying this New York Times story online showed any of these Russian troops or armored vehicles.

“The Obama administration,” the story continued, “has asserted over the past week that the Russians had moved artillery, air-defense systems and armor to help the separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk. ‘These incursions indicate a Russian-directed counteroffensive is likely underway’, Jen Psaki, the State Department spokeswoman, said. At the department’s daily briefing in Washington, Ms. Psaki also criticized what she called the Russian government’s ‘unwillingness to tell the truth’ that its military had sent soldiers as deep as 30 miles inside Ukraine territory.”

Thirty miles inside Ukraine territory and not a single satellite photo, not a camera anywhere around, not even a one-minute video to show for it. “Ms. Psaki apparently [sic] was referring to videos of captured Russian soldiers, distributed by the Ukrainian government.” The Times apparently forgot to inform its readers where they could see these videos.

“The Russian aim, one Western official said, may possibly be to seize an outlet to the sea in the event that Russia tries to establish a separatist enclave in eastern Ukraine.”

This of course hasn’t taken place. So what happened to all these Russian soldiers 30 miles inside Ukraine? What happened to all the armored vehicles, weapons, and equipment?

“The United States has photographs that show the Russian artillery moved into Ukraine, American officials say. One photo dated last Thursday, shown to a New York Times reporter, shows Russian military units moving self-propelled artillery into Ukraine. Another photo, dated Saturday, shows the artillery in firing positions in Ukraine.”

Where are these photographs? And how will we know that these are Russian soldiers? And how will we know that the photos were taken in Ukraine? But most importantly, where are the fucking photographs?

Why am I so cynical? Because the Ukrainian and US governments have been feeding us these scare stories for eight months now, without clear visual or other evidence, often without even common sense. Here are a few of the many other examples, before and after the one above:

  • The Wall Street Journal (March 28) reported: “Russian troops massing near Ukraine are actively concealing their positions and establishing supply lines that could be used in a prolonged deployment, ratcheting up concerns that Moscow is preparing for another [sic] major incursion and not conducting exercises as it claims, US officials said.”
  • “The Ukrainian government charged that the Russian military was not only approaching but had actually crossed the border into rebel-held regions.” (Washington Post, November 7)
  • “U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove told reporters in Bulgaria that NATO had observed Russian tanks, Russian artillery, Russian air defense systems and Russian combat troops enter Ukraine across a completely wide-open border with Russia in the previous two days.” (Washington Post, November 13)
  • “Ukraine accuses Russia of sending more soldiers and weapons to help rebels prepare for a new offensive. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied aiding the separatists.” (Reuters, November 16)

Since the February US-backed coup in Ukraine, the State Department has made one accusation after another about Russian military actions in Eastern Ukraine without presenting any kind of satellite imagery or other visual or documentary evidence; or they present something that’s very unclear and wholly inconclusive, such as unmarked vehicles, or unsourced reports, or citing “social media”; what we’re left with is often no more than just an accusation. The Ukrainian government has matched them.

On top of all this we should keep in mind that if Moscow decided to invade Ukraine they’d certainly provide air cover for their ground forces. There has been no mention of air cover.

This is all reminiscent of the numerous stories in the past three years of “Syrian planes bombing defenseless citizens”. Have you ever seen a photo or video of a Syrian government plane dropping bombs? Or of the bombs exploding? When the source of the story is mentioned, it’s almost invariably the rebels who are fighting against the Syrian government. Then there’s the “chemical weapon” attacks by the same evil Assad government. When a photo or video has accompanied the story I’ve never once seen grieving loved ones or media present; not one person can be seen wearing a gas mask. Is it only children killed or suffering? No rebels?

And then there’s the July 17 shootdown of Malaysia Flight MH17, over eastern Ukraine, taking 298 lives, which Washington would love to pin on Russia or the pro-Russian rebels. The US government – and therefore the US media, the EU, and NATO – want us all to believe it was the rebels and/or Russia behind it. The world is still waiting for any evidence. Or even a motivation. Anything at all. President Obama is not waiting. In a talk on November 15 in Australia, he spoke of “opposing Russia’s aggression against Ukraine – which is a threat to the world, as we saw in the appalling shoot-down of MH17”. Based on my reading, I’d guess that it was the Ukranian government behind the shootdown, mistaking it for Putin’s plane that reportedly was in the area.

Can it be said with certainty that all the above accusations were lies? No, but the burden of proof is on the accusers, and the world is still waiting. The accusers would like to create the impression that there are two sides to each question without actually having to supply one of them.

The United States punishing Cuba

For years American political leaders and media were fond of labeling Cuba an “international pariah”. We haven’t heard that for a very long time. Perhaps one reason is the annual vote in the United Nations General Assembly on the resolution which reads: “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba”. This is how the vote has gone (not including abstentions):

Year Votes (Yes-No) No Votes
1992 59-2 US, Israel
1993 88-4 US, Israel, Albania, Paraguay
1994 101-2 US, Israel
1995 117-3 US, Israel, Uzbekistan
1996 138-3 US, Israel, Uzbekistan
1997 143-3 US, Israel, Uzbekistan
1998 157-2 US, Israel
1999 155-2 US, Israel
2000 167-3 US, Israel, Marshall Islands
2001 167-3 US, Israel, Marshall Islands
2002 173-3 US, Israel, Marshall Islands
2003 179-3 US, Israel, Marshall Islands
2004 179-4 US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau
2005 182-4 US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau
2006 183-4 US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau
2007 184-4 US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau
2008 185-3 US, Israel, Palau
2009 187-3 US, Israel, Palau
2010 187-2 US, Israel
2011 186-2 US, Israel
2012 188-3 US, Israel, Palau
2013 188-2 US, Israel
2014 188-2 US, Israel

This year Washington’s policy may be subject to even more criticism than usual due to the widespread recognition of Cuba’s response to the Ebola outbreak in Africa.

Each fall the UN vote is a welcome reminder that the world has not completely lost its senses and that the American empire does not completely control the opinion of other governments.

Speaking before the General Assembly before last year’s vote, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez declared: “The economic damages accumulated after half a century as a result of the implementation of the blockade amount to $1.126 trillion.” He added that the blockade “has been further tightened under President Obama’s administration”, some 30 US and foreign entities being hit with $2.446 billion in fines due to their interaction with Cuba.

However, the American envoy, Ronald Godard, in an appeal to other countries to oppose the resolution, said:

The international community … cannot in good conscience ignore the ease and frequency with which the Cuban regime silences critics, disrupts peaceful assembly, impedes independent journalism and, despite positive reforms, continues to prevent some Cubans from leaving or returning to the island. The Cuban government continues its tactics of politically motivated detentions, harassment and police violence against Cuban citizens.

So there you have it. That is why Cuba must be punished. One can only guess what Mr. Godard would respond if told that more than 7,000 people were arrested in the United States during the Occupy Movement’s first 8 months of protest in 2011-12 ; that many of them were physically abused by the police; and that their encampments were violently destroyed.

Does Mr. Godard have access to any news media? Hardly a day passes in America without a police officer shooting to death an unarmed person.

As to “independent journalism” – What would happen if Cuba announced that from now on anyone in the country could own any kind of media? How long would it be before CIA money – secret and unlimited CIA money financing all kinds of fronts in Cuba – would own or control most of the media worth owning or controlling?

The real reason for Washington’s eternal hostility toward Cuba has not changed since the revolution in 1959 – The fear of a good example of an alternative to the capitalist model; a fear that has been validated repeatedly over the years as many Third World countries have expressed their adulation of Cuba.

How the embargo began: On April 6, 1960, Lester D. Mallory, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, wrote in an internal memorandum: “The majority of Cubans support Castro … The only foreseeable means of alienating internal support is through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship. … every possible means should be undertaken promptly to weaken the economic life of Cuba.” Mallory proposed “a line of action which … makes the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government.”

Later that year, the Eisenhower administration instituted its suffocating embargo against its everlasting enemy.

The United States judging and punishing the rest of the world

In addition to Cuba, Washington currently is imposing economic and other sanctions against Burma, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iran, China, North Korea, South Korea, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Turkey, Germany, Malaysia, South Africa, Mexico, South Sudan, Sudan, Russia, Syria, Venezuela, India, and Zimbabwe. These are sanctions mainly against governments, but also against some private enterprises; there are also many other sanctions against individuals not included here.

Imbued with a sense of America’s moral superiority and “exceptionalism”, each year the State Department judges the world, issuing reports evaluating the behavior of all other nations, often accompanied by sanctions of one kind or another. There are different reports rating how each lesser nation has performed in the previous year in areas such as religious freedom, human rights, the war on drugs, trafficking in persons, and sponsors of terrorism. The criteria used in these reports are often political. Cuba, for example, is always listed as a sponsor of terrorism whereas anti-Castro exile groups in Florida, which have committed literally hundreds of terrorist acts over the years, are not listed as terrorist groups or supporters of such.

Cuba, which has been on the sponsor-of-terrorism list longer (since 1982) than any other country, is one of the most glaring anomalies. The most recent State Department report on this matter, in 2012, states that there is “no indication that the Cuban government provided weapons or paramilitary training to terrorist groups.” There are, however, some retirees of Spain’s Basque terrorist group ETA (which appears on the verge of disbanding) in Cuba, but the report notes that the Cuban government evidently is trying to distance itself from them by denying them services such as travel documents. Some members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have been allowed into Cuba, but that was because Cuba was hosting peace talks between the FARC and the Colombian government, which the report notes.

The US sanctions mechanism is so effective and formidable that it strikes fear (of huge fines) into the hearts of banks and other private-sector organizations that might otherwise consider dealing with a listed state.

Some selected thoughts on American elections and democracy

In politics, as on the sickbed, people toss from one side to the other, thinking they will be more comfortable.
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

  • 2012 presidential election:
    223,389,800 eligible to vote
    128,449,140 actually voted
    Obama got 65,443,674 votes
    Obama was thus supported by 29.3% of eligible voters
  • There are 100 million adults in the United States who do not vote. This is a very large base from which an independent party can draw millions of new votes.
  • If God had wanted more of us to vote in elections, he would give us better candidates.
  • “The people can have anything they want. The trouble is, they do not want anything. At least they vote that way on election day.” – Eugene Debs, American socialist leader (1855-1926)
  • “If persons over 60 are the only American age group voting at rates that begin to approximate European voting, it’s because they’re the only Americans who live in a welfare state – Medicare, Social Security, and earlier, GI loans, FHA loans.” – John Powers
  • “The American political system is essentially a contract between the Republican and Democratic parties, enforced by federal and state two-party laws, all designed to guarantee the survival of both no matter how many people despise or ignore them.” – Richard Reeves (1936- )
  • The American electoral system, once the object of much national and international pride, has slid inexorably from “one person, one vote”, to “one dollar, one vote”.
  • Noam Chomsky: “It is important to bear in mind that political campaigns are designed by the same people who sell toothpaste and cars. Their professional concern in their regular vocation is not to provide information. Their goal, rather, is deceit.”
  • If the Electoral College is such a good system, why don’t we have it for local and state elections?
  • “All the props of a democracy remain intact – elections, legislatures, media – but they predominantly function at the service of the oligarchy.” – Richard Wolff
  • The RepDem Party holds elections as if they were auctions; indeed, an outright auction for the presidency would be more efficient. To make the auction more interesting we need a second party, which must at a minimum be granted two privileges: getting on the ballot in all 50 states and taking part in television debates.
  • The US does in fact have two parties: the Ins and the Outs … the evil of two lessers.
  • Alexander Cockburn: “There was a time once when ‘lesser of two evils’ actually meant something momentous, like the choice between starving to death on a lifeboat, or eating the first mate.”
  • Cornel West has suggested that it’s become difficult to even imagine what a free and democratic society, without great concentrations of corporate power, would look like, or how it would operate.
  • The United States now resembles a police state punctuated by elections.
  • How many voters does it take to change a light bulb? None. Because voters can’t change anything.
  • H.L. Mencken (1880-1956): “As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”
  • “All elections are distractions. Nothing conceals tyranny better than elections.” – Joel Hirschhorn
  • In 1941, one of the country’s more acerbic editors, a priest named Edward Dowling, commented: “The two greatest obstacles to democracy in the United States are, first, the widespread delusion among the poor that we have a democracy, and second, the chronic terror among the rich, lest we get it.”
  • “Elections are a necessary, but certainly not a sufficient, condition for democracy. Political participation is not just a casting of votes. It is a way of life.” – UN Human Development Report, 1993
  • “If you don’t vote, you can’t complain!” I reply, “You have it backwards. If you DO vote, you can’t complain. You asked for it, and they’re going to give it to you, good and hard.”
  • “How to get people to vote against their interests and to really think against their interests is very clever. It’s the cleverest ruling class that I have ever come across in history. It’s been 200 years at it. It’s superb.” – Gore Vidal
  • We can’t use our democracy/our vote to change the way the economy functions. This is very anti-democratic.
  • What does a majority vote mean other than that the sales campaign was successful?
  • Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius: “The opinion of 10,000 men is of no value if none of them know anything about the subject.”
  • We do have representative government. The question is: Who does our government represent?
  • “On the day after the 2002 election I watched a crawl on the bottom of the CNN news screen. It said, ‘Proprietary software may make inspection of electronic voting systems impossible.’ It was the final and absolute coronation of corporate rights over democracy; of money over truth.” – Mike Ruppert, RIP
  • “It’s not that voting is useless or stupid; rather, it’s the exaggeration of the power of voting that has drained the meaning from American politics.” – Michael Ventura
  • After going through the recent national, state and local elections, I am now convinced that taxation without representation would have been a much better system.
  • “Ever since the Constitution was illegally foisted on the American people we have lived in a blatant plutocracy. The Constitution was drafted in secret by a self-appointed elite committee, and it was designed to bring three kinds of power under control: Royalty, the Church, and the People. All were to be subjugated to the interests of a wealthy elite. That’s what republics were all about. And that’s how they have functioned ever since.” – Richard K. Moore
  • “As demonstrated in Russia and numerous other countries, when faced with a choice between democracy without capitalism or capitalism without democracy, Western elites unhesitatingly embrace the latter.” – Michael Parenti
  • “The fact that a supposedly sophisticated electorate had been stampeded by the cynical propaganda of the day threw serious doubt on the validity of the assumptions underlying parliamentary democracy as a whole.” – British Superspy for the Soviets Kim Philby (1912-1988), explaining his reasons for becoming a Communist instead of turning to the Labour Party
  • US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis (1856-1941): “We may have democracy in this country, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we cannot have both.”
  • “We don’t need to run America like a business or like the military. We need to run America like a democracy.” – Jill Stein, Green Party presidential candidate 2012

Notes

  1. Democracy Now!, October 30, 2013
  2. Huffingfton Post, May 3, 2012
  3. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1958-1960, Volume VI, Cuba(1991), p.885 (online here)
  4. For the complete detailed list, see U.S. Department of State, Nonproliferation Sanctions
  5. U.S. Department of State, “Country Reports on Terrorism 2012, Chapter 3: State Sponsors of Terrorism,” May 20, 2013

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.

William Blum is an author, historian, and renowned critic of U.S. foreign policy. He is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II and Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, among others.

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.

 

Sit this one out? Enjoy the aftermath.

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Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on November 5, 2014

Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.

 

Sit this one out? Enjoy the aftermath.

Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.”

                                                                                                                              ― Franklin D. Roosevelt

Yesterday, my colleague RE published an election day rant (Fork the Morton! DON”T VOTE!) urging you to sit out the election and not vote. While not voting is certainly his prerogative, and yours, his advice is one of the most wrongheaded, shortsighted and mistaken opinions possible. As you consider the electoral results screaming from your TV, radio or (much reduced in size and scope) newspaper, savor the consequences of having followed his advice.

Charlie Pierce, engaged in live blogging the election for Esquire, had the play-by-play:

10:30PM — Colorado’s gone. Cory Gardner’s long con has triumphed. Now we will pretend that Gardner is a reasonable guy. I think that may be the ballgame. Chris Matthews just used the word “pissant,” and Cory Booker, for whom I have little use, replied that Matthews would be surprised that “there are a lot of new senators” that just want to get something done. The concrete on the narrative is beginning to solidify. Matthews wants to trade a minimum wage hike for “corporate tax reform.” I suspect that the fix on the Keystone XL pipeline is already in, too. And Udall was one of the few people in Congress who made reigning in the surveillance state a priority. I guess it’s all up to Aqua Buddha.

11:00PM — The Hour Of Suck finally has arrived. Scott Walker, the goggle-eyed homunculus hired by Koch Industries to manage their midwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Wisconsin, has been re-elected governor of Wisconsin, Rick Scott apparently will win in Florida.

11:30PM — My new friend Joni Ernst has won in Iowa… And our golfs are safe from the threat posed to them by the United Nations. “I will say this, she goes to Washington and she becomes a hot commodity,” Luke Russert just said. “She’s gone away from the hot button issues, being more vague and general.”

God, get these people off my television. Robert Gibbs is burying the whole Battleground Texas effort because Wendy Davis is getting crushed, and Steve Schmidt is declaring a “big night” for the Clintons because Hillary campaigned for Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire, but somehow forgetting that they both campaigned for Mark Pryor in Arkansas and that they went really long for Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky. And, it seems to these untrained eyes that the strategy of running away from the president’s record did not do very much good at all for anyone… Also, David Perdue, the newly elected senator from Georgia, said in his victory speech that he was going to the Senate to “fight for the Fair Tax,” a fleabitten scam and longtime conservative fetish object by which you and Steve Forbes will pay the same percentage of your income in taxes, and we’ll make up the revenue with a sales tax that will introduce America to the $20 banana. Yeah, they’re coming to Washington to work with the president.

1:30AM — I think it was contemplating the fact that both Sam Brownback and Paul LePage both may have survived as governors that was the last straw for me tonight. Brownback has wrecked his state. Even Kansas Republicans believe that. LePage is a local embarrassment who became a national embarrassment in the final days before the election. Even Maine Republicans believe that… They have engaged, quite deliberately and quite successfully, in a concerted effort to convince the country that self-government is a game for suckers. Nobody does what they say they’re going to do, so ignore the fact that our candidates have drifted so far to the right that they’ll be falling into the Thames any minute now because they’re not going to act on their fringe beliefs, and just go out there and vote your Id. Once you’ve divorced the act of voting from the conviction that voting will have any connection to what the government actually does, voters do not vote their desires, they vote their anger and their fear.

Here in the morning after, fear is taking a victory lap.

In so called off-year elections, turnout is typically low. Even year presidential elections, where your vote actually is the most diluted and meaningless, tends to bring out the biggest crowds. We all know this. But interestingly, the closer to home your election is,  the more your vote counts. And the more it matters.

Several years ago in Virginia, the election for Virginia Attorney General  was settled by a handful votes. Democrat Mark Herring prevailed over Republican Mark Obenshain with a difference of 165 votes out of more than 2.2 million cast, or 0.007%. It’s ludicrous to assert that your vote does not count, even at the state level.  And if you have any doubt about the mischief an AG can cause, look no further than the record of Herring’s predecessor, Ken Cuccinelli. Let your fingers do the walking and let the Google dredge up the rotting carcasses of that worthy’s legal achievements; suffice it to say that Cuccinelli singlehandedly led a campaign on climate science, the environment and women’s rights that kept activists busy, while disgraced convicted felon former Gov. Transvaginal Ultrasound attempted to get uranium mining legalized in Virginia while selling off state assets to the highest bidders.

Elections matter. If they didn’t, why would we have seen so many voter suppression schemes, unsavory redistricting, and other efforts by incumbents to choose their own voters?

If we accept as true the center of RE’s argument, that voting is often a Morton’s Fork, a choice between two equally unsavory outcomes, then why vote?

The answer is to forestall  the elevation of worse over bad.

Politics is often the art of gaining a half a loaf when a whole loaf is unattainable. Here’s a story ripped from real life:  Each month, Contrary and I are part of a group of progressives who gather together for a breakfast/brunch and some spirited conversation. At last month’s gathering, one of our number announced, with no small amount of pride, that she was not going to vote for Democrat Mark Warner for Senator. She was going to write in the candidate her of her choice in response to some of his policy decisions, and doubtless felt self-righteous about her decision. Another of our number, a man I otherwise deeply respect, intoned, “Warner’s got this in the bag; he doesn’t need her vote.”  Really? The result? Warner has apparently managed to squeak out a victory of half a percentage point, a victory so thin as to trigger an automatic recount. Could Warner have used her vote?

 

voter-rights-act-408

 

And quite frankly, if you believe there is no qualitative difference between having a Senator Warner versus a Senator Gillespie representing the Old Dominion in DC, I have swampland to sell you. Warner has many flaws, not the least of which is a support for fracking in Virginia. That’s anathema to me. Yet the notion of having consummate long time Republican fixer and bagman Gillespie, he of the Enron debacle and conspicuous donation bundler for a variety of Bushes, Cheneys, et al, huddled in DC in craven conspiracy with the Worst Elements of Humanity to unleash untold mischief upon both the Commonwealth and democratic process, is unthinkable.  As it was, even outspent two to one by Warner, he almost pulled off a victory that would’ve made the Republican majority even more secure, to say nothing of a super majority.

It’s been a long time since I had something, or someone to vote for. And I have my own dark moments of frustration with always having to vote for the lesser of two evils. It’s been that way my entire adult life, and with the specter of a Hillary Clinton presidential run against whoever manages the stumble out of the Republican clown car, I don’t look for relief anytime soon. But sometimes it is one’s existential duty to hold one’s nose and vote, if for no other reason than to forestall the apocalypse.

Never forget they only count the votes of the people who show up to vote. And never underestimate the ability of those working the levers of the 24/7 fear machine to carefully calibrate your level of disgust and revulsion, the better to keep you at home on your broad behind on election day. They like it that way.

And speaking of worse over bad…

Republicans campaigned on a platform of sheer Obama-hate, typically long on invective and short on specifics: the perfect offering for their red-meat base of toothless drool-cup-wearing nonagenarians, Klansmen, neo-nazis and radical Christopaths.  TV airwaves were filled with fact free invective. In fact, in some of the dark-money-funded attack ads for state candidates– STATE candidates– were cookie-cutter ads suggesting that if elected to the North Carolina, South Carolina or Virginia state  senates, Senator Fatbottom would “stand firm against the “Obama Agenda.” As if Senator Fatbottom could come within sniffing distance of the “Obama agenda,” or if Obama’s agenda could even be found. (Seeing that same spot, with different candidates slotted in, airing in several different TV markets was quite a lesson in the glories of money recast in its new role of free speech, a transfiguration made possible by your Federalist-Society -inspired Supreme Court. As well as a lesson in the spittle-flecked fury and barely hidden racism that fueled the Repug campaigns.)

Today’s news offered the specter of Rand Paul (R-Mars) opining that the Republican Congress will pass bill after bill and fast track their regressive agenda in a flurry of so much legislation that he’ll get tired of vetoing. Not so fast, Mr. Bad Toupee:  first they will have to govern. Anyone remember what Congress was like when the Dems had a majority? With a number of would-be presidential aspirants in the Congressional ranks, not to mention the various governors, former officeholders and assorted clown-car geeks who will invite themselves to the 2016 standard-bearer party, and a moving scrum on legislative priorities replete with photo ops, upcoming Republicans have set themselves up for chaos, and a circular firing squad. Can’t wait…

Congressional leaders will be pulled in opposite directions by would-be presidential contender Ted Cruz (R-Weekly World Newz) and his expanded band of Senate butt-picking finger-sniffers who dearly dream of abolishing the IRS, the EPA and the Department of Education, further eroding banking regs (because the last time we did that, it worked so well) and holding several thousand more votes to eliminate Obamacare.

But there is little I can do about any of that except sit on the porch and bark. Just remember that no matter what anyone tells you, every vote counts. They still have to count them. If they didn’t, there wouldn’t be so much effort put into voter suppression and election fraud, would there? And remember when the election is local, your vote counts even more. Who among us doesn’t care about whether their property taxes go up, whether their local school boards are elected or appointed, about local environmental issues? It is local administrations, like that of Broward County, that enact laws prohibiting feeding of the homeless. What would you do if your locality enacted a similar law?

And yes, even though Alvin Toffler famously described elections as “rituals of reassurance” designed to take the steam out of dissent from below, they still matter.

When you stay home, this happens- again, Pierce:

I hate to break this to Tom Brokaw, and to Kasie Hunt, who talked about how the Republicans know they have to “govern,” but this election couldn’t have been less of a repudiation of the Tea Party. As the cable shows signed off last night, it was dawning even on the most conventional pundits that the Republicans had not elected an escadrille of Republican archangels to descend upon Capitol Hill. It was more like a murder of angry crows. Joni Ernst is not a moderate. David Perdue is not a moderate. Thom Tillis is not a moderate. Cory Gardner — who spiced up his victory by calling himself “the tip of the spear” — is not a moderate. Tom Cotton is not a moderate. And these were the people who flipped the Senate to the Republicans. In the reliably Republican states, Ben Sasse in Nebraska is not a moderate. James Lankford in Oklahoma is not a moderate. He’s a red-haired fanatic who believes that welfare causes school shootings. Several of these people — most notably, Sasse and Ernst — won Republican primaries specifically as Tea Partiers, defeating establishment candidates. The Republicans did not defeat the Tea Party. The Tea Party’s ideas animated what happened on Tuesday night. What the Republicans managed to do was to teach the Tea Party to wear shoes, mind its language, and use the proper knife while amputating the social safety net. They did nothing except send the Tea Party to finishing school.

So don’t listen to RE: next election, vote. Get involved. Show up. Make a difference.

 

***

Surly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner,  author of numerous rants, articles and spittle-flecked invective on this site, who quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be briefly active in the Occupy movement. He shares a home in Southeastern Virginia with Contrary and is grateful each day for the life he has with her, and that he is not yet taking a dirt nap.

Fork the Morton! DON’T VOTE!

logopodcastOff the microphone of RE

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Aired on the Doomstead Diner on November 4, 2014

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What IS a “Morton’s Fork“?

Morton’s Fork is a logical dilemma in which people are faced with two equally bad options. You could think of it as being “between the devil and the deep blue sea,” as the saying goes. Unless the victim of the dilemma manages to find an exception, the outcome of the situation will most probably be undesirable, as there can be no good outcome from any of the choices the victim is faced with. Many people find themselves struggling with Morton’s Fork at some point in their lives.

This term is named after Lord Chancellor John Morton, who worked in England under Henry VII. According to Morton’s logic, wealthy subjects of the Crown obviously had money to be spared for taxes, and poor subjects were clearly sitting on savings, so they could also bear high taxes. Rich and poor alike found themselves at the points of “Morton’s Fork,” paying high taxes.

Like many logical dilemmas, Morton’s Fork can have interesting implications. It sometimes comes up in game theory, with the game of bridge actually having a move called “Morton’s Fork” after the dilemma which inspires it. Mathematicians and people who study human behavior are often interested to see how people respond to such dilemmas, and how they rationalize their behavior if the outcome turns out as poorly as expected.

Mortons-Fork.jpgSnippet:

…Tomorrow is the First Tuesday in November, aka “Election Day” when Amerikans get to pick the scum of choice of the Demopublican Party Machines as their new leaders. I should say new Puppets not Leaders, because every last person with any chance whatsoever of actually getting elected is PWNed by so special interest, and absolutely none of them work in the interest of the people who actually vote for them, they work for whoever it is that pays their campaign bills, which these days are staggering.

About the only people who do well with the election cycle are the media companies, for the last month the Ads have been non-stop up here for the 2 jackasses running for Goobernator, and 2 other jackasses running for Senator.

The ads don’t talk about anything substantive, they are all attack ads on Buzz Issues like Abortion and local Budgets and Taxes, and on the latter 2 you can be sure whoever does get elected will not balance their budget and your taxes will go up too. Why would I vote for any of these guys? They don’t have a shred of credibility, nor does Da Goobermint either State or National.

In fact, I can go right back to before I even was old enough to vote, and back then absolutely nobody running for office was the least bit credible either, so this is nothing new. As a result, I never bothered to vote, it’s a complete waste of your time. It doesn’t matter at all who gets elected, because they don’t run the show, the folks behind the curtain shoveling the money at them run the show.

It’s quite easy to see how utterly stupid the whole process is, good grief we elected an ACTOR (and not a very good one) in Ronald Rayguns TWICE. WTF does an Actor know about Law or Goobermint?

Then you have your Family Dynasty people who get elected Generation after Generation…

http://www.muslimaction.net/images/vOTE--CHOOSE%20YOUR%20PUPPET.jpg

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Don’t miss the recent Rant on Japanese Monetary Insanity!!

Japan Goes Full Retard

kuroda-laughing

US “Democracy” no different than Chinese “Democracy”

Off the keyboard of Anthony Cartalucci

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Published on Land Destroyer on October 7, 2014

Hong Kong, Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

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US-style “Democracy” No Different than Beijing’s Version, US Labor Activist

October 7, 2014 (Tony Cartalucci – LD) – With the “Occupy Central” protests in Hong Kong still ongoing, the movement’s leadership has been exposed as completely backed, funded, and directed by foreign interests, particularly those of the US State Department through its National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and its subsidiary the National Democratic Institute (NDI).

At the core of “Occupy Central’s” demands, as articulated by co-organizer Martin Lee during his trip to Washington D.C. with Anson Chan earlier this year, is the belief that Beijing should honor the demands made by parting British occupiers who held Hong Kong territory for nearly a century and a half. This includes the “one nation, two systems” approach that the US and British hope will allow Hong Kong to be used to “infect” mainland China with a Western controlled political orders and institutions.

“Occupy Central” insists that they simply want “universal suffrage” and “total democracy” instead of allowing Beijing to approve who can and cannot run in elections to be held in 2017. This implies that the alternative to Beijing’s arrangements would be “free and fair” elections. In reality this simply is not the case. In reality, instead of Beijing putting up candidates for Hong Kong’s elections, the next most influential political backers would vet and put forward candidates – not the Hong Kong people -but rather those foreign interests in Washington, upon Wall Street, and in the City of London who are currently backing “Occupy Central” and many of the leaders who would contest upcoming elections.

The notion of “free and fair elections” is one of absolute naivety. Former Berkeley labor activist Michael Pirsch now residing in Thailand shared his thoughts on what he sees as somewhat hypocritical or perhaps misguided thinking among “Occupy Central’s” genuine followers – misconceptions “Occupy Central’s” US-backed leadership is all too happy to exploit.

Pirsch first points out the ultimate problem with the US backing political movements in foreign countries, stating:

Are there any foreign countries promoting democracy and human rights inside America? There are none, it is not allowed. However, America, through the National Endowment for Democracy disburses millions of dollars in countries in order to effect regime change to a regime much friendlier to America’s policy goals of controlling the planet. 

Pirsch then compares Beijing’s policy of vetting candidates for Hong Kong’s elections to the US primaries, in which big-business ultimately decides who can and cannot run because of the immense financial means required to stand in an election:

It seems to me, to borrow from Noam Chomsky, China is run by “criminal communists” and America is run by “corporate criminals”. In America we have the hidden (financial) primary. where potential candidates demonstrate their ability to attract millions or hundreds of millions for campaigns ranging from local level to national level. If the candidate is unable to attract shiploads of dollars their candidacy is not viable. Nearly all this money comes from the “criminal capitalists”. We are allowed to choose from only those who swear to protect the financial criminals.

In Hong Kong, the system is much the same, except that it is the “criminal communists” who choose the candidates. Both systems provide the same outcome: there is no benefit to the citizens of either Hong Kong or America.

Ultimately, Beijing’s style of “democracy” is no different than the US-style “democracy” “Occupy Central” protesters are rallying for. Of course, Pirsch is only scratching the surface. Support for US candidates, and in fact the functioning of the whole electoral process also hinges on how that process is presented to the public through the media. The media, just like the American primaries, are tightly controlled by advertisers and sometimes directly by corporate-financier interests themselves – just as Martin Lee and Anson Chan complained was the case in China in regards to Beijing’s control over the political process there.


The Solution is Pragmatic, Not Political 

Indeed, at the end of the day, the only choice Hong Kong seems to have at the moment is a political process manipulated and controlled by foreign interests upon Wall Street and in London, or by Beijing in China. The fallacy of believing “democracy” can bring about progress or power to the people is laid bare by these two relatively lacking choices.

Image: Believe it or not, growing your own food or visiting your local farmers’ market is more revolutionary and constructive than burning down your own city and killing security forces. Real progress stems from pragmatism, not politics. 

The problem ultimately is large monopolies of corporate-financier and political power, be they of a Western nature or of Chinese origin. The solution is not participating in political rackets meant to give the illusion of self-determination, but to diminish and decentralize those monopolies pragmatically and locally so that people can better determine their own lives by directly controlling the infrastructure necessary for modern, peaceful, and prosperous lives.

Monopolies must begin being dismantled globally, regionally, nationally, provincially, and finally locally. For the people of Hong Kong, then, their next move is simple – expose and oppose the global monopolies that seek to co-opt their destiny via their agents leading the “Occupy Central” movement today. Then they can begin dealing with their national problem in Beijing tomorrow – and do so constructively and pragmatically – not divisively and politically.

China, or any other nation for that matter, to move forward pragmatically and progressively, must possess an educated, technically competent, pragmatic population that believes in evolution, rather than city-burning “revolution.” The process of devolving power away from massive monopolies of corporate-financier and/or political power can take the form of an orderly transition, leveraging modern technology and innovative solutions to begin building up local infrastructure as massive monopolies are slowly diminished. It need not manifest itself in protests, referendums, or any other process of selecting representatives to implement solutions the people themselves are more than capable of organizing and executing.

The “Occupy Central” protesters would serve Hong Kong best if they abandoned their clearly compromised, exploitative leadership, their disruptive tactics, and instead set up direct action committees that pursued pragmatic community projects to improve education, infrastructure, business, health, and environmental concerns.

 

Farruggio for President 2012 …solutions to save our nation

Off the keyboard of Phillip Farruggio

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I don’t intend to list countless measures that, as President, I would take. No, rather, in this world of one minute sound bites and KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid) I have a streamlined platform that covers the really pertinent and key issues of our day:

 

· Cut the military spending drastically to save our states, their cities and our prestige as a nation. The 25% Solution Movement has a simple and novel approach to this: Congress cuts military spending 25% by an ‘Up and Down ‘vote, since this spending is considered Discretionary As President I will use my bully pulpit to go directly to the American public, urging everyone to A) get out and continually demonstrate for this, and B) let their congressional representatives know that they will not vote for anyone who refuses to support this! Period!

· Use the added revenues from the above action ($ 170 billion a year) to send to all 50 states to help with their budget deficits .This would then allow the states to send money to the cities for the same purpose. No need to lay off police, firefighters, teachers etc or to close libraries and schools. You get my drift?

 

· End the occupations of Iraq & Afghanistan and send the troops home… ASAP! This would save us over $ 100 billion a year and stop the killing of our troops and the innocent civilians that they kill. It would also allow the UN, along with the Middle Eastern nations, to help stabilize those two countries.

 

· Flat Surtax of 50% on all personal income over and above one million dollars per year. Let’s leave the federal tax rates as is and begin taxing the millionaires and mega millionaires. If we are truly a nation entrenched in the Judeo- Christian traditions and precepts, are we not supposed to be ‘Our brother’s keeper ‘? Cannot a person who earns millions in income, whether it is from salary, bonus, interest, commissions, or inheritance, afford to live quite well on 50% of those millions? Did you know that 50% of working Americans earn less than $ 27,000 a year? How can a single mother or father raise a child or two on that meager amount? Do the math and see how taking half from a very wealthy person is perhaps the most spiritual thing we can do as a nation.

 

· Return the corporate tax rates to what they were in our recent past. Honor small business by instituting payroll tax forgiveness for up to the first $ 20,000 of wages, for both the employee and employer. This would return up to $ 1500 a year to each worker, tax free. The small business owner would have saved up to $ 1500 for each employee. I would cap this plan at a maximum of 100 employees. This plan would discourage‘off the books ‘hiring and give small businesses more capital to stay competitive, if they choose.

 

· Jumpstart a movement to get private money outof electoral politics… federal, state and local. Not an easy thing to accomplish, due to the 1976 Supreme Court ruling of Buckley vs. Valeo. That ruling stated that ‘Money is free speech ‘. How do we get around such an unfair interpretation without going insane and waiting 20 years for constitutional amendments? Well, as President, I would challenge you, the voters, who elect the moneyed interests time and time again. I would urge that you only support candidates who agree to limit acceptance of campaign donations to $ 100 per person. On top of that, we must not support any candidate who accepts PAC money at all. Period!

 

· I would push for Congress to open up Medicare for any American who wishes to buy in. Why even hassle with the private health insurers? Just charge a FICA like fee to any American who wants to be covered in the same manner as our senior citizens. Once the rates for this alternative are known by the private insurers, you can rest assure that their rates and deductibles will come down. Duh….free market enterprise anyone?

 

· Uncle Sam should A) negotiate to buy the bad‘ paper ‘ mortgages from the banks for tremendous discounts and B) then restructure the mortgages to allow the homeowner to stay in the foreclosed home, instead of having to either abandon or become a tenant of the bank. How about this: Why not have our federal government jumpstart community nonprofitmortgage banks? Imagine if your city, town or county opened, with federal loan guarantees, a nonprofit mortgage bank, charging only overhead costs? Translated: a current mortgage of let us say 5% from a for profit bank would now be perhaps 2% from a nonprofit community one. More home ownership, fewer renters and economic stimulus for the construction industry.

 

· Windfall profits tax on Big Oil and Big Pharma. How can it be that the prices at the pumps and on medicines spiral upwards while our nation is in a depression, both financially and psychologically? We would use the added revenues to create more solar energy use and wind farms. Portugal is getting more dependent upon wind for energy use. Why can’t we? As far as medicines, let’s use the revenue increases from a windfall tax on Big Pharma to jumpstart an alternative care movement. We need more Americans to be able to get acupuncture and chiropractic treatment, massage therapy, psychological counseling to name a few such alternatives to established Western Medicine. Let’s be blunt: For too long our nation leads the world in the‘drug and cut ‘mindset of medicine.

 

I could go on and on. For now, this is my platform. If you agree with even 2/3 of it, then voice your support. You know and I know that I cannot win election, but… the word will get out that we have viable options to what this current Two Party / Tea Party has been offering.

 

PA Farruggio

January, 2012

 

{Philip A Farruggio is son and grandson of Brooklyn, NYC longshoremen. He is a free lance columnist (usually found on the fine Dandelion Salad site), an environmental products sales rep and an activist. Since 2010, Philip is a spokesperson for the 25% Solution Movement to Save Our Cities by cutting military spending 25%. Philip can be reached at paf1222@bellsouth.net }

 

 

Obamney vs Robama

Off the keyboard of George Mobus

Published on Question Everything on Septemeber 29, 2012

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What Can the Next President Do?

Regardless of Who Wins

As I write it looks like Obama will get a second term and a second chance to do the right things.

But the reality (as I see it) for this race is the tragicomedy that neither candidate is promising to do anything that would actually work. For one thing, given the political divisions that exist in the legislature it won’t really matter much even if they try to do anything. But more cogently, what either candidate claims to want to do is simply not physically feasible. Both say they want to get the economy growing again. They want to increase jobs. Obama, to his political credit, even lays out some specific actions he would like to undertake to implement his desires. Romney only says he has a plan. As far as I know no one has actually found anything in the Romney campaign rhetoric that resembles an actual plan.

Obama has had four years of experience now. He probably has a better idea of what a president can and cannot do. His proposals for economic fixes are pretty tepid, actually, but that is likely because he realizes that anything bolder is simply infeasible. Romney, on the other hand, has no real idea what to expect. Nor does he have advisers that have any real inkling of what a president can do. This is so typical of American election campaigns and despite the fact that most Americans recognize this fallacy, they still act like the election is important. They still cling to an old ideal that probably never was true but still holds appeal. The president is something like a king — the head of state. S/he ought to be able to get things done.

And exactly what does anybody think can be done even if the president were like a king? Liberal economic pundits like Paul Krugman and Robert Reich are demanding Keynesian heroics claiming it worked once before so it should work again. I understand their sentiments. They care deeply that there are people hurting by not having jobs and the income distributions have become unfairly slanted to the wealthy. They are liberals after all. But we should not confuse their desires with intellectual prowess. Believing that, “all other things being equal”, what worked before should work again is not the same as a careful, intelligent analysis of the whole systemic situation now that would reveal just how all things are not equal. We are in an entirely new physical regimen when it comes to the fuel for economies.

Conservatives still push on the same tired agendas, lower taxes and regulations and reduce the deficit by decreasing the size (and functions) of government. They conveniently forget that it was a few of their champions (like Ronald Reagan) that did pretty much the opposite when they had the chance. Republicans (the kind running the party today) never let facts get in the way of a good ideological story.

The liberals cling to the notion that a growing economy will benefit all as long as government sees to it that tax laws are fair and regulations of commerce and over the environment are handled properly. So they cling to growth as a fix all. Conservatives, likewise, hold the same position with respect to the goodness of growth, but only since a growing economy will reward those stalwarts who risked their capital to produce that wealth more than the interchangeable part of the economic machine we call workers.

This is a true tragicomedy. The foibles of either party will result in efforts to go against the laws of nature, wasting who knows what little wealth we might still have. Either one will make us all hugely poorer even while they are trying to make us (or some of us) richer. You have to laugh at their bungling but you have to cry at the outcomes.

What we might do is compare possible scenarios for each of the candidates regarding what they would actually try to do. A lot depends on the ideological mix in the House and the Senate, of course.

If Romney Wins

Romney’s position has been that if government gets out of the way of business then the businesses will invest and start growing, thus hiring more workers. So he would presumably try to reduce taxes on business and reduce regulations that burden business. Suppose for a moment that the Senate swings to the Republican side, and, in fact, gets a large enough majority to bust a filibuster move by the Democrats to block any Romney-sponsored legislation (tit-for-tat guys). Would moves to reduce taxes and regulations while simultaneously decreasing the deficit (and debt) actually work?

Lets consider the idea that by improving (in his mind) the climate for business that those businesses would invest in new plant and equipment (or offices in the US) and start hiring people. Where will the businesses get the capital to invest. Currently the meme floating around is that businesses are sitting on heaps of cash because they are uncertain where things are going. They are not using that cash to invest but if government gets off their backs they will do so. For this we need to ask ourselves if this is really true. Are businesses sitting on cash because of government-generated uncertainty? While there is evidence that this idea holds some merit for small businesses, particularly with respect to the complexities of tax code (not the tax rates per se) the majority of uncertainty in the minds of business managers is with regard to not understanding where their customers are going to come from and, for that matter, where the kind of skilled workers they need will come from. You don’t build product on hopes that there will be customers with money to spend and you don’t invest in automation unless you know you have the kinds of skilled workers to run it and maintain it (see: http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/3038-small-business-capital.html). There is a great deal of uncertainty about the future of sales because the global economy is in the dumps. China, the great hope for growth, is slowing down (and may actually be slower than they self-report). And as I have argued consistently the global downturn is due to declining net energy available for economic activity. This decline is seen in the increasing costs in fossil fuels, especially oil[1]. Since oil is the basis for the vast majority of our transportation systems the increased costs will show up in inflation in all sorts of goods and services. Those costs will propagate throughout the economy and are seen especially easily in food and transportation fuel costs.

Romney’s thesis is flawed. He doesn’t really understand that it isn’t government per se that is in the way of business, it is costs to do business that is the problem. And those costs have been consistently rising. Back in the day it was possible in the short run to compensate for inflation by borrowing short-term capital and rolling the interest forward. Companies did this under the belief that they could eventually catch up and pay back the debt with excess profits in the future. The problem is, and we are all starting to grasp this, is that the future they imagined never came. Today they are reticent to borrow and banks have become reticent to loan because the real uncertainty is in the likelihood that some grand day when we resume producing vast amounts of real (not financial instrument) wealth will come is the only thing growing.

But, if Romney wins and was able to get some of his proposals through (he could by fiat reduce the effectiveness of the EPA, for example) would that do more harm than good? In my opinion the rate at which things are going downhill would probably overcome the economic system before he or Congress could actually get anything through. In fact I can easily imagine that by the end of a Romney administration’s first term there will be massive revolts and mayhem from people fed up with any form of government. He would be either voted out or find himself in a worst case scenario having to declare martial law. Physically determined events, not a Romney presidency will determine just how bad things might get.

If Obama Wins

I really think Obama believes the economists and bankers who convinced him to hire Geithner and Summers, et al. He buys into neoclassical economics and probably does believe the Keynesian’s version. Therefore he may try to implement some kind of stimulus beyond the quantitative easing the Fed has put in place. Rather than print money (that is the Fed’s job now) he will try to take the country deeper into debt to invest in infrastructure repair. He’ll want to repair the roads and bridges used by transportation vehicles that will eventually be parked permanently for the cost of fuels. What a waste.

He will probably try to do something about wage disparities. He may try to increase the taxes on the rich and reduce them on the middle class and poor. Good luck with that. He may try to invest more in alternative energies and clean coal. But that is because he hasn’t, apparently, ever taken a physics class and his main science and energy advisers are too chicken or too self-possessed to explain to him what the real problem is.

He just might have the courage to speak to the American public about the kinds of sacrifices they will have to make (as he alluded to in his inaugural address less than four years ago). But his notion of sacrifices is modeled on those made by American citizens during WWII. Yes Americans were will to sacrifice their creature comforts in support of the war. But they also assumed the war would one day end and they would get back to business at home. They had just come off of a Great Depression so the acceptance of some sacrifice probably wasn’t foreign to their minds. Modern day Americans are incredibly spoiled. But even if they were to accept that message it would be in the same vein as accepting sacrifices during the war — they would be temporary inconveniences while we built back our massive economic engine and revved it up. One day, all will believe, we’ll get back on track consuming the s**t out of stuff and living merrily ever after. Our kids will have a better life than did we.

But, of course, it is merely a sad hope. There are fundamental physical reasons why humanity is now in permanent contraction. That will go not only for economic activity (the kind that actually produces assets of use) but for the population itself. Modern food production and health care require substantial levels of energy flow, which, until very recently, was coming in increasing amounts from fossil fuel extraction. That is no longer the case. Food prices and medical costs will continue to rise until the average person can simply no longer afford them. Already the movement toward home gardening is showing a sensitivity to the trend. Unfortunately it is nearly impossible for the average suburban (and definitely the urban) home to produce enough food for year-round consumption, let alone supplying all needed nutrition during just the summer-fall months.

I now see Obama as an empty suit. He is a smart rhetorician but he is ignorant, perhaps as much as Romney is, of basic physical laws and the facts that tell us where things are really going. I’m not even sure he is particularly intellectual and a critical thinker. You would think that after so many failed attempts to buoy the economy by financial manipulations he would be asking fundamental questions. Instead he claims that it would have been so much worse if his programs (bailing out the auto industry and banks, for example) hadn’t been implemented. Of course he has absolutely no way to verify such a claim, but hey, this is about getting reelected not scientific verification of hypotheses.

Everyone Loses

The fact of the matter is that all a president can or should do at this point is to tell the truth about our physical reality. He (or, if ever she) has a moral duty to inform the citizenry as to their actual options. Right now, however, we seem to have two candidates for the office who either do not know the truth or are willing to pose the big lie just so they can get elected. Not knowing the truth means that person is ignorant. We are talking about real science, but it isn’t rocket science. Understanding the simple relationship between net energy and economic activity (and growth) does not require a PhD in physics. But it does require dropping ideological biases that blind one to the reality.

As I look at either candidate’s positions on the economy and energy it seems clear enough that Romney is completely and profoundly ignorant. It is an ignorance imposed on him by his ideology (or more likely his adopted ideology of the right wing, as I suspect he is a hollow man). He is ignorant both of the problems that come from unbridled economic growth and the role of energy in providing economic activity. He and his ilk live in la-la land. Obama, on the other hand has access to a greater amount of factual information about net energy and its relation to the economy, though he is ignorant of the reality of alternative energy as a scalable source of power. Where he is more deeply ignorant, apparently, is his persistent belief that a growth economy is the only viable way for humans to live in the world.

The two also differ in their notions of how economic wealth should be distributed among the citizens. This may be the most important difference as the economic pie continues to shrink in the future. As the shrinkage began in the early 70s we began to see an earnest application of old principles of rewards going to the already wealthy and the burden of declining total wealth going to those already low in the economic strata. As the total wealth declined, the pressure for those in power to open more pathways for the already rich to get richer increased resulting in abandoning many forms of commerce and financial regulations as well as turning to off-shoring jobs to lower priced labor markets to protect profits. Today we have a global house of cards in which the money supply is no longer representing the real physical wealth it ought to be able to purchase. It is just created out of thin air to make it seem that things are almost OK. They are not OK in any sense, but the average person doesn’t understand this. Apparently, however, neither does the average candidate for president.

By not telling the people of the world the truth about the end of growth and the onset of decline, and explaining to them why this is happening, the leaders of the governments of the world are essentially saying that people do not have the right to know. They do not have the right to consider how they should plan their own futures in light of decline. The big problem with this position is that there will be a point in time when the truth of decline becomes clear to all even though they will not know why (i.e., that it is everyone’s fault for demanding a consumer lifestyle, so no one group or person should be blamed solely) and they will react very badly. The damage from not telling the whole story as soon as possible will be far worse, I think, then continuing to pretend (or believe) that things will get better one day and we can all be happy again. Those who are now maintaining the façade will quickly be seen as the perpetrators and the masses, to the extent they have the energy to do so, will turn on them mercilessly. And since those who are in the so-called 1% category have only wealth on paper, and since that paper will become worthless in the blink of an eye, they will not be able to hire armies to protect them. They will discover that their smoke and mirror tricks for creating that supposed wealth will backfire on them.

Everyone in the world will be increasingly poor as the years go by. The rate of decline is still in debate, but there are really no more deeply thoughtful people who don’t understand that we are in decline. There are many bright people who remain hopeful, and even optimistic. But I think they are driven by personality traits rather than intellectual reasoning to maintain that position (though some are extremely good at using their intellects to rationalize their optimism!). Over the past five years I have seen one after another hopeful optimist realize that all of their optimism hinged on the notion that somehow the leaders would see the truth and we would all get on board with programs to save society. But the rates of decline are catching up. Weather anomalies from global warming/climate change becoming the norm and economic decay spreading and accelerating are overwhelming that optimism.

No leader of any country or under any kind of governance philosophy can do anything to change physical reality. So long as net energy is trending downward economic activity will follow. Nothing short of a technological miracle could alter this. And that would require a scientific breakthrough of an incredibly serendipitous kind; one that could be followed by rapid exploitation and adoption. And it would pretty much have to ‘fund’ itself. That is it would have to bootstrap up to scale in a very short period of time (decades), Contrast that with the situation with, say, solar energy, which requires an existing fossil fuel energy infrastructure to underwrite its manufacture, distribution, and maintenance. No. The leaders of nations today are powerless to do anything that will make it better. The only thing they can do, honestly, is tell people the truth. And what are the odds of that happening?


[1] Natural gas price is currently depressed due to a glut owing to the well performance of non-conventional (fracked) wells in shale formations. It is now becoming clear that while these wells tend to produce an initially higher production rate than conventional wells, that the nature of the shale gas is such that production falls off more rapidly and the total production per more expensive well drilled is lower. That is, these wells have a significantly lower EROI and in addition, not all wells are going to perform all that well. This means we are likely to see a rapid decline in gas stocks as there will be fewer and fewer wells performing at economic flows.

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Labor Day Off the Grid in Minneapolis

Off the Keyboard of William Hunter Duncan

Published originally on Off the Grid in Minneapolis on September 3rd, 2012

Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasbord inside the Diner

Please excuse my anger last post, with that tirade at my fellow Gen Xer.  Prior to that, I had been gathering Frontenac grapes at my sister’s house, for my third attempt at fermenting wine. It went well, but for the city having butchered the grape vines. They sent a letter to my sister apparently, a demand to remove the “sidewalk obstruction”; but the letter never arrived, forwarded instead to the address of a friend (who is on the mortgage but no longer lives there [not me]). The city workers or contractors could have removed the soil and weeds that have encroached twelve inches onto the sidewalk from the boulevard side, but instead they took a gas trimmer and hacked off every vine on the the side walk-side of the 100ft length of my sister’s south fence, leaving a ragged mess of shredded vines, absconding with approx 100 lbs of grapes, a week before harvest. That’s about 30 bottles of wine equivalent @ $10/ bottle, plus the $250-$350 my sister will be charged for the “work” done, or $550-$650 for grape vines hanging over a portion of a sidewalk. That’s like twice the theft  – which contributed to my anger at Payl Ruan (which I will continue to call him until such time as he proves that he will not help initiate WWIII.)
Ok, I’m still a little angry.
Plus, I was contemplating a new job, working as a temp for a big bank helping to foreclose on houses, if you can believe that. I wasn’t sure what to expect. How could it possibly be, that of all the jobs I have applied for, the one entity willing to hire me, for on-going employment, is a big bank? What sort of command and control oppression could I expect to butt heads with? Besides, the past four years. my attitude has been, I don’t make appointments before 10am. I’m up and awake at 5am now, to catch a bus, to get there by seven, to work for less than I make pushing dirt around landscaping with my friend Organic Bob, less than half I was making for The Behemoth at their world headquarters, just before the collapse of 2008.
My first impression was of a cattle yard, for documents. I wasn’t quite prepared for global bank document carts, 18in wide by 4ft tall by 4ft long, on six inch wheels, all carts being made of plywood, many of which are unpainted, of which there are many, painted and not. Nor was I prepared for a socialist bureaucrat’s utopia, the most ethnically and race diverse workplace I have ever encountered, where none of the thousand (at least) people looks particularly happy, but no one looks necessarily pissed off at the world, either.
I’ve spent the last week training as an auditor, to assure the documents are in order, before they are shipped back to the “investors”, Fanny and Freddie. Wading through the wreckage of the housing debacle, in other words, is what I have been doing. I wasn’t prepared for the sheer volume either, of the $275-400,000 houses and second homes, which account for about 75-80% of the loans I’ve audited. That’s not saying there aren’t people still in the houses I am foreclosing on, but most every loan I have audited thus far, has suggested outright fraud on the part of bankers and buyers, and over-reaching on the part of buyers, or intoxication, or outright obliviousness.
It’s a curious thing. The Fed made credit cheap, the government encouraged home ownership (BUSH’s “Ownership Society,”) while agreeing to back-up at least half the mortgages (HUD, FHA, Fannie, Freddie), and then they, Fannie and Freddie, contract-hire big bank to clear the mortgages big bank signed for the fees, to tens of millions of greedy, intoxicated and outright oblivious “borrowers” (not “buyers”.)

Nor was I expecting the very warm and genuinely concerned reception, from the training staff, who made the experience a great deal more enjoyable than it might have been. Everyone I have encountered has seemed, if not particularly joyous, astute, on task, and engaged in whatever they are doing. Doing the best with what they have, basically. The command/control is more ingrained in the structure of the system, less overt. More, I sense a people coping as best they can with command/control directives trickling down from above, which are what they are and are tolerable at least. If it was an overt command/control environment, people yelling and domineering, the work would be intolerable. As is, the work lends well to letting go into the task, to get one’s small part in the greater whole done, on time, and done well, depending on how much one wants to hold onto the job, or move into something more enjoyable/less exhausting than whatever one is doing now. We all show at least some mastery over technology, and/or ourselves; we even have a certain contempt for the technology. It’s not as fast as we are; it lags. Big Bank loses more money cumulatively, by far, from slow-ass technology that makes us sit and wait to get done what we are ready and want to get done, than Big Bank would lose if they just trusted us to do the work we are contracted and hired to do, and worried less about tracking us minute by minute.
Head trainer offered us copious amounts of cheap candy to keep us awake, and to lighten the mood, and to make the onslaught of information more palatable, during the training. I let go of my general prohibition on High Fructose Corn Syrup and gorged, while I consumed an extraordinary (for me) amount of coffee, to cope with the massive amount of technical information, and the early morning shift, which has been less a challenge than sitting in a room all day every day with a dozen other of the same humans. I brought veggies from the garden on Friday, a kind of cornucopia, which was well received. I’m optimistic about my immediate future at big bank, notwithstanding how I feel about modern economics generally.
Meanwhile I was listening to the Republican National Convention, on the radio. From about 8pm-close, approx, all three nights. About as much as I could stand. Which makes me a patriot, comparative to the majority of my fellow Americans. Of Ann ro-Money I can only say, I cannot listen to a word that flows from your mouth without juxtaposing, that you brought your horse to the London Olympics. I listened to Payl Ruan’s speech (I wonder what AC/DC and Led Zepplin have to say about being appropriated into the Republican war machine?) I hear many people (in the media) talking about the speech by Mill ro-Money, without saying anything (I found the incessant breathlessness of the final syllable of just about every phrase to be nauseating.) The only speech that really mattered, came from Condoleezza Rice. The elder stateswoman, the Republican Party rock star, speaking directly to the narrative, that the path forward is war in Syria and Iran, and conflict with Russia and China.
(Of particular interest, the narrative encapsulated, 1:35-3:40)

Mill confirmed it, with his attempt to initiate another cold war with Putin, so Mill could show some “backbone”, giving Putin exactly what Putin needs to regain power, to incite the Russian people against the West. Apparently the terrorism bit is wearing thin, so it’s time to ratchet down on some old rivalries.

Where is the media on this? No less than EJ Dionne of the Washington Post, claimed on NPR that neither Condelezza nor ro-Money even spoke about foreign policy! What sort of fukitol pharmaceuticals is everybody on, that almost no one seems able to ascertain the meaning of anything anymore? Or maybe EJ’s admiration of Condolezza Rice is a sign that he’s just a warmonger too?
That speech by Condolezza Rice was crafted in the very bowels of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). There is no economic policy, there is only war. Which is exactly what ro-Money, or Obama, will initiate.
The American people are being asked to dispense with their medicare, social security and safety net, to finance tax cuts for the wealthy so the wealthy can wage and profit from global war. ro-Money claims the potential to create 12 million jobs, in four years. I think he will, in an effort to prosecute the war, and expand the surveillance state; while another 15-20 million jobs are lost, in the debauchery – or the racket – of war, and the reality of declining resources.
The creepiest moment of the convention, by far*, was the mob. When ro-Money mocked O for his claim to want to prevent the rising of the seas, the crowd cackled, maniacally. When ro-Money accused O of wanting to heal the earth, the mob cackled deeper. Followed closely by, after a lie about America and dictators, the most intense chant of U. S. A. of the convention. And then the call to war against Putin. The rest of the world must shiver. I certainly did.
(A particularly enlightening sequence, 31:30-34:30)

There will be NO healing of the earth in a ro-Money presidency. There will only be chants to prevent the rising of the sea. Chants to incite global Armageddon.
Even the Outlaw Josey Wales called it out, that we might want to remember the ten years lost in Iraq and Afghanistan, in a faux conversation with Obama.
(4:45-5:18. Sorry I’m not skilled enough yet to generate the clip.)

In what otherwise might have been construed as a speech whoring for warmongers. Josey, of course, has nothing on Condoleezza. “Aunt Tomasina” is too kind.
But such an extreme statement is meant to elucidate the severity of the situation. Global war is being crafted. Troops and supporters are being incited.
Know, that such a path can only end in ruin. Which we seem to be walking into as greedily and obliviously as we did the housing debacle. And in the aftermath people will ask how did that happen?
I’m not going to participate this time, like I did buying this house at the peak of the boom. Hopefully though, me and my fruit trees and gardens will still be around when it’s time to clean up the wreckage of global war mongering. I really hope Americans are not that dumb.
Though at least the Republicans have a soul, as twisted as it is. They can talk about love without visibly flinching. Dems are comparatively soulless. More on that and the new job, this week.
*Though I seem to recall something from a video montage preceding Mill ro-Money’s speech, of which I have not been able to find corroborating video, Mill uttering the words, about Ann, “Oh baby,”…

2012 US Elections: Obamney vs. Rombama

Off the Keyboard of Anthony Cartalucci

Published originally on Landdestroyer on August 25th, 2012

Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasbord inside the Diner

War, economic collapse, and personal devastation await Americans no matter who they vote for – and what we should do instead. by Tony Cartalucci
August 25, 2012 -A vote for Obama will bring war with Syria, Iran, and eventually Russia and China. The economy will continue to suffer in order to bolster the interests of off-shore corporate-financier interests, while  the collective prospects of Americans continue to whither and blow away. A vote for Romney, however, will also bring war with Syria, Iran, and eventually Russia and China. The economy will also continue to suffer in order to bolster the interests of off-shore corporate-financier interests, while the collective prospects of Americans continue to whither and blow away. Why?
Because the White House is but a public relations front for the corporate-financier interests of Wall Street and London. A change of residence at the White House is no different than say, British Petroleum replacing its spokesman to superficially placate public opinion when in reality the exact same board of directors, overall agenda, and objectives remain firmly in place. Public perception then is managed by, not the primary motivation of, corporate-financier interests.
It is the absolute folly to believe that multi-billion dollar corporate-financier interests would subject their collective fate to the whims of the ignorant, uninformed, and essentially powerless voting masses every four years. Instead, what plays out every four years is theater designed to give the general public the illusion that they have some means of addressing their grievances without actually ever changing the prevailing balance of power in any meaningful way.
The foreign policy of both Obama and Romney is written by the exact same corporate-financier funded think-tanks that have written the script for America’s destiny for the last several decades.
Bush = Obama = Romney
As was previously reported, while the corporate media focuses on non-issues, and political pundits accentuate petty political rivalries between the “left” and the “right,” a look deeper into presidential cabinets and the authors of domestic and foreign policy reveals just how accurate the equation of “Bush = Obama = Romney” is.

Image: Professional spokesmen, representative not of the American people but of Fortune 500 multinational corporations and banks. Since the time of JP Morgan 100 years ago, the corporate-financier elite saw themselves as being above government, and national sovereignty as merely a regulatory obstacle they could lobby, bribe, and manipulate out of existence. In the past 100 years, the monied elite have gone from manipulating the presidency to now reducing the office to a public relations functionary of their collective interests.

….

George Bush’s cabinet consisted of representatives from FedEx, Boeing, the Council on Foreign Relations, big-oil’s Belfer Center at Harvard, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Circuit City, Verizon, Cerberus Capital Management, Goldman Sachs, and the RAND Corporation, among many others.

Image: The Henry Jackson Society is just one of many Neo-Conservative think-tanks, featuring many of the same people and of course, the same corporate sponsors. Each think-tank puts on a different public face and focuses on different areas of specialty despite harboring the same “experts” and corporate sponsors.

….

His foreign policy was overtly dictated by “Neo-Conservatives” including Richard Perle, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Paul Wolfowitz, James Woolsey, Richard Armitage, Zalmay Khalilzad, Elliot Abrams, Frank Gaffney, Eliot Cohen, John Bolton, Robert Kagan, Francis Fukuyama, William Kristol, and Max Boot – all of whom hold memberships within a myriad of Fortune 500-funded think-tanks that to this day still direct US foreign policy – even under a “liberal” president. These include the Brookings Institution, the International Crisis Group, the Foreign Policy Initiative, the Henry Jackson Society, the Council on Foreign Relations, and many more.

Image: A visual representation of some of the Brookings Institution’s corporate sponsors. Brookings is by no means an exception, but rather represents the incestuous relationship between US foreign and domestic policy making and the Fortune 500 found in every major “think-tank.” Elected US representatives charged with legislative duties, merely rubber stamp the papers and policies drawn up in these think-tanks.  
….

Obama’s cabinet likewise features representatives from JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, the Council on Foreign Relations, Fortune 500 representatives Covington and Burling, Citi Group, Freedie Mac, and defense contractor Honeywell. Like Bush’s cabinet, foreign policy is not penned by Obama sitting behind his desk in the Oval Office, but rather by the very same think-tanks that directed Bush’s presidency including the Council on Foreign Relations, RAND Corporation, the Brookings Institution, the International Crisis Group, and the Chatham House. There are also a myriad of smaller groups consisting of many of the same members and corporate sponsors, but who specialize in certain areas of interest.

Image: Obama, not a Marxist. A visual representation of current US President Barack Obama’s cabinet’s corporate-financier ties past and present. As can be plainly seen, many of the same corporate-financier interests represented in Obama’s administration were also represented in Bush’s administration.

….

And with Mitt Romney, “running for president” against Obama in 2012, we see already his foreign policy advisers, Michael Chertoff, Eliot Cohen, Paula Dobrainsky, Eric Edelman, and Robert Kagan, represent the exact same people and corporate-funded think-tanks devising strategy under both President Bush and President Obama.
While Presidents Bush and Obama attempted to portray the West’s global military expansion as a series of spontaneous crises, in reality, since at least as early as 1991, the nations of Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, and many others that previously fell under the Soviet Union’s sphere of influence, were slated either for political destabilization and overthrow, or overt military intervention. While the public was fed various narratives explaining why Bush conducted two wars within the greater global “War on Terror,” and why Obama eagerly expanded these wars while starting new ones in Libya and now Syria, in reality we are seeing “continuity of agenda,” dictated by corporate-financier elite, rubber stamped by our elected representatives, and peddled to us by our “leaders,” who in reality are nothing more than spokesmen for the collective interests of the Fortune 500.

Image: The International Crisis Group’s corporate sponsors reveal a pattern of mega-multinationals intertwined with not only creating and directing US, and even European foreign policy, but in carrying it out. ICG trustee Kofi Annan is in Syria now carrying out a ploy to buy time for NATO-backed terrorists so they can be rearmed, reorganized, and redeployed against the Syrian government for another Western-backed attempt at regime change – all done under the guise of promoting “peace.”

….

No matter who you vote for in 2012 – until we change the balance of power currently tipped in favor of the Fortune 500, fed daily by our money, time, energy, and attention, nothing will change but the rhetoric with which this singular agenda is sold to the public. Romney would continue exactly where Obama left off, just as Obama continued exactly where Bush left off. And even during the presidencies of Bill Clinton and Bush Sr., it was the same agenda meted out by the same corporate-financier interests that have been driving American, and increasingly Western destiny, since US Marine General Smedley Butler wrote “War is a Racket” in 1935.
What Should We Do About It?
1. Boycott the Presidential Election: The first immediate course of action when faced with a fraudulent system is to entirely disassociate ourselves from it, lest we grant it unwarranted legitimacy. Boycotting the farcical US elections would not impede the corporate-financier “selection” process and the theatrical absurdity that accompanies it, but dismal voter turnout would highlight the illegitimacy of the system. This in many ways has already happened, with voter turnout in 2008 a mere 63%, meaning that only 32% of America’s eligible voters actually voted for Obama, with even fewer voting for runner-up John McCain.
Ensuring that this mandate is even lower in 2012 – regardless of which PR man gets selected, and then highlighting the illegitimacy of both the elections and the system itself is the first step toward finding a tenable solution. People must divest from dead-ends. Presidential elections are just one such dead-end.
Focusing on local elections and governance first, not only emphasizes the primacy of local self-determination, but affords us a grassroots-up approach to transforming our communities, and collectively our nation back into something truly representative of the people.
2. Boycott and Replace the Corporate Oligarchy: The corporate-financier interests that dominate Western civilization did not spring up overnight. It is through generations of patronage that we the people have granted these corporate-financier interests the unwarranted influence they now enjoy. And today, each day, we collectively turn in our paychecks to the global “company store,” providing the summation of our toil as fuel for this oligarchy’s perpetuation.
By boycotting the goods, services, and institutions of this oligarchy, we steal the fire out from under the proverbial cauldron – the very source of the current paradigm’s power. While it is impractical to commit overnight to a full-spectrum boycott, we can begin immediately by entirely boycotting corporations like Coca-Cola and Pepsi, Kraft, Unilever and others by simply supporting local businesses and our local farmers market. This “voting with one’s wallet” is a form of democracy that unlike elections, will undoubtedly shift the balance of power toward a system more representative of the people’s interests.
By creating self-reliant communities independent of the machinations of corporate-financier interests, we provide ourselves with the greatest form of insurance against instability and uncertainty – an insurance policy placed solely in our own hands.
3. Get Educated, Get Organized: Leveraging technology is a necessary step in eliminating dependency on other corporate-financier interests – such as big oil, big defense, big-agri, big-pharma, and the telecom monopolies. To leverage technology, people at a grassroots level must get organized, educate themselves, and collaborate to create local business models and solutions to systematically replace large multinational holdings.
A recent interview by geopolitical analyst Eric Draitser with Seth Rutledge, featured on Stop Imperialism, explored the possibilities of developing local broadband networks. Community spaces dedicated to technological education, collaboration, and resource pooling are also an emerging phenomenon. Called “maker spaces” or sometimes “hacker spaces,” these grassroots initiatives serve as incubators for innovative, local small businesses.
Technology will eventually provide solutions to problems generally “solved” by government subsidies. Medicare, for instance, is a government subsidy to address the expenses and subsequent inaccessibility of medical care. Medical care, in turn, is expensive because the means to provide it are scarce. The supply of doctors, hospitals, treatments, biomedical technology, and many other aspects of modern health infrastructure are vastly outnumbered by demand.
Until technology can better balance this equation, people must organize to either defend as temporary stopgap measures, national programs that provide care to those who can’t afford it, or create local alternatives. To cut programs people depend on for the sake of saving an economy plundered by special interests, to specifically preserve these same special interests is unconscionable.

An organized political front that demands the preservation/reformation of these programs as well as investment in the development of permanent technological solutions, needs not pass the hat around to the working or even productive entrepreneurial classes of society, but rather level taxes on parasitic financial speculation and market manipulation – thus solving two problems in a single stroke. Geopolitical analyst and historian Dr. Webster Tarpley has already enumerated such an approach in his 5 point plan for international economic recovery (.pdf) by specifically calling for resistance to austerity and a 1% Wall Street tax.
Conclusion
Undoubtedly people realize something is wrong, and that something needs to be done. To ensure that the corporate-financier elite remain in perpetual power, a myriad of false solutions have been contrived or created out of co-opted movements, to indefinitely steer people away from influencing the current balance of power and achieving true self-determination.
By recognizing this and seizing the reins of our own destiny, we can and must change the current balance of power. In the process of doing so, we must recognize and resist attempts to derail and distract us by way of the incessant political minutia now on full display during the 2012 US Presidential Election. For every problem faced by society, there is a permanent, technological solution. For hunger there was agriculture, for lack of shelter, there was architecture, and no matter how daunting today’s problems may seem, there lies similar solutions.
We must realize that by endeavoring to solve these problems, we jeopardize monopolies as insidious as they are monolithic, constructed to exploit such problems. If we fail to recognize and undermine these interests through pragmatic activism, we will be resigned to whatever fate these special interests determine for us, no matter how cleverly they sell us this fate as one of our own choosing.

Send in the Clowns

Discuss this article at the Greek Souvlaki Buffet in the Diner

Here we go again, for Round 12 or so of the 15 Round Thrilla in Athens & Brussels, as the Greeks will now rev up for yet ANOTHER round of “elections”.  See, they were too fractured to form a Goobermint that could agree on anything, so a  NEW round of elections which likely will see entirely NEW parties emerge outta NOWHERE should be better, right?

Now, probably at this point most Greek Spiros Retsinas all oppose the “Memorandum” and further “austerity”, but no Political Party really has Clue 1 on a “Solution” to the GSR’s problems here.  This for the fairly OBVIOUS reason that there IS no solution that won’t leave Pensioners, Widows and Oprhans starving in the streets of Athens.  Who wants to be part of a Goobermint “responsible” for THAT?

So in this round, you probably will get still MORE “radical” Left Wingers and Nazis winning some Parliament Seats, and even LESS chance in the next Go Round of this farce that various “parties” winning 10-20% of the vote will be able to join in any type of “unity” Goobermint.  So what happens after the NEXT round when 9 days after the election nobody can agree on forming a Goobermint?  Do they schedule ANOTHER election for ANOTHER Month Later here?  Maybe they do that, meanwhile you get thes so-called “Caretaker” Goobermints.  While said Cartakers flail around tying to figure out how to pay da bills with no money coming in, Kind and Generous Fat Asses from Brussels offer to send in a Team of “Technocrats” to help them out.  Sort of like Kindly Kraut Officers during the Nazi Occupation who would “help” the 12 year old daughter of the mother they so kindly “helped” also.  That from a highly respected Historical source, the film “Von Ryan’s Express” with Frank Sinatra in the role of Von Ryan.

In this case, as least so far the Greeks have demurred from being “Helped” by the Technocrats.  However, eventually here this “Democratic” process will break down and some Strongman from the the Right or Left will get enough internal support from the Greek Military and Police forces to take control, regardless of what is happening in “Parliament”.  Looks possible the neo-Nazis will fill this role, since apparently more than half the Greek Police Force voted for the Nazis in the last go round of elections.

Sadly for Greek Nazis, they are not German Nazis.  They don’t have the industrial infrastructure in place the Krauts did prior to WWII, and the idea that the Greeks could set up a 5th Reich here and take over the world is pretty ludicrous.
Also sorta ludicrous though is the idea NATO might roll Tanks into Greece to bring this all under control, like the Krauts did with the Sudetanland.  Does NATO really NEED control of a lot of Olives and Goats?  What do the Greeks have that NATO wants?  NOTHING!

NATO Commandants are VERY busy beavers down in MENA where the peons there ARE sitting on stuff NATO really wants, namely BLACK GOLD, Texas Tea, OIL THAT IS!  So why go into Greece to fight for anything?  Let them Twist in the Wind here and solve their own problems!

Main problem of course remains all that nasty EXPOSURE Eurotrash Banks  have to Greek Debt, not to mention all those nasty Derivatives set to EXPLODE as soon as Greece finally does miss a Bond Payment.  So regardless of the fact Widows and Orphans might be starving in Greece, the ECB or IMF or ESM or some other cockamamie vehicle will pay off on Bonds FOR the Greek “People”, to “Help” them.  No Euros will cross the Greek Border, but plenty will cross into the Vaults of JPMC, Goldman and Deutche Bank!

Anyhow, the nonsensical idea that the Euro problems or even the Greek MINISCULE ones were solved at any point in this long charade of Extend & Pretend is OFFICIALLY squashed here now, NO MEETING of Von Rumplestiltsking, Kukla, Fran and Ollie Rehn, Francoise Hollandaise Sauce or any other newly elected Eurotrash Pol is going to convince ANYBODY that ANY problems have been solved.  They are SOL on Political and Economic Cards to play here now.  The Clown Show has run its course here, so unfortunately the NEW Clowns will be sent in.   The next bunch of Clowns are unlikely to be quite so funny as this last bunch.

Send in the Clowns.

RE

Caretaker government will take Greece to risky repeat vote
Greece to hold new election, jolts euro markets Tue, May 15 2012
By Ingrid Melander

ATHENS | Wed May 16, 2012 1:22am EDT (Reuters) – Greek political leaders meet on Wednesday to form a caretaker government that will lead the country into its second election in just over a month, with Greece’s euro membership at stake in a mounting crisis rocking world markets. Parties deeply divided over an unpopular EU-IMF rescue plan threw in the towel on Tuesday after nine days of failed attempts to put together a coalition, hitting heavyweight financial stocks as investors worried at the prospect that the euro zone weakling would remain in limbo for at least another month.
Opinion polls show that voters enraged with five years of recession, record unemployment and steep wage cuts are likely to elect a parliament as fragmented as the one they chose on May 6. But the vote, probably in mid-June, may well tip the balance of power toward leftist parties opposed to the bailout conditions.

Policymakers from European Union states and at the European Central Bank have warned that they would stop sending debt-choked Athens the cash it needs to stay afloat if a new government tears up the bailout and backs out of commitments to cut the public debt which are blamed by many Greeks for misery.

But many cash-strapped Greek voters shrug off the threat and see no contradiction between their deep-rooted wish to stay in the euro and their opposition to conditions imposed to obtain the bailouts that have staved off bankruptcy but have dragged the nation into its deepest economic crisis since World War Two.

“There is a bit of schizophrenia in our society right now. People want to stay in Europe – have the cake – but they also want to eat it – by attacking the creditors,” said Theodore Couloumbis at Athens-based think-tank ELIAMEP.
“Much depends on whether the Greek people in this repeat election are going to vote with anger and passion or if they will cool off, reflect and see in effect what the real choices are. The choice is between bad and worse.”

Party leaders will meet President Karolos Papoulias at 1 p.m. (6.00 a.m. EDT) to put together a caretaker government. It was not clear on Tuesday who would be part of that emergency cabinet, whose main task would be to organize the repeat election – the third in Greece in as many years.

“DOESN’T LOOK GOOD”

Many in Greece pin their hopes on newly elected French President Francois Hollande, who campaigned on a pro-growth platform. Socialist Hollande offered some hope for more flexibility towards Greece on Tuesday, saying after his first meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel:

“I hope that we can say to the Greeks that Europe is ready to add measures to help growth and support economic activity so that there is a return to growth in Greece.”

But despite encouraging comments from the conservative German leader about wanting to see growth, differences remain over how far austerity programs might be relaxed.

IMF chief Christine Lagarde had earlier in the day joined a string of EU policymakers who have over the past days lifted the taboo of the possibility of an exit of Greece from the euro zone. She said it was important to be technically prepared for that possibility and warned that an exit would be “quite messy”.

European shares fell to their lowest closing level since the start of 2012 after attempts to form a government collapsed. Traders said markets could slump further in the coming days, with fears of a contagion to other crisis-hit EU states including Spain and Italy sending the euro below $1.28.

Patience is also wearing thin among a number of EU policymakers exasperated by the fact that a country which accounts for barely two percent of the euro zone’s economy should drag the bloc back into a deep crisis yet again after over two years of roller-coaster crisis.

“The 16 other governments in the euro zone really are at the end of their patience with Greece. There isn’t room or any willingness to move,” said one official involved in talks over Greece at the European Commission. “The decisions are really in Athens’ hands. But it doesn’t look good.”

The lack of a deal after the May 6 election has also angered many Greeks, making widely discredited politicians even more unpopular.

“They should go to hell,” said Giouli Thomopoulou, 59, an unemployed office clerk. “Only God knows what’s waiting for us now. I’m very scared about the future.

“I don’t think elections will solve anything because in a month we’ll be in the same situation.”

Alexis Tsipras, the untested ex-Communist youth leader whose Left Coalition party (SYRIZA) wants to tear up the bailout deal, is now leading in opinion polls but analysts said this election, possibly on June 17, is as unpredictable as the May 6 one.

“Public opinion is in total flux, in my 30 years of polling experience I have never seen anything like that before,” said political analyst John Loulis. “Everything can change until the last minute. On the May 6 election, the mood swung towards SYRIZA in the last 24 hours before the vote”.

(Additional reporting by Harry Papachristou and Karolina Tagaris in Athens and Luke Baker in Brussels; Editing by Alastair Macdonald)

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