"The wealthy, not only by private fraud but also by common laws, do every day pluck and snatch away from the people some part of their daily living. Therefore, when I consider and weigh in my mind these commonwealths which nowadays do flourish, I perceive nothing but a certain conspiracy of rich men in procuring their own commodities under the name and authority of the commonwealth.

They invent and devise all means and crafts, first how to keep safely without fear of losing that which they have unjustly gathered together, and next how to hire and abuse the work and labor of the people for as little money and effort as possible."

Thomas More, Utopia

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Soldier's Story

When cannon fodder become self aware, the Empire has not long to thrive. Let's encourage this trend.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Power of Money

The truth is there really is no better argument for publicly funded elections than the Barockstar's triumph. Think about it. Tens of millions raised during the past election cycle by the FIRE sector and viola! The greatest heist of the public purse in recorded human history with the bailouts and the continuation of pay as you go "healthcare" only now with the state acting as a handy coercion mechanism will soon be the new normal. This latter legislation has been accurately described by Arthur Silber as the Fuck You To Death Act by the way for there is no better description.

That always fascinating interplay between the money of the owning classes and the elected officials alleged to be working in our interest is by far the surest method of maintaining--and in the case with the Wall Street giveaway--"improving" the status quo. Since so much has already been written about the successful heist of the US Treasury by the Wall Street hustlers I thought I'd draw some attention to an essay by Louis Proyect where he details how the process works on a smaller, perhaps more digestible scale. In this example we follow the exploits of local southern California titans Stewart and Lynda Resnick, owners of Paramount Farms which is the largest grower of almonds and pistachio nuts in the world and also, among other things, the Franklin Mint which should be familiar to insomniacs across the American landscape.

This story may be the most humorous of 2009 as we witness a hapless entrepreneur suffer the unintended consequences of greed and exploitation when Kung Fu monkeys attack. (hat tip to Elaine Supkis at Culture of Life News)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Negotiation Not Imposition

So say the workers of British Airways. Management at BA hoped to use the recession/depression as an opportunity to rape-stomp the workforce but have now run into a bit of a snag. Richard Seymour of Lenin's Tomb fills in the details of this superb worker action.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Pardon the detour...

... but she's back:

Goodness gracious how that boosts my spirits! Back to regularly scheduled bitching a bit later.

War Is Peace

My apologies for the long absence but I really needed the rest for I found myself in something of a rut creatively. Perhaps it was a case of Obama fatigue what with the Prince of Peace predictably delivering the goods for his primary constituents on Wall Street, the war profiteers feeding at the Pentagon trough, and the "healthcare" industry vampires. In any event, the Barockstar has officially taken ownership of the "good" war in Af/Pak with his major escalation speech at West Point so I may as well deal with it in this little space of mine. That's the plan at least. I've had the outlines of a few essays on this theme rolling around in my head for quite awhile now and I think it's about time they saw the light of day. In the meantime I'd like to leave you with a few words from Chris Floyd for whom it can never be said, "the guy just doesn't get it".

Monday, November 09, 2009

The Killing Business

Why again is it that they hate us so? Oh yes, for our freedoms.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Wall falls but myths endure

Though the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall is nearly upon us I've noticed that celebratory gestures commemorating this event from the usual quarters seem a bit strained. Why the long faces? I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that the crumbling facade of capitalism, of which Margaret Thatcher famously declared There Is No Alternative, lay somewhere near the reason. Two years into its worst crisis since the Great Depression has exposed "capitalism" as practiced over the past 30 years in the US and among its acolytes as a ponzi scheme and cruel hoax on the overwhelming majority of people. Kind of spoils the party I guess.

Conventional wisdom encourages the belief that the fall of the Berlin Wall signaled the "defeat of socialism" as a practical ideology. This popular fiction rests on the central conceit that socialism was the really existing system of the USSR and its Eastern European satellites and not a form of state capitalism. Phil Gasper explores this theme in the following essay published in Socialist Worker.
An excerpt:

The collapse of Communism--or, more accurately, Stalinism--in the Eastern bloc did result in triumphalism among supporters of Western-style capitalism, and it led to widespread demoralization among large sections of the left because they shared the belief that these regimes were in some sense socialist or "workers' states."

But this characterization of the Eastern European countries was based on the assumption that socialism can be defined in terms of state ownership of the economy. Since in all of them, the economy had been largely state-run since the late 1940s, it followed that they were socialist, no matter what their other imperfections.

The rest...

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Meanwhile on the Wall Street fraud front...

Commercial real estate is the next shoe to drop in our ongoing financial crisis and in order to protect the reckless the (alleged) regulatory agencies who did such a bang up job as the underlying conditions for the present debacle developed, have relaxed the accounting requirements for banks holding the notes on those underwater shopping malls littering the country. And in whose face are these time-bombs set to blow up in the not too distant future? You guested it, the taxpayer.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Dirty Laundry

Every once in a great while a member of the ruling class or, more often than not, one of its lackeys will find themselves grappling with their conscience and succumb to its influence. John Perkins faithfully served his masters for decades as an economist for a US based consulting and engineering firm that specialized in convincing the ruling elites of developing nations to take on massive debt in the form of World Bank and/or IMF loans for construction projects of negligible indigenous economic benefit but a source of windfall profits for western corporations and their investors. Perkins lays out all of the sordid details in his memoir Confessions of an Economic Hit-man but provides a handy Cliff-Notes version in this interview:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Big Government

I’m always amused when I hear complaints about “big government” (wink to Rue St. Michael) and how if only it would stop hampering “innovation” with its incessant meddling we’d all be on Peach Street for damn sure. When will this myth die the bloody death it so richly deserves? Oh well, maybe this little nugget courtesy of Naked Capitalism will help clear the air for those who still, even after Big Government was last seen shoveling tax dollars like a son-of-a-bitch into the coffers of the insolvent financial institutions primarily responsible for destroying the world economy, think Big Government serves anything but the ruling elite:

Beginning late in the week of Nov. 3, the New York Fed, led by President Timothy Geithner, took over negotiations with the banks from AIG, together with the Treasury Department and Chairman Ben S. Bernanke’s Federal Reserve. Geithner’s team circulated a draft term sheet outlining how the New York Fed wanted to deal with the swaps — insurance-like contracts that backed soured collateralized-debt obligations….

Part of a sentence in the document was crossed out. It contained a blank space that was intended to show the amount of the haircut the banks would take, according to people who saw the term sheet. After less than a week of private negotiations with the banks, the New York Fed instructed AIG to pay them par, or 100 cents on the dollar. The content of its deliberations has never been made public.

The rest...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Dog -&-(dead)Pony-Show

Joe Bagent checks in with an amusing update on the state of Obama's America. An excerpt:

Somewhere in the smoking wreckage [of the US economy] lie the solutions. The solutions we aren't allowed to discuss: adoption of a Wall Street securities speculation tax; repeal of the Taft-Hartley anti-union laws; ending corporate personhood; cutting the bloated vampire bleeding the economy, the military budget; full single payer health care insurance, not some "public option" that is neither fish nor fowl; taxation instead of credits for carbon pollution; reversal of inflammatory U.S. policy in the Middle East (as in, get the hell out, begin kicking the oil addiction and quit backing the spoiled murderous brat that is Israel.
-Joe Bagent

The rest...

Monday, October 12, 2009

Happy Genocide Appreciation Day!

A must read (for The Children of course):

Lies My Teacher Told Me:
Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong

by James W. Loewen

(Notes on above title by Colby Glass)

Columbus discovered America and proved that the earth was not flat... Right?
We tend to "underplay previous explorers" (39). There were probably 15 or more individuals and groups that "discovered" and settled America before Columbus.
 "Even if Columbus had never sailed, other Europeans would have soon reached the Americas... Columbus's voyage.. was epoch-making because of the way in which Europe responded" (39).

 "The changes in Europe not only prompted Columbus's voyage.. they also paved the way for Europe's domination of the world for the next five hundred years. Except for the invention of agriculture, this was probably the most consequential development in human history" (41-2).
"..new and more deadly forms of smallpox and bubonic plague had arisen in Europe.. Passed on to those the Europeans met, these diseases helped Europe conquer the Americas and, later, the islands of the Pacific" (44).

 "Columbus claimed everything he saw right off the boat. When textbooks celebrate this process, they imply that taking the land and dominating the indians was inevitable if not natural" (44).
 "Most important, [Columbus's] prupose from the beginning was not mere exploration or even trade, but conquest and exploitation, for which he used religion as a rationale. If textbooks included these facts, they might induce students to think intelligently about why the West dominates the world today" (45).
Washington Irving created the lie that people thought the earth was flat until Columbus proved that it was round (57).
What is the real significance of Columbus's reaching the Americas? What made his trip different than the fifteen discoverers who preceded him?
 "Christopher Columbus introduced two phenomena that revolutionized race relations and transformed the modern world: the taking of land, wealth, and labor from indigenous peoples, leading to their near extermination, and the transatlantic slave trade, which created a racial underclass" (60).
"When Columbus and his men returned to Haiti in 1493, they demanded food, gold, spun cotton--whatever the Indians had that they wanted, including sex with their women. To ensure cooperation, Columbus used punishment by example. When an Indian committed even a minor offense, the Spanish cut off his ears or nose" (61).
 "..attempts at resistance gave Columbus an excuse to make war... For this he chose 200 foot soldiers and 20 cavalry, with many crossbows and small cannon, lances, and swords, and a still more terrible weapon against the Indians, in addition to the horses: this was 20 hunting dogs, who were turned loose and immediately tore the Indians apart" (61).

 "Columbus.. initiated a great slave raid. They rounded up 1,500 Arawaks, then selected the 500 best specimines (of whom 200 would die en route to Spain. Another 500 were chosen as slaves for the Spaniards staying on the island" (62).
 "Spaniards hunted Indians for sport and murdered them for dog food. Columbus, upset because he could not locate the gold he was certain was on the island, set up a tribute system... The Indians all promised to pay tribute.. every three months... With a fresh token, an Indian was safe for three months, much of which time would be devoted to collecting more gold... the Spanish punished those whose tokens had expired: they cut off their hands" (62).
"Columbus installed the encomienda system, in which he granted or "commended" entire Indian villages to individual colonists or groups of colonists... On Haiti the colonists made the Indians mine gold for them, raise Spanish food, and even carry them everywhere they went" (63). An Spanish observer wrote that "As a result of the sufferings and hard labor they endured [under this virtual slavery], the Indians choose and have chosen suicide. Occasionally a hundred have committed mass suicide. The women, exhausted by labor, have shunned conception and childbirth... Many, when pregnant, have taken something to abort and have aborted. Others after delivery have killed their children with their own hands, so as not to leave them in such oppressive slavery"" (63).

 "Estimates of Haiti's pre-Columbian population range as high as 8,000,000 people... a census of Indian adults in 1496.. came up with 1,100,000... "By 1516," according to Benjamin Keen, "thanks to the sinister Indian slave trade and labor policies initiated by Columbus, only some 12,000 remained." Las Casas tells us that fewer than 200 Indians were alive in 1542. By 1555, they were all gone" (63).

 ".. one of the primary instances of genocide in all human history" (64).
 "Columbus not only sent the first slaves across the Atlantic, he probably sent more slaves--about five thousand--than any other individual... other nations rushed to emulate Columbus" (64).

 "As soon as the 1493 expedition got to the Caribbean, before it even reached Haiti, Columbus was rewarding his lieutenants with native women to rape. On Haiti, sex slaves were one more perquisite that the Spaniards enjoyed. Columbus wrote a friend in 1500, "... it is very general and there are plenty of dealers who go about looking for girls; those from nine to ten are now in demand"" (65).

 "Columbus is not a hero in Mexico... Why not? Because Mexico is also much more Indian than the United States, and Mexicans perceive Columbus as white and European. "No sensible Indian person," wrote George P. Horse Capture, "can celebrate the arrival of Columbus." Cherishing Columbus is a characteristic of white history, not American history" (70).

 "The worshipful biographical vignettes of Columbus in our textbooks serve to indoctrinate students into a mindless endorsement of colonialism... the Columbus myth allows us to accept the contemporary division of the world into developed and underdeveloped spheres as natural and given, rather than a historical product issuing from a process that began with Columbus's first voyage" (70).

Friday, October 09, 2009

I'd like to thank the Academy...

The Nobel committee issued a clarification explaining that Obama was actually awarded the "Rest In Peace Prize", in recognition of becoming the most prolific active killer on the planet and thereby ushering so many human beings beyond this vale of tears to their eternal rest.  "By helping thousands of men, women, and children achieve ultimate peace, and showing every sign that he intends to do the same for thousands more, Barack Obama has truly earned this prestigious award."-John Caruso (A Distant Ocean)

Sur-Prize, Sur-Prize!!

A Nobel, who’d a thunk it? For peace! So... let me get this straight, Obomba whose administration is now contemplating the delivery of an additional 40,000 troops to the Af/Pak war of conquest while garrisoning thousands more in permanent mega bases surrounding the cites of illegally occupied Iraq... is deserving of a Nobel? For peace?

I’ll tell you the truth, I’m far more amused by the nervous twitter from the war profiteers and their media mouthpieces who fear the Obomb’s hands may be tied by the rising expectations of a peace dividend from those around the world living in the vain hope that the US will no longer behave as a rogue state. They needn’t have worried. Take this from Obomba’s Nobel acceptance speech:

“I will accept this award as a call to action, a call for all nations to confront the common challenges of the 21st century.
Now, these challenges can't be met by any one leader or any one nation. And that's why my administration's worked to establish a new era of engagement in which all nations must take responsibility for the world we seek. We cannot tolerate a world in which nuclear weapons spread to more nations and in which the terror of a nuclear holocaust endangers more people”

As John Caruso of The Distant Ocean points out the Barockstar used his ACCEPTANCE SPEECH FOR THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE to reiterate his administration’s threats against Iran. Threats by the way which include the possibility of a nuclear strike against this non-nuclear power. Imagine it, 10 million or more dead Neda’s.

Friday, October 02, 2009


Could you imagine a declaration such as this from a modern American politician?

From here on out the U.S. exists for the sole purpose of making you the people's life as healthy and meaningless-toil free as possible, with as much true leisure as can be accomplished, so that you may have time to grow, and think and come to know what sages know before their time is over. The government exists solely to ensure that you can be as straight, queer, or transgender or as deviant as you so choose, so long as no one is harmed. And to be as idle as you choose, yet be guaranteed the minimum entitlement of all human beings, food, shelter and civil liberty. To be as much or as little as you choose to be, and to be educated enough to make that choice.

I hereby announce that this government exists so as to preserve the earth, not so it can serve us longer, but so that we may serve the earth longer, better and with complete humility for the only mother we ever had or will have. Let us now wage peace against every war making entity on the planet. Tomorrow morning at 8 AM I will cancel the space program and its interstellar wastefulness and reassign those resources to the hungriest people not just here in America, but across the world. I herein declare the American era of material prosperity officially closed for business, which I admit is no great accomplishment, given that it is already over and dead...

All citizen debts are canceled and banks as we know them are abolished. Money is abolished, to be replaced with a system of social credits based upon planetary sustainability, meaningful and useful human productivity and an economy of human labor and art. I order the elites who have held captive the people's medium of exchange, then rented it back to them creating a nation of debt slaves, immediately to prison without any trials by the judicial commissariat who have always served their interests....

Ahhh yes, one can dream can’t he? Ramble on Joe, ramble on.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Winning hearts and minds one at a time

"I couldn't find my son, so I took a piece of flesh with me home and I called it my son. I told my wife we had him, but I didn't let his children or anyone see. We buried the flesh as it if was my son."
Yes we can!

Monday, September 07, 2009

We've got that good shit!

What was the name of that damn movie where the Nicolas Cage character observes that the President of the United States is, hands down, the most prolific arms dealer on earth?

Oops I did again!

[To the theme of Brittany Spears' hit from nine years ago] The man just can't help himself. That's right, the Barockstar tosses another brother under the bus. It would appear that Van Jones, the Obama administration's Green Jobs "czar", spoke some uncomfortable truths in the past that has made his position in the timid, accommodationist regime untenable so, in the tradition of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, he had to go. What, were you expecting a different outcome? Puleeze! Chris Floyd explores the parallels between the present "controversy" and the events involving Rev. Wright last year.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

News you can use...

... but won't see or hear in the US. Yep, they're gassing journalists now who dare to report and bear witness to Apartheid Israel's policies in and around the illegally Occupied Territories:

The Billion-Dollar-Gram

I recently found this helpful diagram over in the comments section of Lenin's Tomb and it perfectly encapsulates the priorities of our erstwhile rulers as they navigate the current crisis of their own making.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Pilger on Obama and Empire

Courtesy of Znet:

[Author, journalist, film maker John Pilger speaks at Socialism 2009 www.socialistworker.org; wwwhaymarketbooks.org Filmed by Paul Hubbard at the Womens Building in San Francisco 7-4-09. Text from talk below...]

Two years ago, at Socialism in Chicago, I spoke about an "invisible government", a term used by Edward Bernays, one of the founders of modern propaganda. It was Bernays who, in the 1920s, invented "public relations" as a euphemism for propaganda. Deploying the ideas of his uncle, Sigmund Freud, Bernays campaigned on behalf of the tobacco industry for American women to take up smoking as an act of feminist liberation; he called cigarettes "torches of freedom".

The invisible government that Bernays had in mind brought together the power of all media - PR, the press, broadcasting, advertising. It was the power of form: of branding and image-making over substance and truth - and I would like to talk today about this invisible government's most recent achievement: the rise of Barack Obama and the silencing of the left.
First, I would like to go back some 40 years to a sultry day in Vietnam.

I was a young war correspondent who had just arrived in a village called Tuylon. My assignment was to write about a company of US Marines who had been sent to this village to win hearts and minds.

"My orders", said the Marine sergeant, "are to sell the American Way of Liberty as stated in the Pacification Handbook. This is designed to win the hearts and minds of folks as stated on page 86." Page 86 was headed WHAM: Winning Hearts and Minds. The marine unit was a Combined Action Company which, explained the sergeant, "means that we attack these folks on Mondays and win their hearts and minds on Tuesdays". He was joking, though not quite.

The sergeant, who didn't speak Vietnamese, had arrived in the village, stood up in a jeep and said through a bullhorn: "Come on out everybody, we got rice and candy and toothbrushes to give you!..."
There was silence.

"Now listen, either you gooks come on out, or we're going to come right in there and get you!"
The people of Tuylon finally came out, and stood in line to receive packets of Uncle Ben's Miracle Rice, Hershey bars, party balloons and several thousand toothbrushes. Three portable, battery-operated, yellow flush lavatories were held back for the arrival of the colonel.

And when the colonel arrived that evening, the district chief was summoned, and the yellow flush lavatories were unveiled. The colonel cleared his throat and produced a hand-written speech.
"Mr. District Chief and all you nice people," he said, "what these gifts represent is more than the sum of their parts. They carry the spirit of America. Ladies and gentlemen, there's no place on earth like America. It's the land where miracles happen. It's a guiding light for me, and for you. In America, you see, we count ourselves as real lucky having the greatest democracy the world has ever known, and we want you nice people to share in our good fortune."

Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, even John Winthrop's "city upon a hill" got a mention. All that was missing was the Star Spangled Banner playing in the background.
Of course, the villagers had no idea what the colonel was talking about. When the Marines clapped, they clapped. When the colonel waved, the children waved. As he departed, the colonel shook the sergeant's hand and said : "You've got plenty of hearts and minds here. Carry on, Sergeant."

In Vietnam, I witnessed many spectacles like that. I had grown up in faraway Australia on a steady cinematic diet of John Wayne, Randolph Scott, Walt Disney, the Three Stooges and Ronald Reagan. The American Way of Liberty they portrayed might well have been lifted from the WHAM handbook.
I learned that the United States had won World War Two on its own and now led the "free world" as the "chosen" society. It was only much latter when I read Walter Lippmann's Public Opinion that I understood something of the power of emotions attached to false ideas and bad history.

Historians call this "exceptionalism" - the notion that the United States has a divine right to bring what it calls liberty to the rest of humanity. Of course, this is a very old refrain; the French and British created and celebrated their own "civilising mission" while imposing colonial regimes that denied basic civil liberties.
However, the power of the American message is different. Whereas the Europeans were proud imperialists, Americans are trained to deny their imperialism. As Mexico was conquered and the Marines sent to rule Nicaragua, American text books referred to an "age of innocence". American motives were well meaning, moral, exceptional, as the colonel said. There was no ideology, they said; and this is still the received wisdom. Indeed, Americanism is an ideology that is unique because its main element is its denial that it is an ideology. It is both conservative and liberal, both right and left. All else is heresy.

Barack Obama is the embodiment of this "ism". Since Obama was elected, leading liberals have talked about America returning to its true status as a "nation of moral ideals" - the words of Paul Krugman in the New York Times. In the San Francisco Chronicle columnist Mark Morford wrote that "spiritually advanced people regard the new president as 'a Lightworker'... who can help usher in a new way of being on the planet".

Tell that to an Afghan child whose family has been blown away by Obama's bombs, or a Pakistani child whose family are among the 700 civilians killed by Obama's drones. Or Tell it to a child in the carnage of Gaza caused by American smart weapons which, disclosed Seymour Hersh, were re-supplied to Israel for use in the slaughter "only after the Obama team let it be known it would not object". The man who stayed silent on Gaza is the man who now condemns Iran.
Obama's is the myth that is America's last taboo. His most consistent theme was never change; it was power. The United States, he said, "leads the world in battling immediate evils and promoting the ultimate good ... We must lead by building a 21st century military to ensure the security of our people and advance the security of all people." And there is this remarkable statement: "At moments of great peril in the past century our leaders ensured that America, by deed and by example, led and lifted the world, that a we stood and fought for the freedom sought by billions of people beyond their borders." At the National Archives on May 21, he said: "From Europe to the Pacific, we've been the nation that has shut down torture chambers and replaced tyranny with the rule of law."

Since 1945, "by deed and by example", the United States has overthrown fifty governments, including democracies, and crushed some 30 liberation movements, and supported tyrannies and set up torture chambers from Egypt to Guatemala. Countless men, women and children have been bombed to death. Bombing is apple pie. And yet, here is the 44th President of the United States, having stacked his government with warmongers and corporate fraudsters and polluters from the Bush and Clinton eras, teasing us while promising more of the same.

Here is the House of Representatives, controlled by Obama's Democrats, voting to approve $16 billion for three wars and a coming presidential military budget which, in 2009, will exceed any year since the end of World War Two, including the spending peaks of the Korean and Vietnam wars. And here is a peace movement, not all of it but much of it, prepared to look the other way and believe or hope that Obama will restore, as Paul Krugman wrote in the New York Times, the "nation of moral ideals".

Not long ago, I visited the American Museum of History in the celebrated Smithsonian Institute in Washington. One of the most popular exhibitions was called The Price of Freedom: Americans at War. It was holiday time and lines of happy people, including many children, shuffled through a Santa's grotto of war and conquest, where messages about their nation's "great mission" were lit up. These included tributes to the quote "exceptional Americans [who] saved a million lives" in Vietnam where they were quote "determined to stop communist expansion". In Iraq, other brave Americans quote "employed air strikes of unprecedented precision".
What was shocking was not so much the revisionism of two of the epic crimes of modern times but the sheer routine scale of omission.

Like all US presidents, Bush and Obama have much in common. The wars of both presidents, and the wars of Clinton and Reagan, Carter and Ford, Nixon and Kennedy, are justified by the enduring myth of exceptional America - a myth the late Harold Pinter described as "a brilliant, witty, highly successful act of hypnosis".
The clever young man who recently made it to the White House is a very fine hypnotist, partly because it is so extraordinary to see an African-American at the pinnacle of power in the land of slavery. However, this is the 21st century, and race - together with gender and even class -- can be very seductive tools of propaganda. For what matters, above race and gender, is the class one serves.

George Bush's inner circle - from the State Department to the Supreme Court - was perhaps the most multi racial in presidential history. It was PC par excellence. Think Condaleeza Rice and Colin Powell. It was also the most reactionary.
To many, Obama's very presence in the White House reaffirms the moral nation. He is a marketing dream. Like Calvin Klein or Beneton, he is a brand that promises something special - something exciting, almost risqué, as if he might be a radical, as if he might enact change. He makes people feel good. He's post-modern man with no political baggage.

In his book, Dreams From My Father, Obama refers to the job he took after he graduated from Columbia University in 1983. He describes his employer as "a consulting house to multinational corporations". For some reason, he does not say who his employer was or what he did there. The employer was Business International Corporation, which has a long history of providing cover for the CIA with covert action, and infiltrating unions and the left. I know this because it was especially active in my own country, Australia.
Obama does not say what he did at Business International; and there may be nothing sinister, but it seems worthy of enquiry, and debate, surely, as a clue to whom the man is.

During his brief period in the Senate, Obama voted to continue the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He voted for the Patriot Act. He refused to support a bill for single-payer health care. He supported the death penalty. As a presidential candidate, he received more corporate backing than John McCain. He promised to close Guantanamo as a priority and has not. Instead, he has excused the perpetrators of torture, re-instated the infamous military commissions, kept the Bush gulag intact and opposed habeus corpus.

Daniel Ellsberg was right when he said that, under Bush, a military coup had taken place in the United States, giving the Pentagon unprecedented powers. These powers have been reinforced by the presence of Robert Gates, a Bush family crony and George W. Bush's secretary of defence, and by all the Bush Pentagon officials and generals who have kept their jobs under Obama.

In Colombia, Obama is planning to spend $46 million on a new military base that will support a regime backed by death squads and further the tragic history of Washington's intervention in Latin America.
In a pseudo-event staged in Prague, Obama promised a world without nuclear weapons to a global audience mostly unaware that America is building new tactical nuclear weapons designed to blur the distinction between nuclear and conventional war. Like George Bush, he used the absurdity of Europe threatened by Iran to justify building a missile system aimed at Russia and China.

In a pseudo-event at the Annapolis Naval Academy, decked with flags and uniforms, Obama lied that the troops were coming home. The head of the army, General George Casey, says America will be in Iraq for up to a decade; other generals say fifteen years. Units will be re-labelled as trainers; mercenaries will take their place. That is how the Vietnam war endured past the American "withdrawal".

Chris Hedges, author of Empire of Illusion puts it well. "President Obama," he wrote, "does one thing and Brand Obama gets you to believe another. This is the essence of successful advertising. You buy or do what the advertiser wants because of how they can make you feel." And so you are kept in "a perpetual state of childishness". He calls this "junk politics".
The tragedy is that Brand Obama appears to have crippled or absorbed the anti war movement, the peace movement. Out of 256 Democrats in Congress, thirty are willing to stand against Obama's and Nancy Pelosi's war party. On June 16, they voted for $106 billion for more war.

In Washington, the Out of Iraq Caucus is out of action. Its members can't even come up with a form of words of why they are silent. On March 21, a demonstration at the Pentagon by the once mighty United for Peace and Justice drew only a few thousand. The outgoing president of UPJ, Leslie Cagan, says her people aren't turning up because, "it's enough for many of them that Obama has a plan to end the war and that things are moving in the right direction". And where is the mighty MoveOn these days? Where is its campaign against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? And what exactly was said when, in February, MoveOn's executive director, Jason Ruben, met President Obama?
Yes, a lot of good people mobilised for Obama. But what did they demand of him - apart from the amorphous "change"? That isn't activism.
Activism doesn't give up. Activism is not about identity politics. Activism doesn't wait to be told. Activism doesn't rely on the opiate of hope. Woody Allen once said, "I felt a lot better when I gave up hope". Real activism has little time for identity politics, a distraction that confuses and suckers good people everywhere.

I write for the Italian newspaper Il Manifesto, or rather I used to write for it. In February, I sent the foreign editor an article which raised questions about Obama as a progressive force. The article was rejected. Why? I asked. "For the moment," wrote the editor, "we prefer to maintain a more 'positive' approach to the novelty presented by Obama... we will take on specific issues... but we would not like to say that he will make no difference."
In other words, an American president drafted to promote the most rapacious system in history is ordained and de-politicised by the left. What is remarkable about this state of affairs is that the so-called radical left has never been more aware, more conscious, of the iniquities of power. The Green Movement, for example, has raised the consciousness of millions of people, so that almost every child knows something about global warming; and yet there is a resistance within the green movement to the notion of power as a military project. Similar observations can be made of the gay and feminist movements; as for the labour movement, is it still breathing?

One of my favourite quotations is from Milan Kundera: "The struggle of people against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting." We should never forget that the primary goal of great power is to distract and limit our natural desire for social justice and equity and real democracy. Long ago, Bernays's invisible government of propaganda elevated big business from its unpopular status as a kind of mafia to that of a patriotic driving force. The American Way of Life began as an advertising slogan. The modern image of Santa Claus was an invention of Coca Cola.

Today, we are presented with an extraordinary opportunity, thanks to the crash of Wall Street and the revelation, for ordinary people, that the free market has nothing to do with freedom. The opportunity is to recognise a stirring in America that is unfamiliar to many on the left, but is related to a great popular movement growing all over the world.

In Latin America, less than 20 years ago, there was the usual despair, the usual divisions of poverty and freedom, the usual thugs in uniforms running unspeakable regimes. There is now a people's movement based on the revival of indigenous cultures and languages, and a history of popular and revolutionary struggle less affected by ideological distortions than anywhere else.
The recent, amazing achievements in Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela, El Salvador, Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay represent a struggle for community and political rights that is truly historic, with implications for all of us. These successes are expressed perversely in the overthrow of the government of Honduras, for the smaller the country the greater the threat that the contagion of emancipation will follow.

Across the world, social movements and grass-roots organisations have emerged to fight free market dogma. They have educated governments in the south that food for export is a problem rather than a solution to global poverty. They have politicised ordinary people to stand up for their rights, as in the Philippines and South Africa. An authentic globalization is growing as never before, and this is exciting.

Consider the remarkable boycott, disinvestment and sanctions campaign - BDS for short - aimed at Israel, that is sweeping the world. Israeli ships have been turned away from South Africa and western Australia. A French company has been forced to abandon plans to built a railway connecting Jerusalem with illegal Israeli settlements. Israeli sporting bodies find themselves isolated. Universities have begun to sever ties with Israel, and students are active for the first time in a generation. Thanks to them, Israel's South Africa moment is approaching, for this is, partly, how apartheid was defeated.

In the 1950s, we never expected the great wind of the 1960s to blow. Feel the breeze today. In the last eight months millions of angry emails, sent by ordinary Americans, have flooded Washington. This has not happened before. People are outraged as their lives are attacked; they bear no resemblance to the massive mass presented by the media.
Look at the polls that are seldom reported. More than two thirds of Americans say the government should care for those who cannot care for themselves; 64 per cent would pay higher taxes to guarantee health care for everyone; 59 per cent are favourable towards unions; 70 per cent want nuclear disarmament; 72 per cent want the US completely out of Iraq; and so on.
For too long, ordinary Americans have been cast in stereotypes that are contemptuous. That is why the progressive attitudes of ordinary people are seldom reported in the media. They are not ignorant. They are subversive. They are informed. And they are "anti-American".

I once asked a friend, the great American war correspondent and humanitarian, Martha Gellhorn, to explain "anti-American" to me. "I'll tell you what 'anti-American' is," she said. "It's what governments and their vested interested call those who honour America by objecting to war and the theft of resources and believing in all of humanity. There are millions of these anti-Americans in the United States. They are ordinary people who belong to no elite and who judge their government in moral terms, though they would call it common decency. They are not vain. They are the people with a wakeful conscience, the best of America's citizens. They can be counted on. They were in the south with the Civil Rights movement, ending slavery. They were in the streets, demanding an end to the wars in Asia. Sure, they disappear from view now and then, but they are like seeds beneath the snow. I would say they are truly exceptional."

A certain populism is once again growing in America and which has a proud, if forgotten past. In the nineteenth century, an authentic grass-roots Americanism was expressed in populism's achievements: women's suffrage, the campaign for an eight-hour day, graduated income tax and public ownership of railways and communications, and breaking the power of corporate lobbyists.

The American populists were far from perfect; at times they would keep bad company, but they spoke from the ground up, not from the top down. They were betrayed by leaders who urged them to compromise and merge with the Democratic Party. Does that sound familiar?

What Obama and the bankers and the generals, and the IMF and the CIA and CNN fear is ordinary people coming together and acting together. It is a fear as old as democracy: a fear that suddenly people convert their anger to action and are guided by the truth. "At a time of universal deceit," wrote George Orwell, "telling the truth a revolutionary act."


Saturday, August 29, 2009

Paul Street answers a silly question

At a recent debate here in Chicago with John Wilson, a former student of Barack Obama at the University of Chicago Law school, left historian Paul Street explored the question of whether or not Obama is actually progressive:

Is Barack Obama a progressive? John Wilson says "yes," I say "no." But how much does the question really matter at the end of the day? Obama wasn't selected to head the United Way or the White Sox. He's chief executive of the American Empire. He is a politician above all - one who was selected to sit atop and, I think, to re-brand what the left-liberal political scientist Sheldon Wolin rightly calls "Democracy, Incorporated."

Every four years millions of American voters are induced to put their political hats on, to hope a bit, and then to go back to sleep. To hope that a savior or at least a more effective manager can be installed in the White House to raise wages, roll back war and militarism, provide universal and adequate health care, rebuild infrastructure, fix the environmental crisis, reduce inequality, and generally make life more livable.
-the rest...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Future

In tomorrow's America, the "free-trade" Nirvana in which the republic's last native industry has finally bitten the dust (along with the last unionized workforce) and where the concept of value added labor and the production of things of public utility are as passe as the dodo bird one cannot but marvel at the inextinguishable American ingenuity that manages to bubble to surface and exploit the silver lining in bad situation:

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Just a reminder

Do read Ladypoverty...

In the event you'd forgotten...

Given for what passes for journalism in the US you can be forgiven. In any event there's a place in the world where the population reacts to the usurpation of their rights with more than a shrug of the shoulders and a yawn [sound like someplace familiar?]. Hondurans and those throughout the region who support them in their struggle against the US-backed coup continue to demonstrate what fighting for democracy actually looks like.

[Hat tip to American Leftist]

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Flailing, Failing, and Wailing

It's not easy these uphill battles. I'm certainly not the only one around trying to keep a positive outlook in the face of overwhelming odds but there are times (given how atomized we are) where you begin to wonder. Does anyone else notice how fucked we are? I'm not just talking about the mindless droning one finds in the mainstream media since mass distraction is its primary function. No, I'm referring to those whom I encounter during the course of a day, a week, over the last 9 months. Few seem to have a fucking clue that the party of credit-fueled mass consumerism is over. I cannot bear to count the number of conversations I've had with people in which they conclude that "recovery is around the corner" or "things will turn around". Really? Turn around to what? Can a return to the previous status quo of "free trade" madness in which the rapid deindustrialization of the US (and thus living-wage jobs) coupled with massive trade deficits with trade rivals continue unabated be really considered a "recovery" by thinking people? Recovery is the return to consumerism as 70% of GDP while producing virtually nothing of social utility? I'm stumped.

The one great "innovation" of the last thirty years, essentially the financialization of the US economy, leading directly to the unregulated alphabet soup derivative market (MBS, CDS, SIV...) has been revealed in all of its naked glory as a world-encompassing fraud while its engineers are bailed out and STILL motherfuckers believe "recovery" is just around the corner!

None grasp that their new hero in the White House works tirelessly to ensure that the war criminals of the Bush administration who made a mockery of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the UN Charter in route to looting Iraq at the cost of over a million lives as well as tens of thousands more in decimated Afghanistan never stand before a grand jury. It's the apathy I'm having trouble dealing with these days though given the fact that Americans are perhaps the most de-politicized population in the world I shouldn't be surprised and yet there it is. The bastards seem to be winning and I don't see anywhere near enough people irritated enough to give a damn much less take collective action against the fact. About those bastards who rule us Joe Bageant had this to say...

Monday, August 03, 2009

Choices, Choices

What's the O-Bomb gonna do? Folks are hurting everywhere but folks aren't all the same you see. On the one hand are millions of Americans who have been or soon will be tossed out of their places of residence but on the other hand there's the folks who rule the roost and now find themselves short of cash. Oh the agony of command!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Obama vs. Obama

The following public service announcement comes courtesy of Mark Fiore:

Big thanks to Dennis Perrin for introducing me to both Fiore above and Dwayne Monroe who authored the following message to disappointed Obamaniacs:

I know you're unhappy.

You tell me, via email, text messages, tweets, listserv posts and maybe even tachyon bursts I'm not yet equipped to receive.

You tell me -- and the world -- you're disheartened by Obama's velvet gloved treatment of ibanks, his failure to "take advantage of a good crisis." His inability to speak to any group of black people without yammering on about "personal responsibility" (a theme conspicuously absent from his speeches before mostly white audiences).

His escalation of the Afghan war. His supposedly groundbreaking national medical insurance plan which, once closely examined, looks an awful lot like a funds transfer program for the pharma and private insurance sectors.

His continuation of Bush era surveillance programs. His backtracking on same sex unions. His... by the gods, I could go on, but why?

Listen mates, I have some bad news for you and your ruined dreams...

You should have paid closer attention during the campaign. You should've spent a little less time shouting about new, "post-racial" politics, the excitement of "young people" and Obama's polished, upper management style of presentation and more time thinking through the totally predictable implications of the things he said.

What the hell did you think he meant when he said he was going to "step up" US efforts in Afghanistan? Air drop delicious snake cakes and DVDs? When a potential or sitting POTUS announces a "renewed effort" he (and one day soon, she) means only one thing: bombs, blood and blasting.

I know, that's three things.

Months ago, when you read stories about Obama's popularity among our well-fed hedge funders, what did you think that meant? Wall Street loves "diversity"? It meant those mercenaries were pointing their mojo wands towards the guy they felt would produce superior ROI.

And so on.

During the campaign months, many of you wankers (and yes, I love you but...) accused me of being cynical. Why didn't I open my heart and believe in change? Change! My black and tan amigos y amigas were dismayed I wasn't happy to see the ultimate example of a black face in a high place. Dreams, no longer deferred!

Well-intentioned pink skins scratched their heads, puzzled by my lack of glee at their non-racist action: voting for a black chief exec. Look at us!

To be cynical however, you have to be a disappointed romantic. Within each cynic's skull throbs a mind longing to believe with the fervency of a "Twilight" fan. My objections weren't cynical. I simply took Mr. Obama at his word and factored in the history of the office he sought.

So there you are, upset and worried. You're upset by how things have turned out. You're worried that unless Obama does this or does that -- zigs instead of zags, kerpluks instead of plukeriking -- his presidency will fail. Which is hella odd: what presidencies have succeeded and by whose criteria?

I recommend spending no more than five, maybe ten minutes being disappointed. And perhaps an extra half hour musing on the various things the President should do to save his historic legacy.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Pretty pictures will do

Recently I found myself in a rather long and tedious discussion with my brother over the state of the US and its relation to the rest of the world in general. For what seemed like hours he tried to convince me (and perhaps himself) that the sainted Obama administration was really, despite all evidence to the contrary, a force for change in the world. For example, when I mentioned the contrast in the Obama administration's response to the disputed elections in Iran to the coup in the one nation upon which the US exerts the most influence in Latin America, Honduras, he dissolved into to a cloud of semantics, disparately grasping at anything that would explain away the clear hypocrisy. Nuance aside, there's little difference between the Obama administration's handling of the Honduran crisis and what could have been expected of the Bush II regime that preceded it.

The same of course applies the Obama's handling of the financial crisis foisted upon us by the Wall Street hustlers and their bankrupt free-trade ideology. This is the part that really gets to the heart of my frustration with Obamaniacs such as my brother. Like most Americans, if he is not directly effected by an issue he just can't be bothered by the matter. So when it comes to our illegal invasion and occupation of a sovereign nation or the material support for ethnic cleansing on the other side of the globe well... that stuff's so out of the way and we're very busy. Well at least we used to be before half a million of us per month were losing our jobs as the Obama administration endeavors to move heaven and earth to save the very malefactors who decimated the economy (such as it is). Unlike the remote controlled, robot bombing of wedding parties the economic meltdown is something most American's can feel directly yet still there is a sizable number of people (my brother among them) who refuse to connect the dots to the policies of an administration filled to the brim with Goldman Sachs alums. Yes, cracks are starting to appear in Obama's polling numbers but we still have a long way to go before the financial oligarchy he serves starts to feel the heat.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Mad Max

Max Keiser (my new favorite financial analyst) takes it to Goldman Sachs below. When's he going to get a platform on CNBC I wonder?

Part 2:

Update: Elaine Supkis fleshes this matter out in a very good post recently.

Friday, June 26, 2009

US torture revisited

Here's the part the neo-con apologists for US torture never emphasize (hat tip "David" at EMS News):

"Yasser tearfully described that when he reached the top of the steps 'the party began…They started to put the [muzzle] of the rifle [and] the wood from the broom into [my anus]. They entered my privates from behind.'...Yasser estimated that he was penetrated five or six times during this initial sodomy incident and saw blood 'all over my feet' through a small hole in the hood covering his eyes."
–Physicians for Human Rights, Broken Laws, Broken Lives: Medical Evidence of Torture by US Personnel and Its Impact
The rest

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Change in the air

What? Can't you feel that? Ok, don't take my word for it then, just check the record...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The beautiful lies we tell

It's funny how no matter what your instincts seem to tell you about the current economic crisis, punditry-land can't wait to direct your attention to the latest signs of "green shoots" making their way through the cracks thus signaling the imminent return of the go-go recent past. Sure, the economy is shedding jobs at the rate of 600,000 per month and the American auto industry has been allowed to sink beneath the waves (those parts not wholly owned by foreign competitors) while trillions in taxpayer funds have been shoveled to the insolvent financial institutions that drove us over the cliff, but ignore all that if you will. You see, this time the very economists who missed the dangerous growth of the largest asset bubble in history and clapped like circus seals as the deregulated financial sector "innovated" the Derivative Beast into existence which now exceeds the combined GDP of the entire world in notational value are now on the case and ask that you trust their sober judgement on this.

Dmitry Orlov neatly splashes cold water on this nonsense in his latest speech. An excerpt:

Economics is not directly lethal, and economists never get sent to jail for criminal negligence or gross incompetence even when their theories do fail. Finance is about the promises we make to each other, and to ourselves. And if the promises turn out to be unrealistic, then economics and finance turn out to be about the lies we tell each other. We want to continue believing these lies, because there is a certain loss of face if we don't, and the economists are there to help us. We continue to listen to economists because we love their lies. Yes, of course, the economy will recover later this year, maybe the next. Yes, as soon as the economy recovers, all these toxic assets will be valuable again. Yes, this is just a financial problem; we just need to shore up the financial system by injecting taxpayer funds. These are all lies, but they make us feel all right. They are lying, and we are buying every word of it.

I highly recommend you read the speech in full. Sobering indeed.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Boo Hoo

The hand wringing and tear jerking over the outcome of the presidential election in Iran continues unabated in the west. Is anyone really surprised? If it seems as though there was but a fraction of this distress among the western punditry over the suspicious outcome of the contest in Mexico where the neoliberal standard bearer Felipe Calderon "won" you aren't imagining things. The following is a handy guide for easy referral the next time a foreign election turns out the "wrong way" and elicits the kind of media hysterics we're suffering through at the moment. This courtesy of the "Angry Arab", As'ad AbuKhalil:

Western Primer on Elections in Developing Countries

Some Western principles in assessing elections in developing countries:

1) When the favored candidates win, the elections are free and fair. And when they lose, elections are certainly unfree and stolen.

2) Violent protests against elections that produce winners favored by the West, are to be strictly condemned and protesters are to be called terrorists, hooligans and mobs (can you imagine if Lebanese opposition supporters were to engage in violent protests against the election results in Lebanon), while violent protests against enemies of the US when they win elections (like in Moldova) are to be admired (and the protesters in those cases are called "democracy activists".

3) It is not against free elections to have Western governments interfere in elections and in funding candidates through Western groups for the promotion of democracy.

4) Candidates (or even dictators) who serve Western interests are automatically labeled as "reform candidates" (even the Saudi tyrant is referred to as "reform-minded"), while candidates who oppose Western economic and political interests are to be labeled enemies of reform....

6) Western observers of elections are always on hand to declare an election unfair and rigged if the favored candidates lose.

7) The corruption of pro-US candidates (like the March 14 bunch in Lebanon) is preferred to the corruption of, say, Mugabe.

8) The democratic credentials of dictators immediately improve if they change their policies toward the US and if they express willingness to serve US economic and political interests.

9) Countries where dictators do a good job in serving US economic and political interests need not hold elections.

10) If favored candidates can't guarantee electoral victory (like the Palestinian Authority's Abu Mazen, whose term has expired months ago), they don't need to hold elections and will be treated as if they won an election anyway.

11) It is just not logical to assume that people in developing countries can freely ever decide to make choices that are not consistent with political and economic interests of the US....
-As'ad AbuKhalil

Bear in mind as you read the following analysis from Paul Craig Roberts over the events in Iran that outside of the opposition's assertions there is no evidence whatsoever of election fraud on the scale alleged. This from Middle East specialists Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett provides an important overview as well.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Thursday, June 11, 2009

There was once a time...

...when impermissible thoughts could see the light of day.

“The essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labour. War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent. Even when weapons of war are not actually destroyed, their manufacture is still a convenient way of expending labour power without producing anything that can be consumed. A Floating Fortress, for example, has locked up in it the labour that would build several hundred cargo-ships. Ultimately it is scrapped as obsolete, never having brought any material benefit to anybody, and with further enormous labours another Floating Fortress is built. In principle the war effort is always so planned as to eat up any surplus that might exist after meeting the bare needs of the population. Warfare is also useful in keying up the morale to the necessary pitch.

War hysteria is continuous and universal in all countries, and such acts as raping, looting, the slaughter of children, the reduction of whole populations to slavery, and reprisals against prisoners which extend even to boiling and burying alive, are looked upon as normal, and when they are committed by one's own side and not by the enemy, meritorious. But in a physical sense war involves very small numbers of people, mostly highly trained specialists, and causes comparatively few casualties. The fighting, when there is any, takes place on the vague frontiers whose whereabouts the average man can only guess at, or round the Floating Fortresses which guard strategic spots on the sea lanes. In the centers of civilization war means no more than a continuous shortage of consumption goods, and the occasional crash of a rocket bomb which may cause a few scores of deaths. War has in fact changed its character. More exactly, the reasons for which war is waged have changed in their order of importance.

The consciousness of being at war, and therefore in danger, makes the handing-over of all power to a small caste seem the natural, unavoidable condition of survival. War not only accomplishes the necessary destruction, but accomplishes it in a psychologically acceptable way. In principle it would be simple to waste the surplus labour of the world by building temples and pyramids, by digging holes and filling them up again, or even by producing vast quantities of goods and then setting fire to them. But this would provide only the economic and not the emotional basis for a hierarchical society. What is concerned here is not the morale of the masses, whose attitude is unimportant so long as they are kept steadily at work, but the Party itself. Even the humblest Party member is expected to be competent, industrious, and even intelligent within narrow limits, but it is also necessary that he should be a credulous and ignorant fanatic whose prevailing moods are fear, hatred, adulation, and orgiastic triumph. In other words it is necessary that he should have the mentality appropriate to a state of war."
-George Orwell


"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people ... This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron."
-Dwight D. Eisenhower

I found these remarkable quotes courtesy of some posters over at ATR. Can you imagine words such as these coming from any important political figure today? Neither can I, but it is essential that this become part of the national dialogue if we there is ever to be change we can believe in.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Ghosts of Reason

Of all the enemies of true liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other.

War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.

In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people.

The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and in the degeneracy of manner and of morals, engendered in both.

No nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.

War is in fact the true nurse of executive aggrandizement. In war, a physical force is to be created; and it is the executive will, which is to direct it.

In war, the public treasuries are to be unlocked; and it is the executive hand which is to dispense them.

In war, the honors and emoluments of office are to be multiplied; and it is the executive patronage under which they are to be enjoyed; and it is the executive brow they are to encircle.

The strongest passions and most dangerous weaknesses of the human breast; ambition, avarice, vanity, the honorable or venal love of fame, are all in conspiracy against the desire and duty of peace.

-James Madison

Friday, May 15, 2009

Brand Obama

Its been a spell since I've really sat down and gave our new President any serious thought. I know that seems rather odd coming as it does from one who's take on Barockstar has been decidedly negative almost from day one, but the truth is he was so transparently not the agent of change he professed to be that I haven't experienced the deflating letdown that some on the left are now suffering as their hero reveals his inner Imperial Centrist. My hopes just weren't high enough to be let down in the first place. Having said this I must admit that, like most Americans, the swiftness and severity of the economic collapse has taken me by surprise but Obama's reaction to it has been a true revelation.

Let's bury any illusions that he has merely inherited this mess from the Bush administration since he was instrumental in twisting congressional arms last October in order to pass the 700 billion dollar TARP blank check for the reckless speculators now looting the Treasury with the help of his key appointments from the financial sector like Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Bush appointee to the Federal Reserve Ben Barneke. No, Obama owns this now and his policies thus far have demonstrated unequivocally that Wall Street represents his primary constituency. 13 trillion in taxpayer obligations thus far have been committed to the very insolvent institutions who's greed and recklessness cratered the world economy yet still there are those who remain entranced by what Chris Hedges calls the Obama Brand.

When you add to this Team Obama's escalation of the Af-Pak War and commitment to indefinitely occupy Iraq one wonders what more will it take to break the "change" spell that's got so many "progressives" swooning this late in the game.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Who's minding the store?

Not to worry folks, though nine trillion dollars (so far) in taxpayer loot has disappeared into the coffers of insolvent banks declared "too big to fail" your highly motivated federal "regulators" are on the case:

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

So much forgotten

[T]he point of attack in the political struggle lies, not in the legislative bodies, but in the people. Political rights do not originate in parliaments, they are, rather, forced upon parliaments from without. And even their enactment into law has for a long time been no guarantee of their security.

Just as the employers always try to nullify every concession they had made to labour as soon as opportunity offered, as soon as any signs of weakness were observable in the workers' organizations, so governments also are always inclined to restrict or to abrogate completely rights and freedoms that have been achieved if they imagine that the people will put up no resistance. Even in those countries where such things as freedom of the press, right of assembly, right of combination, and the like, have long existed governments are constantly trying to restrict those rights or to reinterpret them by judicial hair-splitting.

Political rights do not exist because they have been legally set down on a piece of paper, but only when they have become the ingrown habit of a people, and when any attempt to impair them will meet with the violent resistance of the populace. Where this is not the case, there is no help in any parliamentary Opposition or any Platonic appeals to the constitution. One compels respect from others when he knows how to defend his dignity as a human being. This is not only true in private life, it has always been the same in political life as well.
-Rudolph Rocker


Saturday, April 04, 2009

A quick and easy how-to guide on fucking the next 3 generations of Americans

I managed to find this while cruising Mish's Economic Trend Analysis, a very good site for insight to the latest Wall Street shenanigans. Here, in all of its diabolical glory, is the latest Team Obama/Geithner plan to save the bondholders of insolvent financial institutions at taxpayer expense:

Friday, March 27, 2009

Oddly familiar

The President of the Incorporated Estates of Earth got along with everyone, as if he wanted to. I found this odd, him odd, which is no matter. I am not the president and could never be. I am too opinionated. Too impatient. Too blunt, in my own mind if no way else.

The topic the President wished to discuss: the rebel insurgency deep in the heart of the Incorporated Estates of Earth.

Typically we ignore the rebels, the best strategy: First you ignore them, then you blast them, then you agree with them if need be - or plausibly pretend to agree - what cost a bit of rhetoric? - then you win. Again.

What I found most distressing and yet daunting and daring about the President is that he does not seem interested in winning. He assumes it. He is a winner. He wins. He gets along with everyone, not least those who fund him into power. This strikes me as terribly indiscriminate. He is willing to get along with anyone, even the rebels so long as playing nice does not cost him his job, or his funders - the banks and the incorporated estates, the class of the IEE - their power.

So the President plays nice and wins and called me in to deal with the rebels. He tells me it is my job to play nice with the rebels. Not in so many words, but I get it. He wants me to give the rebels the velvet glove covering the iron fist, via the brilliant tongue. He wants me to cut the rebels to size as if making love to them with a rock. First you ignore them, then you blast them, then you pretend to agree with them (if need be), then you win. "Do you understand?"
"I understand, sir."

"The rebels are IEEans like us. Only poorer, or disenchanted, or just cantankerous. We need them to love the IEE. They need to love the IEE. For their own good. For our own good. For the good. You see?"
"I think I know exactly what you mean, sir."

"I need a speech. Soon. I plan to address the rebels personally, visit their camp. I need real face-to-face words. Words that go beyond the teleprompter. Words that are easy to memorize. Easy to take deep into the heart. From my heart to their heart. Can you write that for me? I know you can. Yes, you can."
"You write it now for me, sir. You have a knack, that gift. You touch their hearts. You solace the vassals of the IEE."

-Lesson 15, The Vassal's Handbook--"first you ignore them"

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Eliot Spitzer returns

Back from his "fall from grace"--no doubt greased by the Wall Street titans whom he terrorized, the former governor of New York Eliot Spitzer has been hired by Slate magazine to put his opinions to pen and paper. His latest effort reflects upon the distracting hue and cry being raised over the millions of taxpayer dollars funneled to AIG employees who helped loot the company while largely ignoring the billions shipped to AIG counter-parties with names like Goldman Sachs, HBS, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, Barclays... you get the picture.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

How much for that drink?

What follows is courtesy of "Angela", a commenter at Elaine Supkis' blog which presents the current economic crisis in a refreshing new way:

Thank goodness there’s the occasional humor in all of this- making the rounds on the net…


· Heidi is the proprietor of a bar in Berlin.
· In order to increase sales, she decides to allow her loyal customers - most of whom are unemployed alcoholics - to drink now but pay later.
· She keeps track of the drinks consumed on a ledger (thereby granting the customers loans).
· Word gets around, and as a result increasing numbers of customers flood Into Heidi’s bar.
· Taking advantage of her customers’ freedom from immediate payment constraints, Heidi increases her prices for wine and beer, the most-consumed beverages.
Her sales volume increases massively.
· A young and dynamic customer service consultant at the local bank recognizes these customer debts as valuable future assets and increases Heidi’s borrowing limit.
· He sees no reason for undue concern since he has the debts of the alcoholics as collateral.

· At the bank’s corporate headquarters, expert bankers transform these customer assets into DRINKBONDS, ALKBONDS and PUKEBONDS.
· These securities are then traded on markets worldwide.
· No one really understands what these abbreviations mean and how the securities are guaranteed.
· Nevertheless, as their prices continuously climb, the securities become top-selling items.

· One day, although the prices are still climbing, a risk manager (subsequently, of course, fired due to his negativity) of the bank decides that slowly the time has come to demand payment of the debts incurred by the drinkers at Heidi’s bar.
· However they cannot pay back the debts.
· Heidi cannot fulfill her loan obligations and claims bankruptcy. DRINKBOND and ALKBOND drop in price by 95%.
· PUKEBOND performs better, stabilizing in price after dropping by 80%.

· The suppliers of Heidi’s bar, having granted her generous payment due dates and having invested in the securities are faced with a new situation.
· Her wine supplier claims bankruptcy, her beer supplier is taken over by a competitor.
· The bank is saved by the government following dramatic round-the-clock consultations by leaders from the governing political parties.
· The funds required for this purpose are obtained by a tax levied on the non-drinkers.

· Finally, an explanation we understand.


Saturday, March 07, 2009

A voice of sanity

... and one you will never hear on CNBC

For more like this check out The Renegade Economist whom I've added to my blog roll.

PS: Speaking of my blog roll feel free to use the 'Lair as a way station to these other sites during my frequent absences.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Hey, where'd my job go?

Curious? Well here's Kathy Sanborn with something you should know.

Friday, February 20, 2009

We The People...

It's been fascinating of late to watch Team Obama struggle to put the proper spin on the latest attempt to unburden Wall Street of its troubles at taxpayer expense. Ever wonder why all the efforts of "our" elected representatives are so focused on the travails of insolvent banks and the reckless speculators who ran them into the ground? Well this little ditty by Bernard Chazelle should answer any remaining questions you may have:

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass., said banks were acting stupid and making it harder for lawmakers to defend them.
You may wonder if it's a congressman's job to be defending banks. Shouldn't the Congress be defending "We the people," instead?

If you're wondering, it's because you don't understand the modern incarnation of representative democracy. Yes, you know your Electoral College; sure, you've mastered your chads, pregnant, dimpled, hanging or otherwise, but still, perhaps just perhaps, you're missing the point. Indirect representation works like this:

A empowers B to elect C to serve A.
With a little diagram to highlight the subtleties:

A---------> B --------> C

Now one common mistake is to think that you're A. Nope, you're B. Who's A then? Corporate America is A. Goldman Sachs, GE, WalMart, etc; they're A. You're B. They empower you (B) to elect a government (C) whose sole purpose is to serve them (A). This leads us to the fundamental equation of indirect representation:

Corporate America empowers you to elect a government to serve Corporate America.
How does Corporate America empower you? They outsource the job to an entity called "the media." The media's mission is to brainwash you so you believe you are A. But you are B. You are the empowered delegate ("empowered" in the sense of "authorized," not "made powerful.") Why are you even needed in that equation? What's wrong with

A empowers C to serve A ?
Somewhere in that loop, someone's pocket needs to be picked and that someone is you. That's why A needs you. There's a second reason for your presence, which distinguishes representative democracy from oligarchy. It's called "legitimacy," which is just a fancy way of saying "anything that keeps the people away from their pitchforks." But let's not get too technical and, mostly it's just that: a technicality.

A few days later, the liberal Barney Frank uttered stern, harsh words. I paraphrase:

The bankers won't get extra resources unless there's a radical change in their behavior.
Notice the conditionality. Let's follow Frank's logic. Suppose the bankers don't change their behavior (which behavior is left unspecified but you can be sure that does not include "being A.") Then what? If Frank denies them the money, then who is he punishing? If he is punishing the American people, then my point is proven. The guy works for the bankers. If he is punishing the bankers but not the American people, then the money was obviously not needed in the first place, except to please the bankers. In other words, if Americans don't notice the difference whether the money is given out to the banks or not, then why give it? And if they suffer from the money being withheld, then why is Frank making their happiness conditional on the bankers' behavior? He could have the bankers fired. He could have reversed the conditionality and said: "The bankers won't get a penny until a million demonstrators march down Pennsylvania Avenue demanding "More Bonuses to Bankers!"

But he did not. Why? Because Frank (hardly the worst of the bunch) was elected by you to work for them! (Go back to earlier diagram if this point hasn't sunken in yet.) Why isn't Frank working for you the people? Because you the people are the delegates, and who in the world works for delegates?

Why do we need the media? Because my observations are trivial. That's why. You need communications experts, backed by deep scientists called "economists," to convince you that 2+2=5. That's hard work. That's why those people are paid lots of money and only the brightest succeed. Take "trickle down economics" for example. That's not even 2+2=5. It's more like 2+2=36376472828363828. But they pulled it off! And this very minute they're convincing you that the only way to deal with a thief who steals your money is to reward him with more of your money.

Barney Frank had more to say:

“People really hate you,” he said, imploring banks to do everything possible to avoid offending people.
When is the last time you "implored" someone to stop being offensive by stealing money from the very people they're offending and giving it to the offenders?

— Bernard Chazelle

Sunday, February 08, 2009

The Imponderable

In truth the time to kill the Federal Reserve banking system was over half a century ago but I'm willing to take what I can get. So now is as good a time as any to kill this bitch, a fact made clear in this fine essay by Doug Page over at Dissident Voice a few days ago.


Here's a crucial essay by economist Michael Hudson on Team Obama's Bailout 2.0 that answers all the important questions one may have about how the banksters intend to fuck us. This is a must-read so pass it on.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Something for your book list

Do yourself a solid and run out and pick up The Liberal Defense of Murder by Richard Seymour whose blog Lenin's Tomb is required reading for any serious progressive. This remarkable book will serve as a critical point of reference as Team Obama cranks up the killing machine liberal style (with better graphics and production values). Here Richard sits with George Galloway for a chat about some of the justifications liberals have utilized throughout the centuries when going about the unfortunate but necessary business of killing savages... for the greater good of course.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Oh no, fooled again!

What was that neat little trick Nancy always pulled on Charlie Brown with the football? Well here's the political equivalent... right on schedule.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Chomsky on Israeli war crimes in Gaza

Naturally one shouldn't expect to see this issue explored anywhere in the American mainstream media hologram so, once again, Znet to the rescue.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Boondocks checking in

Hat tip to Dennis Perrin for this one:

"I did say I was cautiously pessimistic about Obama's Presidency - but this is simply acknowledging the reality of an American Empire that is out of control and on the verge of collapse. Let us not forget that on the eve of the election, we witnessed a near-trillion dollar robbery of the US treasury. That robbery is still taking place. I do not blame President Obama, but I do not believe the financial and corporate interests that own and control this country will fold so easily. I do not question the integrity of the man as much as the power of his office - which I believe has greatly diminished over the years. I believe the Federal Reserve Bank, the Military Industrial Complex, and the massive corporate interests that run this country have more power than our new President. I hope I am wrong.

"After 9/11, I witnessed most of this country become obsessed with squashing dissent and silencing critics. I hope this election does not turn Black America towards this same, fascist mind state; but already I am starting to see it, and it saddens me greatly. I absolutely wish our new President and his family success and safety. But after all I have witnessed in my lifetime, and especially in the last eight years, I am not ready to lay down my skepticism or my outrage for this government. To do so would be unwise and, ironically enough, anti-American."

-Aaron McGruder ("Boondocks" comic creator)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Boom, boom, bada-boom...

... so begins Team Obama's march to war on Iran. The following time-line is courtesy of Don Bacon over at ATR:

Mar 2, 2007. . .Obama: The world must work to stop Iran’s uranium enrichment program and prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons

National Intelligence Estimate, Dec 4, 2007 . . .. We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program

IAEA Report, May 26, 2008: "The Agency has been able to continue to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran."

July 25, 2008 . .Democratic Sen. Barack Obama, nearing the end of a fast-paced international campaign trip, warned Iran today, "don't wait for the next president" to take office before yielding to Western demands to dismantle its nuclear weapons program. . .Iran poses "an extraordinarily grave situation." He said the world must send "a clear message to Iran to end its illicit nuclear program."

NPT: "Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with articles I and II of this Treaty."

Sep 6, 2008 ...Iran is a “major threat” and it would be “unacceptable” for the rogue nation to develop a nuclear weapon, Barack Obama said

IAEA Report, September 15, 2008: "The Agency has been able to continue to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran. Iran has provided the Agency with access to declared nuclear material and has provided the required nuclear material accounting reports in connection with declared nuclear material and activities."

Oct 2, 2008 . . .Obama: "The American people weren't just failed by a President - they were failed by much of Washington. By a media that too often reported spin instead of facts. . .I will always tell the American people the truth."

Nov 7, 2008 ... U.S. President-elect Barack Obama said in Chicago on Friday that Iran's development of nuclear weapons is unacceptable.

IAEA Report on Iran, Nov 19, 2008 -- "The Agency has been able to continue to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran. Iran has provided the Agency with access to declared nuclear material and has provided the required nuclear material accounting reports in connection with declared nuclear material and activities."

Dec 7, 2008 . . .Obama: "We need to ratchet up tough but direct diplomacy with Iran, making very clear to them that their development of nuclear weapons would be unacceptable"

Jan 11, 2009 . . .Obama: "[Iran is] pursuing a nuclear weapon that could potentially trigger a nuclear arms race."

I don't know about any of you but I'm so loving the Prince of Hope and Change.

Monday, January 05, 2009

An Ernest Attempt

Israel tried to bump-off Cynthia Mckinney the other day in the event you hadn't heard about it... but then again how could you have heard about this incident and its proper context if the MSM is you source for "news"? Silly me.