The Pentagong Show

The Pentagong Show
United State of Terror: Is Drone War Fair?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Scream of Consciousness.

A pain-staking effort.

"I should have had my head examined":  The Big (Hair) Lewinsky.

The SF Chronicle, a pathetic rag posing as a newspaper, ran an article warning of the possibly imminent 'Tipping Point' being reached, when global warming is accelerated to the point of no return (they were silent in 2000 when the signs were all there and perhaps there still existed a possibility of slowing it down: it has instead sped up).

Claiming that, in order to slow down planetary increases in temperature, "It would require a wholesale shift to renewable fuels that the United States appears unlikely to make, given that many Americans do not believe humans are changing the climate."

Really? So, because a minority of Americans, comprised overwhelmingly of  yahoos and uneducated, bible-boggled boobs, don't believe in global warming, the world's most powerful nation must just shrug its shoulders and simply hope for the best. Right?
Ah, must be nice to bask in the warming rays of one's own self-righteousness ... and I should know, I seem to be doing it right now ... but unlike those with the conscience of a liberal and the carbon footprint of an entire African village, I'm not jetting around with the international set, burning more fuel in one trip than one of those yahoos we blame for Yavashington D.C.'s (yavash is the Turkish word for sloooow) intransigence on this issue, will use for his entire family in a year.

You see, I've noticed that the ones wringing their hands the most over the issue care the least, when their actions are taken into account instead of their empty, self-congratulatory words. And that's because that " wholesale shift to renewable fuels" they refer to is a mere chimera, anyway. The scale of enterprise required to produce such a shift would instead, and in fact has somewhat already, increased energy usage. Like throwing down the gauntlet, it's only increased the level of desperation in each country to tie down what they have and either ready it for sale to the highest bidder, or sequester it until the price goes up. Much like the previous President did by going to War in Iraq, locking up those energy resources so the price would skyrocket,thereby paying back his Texas friends who didn't after all, put him in the Whorehouse for their health (except their financial health).

The tipping point is far in our past. It occurred when Ronald Reagan removed the solar panels from the White-house roof. That's when the race to find, lockdown, and exploit the rest of nature's booty began in earnest. This is only the beginning of the end-game, the beginning of the Mad-Max era on an international scale, such that we now have pictures of children on the front page of the New York Times being coached on targeting and firing rifles as if its a game, while children their own age are being shot to pieces by insurgents and government forces alike in Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Afghanistan, all our favorite haunts.

So now, because USAryans have never known the hardship of a War, never known, or cared to know, its costs, innocence tyrannized by power is nonchalantly featured as a Sunday lark.

Because the projection of power necessary to exploit energy resources half a world away requires a citizenry wed to the lust for power and the military expenditure necessary to maintain it. Stoke the greed: it's a creed and a screed that has as its seed the constant need to make others bleed until you can taste it, like a swig of rusty water, metallic and offensive. And so does the behemoth grow, feeding on its own excrement while we screech the scar-spangled banter 'til we're red-white and blue in the face.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Representation Without Taxation: Demockracy Inaction.

Winning the Future: Tomorrow Belongs to ME.

As the NYT advocates higher taxes on everyone, it makes me wonder why they don't also advocate prosecution of the Bush administration's war crimes, and a fund, and maybe a 'lockbox' in which to deposit fines therefrom, for the crimes not only perpetrated by the Bush syndicate, but by those who benefited, and in fact, conspired with them, to commit said crimes. Instead, our so-called journalists never take the time and energy required to investigate and report to the people they suggest should pay for the boondoggles of miscreants in high places, just exactly what the reasons were for incurring such onerous and unpayable debt in the first place.

Because although there were many reasons the Bush regime gave for attacking Iraq, not one of them was real. Not one was believable. Not a single one was substantiated by events. Bringing another war to the world, and doing it under false pretenses, in order to hide the crimes committed by your father in attacking the country in question in the first place, are, or at least one would hope they are, War Crimes. Never mind the illegal rendition, the torture, the use of phosphorous bombs and of depleted uranium bombs, the willful destruction of the country's power plants, road, bridges, dams, and hospitals, in order to bring about the stated desire of the Cheney cohort to 'bomb the country back to the stone-age'.

Instead, we are supposed to just concentrate on "winning the future" (Tomorrow Belongs, Tomorrow Belongs, Tomorrow Belongs to Me), and forget the crimes committed in the past. But, as anyone who has prepared and given a huge banquet to which they've invited a horde of guests, there is no way forward until you've cleaned up the mess you've made in the past. By pretending that everything is hunky dory, and that what's done is done, the ramifications of those deeds on the economy, our finances, and therefore, the rest of the electorate that, far from reaping any of the benefits that the merchants of death raked in, are being asked, as per the NYT article cited above, to 'pay their fair share' of the crushing burden that the war, and the resulting economic collapse the financial malfeasance it encouraged, engendered.

But this blatant, in-your-face criminality was encouraged and abetted by the Bush administration in order to obfuscate the true costs his wars were incurring, and the current administration's dismissal of them as just something that happened, makes it, if there were truly anything resembling Justice in the world, an accessory after the fact to mass murder for fun and profit. And the reason for it is that the financial community, the Defence Department, Oil industry, arms merchants, and dozens of other industries benefited so handsomely from the mayhem so wantonly engaged in.

In nothing short of a disaster, the Bush administration embroiled us in a horrendous policy that economically, culturally, and militarily set a new standard for creative destruction of all that is egalitarian and just. The debt the Republicans under Bush amassed, morally, environmentally and economically, started demanding payment far earlier than they bargained for, and yet, because they were allowed to  get away with it unscathed, unprosecuted, and unimprisoned, Mitch McConnell,  the Senate minority leader, can today state that, “The tax issue is finished, over, completed,”  and the NYT can, more or less, agree.

The genesis of the terrible burden of debt, having been forgotten, can now be blamed on the policies of the Left that think that citizens who now are forced to work without hope of vacations, holidays, or sick time, in an environment of constant fear of being fired, should at least have a retirement that they can contribute to and hope to look forward to after a lifetime of work. Instead, disparaging and mocking Al Gore's 2000 campaign idea of a lockbox for social security funds, the Republicans spent them all, claiming (much as industry spends its workers' retirement funds for expansion, supposedly to enable then to pay for promises they have no wherewithal to keep), as per MR. BUSH:  "No. There's enough money to pay seniors today and the current affairs of Social Security. The trillion comes from the surplus. Surplus is more -- is money, more money than needed."

This was the justification for diverting monies that were flowing into the Social Security fund, enabling it to pay its own way without the necessity of borrowing. So they trashed the idea that Al Gore suggested of putting the SS funds in "lock box" to keep greedy and incompetent politicians from spending them and replaced it with the Bush and the Repubs' concept of not only spending the entire Social Security surplus, but of spending $420 billion per year on top of the SS fund without a thought of raising revenues to fund their "programs".

This is because the right always wants Representation without Taxation, and they always get it: by buying it.  As Florent, in Emile Zola's, The Belly of Paris, remarks to himself when he's famishing, "It's a funny thing, but you can always find someone to buy you a drink but there is never anyone who will pay for something to eat", and as his temporary rescuer, Madame Francois, observes:

"Oh these Parisians! They'll bicker over a few sous and then empty their pockets drinking at the wine shop".

Just as the rich will deplete their savings to buy politicians, hire throngs of accountants to squeeze them through loopholes they've paid a mob of lobbyists to insert into the tax code, and spend millions on 'charities' for causes for which they have no real interest, simply to get the deductions that lower their tax burden. They empty their pockets to buy lobbyists and politicians all the cocktails they can slurp down, but not a penny for taxes. All the while ensuring that what expenditures the Government does make profit only them, and leaving the burden of the deficit for the rest of the population to bear.

By pretending no crime has been committed, and letting the perpetrators of it off scot-free, we have incurred the costs of those crimes, yet for the most part, that connection is never acknowledged, the true source of our intractable financial straits blamed on someone besides the criminals that are now extorting payment. And the journalists who should be pointing this out, instead claim that life expectancy is so long, that we should work 'til 70, even as the poor and low-paid workers, who are our competitors, the Chinese, retire at 60. This gives their younger generation a chance to work. Our solution is to saddle our youth with debt, and then retain the jobs at which they should be starting to work in order to free them from their onerous load, taken on under false promises.

The newspapers print garbage fed to them by the upper class that taxing their higher income will slow growth, even as that growth is killing everything on the planet (the auto sector is recovering in Europe, North America and across the developing world. And what’s the fastest-growing kind of vehicle? Electric cars? Hybrids? Natgas? Think again, the dirtiest: Diesel-powered).

By not calling the criminal acts of the last administration to account we destroy hope for our own country and for the world. Because it is tacitly assumed (one only has to look at the rhetoric concerning home values and housing starts) that a return to the halcyon days of "the Great Moderation", and "The Goldilocks Economy" will return us to the path of GDP growth such that we will then be able to at least continue pretending that the untenable nature of our burgeoning debt isn't exactly that: untenable. That there's actually a way in which we can continue functioning as we are. But we are not Japan. We  have no one to whom  we can export our surplus manufactured goods, if we had them (which we don't because as soon as we do, we move our factories to their countries, employing their citizens, increasing their tax revenues, thereby increasing our unemployment and putting further strain on our retiree's benefits, all while thinking, as per bEnron Bernanke, that the consumers will retrench, borrow more, and spend more.) But those consumers are people. They are our children, watching as the retirement savings of their parents disappear; watching their parents' plans turn to ashes; watching their pension promises rescinded; watching their capital either spent down, because it can no longer earn any return, or lost in squandered stock market 'investment' in a casino market they have no hope of profiting in; of watching their parents' health insurance, after paying extortionate premiums all their working lives, be pulled from under them once they actually have need of healthcare. Is this a population that is going to spend and borrow freely?

Once the trap's been sprung, once they see exactly what it is you have in store for them, maybe that plasma TV in their parents' living room that they've seen being repossessed by the bank doesn't appear so desirable. The war on terror was implemented to terrorize our own citizens into handing over their freedoms for security. First, deliberately, during the Bush and Cheney red alerts, yellow alerts, alert alerts, phony, phony phony. And then, by leaving a residue of fear. But fearful populations, populations paralyzed by a continuous campaign of shock and awe, do not respond well to exhortations to eat, drink, and be merry.

We have lost our way because we let evil men lead us down the road of destruction. If we do not bring these monsters to justice, we will not find our way out of the brambles they have purposely planted in our path. We cannot win the future, when we've completely blinded ourselves to the actions of the past that brought us to the dilemma that haunts our present .

Monday, January 21, 2013

An Augur Ration Daze.

The Grim Sweeper.

Today I thought the root word of Inauguration should be used as the topic to guess at what the President's re-inauguration could augur.   It certainly doesn't augur well that no mention is made of the fact that by the time Barack Obama was first elected in 2008, the world as we knew it had already been dramatically, irreversibly, changed. But instead of using that fact, together with the election of our first black president, as a logical start of a New Beginning, it was used instead as a distraction to convince the electorate things would change in response, but in fact, they have not.

Although pundits, politicians, Keynesians, and journalists alike, can ignore the wall of reality slammed into in 2008, capitalism itself, grappling with the unmentioned truth that it no longer needs, wants, nor knows what do with a large and growing number of our citizens, cannot. Something has gone terribly wrong, but no one knows how to address it, never mind reverse it, fomenting an almost impenetrable mindlessness. Rather than try to address the problems of the future by investigating what went wrong in the past, we have, as a country, decided, or glumly accepted, that nothing went wrong: we merely lost a skirmish in our battle to winning the future.

But since, per the dogma of capitalism, markets don't lie, what is it that they're trying to tell us that we have collectively decided to ignore? Can we use them like tea leaves and read the signs they've deposited once their invigorating properties have been drained to the dregs? Naturally, I don't know any more than you. But we both know we can't if we never take the trouble to try.

In spreading capitalism to other countries, it is always assumed we will bring the benefits enjoyed by our citizens to them. But by the very notions and ideas it lives by, why would capitalism want to do this? What benefits are to be derived therefrom? If no effort can justifiably be expended to increase the pleasure or opportunity of citizens in our own country, why is it so desirable to expend huge amounts of the capital their labor has generated in order to do it elsewhere?

Profits, of course. But huge amounts of time, accounting tricks, and energy is expended to assure those profits don't go to our government, nor to us, but only to the People, ie, the transnationals, the only People that count. But just as our People change the countries they invest in, so is that change, most of it alien and unwanted, reflected back onto us. We become more like China, for example: poor, underclass, with no rights, and a high rate of politically-inspired incarceration.

Similarly, we used black funds from the CIA and other intelligence services to secretly fund the Wahhabi school of fundalmentalist Muslim religious indoctrination in Saudi Arabia, and used it to foment cries for a jihad in Afghanistan against the godless Russians. Again those policies get mirrored back onto ourselves, as we nurture our own cult of Fundamentalist murderous-minded Intolerentsia, well-armed and Constitutionally protected. As freedom of Religion gets defended to the teeth, but freedom from religion, especially for those who are the most helpless, children, is castigated.

This has set the stage for the next act.

If we look back at how America was settled and the United States founded, we see the paradigm of private interest, with government support, calling itself Free Enterprise, even as it embroiled the entire population of England in a deadly and bloody War from which, those doing the actual dieing and bleeding, received none of the bounty. They did, however, incur all of the debts amassed from the heavy risks undertaken by private citizens who hid them from those who would be forced to pay the price. Pitt's financial acumen racked up crushing debt for the English treasury in order to pay the huge expenses of a modern war, waged for the benefit of its Aristocracy.

This was called the Revolutionary War. It was, however, as Gore Vidal has pointed out, rather the First American Civil War, for at the time it was fought, the American Colonies were part of England, and many American-born Englishmen fought against their brethren, other American-born Englishmen, as well as English-born Americans and English-born Englishmen.

The next cataclysm in the, by then, United States, was therefore the Second Civil War, fought because the founding fathers enshrined in the Constitution an institution so draconian and evil, it would not be used by any other modern power again, until Hitler: enforced slavery, backed up by the full power of the military, based solely on genetics. Otherwise known as Fascism. Not even Hitler ever enshrined slavery by genetic marker into Constitutional Law.

So while the great military machine we are so proud of, even as it's destroyed Democracy here in order to bring it everywhere else, has been entirely justified by paranoid fantasies that alien invaders were salivating to take over our country, the real danger has always been internal. Because although War has always been the main driver of growth in the US, the rewards reaped had to be shared with the soldiers and the populace, WW2 being no exception.

GW's wars, however, changed that paradigm. Our wars our no longer ours. We don't even fund them. They belong only to Wii the People: Boeing, Caterpillar, Burger King, Starbucks, Mcdonnell Douglas, Raytheon, Microsoft, Dell, Bechtel: it is only those People, not the people, who profit from Civil Wars fomented in other countries all over the globe, but mostly in resource-rich Africa and the Middle east: Iraq, Egypt, Algeria, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Mali, Lybia, Syria, Darfur, Ethiopia .... Divide, arm, and conquer.

But just as we've imported China's uncaring attitude towards poverty and the Fundamentalist, medieval values we first promulgated in other countries, the Civil Wars that the US government, under successive Democratic and Republican administrations, have encouraged, and at times have been the outright cause of, are now preparing the soil and planting the seeds,  by having heated discussions about how arming citizens to the teeth is a demonstration of peaceful intentions, by States' Rights advocacy complete with petitions to secede, by preparing the citizenry, both in rhetoric and armamentaria, for the idea to take root here, that the outbreak of a third Civil War just must be inevitable. It doesn't augur well.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Money Rules: There aren't any.

Central Banking.

"Everybody understands the obvious meaning of the world struggle in which we are engaged. We are defending freedom against tyranny and are trying to preserve justice against a system which has, demonically, distilled injustice and cruelty out of its original promise of a higher justice."

That's an excerpt from chapter one of Reinhold Niebuhr's "The Irony of American History", which sports, on the back jacket an interesting quote: “[Niebuhr] is one of my favorite philosophers. I take away [from his works] the compelling idea that there’s serious evil in the world, and hardship and pain. And we should be humble and modest in our belief we can eliminate those things. But we shouldn’t use that as an excuse for cynicism and inaction. I take away … the sense we have to make these efforts knowing they are hard”,  made by our President's doppelganger, Senator Barack Obama.

When I read that at the beginning of his first term, but after he'd named both Larry Sunmmers and Tim Geithner, and it became clear that the policy of diplomacy-by-assassination was to remain a fixture of foreign policy, I wondered, what's the use of electing an erudite Senator to replace the smirking chimp if he follows the same policies, spews the same language and excuses for Empire, and shows not the least inkling to alter the path down which we're heading?

Well, I have to admit, there is a difference. Watching the line-up of the Republican Party candidates during the debates and listening to their embarrassing rhetoric, in line with what they actually were, more a bunch of hacks shilling sales of their books than serious contenders for the throne, made me realize that, despite the lack of any hope for change, at the least we get a little more respect from the international community.

Niebuhr then wonders whether, "the non-communist world would be in danger of destroying itself as a moral culture in the process of defending itself physically". From what it was purportedly defending itself, he failed to mention. We all know he means communism, of course, but just as the Communists were more of an enemy to their own citizens than to anyone else, the Capitalists are proving far more dangerous, heartless, and rapaciously destructive to the well-being of their countrymen, and especially, to the rest of the world.  So although he was referring to the atomic bomb, his musings prove the huge error in his assuming that, "though confident in its virtue, the victors would also face the “imperial” problem of using power in global terms but from one particular center of authority, so preponderant and unchallenged that its world rule would almost certainly violate basic standards of justice."

He need not have worried. The USAryans side-stepped that dilemma by simply applying a double-standard of justice. The imperial president not only has no foreign power to stay his hand, but the Congressional representatives of the people are simply sitting on theirs. Not that the USAryans that elected those reps don't approve, having convinced themselves of their own virtue, by relegating all morality to the province of sexual infidelities, and removing any moral obligation from the accumulation and disbursement of Money, referring only to its redistribution via taxation as evil. Thus, enabling itself, once the imagined threat of a communistic hegemony was dissolved, to remove all restraints from its behavior and then proceeding to destroy itself, without the need of outsiders, as a moral culture.

Because, as the title of this post suggests, once money rules are discarded, Money rules absolutely and no power is able to stand against its dictates. But, of course, a la Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek, that was the plan all along, the details of which Naomi Klein documents in "The Shock Doctrine", which could have been subtitled: "Jeffrey Sachs Russia while Goldman Sachs America."

In describing the difference between irony and tragedy, Niebuhr  suggests, "that Irony prompts some laughter and a nod of comprehension beyond the laughter; for irony involves comic absurdities which cease to be altogether absurd when fully understood", and yet he can, presumably with a straight face, state that our desired goal is peace and justice, arguing that "the communist doctrine is more explicit and therefore more dangerous. It ascribes the origin of evil to the institution of property. The abolition of this institution by communism therefore prompts the ridiculous claim of innocency for one of the vastest concentrations of power in human history."

Likewise, however, the USAryans ascribe the origin of evil to the institution of communism. The abolition of this institution by capitalism therefore prompts the same ridiculous claim of innocency, now brandished with all the trappings of an arrogant Triumphalism, for the vastest concentration of power in human history.  But, unlike communism, capitalism demands that no restraint be placed upon either its overarching supremacy nor the Ironman's grip it maintains around the throat of Democracy.

As an example of this irony of history, we need only look at the cover of the same May-June 2006 issue of Harvard Magazine in which the Title "Money Rules" (the irony of its double entendre lost on its publishers) graced the last page. There, right under a banner that declared "Summers Resigns Governing Harvard", was a picture of blackened smokestacks spewing filth into the skies, while the title qualmed our climate-change fears with the reassurance that we were "conquering carbon" (whatever that means).

The irony of this juxtaposition is clarified by today's article in Bloomberg that reports how, in China, which the World Bank estimates has 16 of the world’s 20 most-polluted cities and is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, “The number of people coming into our emergency room suffering heart attacks has roughly doubled since Friday when the air pollution became really severe”.

Now, prior to his stint at Harvard, when he was at the World Bank, Larry Summers suggested that, "The measurements of the costs of health-impairing pollution depends on the foregone earnings from increased morbidity and mortality. From this point of view a given amount of health-impairing pollution should be done in the country with the lowest cost, which will be the country with the lowest wages. I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that."

What we haven't faced up to however, is that it is only one globe, so moving those soot-intensive industries to an economy where industrialists need have no fear of an upstart bourgeoisie scrabbling for the right to breathe air that won't kill them, only brings the dangers all that much faster back to our own shores, as we read, on the same Monday morning, that  Global warming is already changing America from sea to rising sea. It "has affected and will continue to affect human health, water supply, agriculture, transportation, energy, and many other aspects of society." The report uses the word "threat" or variations of it 198 times and versions of the word "disrupt" another 120 times, claiming that, "If someone were to list every aspect of life changed or likely to be altered from global warming, it would easily be more than 100."

The rapidity which theses changes are occurring are never blamed on the collapse of the Soviet Union nor the industrialization of Communist China. However, given the words of Summers, and the complete lack of money rules, brings on a positive feedback loop as powerful and unrelenting as that caused by the loss of the albedo effect in the Arctic. Because, although we can move our polluting- industries to China and let them befoul their atmosphere to make our Toys4Tots, it is still, as pointed out in the Ward's seminal book by the same title, Only one Earth.  So "it is only a rough equilibrium of power, a precarious 'balance of terror', that underlies the organized, systematic killing of our own kind".

And, in the ultimate of ironies, with the collapse of the terror of communism, money rules were first ignored, then done away with altogether, resulting in the situation we have now where Money Rules via Terror by waging a War on Terror.

"Our cherished values of individualism are real enough; and we are right in preferring death to their annulment", so long as the death to which Niebuhr refers, is that of everyone else. He then asserts, "we cannot make individual liberty as unqualifiedly the end of life as our ideology", unless, again, it's literally the end of everyone else's life, in which case, we're fine with it. Because it is no accident that Niebuhr never mentions the word 'money' in the whole discussion whereas that's the crux of the matter, that's the basis of the 'cherished individualism' of which he speaks, and the fulcrum on which the materialistic standards of well-being are  leveraged and their success or failure measured.

So much so that, by supplanting the most cherished of values with its means-to-an-end equating of money and terror,  which now rule the world hand in hand, it is now not communism, which is Neibuhr's claim, but capitalism, which threatens to, if it has not already,  become, "a foe who has transmuted ideals and hopes, which we most deeply cherish, into cruel realities which we most fervently abhor." And it has done so by the ideological insanity insisted on by Neo-liberals and Neo-conservatives alike, that restraints be put upon neither its accumulation nor the manner in which it is wielded, because to do so would constrain the liberty of those few who have it, which is intolerable, no matter how much the lack of the same makes a mockery of the very word liberty, to those who don't.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Ordnung Muss Sein.

Darkness at Noon: Krystal Nacht
 In an article published in the Spectator, entitled, "The age of Turboparalysis",  Michael Lind, the Author of "Made in Texas", remarks on the fact that, "The greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression might have been expected to produce revolutions in politics and the world of ideas alike", but has instead only produced what have, at least thus far, been failed attempts to return to what some still consider the Goldilocks economics of the 'Great Moderation'.

Mr. Lind points out, however, that, "political and economic debate proceed as though the bursting of the global bubble economy did not discredit any school of thought", a phenomena that seems to have escaped the notice of the vast majority of our fellow citizens. How can this be? How can the 'Washington Consensus' that so off-handedly decided that the fall of the USSR relegated communism to the dustbin of history, casually proceed with business as usual, simply pretending that the largest financial crisis since the Great Depression that had the effect of transforming every  OECD nation into a centrally planned, militaristic tool of their high-born elites didn't happen, is a viable plan for the future?

Lind notes that, on both sides of the Atlantic, both the left and right wings, far from suggesting new modes of thinking and new, well, anything, have instead regressed to the point where they simply have ended up, "promoting rival cliques of ambitious apparatchiks rather than the epochal thinking the times require".

To answer that question, Mr. Lind posits that the extreme wealth polarization and accelerating inequality produced by, among other things, the middle class abandonment of the underclass, produced a disconnect between the political elite and the polity, but it seems his primary thesis is that, "the power and wealth that incumbent elites accumulated during the decades of the global bubble economy" continues to pervert the economy and forestall any discussion, never mind action, on how to amend the dysfunctionality of the current regime.

However, without arguing with Mr. Lind's ananlysis, it would be remiss not to stop right there and question what drove the powerful elites of the USA, already wielding more influence than any previous power elite in the history of mankind, to put into office a President who would change the world so radically that it is unrecognizable from what it was in 1980 when their push to aggrandize every mode of wealth production and, with the help of the World Bank and the IMF, turn entire economies into stripmining operations dedicated to resource extraction with the profits derived therefrom providing a steady stream of income away from the producers of wealth and into the hands of the aggrandizers.

Although the mechanisms of such policy decisions are described in such books as John Perkin's "Confessions of an Economic Hitman" and Antonia Juhasz's "The Bush Agenda", while its geopolitical and militaristic ramifications are described in Chalmers Johnson's trilogy of books that started with "Blowback", published before 2001, followed by "The Sorrows of Empire", and ending with the 2006 publication of "Nemesis, The Last Days of the American Republic", the reasons for the USA to take such a turn from the post WW2 world of constructive socialistic investment of Federal government monies in public projects, such as the Nuclear power industry, Marshall Plan, and the Moon Landing, all of which were enormously successful in enabling the economic growth of entire geographic regions and countries, while spawning industries that would have been impossible without them, and turning instead, with what can only be described as disastrous consequences, to a regime of private enrichment that deliberately impoverished huge swathes of the population of a Democratic Republic by transforming a vibrant shared-wealth economy into a cheap-labor, low-tax, anemic-growth petri-dish atmosphere in which squabbling over resource limitations that only ruinous investments in dangerous technologies had the slightest hope of alleviating, had to have another deeper, fundamental side to its implementation besides pure mendacity.

Or such was my belief.

The answer, it seemed, lay in the fact that the USA, with less than 4% of the global population, consumed 25% of its resources. And of one of those resources, oil, it was such a major producer, that it was in control of the world price, increasing or decreasing its output in response to demand (OPEC learned from the best).  However, by 1971, The US found itself on the wrong side of Hubbert's peak, and could no longer, no matter how many holes it drilled, increase production enough to satisfy even its own needs, let alone export excess capacity to its now-former customers. Anthony Sampson describes the oil politics of the day in his great book, "The Seven Sisters", referring not to the Pleiades or the liberal colleges of  New England, but to the group of oil companies that controlled 85% of the world's oil supply prior to OPEC:   Anglo-Persian Oil Company (now BP); Gulf Oil, Standard Oil of California (SoCal) and Texaco (now Chevron); Royal Dutch Shell; and Standard Oil of New Jersey (Esso) and Standard Oil Company of New York (Socony) (now ExxonMobil).

It was the collapse of this control, and with it, that of the oligarchic regime that  maneuvered it, that initiated a scramble to maintain their ascendancy and gave rise to the need for a different program, one dominated by a more aggressive projection of power to the places on the globe the oil existed, and enabled by a newly-energized military, the construction of which was to be financed via credit derived from running up huge federal budget deficits, instead of taxation, such that the costs would be levied on future generations, without risking their own capital: Die Neue Ordnung, the name Bush Sr dubbed the strategy, and the exact same phrase that Hitler used in building a third Reich comprised of citizens whose leaders asserted that, "They obey, and that's the main thing", a fact with which WW2 veteran and CIA director GHW Bush was quite familiar.

And that's why we're at the impasse puzzled over by Michael Lind now. Not because there are no solutions nor that a general prosperity, enabled by some of the wonders a still-federal-tax-dollar-enabled industry has wrought since, is impossible. But because all the branches of government and the sinews of industry are now bent in the service of a newly-minted, militarized elite, who find themselves tantalizingly poised on the cusp of realizing all their dreams of using the very burden of the overhang of debt and crushing interest, which the SupraClass themselves caused to be  amassed in their grab for power, as a  fulcrum to divide and conquer the underclasses, thus allowing them to slash and shred the remnants of the social fabric paid for with the lives and blood of FDR's WW2 Warriors.

In the foreword to Rudolf Leonhardt's, "This Germany: The Story Since the Third Reich", the author lists the faults the victors associated with the inhabitans of the Rhineland. Every one of these 'attributes' was proudly paraded on the dais during the Republican presidential debates:

1) Ruthlessness toward the weak. Now a Celebrated ruthlessness.

2) Self-pity, with none left for others: "Blame yourselves"

3) Arrogance: when they can't be arrogant, they are craven: Newt

4) Glorification of War and Militarization.

5) Extremes of cock-eyed idealism or crass materialism; uninformed apathy or hybrid intellectual detachment: Michele Backmann meets William Krystal.

6) Don't know the meaning of freedom:  perverting it instead to mean the freedom of the elites to subjugate the poor, the freedom of a gun-toting minority to hold sway over unarmed, peace-loving citizens, the equating of freedom of speech with money, and the deliberate conflation of Corporations with human beings.

7) They will never be democrats, preferring to be subjects: GW's acolytes.

Thus have we reached the state of affairs we are in now, wherein no real discussion has taken place, because none will be allowed. Our investment in Totalitarianism is too great to go back now, the turn in the road too obscured to enable us to return and find the right path, or a righter path. All we can do now, all we can hope for anymore, is to be able to maintain order, while the results of our calamitous decisions burn the rest of the globe to a cinder while we, of course, entitled, and exceptional, as always, remain aloof in Fortress America, clucking in disapproval at the misguided fools that inhabit the rest of our sorrowful planet.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Anoxic Brain Injury

Inconvenient Truth: Another Al to jeer at.

In John Mauldin's post entitled "Ending the Era of Ponzi Finance", he notes a certain "discomfort among investors and business people everywhere in the world, to whom it is becoming increasingly obvious that "That which cannot be sustained will not be."

I see. So now that it's obvious to business people, we should all sit up and take notice. That Capitalism itself cannot be sustained for the exact same reason, however, should be ignored. That's because what the business people and investors to whom he refers are really concerned about isn't sustainability in the least, but their position on top of the food chain. What is it they fear will topple them from their perch? Why, Government debt. Government debt that, as the article explains, once it grows to more than 90% of GNP, slows the economy down and chokes off the engine of growth.

That sounds reasonable. But, you might ask, isn't the engine of growth itself unsustainable? Isn't the accelerating rate of CO2 production, without which the economies of the world will continue to shrink, unsustainable? Isn't economic growth that's completely dependent on the burning of a depleting energy source, unsustainable? Isn't Capitalism's paradigm, based on increasing population growth until every inch of the planet is overrun by humans and their livestock, unsustainable?

The answer to all of which, as you already know, is yes. But those are all issues that none of those same investors and Business people to whom Mauldin refers, could care a whit, as long as the cash keeps pouring into their investment accounts. But the unsustainable growth in government debt? Well, that's a different story because it threatens them in a way those other minor inconveniences don't.

It betrays an increasing level of desperation when investment newsletters start bandying about terms like sustainability in a Capitalist world that's found no other means of profitability than one that everyone knows is purposely steering the irresistible force of its engine of production into the immovable object of a cement wall of resource scarcity. Hah! Scare City is right, but it's not that that scares them, only the impending calamity of portfolio losses.

Is that too harsh? It may seem to be, but never having occupied the rarefied heights of humanity from where one can peek through the clouds at the creatures below, it hadn't occurred to me that such lofty beings could possibly be concerned about something so mundane, when they have a perspective that should enable them to view a path not taken, a fork up ahead that doesn't take us down the road to destruction, as the one we're on is so obviously heading.

Instead our concerns are, as posted on Facebook by the Atlantic Monthly, "Does It Matter if John Brennan Was Complicit in Illegal Torture?", as they post his picture next to our Assassin-in-Chief, President Obama. So, murdering people, and not being very concerned who is with them at the time, the justification being that if they're in the company of our target, they are just as guilty, since they'll be just as dead, of the same 'crimes', of which neither the target nor his companions have been found guilty, is completely acceptable. But torture? Well, we have to draw the line somewhere.
Sleep deprivation? Unthinkable! Life deprivation? All in a days work.

And as if to slather more icing onto my yellowcake of outrage, which the politics of Empyre (sik) constantly fuel, the person Brennan is in line to replace is, lest we forget, Petraeus, the former CIA director, dismissed, not because he nonchalantly carried out the President's Death wish list, with barely a whisper of protest from the electorate, or the press, for that matter, but because he had sex with someone to whom he wasn't married. Well, for that he must be punished and sent down (not without his generous government pension, of course, as all government pensions are generous, none more so than those going to high-ranking military personnel). Murder? Congrats. Infidelity?  You're fired!

Meanwhle, Al Gore sells Current TV to Al Jazeera and the religious right goes haywire, claiming Al Qaeda is being given a voice on American television, despite the fact that terrorism's only advocate on American TV, as far as my personal witnessing of it, was Pat Robertson, when he called for the assassination of Chavez, the duly elected President of Venezuela, for no crime whatsoever, but simply because he deigned to question the criminal Iraq policies of President Bush.

I know this is more of a rant than a post, but sometimes the incredulity inspired by watching the mental machinations required to maintain the cognitive dissonance necessary for an Empire to maintain the facade of Democracy, reported on by a News media in the hands of the People, (those people being Corporations), lauded by a public boggled by a bewildering array of psychoactive prescription medications can't even be called a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, because it more closely resembles plain old anoxic brain injury.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Whack-a-Mole Duns the Dunces.

I gave my Catatonic, and now she's Skittyfrenic.

On today's post on ckmichaelson's blog, aptly named, "Some Assembly Required", which,for some reason, I've taken up the task of assembling into my own little erector-set-like contrivance, he posted, in the section he refers to as 'Porn-O-Graph', a chart published by none other than that stalwart of Capitalismo, Forbes, a graphical representation of healthcare costs in various countries over the span of their citizens' lifetimes. (Not sure if I can post their content, so had to content myself with posting the link). The graph wonderfully illustrates how the private sector gladly pays for healthcare coverage during all those years little is needed, and then sloughs the rest of the job onto the public sector.  This is called an externality.

Much like polluting the environment, resource extraction, education, and environmental restoration, responsibility for healthcare is considered outside the purview of Corporate balance-sheets. They are instead considered externalities, and need not be included when weighing the costs of pursuing a particular profit-making opportunity. And this may be the way it should be. Perhaps the direct involvement of government officials would indeed make the nimbleness of business that much less adroit. But there's a proviso. You can't depend on society to take care of these more and more burdensome costs and then deny that there's any such thing as society, or go apoplectic, as so many in the business community did, when it's suggested, as it was by Obama during the campaign, that, without us, there's no you.

 Obama's "You didn't build that" meant that businessmen are not solely responsible, and therefore owe the rest of us some thanks, for their success. But Romney changed it to mean Chambers didn't build Cisco, like saying I didn't paint that. Which isn't what he meant at all. He meant, I wouldn't, even couldn't, have painted it if it weren't for you, and just as community fosters art, community fosters business, because obviously without it there simply isn't any raison d'etre.

It's only because artistic endeavor and achievement, outside of the movies, is so denigrated by the vast majority of Americans, that this analogy was not drawn. No one notices that the very characteristics condoned and admired in those who start Small Businesses are all nurtured and encouraged in the arts. Risk-taking, business acumen, receptivity to what the public likes, resource utilization, product creation, manufacture, and dissemination, are all attributes the artist shares with the more hard-nosed, but less aesthetically-inclined, business community.

The same phenomena exists in the political sphere in the form of tax deductions. Comparable to what are called externalities in business are deductions in government. They are a way of getting the rest of the, in this case, tax-paying, community to pay for something you, as a politician, and your constituency, wish to pay for but can't on your own. In other words, just as externalities are expenses sloughed off onto the public by private industry to keep prices down, and used to hide the true costs of any particular enterprise from the public, while forcing those who don't even buy the product to share in the burden, the public sector uses tax deductions shuffled through the labyrinthine tax code to hide the true costs of public programs and incentives for private-industry from the taxpayers.

Now, one of the most astute observations I've ever read was made by Arundhati Roy, when she remarked that you can't have a non-democratic institution in a Democracy, or else all the hard decisions will eventually gravitate to that institution (not verbatim quote, but that's the sense of it). For a good domestic example, one need only look at how the FED is currently using monetary policy to make decisions the fiscally feckless Congress, our"Parliament of Whores" (referred to as such by PJ O'Rourke in his, characteristically hilarious while instructive, book of the same title), is avoiding.Yet this is exactly how, not only Capitalism in general, but Tax-policy, in particular, functions.

Out of this arises our frustrating game of whack-a-mole to which the title of this post refers. Because, since the true costs of everything and anything are purposely camouflaged, the very basis on which Capitalism is purportedly built - price-discovery - is suborned.  And what we're discovering now, although it should have been obvious, having been so politely illustrated to us over the last generation by the dutiful Japanese, is that when you introduce that distortion into the pricing of the very commodity that is the lifeblood of the system, Money itself, it's circulation flows into stagnant pools, or to nurture unwanted growths and cancerous polyps, and is choked off from the healthier organic shoots needed to nurture a vibrant organism.

Thus a myriad assortment of problems arise that one by one you take the hammer to, yet every mole you whack just causes another to pop up, because the poisonous bile flowing through the system can never be eliminated, but is merely redirected, and always with negative repercussions.

Mitt Romney, since he just ran for President, and made public some of his finances, is a perfect example. He deducted millions from his tax liability to give those millions instead to the Mormon Church. Then, as an elder of that church, he directed those dollars, which the other taxpayers of America, amongst them the 40 million people of California, were forced to pay instead, to campaign against proposition 8, which concerned gay marriage. Whether or not you agree with the proposition, the fact remains that those very tax dollars Romney did not pay the federal government, those California voters paid, either in actual taxes to make up the resultant deficit, or in interest payment to service the National Debt, both of which each annual deficit increases.

Thus in this convoluted way were the voters of California surreptitiously forced to pay for the forces in play that were intent on undermining their will.

In another instance, the very Central Bank that is actively engaged in propping up home prices, keeping them higher than they would otherwise be, is undermining federal tax receipts, on which the credit rating of the same government relies, and which, in turn, the continued low interest rates, on which home sales depend, rely on as well. How? Property taxes are deductible from federal taxes. The more home prices rise, the more property taxes rise in response, the deduction of which, has the effect of lowering the amount of total federal tax receipts, threatening that same government's Triple-A rating, and the cost of debt-servicing, which mean it'll need more taxes, or have to raise the debt-ceiling: the next mole on the National agenda we'll be whacking.

War, the ultimate tool for politically distorting the economy to achieve specific results, as opposed to a general prosperity,  accelerates and exacerbates this dynamic, as no one can question the wisdom of these distortions lest their Patriotism be questioned in response. Thus does Whack-a-mole become systemic and ineradicable. Like War itself, it's become such a given, it's taken for granted that this is how life is, and how it will always be, forever and ever, Amen.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Adrift on the Ship of Fools.

Adrift on the Ship of Fools.

Last night PBS broadcast the New Year's celebration in Vienna that took place in the Golden Hall of Vienna's Wiener Musikverein, the home to the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra. As the camera lovingly caressed the interior paintings, and the gorgeously gilded colonnades, the insipid music of a bygone world tinkled throughout the vast golden cavern, and I wondered if anyone in that hall shared my forebodings that 2013, like 1913, has dawned with the Nations of the world poised on that same knife's edge of self-annihilation.

All the ingredients that were in place prior to the Archduke's assassination, have, of course, been stoked to a height of almost hysterical proportions today, namely, Militarism, alliances, imperialism, and nationalism, all of which played major roles in the conflict a century ago. Only now we have the added ingredients of a world awash in armamentaria, a global supply of nuclear-armed missiles, a satellite-enabled strike force, psy-ops, drone-enabled diplomacy-by-assassination, and a spy-network, fully functioning and expanding beyond anything extant at the fall of the USSR more than a generation ago, although it was that particular entity that was the purported reason necessitating its globalized presence.

Yet it is a Mayan prediction regarding 12/21/2012, that had the globe apoplectic about a coming Armageddon, reminding one that although everyone has, so to speak, the whole of mankind's fate within oneself, it, by now, should be apparent, that it has all become too much and nothing works at all efficiently anymore, so, we prefer to forget that "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves" ; the result being that the humanities and humanitarianism, liberals and liberalism,  conservatives and conservatism have all practically become sheer swindles.

Slapping the name of 'reform' on everything now allows reactionary forces to rob entire nations of their economic protections as their savings become another resource to be plundered. As entire industries adopt the new paradigm of, instead of working to make their customers successful - because that will make them successful - Corporations now use their customers as a resource-base to stripmine: destroying them and then moving on to the next Target. This should make obvious the fact that simply letting things happen is ten times more dangerous than doing things! But instead it inexplicably reinforces the somnambulance of  an anesthetized polity.

To whit,  this somewhat stunning anecdotal report from might shed some light: A cargo train filled with biofuels crossed the border between the US and Canada 24 times; not once did it unload its cargo, yet it still earned millions of dollars... The companies “made several million dollars importing and exporting the fuel to exploit a loophole in a U.S. green energy program.” Each time the loaded train crossed the border the cargo earned its owner a certain amount of Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs), which were awarded by the US EPA to “promote and track production and importation of renewable fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel.” Stripmining.

An enormous Shell Oil offshore drilling rig ran aground on an island in the Gulf of Alaska on Monday night after it broke free from tow ships in rough seas, officials said. The rig, the Kulluk, was used for test drilling in the Arctic last summer,  and only thanks to the heroic efforts of the U.S. Coast Guard, 17 crew members on board were rescued and brought to safety. Stripmining.

Because Shell reaps the Federal largesse bestowed on Corporations that explore in new territories, the crew on board, not Shell Oil, pay the cost of The Coast Guard rescue, without which they would have perished, working in order to make a fortune for people sitting comfortably in front of their warm hearths while men risked their lives to pay the taxes that fund Social Security, while those comfortably snug, disconcertingly smug, strive mightily to ensure workers will never receive its benefits. Promises are a thing of the past, and we must ever look forward.

Because rich people regard wealth as their personal attribute. But so do the intractably poor. Everyone is tacitly convinced of it. Only logic makes it obvious that perhaps money may confer some qualities to those who possess it, since money itself can never be a human quality. But closer inspection gives this the lie. Every human nose instantly and unfailingly smells the delicate breath of independence that goes with the habit of commanding, the habit of everywhere choosing the best for oneself, the whiff of slight misanthropy that goes with power, the scent rising from a large and secure income. The very appearance of such beings reveals that they are nourished and daily renewed by an exquisite selection of all the cosmic forces.

But Money circulates close to the surface like the nectar in flowers. Here is nothing of borrowed qualities, nothing second-hand; but destroy the bank-account and credit, and not only have the rich no money left, but on the day they realize they are penniless, they are as a withered flower. With the  same immediacy with which everyone formerly observed the quality of his richness, everyone now observes the indescribable quality of nothingness, which smells like a smouldering heap of manure: insecure, unreliable, inefficient poverty. This is why wealth always maintains its argument that it is a personal, integral quality that cannot be analyzed without being destroyed.

Thus does the Financial Sphere reflect a skewed image of the workers relationship to capital: All the risks are borne by those who have no part in the decision-making, while all the rewards are carried off by those who risked nothing in the bargain. This reflects the state of affairs during that first World War, when the still-reigning monarchs of central Europe, the God-appointed Royalty, ruling by Divine Right, threw tens of thousands of their subjects at a time in front of the cannon and machine guns of  'the enemy', subjects who gladly gave their lives, and then those of their offspring, imagining their own paltry lives, as opposed to wealth, as being but a dream.

The people who possess it, however, exaggerate, on every occasion when they meet people who do not, the trouble that wealth causes them, insisting that labor's specialized skills, if regarded from a lofty enough point of view, being the offspring of ideas, knowledge, talent, and prudence, are qualities that can be bought because they exist in sufficient abundance, whereas the capacity to make use of them presupposes qualities that are possessed only by the few who happen to have been born and bred on the heights.

Thus firmly convinced that it is the man who bestows importance on property and not property on the man, they are convinced that money is not the important thing. It is simply what everyone else wants from them. But a few thousand  or millions here or there, the presence or absence of which a rich man does not feel, can therefore make no difference in the value of a human being, by which they mean to say that they too would amount to as much without money, and they are always hurt if someone thinks otherwise.

But unfortunately, unlike a century ago, today members of what is now the electorate, having endured the political changes that transformed the economy into one dependent on stripmining, have now no money. But they still have the same projects, now unsupportable liabilities, and they have the talent, so feel themselves not in the slightest diminished in value as a result, and nothing seems to them more obvious than to force the rich, to whom money does not matter, to support their projects, as they are always for some good purpose or other, out of this superfluity.

But by demanding money for such socially desirable objects, we put it in a position that is antagonistic to its very nature; for the will of this nature is set on increase, just as animal nature is set on procreation. You can put money into bad investments, and then it perishes on the field of money's honor. You can buy a new car with it, although the old one's good as new; spend it at the most expensive, accompanied by your entourage,  resorts of the internationally smart set, or buy outrageously over-priced art and race-horses, or spend, for a party with hundreds of guests, in a single evening, as much as would keep hundreds of families well-fed for a year. In this manner one throws money out the window like a sower casting seed abroad, hoping it comes in through the door again much increased. But to give it away for purposes and people that are of no use to it can be compared to foully murdering one's money, even if, like time, it isn't actually yours to kill.

And so money plays a role that is subject to rules and is, like a piece on a chessboard, only capable of moves that have been evolved over the course of time: it has been fixed into place like a nail that's been driven into the wall; now that it's in place, nobody notices it anymore. But when credit, which is the new form money has taken in order to free it from its enforced position, tries to serve the same function, or is rallied, via securities, into doing so, then the world is set adrift in a boat no one has any knowledge as to how to sail, and no longer has any place to which it can moor.

It is this perspective that forms the opinion that we sail in the same hazardous seas as those of a century ago, adrift in uncharted waters, but sure, because of new-fangled technology that dazzles the senses, that we can GPS ourselves into a safe harbor. But the future speeds heedlessly forward like a railroad engine that rolls out its track as it goes, where its taking us, nobody knows. And neither does anyone particularly care, as long as, when we've foundered on the unexpected reef that looms up out of unexplored waters, there is plenty of latitude to lay the blame on some other shoulders other than our own.