The Pentagong Show

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

Friday, February 27, 2015

Kerry get out of Ukraine.

The windbag's in from 'murrica, whose people have turned to sheep
You know it sure is hard to believe John Kerry, he's just Obama's drone
His propaganda's toxic, he thinks Donbass he'll defeat
Dressed in his Whitehouse linen, wearing fancy French cologne.

Oh Kerry get out of Ukraine
Poroshenko's who you kill fer
Oh you're a mean ole Yankee, take a hike, do.

Come on down to Dnipropetrovsk ,
And I will call you the offspring of swine
And you'll laugh as it toasts to nothing
Then smash Novorussia down

Let's shoot a round for these freaks and these soldiers
A round for these buried mines
Let's fire another round for Semen Semenchenko
Who keeps me in this bombed-out town

Come on Kerry get out of Ukraine
But please leave us our silver
Oh you're a murderous Yankee, take a hike, do.
Oh please do, Oh please do, Oh please do

Maybe someday you'll give a damn, or maybe you'll just go home,
And spare us your grand hypocrisy, before US power sounds my doom
Yeah let's just talk about fare-thee-wells now, our country's one big War zone
And they're slayin' our wives and children
Sportin' Swastikas as their Rune

Come on, Kerry get out of Ukraine
Cash in your hryvnia for silver
While Governor Gontareva will still let  you

The windbag's in from 'murrica and he's calling it "mission creep"
Oh you know it sure is hard to believe him, he thinks it's "Thunderdome"
Maybe it's been too long a time since he was scramblin' down in defeat
And dirtied his clean white linen
In a Vietnam war zone

Oh Kerry get out of Ukraine
Please don't take our finest silver
Play a different game than chicken Kiev tonight
I said, "Oh, you're a mean ole Yankee, get outta my sight"

Monday, February 23, 2015

I Went to an Oscar Party.

And the Oscar MGMayer Wienner IS ...

I went to an Oscar party, just to piss off some old friends
A chance to share old memories and watch movie clips again
When I got to the Oscar party, they all knew my name
No one recognized me, I hadn't any fame.

It's just not right now, the whole thing's gone to hell
You see, Oscar thinks he's everyone, but he's not even himself.

People came from miles around, everyone was there
With Lupita Nyong'au Klein, there was magic in the air.
We heard bad news from the coroner, much to my surprise
Even Hollywood performers die, though they're immortalized.

Something's not right now, the whole thing's gone to hell
You see, now Oscar's just like everyone, he's just not like himself.

lott-in-dah-dah-dah, lot-in-dah-dah-dah

They replayed some old film reels, but most folks didn't care
They'd rather see Host Harris, posing in his underwear.
I said hello to Marianne, who could ask for Moore?
Although she won for the best actress, her "Thank you" was a bore.

It's not right now, the whole thing's gone to hell
You see, now Oscar's just like everyone, he can't even like himself.

lot-dah-dah-dah (lot-dah-dah-dah)

Stars walked down the Red Carpet, decked out in their Dior's
Despite Ferretti gowns and Bulgari crowns, they looked like 2-bit whores.
If you gotta host an Oscar party, I wish you a lotta luck
But if Calvin Klein's your fashion line, I'd rather drive a truck.

It's just not right now, the whole thing's gone to hell,
When you try to please everyone, you don't even please yourself.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Plastic Rap: Sarandipity.

Add caption

Plastic's ubiquitous presence continues to grow, its pernicious effects though, despite obvious manifestations such as the gyres in the Pacific Ocean, and its less infamous mate in the Atlantic, and documentation such as Chris Jordan's bird photos from the Midway, are very little understood. They are manifested by fish that consume it and in turn are consumed by whales, or by birds that eat it until their stomachs burst, and manufactured on a scale that no "plastic bags ban", such as San Francisco's will put the slightest dent in, such bans being restricted to only the grocery bag. So now, one needs to purchase a paper bag, @ .10/pop, (which, even at that price, doesn't actually cover its costs, it's just a number they picked), and then fill it with plastic bags full of  produce, or rice, or meat, bread, potato/corn chips, cheese (cheese is the best one, as it's wrapped in plastic containing single slices each of which is also wrapped in plastic), plastic containers of peanut butter, coffee, yogurt, milk, margarine, etc, etc, even to the point where now, organic, or whatever makes the Red Mills brand and its competitors of flour, superior, is, instead of the old standby of paper, that Pillsbury and the Supermarkets' brands use, are now lined with plastic as well. So if you decide to Go organic, it's basically just another way to more quickly poison everything else in the environment.

How did this happen? Well, as in all industrial processes, there is waste. Think of the slag heaps of steel mills and the coal ash that just poisoned the river in West Virginia. After oil is sucked from the ground, it goes to refineries where it undergoes a process called 'cracking". Yes, that's right, first it's fracked, then it's cracked into its constituent parts, from which you get heating oil, gasoline, propane, butane, toluene, and  myriad other byproducts, and then, what to do with the rest? Why, in a clever molecular process of polymerization, it's knitted into the material we know as plastic. Extruded. A remarkable instance of turning something that would have been just waste into something useful. Only now, the problem is, that the more oil we burn for those other uses, especially gasoline, the more that's left over to make plastic. All different kinds of plastic, more plastic than  the world could ever reasonably need, such that Capitalism, in it strongest manifestation, as that is where it shines, taking something already concentrated and useless in its current form, into something for which it creates a demand. That's what Union Carbide did with Asbestos, for instance, after they found a mountain of it in Canada, much like the tar sands, but without the necessity of having to pour billions into the process first, (and which its purchaser Dow Chemical is still fighting lawsuits over, believing one can buy the assets of a company, but not its liabilities), since they figured it would be a good ingredient to put in Wall Compound, that material that then gets sanded (whodda thunk?), and the dust, breathed in by the hapless construction workers, had the unfortunate effect of killing them off (which, from the corporate perspective, is perfect. All those pension payouts no longer have to be made, funneling all that cash to the deserving shareholders (well, as it turned out, lawyers and lobbyists) instead).

Much the same is happening now, only this time to all of us, and we're enjoying it. And it's only getting worse, as well as worsted, as it now used in clothing, which, when washed, sloughs off micro polyester threads that get washed into lakes and streams, is ingested by fish, killing them in much the same way as Chris Jordans' birds. And nano beads are now deliberately added to creams to cause derm-abrasion to make your skin softer while you make life harder for your fellow creatures.

And just as Dow Chemical is fighting taking responsibility, that is how all businesses behave. But whereas once governments could at least make token gestures toward ameliorative actions once the environs were poisoned, there are none that now have that power. So whose going to solve this, along with a slew of other dilemmas modern life has seen crop up? There is a saying, with great power comes great responsibility. But in the case of corporations, that translates into their being responsible for creating the problem, but have no responsibility, in either temperament or law, for the negative consequences of their actions. This, like the problems themselves, is also only getting worse, as the Trade treaties that have been "agreed" to since NAFTA, only get more and more secretive, and strip more and more power from the sovereign State, serving as straight jackets that immobilize them from protecting their citizens from anything the corporations find is healthy to their bottom line or shareholder payout.

In this mad mad mad mad world, it is hard to see the terrorists as being the only insane ones, despite the horrors of their actions. On some level what they are doing makes some sense, especially if you consider the fact that the accident in Bhopal was an accident waiting to happen because of the lack of safety measures that should have, and with a less compliant (ie bribed) government, would have, been in place. In other words, Greed was what caused it. And whereas there is no way that mankind can eliminate greed as an ingredient in human beings' makeup, stoking it to the point where it is the predominant component of the economic engine of the world and then stripping nations of the ability of punishing it when it gets out of hand leaves us with the logic of ISIS. There is no one to fight against the destruction such a world can wreak on its inhabitants, so the only ones that CAN fight it are the ones crazy enough to stand up to it. And that sure as hell isn't going to be any politician I know. Do you know any? Someone like Ukraine's Poroshenko, maybe? More likely the notorious Semen Semenchenko; wherein lies the seed of the problem. Only the crazy's who feel that they have nothing to lose dare stand up against the insanity of the world we've created.

So, as yet another refinery goes up in flames, this one in LA, we need to decide: how are we to organize our societies so that they make sense, becasue, right now, they quite obviously do not, yet anyone who points this out is vilified and shut out of the conversation. So what are we to do? Just give up? Just let it go on like this until the endtimes, and let them win; prove them right? Our life, our world, our future, is far too precious, and there's still far too much that is good about it, and Frodo's Sam was right, it's worth fighting for, but not like this. Not like in Syria, or Iraq, or Ukraine, or any of the other places armies are murdering one another in our name to accomplish absolutely zero, in terms of changing anything that needs to be changed, no matter whose army wins. Is this really it? Is this really all we can do? I don't believe it, I really don't believe that, but at the same time I'm at a loss. Paralyzed like the man in the photo, yet,

Still I send up my prayer 
Wondering where it has to go 
With heaven full of astronauts 
And the Lord on death row 
While the millions of his lost and lonely ones
Call out and clamour to be found 
Caught in their struggle for higher positions 
And their search for love that sticks around.     (Joni Mitchell)

There's no one out there who's going to help us. We have to do it ourselves. But first we have to know enough to ask the only one that can help us ... each other.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Jesse's Café Américain: Pictures From a Currency War, With Narrative

Sometimes  others say it better than I can, And so, I thought you might like to read this one, as it's spot on: Jesse's Café Américain: Pictures From a Currency War, With Narrative

Monday, February 16, 2015

Epoque Ellipse Now: A Warped Revolution.

When the Journey is the Destination. 

It's a gorgeous day in San Francisco this Friday the 13'th. Scarily so. Which makes me think of an analogy. A couple of years ago I was coming out of a Rite-Aid, now gone and replaced right across the street by a CVS, (a block away from a Walgreens, a common phenomenon), and there was a woman cursing the unseasonable balminess of the weather, blaming it on Climate Change. Now, whereas I understand her concern, what good does it do to upset yourself over something you can't change? Why not just enjoy the beautiful day?, I wondered.

But, as this blog is evidence of, I do the same thing she was doing, and, I suspect, for the same reason. I sit here at my computer, relatively well off, I have a roof over my head, enough to eat, so, I'm often asked, what's the point of griping? Enjoy it while you can. I get it, and that is a valid point. But it only works if you don't care about anyone else. It only works if you think that this is the only way it can be. And mostly it only works if you really believe that there are not malicious forces at work, in Congress in fact, to rob you of exactly those things you 've worked hard for and have earned.

No matter what you may think of the cause of climate change, and it's so outrageously warm out today, in the middle of February, that it really is a moot point, this is not normal, and the fact that it's becoming so, is silent testament to the act that it's changed, hence the term. This is not the same climate as when I moved here in the 70's. the point being, that no matter how it's been changed, nobody set out to do so. You can believe mankind's had nothing to do with it, as idiotic as that assertion may be, but I can't, in rebuttal, say that mankind's done it on purpose, whereas the trajectory of the economy and of the distribution of wealth in the USA, and now, in the rest of the OECD countries, has been done on purpose, with evil intentions, and those do need to be addressed, although not in the way they are being addressed.

Everyone knows this by now. What they don't know is how to rectify the situation, which is why on so many economic blogs, you see the phrase "Lehman Moment", in lieu of the pre-financial crisis term, "Minsky Moment", but they both have come to mean the same thing, to wit, a collapse of leveraged debt instruments precipitated by the casual, even careless, assumption of risk on the assumption that the way things have been going is the way they will keep on going. A kind of somnambulance of not only the population that has been mesmerized into their stupor, but of the financial elites who rigged the system in order to keep their enormous flows of currencies, from which they skim a larger and larger (as everything in a Capitalist society, from government bureaucracies to the ponzi scheme dynamics of hedge funds) percentage off into their own wealth preserves, such as land, precious gems and stocks in emerging markets, ie diversified out of their own country's currency into safer havens, or at least what's perceived as such, which of course, has the expected and calculated result of destabilizing those currencies, because if you deem it a safe haven, it is completely impossible that other astute observers of the economic nightmare we've created aren't going to come to the same conclusion.

That nobody understands money anymore is best illustrated by trying to make sense of economic opinion mongers like the NYT's Mr. Paul, the Krugmaniac of fiscal imprudence and Fed largesse, who time and again demonstrates his complete lack of understanding of how the banking system works, with today's column no different, as he rails against the other Mr. Paul, the Rand-y one named for an Ayn and echoing a Ryan who rants like an Aryan. Arguing senselessly that the Fed can't be like an overleveraged bank because its liabilities consist of cash (all banks' liabilities consist of  cash), the Fed, like any CB, is simply the bank of last resort, and if it has no well, cash, Mr. Paul, then what occurs is a credit crunch, a liquidity freeze, a well, Bank run, only this time it's the Central Bank to which all of its member banks are running to to cover their positions of badly placed bets that were entered into because of the largess of that same CB/Fed, that has now decided to withdraw it. Or, in the parlance of the financial industry itself, has "taken away the punch bowl", a term that should (but apparently doesn't) put an end to any fantasies of sober-minded banksters. They act, as evinced by their own rhetoric, like a bunch of drunken sailors, the rum they imbibe, however, being in the form of easy money and implicit backstopping of their reckless investments by an out-of-control printing press.    

Anyone knowledgeable about the economic system and how it works knows that this is the dynamic by which the monetary officials direct, analogous to Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac, investment funds, by manipulation of the interest rate. This, despite Mr. Paul's snide assertion that conservatives are, oh just crazy because they believe that "Modern Money" (he never explains what exactly is meant by modern, as opposed to, what, old-school?, money) is defined by conspiracy, which , as in the Freddy/Fannie, scenario, it is. Their bonds were paying more interest because a consortium of private and public "servants" decided that a certain segment of the population should get loans for which there was an increased risk of their defaulting on, yet they would be extended regardless, and the liability, should those loans default, be borne by, not just other purchasers of homes, which is what would naturally occur, (via the mechanism of increased interest rates and/or larger down payment, both of which were impossible because the buyers the industry had targeted could afford neither unless they were manipulated downward) but by the other taxpayers who haven't bought homes as well, via the mechanism of Nationalization. This is the exact nature of conspiracy, as those other taxpayers, whose backs were the ones to bear the brunt of the risk, were completely unaware, in our great Demokracy, of what was being done in their name.

He then continues to ridicule the conservatives for believing that money is the "base of a moral existence". So here we have a self-proclaimed "conscience of a liberal" castigating others for thinking there is a morality that is associated with the creation and distribution of money, leaving one to wonder just exactly  it is that makes Mr. Paul lean left if it isn't the belief that there is a lack of morality to the inequality of income distribution? And if the moral dimension to money is just something to deride, since one could arguably maintain that the only reason for the Krugmaniac's stance on income distribution is rather one of necessity, as how can you run a consumerist economy when the consumers you count on for buying your goods are either bereft of funds or left without any time in which to spend them, then, the very name of his blog belies that fact, because a conscience by its definition , declares a moral dimension to the sphere of economics that any Classical Economist would be the first to treat with the same derision the Krugmaniac resorts to when his arguments lack any semblance of intellectual rigor.

Now why do I let Paul Krugman get to me like this, I've started wondering? Other economists say things just as feckless. But Jim Cramer, for example, doesn't pretend, well, not well enough to believe that anyone, least of all himself,  he's anything but a shill. But Krugman writes for the NYT, for Chrissakes, and all he gives us is party-line blather. He wants the hoi polloi to leave it to economists like him, who've never had to dirty their hands balancing a ledger, or meeting a payroll, insist that their sphere is so celestial that mere mortals like us can't comprehend the complex issues that complicate the subject, and worse, he's convinced it's a waste of time for us to even try. So instead he engages in the worst type of intellectual pandering to the prejudices of the office-clerk, and limo liberals who deride any utterances from the underclass represented by tea-party republicans and their mouthpieces, characterizing it all as mindless drivel.

In other words, it's his blatant dishonesty, cloaked in the shibboleths of liberal economic theory, that distinguish Krugman as as big a con man and media hog as Sen Inhofe, and just as dangerous. Just as blind and unreasoning as Inhofe's insistence that only god can raise the temperature of the earth is the idiocy maintained by the entire economic profession, (well, not Gail the Actuary, Ilargi, of Automatic Earth, or Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism (all women I notice)) take the indoctrinaire step of admitting that energy resources are not just another commodity, but, like water, are in a class by themselves when it comes to economic life, (as water is when it comes to biological life and its processes) that energy, and specifically oil, are simply terms to be plugged into their equations and then Voila, everything's fine again. How this differs from Inhofe's obstinacy escapes me. And not just me. When  you tell a non-economist the fact that oil is considered just one other input to economists' models, like iron ore, they quite literally don't believe it. And you know what? Neither does Krugman. Sean Hannity , now he might. But Bill O"Reilly? No. He's maybe Krugman's doppleganger on the right. He knows better, but it's his business to sell an accepted idea to those already convinced of it, as Krugman does for the left, the difference being that even O'Reilly has come fairly close to admitting it, whereas Krugman, given the more totalitarian bent of the left wing, using "Political Correctness" as a tool to shut up dissenting voices, is straight-jacketed into his role as advocate for the middle class and economic growth via stimulation by Federal Government outlays of money it doesn't have, by assuming even more unpayable debt, and then to simply inflate our way out of ever having to pay it back in anything close to the amounts actually borrowed. (Which would explain, as none of the official excuses do, our insistence on allying ourselves with yet another one of the most corrupt regimes on the planet, Poroshenko's Ukraine, which,  "If you want accounts diverted, storage spaces emptied, black markets stocked, then you call in the experts. Good old Ukrainian corruption will make business entities appear and disappear at 30 frames per second. They can channel diverted monies downstream or upstream in any parallel or perpendicular universe you want. Traditional forensic accounting from the big western banks is rendered completely useless to Ukrainians. This is a land where quadruple book accounting is standard because it is common to steal from the tax man and the boss and the one who thinks he is stealing as a partner, while also keeping track of reality in the fourth book. Adding a fifth and sixth level to fool the various paymasters and contractors from the US will be like taking candy from a baby".

Perhaps adopting this kind of Ukrainian accounting is just fine with PK, as in the middle of his column, he asks, if it were true that the Fed engineered its policies in order to do monetarily what the Congress was neglecting to do fiscally, "is this supposed to be a bad thing?" According to Luis De Sousa, among others, the answer is "Yes!".

Fed  funny-money doesn't work the same as money that is actually accounted for via the process of allocation and disbursement. It take other channels, and those channels all lead to high risk ie, speculative, investments, becasue, in a ZIRP environment, where else would yo  put it? Back into the government bonds that the Fed bought in order to generate the "cash" to begin with? Bonds that, btw, pay less interest than the Fed's projection of inflation in the intervening years between when they were bought and when they reach maturity, so yes,it is a bad thing, and in terms of climate change, it is a disastrous thing, as shown via the fracking diagram below from Souse's article on the shale sub-prime:

One that's closely related to the other subprime problem: car loans, where close to 40% of those loans were extended to sub-prime borrowers in the last quarter of 2014. This sets the stage for the next crash as the rig count plummets, which translates into future production levels decreasing even as the US consumer, and somewhat worldwide, changes their purchases to larger, less fuel-efficient models, guaranteeing a supply-demand mismatch in the not-so-distant future, as consumers once again are stoked into making misinformed purchases. It is precisely the policy of Free Trade and Globalization and reckless monetary expansion undertaken by CB's worldwide that is responsible for the acceleration in the rate of Climate Change such that changes that were not projected to occur until the end of this century are occurring instead at its outset. Changing the entire continent of Asia into a grasping, energy-hungry behemoth of middle class aspirants numbering in the billions of  people in order to export our inflation, our pollution, and our dollars out of the US economy was perhaps not "supposed to be a bad thing" but it was. And the drilling of thousands of wells, causing earthquakes where there never were any and wreaking havoc with the world's oil supply wasn't supposed to cause another financial collapse, but that's what it did. We just don't know it yet, just as in 2005 we didn't know we had reached peak oil production of conventional oil, but we had, nor that that it would result in a financial collapse that would take down every investment bank on Wall St., but it did.

And yet we changed nothing. We doubled down our bets instead. Instead of addressing the increased impoverishment of the vast majority of mankind and attempting to create an economy that might, at least nominally, lift them, or some portion of them, out of total misery, we insist on the pretending to believe that the way things work now is the way they will continue to work and that that is a good thing, and PK is as much an advocate of that mindset as the people he derides, only PK should know better. Does know better.

In a post in August, 2009, I wrote,

In September, in New York, in a marble-fronted, colonnaded building on Wall St that's wrapped itself in an enormous US flag, that both hides and scurrilously boasts of, its scoundrel's heart, there was a sudden crash that was heard throughout the world. The dead and worn out husk of the economy that was had been cracked and split right down the middle. But the living, changing, suffering thing within- the real economy- the one that has yet to be, began slowly to emerge. It came forth into the light of day, stunned, cramped, crippled by the bonds of its imprisonment, and for a long time it'll remain in a state of suspended animation, full of latent vitality, waiting, albeit impatiently, for the next stage of its metamorphosis.

But this next stage was never given a chance to emerge. So much was dependent on the old ways, so many promises had been made that no one knew how they could be fulfilled, so that instead we let ourselves be brainwashed with word magic: "Conditions are fundamentally sound", they said, "I don't anticipate any serious problems among the large, internationally active banks that make up a very substantial part of our banking system", the Fed chairman intoned - by which words they meant to reassure themselves that nothing now was really changed, that things were as they always had been, and how they ever would be, Wall St without end, amen", into thinking that an economy that was continuously degrading the lives of the citizens at its very center who were its most staunch advocates, would somehow change and make prosperous, or even livable, all our lives in the years that were to follow.

But they were wrong. They still do not know that you can't go home again. The USA, and the world, came to the end of something, and to the beginning of something else. But no one knows what that something else will be. Now out of the carnage and the uncertainty, the wrongness of the leaders, grows fear and desperation, and hunger and despair stalks the streets.

The collapse of Lehman's was like the fall of a gigantic boulder into the still waters of a lake. The suddenness of it sent waves of desperate fear moving in ever-widening circles throughout the world. Billions of people still do not know what to make of it, and the waters of the lake have closed over the fallen boulder while most people have gone about their daily work just as usual.

But the waves of fear have touched them, and life is not quite the same. Security, even the sense of it, is gone, replaced with dread and an ominous foreboding in the air. It is in this atmosphere of false calm and desperate anxiety that Obama began his presidency. He had seen the boom-mad economy tottering on the brink of ruin. He had read in the eyes of people on the campaign trail the fear and guilty knowledge of the calamity that was impending and that they are still refusing to admit even to themselves ... especially to themselves.

He knows that they are still clinging desperately to the illusion of paper riches, and that madness such as this is unprepared to face reality and truth in any degree whatsoever. This gives him a premonitory consciousness that he is in for something. For, the "birthers" notwithstanding, he is an American, and, unlike his silver-spooned predecessor, he knows that there's something wounded about America. He knows that there is something twisted, dark, and full of pain which Americans have known all their lives - something rooted in our souls beyond all contradiction, about which no one has dared to write, of which no one has ever spoken.

But instead, we continue to avert our gaze; pretend that all we need is a little more time to get back on track; pretend we believe the next lie that'll salvage the tattered remnants of the myth of American exceptionalism even as that very financial system, for which we've mortgaged the future to save from its own calumnies, continues to deliberately undermine the foundations of technological prowess and Industrial productivity on which that exceptionalism was founded. Yet we derailed from that track, not only because the roadbed was rotten, but because the destination it was speeding us toward was hollow.

And it's that destination that the puerile writings of PK pretend is still valid: the bigger and bigger car, the mindlessly spacious house located further and further from any rational distance to be traveled on a daily basis to get to a desk that has a computer connected to the same phone line as the ones in that house you left to spew carbon into an atmosphere already besotted with it to go to work and then return to everyday to slouch onto a sofa and watch "Survivor" while reading e-mails and cruising FB. The destination has remained the same: isolation, and the pursuit of an island of tranquility for you and your family away from the rest of the steaming heap of humanity above whom you hold yourself as special. Even as billions of others do the same; after all, it only takes a job, or two, well, maybe three for you, well, and your entire family.

That this destination is perhaps not one worth working your entire adult life to attain should be called into question by the very fact that the current feel-good formula for bearing the burden of thankless employment has become,"The Journey is the Destination", so you should enjoy the commute, because you're never going to get to where you're going anyway. But perhaps that's it, perhaps it's called a dream for a reason, and we've been lullabied into believing the children's rhyme that "Life is but a dream", so we shouldn't be surprised when it doesn't turn out as we expected, because dreams never do. But it still seems to me that the endgame doesn't have to be nearly as dire as it's promising to be. All we have to do is dream of a different life, admit that the old dream was never all it was cracked up to be in the first place. The reality of constant war and citizen surveillance as the new normal should be stamping  a large "FAIL" on our current way of doing things, but instead we intensify the two, such that the only thing our politician's promises really pan out to is that this is not as bad as it's going to be. It will only get worse. So Buckle your seatbelts, folks, it's not only going to be a bumpy ride, AsiaAir is piloting the plane.

Monday, February 9, 2015

A Greece Fire Spreads Rapidly: So Quick,Throw Water on it ...

The Dorian Gray Economy's Anatomy.

As the world languidly treads water in its Complacent Sea, the dire signals that were poking out of the fabric of our lives, which we steadfastly refused to cotton up to, at the end of 2014 were muffled by the yearly charade of "Peace on Earth while Goodwill's gone Hunting", the New Year quickly became worse than the Old Year as our resolution has become more focused on the intractable nature of our Monetary Madness by the rise of the Syriza party in Greece and the subsequent announcement of its finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, that, "I'm the finance minister of a bankrupt country."

As many of us remember in 2008 watching agog as the, "Housing in the US never goes down" meme quickly morphed into the equally preposterous, "Sovereign Nations never default on their debt" meme, even as the banks that held that debt were all exposed as being completely insolvent, it is rapidly becoming apparent that the  emperor's clothes are once again shredding in front of our eyes as we once again stare aghast at a sort of Dorian Gray economy that cannot be exposed to even a single ray of light without the cry, "Dead! Dead!" rising to the lips of all who dare contemplate its terrible visage, so horror-stricken are they by the charnel-house aspect of the heap of pus and blood it has become.

Although Greece is the problem du jour, the suppurating pustules of an unsupportable debt bubble burst forth as if from a witch's cauldron, splattering and spattering, tattering the caustic lie they embody as they corrode the entire Global Economic System, as one pock, inevitably the case in any interconnected system, touches the next. As the truth is reflected back from the looking glass in the attic, the withered and sunken aspect of unpayable debt leers out at us with a grimace that has taken on the Dorian Grayish color of sulfurous mud and its intolerable stench pervades every fiber woven into our oh-so-hard to counterfeit counterfeit currencies.

And over his shapeless pulp, this stinking mass of moldy bread in which the features of the sovereigns wink in conspiratorial malice, the features have ceased to be discernible as they have undergone the putrefaction from their grave in dusty vaults where they lie purposely shielded from both the sunlight and the public's view.  As one eye winks the other has completely foundered in the bubbling purulence, half-opened, it looks like a dark decaying hole. A large reddish crust resembling dried blood has started on one of the cheeks and will soon invade the mouth, twisting it into a terrible, bankers' grin. And around this gross and horrible mask of death, the hair, the beautiful golden hair represented by this most startling achievement of mankind, the internet, the repository of mankind's dreams into which its thrown its last hopes, sacrificed its entire legacy of cultural and spiritual treasure, like chests of gold hurried on board a vessel embarking onto treacherous seas, surrounds the visage of ferment that has poisoned the people, with a sparkling stream of blazing sunlight, dazzling them and obscuring the rot that lays at its center.

Because even as Aphrodite is decomposing, her dissembling no longer dissembled about, it is as if the poison she has picked up from too many nights spent scavenging in the gutters of finance as she feeds on the carcasses left there by the roadside of her people's ruined dreams, that ferment with which a whole world has been poisoned, has finally risen to her face and rotted it. The vault is empty, it's debt leaving a black abyss, at the bottom of which not even hope can be discerned. Only a fetid breath of despair escapes into the surrounding miasma of deceit and connivance. Horror-stricken, they all shudder and take flight:

To Berlin! To Berlin! To Berlin!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Who Really won WWII?

"Jeez, he practically bit off my head."
 (You might wanna look again).

I was reading an article about Europe's backing of the Nazi-like Ukrainian regime over the weekend, and was surprised when I read the phrase, "European middle class, numbering 400 million people, making it the most prosperous consumer market in the world ... ". I think I was kind of caught off-guard by the term middle class, because here in the good ole US of A, it's really hard to think of that demographic as anything but the muddle class, insofar as it has no future, and it knows it, even if only on the outer margins of its consciousness, so it was a little surprising that Europe, or at least the writer who thus described it, still thinks it really has one.

The standard of the middle class society wasn't simply an employment guarantee or a minimum wage, but, as Bismark created, and every nation quickly became compared to it as a standard of prosperity, the welfare state, which, before it became redefined by that toady of the Aristocracy, Ronald Reagan, into meaning lazy indolent cheats sucking the lifeblood out of the hardworking middle class, was intent on making into reality a concept of government in which the state played a key role in the protection and promotion of the economic and social well-being of its citizens. He based it on the principles of equality of opportunity, equitable distribution of wealth, and public responsibility for those unable to avail themselves of the minimal provisions for a good life. He did this, not because he was a weak-kneed, pampered liberal, as he was a conservative Prussian, but with the goal of gaining working class support that might otherwise go to his Socialist enemies.

Yes, that's right, everything that is now equated by the rite (sic) wing with Socialism was instituted in order to prevent Socialism. Now, with the brainless worship of Fire-breathing Calvinistic Capitalistic dogma, just as though it were a religion with Money as its supreme being, all those bulwarks of the modern industrial state have vanished along with the, oh that's right, the industrial state itself; and yet we have yet to come to grips with it. There is no middle class, because the industrial infrastructure needed to sustain one has been ripped right out from underneath it.

Then, having come up with the subject for today's post, I just so happened to see, as though the internet read my mind, a topic discussing the fact the the US, by all objective analysis, despite the triumphalism that followed the demise of the USSR, from the state of the Union since then, despite President Obama's sanguine address to the contrary last month, not only lost the Cold War, it has been paying such onerous reparations for its End of History hegemony, that its citizens, far from Bismark's dream, have instituted, with their Empiric ambitions now unthwarted by another pole of power to the East, an Empire that is its polar opposite: it is based on the principle of complete inequality of opportunity with a seated Plutocracy at its head, with society now stratified into rigid economic fiefdoms, completely inequitable distribution of wealth, with the state actively involved in transferring the earnings made possible by labor's output to a tiny elite whom they are now incapable of taxing, even after their demise, as inheritance taxes get rebubbed, "Death Taxes", and a complete denial of any public responsibility for those  unable to avail themselves of the minimal provisions of a good life, or in a growing number of cases, any life at all.

In other words, not because  the US became the world's leading national-security state, consisting of an enormous, constantly growing military establishment, a vast military-industrial complex, supporting an onerous empire of foreign and domestic military bases, resulting in the ever-increasing militarization of American society, with its iconization of the Warrior as "Hero", even if that hero, as so remarkably demonstrated by the Texas Governor's canonization of a sniper, Cris Kyle, demonstrating how our military has morphed into a bureaucracy that is defined by its protection of its personnel above all other things: honor, Law, Justice, or fair play. None of this matters any more, only the murder of anyone who gets in your way via stealth bombing in the dead of night, destruction of civilian infrastructure, assassination by drones by "Warriors" snacking on Taco bells and Mountain Dew, (proving a la McGill University's and Stanley Milgram's electric shock experiments, that people protected by a mountain do precisely as they are told, and push buttons knowing that innocent people will be murdered as a result), kidnapping, torture, or any other method that goes against all the strictures listed in the Geneva Conventions to which the USA is a signatory. As suggested by one of the most famous Nazi's, Goebbels (or was it Goring?), at the Nuremberg trials, "The victors always make the rules, to pretend otherwise is just Anglo-Saxon hypocrisy", as we have now completely Nazified the military into a killing machine, its morality judged only by how well it obeys orders, its soldiers indoctrinated into unquestioning obedience.

But that is not something most US denizens are ready to admit. Most prefer to believe that  we are simply defending ourselves. The military is a necessity in a dangerous, hostile world, and to argue against that stance is to argue for weakness and defeat. Nonsense, I say, but that's a different argument, the military takeover of the US government is such a fait accompli that it's a waste of breath to argue about, like Capitalism itself, it is just a matter of Faith. This time in Military Might and the Will to crush any opposition, even if that opposition was created by the secret branch of the military, the CIA, and not really that secretly, the best example of such being the mujaheddin, who everyone knew we created, (as ISIS was) to fight for the US against the Soviets, such that Afghanistan has suffered the same fate as the US, and mostly at US hands, leaving it a wreck after the ouster of the USSR, in much worse shape, like the US itself, that again, brags about the fact, than it would have been had it left the status quo in Kabul persist in the eighties:

Brzezinski:  "What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?" Yet it is exactly just a bunch of stirred up Moslems that the All-Powerful USA used as an excuse to amass a military so vast and sweeping it has undermined the very economic engine that supports it, instituted a surveillance regime unparalleled in the history of the world, one that would make Hitler jealous, imprisoned without trial or charges citizens of other countries it deemed dangerous yet never felt the need to justify how it came about feeling that way, and gave itself the authority to torture them, deride their religion, even though it was that very religion that it  had  used to stir them up in the first place, and despite declaring a "War on Terror" treating the prisoners that it took in that War, as not Prisoners of War, and therefore not protected as POW's should be. All this, the jettisoning of everything that its citizens held most dear,  All to defend us against "some stirred up Moslems". For whom we are responsible for the stirring up. Never once was that mentioned during the media frenzy following the Hebdo massacre, or 9/11, or the Iraq War, or the invasion of Afghanistan, etc, etc, never is this admitted, never do we ask ourselves, was this a mistake, instead compounding it by putting our soldiers in danger, and it is THAT reason that the above, regarding the Nazification of the US military, has taken place. Because it is only by minimizing the losses that the question about, "Well, what got us into this in the first place?" simply never gets asked.

But even this amorality isn't the problem with Capitalism, hell, it's a feature. No, what demonstrates that Capitalism is completely broken is the utter lack of any of the amenities for which Bismark started the Welfare State. You can tick them off:

Complete failure of health care, even for those working full time jobs, but completely lacking for anyone else. And when I say healthcare, I mean even healthcare insurance. The very instrument that is/was supposed to help make heatlthcare itself available to everyone is now mostly unaffordable (healthcare without insurance is simply not even a consideration: it's so expensive it just doesn't exist). The only people that have access to it are people over 65, to whom any expense, no matter how ridiculous, is countenanced. Some hospitals have entire floors of "patients" who are on life-support, but who have no function left. They never wake up, never even breathe on their own. Think Terri Schiavo, and multiply by tens of thousands. Hospitals, including staff, love these patients, as they never complain, and bring in a steady stream of Medicare dollars. Also insured are prisoners, to whom it is cruel and unusual punishment to deprive them, even though they may have deprived a working citizen of their life. Most people who in fact have healthcare on paper, were they to actually need it, would soon find that the only way they can pay for the "insured" treatment, whose onerous costs are always hidden from the patient until billing time, at which point it is too late, is to take their only option of a crushing loan they will never be able to repay.

Pension. Once, when a company hired you they could offer you a retirement based on what they put away for you during your tenure at the job, that is now gone. Millions to whom it was promised and who worked in good faith to earn it by accepting less pay for their work than they would otherwise have received, when they go to collect it, it's simply unavailable, unless the government has picked it up, in which case, the Pension Guaranty Fund pays at most, 2/3's of what the amount you earned should pay, ie, what you were contractually promised.

Transportation. This sector is the one that's killing everything else, including the planet's other forms of life, because it is for this, the heart of mechanized warfare and muddle-class mobility, that is writing Finis to any hope for a contented life. It leaves no option for contentment, but insists on mindless motion without effort. Everyone knows this, because everyone has seen "other" people act completely insane when someone gets in their way while they are driving. It is the source of many jokes and cartoons, but it isn't actually funny at all. It is unnerving and truly sad to listen to a driver rant at a pedestrian for "taking their own sweet time" as they sit in comfort in a carbon-spewing machine that will, after only a few seconds more of waiting, whisk them off to their destination before the person they've been cursing to hell makes it to the end of the block. But this machine is heavily subsidized by society. Its manufacturers cannot even pay its workers half of what it used to, and its drivers pay no interest on their loans anymore, nor do their insurance rates come close to covering the liability they take on when they get behind the wheel, nor does their cost of fuel cover the costs of bringing it to them: it is heavily subsidized in so many ways yet drivers complain about the smallest rise in gasoline at the pump. Okay, that's a bit harsh, so look at it this way, a country that believed, "What's good for GM is good for the country", at whose heart is the manufacture and sale at a very nice profit and whose main employer was the auto industry, and specifically GM, now has as its main employer Walmart. The employees of Walmart can't even afford to pay for the transit costs to and from work. GM made profits such that it could pay its employees its transit costs, because those commute costs, are a business cost. Walmart can't. Not won't. Can't. Let that sink in. CAN'T. Its business model can't pay for the cost of getting its employees to and from the workplace.  Nevermind health insurance, pensions, sick leave, or vacations. It CAN'T afford it. And that is the nation's largest employer. And that other one? GM? After being bailed out by the US taxpayer, they used that money to build factories in China. That's where the growth is because that's where the manufacturing is.

Water, Electricity, Food, Medicines, even in the face of the strongest deflationary forces in our lifetimes are all, far from going down, going up, and at a rate that starts putting them out of the reach of all but the wealthy, as e.g., supermarkets, disappear from cities and are replaced with specialty shops like Traders Joe's or worse, Whole Foods, where you can  pay for a cut of meat what it used to cost for a week's groceries.

Yet watching the demonstrations brought on by the killing of 12 people, a number by the way that is just another run-of-the-mill gun-toting madman-of-the-month episode for we murder-machine-loving Americans, it looks like outside of the PIIGS, although I  prefer to call them the GIPSI, nations, Europe still actually has a middle class. Those people look well-heeled from here in muddle class 'murica. Maybe it's time to start questioning our role of playing their protector. Let them arm themselves again and blow each other off the face of the earth, as is their wont, demonstrated over and over, instead of shredding the never-perfect, but at least purported, safety net of social programs now being viciously ripped to pieces by Republican demagogues in order to support the nuclear umbrella that serves as Europe's force field, while they enjoy the benefits of middle class existence while we get to live in squalor in rundown cities with dilapidated roads, crumbling bridges and homeless populations getting more desperate and criminalized (there are many cities with laws against lying down, sitting, and some, standing. Standing! oops, sorry, illegal). But that's Okay. We'll send troops and arms to Ukraine, you go ahead and have another cocktail.

So whereas the US was supposed to be this shining example of the wonders of Capitalism, it has proven itself to be instead an example of just what untrammeled Capitalism can do to a nation of people that, despite their problems, looked at themselves as a culture, and a people, to emulate, but that has, since their triumphalist Cold War victory, and their dismantling of any remaining strictures against Capitalism's many known depredations, morphed into a squabbling rabble and increasingly impoverished and illiterate, militarized mob. One that seems much more easily manipulated and less able to think critically or constructively about their place in the world and their need to connect with one another.

Two stories appeared in the papers over the weekend. One showing Pakistani schools arming its teachers against terrorist attacks, the other explaining a Texas law encouraging its teachers to shoot recalcitrant students:

"The proposed law also gives school staff members something no sworn police officer in Texas possesses: Civil Immunity will be granted to those teachers who use deadly force and they will would not be legally responsible to answer for the injury or death of a student in a classroom." The same classroom from which the armed teacher can be barred should he/she use any form of corporal punishment (outside of deadly force, of course), on a student for engaging in disruptive activities.

So the Muslim country with the worst reputation for violence now sounds positively rational (at least their focus was on outside attackers, not their own student body ... which society sounds healthier?) compared to the State from which the President who declared the War on Terror came from. If you think there is not something desperately wrong, this stark reality bite may help you reconsider that.