Saturday, December 16, 2017

(Special Ops Rules Over All?)  Bye Bye Reliable Internet & Monitor WSJ for Reporting by Comcast & Spectrum?  (WAR! What/Who Is It Good For?)  Analysis-Suppressing Mental Munchkin  (Flim-Flammery of Tax Cuts)  Leda & the Swan Redux?  (How It All Happened) Dubya Is Still Either the Dummy or the Smarty (The Enemy of One's Enemy Is . . .?)  


Donald Trump's First Year Sets Record for US Special Ops

Ambassadors of the traditional kind?  Who needs them?  Diplomats?  What a waste!  The State Department?  Why bother?  Its budget is to be slashed and its senior officials are leaving in droves ever since Donald Trump entered the Oval Office.  Under Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, hiring is frozen, which means those officials are generally not being replaced.  (Buyouts of $25,000 are being offered to get yet more of them to jump ship.)  Dozens of key positions have gone unfilled, while the secretary of state reportedly focuses not on global diplomacy or what, in another age, was called “foreign policy,” but on his reorganization (downsizing) of the department and evidently little else.  Across the planet, starting with the A’s (Australia), American embassies lack ambassadors, including South Korea, a country that has been a focus of the Trump administration.  Similarly, at the time of the president’s inflammatory Jerusalem announcement, the U.S. had no ambassadors yet in Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, or Saudi Arabia, among other Middle Eastern states.  It’s quite a tale and it’s being covered as the news story it certainly is.
All of this could be seen, however, not just as the foibles of one president surrounded by “his” generals, but as the culmination of a post-9/11 process in which American policymaking has increasingly been militarized. In this context, as the State Department shrinks, don’t think this country has no ambassadors across the planet. America’s Special Operations forces increasingly act as our “diplomats” globally, training and bolstering allies and attempting to undermine enemies more or less everywhere. We’ve never seen anything like it and yet, unlike the slashing of the diplomatic corps, it’s a story barely noted in the mainstream. Nick Turse has, however, been covering it for "TomDispatch" in a groundbreaking way since 2011. In these years, he’s focused on what should have been seen as one of the major developments of our era:  the phenomenal growth and historically unprecedented deployment of this country’s special operators in an atmosphere of permanent war in Washington
In the post-9/11 years, the once “elite” units of the U.S. military, perhaps a few thousand Green Berets and other personnel, have become a force of approximately 70,000. In other words, that secretive crew cocooned inside the U.S. military has grown as large as or larger than the militaries of countries such as Argentina, Canada, Chile, Croatia, South Africa, or Sweden. Now, imagine that those Special Operations forces, as Turse has again been reporting for years, are not only being dispatched to more countries annually than ever before, but to more countries than any nation has ever deployed its military personnel to. Period. 
Shouldn’t that be a humongous story? We’re talking, as Turse points out today, about the deployment of special ops teams or personnel to 149 of the 190 (or so) nations on this planet in 2017. You can, of course, find articles about our special operators in the media, but over the years they’ve generally tended to read like so many publicity releases for such forces.

That Net Neutrality Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal Was Written By a Comcast Attorney


In the face of widespread opposition, the Federal Communications Commission rolled back net neutrality protections that prevented internet service providers from charging websites for faster download speeds. The vote fell along party lines. But one Democrat, Barack Obama’s former Federal Trade Commission chief Jon Leibowitz, dismissed net neutrality repeal as no big deal in the pages of the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday. He celebrated that the FTC would get restored authority to aggressively police the internet for anti-competitive or unfair conduct.
The op-ed contained an unusual disclaimer:

Mr. Leibowitz was a Democratic commissioner at the FTC from 2004-13 and chairman beginning in 2009. As a partner at the law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell, he represents both technology companies and broadband providers.
The reference to both industries reads as an effort to be upfront about any potential conflict of interest, but also to suggest that Leibowitz has clients on both sides of the issue, so his argument is dispassionate. Tech companies, historically, support net neutrality, while broadband providers oppose it.
But it’s not entirely clear what “technology companies” Leibowitz himself represents. When asked, he directed "The Intercept" to the Davis Polk website, which lists a fair number of tech companies for which the corporate law firm has done business.
However, we do know Leibowitz’s primary broadband client:  Comcast, one of the biggest beneficiaries of the net neutrality repeal.

And for all the holiday excitement provided by women coming forward with their stories of decades-long sexual harassment (and many times outright rape) by bosses, colleagues, and potential employers, we learn why none of them involve the financial industry. At least not yet.

New data suggests that, along with Hollywood, the media, and the restaurant industry, finance might deserve a new turn under the hot lights. A new report from the Government Accountability Office finds that women have made no progress increasing their ranks in management in the financial industry since 2007, with women in New York, home to Wall Street’s power center, faring worst in the country.

Whoops!

Mouse Swallows Fox

And our beloved (/snark) departing Fed chair raises the rates once again by one-quarter point for a month or two before the markets rebel and it is lowered (quietly) again.

The outgoing Chair of the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen, held her last press conference yesterday following the Federal Open Market Committee’s decision to hike the Feds Fund rate by one-quarter percentage point, bringing its target range to 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 percent.
Given the growing reports from market watchers that the stock market has entered the bubble stage and could pose a serious threat to the health of the economy should the bubble burst, CNBC’s Steve Liesman asked Yellen during the press conference if there are “concerns at the Fed about current market valuations.”
“So let me start Steve with the stock market generally. Of course the stock market has gone up a great deal this year and we have in recent months characterized the general level of asset valuations as elevated. What that reflects is simply the assessment that looking at price-earnings ratios and comparable metrics for other assets other than equities we see ratios that are in the high end of historical ranges. And so that’s worth pointing out.
“But economists are not great at knowing what appropriate valuations are. We don’t have a terrific record. And the fact that those valuations are high doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily overvalued.
. . . Yellen makes at least one unassailable admission in this statement:  her economist predecessors at the Fed certainly “don’t have a terrific record” in calling out bubbles – Alan Greenspan being the worst offender.
After presiding over the worst subprime mortgage and derivatives bubble in history on the belief that Wall Street was fully capable of policing itself, former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan had this to say at a House Oversight Committee hearing on October 23, 2008 after his blunder had helped usher in the greatest financial collapse since the Great Depression:
“So the problem here is something which looked to be a very solid edifice. And, indeed, a critical pillar to market competition and free markets, did break down. And I think that, as I said, shocked me. I still do not fully understand why it happened and, obviously, to the extent that I figure out where it happened and why, I will change my views. If the facts change, I will change.”
In the same hearing, Henry Waxman, the Chair of the Committee, had no problem understanding “why it happened.” It was, plain and simple, regulatory capture. Waxman explained:
“In each case, corporate excess and greed enriched company executives at enormous cost to shareholders and our economy. In each case, these abuses could have been prevented if Federal regulators had paid more attention and intervened with responsible regulations…
“For too long, the prevailing attitude in Washington has been that the market always knows best. The Federal Reserve had the authority to stop the irresponsible lending practices that fueled the subprime mortgage market, but its long-time chairman, Alan Greenspan, rejected pleas that he intervene. The SEC had the authority to insist on tighter standards for credit rating agencies, but it did nothing, despite urging from Congress.
. . . “The Treasury Department could have led the charge for responsible oversight of financial derivatives. Instead, it joined the opposition. The list of regulatory mistakes and misjudgments is long, and the cost to taxpayers and our economy is staggering.
“The SEC relaxed leverage standards on Wall Street, the Offices of Thrift Supervision and the Comptroller of the Currency preempted State efforts to protect home buyers from predatory lending. The Justice Department slashed its efforts to prosecute white-collar fraud.
. . . How can it be that just a mere nine years since the second greatest financial collapse in U.S. history, the Federal Reserve, the Federal regulator that oversees the largest bank holding companies on Wall Street with a seat on the Financial Stability Oversight Council, has learned nothing about bubbles.

Read the entire essay here.

Huzzah:  Alabama’s black voters stood up for Doug Jones in a big way, and now the Democratic Party must remember what it owes them, Jamelle Bouie writes. The Republican Party, on the other hand, should see this as a reckoning, but Reihan Salam doubts it will. And Isaac Chotiner proposes — only half in jest — that Doug Jones, a candidate who won in a red state without compromising his blue positions, should consider a run for president.
That was quick:  Jim Newell predicted today that the GOP would push to pass the tax bill before Doug Jones is seated. And this afternoon, Jordan Weissmann reports, House and Senate Republicans reached a deal and announced they were ready to move forward.


Fifty years ago, Otis Redding died in a plane crash at 26. What a waste.

Still sitting and watching the tide roll away. Thanks for the memories, Big O.



And exactly who is receiving those tax cuts? Don't overthink this.

And don't look to the Treasury Secretary for any valid information.

On Monday the Treasury Department released a one-page report claiming that tax cuts would pay for themselves. The document was a shameless attempt to fool the public — carefully worded to imply that economic experts at Treasury (they’re still in there somewhere, maybe locked in a closet) had actually done an analysis to that effect, without explicitly saying so. In fact, there was no economic analysis; Trump officials just made up numbers that would give them the result they wanted.
Even reporters hardened to Trump administration lies seemed shocked by the brazenness of this bait-and-switch. What made Steve Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, think he could get away with it?
Well, one answer is that similar scams on the part of congressional Republicans, Paul Ryan in particular, have generally received highly respectful treatment from the news media. Why shouldn’t Mnuchin imagine he can pull off the same trick?
Actually, he probably can’t. But the truth is that on economic policy, as in other areas, the Trump administration isn’t much of a departure from recent Republican norms. There’s a fundamental continuity in the con jobs:  Mnuchin is basically trying to do a Paul Ryan; he just lacks the acting skills to pull it off.
About that Treasury report:  The department has an Office of Tax Policy, or O.T.P., which provides “economic and legal policy analysis” for tax policy decisions. Normally we’d expect this office to carry out a full analysis of the effects of Republican tax bills, similar to those conducted by Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation and by independent, nonpartisan organizations like the Tax Policy Center.
But either O.T.P. didn’t do that, or it did an analysis that Mnuchin is suppressing. (The department’s inspector general is investigating what actually happened, because Mnuchin repeatedly claimed to have such an analysis in hand.) If the experts actually did do an analysis, they probably found what everyone else has found — namely, that tax cuts come nowhere near to paying for themselves.
. . . In other words, this “analysis” is a sick joke. Why would Mnuchin think he can pull off this scam?
As I said, he probably can’t. But he may be inspired by the example of Paul Ryan, who pulled off similar scams a few years back, fooling much of the news media and even receiving an award for fiscal responsibility from several deficit-scold organizations.
The details of Ryan’s scam were a bit different, but the basic principle was the same. First, tell budget experts to make obviously unrealistic assumptions and estimate what those assumptions would mean for future budget deficits. Then tout the resulting estimates as validation of your plan.  
. . . Oh, and the howling mess that is the current G.O.P. tax plan shows what happens when Ryanesque pretense meets reality.
Yet Ryan’s scam worked. He received years of media adulation; that adulation is the main reason he’s now speaker of the House. Even now, news analyses tend to depict the irresponsibility and incompetence of Republican tax plans as some kind of deviation from Ryan’s past behavior, not its natural continuation.
In fact, you almost have to feel sorry for Mnuchin:  Yes, he’s an obvious buffoon, but his scam isn’t really any worse than Ryan’s. Why can’t he pull it off?
The larger point is that the dishonesty and dysfunctionality of current Republican efforts at tax “reform,” the party’s evident inability to govern in a serious way, didn’t come out of nowhere. Republicans have been heading in this direction for years. Anyone who didn’t see this coming either wasn’t paying attention or was engaged in willful self-delusion, pretending that the G.O.P. was a normal party long after it should have been obvious that it had gone off the deep end.

Think there's even a small chance that the "tax cut" (NOT) bill being readied for President Trump's signature into law might give you a decent amount of money from that "tax cut" to help you get ahead of the present quicksand and expected future calamities?

Good luck!

When Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin claimed that more than 100 people in his department were “working around the clock” on forthcoming analysis regarding the G.O.P.’s tax plan, those he credited with “running scenarios” on the bills were surprised, given that such analysis did not, in fact exist. Their time had been spent, they told "The New York Times," running models on “individual provisions or policy ideas” — a far cry from the detailed, thorough analysis that Mnuchin had repeatedly promised was right around the corner, and would definitively prove that the cuts paid for themselves. With the clock running down and the Inspector General digging into the mysterious case of the missing Treasury analysis, the former Goldman partner turned foreclosure mogul pulled through on Monday with a report clocking in at a single page and fewer than 500 words that says the Senate plan will totally pay for itself — assuming a set of circumstances that are about as likely as Jared Kushner bringing peace to the Middle East.
For real-li(f)e economists and tax experts, Mnuchin’s “analysis” is an infuriating disgrace. “The Treasury’s one-page note is a pathetic joke,” Jason Furman, a professor of Practice at Harvard Kennedy School and former Chairman of Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, told me. “I feel awful for the dozens of talented Treasury economists who have worked for years developing sophisticated models for dynamic analysis and dynamic scoring only to be completely shut out of this process. Instead of doing an analysis, the Treasury Department assumed a can opener, using an assumption they made about growth in the budget they put together long before they even had a tax-reform plan. Then they mechanically calculated the consequences of that growth assumption for the budget finding that the tax cuts pay for themselves, a result that a consensus of top economists in the recent Booth survey rejected.”
As David Kamin, a professor at N.Y.U. law school, put it:  “This is not an analysis of the legislation. It tells us nothing about what this legislation would actually do.” To economist Ernie Tedeschi, the one-pager “reads like it was done over the weekend . . . this report should not be taken seriously. It is not a score. It is not an economic analysis.“ Furman and Tedeschi both echoed the idea that the meager one-pager shouldn’t be viewed as a black mark on Treasury staffers, but as an indication that they were pressured into putting something out that is not backed by economic evidence. “It’s a pathetic excuse for a study,” former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers told me. “I suspect the current staff are not happy that the relevant data has been suppressed in the administration’s attempts to obscure the truth.”
How did Mnuchin & Co. arrive at such a singular conclusion? First, they used the Trump administration’s projections of a 2.9 percent real G.D.P. growth rate over 10 years cited in its 2018 budget. As a reminder, no one, including the the Congressional Budget Office, actually believes that this sort of growth is at all in the realm of possible. As Summers tweeted on Monday, “Why would anyone think it relevant to project tax revenues from a forecast that is outside the range of professional consensus?

If I can assume I could serve at 150 mph, I could derive the conclusion that I could compete with Roger Federer.” Then there’s the even bigger asterisk, which relies on one line about “a combination of regulatory reform, infrastructure development, and welfare reform” and literally no further details. In other words, Mnuchin, et al., feel comfortable saying that the Senate tax plan would raise $1.8 trillion over 10 years through savings derived from plans that — wait for it — do not, and may never, exist. Remember “Infrastructure Week”? The Treasury might as well be saying, “This tax plan will 100 percent work if a million other things that are little more than ideas scribbled on a cocktail napkin happen first.”
Perhaps even more disturbing than Mnuchin‘s declaration that the tax plan will pay for itself presupposing X, Y, and Z, is that line about welfare reform. The administration may not have come up with much on the infrastructure front beyond some prop comedy involving Trump picking up a binder and dropping it on the floor, but it is currently laying the groundwork to hamstring the social safety net. Now, the Treasury is saying that lawmakers must make deep cuts to things like Medicare, Medicaid, and food stamps in order to lower taxes on corporate America without blowing out the deficit.
It’s not totally clear why, at the eleventh hour, when both the House and Senate tax plans have passed through the first ring of fire and are inching closer to Trump’s desk by the day, Mnuchin decided to release this report — probably to get the Inspector General off his back. It’s also not clear if he thinks people will actually believe it, or if he cares either way. As a former Treasury staffer told me, “Tim Geithner used to have a saying, ‘There are people who are here for the scene, there are people who are here for the cause, and there are people who are here for the craft.’ Mnuchin is clearly a scene guy.” In other words, he’s in it for the photo ops with money.

The whole schmear reminds one that this is what you get when you allow rich people to appoint (by allowing them to make almost unlimited campaign donations) the representatives of the citizenry.

They obviously remember how Bush's tax cuts blew a monster of a hole in the budget and got away with it by ensuring that someone else (Obama) would come along after him to repair the damage (out of the lower class' pocketbooks).

One only hopes that Bush's wars will not continue from Obama's clever stewardship to Trump's.

Although, perhaps, that next boom may be the end point of this ownership aversion.


Unlike many, I've always found quite a bit of comfort and enlightenment from the work of Julian Assange. He cuts to the quick, and then gives one the opportunity to bind the gaping wound with stitches of comprehension of how a different approach may bring much better results for all.



Max and Stacy explain the flim-flammery going on with the tax cuts and the FED's Fund Rates and Funny Money.



Our man on the front lines, Lee Camp (did you see him demonstrating against the killing of "Net Neutrality" in front of the FCC?), interviews Richard Wolff about the coming crash as well as exposing the 1% who are just waaiitting for you to die.


As the Trump years continue, we should remember that many of the "Deplorables," designated as such by Hillary Clinton during a presidential debate, believed that they had some good reasons to vote for Trump, who was largely unknown to them outside of his rhetoric (which has proved by now to be just about 180 degrees from truthful).


A classic story may be needed to set our current scene.

The same year that the Kellogg-Briand Pact was signed, William Butler Yeats published a collection of poems called "The Tower." It contains what many consider his masterpiece, the harrowing sonnet “Leda and the Swan.” In it, Yeats recreates the moment in Greek myth when Zeus, the ruling god of Olympus, having taken the form of a swan, rapes the helpless human woman Leda, leaving her pregnant with a daughter.  That daughter became Helen of Troy, whose abduction was the casus belli for the Trojan War.
The poet begins with the victim’s shock and awe:

“A sudden blow:  the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill, 
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.
In the final stanza, Yeats writes:
“A shudder in the loins engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower 
And Agamemnon dead.” 

In those brief words can be read an entire history of war and death, recounted more fully in the 15,693 lines of the "Iliad," all somehow encapsulated in that first act of violence.

I apologize for telling this twice, but don't doubt that those classic tales aren't full of future wonder and aren't classically important.

Tomgram:  Rebecca Gordon, The Annals of Rehabilitation

Posted by Rebecca Gordon, November 21, 2017
Who even remembers that, back in September 2002, Lawrence Lindsey, then President George W. Bush’s chief economic adviser, offered an upper limit estimate on the cost of a future war in Iraq at $100 billion to $200 billion?  He also suggested that the “successful prosecution” of such a war “would be good for the economy.” That December, Mitch Daniels, director of the Office of Management and Budget, contradicted Lindsey, indicating that the real costs of such a war might be only $50 billion to $60 billion. And the top officials of the Bush administration weren’t particularly worried about paying for the occupation that was slated to follow since, as Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz put it in May 2003 after Baghdad had been taken by the U.S. military, Iraq was floating “on a sea of oil.”
Of course, by that pre-invasion September, President Bush and his top officials had already decided to invade, take out Saddam Hussein, and turn Iraq into a bastion of American power in the oil heartlands of the Middle East.  It was just a matter of how and when to make the case to the American people.  (As White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card put it that month, “'From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August.”)
That was a decade and a half ago.  Just recently, the Costs of War project at Brown University’s Watson Institute offered a new estimate of what America’s wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Pakistan will cost the country through fiscal year 2018 and it’s a figure -- $5.6 trillion - that should make your head spin.

It certainly leaves Lindsey’s and Daniels’s estimates in a ditch somewhere on the road to Baghdad.  Put another way, we’re talking at a bare minimum about a cost per American taxpayer since September 12, 2001, of more than $23,000.  Good for the economy?  Hmmm.  And the Costs of War report's estimate doesn’t even include interest on the borrowing that’s taken place to pay for those wars, which, it suggests, is “projected to add more than $1 trillion dollars to the national debt by 2023.”


Worse yet, these days America’s 16-year-old set of wars only seems to be expanding and is now regularly referred to in the Pentagon and elsewhere as a “generational struggle.”  Translation:  we’re still going to be at it in 2027, maybe even in 2037, or 2047, pouring down the black hole of war trillions more in taxpayer dollars that might have gone into the American economy and our crumbling infrastructure.

Isn’t this, then, an appropriate moment to offer a small tip of the cap to George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and the rest of the crew for imagining a world in which such invasions and occupations would lead to the American domination of this planet until the end of time?  It’s in this context that TomDispatch regular Rebecca Gordon, author of American Nuremberg: The U.S. Officials Who Should Stand Trial for Post-9/11 War Crimes, considers the favor Donald Trump has done Bush and the rest of his former administration.  He’s made them look good at a moment when they should look truly terrible.  Ah, Donald, how thoroughly big league of you! Tom
Little League.

Bet that hurts.

On the Rehabilitation of George W. Bush

Say It Again:  The Enemy of Our Enemy Is Still a War Criminal
By Rebecca Gordon
He received a prestigious award from the West Point Association of Graduates. He published a “runaway” bestselling autobiography. Last February, a lavishly produced book celebrating his paintings of Americans who served in the military was, as "Time" put it, “burning up the Amazon charts.”

Still, the liberal media wasn’t ready to embrace George W. Bush - not at least until he made some oblique criticisms of the current tenant of his old position, suggesting that, in the present political climate, “bigotry seems emboldened.” Seems? Have you been to Charlottesville lately, Mr. Bush?


The former president was less tentative on the main subject of his address to a conference on “democracy” he’d organized in New York City:  the importance of free trade and the need for a large American footprint in the world. “We see a fading confidence in the value of free markets and international trade,” he said, “forgetting that conflict, instability, and poverty follow in the wake of protectionism.” More on that speech later.

Not the First Rehab Job

George W. Bush is hardly the first disgraced Republican president and war criminal to worm his way back into American esteem. Richard Nixon remains the leader in that department.  He spent his later years being celebrated as an elder statesman and a master of realpolitik in international relations. In the process, he managed to shake off the dust of Watergate.

In those years, few even remembered that his was the first administration in which both the president and vice president resigned. In 1973, that disgraced vice president, Spiro Agnew, pled guilty to a felony count of tax evasion, but not before he’d bequeathed the English language a few of its most mellifluous sobriquets, among them the “nattering nabobs of negativism” and the “effete corps of impudent snobs” (aimed at those who opposed the Vietnam War).

Nixon’s rehabilitation not only reduced the Watergate scandal in American memory, but also essentially obliterated his greater crimes, among which were these:

* while still a presidential candidate in 1968, he opened a secret back channel to the South Vietnamese government to keep it out of peace talks with the North that might have benefited his Democratic opponent;

* in the war itself, he oversaw the expansion of the CIA’s Phoenix Program of torture and assassination in which, as historian Alfred McCoy has described it, “the formalities of prosecution” of suspected Viet Cong were replaced “with pump and dump - pumping suspects of information by torture and then dumping the bodies, more than 20,000 of them between 1968 and 1971”;

* he also oversaw an expansive, illegal, and undeclared war in Cambodia (which, when it was about to come to light, he described as a brief “incursion” into that country);

* he oversaw the saturation or “carpet” bombing of the North Vietnamese capital, Hanoi, and that country’s major port, Haiphong;

* and he presided over the “first 9/11,” the 1973 military coup that murdered Chile’s elected president, Salvador Allende, ushering in years of terror and torture under General Augusto Pinochet.

And don’t think that Richard Nixon is the only other example of such a post-presidential rehabilitation. Ronald Reagan is now remembered by friend and foe alike as a kind, folksy president and a wily strategist who ended the Cold War by forcing a cash-strapped Soviet Union to keep up with U.S. defense spending and then negotiated directly with Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev. When he died in June 2004, the "New York Times" was typical in the largely fawning obituary it ran, describing him as “the man who restored popular faith in the presidency and the American government.”

That obituary did at least mention the Iran-Contra conspiracy in which President Reagan approved the (illegal) sale of arms to Iran to fund his (illegal) support of the Nicaraguan Contras, the murderous rebel force that sought to overthrow that country’s leftist Sandinista government. “The deception and disdain for the law,” commented the obituary, “invited comparisons to Watergate, undermined Mr. Reagan's credibility, and severely weakened his powers of persuasion with Congress.” An odd set of observations about a man being hailed for restoring faith in the presidency, but consistent with the contradictions inherent in any lionization of Reagan.

Lest we forget, he was also the president who began his first term by attacking unions, starting with the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization, a move which so many years later still results in regular flight delays, thanks to a 27-year low in the number of air controllers. Reagan also inaugurated the mania for deregulation that led to the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s and ultimately to the subprime mortgage crisis and financial meltdown of 2007-2008. His presidency reinforced what would become a never-ending slide in the value of real wages and his tax policies were the starting point for what has, in our own time, become not an inequality gap but an inequality chasm that has now left three men with the same amount of wealth as 160 million Americans. (Not surprisingly, depending on who’s calculating it, the United States either has the world’s highest or perhaps fourth-highest Gini score, a measurement of economic inequality.)

Nixon had to wait many years for his rehabilitation and Reagan’s was largely posthumous.  At a vigorous 71, however, Bush seems to be slipping effortlessly back onto the national stage only nine years after leaving office essentially in disgrace.  He will evidently have plenty of time to bask in history’s glow before the first of those nostalgic obituaries are written.  And for that, he can thank Donald Trump.

W. Redux?

During that October 17th speech in which he criticized Trump without mentioning his name, George W. Bush touted the “Spirit of Liberty:  At Home, in the World." There, he bemoaned the degradation of political discourse by “casual cruelty,” noting that “bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children.” Like the rest of his family, Bush does not share Trump’s aversion to immigrants, so he added that this country seems to be forgetting “the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America.”

Articles in the "New York Times," the "Washington Post," and even the "Guardian" eagerly reported Bush’s implicit criticisms of the president as a hopeful sign of resistance to Trumpism from the “responsible” Republican right. "Politico" simply labeled the event a “George W. Bush Speech on Trumpism,” although much of it was about the decline of democracy in Europe and the value of free trade.

It’s certainly true that his speech included oblique critiques of the man who repeatedly insulted his brother Jeb as “a very low-energy kind of guy” and knocked him out of the race to be the third Bush to sit in the Oval Office, but it’s worth reading the whole address. It’s vintage W. - that is, vintage W. - as a war criminal. He began, for instance, by reprising the lie that “since World War II, America has encouraged and benefited from the global advance of free markets, from the strength of democratic alliances, and from the advance of free societies.”

As Alfred McCoy demonstrates in his recent book, In the Shadows of the American Century, that is a particularly disingenuous description of a 70-year history in which Washington supported and, in a remarkable number of cases was directly involved in, the destruction of free societies. A list of examples would perhaps begin with the 1953 British and U.S.-backed coup against the democratically elected Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh that would install the despotic Shah in power in that country.


It would certainly continue with the 1954 U.S. and United Fruit Company coup against Jacobo Arbenz, the democratically elected president of Guatemala (an early instance of Washington’s post-World War II “encouragement” of anything-but-free-trade); the 1960 CIA-backed coup against, and the murder of, Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba; and the 1973 military coup in Chile. An honest history would also include the active “encouragement” of societies that were anything but free, including those run by juntas, dictators, or military governments in Greece, Brazil, Argentina, the Philippines, Indonesia, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Uruguay, Iraq, and South Korea, to name just a few. Of course, George W. Bush is hardly the first president to lie about the post-World War II record of the United States.  Nor is he the first to suggest that “American security is directly threatened by the chaos and despair of distant places,” which he attributed in his speech to the lack of the democracy Washington put so much effort into destroying in more than 70 countries across the planet.

And don’t forget that it was precisely the pretext of a direct threat to American security that led to the most criminal lie of his career:  the insistence that Iraqi autocrat Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and that the U.S. invasion of his country was justified by a (legally questionable) case of preemptive self-defense. By initiating a war of aggression, by loosing “shock and awe” on the capital of a nation that had not attacked ours, President Bush committed a war crime. Indeed, it was the first in the list of crimes for which the leaders of Nazi Germany were indicted at Nuremberg after World War II:  the ultimate crime against peace.

Few Americans have ever heard of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, but in 1928 the United States signed it and the Senate ratified it by a vote of 85-1. The 50 signatories of that treaty renounced war as a means of settling international disputes and, as the authors of The Internationalists:  How a Radical Plan to Outlaw War Remade the World have argued, by implication made aggressive war a violation of international law. The U.S. Constitution states in Article 6 that “all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land.” By invading Iraq, Bush broke both international and U.S. law.

In addition to his crimes against peace, Bush and his administration were also the authors of such traditionally recognized war crimes as torture and the use of chemical weapons. One of the uglier aspects of the U.S. military’s battle for the Iraqi city of Fallujah was its use of white phosphorus, an incendiary munition. Phosphorus ignites spontaneously when exposed to air.  If bits of the chemical attach to human beings, skin and flesh burn away. The burning continues as long as there is oxygen available, sometimes right into the bone.

In short, isn’t it a little early to begin rehabilitating the man responsible for indefinite detention at Guantánamo, “enhanced interrogation techniques,” and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and at least 150,000 Afghans - not to mention the trillions of U.S. dollars shoved down the memory hole in pursuit of the futile wars that followed?

Leda and the Swan

The same year that the Kellogg-Briand Pact was signed, William Butler Yeats published a collection of poems called "The Tower." It contains what many consider his masterpiece, the harrowing sonnet “Leda and the Swan.” In it, Yeats recreates the moment in Greek myth when Zeus, the ruling god of Olympus, having taken the form of a swan, rapes the helpless human woman Leda, leaving her pregnant with a daughter.  That daughter became Helen of Troy, whose abduction was the casus belli for the Trojan War.

The poet begins with the victim’s shock and awe:

“A sudden blow:  the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

In the final stanza, Yeats writes:


“A shudder in the loins engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.”

In those brief words can be read an entire history of war and death, recounted more fully in the 15,693 lines of the "Iliad," all somehow encapsulated in that first act of violence.
In his poem, Yeats implies that Zeus knows full well the final outcome of his act. Similarly perhaps, the “swans” of Washington in 2003, which was at that time the planet's own imperial Olympus, had more than an inkling of the broken walls, the burning roofs and towers their invasion of Iraq might engender.

As early as 1996, future Vice President Dick Cheney’s fellow hawks Richard Perle and Douglas Feith - who would later join the Bush administration as adviser on the Defense Policy Board and under secretary of defense for policy - helped write a report for Benjamin Netanyahu, who was then running the Israeli government for the first time. Titled “A Clean Break:   A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,” it urged the leaders of Israel’s right-wing Likud party to leave behind the nation’s previous geopolitical strategy by abandoning peace negotiations with the Palestinians and using military means to actively restructure the Middle East in their favor.


Israel,” the authors argued, “can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria.” Such a campaign would begin by “removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq - an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right - as a means of foiling Syria’s regional ambitions.” The ultimate goal was a realignment of power in the region, with Syria destabilized, a monarchy in Iraq, and a new regional alliance among Turkey, Jordan, and Israel.

It would prove to be the geopolitical equivalent of a movie preview. In the wake of 9/11, the same cast of characters would take a similar path in Washington and, in the end, that “rolling back” operation would shake or destroy country after country from Afghanistan and Iraq to Libya and Yemen. Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Syria has certainly been destabilized in ways almost impossible to imagine, through the rise of ISIS (born in an American military prison) and a vicious, multi-sided civil war that, by early 2016, had left more than a tenth of its population killed or injured.  In the process, more than 10 million people, including untold numbers of children, were turned into internal or external refugees.
Netanyahu, in fact, would reject the “clean break” proposal (perhaps because it also suggested that Israel make a clean break with its dependence on U.S. aid), but the neocons were undeterred. In 1998, they resurrected the plan as part of a new pressure group they formed, the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), and presented it to Bill Clinton in a letter encouraging him to direct “a full complement of diplomatic, political, and military efforts” to “remove Saddam Hussein from power.”
Nor were they overly concerned about the legality of such a move, writing that “American policy cannot continue to be crippled by a misguided insistence on unanimity in the U.N. Security Council.” In other words, the country should not be “crippled” by adherence to the U.N. Charter, whose Article 51 prohibits unilateral war making without Security Council approval, except in cases of immediate “individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations.”
Like Netanyahu, Clinton ignored their suggestion. However, the signatories of the letter included many figures who would become key players in the Bush administration, among them Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Undersecretaries of State John Bolton and Richard Armitage, Reagan hold-over Elliott Abrams, and Zalmay Khalilzad, who among other roles served as Bush’s special envoy and ambassador at large for free Iraqis. And it included, of course, Cheney adviser and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, who had prepared a draft of a 1992 Defense Planning Guidance document for President George H.W. Bush in which he argued for the importance of U.S. readiness to take unilateral military action, whether approved by the United Nations or not.

In other words, the top officials of the Bush administration took office already planning to attack Iraq. It only awaited 19 mostly Saudi terrorists hijacking four American commercial airliners on September 11, 2001. That would be the pretext to launch what has become a “generational struggle” that would eventually destroy Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen (and almost as a side dish, Afghanistan), and which now threatens to engulf the entire Greater Middle East, North Africa, and parts of Asia, from Afghanistan to the Philippines, in a set of never-ending wars and spreading terror movements.

All that suffering sprang from the actions of one feckless president and his crew. So what if - after 16 years of fruitless war, 16 years of disintegrating American infrastructure, 16 years of almost unprecedented inequality -- George W. Bush does find Trump’s rhetorical style distasteful? Is that really any reason to turn a presidential war criminal into a liberal hero?
(Rebecca Gordon, a TomDispatch regular, teaches in the philosophy department at the University of San Francisco. She is the author of American Nuremberg:  The U.S. Officials Who Should Stand Trial for Post-9/11 War Crimes. Her previous books include "Mainstreaming Torture:  Ethical Approaches in the Post-9/11 United States" and "Letters from Nicaragua.")



The "Big O."

A true product of American freedom.



Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Real Why of Hillary Clinton's Loss  (Oh, And U.S. Attacking Russia)  There's No 9/11 Here; Move Along  (BitCoin Going to a Trillion Dollars?)



The Billionaire Bonanza report stated: “Our wealthiest 400 now have more wealth combined than the bottom 64 percent of the U.S. population, an estimated 80 million households or 204 million people.” That’s more people than the population of Canada and Mexico combined.
IPS’s Chuck Collins and Josh Hoxie know it is not a “natural phenomenon,” how the rich got rich at the expense of the rest of the population. They say it’s the result of “unfair economic policies that benefit those at the top at the expense of those at the bottom.”
This IPS report, "Billionaire Bonanza," says “All combined, households in the bottom one percent have a combined negative net worth of $196 billion. For comparison, the top one percent, a category holding the exact same number of people, have positive $33.4 trillion in combined net worth.”
______________

Republican House Members Think a $450K Salary is Middle Class

In China, Trump Becomes the Capitulator-in-Chief


Paying Off Post-9/11 U.S. War Debt Could Cost $8 Trillion

The Assault On RT America*
____________

This is America today. And the incompetents ruling incompetents want war with Iran, Korea, Russia, China. Considering the extraordinary level of incompetence throughout the United States, I guarantee you that we will not win these wars.

Just to start with the good news:

In other words, the First Amendment, along with the rest of the US Constitution, has been repealed by Washington’s assertion of raw power, not limited by law or even morality.
I am not being facetious when I tell you “don’t expect to live much longer.” We are ruled by mindless, insane, psychopaths who believe that the US is invulnerable. These dumbshits are likely to get us all blown off the face of the earth.

So, there's a possibility there's a more important national issue than Hillary Clinton's book tour on our agenda right now.

Wouldn't it be mildly humorous if her media-oriented book chat, Trump's international reconciliation farce and the RUSSIA! RUSSIA! RUSSIA! orchestrated furor were all just smoke and mirrors for those eager to put the Russians out of the energy biz?

Those pipelines. Almost like memories from a distant past. But . . . wait . . . .

The U.S. did so much good in Afghanistan, and Iraq, and Libya, and Syr . . . .

The future awaits those not already totally consumed by the smoky mirrors.

One more powerful thought:

Having grown up during the second half of the 20th century, I don’t recognize my country today. I experienced life in a competent country, and now I experience life in an incompetent country.
Everything is incompetent. The police are incompetent. They shoot children, grandmothers, cripples, and claim that they feared for their life.
Washington’s foreign policy is incompetent. Washington has alienated the world with its insane illegal attacks on other countries. Today the United States and Israel are the two most distrusted countries on earth and the two countries regarded as the greatest threat to peace.
The military/security complex is incompetent. The national security state is so incompetent that it was unable to block the most humiliating attack in history against a superpower that proved to be entirely helpless as a few people armed with box cutters and an inability to fly an airplane destroyed the World Trade Center and part of the Pentagon itself. The military industries have produced at gigantic cost the F-35 that is no match for the Russian fighters or even for the F-15s and F-16s it is supposed to replace.
The media is incompetent. I can’t think of an accurate story that has been reported in the 21st century. There must be one, but it doesn’t come to mind.
______________

Want to know the real story of why Hillary Clinton lost? Don't consult the "National New York Times Enquirer."

The Clinton/Obama wing of the party has historically leaned toward reducing government deficits, public/private partnerships, means testing for government services, and as global, interventionist military presence. Politically, it has sought to align itself (and raise money from) corporate interests, Wall Street, and the national security establishment.
Expediency, self-interest, and cynicism play a role in this thinking, but I believe it’s often based on sincerely held beliefs about how the world works — economically, politically, and in foreign policy. I think it’s wrong, but I think it’s sincere.
For their part, many Democrats in Clinton wing  judge the left harshly. They’ve stoked false “Bernie Bro” memes, dismissed progressive proposals as unachievable “ponies,” and liberally thrown “Putin’s Puppet” accusations at those with whom they disagree. They’re dismissive of policies such as Medicare For All, a new Glass-Steagall, the breakup of big banks, an end to job-killing corporate trade deals, and the downsizing of our military and national-security complexes.

My buddy Lee has the rest of the story.





Not to mention the infamous Lionel!



Don't read the comments attached to these videos. They are just TOO RICH (and well-informed)!!!

(e.g., Inisfad  My exact impression:  Brazile did this with the full knowledge and support of the DNC and Democratic elites. They knew of no other way to extricate themselves from the Clinton machine, where they saw that they were losing all support due to this relationship. Brazile was basically ‘used’ to start the severing of this relationship.
or:

SheLikesSteel  Donna Brazile was brought in to sweep the Bernie issue under the rug, and to get him quietly onboard with the Hillary game - which she did. She was also the tried and trusted captain of the DNC who could be counted on to help Hillary cheat her way through the campaign - which she did. Now she releases a book that basically helps the DNC, Clinton, Obama, et al. thumb their noses at America. There's a plot yet to be uncovered in this story.)

And then there's Jimmy Dore (doubling down on the last damage control? P.S. Evidently, according to her memory, she did not write "her" book):



The shouting will not stop until after the hi-jinks of the last election have been truly exposed, and it's difficult to see its normal culmination in lawsuits and/or jail time as almost every institution in the USA! USA! USA! is involved in the charade.

What are the odds of actually disemboweling this beast?

99 - 1?

And why is this dilemma so incredibly important now?


*   . . . Put the censorship campaigns together and the message is clear:  Left-wing critics, already marginalized by the state, must be silenced.
It would seem, given how we are locked out of the corporate media and public broadcasting, that the assault is overkill. But the ideology that sustains the corporate state, the “free market” and neoliberalism has lost all credibility. The corporate state has no counterargument to its critics. The nakedness of corporate greed, exploitation and repression is transparent across the political spectrum. The ideological fortress erected by corporate power and sustained by its courtiers in the press and academia has collapsed. All it has left is a crude censorship.
Complicit in this censorship is a bankrupt liberal class. The institutions tasked with defending press freedom — including the ACLU, Human Rights Watch, the Committee to Protect Journalists and PEN — along with major news outlets such as The New York Times, have served as the corporate state’s useful idiots. Only a handful of journalists, including Truthdig Editor in Chief, Robert Scheer, grasp and decry the very real danger before us.
The charge that RT and these left-wing sites disseminate “foreign propaganda” is the beginning, not the end, of a broad campaign against press freedom. Once this precedent of state censorship is normalized, far more tepid and compliant media outlets will be targeted. Max Blumenthal wrote two good pieces on AlterNet about the puppet masters behind the censorship campaign. [Click here and here.]
The venom of the state toward its critics was displayed in a report by the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent U.S. Elections,” issued Jan. 6. In the report seven pages were specifically directed at RT America, much of the language focused on the journalist Abby Martin. Martin became one of the best-known critics of the corporate state during the Occupy movement. Her show on RT, “Breaking the Set,” which had been off the air for nearly two years when the report was published — a glaring error for an intelligence community awash in budgets of tens of billions of dollars — was denounced as a disseminator of “radical discontent.” The report complained that RT gave airtime to third-party candidate debates. The document attacked RT hosts for asserting that the two-party system does not represent the views of at least one-third of the population and is a sham. It excoriated the network for covering Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street and fracking.
The report charged:

RT’s reports often characterize the United States as a “surveillance state” and allege widespread infringements of civil liberties, police brutality, and drone use.
RT has also focused on criticism of the US economic system, US currency policy, alleged Wall Street greed, and the US national debt. Some of RT’s hosts have compared the United States to Imperial Rome and have predicted that government corruption and “corporate greed” will lead to US financial collapse.

The “Alice in Wonderland” quality of the report would be laughable if it was not so ominous. The United States, in fact, is a surveillance state. Civil liberties have been eviscerated. Police brutality is endemic. Our drone wars have made us state terrorists. The economic structure serves the wealthiest corporations and oligarchs. Wall Street is run by a criminal class. Our debt is unsustainable, especially once the dollar is no longer the world’s reserve currency, and like all decaying empires we are headed for collapse. The DNI report clarifies what the ruling elites fear — not fake news but the truth. And the truth is that the elites have destroyed the country and are traitors to democracy.
The DNI report was followed by a congressional hearing on “Extremist Content and Russian Disinformation Online,” held Oct. 31. Executives of Facebook, Twitter and Google were grilled about their roles in distributing fake news and extremist content that in the words of Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley included “spread[ing] stories about abuse of black Americans by law enforcement.” The executives promised to double down on their censorship, and they did so.
The ruling elites are desperately trying to shift the focus away from the cause of the political insurgencies on the left and the right — extreme social inequality. It is for this reason that critics who highlight and explore the roots and causes of social inequality must be discredited or silenced. If social inequality is accepted as the driving force behind the decay of the American state and the mounting rage of much of the population, then the structures that profit from this inequality will come under assault. All the elites have left is to paint their critics as “agents of a foreign power.”

The United States increasingly resembles a totalitarian state. Our anemic democracy is on life support. A reasoned debate about social inequality or the crimes and misjudgments of empire is becoming impossible. This presages a frightening future. There will be many “good” Americans who, when the history of this moment is recorded, will be responsible. And one day, to their surprise, they too will be victims.
Don't watch this video if you don't want to find out what was really happening to the buildings during the 9/11 attack. It'll inform and perhaps surprise you.





And these testimonies have absolutely nothing to do with why the U.S. has gone to war against most of the world since 9/ll.


Max and Stacy let us into what sophisticated investors think of gold and other old-fashioned investments:










Lee Camp and Company at "Redacted Tonight" provides the last bit of insight we really need to enjoy the irony of existence today in the USA!






Applause! Applause!

But where is Himmler when we need him?


Thursday, October 26, 2017

(Roooskies!) Time To Open Our Eyes and View the Damage? (Obama Exposed As Trumpists Intensity Builds)  Hefner Finally Dies, Will Playboy?  (Affleck Apologizes, McGowan Is Shut Down by Twitter?)  Needing to Rebalance Economy  (With Nothing To Lose, Why Stay?)  Building a More Equitable World  (Max, Stacy, Randy and Noam!)



Rooossia? Hillbots? Bernbots?

Trumpers?

Whom to blame for the 2016 election fiasco?

As a former software "wiz" it's hardly a surprise to me. Many were the days when I spent long hours at my desk "improving" the code, and then being told by my managers (nonprogrammers) that I was wasting my time, baby . . . get over it!

And shit software will still remain more profitable than software that would make our lives easier, better, faster, and safer. And yeah, we would probably have to wait a few more months to get it. It might even need a better business model than collecting and selling your personal information to advertisers and whomever else comes calling.
I could keep writing about this, there’s a career’s worth of pieces to write about how bad software is, and how insecure it makes us, and I have written many of those pieces. But like writing about hackers compromising terrible systems, I don’t want to write the same thing telling you that software is the problem, not the Chinese or the Russians or the boogeyman de jour.
You, the person reading this, whether you work in the media or tech or unloading container ships or selling falafels, need to learn how computers work, and start demanding they work better for you. Not everything, not how to write code, but the basics of digital and internet literacy.
Stop asking what the Russians could do to our voting machines, and start asking why our voting machines are so terrible, and often no one can legally review their code.

And it turns out that many of our regular election participants like it like that.

Don’t ask who stole troves of personal data or what they can do with it, ask why it was kept in the first place. This all goes double for the journalists who write about these things — you’re not helping people with your digital credulity, you’re just helping intel services and consultants and global defense budgets and Hollywood producers make the world worse.


The social mechanisms ensuring the triumph of the money vultures are even more pervasive now. Wouldn't you have thought that shame might have factored into their future actions? Just a little?

Free speech is not supposed to be limited to words that give no offense to anyone. What this definition of free speech does is to eliminate all criticism of wrong or criminal activity and all dissent against war, police brutality, and political, social, and economic programs. In other words, political correctness silences a population. Silencing is permitted regardless of whether the “offensive” statement is true or false. . . . There is no freedom in such a system. As George Orwell said, “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

If the U.S. citizenry don't open their eyes soon and see the devastation that neoliberal/-conism has delivered, there will be no freedom of expression (or middle class) left that matters.

“It’s been my view since circa 2003 that [the oligarchs] would hold up the system with printed money and credit creation until every last crumb of middle class wealth was swept off the table and into the pockets of those in position to do the sweeping.
“Obama delivered nothing on his original campaign promises. He was going to “reform” Wall Street.  But the concept of Too Big To Fail was legislated under Obama, and Wall Street indictments/prosecutions fell precipitously from the previous Administration.
“Obama left office and entered into a world of high six-figure Wall Street-sponsored speaking engagements and to live in a $10 million estate in Hawaii paid for by the Chicago elite (Pritzkers etc).  Now Obama will be paid off $10’s of millions for his role in aiding and abetting the transfer of trillions from the middle class to the elitists. Look at Bill and Hillary – need I say more?  Trump has reversed course on his campaign promises twice as quickly as Obama.  Almost overnight after his inauguration, Trump became a war-mongering hand-puppet for the Deep State’s ‘Swamp’ creatures.
“The media has been willingly complicit in this big charade. Much to my complete shock, Brett Arends has published a commentary on Marketwatch which, from an insider, warns about the media:

‘Do you want to know what kind of person makes the best reporter? I’ll tell you. A borderline sociopath. Someone smart, inquisitive, stubborn, disorganized, chaotic, and in a perpetual state of simmering rage at the failings of the world. Once upon a time you saw people like this in every newsroom in the country. They often had chaotic personal lives and they died early of cirrhosis or a heart attack. But they were tough, angry SOBs and they produced great stories.
‘Do you want to know what kind of people get promoted and succeed in the modern news organization? Social climbers. Networkers. People who are gregarious, who “buy in” to the dominant consensus, who go along to get along and don’t ask too many really awkward questions. They are flexible, well-organized, and happy with life. And it shows.’
“This is why so many reporters are happy to report that U.S. corporations are in great financial shape, even though they also have surging debts, or that a ‘diversified portfolio’ of stocks and bonds will protect you in all circumstances, even though this is not the case, or that defense budgets are being slashed, when they aren’t, or that the U.S. economy has massively outperformed rivals such as Japan, when on key metrics it hasn’t, or that companies must pay CEOs gazillions of dollars to secure the top ‘talent’ when they don’t need to do any such thing and such pay is just plunder.” http://investmentresearchdynamics.com/the-sqeeze-is-on/
The American leftwing has been transmogrified. The left, which formerly stood for “peace and bread,” today stands for Identity Politics and war. The working class has been redefined as “the Trump deplorables” and splintered into separate “victim groups”— women, racial minorities, homosexuals, transgendered. The oppressors are no longer oligarchs who own the means of production. The oppressor is the sexist, misogynist, homophobic, heterosexual, fascist, white supremacist male working class.
. . . By splintering the working class into victim groups, Identity Politics has made opposition to war and income inequality impossible. In place of unity, Identity Politics has dismembered the working class and directed its energies into internal disputes. We now have fistfights in London’s Hyde Park between radical feminists and transgendered activists. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4891484/Fists-fly-politically-correct-rally.html
Diana Johnstone has shown how Antifa, the violent arm of Identity Politics, has turned the leftwing into a suppressor of free speech and a supporter of war. See https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/10/09/antifa-in-theory-and-in-practice/ and https://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2017/10/23/harmful-effects-antifa-diana-johnstone/.

. . . It seems simple enough that if a person doesn’t want to be offended by a speaker, don’t go to the speech. On the other hand, if a person wants to learn what the opposition is up to, why miss the chance? In the end, political correctness is about regulating what can be said and controlling explanations, not about protecting the hyper-sensitive from hurtful words.

Everyone knows the history preceding these events. What is puzzling is the interpretation placed upon them.

Obama is a Right Wing President.  That is all. He is a Reaganite, and to the right of Reagan, but somewhat to the left of the Tea Party, which puts him in spitting distance of Atilla the Hun (his record on civil liberties is, according to the ACLU, substantially worse than George W. Bush’s. He deported more Hispanics than George Bush ever did, etc…)  Obama had plenty of power to make more of a difference than he did, and he chose not to.  In the small things, in the big things, when it came to economic policies and to non identity based civil liberties, he virtually always did the right wing thing.
Obama is the first president in post-war history (and maybe all of history) whose economy gave more money to the top 10% than the entire value of all productivity gains in his Presidency. Even George W. Bush didn’t manage that.

Could Obama Have Fixed the Economy?

by Ian Welsh
October 17, 2017
I want to revisit this. Obama was the last person who had a real chance to change and fix things. A crisis is an opportunity. FDR used the Great Depression to change America. Reagan used stagflation to change America. Bush used 9/11 to change America.
Obama could have used the financial crisis to change America. He did not. That was a choice.
His failure leads straight to Trump and various other pathologies. It is a straight line. Failure has consequences. Belief in the status quo (which describes Obama to the T) has consequences.
So, here’s what I wrote about this November 6, 2014 and many other times…
I’m hearing “Obama couldn’t have fixed the economy.  Wage stagnation is not his fault, it’s been going on for decades!”  (For the record it’s been going on for at least 34 years, probably 39, and for some parts of the population, for 46 (that’s when wages for working class white males peaked.  Which is why they’re pissy.))
This argument is, to give it more courtesy than it deserves, bullshit.  I wrote about this back in 2010, and you can read that article, but let’s run through this one more time, because you will never get good leadership if you keep excusing your leaders for betraying you.

Part of the argument is that Obama couldn’t do almost anything because Obama only controlled the House, the Presidency and didn’t quite have 60 votes in the Senate in his first two years.  Because this is the case, I’ll deal with this argument in two parts.
In the first we will discuss something that needed Congressional approval.
The Stimulus: Negotiating 101, people, is that you always ask for more than you want. Obama asked for too little, and a huge part of his stimulus was tax cuts. Worse than this, his stimulus was structured terribly. What you do with a stimulus package in a recession and financial collapse is you use it to restructure the economy. That means things like moving the entire federal package of buildings over to solar, and buying from American companies. (Don’t even try to natter on about trade deals, the US is more than happy to ignore trade rulings it does not like.) That means putting aside a huge amount of money to refit every American house to run on renewable energy, which are jobs which cannot be offshored or outsourced, they must be done in America.
That means building high-speed rail, and using eminent domain to get it done. It also means moving money off the sidelines which would otherwise sit there by providing a clear direction for the economy so that private actors invest hire and invest
.
Note that Obama did not negotiate properly, he did include a huge amount of tax cuts (right wing ideology), and he produced a stimulus which did not restructure the economy or get private money off the sidelines.  I wrote extensively about this at the time.   None of this is post-facto judgement:
January 5, 2009: The day the news leaked that 40% of the stimulus was tax cuts, I wrote it wouldn’t work.
January 17, 2009: The full details are out, I write: “For ordinary people however, there will be both wage deflation and real asset deflation…
Now, all the things Obama could have done which DID NOT require Congressional approval:
Prosecute the Bankers: This is an executive decision.  Entirely an executive decision.  There was widespread fraud, and no senior executive on Wall Street could credibly claim to not know of it.  Seize their emails, indict them under RICO statutes (ie. take away all their money and force them to use public defenders), and throw them in jail.  Do not let them get off with fines that are less than the profits made, effectively immunizing them.  This means they will keep doing fraudulent and destructive things, because doing so made them personally rich.
Oh, also, there are now fewer, bigger banks.
Take Over and Break Up the Banks: The Federal Reserve had trillions of dollars of toxic sewage on its books which it borrowed at par, which could not sell on the market at par. But Ian, you cavil, “the Federal Reserve is independent of the President.” No. The President can fire any member of the Board of the Federal Reserve except the Chairman for cause and replace them. Letting the financial collapse happen might qualify as cause. Even if Bernanke refused to leave, he would be outvoted on every issue by Obama’s people. Once you control them, you return all the tosic sludge to the banks. They go bankrupt. Which leads to:
Make Stockholders and Bondholders Take their Losses: Yes.  This will wipe them out. That’s the point. The problem with the rich isn’t primarily that they are rich, it is that wealth allows them to largely control the government (I trust this is non-controversial. If it isn’t, I hope you’re on the payroll and paid to believe such sewage.) Making them take their losses breaks their power. Once their power is broken, it’s a lot easier to get everything else done. This is also a popular move. (There are ways to fix the pensions which go bankrupt, another time on that.)
Using the Banks you Took Over and Broke Up, Lend!  These banks are now under Federal control. They do what the President wants, when the President wants it done. They start lending to create small business, rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, move to renewable energy, and so on and so forth. (Read THIS, for what the US needed to do at the time. Again, written at the time.)
There are many other things Obama could have done, that he chose not to do.  It is entirely fair to judge Obama on the economy because not only did he never do what was needed to fix it, he did not even try.  Everything he did that was supposedly to fix the economy was insufficient and he was told so at the time by people who had been right about the oncoming financial crisis, in advance.
Even in small things, like aid for homeowners, the Obama administration, even when it had both the authority and the money (which it did), chose to do as little as it could
.
Obama is a Right Wing President.  That is all. He is a Reaganite, and to the right of Reagan, but somewhat to the left of the Tea Party, which puts him in spitting distance of Atilla the Hun (his record on civil liberties is, according to the ACLU, substantially worse than George W. Bush’s. He deported more Hispanics than George Bush ever did, etc…)  Obama had plenty of power to make more of a difference than he did, and he chose not to.  In the small things, in the big things, when it came to economic policies and to non identity based civil liberties, he virtually always did the right wing thing.
Obama is the first President in post-war history (and maybe all of history) whose economy gave more money to the top 10% than the entire value of all productivity gains in his Presidency.  Even George W. Bush didn’t manage that.
Yes, stagnation of wages and wealth, and even the drop of both in many sectors while it concentrated in the hands of the rich is something which has been going on for decades. It is hard to stop.
But, because of the financial crisis, Barack Obama had the opportunity.  Calls against TARP were running, according to my sources, 200:1 to 1200:1 against. It failed to pass the first time.  Nancy Pelosi said she would not pass it if an equal proportion of Republican House members would not vote for it also.  They refused to do so.  It would have died except for one thing: Obama twisted arms to make it happen.  As the Presidential candidate (and likely future President), he had the ability to do that, and he did.
Again, Obama did not fix the economy because he did not want to. Or rather, keeping rich people rich was  more important to him.  You can argue, if you wish, that he was not willing to break up the banks because it would have been catastrophic.  That argument cannot be dealt with fully here, without doubling the length of an already long essay, but I will be gauche and quote myself, once more, from 2008:

Now it’s the US. America can try and sweep this crisis under the carpet and pretend there isn’t a huge overhang of bad loans and worthless securities. If it does so, the best case scenario is that the next twenty years or so will be America’s Bright Depression (Stagnating economy). Best case.
I will tell you now that the best case has not happened.  As the charts in this post show, the economy stagnated for ordinary people through the recovery and boom of this business cycle.  During the recession there will be job losses again. Most of them will not come back in the next recovery and boom, and neither will wages.
This is Barack Obama’s legacy.  Those like Paul Krugman (what happened to Paul?), who pretend that Obama is a great president are laughable.  History does not grade on a curve “well, we aren’t all chewing on our boots”.  Obama had a historic opportunity to be the next Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Instead, he chose to save the rich, and let them eat everyone else.  This was a choice, he could have done other things.
Nor is this a noble failure:  he did not try.  He did not use the real tools he had at his disposal.
I note, finally, again, because I know most readers will have heard over and over again that Obama saved you from armaggedon, that the US economy cannot be fixed until the wealth, and therefore power, of the very rich is broken. It can not be done.  However bad you think it would have been if that had been allowed to happen, this economy will continue to get worse because it was not done.
Read the entire essay here, and if you have a spare moment, go on over to Ian's place and thank him for his courage in pursuing the truth for so many years. And read his Comments section for some of the best economic analysis you've been offered since Bush II was king. Two examples follow:

I wrote:  “The big problem with Obama is the same problem Hillary has:  his economic advisers are Democratic versions of “neo-liberal” radical free marketeers, so it is going to be the major intellectual breakthrough of their lives to have to admit that most of what they know and believe about economics is wrong.”
On April 22, 2008, I argued that it was necessary to Euthanize Wall Street to save the economy: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/04/22/501153/-Euthanize-Wall-Street-to-save-the-economy
I cited the Federal Reserve Board’s Report on the Condition of the U.S. Banking Industry for the second quarter of 2006, which showed that derivatives holdings of the 50 largest bank holding companies totaled $117.6 trillion, and that those derivatives had no relationship to their ostensible purpose: to make it easier, or less risky, to provide loans. I cited a February 2007 Federal Reserve Bank of New York Staff Report, Credit Derivatives and Bank Credit Supply, which reached the same conclusion, though the banking jargon used tried to obfuscate the point. I cited a February 2005 report by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Consolidation in the U.S. Banking Industry: Is the Long, Strange Trip About to End?, which concluded that mergers of banks were driven more by “empire building and increased managerial compensation” than economic efficiencies. And I ended by outlining the need for a financial transactions tax. 
After Lehman Brothers imploded in September, I reposted most of that article in Let Wall Street Burn http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/09/17/602022/-Let-Wall-Street-Burn
Pissing away $700 billion http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/10/30/11112/750
posted 10/30/2008 – On how inadequate the “stimulus” was:  Debunking the Great Myth of the Financial Markets http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/5/24/105511/478 posted 05/24/2009 – Presents the evidence that the financial system no longer serves the function of credit mediation for an industrial economy, but in fact is looting the industrial economy.
Roosevelt created 4 million jobs in one month http://www.dailykos.com/story/2010/1/8/101352/1485 posted 01/08/2010 – intended to show what could be done if there was will to do it.
_________
Let’s cut to the chase. Obama did what a self-professed “moderate 1985 Reagan Republican” would do – ensure that the biggest corporations the world has ever seen remain viable while sacrificing those that service the lower classes. Everything he has done since has only increased the security of said organizations against the rise of an angry populace. It was what Obama was paid to do with being the first non-100% Anglo to hold office as President.
Let’s take another glance at American History. After the nation wiped out the Native peoples and stole their lands, there was nothing left within our borders for the wealthy to grow their fortunes to their satisfaction. Enter the Imperialists, delivering new opportunities for exploitation by stealing a major chunk of what remained of Spanish possessions.
We are at such an impasse again. The nations friendly to corporatist exploitation have essentially been tapped out. Nike shoes are no longer sufficient to keep Vietnam on the side of Uncle Scam, so now the US is supplying patrol aircraft and the latest in electronic surveillance equipment so PRV can sting the dragon for us. The US is waging a “war on terrorism” in order to have an excuse to go after the oil reserves of Muslim nations not friendly to corporatism. The Ukraine has been thrust into the breech as the excuse to attack Russia, whose economic growth threatens to violate the Wolfowitz Doctrine that no nation can be allowed to become more economically powerful than the US.
There are so many more examples of the US positioning itself to exploit all of the natural resources of the world for the sole benefit of “American” multinational profit. The US is going to war to dominate and control the world, and no one - especially not the lackeys of the EU - will be immune from delivering tribute to Neo-Rome.
Once this is accomplished, the global thieves will only have each other to devour. Like the elite of the Middle Ages, they will wage war upon each other for increased dominance over the rest. He Who Dies Owning Everything is the goal – and mere humans mean nothing to them.
_____________

Who's left?

Is anyone left?

Oppenheimer: If you had asked me that two years ago I would not have had an interesting answer. But now, it seems like we are in this moment "maybe it isn’t premature to call it a left-wing resurgence. The left seems to be influencing the public debate in ways that it hasn't in a long time. That hasn't played out at a concrete policy level yet, but it is influencing the discourse."
The contest between Bernie and Hillary has divided leftists and liberals in a way that is really evocative of some of the periods I write about in the book, of the thirties, the sixties and seventies. In a lot of ways it is a comparable dynamic to what produced some of these apostates from the left.
Jaffe  Presumably, anybody who is going to read your book knows who Ronald Reagan is. But, we really don't do a very good job in this country of talking about history. There are probably a lot of people who don't know who Whittaker Chambers is. How do you convince those people that they should care about these people and why they are relevant to today?
Oppenheimer: Chambers had such a dramatic life and he was a spy, so it was easy to make him interesting. He had very public confrontations with Alger Hiss. Hiss, a high-ranking State Department official, was accused of being a Communist spy; Chambers testified against him. It was the trial of the century.
I thought Burnham was a fascinating character. He was part of this small Trotskyist world, which seemed kind of romantic and absurd. There is not a lot written about him, so I gave him a long chapter.
Activists who were or are deep in the weeds in Occupy Wall Street or Black Lives Matter might read the Burnham chapter and think, "Yes, I totally see how these small little groups where people totally orient their lives around them will produce these odd inside cultures where people are getting incredibly fierce about stuff that seems incredibly abstruse to anybody outside."
_________

Puerto Rico is our current perfect example of what Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine foretold.

Ian Welsh pinpoints the publicly unmentionable national theft:

The disaster relief has been bungled. It shouldn’t primarily be a matter of money in any case, the island should be flooded by work crews from all over the US with the materials they need to do the repairs, and the necessary heavy equipment to clear blockages, while large airlift is used to get to areas that are more remote.
This is a logistical exercise, the US has the capacity, and the US has chosen not to use the capacity, it is that simple.
As for the debt, most of it should simply be forgiven. The US government has the ability to do that.
We have a weird idea that debt is sacrosanct in our society, an idea which is totally out of whack with what makes good societies or good economies.
Good economies are based on easy debt forgiveness. People who lend money have a responsibility to not over-lend, and if they do, they deserve to lose their money. If you lend money to deadbeat Uncle Bob, you don’t expect to get it back. If you lend money to someone already in hock to three other loan sharks, well, you’re probably not getting that money back.
Excessive debt cripples people and economies, making them unproductive. Easy bankruptcy removes the debt so they can move on, and it also removes lending ability from people who have proven they have bad judgment about who to lend to.
Easy bankruptcy doesn’t mean “keep everything”, but it does mean keep everything necessary for economic and personal viability. In personal terms, tools and primary residence and car and so on. In government terms, all the lands and buildings and equipment and so on required for the government to do its job.
Puerto Rico is an economic cripple. It doesn’t have the resources to fix itself, DC refuses to send sufficient help, and more debt isn’t going to fix its problems, any more than more debt has helped Greece.
Pathetic.

Hush up, Rose!

And all the rest of you broads.

Because, after all, who is more at risk than women during these turbulent times?

As a victim of this type (and several others) of assault, I think I see the connection.

Does anyone else?

Just how much further do these stories need to go to make an impression on the public at large?

Actor Rose McGowan, one of the accusers of disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein, has had her Twitter activity suspended. McGowan had earlier tweeted “fuck off” to actor Ben Affleck and accused him of lying about his knowledge of Weinstein’s history of sexual misconduct.
. . . McGowan has been a vocal figure in the Weinstein scandal since the New York Times broke the story last week and has been using Twitter to express her support for other women who have come forward, as well as to attack those who she sees as being complicit, including the Weinstein Company board of directors and high-profile Hollywood figures such as Matt Damon and Affleck.
On Wednesday, Affleck apologised to actor Hilarie Burton for groping her during an appearance on MTV’s Total Request Live in 2003. He had earlier published a statement condemning Weinstein for alleged acts of sexual harassment, prompting the Twitter responses from McGowan, who claimed Affleck was aware of the mogul’s behaviour.
McGowan has been one of the most high-profile actors to have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct, alleging the film producer sexually harassed and assaulted her when she was in her early 20s. She reportedly received a settlement of $100,000 from Weinstein over an incident that took place while she was filming the movie Scream in 1997.
. . . The move by Twitter is likely to reignite controversy over its free speech and harassment policies, after the company recently said it would not ban Donald Trump over his tweets apparently threatening war with North Korea.
_____________

Diogenes is still searching.

So few honest (powerful) men.

So little time.

This past week was not a good week for women. In the United States, it was reported that a man who allegedly raped a 12-year-old girl was granted joint custody of the resultant eight-year-old boy being raised by his young mother.
Earlier in the week, the severed head and legs of Swedish journalist Kim Wall, who disappeared after entering inventor Peter Madsen’s submarine, were discovered near Copenhagen. A hard drive belonging to Madsen, Danish police said, was loaded with videos showing women being decapitated alive.
A Swedish model received rape threats for posing in an Adidas advertisement with unshaven legs. The University of Southern California’s dean of medicine was dumped after reports resurfaced that he had sexually harrassed a young medical researcher in 2003. A number of men at liberal publications were revealed to have contacted Milo Yiannopoulos, urging him to attack women – “Please mock this fat feminist,” wrote a senior male staff writer at Vice’s women’s channel, since fired. And, of course, movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was described by the New York Times as a serial sexual harasser; his alleged offences, according to a TV journalist, including trapping her in a hallway, where he masturbated until he ejaculated into a potted plant.
This week, the New Yorker ran a follow-up story by Ronan Farrow (the biological son of Woody Allen, who has repudiated his father for his treatment of his sisters), expanding the charges women have made against Weinstein to include sexual assault. He quotes one young woman who said “he forced me to perform oral sex on him” after she showed up for a meeting. She added, “I have nightmares about him to this day.” Weinstein denies any non-consensual sex.
Saturday 7 October was the first anniversary of the release of the tape in which the United States president boasted about sexually assaulting women; 11 women then came forward to accuse Donald Trump. And last week began with the biggest mass shooting in modern US history, carried out by a man reported to have routinely verbally abused his girlfriend: domestic violence is common in the past of mass shooters.
Underlying all these attacks is a lack of empathy, a will to dominate, and an entitlement to control, harm and even take the lives of others. Though there is a good argument that mental illness is not a sufficient explanation – and most mentally ill people are nonviolent – mass shooters and rapists seem to have a lack of empathy so extreme it constitutes a psychological disorder. At this point in history, it seems to be not just a defect from birth, but a characteristic many men are instilled with by the culture around them. It seems to be the precondition for causing horrific suffering and taking pleasure in it as a sign of one’s own power and superiority, in regarding others as worthless, as yours to harm or eliminate.
Or perhaps it’s an extreme version of masculinity that has always been with us in a culture that gives men more power and privilege than women; perhaps these acts are the result of taking that to its logical conclusion. There must be terrible loneliness in that failure to perceive or value the humanity of others, the failure of empathy and imagination, to consider oneself the only person who matters. Caring about others, empathising, loving them, liberates each of us; these bereft figures seem to be prisoners of their selfishness before they are punishers of others.
. . . It’s the authoritarianism of violence that seems too often overlooked, the acts that are the opposite of the democratic ideal that all people are created equal, with certain inalienable rights. There is no greater authoritarianism than that of someone who violates the will, the body, the wellbeing, or takes the life of another. The crimes in question, from sexual assault to mass killings, seem designed specifically as assertions that the perpetrator has the power of a god, the victims are powerless.
That powerlessness of others seems to be desired and relished in these cases. It’s time to talk about the fact that many men seem erotically excited by their ability to punish, humiliate, inflict pain on women – the subject of a lot of porn. When you jerk off while cornering an unwilling woman, you’re presumably excited by her powerlessness and misery or repulsion. Another of Weinstein’s victims told the New Yorker, “The fear turns him on.” Fox News founder and CEO Roger Ailes took pleasure, according to his victims, in degrading the employees he sexually exploited and harassed. Journalist Gabriel Sherman reported in 2016, “The culture of fear at Fox was such that no one would dare come forward” until Gretchen Carlsson broke the silence with a lawsuit. This year several black employees sued the network for racial discrimination.
We’ve also recently had a host of obituaries for Hugh Hefner. Some included the arguments that Hefner and his magazine were harmless or liberating. But they insisted that women were for men to use if they met a narrow definition of attractiveness, and to mock or ignore if they were not. While often portrayed as part of the sexual revolution, the magazine and Hefner were instead part of the counter-revolution, figuring out how to perpetuate women’s subordination and men’s power in a changing era.
The young women who lived in – and sometimes described feeling trapped in – the Playboy mansion were there to please the old goat at the centre of it and his friends, and not the other way around. Some of the playmates ended up dead – Dorothy Stratten’s face blown off by an estranged ex-husband at 20, Paula Sladewski’s body found “burned beyond recognition” in a Miami dumpster, and so forth. News anchor – and Roger Ailes victim – Andrea Tantaros said of the Fox network, “behind the scenes, it operates like a sex-fuelled, Playboy mansion–like cult, steeped in intimidation, indecency and misogyny,” which is not an endorsement of the Playboy mansion.
There is a solution, but I don’t know how we reach it, except in a plethora of small acts that accrete into a different world view and different values. It’s in how we raise boys, in what we define as erotic, in how men can discourage each other from the idea that dominating and harming women enhances their status. Perhaps it’s in young men in power learning from the fall of Roger Ailes, Bill Cosby, Bill O’Reilly, and now Harvey Weinstein – and myriad Silicon Valley executives and more than a handful of academics – that women have voices and, sometimes, people who listen believe them, and the era of impunity might be fading from view. Though the change that really matters will consist of eliminating the desire to do these things, not merely the fear of getting caught.
He's so sorry now.



Are we catching on yet?

The power structure certainly has.

People in search of a miracle voted for Brexit.

None found so far.

People generally didn’t go to Blakenall Heath unless they came from there. Unemployed men would sit around in their front gardens on discarded sofas, looking bored. Some of my parishioners spent all day in their dressing gowns. Burned-out cars decorated the roadside. Back then the vicarage was ringed by flats whose residents would frequently shoot at each other with air rifles. At night, the pellets would ping off our roof. Even the local police didn’t like going into Blakenall Heath. It was treated as a ghetto.
Blakenall Heath seethed with the anger of the unheard. And that anger found its way into my bones. It wasn’t just about the poverty. It was deeper than that. As the months went by, I began to get some sense of what it felt like when nobody listened to or cared in the slightest about what you said. It felt like no one gave a shit. Every now and again the place would show up on some list of crap towns for posh people to snigger at. Other than that, you weren’t noticed.
In Blakenall Heath my politics changed. Both theologically and politically, my student liberalism had few answers for a place like this. Indeed, I began to suspect that the broadly progressive version of capitalism that I had accepted might even be a part of the problem. These weren’t the “left behinds” – a term that implies that with a quick hop and a skip they might just catch up. This place was the inevitable byproduct – waste product, even – of market forces, and the price that more prosperous parts of the country had secretly accepted as worth paying for the many other benefits that capitalism delivered to them. The problem was systemic.
In Walsall, 67.9% voted leave in the referendum, on a huge turnout. And then, this year, they voted out Walsall North’s longstanding Labour MP, David Winnick, who had campaigned to remain in the EU. Remainers will never understand what went on here if they think it’s just about money. Homo economicus – who seeks to optimise their economic prospects through rational self-interest – doesn’t live in Blakenall Heath. Homo economicus doesn’t buy his cooker through weekly instalments at BrightHouse at 69.9% APR. A remain campaigner told me about a doorstep encounter he had on a bombsite of a council estate in the Midlands. “You have a lot to lose financially if we leave the EU,” he explained, rationally.
“Oh, yes,” she gestured to her run-down surroundings, sarcastically. “I could lose all of this?” Which is why Brexit pub logic goes something like this:  so what if the country collapses economically? At least then they will know what it feels like to be us.
Remain still don’t get why so many people voted leave. They keep repeating that it is the poor who will lose out the most, appealing to Homo economicus. They keep believing that it was stupidity or gullibility that made poor leavers side with dangerous fools like Boris Johnson. But that is not going to cut it. The people who really hate the way Brexit is going are the people who have got something to lose. When you have nothing to lose, being told you could lose it all doesn’t really count for much. Which is why the more Nick Clegg and his Waitrose friends speak of the coming apocalypse, the more some will feel:  fine, bring it on.
This logic has understandably panicked the progressive middle classes. But the language of the cliff edge offers little fear to those well practised at falling off it. And until we find a radical way to rebalance our economy, such that all share in its benefits, the middle classes will find that democracy will sometimes hand power to those who are perfectly prepared to play chicken with economic failure.
Comments:
It's revealing that the 'progressive liberal' argument over Brexit is generally predicated on neoliberal ideology. Everything is reduced to basic, and base, economic argument.
Sadly, the neoliberal corporatism of the past 30 years has created precisely the body of disenfranchised voters described above who are utterly immune to this appeal to the very forces that put them where they are.
I think it's nearly impossible for those who have lived and prospered under the system of corporatism fostered by both the Tory Party and the EU to comprehend that there are a huge number of people who would gladly see that entire system burned to the ground without a moment of remorse.
Well written, but I don't think the 'equality of misery' argument quite as simplistic as the author suggests. Leave voters aren't necessarily saying 'things can't get any worse' and taking aim at their nose to protest about their faces. There is a little more logic to it than that.
The plight of ruined post-industrial areas came about because of a political and economic philosophy that claimed it was a good idea to allow, or even encourage, the demise of mass-employment industries.The argument was that we would be better off packing airline meals and manning call-centres and that advanced economies could never compete when it came to labour intensive, heavy industrial work (Germany didn't get the memo). And having shed millions of jobs, the next smart step was to import millions more workers.
This wasn't just 'Thatcherism', it became the conventional wisdom of all three parties and mainstream economics. Brexit is a backlash against globalisation, mass immigration, liberal opinion and conventional politics. The EU neatly encapsulates all those betrayals. Of course people voted against it.
Is it very stupid of me to ask why people would stay in such a place if it has no future.
The poverty trap. You can't leave, you can't afford to. So you stay and become poorer, or at the very least remain as poor. Whole families can't decamp, can't pack the truck and head out west. A single person might but they would likely find precarious work, they have to live somewhere and that takes up an enormous amount of a small wage so there is still nothing to contribute to the family waiting back home. It's never about people moving, it should be about bringing work back into the communities
No, they could just abandon their communities and way of life and become the sort of itinerant, low wage human capital that the EU wants to service its corporate dream.

Lee Camp, as usual, sings our civilization to its demise.

Not willingly.


But don't listen to Jimmy Dore.

You might learn something new.

And much too disturbing.

















Max and Stacy (Keiser and Herbert) have the last word.

Oh yeah!


And did I mention that I met Max and Stacy at our favorite cheap0 store the other day?

SO MUCH FUN!!!!



Also, did I forget to mention that the brilliant Randy Voller was the featured guest addressing how we could decently run healthcare for all U.S. citizens?

Still feeling the BERN!







Surely.


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