|May the source be with you, but remember the KISS principle ;-)|
|Contents||Bulletin||Scripting in shell and Perl||Network troubleshooting||History||Humor|
Skepticism and Pseudoscience > Who Rules America > Neoliberal Brainwashing
|News||An introduction to Neoliberalism||Recommended books||Recommended Links||Neoliberalism war on organized labor||Neoliberalism as Trotskyism for the rich||Globalization of Financial Flows|
|Brexit as the start of the reversal of neoliberal globalization||Neoliberal rationality||Neoliberal "New Class" as variant of Soviet Nomenklatura||Neoliberalism and Christianity||Key Myths of Neoliberalism||Ayn Rand and her Objectivism Cult||Anti-globalization movement|
|Zombie state of neoliberalism and coming collapse of neoliberalism||Pope Francis on danger of neoliberalism||Over-consumption of Luxury Goods as Market Failure||Definitions of neoliberalism||Neoliberal Brainwashing||Neoclassical Pseudo Theories||US Presidential Elections of 2016 as a referendum on neoliberal globalization|
|Media-Military-Industrial Complex||Neocons||New American Militarism||Casino Capitalism||Neocolonialism as Financial Imperialism||War is Racket||Inverted Totalitarism|
|Financial Crisis of 2008 as the Crisis of Neoliberalism and shift to neo-fascism||Neoliberal corruption||Financial Sector Induced Systemic Instability of Economy||Corruption of Regulators||"Fight with Corruption" as a smoke screen for neoliberal penetration into host countries||Deconstructing neoliberalism's definition of 'freedom'||Resurgence of neofascism as reaction on crisis of neoliberalism and neoliberal globalization|
|Alternatives to Neo-liberalism||Elite Theory||Compradors||Fifth column||Color revolutions||Key Myths of Neoliberalism||Audacious Oligarchy and "Democracy for Winners"|
|If Corporations Are People, They Are Psychopaths||IMF as the key institution for neoliberal debt enslavement||Gangster Capitalism||Neoliberalism as a Cause of Structural Unemployment in the USA||Neoliberalism and inequality||Blaming poor and neoliberalism laziness dogma||Corporatist Corruption: Systemic Fraud under Clinton-Bush-Obama Regime|
|Peak Cheap Energy and Oil Price Slump||The Deep State||Predator state||Disaster capitalism||Harvard Mafia||Small government smoke screen||Super Capitalism as Imperialism|
|The Great Transformation||Monetarism fiasco||Neoliberalism and Christianity||Republican Economic Policy||In Goldman Sachs we trust: classic example of regulatory capture by financial system hackers||Ronald Reagan: modern prophet of profligacy||Milton Friedman -- the hired gun for Deification of Market|
|Libertarian Philosophy||Media domination strategy||Neoliberal Brainwashing -- Journalism in the Service of the Powerful Few||YouTube on neoliberalism||History of neoliberalism||Humor||Etc|
Even though I agreed with him, I warned that whenever someone tried to raise the issue, he or she was accused of fomenting class warfare. “There’s class warfare, all right, "Mr. Buffett said, “but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning."
Make no mistake, the neo-Liberal fuckers are just as bad as the Stalinists
GB: once a great cultured nation, now a poorly-educated gangster mafia state, ruled by oligarchs and inhabited by soccer hooligans
Greatly simplifying Neoliberalism = Casino Capitalism = "Transnational elites, Unite!" It is a neo-Trotskyism with the word "proletarians" substituted by the word "elites" in famous slogan "Proletarians of all countries, Unite!" and permanent "Color revolutions" as a variation and enhancement of Trotsky idea of "Permanent revolution"
Neoliberalism is a very interesting social system which by-and-large defeated and replaced both New Deal capitalism and socialism (and facilitated the dissolution of the USSR by buying out Soviet nomenklatura, including KGB brass). It is the only social system in which the name of the system is somehow is prohibited by MSM to mention. In this system, like under Stalin's version of socialism, the state play the leading role in enforcing the social system upon the people, brainwashing them with wall-to-wall 24 x 7 USSR-style propaganda an, if necessary, by state violence (As Sheldon Wolin mentioned neoliberalism try to use violence selectively, as overuse of state violence undermines the social system, see Inverted Totalitarism).
Instead of regulating predatory tendencies of capitalism like under New Deal, state became just a corrupt policeman that serve large corporations and against the people. In this sense any neoliberal country is to certain extent is an "occupied country" and the neoliberal regime is occupying regime, much like Bolsheviks (with their theocratic state) were in USSR space. Much like during Robber barons era, when the state helped to squash West Virginia miner upraising in 1912-21.
The neoliberal state justifies its decisions, policies and rules in terms that are commensurable with the logic of markets. Neoliberalism might therefore be defined as the elevation of market-based principles and techniques of evaluation to the level of state-endorsed norms. To the level of a secular religion in which "market" and "competition" are new deities.
Neoliberalism radically transforms welfare state. The idea of welfare is not abolished. But under neoliberalism only corporations are desirable welfare recipients and the bigger they are, the more handouts they suck up.
In labor relations neoliberal pursue a staunch anti-unit stance. Labor is atomized, unions suppressed and individuals put on the market "naked" on conditions dictated by employees. Which means squeezing goo paying job in favor of terms and contractors, outsourcing and other anti--labor measure designed to preserve falling profitability in the market condition characterized by falling consumer demand (due to lower standard of living for the majority of population). And this is done at any cost. Even at the cost of human life. That situation gave rise to the term "naked capitalism".
Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. that gave a rise of verious (often stupid) metrics and cult of "performance reviews". It redefines citizens as consumers, who exercise they political power mainly buying and selling, the process which supposedly rewards merit (producing market winners) and punishes inefficiency. It postulates a primitive (and wrong) dogma that “the market” always delivers benefits that are superior and could never be achieved by planning. Which is definitely untrue for military contractors. In a way "market" under neoliberalism is a kind of "all powerful deity". Which makes neoliberalism a variation of a secular religion (compare with "God building" faction of Bolsheviks Party which included such prominent figures as Lynacharsky). As such neoliberalism, like Marxism before, is very hostile to Christianity. And while Marxism absolutize the power of human compassion and redefines paradise as a social system that supposedly can be built on Earth (communism), neoliberalism denigrates the power of human compassion and enforces "greed is good" and "homo homini lupus est" morale. Which turns into law of jungle for lower and middle class. In this sense it is more like a branch of Satanism, with greed as a virtue ("Greed is good"), speculation as a noble activity (while according to Chris Hedges "Speculation in the 17th century was a crime. Speculators were hanged." ) and the slogan "Homo homini lupus est" as one of the key Commandments. See Neoliberalism and Christianity
This social system can be viewed as dialectical denial of socialism and represents the other extreme in classic triad "Thesis, antithesis, synthesis". We do not know yet what the synthesis will be like, but neoliberalism as a social system after 2008 shows definite cracks. Much like the USSR after the WWII when people serving in Red Army discovered what the standard of living was in Central and Western European workers and start to understand that "state socialism" as practiced in the USSR can't deliver promise high standard of living.
And that helped decimated communist propaganda once and for all, although Bolshevism as a social system still was around for another 40 years or so. Like Bolshevism before it, neoliberalism proved to be unstable social system. A utopian system which is unable to deliver promised benefits to the common people, and which destabilizes capitalism in comparison with New Deal capitalism, producing periodic crisis with increasing severity. The first of such crisis was "savings and loans" crisis, followed by dot com bubble burst, and the financial crisis in 2008 which led to the Great Recession.
In 2008 the large banks, which are the core of neoliberal economics, were saved from facing consequences of their "transgressions" only by massive state intervention. All powerful market was unable to save those sick puppies. The consequences of 2008 crisis did buried neoliberal ideology which from this point looks like cruel and primitive hypocrisy designed to restore the power of financial oligarchy to the level the latter enjoyed in 1930th. In 2016 it led to the election of Trump who managed to defeat establishment candidate, neocon warmonger Hillary Clinton despite all the efforts of the neoliberal/neocon establishment to derail him. Trump pursues the version of neoliberalism which can be called "bastard neoliberalism" -- neoliberalism limited to the USA with implicit rejection of globalization (or at least large part of it). Which makes Trump_vs_deep_state somewhat similar to Stalinism. Unlike Trotsky Stalin did not believed in the "World Revolution" mantra.
In the absence of alternatives neoliberalism managed somewhat recover after 2008 debacle, and even successfully counterattacked in some LA and European countries (Argentina, Brazil, Greece), but the Great Recession still left of huge and ugly scar on the neoliberal face. In any case glory days of triumphal march of neoliberalism all over globe are over.
Also the lowering of the standard of living of the middle class is no longer possible to hide ("it 's not enough cookies for everbody"). Outsourcing and offshoring of manufacturing in the USA -- the citadel of neoliberalism led to epidemic of opiod abuse similar to epidemic of alcoholism among workers in the late USSR.
Impoverishment of lower 20% of the society (those who have so called McJobs) reached the level when we can talk about a third world country within the USA.
All those factors created pre-conditions for a sharp rise of far right nationalism. In a way neoliberalism creates far right nationalism splash much like Gilded Age and the maker crash of Sept 4, 1929 capitalism created precondition for the rise of national socialism. Reading NDSAP 25 points program (adopted in 1920) we can instaltly feel that many problem that exited then are now replayed on the new level. After approximately 40 years of global dominance is shows cracks. Backlash against neoliberal globalization became strong enough to provide upsets, albeit temporary, which demonstrated itself in Brexit, and election of Trump. Who, despite his election-time claims to be a fighter against neoliberal globalization, for restoration of local jobs, and against the wars for expanding neoliberal empire, folded in two-or three months after the inauguration.
Like Soviet version of Communism before it, Neoliberalism failed to meet its promises of rising standard of living (and the key idea of justifying of raising of inequality and redistribution of wealth up under neoliberalism was "rising water lifts all boats" mantra, or as Kenneth Galbraith famously defined it “Trickle-down theory - the less than elegant metaphor that if one feeds the horse enough oats, some will pass through to the road for the sparrows.” ). We can stress again, that the current opiod epidemics in the USA is not that different from epidemics of alcoholism in the USSR under Brezhnev's "well developed socialism". It is important to understand that under neoliberalism the key priority is the maintenance of global neoliberal empire for the benefits of multinationals (with the associated idea of Global Neoliberal Revolution which makes is similar to Trotskyism). Opening new markets is vital for the interest of transnational corporations and that means that the USA government supports the war for neoliberal empire explosion at the expense of interests of regular US citizens. Outsourcing and atomization of the US workforce (squeezing unions) means that neoliberal government has an adversarial attitude towards its common citizenry. They are, by definition, the second class citizens (Undermensch or as Hillary Clinton elegantly coined it "basket of deplorables" ) . While neoliberal themselves ("creative class") are new Ubermench and like old aristocracy are above the law. So the idea Implemented in Soviet nomenklatura is now replayed on a new level.
As it evolved with time, neoliberalism is a somewhat fuzzy concept ( much like Bolshevism evolved from Leninism to Stalinism and then to Brezhnev's socialism ). In various countries it can morph into quite different "regimes", despite the common "market fundamentalism" core. The simplest and pretty precise way to define is is to view it as "socialism for the rich, feudalism for the poor" or, more correctly "Trotskyism for the rich" ("Elites of all countries unite !" instead of “Proletarians of all countries, Unite! ...). So Stalins's idea of socialism in a single country mutated into "socialism for the upper strata of population and corporations, especially transnationals".
In this sense neoliberals are as "internationalists" as communists were at their time, and may be even more. Thhe term "globalism" is commonly used instead of "internationalism". And like "Communist International", the "Neoliberal International" accepts the elite from any country, but only a very narrow strata of the elite and only on a certain conditions, with the leading role reserved for the USA elite and part of G7 elite. Much like in Comintern the role of Moscow as a leader was something that can't be even discussed. Only taken for granted. Although spying capabilities of "Neoliberal International" via "five eyes" are tremendously more powerful then the rudimentary capabilities of Comintern and the technology of staging "color revolutions" is more polished then Trotskyite approach to staging proletarian revolutions.
Neoliberals also have more money and that matters. The allow to create a powerful "fifth column" in countries other then G7 who are on the receiving end of neoliberal expropriation of wealth to the top countries of Neoliberal International. Like in Comintern, "all pigs are created equal, but some pigs are more equal then others."
The key idea of obtaining power by training the cadre of "professional revolutionaries" introduced by social-democratic parties and, especially, Bolsheviks are replaced with no less effective the network of neoliberal think tanks. In other words neoliberalism borrowed and perverted almost all major ideas of social-democratic parties. The party core typical for Bolsheviks, and instrumental to the success of their coup d'état in October 1917 against Provisional government by Kerensky was essentially replaced by the network of thinktanks that Koch and other billionaires have sponsored. Monte Perelin society (the initial neoliberal think tank) explicitly tried to adapt successful idea of western social democratic parties and Bolsheviks to neoliberal doctrine. One such "appropriations" is the level of secrecy and existence of "underground" part of the party along with "legal" parliamentary faction (a set of honorable (in a sense, what hey such politicians for example in the USA congress (honorable politician is the one who after he was bought stays bought) politicians are just a tip of the iceberg), . Some important work was also done by renegade Trotskyites in the USA (aka neoconservatives, especially by James Burnham as well as staunch neoliberals like James Buchanan (The Guardian)
The papers Nancy MacLean discovered show that Buchanan saw stealth as crucial. He told his collaborators that “conspiratorial secrecy is at all times essential”. Instead of revealing their ultimate destination, they would proceed by incremental steps. For example, in seeking to destroy the social security system, they would claim to be saving it, arguing that it would fail without a series of radical “reforms”... Gradually they would build a [well-paid] “counter-intelligentsia”, allied to a “vast network of political power” that would become the new establishment.
It also created it's own Neoliberal newspeak and a set of myths ("greed is good", "invisible hand", "the efficient markets hypothesis", "rational expectations scam", Shareholder value scam, supply side voodoo aka "rising tide lifts all boats", etc). In "neoliberal newspeak" the term "freedom" is used as the excuse for ripping down public protections on behalf of the very rich. For example "free market" means the market free from any coercion by the state (read "free from regulations") which makes it the corporate jungle where the most powerful corporation dictate the rules of the game and eat alive small fish with complete impunity. In no way neoliberal "free market" is fair. Actually neoliberals try to avoid to discuss the issue of farness of the market. This is anathema for them. As such neoliberalism has distinct Social Darwinism flavor and enforces scapegoating and victimization of poor and unemployed
It facilitates over-consumption and getting into the debt both on the country (neo-colonialism) and on the individual workers (debt-slavery) levels, and has sophisticated mechanisms of enforcing this situation on unsuspecting population (IMF, World banks on the level of the countries), credit card companies, mortgages, student debt on individual level. And a worker with a large debt is, essentially, a debt-slave. Atomization (neoliberalism is openly and forcefully anti-union) and enslavement of the workforce is exactly what neoliberalism is about: recreation of the plantation economy on a new technological and social levels. Not that unions are without problems in their own right, but crushing the union is the goal of every neoliberal government starting with Thatcher and Reagan. The same model that is depicted in famous song Sixteen Tons. With replacement of the company store debt and private corporate currencies with credit card debt.
Like Trotskyism it is pretty militaristic creed and the dream of global Communist empire led from Moscow was replaced by the dream of global neoliberal empire led by Washington. Neocons in this sense is just a specific flavor of neoliberals --" neoliberals with the gun" as in Al Capone maxim "You Can Get Much Further with a Kind Word and a Gun than with a Kind Word Alone" ;-). This "institualized gangsterism" of the US neocons represents probably the greatest threat to the survival of modern civilization.
Neoliberalism elevates of market-based principles and techniques of evaluation to the level of state-endorsed norms. The authority of the neoliberal state is heavily dependent on the authority of neoliberal economics (and economists). When this authority collapses the eventual collapse of neoliberalism is imminent. This is a classic "the castle built of sand story. "
Due to the size the introduction was moved to a separate page -- Neoliberalism: an Introduction
|Neoliberalism Bulletin, 2017||Neoliberalism Bulletin, 2016||Neoliberalism Bulletin, 2015||Neoliberalism Bulletin, 2014||Neoliberalism Bulletin, 2013||Neoliberalism Bulletin, 2011||Neoliberalism Bulletin 2009||Neoliberalism Bulletin 2008|
Feb 22, 2018 | consortiumnews.com
Originally from: Mutually Assured Contempt at 2018 Munich Security Conference by Gilbert DoctorowLet us remember that over the course of his career Ikenberry has been a penetrating and at times courageous analyst. Back in 1992, he co-authored with Daniel Deudney a splendid article entitled "Who Won the Cold War" ( Foreign Policy ) explaining why it was a draw, ended by mutual agreement. He thereby went directly against the rising tide of neoconservatism and American hubris built on falsification of modern history.
American Establishment biases, willful ignorance of realities and fake news are given free rein in the page of the 2018 Report devoted to Russia. Here we read about the Kremlin's "disinformation campaign" during the French presidential election of 2017 and about the "efforts to influence the U.S. presidential election in 2016" that have "paid dividends." Unproven allegations of meddling and illogical conclusions about dividends, considering the track record of the Trump administration in its first year in office: the dispatch of lethal military equipment to Ukraine that even Obama hesitated to approve, the extension of sanctions and a number of other measures raising the tensions with Russia in the Baltics and in Syria.
Here we find the stubborn refusal to accept the true scale and breadth of Russia's might. We are reminded that the country's GDP is the size of Spain, a proposition that is distorted and misleading depending as it does on exchange rates rather than purchasing power parity. At last report, Spain was not supplying one-third of all the natural gas consumed in Europe; Russia was. At last report, Spain did not have a military budget that is second only to the United States; Russia has.
Yet, the Munich Security Conference differs in an important way from the American establishment, which is today not very welcoming of "adversaries" or "competitors" who may conceptualize the world order in their own way. Whatever its home grounds philosophically, the Munich Security Conference does try to be inclusive and brings even troublemaker countries and personalities into the tent. Moreover, the Security Conference, like Davos, has substantial continuity in the attendees. You heard from the Iranian Foreign Minister last year, and you will hear from him again this year, and probably next year as well. This does not smooth out all the rough edges in these encounters, but it keeps them somewhat in check.
One of the "regulars," and perhaps the most remarkable performer at the 2018 Munich Security Conference was Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. I call him remarkable because of his ability to rise above his detractors in the hall through superior command of the facts, wit and daring.
At last year's Munich Conference, a number of Lavrov's pronouncements were met by derisive laughter from the Americans in the front rows, picked up by other Western diplomats and politicians. Yet, Lavrov took it in stride, remarking acidly that he had also found some statements by representatives of other countries to be laughable but had shown greater restraint than members of his audience.
Heckling also took place during Lavrov's speech this year, though on a markedly lower scale. And once again, Lavrov took the upper hand, chided his detractors for their incivility and joked that it did not matter: "after all, they say laughter helps us live longer."
Lavrov's speech itself was a masterpiece of argumentation against the exclusion of Russia from the common European home, the descent of a divisive "us/them" thinking in Western Europe to justify the New Cold War. He specifically called out for condemnation the ongoing rewriting of history in the Baltic States, in Poland, and in Ukraine that airbrushes Russia out of the victory over Nazi Germany, encourages destruction of monuments to Soviet liberators and makes heroes of home-grown fascist movements as in Ukraine.
It bears mention that back home in Moscow, there are voices of strident nationalists like Vladimir Zhirinovsky who explain on national television day after day why it is time for Lavrov to go, because he is too soft, too easy going with the nation's enemies in the West.
However, the skill at debate, nerves of steel and icy reserve that Lavrov displayed in Munich show yet again that he is the right man in the right place to defend Putin's Russia.
The problem that comes out of the Report and the body language we saw in the conference proceedings is the following: whether the opposing sides of East and West were more or less restrained in their gestures and words, there lies on each side a poisonous contempt for the other that could lead to miscalculations and rash actions in the event of some incident, some mishap between our respective armed forces in any of the theaters where they are now operating in close proximity in support of opposing sides.
Gilbert Doctorow is an independent political analyst based in Brussels. His latest book, Does the United States Have a Future? was published on 12 October 2017. Both paperback and e-book versions are available for purchase on www.amazon.com and all affiliated Amazon websites worldwide.
Nov 23, 2017 | www.unz.com
(The following is based on a speech presented by Carl Horowitz at the most recent annual meeting of the H.L. Mencken Club, Baltimore, Maryland, November 3-4, 2017. It was orginally posted at NLPC.org )
Why are corporations, especially those that provide information technology, promoting radical politics? It's a question one increasingly hears these days. And it's a necessary question. For it is a fact: The corporation as an institution, partly out of self-interest and partly out of conviction, is allying itself with the hard Left. And the consequences could be devastating for our nation.
Now when I speak of "radicalism," I'm not referring to the tradition of businessmen using the State to achieve and maintain market advantage. Monopoly in this country is a more than a century-old tradition, and it is anything but radical. Nor am I referring to the more recent tradition of corporations paying radical accusers a "diversity tax" in hopes of shooing them away. That's capitulation, not commitment. No, what I'm referring to is the arms-length alliance between corporations and far-Left activists to subvert deeply ingrained human loyalties, especially those related to national identity. Most corporate executives today see America's future as post -national, not national.
The two factions differ by motive. Businessmen act out of material self-interest. They want to hire people from abroad at much lower wages and benefits than most people here would accept. And they want to sell in untapped markets. Radicals, by contrast, act out of emotional self-interest. They crave total multiculturalism in one nation.
Where these camps converge is the belief that national identity is outdated and must be replaced by an elaborate system of global coordination. A nation ought to have no right to define itself in terms of race, language or collective memory. In the world of information technology, in fact, business and radicalism now mean almost the same thing. America, in this view, has an obligation to accommodate the crush of people from abroad wanting in. We cannot discriminate. We shouldn't even ask about their motives . America is a global sanctuary, a coast-to-coast UN General Assembly.
Mass immigration is a global way of saying "diversity." And that refers not to a diversity of opinion , but to a diversity of demography holding identical opinions. Some have likened this to a cultural equivalent of Marxism, hence the common term "cultural Marxism." Whatever one's preferred term, it is now the coin of the realm in the world of big business.
The Alarmist , November 23, 2017 at 5:56 am GMTAirBnB, like Uber et al, is a company that built its fortunes by operating outside the laws that constrained its more conventional competition why should we be surprised that immigration law doesn't matter one whit to them?utu , November 23, 2017 at 6:12 am GMTMind you, they haven't given up on class struggle.Heros , November 23, 2017 at 9:39 am GMT
Really? Have you seen any class struggle recently that would be detrimental to the top class? Marxists are the tools of neoliberal capitalist world order. They are perfectly happy with the system as long as it gives them a chance to join the top class.Grandpa Charlie , November 23, 2017 at 11:48 am GMT
"While the influence of the Frankfurt School of Marxism can't be ignored here, I find it vastly overstated. The crucial game-changers have been black authors, for the most part home-grown Americans. "
Reading Horowitz is like reading gatestone institute articles. They can be very convincing, but the always miss the target because Jews are seeped in willful blindness. It starts with the dual passports and allegiances. How in any sane world should dual citizen neocons be allowed to steer foreign policy? But then it continues with the never ending kvetching about "anti-semitism" which is used to stifle any discussion that becomes uncomfortable for them, like how the October Revolution was little more than a jewish coup d'etat and a succeeding genocide of millions of Christians. Why should the US be forced to pay $3b on Oct. 1 of every fiscal year to Israel? What about the murder of the Czar by a gang of Ashkenazi? Or the Liberty or the King David Hotel? What about 70 years of Palestinian genocide? What about their bullying and extortion of governments and individuals to prevent BDS?
I could go on and on, but the point I am making is that Jews know this, but outwardly they are ignorant, at least when writing for the benefit of stupid goyim. Among themselves the truth is often alluded to in public, and that is why reading the Jewish press is so important. Eventually they will try to prevent goyim from accessing it, probably by claiming its all a lie just as with the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
This jewish facade of plausible deniability has to be maintained at all costs, and this is why we always hear how jews are so persecuted, why every city is forced to have a holocaust museum and why every few years another holocaust or nazi-genocide movie comes out. It is all about jews maintaining this Potemkin lie and pretending its true.
Which brings me to one of their biggest lies: That Jews are semitic, that they are white and that they are not white, all simultaneously. If every component of US culture was forced to track the number jews receiving benefit alongside the number of "whites" and other races, then the country would really learn what true racism and patriarchy is. That is why this is just another part of the massive jew lie that they all pretend not to see.Ay, PF, awesome, rad! I like it, here in the wee hours, for some reason I couldn't sleep, but you know, I'm a old f*rt and I don't do skype, just like I don't FB, but maybe tomorrow I'll see a granddaughter or two, and they do all that stuff. Don't worry about a slow start, opening nights can be like that and then Boom!Malla , November 23, 2017 at 11:51 am GMT
Well done! Strong!
– grandpaI have always considered Capitalism and Communism as false oppositions to each other. People in power use whichever of the two is useful for a particular situation, place and time to attain certain long term aims. The future of the world is moving towards Corporate Communism where the worst of capitalism and communism are blended to rule over and exploit the masses. This explains why many Western crony companies had invested in the the Soviet Union in it's earlier days of , they could never had got a more slave labour population. The same with China recently. Crony Capitalism and Communism seem to go well together just like how big corporations and big governments go well together. This also explains why big corporations still hire their workforce from Western Universities which are hot beds of leftist propaganda. On one level, it never makes any sense. But when you see the bigger picture, it makes sense.m___ , November 23, 2017 at 11:54 am GMT
Besides, the false left vs right paradigm keeps the common man on the streets busy infighting and wasting their time without realizing the big schemes being played over them.
Cultural Marxism (probably) emerged much later then economic Marxism of Karl Marx. It was a solution to a pressing problem of why Western populations were resistant to Communism. The problem was narrowed down to traditional Western civilization, the White race and to some extent traditional Christianity. Cultural Marxism is a 'slow boil the frog' method unlike the shock method unleashed on Russia and China. It also uses the tactic of communists and communism infusing in every part of a country's institutions like blood capillaries around muscles.A "Chomsky" amass of evidencies, a drunk display of conclusions. This is what should be called the bend of intellectuals, what an agenda, it hangs out on all sides. Sully, irrelevant, cheatacious in it's intend. And yet, "let's fall for it"?jacques sheete , November 23, 2017 at 11:59 am GMTwayfarer , November 23, 2017 at 12:54 pm GMT
I now briefly will sum up.
Would that that have occurred about 3000 words prior."The mind of one free thinker can possess a million ideas. A million fanatics can have their minds, possessed by a single idea ." – unknownMalla , November 23, 2017 at 1:40 pm GMT@wayfarerfnn , November 23, 2017 at 1:56 pm GMT
Excellent post.Hank Rearden , November 23, 2017 at 1:59 pm GMT
While the influence of the Frankfurt School of Marxism can't be ignored here, I find it vastly overstated. The crucial game-changers have been black authors, for the most part home-grown Americans. Urtexts include Frantz Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth, James Baldwin's The Fire Next Time, Malcolm X's Autobiography and Richard Hamilton & Stokely Carmichael's Black Power. Over the next several years, as the Black Panthers turned up the heat, Eldridge Cleaver's Soul on Ice, Bobby Seale's Seize the Time and Huey Newton's Revolutionary Suicide became must-reads. Recent additions to the canon have been Derrick Bell's Faces at the Bottom of the Well, Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow, and Cornel West' s Race Matters.,
Arguably, none of the above books by black authors would have become influential had it not been for the intellectual framework created in the postwar period by the Frankfurt School "study," The Authoritarian Personality :
Paul Gottfried writes:
You should read my last three books, all of which stress that The Authoritarian Personality profoundly affected American political thinking. It was essential to the postwar reconstruction of German "civic culture' and the work was deeply admired by SM Lipset, the sponsors of Commentary, and scads of Cold War liberals. It was not necessarily viewed as the post-Marxist leftist source of moral corruption that I suggest it was in The Strange Death of Marxism. What made The Authoritarian Personality particularly insidious is that it was widely seen as a blueprint for non-totalitarian democracy both here and in Europe; and leaders in government and in universities read the book in that way. The fact that Adorno and Horkheimer (who later backed away from the implications of the work he had co-edited) were at the time Soviet sympathizers did not dampen the enthusiasm of the anti-Stalinist secularist intellectuals who tried to defend the study. Although the Jewish identity of the Frankfurt School may not have been the only factor leading to their anti-Christian, anti-fascist pseudo-science, denying its influence on the formation of Frankfort School ideas is simply silly.
Christopher Lash's True and Only Heaven includes a long section detailing the mainstream liberal support for The Authoritarian Personality in the 1950s and 1960s. Lipset, Hook, Daniel Bell, Arthur Schlesinger, Richard Hofstadter and the members of American Jewish Committe, who sponsored Adorno and Commentary magazine, were among the anti-Communist liberals who admired TAP and who thought that it had relevance for our country. Although you and I may be to the right of these celebrants, it would be hard to argue that no anti-Communist had any use for Adorno's ideas.America, that shining city upon a hill (Matthew 5:14), has forsaken its own blood and soil (Luke 14.26, Matthew 19:27-30), and fully implemented the International Jew's globalist vision (Matthew 28:19) of Communist Freaqualism (Acts 4:32, Galatians 3:28), including acceptance of rapefugees (Matthew 25:35-36), placing blacks in leadership (Acts 13:1), condemning normal male behavior (Mark 9:47), and promoting male castration (Matthew 19.11-12) in favor of a androgynous utopia (Matthew 22:30).Michael Kenny , November 23, 2017 at 2:03 pm GMT
John Gray once noted that liberal humanist values are a "hollowed-out version of a theistic myth," but as I've shown from the Christian Holy Book , they're actually Judeo-Christianity on sterioids.
"The liberal belief in the free and sacred nature of each individual is a direct legacy of the traditional Christian belief in the free and eternal souls. Without recourse to eternal souls and a Creator God, it becomes embarrassingly difficult for liberals to explain what is so special about individual Sapiens The idea that all humans are equal is a revamped version of the monotheist conviction that all souls are equal before God." p. 231
Yuval Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (Harper Collins, 2015)
Again, I'll point out that liberal humanist Freakqualism is not a "direct legacy" of Christianity, but an intensification.I was born in Europe. Except for a few years in the 1960s, I have lived all my life in Europe. I have never come across anybody in Europe "rejecting their identity". Quite the contrary indeed! European national identities are alive and well, and thriving in the European Union. The article itself is the usual VDare anti-EU propaganda and the article linked to (by Pat Buchanan) doesn't support the author's argument. I don't really see why Americans are getting so steamed up about Marxism. Nobody has taken Marxism seriously since the collapse of the communist dictatorships 25 years ago. And, of course, I'm always amused at the way the people who shout "America First" keep telling us Europeans how to run our countries!JackOH , November 23, 2017 at 2:23 pm GMTMr. Horowitz makes good points, but many of us here have made similar observations along the same path to understanding the world around us. Corporations have a whatever-it-takes ethos, and if they can make money by hanging on to eternal verities, they'll hang on to them, and if they can calculate that dumping eternal verities will serve them, they'll do that. Happy Thanksgiving Day all, and thanks to Ron for hosting this site, and many good commenters for illuminating our America a bit..SimplePseudonymicHandle , November 23, 2017 at 3:26 pm GMTOMG this article is all over the map.Priss Factor , Website November 23, 2017 at 3:36 pm GMT
Companies do what is politically expedient because the people who govern them make a rational choice to decide to the bottom line – or any short-term definition thereof – as opposed to standing up to the mob.
Period. End of story.
Imagine you are a minimum wage employee in the neighborhood laundromat and you're 16 and naive and you notice the kindly owner/manager pays protection money to the mob. In all other facets he is a kindly man, a good person, a good manager, a good businessperson. You wonder why he doesn't call the police, make a report to the FBI, call on politicians, or stand up to the mob himself.
Of course he can do any of those things. He chooses not to.
Why does he choose not to?
Well, duh.Boomer-RangPriss Factor
Feb 17, 2018 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
Yves here. This Real News Network interview with professor emeritus John Weeks discussed how economic ideology has weakened or eliminated public accountability of institutions like the Fed and promote neo[neo]liberal policies that undermine democracy.
SHARMINI PERIES: It's The Real News Network. I'm Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore. The concept of the [neo]liberal democracy is generally based on capitalistic markets along with respect for individual freedoms and human rights and equality in the face of the law. The rise of financial capital and its efforts to deregulate financial markets, however, raises the question whether [neo]liberal democracy is a sustainable form of government. Sooner or later, democratic institutions make way for the interests of large capital to supersede.
Political economist John Weeks recently gave this year's David Gordon Memorial Lecture at the meeting of the American Economic Association in Philadelphia where he addressed these issues with a talk titled, Free Markets and the Decline of Democracy. Joining us now is John Weeks. He joins us from London to discuss the issues raised in his lecture. You can find a link to this lecture just below the player, and John is, as you know, Professor Emeritus of the University of London School of Oriental and African Studies and author of Economics of the 1%: How Mainstream Economics Serves the Rich, Obscures Reality and Distorts Policy. John, good to have you back on The Real News.
JOHN WEEKS: Thank you very much for having me.
SHARMINI PERIES: John, let me start with your talk. Your talk describes a struggle between efforts to create a democratic control over the economy and the interest of capital, which seeks to subjugate government to the interest, its own interest. In your assessment, it looks like this is a losing battle for democracy. Explain this further.
JOHN WEEKS: Yeah, so I think that Marx in Capital, in the first volume of Capital, refers to a concept called bourgeois right, by which he meant that, you said it in the introduction, that in a capitalist society there is a form of equality that mimics the relationship of exchange. Every commodity looks equal in exchange and there is a system of ownership that you might say is the shadow of that. I think more important, in the early stages of development of capitalism, of development of factories, that those institutions or those factories prompted the growth of trade unions and workers' struggles in general. Those workers' struggles were key to the development, or further development of democracy, freedom of speech, a whole range of rights, the right to vote.
However, with the development of finance capital, you've got quite a different dynamic within the capitalist system. Let me say, I don't want to romanticize the early period of capitalism, but you did have struggles, mass struggles for rights. Finance capital produces nothing productive, it doesn't do anything productive. So, what finance capital does basically is it redistributes the income, the wealth, the, what Marx would call the surplus value, from other sectors of society to itself. And it employs relatively few people, so that dynamic of the capital, industrial capital, generating its antithesis So, that a labor movement doesn't occur under financial capital.
In addition, financial capital leads to inequality, and that inequality, as you've seen in the United States and in Europe and many other places, it increases. And suddenly, not suddenly, but bit by bit, people begin to realize that they aren't getting their share and that means that the government, to protect capitalism, must use force to maintain the order of financial capital. And I think Trump is the fulfillment of that, and I think there are other examples too which I can go into. So, basically, my argument is that with the rise of finance and its unproductive activities, you've got the decline in living standards of the vast majority, and in order to maintain order in such a system where people no longer think that they're sort of getting their share, and so justice doesn't become, a just distribution doesn't become the reason why people support this system, increasingly it has to be done through force.
SHARMINI PERIES: All right, John. Before we get further into the relationship between neo[neo]liberalism and democracy, give us a brief summary of what you mean by neo[neo]liberalism. You say that it's not really about deregulation, as most people usually conceive of it. If that's not what it's about, what is it, then?
JOHN WEEKS: I think that if you think about the movements in the United States, and as much as I can, I will take examples from the United States because most of your listeners will be familiar with those, beginning in the early part of the twentieth century, in the United States you have reform movements, the breaking up of the large monopolies, tobacco monopoly, a whole range of Standard Oil, all of that. And then of course under Roosevelt you began to get the regulation of capital in the interests of the majority, much of that driven by Roosevelt's trade union support. So, that was moving from a system where capital was relatively unregulated to where it was being regulated in the interests of the vast majority. I also would say, though, I won't go into detail, to a certain extent it was regulated in the interest of capital itself to moderate competition and therefore, I'd say, ensure a relatively tranquil market environment.
Neo[neo]liberalism involves not the deregulation of the capitalist system, but the reregulation of it in the interest of capital. So, it involves moving from a system in which capital is regulated in the interests of stability and the many to regulation in a way that enhances capital. These regulations, to get specific about them, restrictions on trade unions, as you, on Real News, a number of people have talked about this. The United States now have many restrictions on the organizing of trade unions which were not present 50 or 60 years ago, making it harder to have a mass movement of labor against capital, restrictions on the right to demonstrate, a whole range of things. Then within capital itself, the regulations on the movement of capital that facilitate speculation in international markets. We have a capitalism in which the form of regulation is shifted from the regulation of capital in the interest of labor to regulation of capital in the interest of capital.
SHARMINI PERIES: John, give us a brief summary of the ways in which neo[neo]liberalism undermines democracy.
JOHN WEEKS: Well, I think that there are many examples, but I'm going to focus on economic policy. For an obvious case is the role of the Central Bank, in the case of the United States' Federal Reserve System, in which reducing its accountability to the public, one way you can do that is by assigning goals to it, such as fighting inflation, which then override other goals. Originally, the Federal Reserve System, its charter, or I'll say its terms of reference, if you want me to use that phrase, included full employment and a stable economy. Those have been overridden in more recent legislation, which puts a great emphasis on the control of inflation. Control of inflation basically means maintaining an economy at a relatively high level of unemployment or part-time employment, or flexible employment, where people have relatively few rights at work. And that the Central Bank becomes a vehicle for enforcing a neo[neo]liberal economic policy.
Second of all, probably most of your viewers will not remember the days when we had fixed exchange rates. We had a world of fixed exchange rates in those days that represented the policy, which government could use to affect its trade and also affect its domestic policy. There have been deregulation of that. We now have floating exchange rates. That takes away a tool, an instrument of economic policy. And in fiscal policy, there the, here it's more ideology than laws, though there are also laws. There's a law requiring that the government balance its budget, but more important than that, the introduction into the public consciousness, I'd say grinding into the public consciousness, the idea that deficits are a bad thing, government debt is a bad thing, and that's a completely neo[neo]liberal ideology.
In summary, one way that the democracy has been undermined is to take away economic policy from the public realm and move it to the realm of experts. So, we have certain allegedly expert guidelines that we have to follow. Inflation should be low. We should not run deficits. The national debt should be small. These are things that are just made up ideologically. There is no technical basis to them. And so, in doing that, you might say, the term I like to use is, you decommission the democratic process and economic policy.
SHARMINI PERIES: John, speaking of ideology, in your talk you refer to the challenge that fascism posed or poses to neo[neo]liberal democracies. Now, it is interesting when you take Europe into consideration and National Socialist in Germany, for example, appeal mostly to the working class, as does contemporary far-right leaders in Poland and Hungary, that they support more explicit neo[neo]liberal agendas. Why would people support a neo[neo]liberal agenda that exasperate inequalities and harm public services that they depend on, including jobs?
JOHN WEEKS: I think that to a great extent it is country-specific, but I can make generalizations. First of all, I'm talking about Europe, because you raised a case in some European countries, and then I'll make some comments about the United States and Trump, if you want me to. I think in Europe, a combination of three things resulted in the rise of fascism and authoritarian movements which are verging on fascism. One is that the European integration project, which let me say that I have supported, and I would still prefer Britain not to leave the European Union, but nevertheless, the European Union integration project has been a project run by elites.
It has not been a bottom-up process. It has been a process very much run by elite politicians, in which they get together in closed door, and they make policies which they subsequently announce, and many of the decisions they come to being extremely, the meaning of them being extremely opaque. So, therefore, you have the development in Europe of the European Union which, not from the bottom up, but very much from the top down. You might suggest from the top, but I'm not sure how much goes down. That's one.
The second key factor, I would say, for about 20 years in European integration, it was relatively benign elitism because it was social democratic, it had the support of the working class, or the trade unions, at any rate. Then, increasingly, it began to become neo[neo]liberal. So, you have an elite project which was turning into a neo[neo]liberal project. Specifically, what I mean by neo[neo]liberal is where they're generating flexibility rules for the labor market, austerity policies, bank, balanced budgets, low inflation, the things I was talking about before.
Then the third element, toxic, the most toxic of them, but the other, they're volatile, is the legacy of fascism in Europe. Every European country, with the exception of Britain, had a substantial fascist movement in the 1920s and 1930s. I can go into why Britain didn't sometime. It had to do with the particular class struggle of the, I mean, class structure of Britain. Poland, ironically enough, though, is one of them. It was overrun by the Nazis, and occupied, and incorporated into the German Reich. Ironically, it had a very right-wing government with a lot of sympathies towards fascism when it was invaded in the late summer of 1939.
France had a strong fascist movement. Of course, Italy had a fascist government, and Hungary, where now you have a right-wing government, a very strong fascist movement. The incorporation of these countries into the Soviet sphere of influence, or the empire, as it were, did not destroy that fascism. It certainly suppressed it, but it didn't destroy it. So, as soon as the European project began to transform into a neo[neo]liberal project, and that gathered strength in the early 1990s, I mean, the neo[neo]liberal aspect of the European Union gathered strength in the early 1990s, exactly when you were getting the "liberation" of many countries from Soviet rule. And so, when you put those together, it led to, It was a rise of fascism waiting to happen and now it is happening.
SHARMINI PERIES: John, earlier, you said you'll factor in Trump. How does Trump fit into this phenomena?
JOHN WEEKS: I think that as The Real News has pointed out, that many of Trump's policies appear just to be more extreme versions of things that George Bush did, and in some cases not that much different from what Barack Obama did. Now, though I wouldn't go too deeply into that, I think that that is the most serious offenses by Obama that have been carried on by Trump have to do with the use of drones and the military. But at any rate, but there's a big difference from Trump. For the most part, the previous Republican presidents, and Democratic presidents, accepted the framework of, the formal framework of [neo]liberal democracy in the United States. That is, formally accepted the constraints imposed by the Constitution.
Now, of course, they probably didn't do it out of the goodness of their heart. They did it because they saw that the things that they wanted to achieve, the neo[neo]liberal goals that they wanted to achieve were perfectly consistent with the Constitution's framework and guarantees of rights and so on, that most of those rights are guaranteed in a way that's so weak that you didn't have to repeal the first 10 Amendments of the Constitution in order to have repressive policies.
The difference with Trump is, he has complete contempt for all of those constraints. That is, he is an authoritarian. I don't think he's a fascist, not yet, but he is an authoritarian. He does not accept that there are constraints which he should respect. There are constraints which bother him, and he wants to get rid of them, and he actually takes steps to do so. What you have in Trump, I think, is a sea change. You have a, we've had right-wing presidents before, certainly. What the difference with Trump is, he is a right-wing president that sees no reason to respect the institutions of democratic government, or even, you might say, the institution of representative government. I won't even use a term as strong as "democratic." That lays the basis for an explicitly authoritarian United States, and I'd say that we're beginning to see the vehicle by which this will occur, the restriction on voting rights. Of course, that was going on before Trump, it does in a more aggressive way. I think the, soon, we will have a Supreme Court that will be quite lenient with his tendency towards authoritarian rule.
SHARMINI PERIES: All right, John. Let's end this segment with what can be done. I mean, what must be done to prevent neo[neo]liberal interests from undermining democracy? And who do you believe is leading the struggle for democracy now, and what is the right strategy that people should be fighting for?
JOHN WEEKS: Well, one thing, I think, where I'd begin is that I think progressives, as The Real News represents, and Bernie Sanders, and all the people that support him, and Jeremy Corbyn over here, I'll come back to talk about a bit about Jeremy. We must be explicit that we view democracy, by which we mean the participation of people at the grassroots, their participation in the government, we view that as a goal. It's not merely a technique, or a tool which, what was it that Erdoğan so infamously said? "Democracy is like a train. You take it to where you want to go and then you get off." No. Progressive view is that democracy is what it's all about. Democracy is the way that we build the present and we build a future.
I'm quite fortunate in that I live in perhaps the only large country in the world where there's imminent possibility of a progressive, left-wing, anti-authoritarian government. I think that is the monumental importance of Jeremy Corbyn and his second-in-command, John McDonnell, and others like Emily Thornberry, who is the Foreign Secretary. These people are committed to democracy. In the United States, Bernie Sanders is committed to a democracy, and a lot of other people are too, Elizabeth Warren. So, I think that the struggle in the United States is extremely difficult because of the role of the big money and the media, which you know more about than I do. But it is a struggle which we have to keep at, and we have to be optimistic about it. It's a good bit easier over here, but as we saw, and you reported, during the last presidential election, a progressive came very close to being President of the United States. That, I don't think was a one-off event, not to be repeated. I think it lays the basis for hope in the future.
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JTMcPhee , February 17, 2018 at 9:35 amWobblyTelomeres , February 17, 2018 at 10:44 am
"Informed speculation" with lots of footnotes and offshoots in this Reddit skein: https://www.reddit.com/r/AskHistorians/comments/1llyf7/about_how_much_in_todays_money_was_30_pieces_of/
"A lot of money" in those days- Some say JI "bought land" with the shekels. An early form of asset swap? A precursor to current financialist activities?James T. Cricket , February 18, 2018 at 3:46 am
Good article. If it were any bleaker, I'd suspect Chris Hedges having a hand in writing it.
The democratic nation-state basically operates like a criminal cartel, forcing honest citizens to surrender large portions of their wealth to pay for stuff like roads and hospitals and schools.
There it is, the Gorgon Thiel, surrounded by terror and rout.David , February 17, 2018 at 7:56 am
I suppose you've read this.
Here's a quote:
"Altman felt that OpenAI's mission was to babysit its wunderkind until it was ready to be adopted by the world. He'd been reading James Madison's notes on the Constitutional Convention for guidance in managing the transition. 'We're planning a way to allow wide swaths of the world to elect representatives to a new governance board,' he said."
I was having trouble choosing which of the passages in this article to provide a mad quote from. Some other choices were
Altman's going to work with the Department of Defense, then help defend the world from them.
OpenAI's going to take over from humans, but don't worry because they're going to make it (somehow) so OpenAI can only terminate bad people. Before releasing it to the world.
Altman says 'add a 0 to whatever you're doing but never more than that.'
But if this sort of wisdom (somehow) doesn't work out well for everybody and the world collapses, he's flying with Peter Thiel in the private jet to the New Zealand's south island to wait out the Zombie Apocalypse on a converted sheep farm. (Before returning to the Valley work with more startups?)
These are your new leaders, peopleJTMcPhee , February 17, 2018 at 8:45 am
I think it's revealing that the only type of democracy discussed, in spite of the title, is "[neo]liberal democracy", which the host describes as "based on capitalistic markets along with respect for individual freedoms and human rights and equality in the face of the law."
I've always argued that [neo]liberal democracy is a contradiction in terms, and you can see why from that quotation. [neo]liberalism (leaving aside special uses of the term in the US) is about individuals exercising their personal economic freedom and personal autonomy as much as they can, with as little control by government as possible.
But given massive imbalances in economic power, the influence of media-backed single issue campaigns and the growth of professional political parties, policy is decided by the interventions of powerful and well-organised groups, without ordinary people being consulted. At the end, Weeks does start to talk of grassroots participation, but seems to have no more in mind than a campaign to get people to vote for Sanders in 2020, which hardly addresses the problem. The answer, if there is one, is a system of direct democracy, involving referendums and popular assemblies chosen at random.
This has been much talked about, but since you would have the entire political class against you, it's not going to happen. In the meantime, we are stuck with [neo]liberal democracy, whose contradictions, I'm afraid are becoming ever more obvious.Eustache De Saint Pierre , February 17, 2018 at 9:33 am
"Contradictions?" One question for me at least would be whether the features and motions of the current regime are best characterized as "contradictions." If so, to what? And implicit in the use of the word is some kind of resolution, via actual class conflict or something, leading to "better" or at least "different." All I see from my front porch is more of the same, and worse. "The Matrix" in that myth gave some comforting illusions to the mopery. I think the political economy/collapsed planet portrayed in "Soylent Green" is a lot closer to the likely endpoints.
At least in the movie fable, the C-Suite-er of the Soylent Corp. as the lede in the film, was sickened of what he was helping to maintain, and bethought himself to blow his tiny little personal whistle that nobody would really hear, and got axed for his disloyalty to the ruling collective. I doubt the ranks of corporatists of MonsantoDuPont and LockheedMartin and the rest include any significant numbers of folks sickened by "the contradictions" that get them their perks and bennies and power (as long as they color inside the lines.)Michael C , February 17, 2018 at 8:46 am
I hope I am way off the mark, but within that genre & in terms of where we could be heading, the film " Snowpiercer " sums it up best for me- a dystopian world society illustrated through the passengers on one long train.torff , February 17, 2018 at 10:02 am
Thanks for the Real News Network for covering issues that never see the light of day on the corporate media and never mentioned by the Rachel Maddow's of the "news" shows.Yves Smith Post author , February 17, 2018 at 6:59 pm
Can we please put a moratorium on the term "free market"? It's a nonsense term.Katz , February 18, 2018 at 11:09 am
Yes, I wrote about that at length in ECONNED. I kept the RNN headline, which used it, but should have put "free market" in quotes.Jim Haygood , February 17, 2018 at 10:59 am
I actually like the term and find it useful, insofar as it describes an ideology -- as oposed a real political-economic arrangement. The presence of "free markets" may not be a characteristic of the neo[neo]liberal phase, but the belief in them sure is.
(Which is not to say there aren't people who don't believe in free markets but do invoke them rhetorically for other ends. That's a feature of many if not most successful ideologies.)RBHoughton , February 17, 2018 at 6:24 pm
' Originally, the Federal Reserve charter included full employment and a stable economy. Those have been overridden in more recent legislation, which puts a great emphasis on the control of inflation.
Eh, this is fractured history. The Fed was set up in 1913 as a lender of last resort -- a discounter of government and private bills.
In late 1978 Jimmy Carter signed the Humphrey Hawkins Act instructing the Fed to pursue three goals: stable prices, maximum employment, and moderate long-term interest rates, though the latter is rarely mentioned now and the Fed is widely viewed as having a dual mandate.
The Fed's two percent inflation target it simply adopted at its own initiative -- it's not enshrined in no Perpetual Inflation Act.
' We had a world of fixed exchange rates which government could use to affect its trade and also affect its domestic policy. We now have floating exchange rates. That takes away a tool. '
LOL! This is totally inverted and flat wrong. The Bretton Woods fixed exchange rate system prevented radical monetary experiments such as QE which would have broken the peg. Nixon unilaterally suspended fixed exchange rates in 1971 because he was unwilling to take the political hit of formally devaluing the dollar (or even more unlikely, sweating out Vietnam War inflation with falling prices to maintain the peg).
Floating rates are a new and potentially lethal monetary tool which have produced a number of sad examples of "governments gone wild" with radical monetary experiments and currency swings. Bad boys Japan & Switzerland come readily to mind.
To render history accurately requires getting hands dirty with dusty old books. Icky, I know. :-(Yves Smith Post author , February 17, 2018 at 7:00 pm
Yes but globalisation meant that all central banks and finance ministers had to act concertedly as in G-20 and similar meetings. While we may talk of floating exchange rates, each country fixes its interest rate to maintain parity with the others. Isn't that so?The Rev Kev , February 17, 2018 at 7:29 pm
Ahem, you skip over that the full employment goal was added to the Fed mandate in 1946, long before the inflation goal was added.Steven Greenberg , February 17, 2018 at 11:26 am
I think that the key piece of info is that the Federal Reserve was created on December 23rd, 1913. That sounds like that it was slipped in the legislative back door when everybody was going away for the Christmas holidays.Lee Robertson , February 17, 2018 at 11:42 am
===== quote =====
Second of all, probably most of your viewers will not remember the days when we had fixed exchange rates. We had a world of fixed exchange rates in those days that represented the policy, which government could use to affect its trade and also affect its domestic policy. There have been deregulation of that. We now have floating exchange rates. That takes away a tool, an instrument of economic policy. And in fiscal policy, there the, here it's more ideology than laws, though there are also laws. There's a law requiring that the government balance its budget, but more important than that, the introduction into the public consciousness, I'd say grinding into the public consciousness, the idea that deficits are a bad thing, government debt is a bad thing, and that's a completely neo[neo]liberal ideology.
===== /quote =====
This makes absolutely no sense and seems to have the case exactly backward. Our federal government has no rule that the budget must be balanced. Fixed exchange rates were not a tool that could be used to affect trade and domestic policy in a good way.Susan the other , February 17, 2018 at 1:29 pm
Any hierarchic system will be exploited by intelligent sociopaths. Systems will not save us.ebbflows , February 17, 2018 at 4:19 pm
I enjoyed John Weeks' point of view. He's the first person I've read who refers to the usefulness of a fixed exchange rate. Useful for a sovereign government with a social spending agenda. We have always been a sovereign government with a military agenda which is at odds with a social agenda.
Guns and butter are a dangerous combination if you are dedicated to at least maintaining the illusion of a "strong dollar." That's basically what Nixon finessed. John Conally told him not to worry, we could go off the gold standard and it wasn't our problem since we were the reserve currency – it was everybody else's problem and we promptly exported our inflation all around the world. And now it has come home to roost because it was fudging and it couldn't last forever.
Much better to concede to some fix for the currency and maintain the sovereign power to devalue the dollar as necessary to maintain proper social spending. I don't understand why sovereign governments cannot see that a deficit is just the mirror image of a healthy social economy (Stephanie Kelton).
And to that end "fix" an exchange rate that maintains a reasonable purchasing power of the currency by pegging it to the long term health of the economy. What we do now is peg the dollar to a "basket of goods and services"- Ben Bernanke. That "basket" is effectively "the market" and has very little to do with good social policy.
There's no reason we can't dispense with the market and simply fiat the value of our currency based on the social return estimated for our social investments. Etc. Keeping the dollar stubbornly strong is just tyranny favoring those few who benefit from extreme inequality.albert , February 17, 2018 at 2:23 pm
Bancor. Then some got delusions of grandeur.Paul Cardan , February 17, 2018 at 2:37 pm
" Democracy is not under stress – it's under aggressive attack, as unconstrained financial greed overrides public accountability ."
I request a lessatorium* on the term 'democracy', because there aren't any democracies. Rather than redefine the term, why not use a more accurate one, like 'plutocracy', or 'corporatocracy'.
-- -- -- -
* It's like a moratorium, you just do less of it.Tomonthebeach , February 17, 2018 at 4:30 pm
What is this democracy of which you speak?Synoia , February 17, 2018 at 6:32 pm
I had not given much thought to "Fascist" until the term was challenged as a synonym for "bully." So, I started reading Wikipedia's take on Fascismo. What I discovered was the foremost, my USA education did not teach jack s -- about Fascism – and I went to elite high school in libr'l Chicago.
Is Fascism right or left? Does it matter? What goes around comes around.
What I gleaned from my quick Wikiread was the apparent pattern of economic inequality causing the masses to huddle in fear & loathing to one corner – desperation, and then some clever autocrat subverts the energy from their F&L into political power by demonizing various minorities and other non-causal perps.
Like nearly every past fascism emergence in history, US Trumpismo is capitalizing on inequality, and fear & loathing (his capital if you will) to seize power. That brings us to Today – to Trump, and an era (brief I hope) of US flirtation with fascism. Thank God Trump is crippled by a narcissism that fuels F&L within his own regime. Otherwise, I might be joining a survivalist group or something. :-)c_heale , February 17, 2018 at 7:29 pm
Left and right are more line circle that a line.
I view the extreme left and extreme right, meeting somewhere, hidden, at the back of a circle.flora , February 17, 2018 at 8:01 pm
I always believed this too!
Neoliberalism involves not the deregulation of the capitalist system, but the reregulation of it in the interest of capital. So, it involves moving from a system in which capital is regulated in the interests of stability and the many to regulation in a way that enhances capital.
Prominent politicians in the US and UK have spent their entire political careers representing neoliberalism's agenda at the expense of representing the voters' issues. The voters are tired of the conservative and [neo]liberal political establishments' focus on neoliberal policy. This is also true in Germany as well France and Italy. The West's current political establishments see the way forward as "staying the neoliberal course." Voters are saying "change course." See:
'German Politics Enters an Era of Instability' – Der Speigel
Feb 18, 2018 | www.nytimes.com
That these efforts might have actually made a difference, or at least were intended to, highlights a force that was already destabilizing American democracy far more than any Russian-made fake news post: partisan polarization.
"Partisanship can even alter memory, implicit evaluation, and even perceptual judgment," the political scientists Jay J. Van Bavel and Andrea Pereira wrote in a recent paper . "The human attraction to fake and untrustworthy news" -- a danger cited by political scientists far more frequently than orchestrated meddling -- "poses a serious problem for healthy democratic functioning."
It has infected the American political system, weakening the body politic and leaving it vulnerable to manipulation. Russian misinformation seems to have exacerbated the symptoms, but laced throughout the indictment are reminders that the underlying disease, arguably far more damaging, is all American-made.
... ... ...
A recent study found that the people most likely to consume fake news were already hyperpartisan and close followers of politics, and that false stories were only a small fraction of their media consumption.
Americans, it said, sought out stories that reflected their already-formed partisan view of reality. This suggests that these Russians efforts are indicators -- not drivers -- of how widely Americans had polarized.
That distinction matters for how the indictment is read: Though Americans have seen it as highlighting a foreign threat, it also illustrates the perhaps graver threats from within.An Especially Toxic Form of Partisanship
... ... ...
"Compromise is the core of democracy," she said. "It's the only way we can govern." But, she said, "when you make people feel threatened, nobody compromises with evil."
The claim that, for example, Mrs. Clinton's victory might aid Satan is in many ways just a faint echo of the partisan anger and fear already dominating American politics.
Those emotions undermine a key norm that all sides are served by honoring democratic processes; instead, they justify, or even seem to mandate, extreme steps against the other side.Advertisement Continue reading the main story
In taking this approach, the Russians were merely riding a trend that has been building for decades. Since the 1980s , surveys have found that Republicans and Democrats' feelings toward the opposing party have been growing more and more negative. Voters are animated more by distrust of the other side than support for their own.
This highlights a problem that Lilliana Mason, a University of Maryland political scientist, said had left American democracy dangerously vulnerable. But it's a problem driven primarily by American politicians and media outlets, which have far louder megaphones than any Russian-made Facebook posts.
"Compromise is the core of democracy," she said. "It's the only way we can govern." But, she said, "when you make people feel threatened, nobody compromises with evil."
The claim that, for example, Mrs. Clinton's victory might aid Satan is in many ways just a faint echo of the partisan anger and fear already dominating American politics.
Those emotions undermine a key norm that all sides are served by honoring democratic processes; instead, they justify, or even seem to mandate, extreme steps against the other side.
Feb 18, 2018 | www.theamericanconservative.comIn a society of advanced decomposition and moral depravity, these perpetrators are nobodies who wish to die as somebodies
.... ... ...In his case, the conscience was dead, or was buried beneath hatred, rage or resentment at those succeeding where he had failed. He had been rejected, cast aside, expelled. This would be his revenge, and it would be something for Douglas High and the nation to see -- and never forget.
Indeed, it seems a common denominator of the atrocities to which we have been witness in recent years is that the perpetrators are nobodies who wish to die as somebodies.
... ... ...Some of these individuals who seek to "go out" this way take their own lives when the responders arrive, or they commit "suicide by cop" and end their lives in a shootout. Others, Cruz among them, prefer to star in court, so the world can see who they are. And the commentators and TV cameras will again give them what they crave: massive publicity.
And we can't change this. As soon as the story broke, the cameras came running, and we watched another staging of the familiar drama -- the patrol cars, cops in body armor, ambulances, students running in panic or walking in line, talking TV heads demanding to know why the cowards in Congress won't vote to outlaw AR-15s.
... ... ...
Another factor helps to explain what happened Wednesday: We are a formerly Christian society in an advanced state of decomposition.
Nikolas Cruz was a product of broken families. He was adopted. Both adoptive parents had died. Where did he get his ideas of right and wrong, good and evil? Before the Death of God and repeal of the Ten Commandments, in those dark old days, the 1950s, atrocities common now were almost nonexistent.
Steve S. February 16, 2018 at 4:13 pmHere's a twist on the commentary: Not every ill-formed, life-hating psychopath in this country can go to Harvard School of Law, the halls of Congress or the Pentagon. Some are stuck in the lower classes.EarlyBird , says: February 16, 2018 at 6:52 pm
The past, callous destruction by drones of whole wedding parties in Waziristan AND their rescuers raised no eyebrows under the Obama administration yet we we are appalled at a dozen and a half Americans getting wasted. When a culture shows that it does not value life, everyone 'gets it' eventually and incorporates that view into their own lives and communities. Ours is a culture of death. Banning guns won't change that. The psychopaths who own our media establish the narrative of what our culture is. The narrative is nihilism.This has much to do with our culture of narcissism and spiritual hollowing out. It is the idea that I am The Most Important Human On Earth, the center of the universe, and any insult or injury to me simply can not be tolerated.James , says: February 16, 2018 at 8:29 pm
Narcissists are fragile. They have no coping mechanism when life doesn't give them what it "should" give them, or metes out tragedy or sadness, as it has a way of doing.
I am reminded of Christopher Dorner, the ex-LAPD officer who killed his instructor and his wife after having failed an exam, and going on a shooting spree, ending up being killed by SWAT in a cabin in the mountains above LA. He was not "insane." The letter he left behind exposed him as a narcissist who simply could not bear the insult to his "honor" for having been failed on an exam he had the "right" to pass.
I doubt this Cruz monster is a howling lunatic, either, but a spiritually dead ego-zombie whose only sense of meaning comes from anger and a sense of not being granted all he wanted and "deserved."I've read that there were enough red flags surrounding Nicholas Cruz to fill up Moscow's Red Square on parade day. In the face of multiple warnings, local law enforcement, the FBI, and the DOJ all failed to perform their due diligence in preventing this miscreant from falling through the cracks. You can have all the laws you want, stacked high and thick, but if you're not going to follow through on them, then what is the point?Geoff Guth , says: February 16, 2018 at 8:32 pm
You can ban guns and abolish the second amendment, but that will not address the moral sickness that is permeating the culture and giving shade to the depraved heart of human darkness or the sense of despair and hopelessness that life is at its material root, meaningless and hollow. We insist on calling out racism, bigotry, sexism, and violence, but if not grounded in God those values are not grounded in anything other than subjective emotion and preference. They are no more right, or good, or true than any inverse value and enforced only by those with the bigger gun. Indeed, this is the logical conclusion of progressive atheism with all its secular post-modern, post-truth, post-ethics moral relativism. Each person becomes a law unto themselves. And once we start shredding the Constitution in the name of safety and welfare, what then? Some slippery slopes are real. The only safe place without crime is a police state also without freedom of thought, conscience, expression, or movement.
Germany was the most educated country in Europe prior to WW 2. In the 19th century, European universities had driven God from their classrooms and were expounding the atheistic ideologies of Marxism, socialism, communism, anarchism, nihilism, Darwinism, etc In the slow march of time, these ideas came to fruition in the 20th making it the bloodiest century of the common era.
It was faith in God that gave us science, the enlightenment, and the foundation of democratic values. It was faith in God that ended slavery, racism, fought for civil rights, and founded almost all of our institutions of higher learning. It was faith in God that grounded our belief in human dignity and the value of life. Sure, great evil has been done by hypocrites in the name of Christianity but who is also first on the scene of a natural disaster with aid and relief, or working for improved medical care and clean water in third world countries, or working to end human trafficking? It is the true Christ followers who put their faith where their mouth is not some slimly politician or charlatan wearing a Christian mask. I would argue that America has become one of the most Biblically illiterate people in western civilization because we have pushed god from the public square, the school room, the university campus, much of the government and the military, as well as the board room, concomitant with an agenda to make those who believe in God a cultural exotica a bunch of anti-reason, anti-science, and anti-intellectual retrogrades to be treated with skeptical curiosity if not outright suspicion and hostility. Media touts every negative example and ignores all the good that doesn't fit the narrative.
We do this with great peril because we've seen what happens when this is done in history. The arc of history that visited ruin on Europe will surely bring it here in a hundred years' time or sooner. We're on the same path.Pearlbuck, who is going to pay for your school vaults? Republicans?JeffK , says: February 17, 2018 at 7:06 pm
Do you seriously think Donald Trump is going to give back any of his tax cut to make schools safer?
Well, let's ask our President, shall we? Let's see. 9.2 billion in cuts for the Department of Education . Well that's sure going to fund your school vaults.
You strip mine the schools to hand assets to vultures and then blame the schools for not being secure enough. Rightist logic!
Firearm homicide rate per 100,000 in :
That's 17 times as many people murdered in the US by firearms as France. 17 freaking times.
But by all means, carry on with your WHATABOUT WHATABOUT WHATABOUT!!!!!!!11111!!!!I am a hunter and gun owner. I have more than one gun. I am not anti-gun. I even own an AR-style rifle.Howlvis , says: February 17, 2018 at 7:43 pm
I believe mass shooting atrocities will never go away completely. However .. I believe the onus of proposing a viable solution to REDUCE the number of mass shootings rests squarely on the Republican party and the NRA.
They are always the coalition of 'We offer our sincere prayers and condolences', 'Now is not the time to politicize this tragedy', and 'That shooting last week is old news, time to move on'.
This is a warning to The Republicans and the NRA. I believe the American public has just about had it with lack of legislation to address this horrible problem. The Republicans must develop proposals for real solutions. Some of these proposals will not sit well with a part of it's base. So be it.
These proposals must be sold to all American citizens and be followed up with legislation that is effective on achieving what was proposed. The Democrats will certainly join if workable solutions are proposed.
Right now The Democrats are incredibly energized. The last thing The Republicans need at this time is to energize them even more, and turn even more Independents against them. They also should be very concerned about stirring up the 50% of eligible voters that do not vote. And they should be really concerned about the Republican brand with the 18-25 year olds. Among them the Republicans are increasing seen as the party that caters to unreasonable gun nuts, and not the population in general.Pat is sinking deeper and deeper into dementia. Or he is simply a moron. No other developed country has this level of mass shootings, no other developed country has a rate of gun violence anywhere near what we have in this country. And yet not a word about reasonable gun restrictions, instead Pat the Righteous tells us about moral decay. If pornography can be regulated, restricted or banned, why not AK-15s?
Feb 18, 2018 | www.zerohedge.com
Zhaupka Sun, 02/18/2018 - 14:08 Permalink
PSYOPS are interesting.
PSYOPS control U.S. Citizens who have nothing to lose; yet, U.S. Citizens deeply believe they have everything to lose when the only "objects" they truly own in this world is debt.
Look Around - Which Class were you birthed?
Which Class shall you and your family of relatives die?
Labor - Lower Class - Working Class - Get Paycheck / Job Class
Lower Lower Class - Retail / wholesale workers / laborers
Lower Middle Class - engineers, computer workers, doctors
Lower Upper Class - C-Level Managerial workers, sports celebrities, High-Net-Worth workers, etc.
Trading - Middle Class - Business Class - Get a Deal Class
Lower Middle Class - Owns business in an industry
Middle Middle Class - Operates 1 or more business in an industry
Upper Middle Class - Operates 1 or more businesses in 1 or more industries
Leisure - Upper Class - Investor Class - Let's Go Have Fun! Class
Lower Upper Class - New Billionaires.
Middle Upper Class - Multi-Billionaires invested in or own vast businesses in 1 or more vast industries
Upper Upper Class - Kings / Queens, Owners of Vast Tracts of Land on The Planet, Wealthy Post-Empire Families,
Goals of Working Class: Job, House and Car - loans, credit, debt for basics: food, shelter, clothing, transportation.
Goals of Trading Class expansion of business.
Goals of Leisure Class Enjoy Human Life. "Let's take the personal jets out for a spin today. Meet you at [Insert place on planet]."
Middle Classes (Business) and Upper Classes (Leisure) give "Vacations" and Time Off to Lower Labor Classes.
Working Classes do not have the money to associate, travel, and dine with the Trading Class (Middle).
Trading Classes do not have the money to Empire Trot with the Leisure Classes.
Income has co-relation neither to wealth, power, nor prestige. The vast majority of wealthy have little or zero income.
Common in debt U.S. Citizens stand back gawking at the great great-great-great-great-grand children of the Middle Class and Upper Class Families who have re-bequeathed and re-inherited family wealth through the centuries enjoying a life of leisure that for each generation the Common U.S. Citizens have never moved up in family wealth. General PSYOPS.
2005, prior to O elections all U.S. governments were directed by federal law to disclose their health insurance payments, fees, etc. to the U.S. Federal Government. U.S. governments Employees were also given a copy stating exactly how much the State, County, Town, City is paying for the employee. O is elected. Look at the amount spent. Nationalized Health Insurance. Simple PSYOPS.
Key: Any criticism moving this Political Operative Donna Brazille around is considered racist.
PBS and NBC, ABC, SeeBS (CBS), etc. studios featured Donna Brazille doing the political-talk show circuit.
Donna Brazille, Editor of Atlanta newspaper was shown, based on after show retakes, cameo's, script tweeking, etc., to be clear minded, fair, and articulate.
Donna Brazille had a Social Debt and Final Payment Due.
The Clintons collected Final Payment during the Presidential Elections from Donna Brazille who made payment by smuggling U.S. Presidential Debate Questions to The Clintons.
PSYOPS is interesting and work especially well with a small group of wealthy who can hire and pay for PSYOPS either in the immediate term or longer term as with Donna Brazille.
Marketing is PSYOPS all day.
United States President Trump is Not:
An ex-government employee
Not Poor <- Very Important as Big Cash is involved.
United States President Trump has a marked distain for both Factions of the State Political Party – republicans and democrats – and wonder if any other U.S. Citizens have the same feelings and thoughts.
Trump came forward as an American United States Citizen.
Democrats gave all the Benefits the Labor Unions fought for during the 1930's and 1940's to Illegal Aliens.
Republicans gave all the industry and jobs to foreign countries and imported pre-trained foreigners into American Jobs.
When Trump threatened to watch every polling station in the United States, if he had to, to make sure no voter fraud, at least during the one and only election he participated, State Political Party faction's democrats and republicans laughed.
The State Political Party Factions colluded to Stop Trump while running the usual rigged fake fraudulent election.
The usual United States Media Channels using the United States National Emergency Broadcast System entrusted to individual caretaker / quasi-owners to manage and maintain premises, power level, and towers, began the usual selling broadcast time to the highest bidder. The usual war over the airwaves time and again. The Hearts and Minds Meme is the warring struggle between republicans and democrats to control United States Media Channels broadcasts before, during, and after a United States Election. The usual.
24/7 PSYOPS using the owners of ABC, BBC, NBC, CBS, PBS, NPR, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, Reuters, U.K. Guardian, Associated Press, etc. broadcast State Party PSYOPS obfuscating Trump is winning, announced No Path to 270, and broadcast Common Citizens Protesting.
The Clintons had the White Females and the new meme: People of Color.
United States Media Channels using the United States National Emergency Broadcast System (EBS) showed White males violently protesting TRUMP one day and Black Males shown violently protesting TRUMP another day to PSYOPS Cobble Black and White Males as kin, long shot, similar voters. Don't say it, show it, persuasively.
Republicans all signed Pledges declaring in Media Channels they shall not vote for Trump and encouraged everyone to do the same. Democrats against Trump is a given. PSYOPS. Political PSYOPS.
After the election, United States President Trump asked to examine the voting rolls. The State Political Party (r&d) denied the request threatening using courts to tie up the matter and cause great usd expense through the Corrupt U.S. Judicial. SOPHISTICATED PSYOPS.
The Entire United States is Corrupt.
1. The Lawyer Amended Constitution, Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence - the originals of which are all now in the dustbin of history - have successfully created these Criminal Enterprises according to the Founders:
the Corrupt House of Representatives,
the Corrupt U.S. Senate,
the Corrupt U.S. Judicial,
the Corrupt U.S. Military and its Corrupt 17 Intelligence Agencies,
the Corrupt U.S. Media (except for the 5 Independent newspapers that did support U.S. President Trump),
the Corrupt For Sale Ivy League "there is a tailored study FOR SALE PROVING [insert desire outcome here]. . . " Universities,
the Corrupt States, the Corrupt Counties, and the Corrupt Cities,
the Corrupt Republican Political Party, and
the Corrupt Democrat Political Party.
U.S. Political Government "Investigations" show the Perp Walk: Perjury after Perjured Testimony in U.S. Supreme Courts, U.S. House of Representatives, Senate Testimony. Fraud all. Only the most frightened horrified have cognitive dissonance belief remaining in U.S. Federal Government(s).
Overthrowing Governments is not done by those who work, commoners posting on internet websites, walking the streets with Pitchforks, Fire and Ropes, Protesting, carrying Placards, placing Posters, and Marching with Banners; those people in Life Long Debt Servitude (hovel&cart/house&car) usually come to gawk at the result.
Overthrowing Governments is done by extremely wealthy for differing reasons as in the Overthrowing the Government of Britain/ England / U.K. in the New World - the Free World - during the late 1700's Early 1800's with Thomas Jefferson.
Thomas Jefferson knew Representative Government eventually becomes corrupt; a New Lawyered Governed Tyranny is formed.
Lawyered Representative Government Corrupts; Absolute Lawyered Representative Governments Corrupts Absolutely.
When Citizens are indebted to, fearful of, dependent on, lied to, [INSERT YOURS HERE], with government guns pointed at U.S. Citizens and Surveillance by their "elected" Representatives for each AOR using U.S. Militarized Collusive State, County, and City First Responders Type Government Patrolling Enforcement, a New Type of Governed Tyranny is formed (see 1 afore)
All U.S. Citizens are given a Legal Right and a Legal Duty.
When Lawyered Representative Governments do not do the will of the people (hint: U.S.).
". . . it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government."
- Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence, 2nd paragraph
The world is very different than ZH Heavy and MSM disclose.
Recent and periodic school shootings are the work of the two U.S. Political Factions democrats and republicans PSYOPS in the U.S. Political Party System.
Disclosing the real story could be considered Top Secret National Intelligence information especially with the fake social media account: Zhaupka.
- Viva De Zhaup!
Feb 17, 2018 | isreview.org
Review of:Democracy in Chains:The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America By Nancy MacLean Viking , 2017 · 334 pages · $28.00
Duke University historian Nancy MacLean counted herself among those who'd never heard of Buchanan when she began researching Jim Crow Virginia's decision to subsidize private school vouchers for "segregation academies" in the wake of the 1954 Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education outlawing racial segregation in Topeka, Kansas, public schools. References to Buchanan in the writings of the doyen of postwar neoliberal economics Milton Friedman led her to Buchanan's former office at George Mason University. There, among huge piles of papers, she found a confidential letter from Koch describing millions of dollars in contributions to Buchanan's research center on the campus.
From that chance encounter with evidence connecting the unassuming professor with the billionaire ideologue, MacLean has constructed a history of Buchanan's role as an idea merchant for free market ideology. Over the course of nearly five decades Buchanan, his acolytes, and associates have been key participants in a billionaire-funded campaign to promote such policies as school vouchers for private education, privatization of Social Security, anti-union "right to work" laws, and ideological crusades like climate science denial. That many of these policies have been implemented at the state and local level, while perhaps the most plutocratic administration ever inhabits the US government, is testament to the success of the Far Right's long game.
MacLean's Democracy in Chains thus joins Jane Mayer's Dark Money and Kim Phillips-Fein's Invisible Hands as essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the intellectual and organizational roots of the free-market Right that has taken hold of the modern Republican Party and much of US politics today. In contrast to the stories that Mayer and Phillips-Fein tell, MacLean's approach is narrower -- focusing on the career of one influential academic and his patron. But its focus on Buchanan allows MacLean to explore other themes that aren't as central to Mayer's and Phillip-Fein's work, such as the connection of these self-described "defenders of liberty" to an older, antidemocratic tradition rooted in the antebellum South and the Confederacy.
Only a few years from receiving his PhD in the right-wing economics department at the University of Chicago, Buchanan proposed to his employer, the University of Virginia, that it support his plan to set up a research center to "produce a line of new thinkers" promoting libertarian views then largely out of step with the mainstream of the economics profession. He suggested in his proposal to the university president that the center be given an innocuous name to camouflage its "extreme views . . . no matter how relevant they might be to the real purpose of the program." University President Colgate Darden Jr. agreed to raise the money from corporate foundations to create what MacLean rightly characterizes as "in essence a political center at a nonprofit institution of higher learning." It was the first of many such efforts by Buchanan and subsequent imitators to create what one of them, Murray Rothbard, openly described as a "Leninist cadre" of free-market ideologues who could move into positions of influence in government, business, and universities.
In reconstructing Buchanan's role in crafting academic incubators for free-market ideas throughout his long career at UVA, UCLA, Virginia Tech, and finally at the Koch-funded Mercatus Center at George Mason University, MacLean emphasizes two main points that rip the mask off of these ventures' innocuous claims of devotion to "individual liberty." The first is the inconvenient truth that they can't be separated from their origins in the defense of Jim Crow and doctrines such as "states' rights" and "nullification" dating back to the antebellum South. MacLean recalls historian Richard Hofstadter's characterization of John C. Calhoun (proslavery ideologue and US vice president 1825-32) as the "Marx of the master class," and shows how Buchanan echoed Calhoun's ideas. Like Calhoun, Buchanan assumed the supremacy of property rights over all other rights. And like Calhoun, he developed (in The Calculus of Consent , coauthored with Gordon Tullock in 1962) a theory of government that required all members of society -- and most importantly, its wealthiest -- to agree before any government action could be taken.
Buchanan's version of "public choice" posits a world in which government is a corrupt and oppressive enterprise in which individuals and politicians adopt "rent-seeking" behavior to channel private wealth to ends that its original owners may not support. In this world, if the democratically determined majority supports taxation to fund public schools, but a wealthy minority objects to paying those taxes, the wealthy minority should have the ability to veto or opt out of support for public schools. Buchanan tested out this very idea in post- Brown Virginia, when he coauthored a 1959 plan for the full privatization and selling off of all public schools in the state. Although presented in race-neutral language of "economic liberty," it presented an option to the Jim Crow Democratic Party state leadership who urged "massive resistance" to court-ordered integration of public schools. Yet Buchanan's proposal proved even too radical for Virginia's legislature, which narrowly rejected it.
MacLean describes how Buchanan's early failure taught him lessons that stuck with him the rest of his life:
Faced with majority opinion as expressed in votes, politicians could not be counted on to stand by their stated committments. . . . He learned something else, too: constitutions matter. If a constitution enabled what he would call "socialism" (which, in Virginia's case, meant requiring a system of public schools), it would be nearly impossible to achieve his vision of radical transformation without changing the constitution.
Buchanan's comeuppance illustrates the second major point that MacLean draws out: hostility to democracy, collective action, and majority rule is central to this project. Throughout the book, MacLean quotes the principals, like Buchanan and Koch, acknowledging to each other that their ideas are unpopular. They understand that ordinary Americans support public goods like public education and Social Security. As a result, they resort to stealth in advancing their agenda. They look to judicial or constitutional means to change the rules of the game to institutionalize their far-right policies, and to place them outside the control of elected politicians or the popular will. This is what MacLean means by placing "democracy in chains."
So we find Buchanan writing memos and papers in support of the Koch-funded Cato Institute's campaign for Social Security privatization in the 1980s. Knowing that a direct assault on Social Security was political suicide, Buchanan urged a more surreptitious route: raise doubts about the system's viability, pass incremental "reforms" to peel off groups of beneficiaries from the system, and enlist the financial industry to offer alternatives. Anyone who followed the George W. Bush administration's failed effort to privatize Social Security, or House Speaker Paul Ryan's current effort to wreck Medicaid and Medicare, will recognize these tactics.
More dramatically, we find Buchanan playing a role as adviser to that champion of economic liberty, the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile. Here, where a brutal military coup allowed the most right-wing elements of the Chilean ruling class to remake society, Buchanan found an opportunity to test his theories of placing constitutional "locks" on democracy. The 1980 constitution, passed in a rigged referendum, had Buchanan's fingerprints on it: ridiculous supermajorities required to raise taxes, union leaders barred from political participation, and an electoral system designed to empower conservative minorities. Chile's return to democracy in the 1990s overturned many of these restrictions, but others remain. And the legacy of Pinochet-era privatizations of the country's pension and education systems -- fruit of the policy advice of leading neoliberal ideologues -- still contributes to wide swathes of poverty amid "economic freedom."
Buchanan's final stop was George Mason University, where Charles Koch's millions bankrolled the transformation of a sleepy commuter college into a Beltway powerhouse that has become an idea factory and policy mill for conservatives. Its proximity to Washington, DC, means that politicians, congressional staffers, lobbyists, judges, and other Beltway denizens have direct access to the latest research, talking points, and training in support of their patron's extremist ideology.
If some of the purer libertarians worry, as MacLean quotes one of them, that they "have been seduced by Koch money into providing intellectual ammunition for an autocratic businessman," Buchanan didn't seem to be one of them. But with an avowed school privatizer running the US Department of Education, and with court cases aiming to cripple public sector unions heading to the US Supreme Court, it's hard to argue that they've been inconsequential.
MacLean raises this dystopian prospect: "To value liberty for the wealthy minority above all else and enshrine it in the nation's governing rules, as Calhoun and Buchanan both called for and the Koch network is achieving, play by play, is to consent to an oligarchy in all but the outer husk of representative form." She asks: "Is this the country we want to live in and bequeath to our children and future generations? That is the real public choice."
Feb 17, 2018 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
HopeLB , February 16, 2018 at 8:43 amColonel Smithers , February 16, 2018 at 9:04 am
All of the warnings, predictions, knowledge, tech advances and humor of sci-fi, real science, history, and literature alike has boiled down to this? This low quality "news" that reports on the latest predictable, preventable outrage/injustice when it not intentionally turning up the hysteria/fear tuner? It's like living in a simulation of a society ruled by the insane and hearing about its unwinding day after day.
This rings true as well; "The implications for the future of the American republic were terrifying, Tesich concluded. His words are haunting to read today: We are rapidly becoming prototypes of a people that totalitarian monsters could only drool about in their dreams. All the dictators up to now have had to work hard at suppressing the truth. We, by our actions, are saying that this is no longer necessary, that we have acquired a spiritual mechanism that can denude truth of any significance. In a very fundamental way we, as a free people, have freely decided that we want to live in some post-truth world."
Yeat's captures the inexorable feel of our times perfectly;
William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)
THE SECOND COMING
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?camelotkidd , February 16, 2018 at 8:42 am
This also applies to the UK. What goodwill, mythology ("worldliness, pragmatism") etc. that was attached by continentals to the UK has been "exploded".
This makes me wonder whether the US will exist in its current form. Is it desirable? Genuine questions from someone who visits annually, including "fly over", and enjoys doing so. I don't see the UK existing as currently constituted much beyond the next decade.Watt4Bob , February 16, 2018 at 8:45 am
Lately, I've detected a certain sense of malaise among my fellow citizens. In my opinion, it's long been apparent that this won't end well. All of these factors points to a day of reckoning that is rapidly approaching. Perhaps the prevalence of school shootings is acting as the proverbial canary in the coal mine?
Don't think that the elite have not noticed the way things are moving. In my own line of work I interact with the 1% on a regular basis. I can tell you that even though they are doing better that ever, there is a sense of discreet terror. It's obvious when they discuss all the ways that they're trying to replicating their own advantages in the education of their little darlings.Eureka Springs , February 16, 2018 at 10:32 am
I'm starting to think that what we are experiencing is the realization that we've spent way too much time expecting that explaining our selves, our diverse grievances, and our political insights would naturally result in growing an irresistible movement that would wash over, and cleanse our politics of the filth that is the status quo.
It is sobering to realize that it took almost four decades for the original Progressive Era organizers to bring about even the possibility of change.
I think it's dawning on us that we're not re-experiencing the moment before the election of Franklin Roosevelt, and the beginning of the New Deal, we're actually just now realizing the necessity of the daunting task of organizing, which makes our times resemble 1890 more than 1935.
Government by the people, and for the people has been drowned in the bath-tub, and the murderers have not only taken the reigns of power, but have convinced half the population that their murderous act represents a political correction that will return America to greatness.
It remains to be seen whether we will find it in our hearts to embrace both the hard, and un-glamorous work of relieving the pain inflicted by the regime that has engulfed us, and the necessity of embracing as brothers and sisters those who haven't yet realized that it is the rich and powerful who are the problem, and not all the other poor and oppressed.
The difficulty of affecting political change might be explained the way Black-Smiths describe their problem;
Life so short the craft so long to learn.
Even if it takes half as much time to defeat the Robber Barons this go-round, many of us will not see anything resembling ' victory ' in our lifetimes, so we have to make adjustments in our expectations, and accept the monumental nature of the tasks ahead.
"that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
A nice excerpt from the non-binding Gettysburg address. Too bad he was referring to a system of governance which never existed.
In a conversation with several friends yesterday.. all of us found among our greatest despairs the behavior of our long time friends who are Democrats. Much more pig-headed and determined to stay that way than Republicans ever were during the Bush Jr. years. Pretending we live in some sort of system (much less a party) which could or would possibly represent. Seemingly incapable of listening, blinded by delusion and propaganda demanding anyone in their presence double down on what's failed so many of us for far longer than we have lived.
All of us men in our fifties. Hard working. None of us had kids of our own, but several are in relationships with women who did. None of us have anything close to high living standards. Barely getting by now with great uncertainty ahead. Hell, we all own our homes outright, drive ten to twenty year old cars, buy most clothes second hand, grow much of our own food, cut our own firewood, several live off the grid entirely. Only one has access to health care and that's because he's on disability due to spinal injury on the job and an inherited heart condition. He's also the only one who might be able to get by in 'retirement' years on what he will receive. Every one of the rest of us realized if we lose our current jobs we would be hard pressed to replace them at half the income we have now.
I went to orientation for jury duty this week. Out of a hundred and fifty people I was the only man wearing a button down shirt and a sport coat. The only man who removed his hat in the courtroom. And I felt like a freak. It was all I could do to not ask the judge about jury nullification. The only reason I held back is because I knew every citizen in the joint just wanted out of there.
I think delegitimization is upon us. General malaise is nearly to the point of a general strike. The house of cards is in a slow motion but certain wind storm. Those thousand dollar checks at Wal-Mart payday will vanish overnight while the wealthy reap tax benefits for years on end. We are down to the twenty seven percent (Dems) waging false battles with the twenty six percent (Reps). Only the 47 percent rest of us will grow in numbers from here on out.
Watt4Bob , February 16, 2018 at 11:20 amjuliania , February 16, 2018 at 12:58 pm
Only the 47 percent rest of us will grow in numbers from here on out.
So there is our hope. Personally, I suspect that Trump's working-class supporters will join us sooner than the deluded, diehard Clintonista faction of the democratic base. And let's hope the false battles don't turn into real battles. It's obvious there are some who would love to have us throwing rocks at each other, or worse.Petter , February 16, 2018 at 8:45 am
Yes, indeed, you have it. Delegitimization is the appropriate word. My thought on seeing the headline that 17 died in the Florida school shooting was how many months to go before the school year ends. I won't read anything about the shooter, or the deaths, or the bravery and self sacrifice. There have been too many; there will be far too many more.
It is an end-of-Vietnam moment. It is a moment for poems such as the above mentioned, and for me T.S.Eliot's 'Four Quartets'.suffer , February 16, 2018 at 8:46 am
Book: The Administration of Fear – Paul Virilio. From the back cover: We are facing the emergence of a real, collective madness reinforced by the synchronization of emotions: the sudden globalization of affects in real time that hits all of humanity at the same time, and in the name of Progress. Emergency exit: we have entered a time of general panic.
-- --Colonel Smithers , February 16, 2018 at 8:51 am
what is your suffering of choice?
http://mentalfloss.com/article/58230/how-tell-whether-youve-got-angst-ennui-or-weltschmerzQuentin , February 16, 2018 at 11:43 am
Thank you to Yves and the NC community.
Perhaps because I live in the UK, I echo particularly what Clive, Windsock and Plutonium Kun say.
Having spent much of the winter in Belgium, Mauritius, Spain and France, so none Anglo-Saxon, it was a relief to get away from the UK in the same way as JLS felt. Although these countries have their issues, I did notice their MSM appear not as venal as the UK and US MSM and seem more focused on local bread and butter. Brexit and Trump were mentioned very briefly, the latter nothing as hysterical and diversionary as in the UK and US. There were little identity politics on parade. Locals don't seem as worn out, in all respects, as one observes in Blighty.
With regard to PK's reference about Pearl Harbour, I know some well informed remainers who want a hard Brexit just for the relief that it will bring. Others, not necessarily remainers, have no idea what's going on and think Trump is a bigger threat. I must confess to, often, sharing what the former think, if only to bring the neo-liberal house down once and for all.
All this makes me think whether anglo-saxon countries are in a class of their own and how, after Brexit, the EU27 will evolve, shorn of the UK. This is not to say that the UK (the neo-liberal bit) is the only rotten apple in the EU.
If it was not for this site and community, I know of no other place where I would get a better source of news, insight and sanity. I know a dozen journalists, mainly in London, well and echo what Norello said.LizinOregon , February 16, 2018 at 11:33 pm
The Anglo-American countries can not be anything but in a class of their own. They include the mother country with former colonies, some especially successful, and rule the world by virtue of language, wealth and, often necessarily, violence, almost always gratuitous.
Violence has an effect on peoples lives at both the giving and receiving ends. What was this school shooting? The 13th or something since the beginning of the year. War. Nuclear war. A fear of war is the undertone which has been droning (!) on long before Donald Trump took power. Image you are in Baghdad on the glorious, glittering night of Shock and Awe to get a feel for things. That happened when the US was supposedly great.Jane , February 16, 2018 at 9:30 am
Is pretending all is well a rational defense against the overwhelming feeling that there is nothing an individual can do to deflect the trajectory we are on? And the emotional energy it takes to keep up that pretense is exhausting.Yves Smith Post author , February 16, 2018 at 12:13 pm
I understand she's eager to leave but where to?! Isnt everywhere infected with this angst?Steve , February 16, 2018 at 9:37 am
She spends a lot of time in Asia .DJG , February 16, 2018 at 9:52 am
I think for myself and others that the complete hopelessness of our situation is starting to take more of a toll. The amount of personal and social capital used to finally get some sanity back in government after Bush and the disastrous wasted opportunity of Obama that led to Trump is overwhelming. The complete loss of fairness is everywhere and my pet one this week is how Experian after losing over 200 million personal financial records is now advertising during the Olympics as the personal security service experts instead of being prosecuted out of business.Eclair , February 16, 2018 at 11:52 am
Yesterday was peculiar, Yves Smith. You should have sent me an e-mail! My colleagues were having meltdowns (overtired, I think). My computers were glitchy. The WWW seemed to switch on and off all day long. I am of a mind that it has to due with the false spring: We had a thaw in Chicago.
Like Lambert, and I won't speak for Lambert, who can speak for himself, I am guardedly optimistic: I have attended Our Revolution meetings here in Chicago as well as community meetings. There are many hardworking and savvy people out there. Yet I also believe that we are seeing the collapse of the old order without knowing what will arise anew. And as always, I am not one who believes that we should advocate more suffering so that people "learn their lesson." There is already too much suffering in the world–witness the endless U.S. sponsored wars in the Middle East. (The great un-covered story of our time: The horrors of the U.S.-Israeli-Saudi sponsored massacres from Algeria to Pakistan.)
I tend to think that the Anglo-American world is having a well-deserved nervous breakdown.
I note on my FB page that a "regular Democrat" is calling for war by invoking Orwell. When someone has reached that point of rottenness, not even knowing that Orwell was almost by nature anti-war, the rot can only continue its collapse.
So I offer Antonio Gramsci, who in spite of everything, used to write witty letters from prison. >>
My state of mind brings together these two sentiments and surpasses them: I am pessimistic because of intelligence, but a willed optimist. I think, in every circumstance, of the worst scenario so I can marshal all of my reserves of will and be ready to overcome the obstacle. I never allow myself illusions, and I have never had disappointments. I am always specially armed with endless patience, not passive or inert, but patience animated by perseverance.
–Antonio Gramsci, letter to his brother Gennaro, December 1929. Translation DJG.
Every collapse brings intellectual and moral disorder in its wake. So we must foster people who are sober, have patience, who do not despair when faced with the worst horrors yet who do not become elated over every stupid misstep. Intelligence makes us pessimists, and our will makes us optimists.
–Antonio Gramsci, first Prison Notebook, 1929-1930. Translation DJG.
So: Commenting groundlings and comrades, we must be alert, somewhat severe in our judgments of people and of the news, and yet open to a revolution that includes bread and roses.Left in Wisconsin , February 16, 2018 at 2:34 pm
Nice find, DJG: "Our intelligence makes us pessimists, and our will makes us optimists."
Too big for a bumper sticker . but good for a bedside table or the bathroom mirror. To remind us that, for the realists, being optimistic takes an effort of will, a determined reach every single morning to find just one small thing that will keep us going for that day and give us hope for the future. It could be a rosy sunrise, or the imminent arrival of a grandchild, or a packet of seeds ready to be sown. Or meeting a good friend for coffee, or mastering a new dance step or a difficult passage on the fiddle.
Not denial of the world's shameful faults and of our increasingly precarious position within it, but a refusal to allow them to grind us down completely.Lambert Strether , February 16, 2018 at 5:22 pm
Intelligence makes us pessimists, and our will makes us optimists.
My favorite quote. What else is there?
And if you want to know who the enemy is, it is all those whose cure for what ails us is either "Just going on living your life (i.e. shopping)" or "just vote". I view the current period of disquiet and all of us wondering what we can and should do, and who will be alongside us, or opposed to us, when we do.Eclair , February 16, 2018 at 6:08 pm
> Pessimism of the the intellect, optimism of the will
I think -- call me Pollyanna if you wish -- that optimism of the intellect is warranted as well. My only concern is that collapse will come (or be induced) when "the good guys,"* let us say, are still to weak to take advantage of the moment. That's why I keep saying that gridlock is our friend.
* Who in the nature of the case have been unaccustomed to wielding real power.The Rev Kev , February 16, 2018 at 9:57 am
I have been fortunate, in the past decade, to have 'hung out' with lots of 20-somethings (and a few older beings) who have been passionately optimistic about what they can accomplish against the forces of darkness. From the environmentalists who are fighting the corporations who would build pipelines and LNG terminals to activists building tiny houses for the homeless and working with the city to find land to place them on, and those who happily get arrested for sleeping under a blanket, in protest against 'urban camping' bans, to a woman who for the last five years has served Friday night meals for all, on sidewalks in front of businesses supporting the urban camping ban.
And, I have been constantly in awe of those who, in the face of centuries of being relocated, dispossessed, despised and massacred, will not give up on protecting their lands and their way of life. These Lakota and Kiowa and Dineh people are truly optimistic that they will prevail. Or, perhaps fatalistic is a better description; hey know they may die trying.R , February 16, 2018 at 10:19 am
Looks like this article has a lot of legs on it but will wait to read more commentator's thoughts and ideas before doing so myself. Too much to take in. In the meantime. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9WatQeG5fMUtegnost , February 16, 2018 at 10:22 am
As a New Zealander living in the USA for around 7 years now (but routinely spending Christmas months back in NZ, and often multi month stints remote working in Europe) the 'tension' just living in the USA – NYC / LA is through the roof.
I can remember being in Vienna some time after trump won, a few days shy of returning to the US and wondering what the hell I was thinking – and that's related to people / media's reaction to trump just as much as trump being in charge.
It's hard to put your finger on exactly what it is – partly just the 'big metropolis' thing.. but there's also something else nasty in the air.
Similar (but amplified) feeling at work last week at the office as one quarter of the company were sacked on a days notice – a downsizing at a start up that supposedly has 'great culture'.
It's that nasty squeeze of fast capitalism I believe that has a grip on everyone's psyche – elevated fear levels, etc.
Re-read Ames' 'going postal' a few weeks back, which covers brilliantly the vicious cultural turn under Reagan.
Ps – Naked Capitalism has become my 'News refuge' having dropped off social media entirely, and wanting to avoid the general insanity of the news cycle but not disengage, thank you!tegnost , February 16, 2018 at 1:31 pm
It's not so much the presence of angst that I see, among my working brethren we're pretty numb to the current hopeless future and tend to focus instead on the present for efficiencies sake, for if one thinks too much about the hopeless future it's hard to get up and get going on fighting back the tide and muddling through the hopeless present that will be more hopeless if you don't do anything. (as an aside my opinion is that this psychology has much to do with the current homeless crisis it takes confidence to try and those who can delude themselves into doing so seem to be a little better off) But now the angst is in the the 10%er's in my acquaintance, who claim to be really worried about nuclear war. Not surprisingly they're mostly informed by npr, which as far as I can see makes people really stupid. The trump as crazy fascist narrative has them in it's clutches so much so that his weekend I had to give the "don't be too pessimistic b/c if the world doesn't end you will be unprepared for it, and if it ends who cares?" speech normally reserved for youngsters who see no point in trying due to end of the world thinking (as anecdote since when I was in college in the early '80's I was pretty certain there would be a nuclear war and made different choices than the best ones,, anyone remember the star wars missile defense system?). That said I think the "we're all gonna die" theme is just more bs sour grapes and more proof that the residence of hopelessness is actually the democrat partisans who refuse to live in the present, so denial is where they are at. But isn't that the thing about angst, it doesn't have to be real to effect one's life negatively, and I'm hearing it from people who I think should know better, but I read nc daily and live out in the woods (highly recommended, almost as good as being in another country as the rural areas of the US are actually another country) and npr was so unhinged this weekend that I felt that even the reporters were having a hard time mustering the outrage. As Hope said commenting on the uber series
"What a pleasure it is to read a genuine (and all too rare) piece of financial analysis."
I couldn't agree more, and I might send it on to a 10%er, but they seem kind of fragile lately and I don't know if they could handle "uber is a failing enterprise", they might not get out of bedTravis Bickle , February 16, 2018 at 10:22 am
oops sorry that was hana not hopeLeft in Wisconsin , February 16, 2018 at 2:37 pm
Don't know if I'm any more sensitive than you guys, and I'm certainly not that good at articulating what's going in with something this subtle.
I will say that when the dogs stop barking its time to start getting REALLY worried. What we may now be hearing, or not hearing, may be a sign of fatigue, but more depressingly, impending resignation. EVERY day for the past year there's been yet another affront, and the opposition has been ineffective in any meaningful sense. Trump has apparently learned that the way to parry any thrust is to counter with something even more outrageous, literally in a matter of minutes. The initiative he is thus able to maintain is scary, and something I see no way to surmount.
But Trump is not the problem here, only the Front Man for something larger. Even during the early oughts one could perceive a fundamental societal drift, empowered by a 'conservative' (read: fascist) willingness to do whatever was necessary in pursuit of their particular vision. It is not a vision of returning disempowered white folks to some rosy past that never existed; I sense a more feudal vision, with princes and lords in gated communities, with peasants conned into doing their bidding, every day being fleeced even further.
Hence, having the means, though by no means being rich, I began my move off-shore over ten years ago. I now have 3 passports and permanent residency on as many continents. What Jerri-Lynn senses is very, very real, as I learned in the US over Xmas past in a series of vignettes I'll spare anyone reading this. I was sharing my experiences there to a local student recently (here in South America) who had once lived in the US and who continues to be enamored of the now frayed, and largely repudiated, American Dream. As I explained to him, it's not a pretty picture, and hardly one to succumb to.
My sense is that the media has succeeded in instilling into the North American zeitgeist a sense of the US being At War against the rest of the world, not unlike that of the mentality of Israel, which has a far more real situation to contend with. The tragedy, in the case of the US, is that it really, really does not have to be like this. This is a hole we have begun digging ourselves into only recently, as opposed to Israel, which at this point can hardly see the light of day.
At some point this mentality becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and while the US could easily turn itself around, the momentum is strong and decidedly in the other direction. The vision of the fascists and the imperatives of the media pretty much guarantee the US, and by extension the world, is on a collision course with negative time and space.Lambert Strether , February 16, 2018 at 5:30 pm
Everything holds until it doesn't.Andrew Watts , February 16, 2018 at 10:33 am
Herbert Stein disagrees with Godot's Vladimir: ""If something cannot go on forever, it will stop."Andrew Watts , February 16, 2018 at 9:16 pm
I'm probably the last person able to comment on this topic having spent the last three months ignoring the news and not even reading Naked Capitalism daily. I was never bothered by the big stories like the drama over North Korea which I thought of as nothing more than a psy-op incidentally aimed at the American populace. Nor did I find Liberal Hezbollah (The Resistance) or #Metoo to be anything more than a joke. I kinda suspected that American culture would be plagued by another round of hysterical superstition driven by Calvinist social-jihadism.
If there seems to be a lack of consequential events it's because history doesn't move as swiftly as we might want. It doesn't mean that we aren't moving towards more worldview shattering events which will challenge the ability of our body politic to react to them. The United States continues to collapse driven by external and internal factors. The lack of clarity and unity of action will eventually usher in the end of the empire aboard. The inability of our ruling class to respond to Trump's election in such a manner which would constructively restore faith in our institutions will only accelerate the process at home. There isn't a lack of stories which serve as a useful guide through history. The story about American troops being ambushed and dying in Niger was significant.
A few years before the Islamic State steamrolled through Iraq and Syria it was mostly unnoticed that the French were contending with rebels marauding through their African protection racket in Mali and the Central African Republic. The fact that the US is having to prop up the French and that the chaos has been migrating southward is significant especially given the economic factors at stake. Another story I found interesting was a recent DW article about the woeful state of readiness of the German military given it is assuming leadership of a prominent position in NATO. It notably reveals that in the aftermath of the 2008 economic crisis and euro crisis the Germans, but probably the European countries as a whole, have been strip-mining their military budgets which is something that America did during the Great Depression. I'm sure there is even more stories out there that are little pieces of a much larger puzzle but to be honest I've mostly spent my downtime playing video games.
Don't judge me.kareninca , February 16, 2018 at 8:58 pm
True enough. It shouldn't go unnoticed that Obama was calling for NATO nations to increase their military spending 'til they reach 2% of their GDP. The Germans wouldn't theoretically have any trouble meeting under normal circumstances. It's also a far cry from what Germany spent on the eve of both World Wars.CalypsoFacto , February 16, 2018 at 4:19 pm
"Basically everything and anything anti-Republican & anti-Trump that gets published on Facebook gets re-posted on our church Facebook page."
Hmmm. Are you losing parishioners as a result? Or gaining them? It doesn't seem to me like what people would be looking for in a faith community – an overload of politics – but what do I know.
Oh, I see that you've already sort of answered that question.freedeomny , February 16, 2018 at 11:36 am
the tendency to excessive rage when identity is questioned is a feature of narcissism. excessive, misplaced, out of proportion rage (at being denied what was expected, at being wrong, at being seen as incompetent, whatever conflicts with the rager's identity) is what this sounds like to me. which is I guess another form of not thinking enough, unfortunately narcissism isn't curable.
in fact so much of this thread makes me feel like we're all suffering a bit as grey rocks in a narcissistic abuse scenario. the narcissism is at the individual level and at the societal level; we're all just trying to keep our heads down and avoid the maelstrom, which keeps increasing in intensity to get our attention back.windsock , February 16, 2018 at 11:37 am
What I have noticed is: a sense of powerlessness and not being able to control basic aspects of your life .that at any moment things could spiral widely out of control; people have become more enraged, meaner and feel they don't even have to be polite anymore (my friends and I have noticed this even with drivers); people who normally would be considered comfortable are feeling more and more financially insecure. Almost everyone I know feels this tension and is trying to figure out what they need to do to survive – I know several who are exploring becoming expats. I think we are rapidly moving towards a breaking point .PKMKII , February 16, 2018 at 11:58 am
https://www.standard.co.uk/comment/comment/cheer-up-the-apocalypse-isn-t-coming-and-life-s-getting-better-a3768606.htmlpolecat , February 16, 2018 at 2:53 pm
The angst feels not like the angst of an impending, singular catastrophe, but rather the angst of decline. There's a late empire feel to the current mood: leaders without agency, more interested in their own, internal sense of normalcy and maintaining their perches, perches that increasingly feel pointless as they're all just listless figureheads doing what the Magister Militum tells them to do.
The military feels all-encompassing yet simultaneously incapable of exercising its will in the theater of war, so dispersed and aimless, as the missions are no longer about winning wars but about resume building. Same for the security agencies, whose invasive practices feel less like a preparation for a 1984-style security state, and more a cover for their own incompetence and inability to do proper legwork, as these mass shootings seem to inevitably come with the revelation about how authorities were alerted prior to the fact of the shooter's warning signs and did no follow up. Meanwhile, standards of living decline for the vast majority of Americans, the sense of national unity is eroding as regional and rural/urban identities are superseding that of country. Not to mention the slow simmer that is global warming and climate change.
So yeah, nothing that translates to a flashy headline or all-at-once collapse, but definitely an angst of a slow slide down, with too much resistance to the change needed to reverse it.Wyoming , February 16, 2018 at 12:01 pm
My feeling is that the U$A, along with various sovereign entities around much the planet will, within a decade or so, cease to exist in their current form. When people coalesce and societies reform, is when one gets/is forced .. to choose their 'new' afilliation(s) !
It will be facinating to behold, if one is alive to partake in it ! As for positive, or negative outcomes who knows ?Oregoncharles , February 16, 2018 at 2:04 pm
I believe that what is happening is that slowly but surely the numbers of people who are subconsciously reacting to the ongoing collapse of civilization are growing. They are uneasy, anxious, deflated, waiting for Godot, in depression and so on.
Civililizations don't collapse like falling off a table. They stress resources of materials and people and such stresses build and build. This has serious psychological impacts. Numbness to new is bad news. Or what used to be bad news has to be Trumped by exceedingly bad news before folks can rise to deal with them, but for a shorter time than they had the ability they used to. As the number of people grows who have reached their capacity to tolerate the stress we will find more and more of them just shut down as their subconscious tells them there is no point in caring anymore as things are just going to get worse.
We all see things getting worse.
So we have little collapses on a regular basis which hardly ruffle anyone's feathers anymore. The moderate catastrophic disasters like Trumps election cause much bigger disruptions to the civilizational equilibrium, but only for a time. We all know deep inside that what comes next in Brexit or say Trumps removal will actually be worse than what we have now. And we know that such will be the trend for the duration. Each time we seem to overcome a disaster we will be presented with another building disaster. A worse one. As we continue to stair step down the long slope that our civilization climbed during the renaissance and the enlightenment. Trump and Brexit are medium steps down.
The Black Swan is out there somewhere watching us. The big step down. We can feel it coming and we cannot stop it. We know that what seems bad now is going to be a lot worse in the future. We know this and it makes us helpless.
Skip above has the word on this.
"The centre does not hold, mere anarchy is loosed upon the world".akaPaul LaFargue , February 16, 2018 at 12:13 pm
"The Second Coming," 1919: http://www.potw.org/archive/potw351.htmlLoneprotester , February 16, 2018 at 12:20 pm
The Worst Well-Being Year on Record for the U.S. – Gallup
"Americans' well-being took a big hit nationally in 2017, according to the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index, which recorded declines in 21 states. Why did well-being drop, and where were the declines most pronounced?"
OK- no endorsement from me re the validity of this Index, BUT the podcast raises an important point vis a vis 2009 downturn in their Index.
https://www.spreaker.com/user/gallupstrengthscenter/the-worst-well-being-year-on-record-for-Blitz , February 16, 2018 at 12:31 pm
I think what we have here is a Mexican standoff the likes of which has perhaps never been seen. I am 51 years old. For most of my life there has been a polite changing of the guards to no great effect every four years. Trump rode into Washington on a bridge burning mission and all that has changed. Or were the bridges burned upon his approach, after which he was framed for the crime? This is the essence of the problem we face as a country, and the world watching on with bated breath.
I still do not know what is "true" about any of this "Russiagate" contretemps. Perhaps none of it. Perhaps all of it. I suspect both parties and candidates were hand fed dubious information then tried to hide the wrappers from the "authorities" who (naturally) were only interested in how any of it impacted them personally and institutionally, and so on and so forth, etc. etc.
But where does that get us a nation? If you are a child and you walk into your parent's bedroom to find your mother screwing the gardener you may be upset. But then if you run down the hall to your brother's room to tell him and find your father en flagrante with the nanny, well where do you go from there?
We have to find a way to deescalate with each other as Americans. I find myself repeatedly smiling blankly in conversations with family, friends, and strangers who will all equally complain vociferously about someone who is definitely destroying the planet/country/children. But that only gets you so far. If you do not engage after a few minutes you are viewed with great suspicion. And then only the strongest bonds of love can save you from being cast aside or worse.
Deescalate now. I'm gonna put it on a tshirt.
By the way, reading a lot of Jung right now. Anyone else?Wyoming , February 16, 2018 at 6:31 pm
For the better part of the last 45 years I have traveled the world, worked with individuals in different cultures, walked among and shared bread and stories with many people in their living quarters and the news of today is not so much (occasionally) about the depth of love that exists around the world but only about the evils we are told about in pages of the WaPo, NYTimes and even the WST. So sad because there is so much good to view but good rarely delivers headlines and headlines sell news and make journalists.
The news is slow because the liberal media just can't dig out that one great story or smokin' gun that brings down Trump & Co. This whole story is stale and at the point of "who cares" ..well, the liberals seem to be the only interested parties. I am not a Republican or Conservative or aligned with any party but an American who looks for the best talent of any party to represent us .citizens of the U.S.A. I laugh at the whole 'Russian Thing' . like this is NEW news when it's as old as the Roman Empire. There are many of us true Americans that if our democracy was every challenged, threatened or in trouble would rise up against any threat–and more than likely not with guns but with our minds, our knowledge and our ability to talk calmly and rationally rather than shout threats on Twitter.
The media needs to get over itself and quit trying to be the type of police we all despise .manipulated headlines are part of the problem with the 'stillness' today. If you can't dig up any worthy headlines that will sell the news, then go home and close the cover of your computer and find someone to hug ..God knows we can all use an extra level of love in today's seemingly gloomy lack of news world.Clif , February 16, 2018 at 1:30 pm
Well put.Jeremy Grimm , February 16, 2018 at 2:06 pm
a pretty good question in the face of all the noise.
i believe it is in response to the saturated level of cognitive dissonance. an inverse reaction to the lack of transparency and unresponsiveness of both commercial and governmental activities.
the sensitivity of untoward persuasion on social media an indication of the fallibility of the centralized narrative?VietnamVet , February 16, 2018 at 10:11 pm
I have felt an eery disquiet for the last several years, more or less since the year I retired. I think retirement finally offered me the time I needed to see and think about the world. For the last few years I have felt a strong need to move away to higher ground and a smaller community further out from the cities. Churchill's book title "Gathering Storm" seems apt, but war seems only one of the many possible storms gathering and I think one of the least likely at present although the actions and qualities of those who rule us make even nuclear war seem possible. And I take little comfort from learning how close we came to nuclear war in the past and how the unstable mechanisms guiding us toward this brink remain in place with new embellishments for greater instability.
The economy is ambling a drunkard's walk climbing a knife's edge. The Corporations remain hard at work consolidating and building greater monopoly power, dismantling what remains of our domestic jobs and industry, and building ever more fragile supply chains. The government is busy dismantling the safety net, deconstructing health care, public education and science, bolstering the wealth of the wealthy, and stoking foreign wars while a tiff between factions within those who rule us fosters a new cold war and an arms build-up including building a new nuclear arsenal. In another direction Climate Disruption shows signs of accelerating while the new weather patterns already threaten random flooding and random destruction of cities. It already destroyed entire islands in the Caribbean. The government has proven its inability and unwillingness to do anything to prepare for the pending disasters or help the areas struck down in the seasons past. The year of Peak Oil is already in our past and there is nothing to fill its place. The world populations continue to grow exponentially. Climate Disruption promises to reduce food production and move the sources for fresh water and the worlds aquifers are drying up. It's as if a whole flock of black swans is looking for places to land.
I quit watching tv, listening to the radio, and reading newspapers long ago. The news desert isn't new or peculiar to this moment. I haven't seen much of interest in the news from any source since the election. The noise of social media and celebrity news does seem turned up higher recently, although I base this judgment on occasional peeks at magazines or snatches of NPR. After the last election I gave up on the possibility that we still had a democracy in this country. Over the last several years I've had some expensive and unpleasant dealings with local government, the schools, law enforcement, the courts, and government agencies in helping one and then the other of my children through difficulties which confirmed in the particular all my worst beliefs about the decay of our government and legal systems. In short my personal anxiety has been at a high level for some time now and I can't say its peaked lately. I don't get out and around enough to get a good sense of how others feel and certainly can't judge whether this moment is a moment of peaking anxiety. When I've been in the City and nearby cities I've long had a feeling of passing through a valley between mountains of very dry tender. I hold my head low and walk quickly to my destinations. Every so often I warn my children to move out, but they don't listen.The Rev Kev , February 16, 2018 at 10:15 pm
This is an excellent post and valid observations. Things don't seem right. I blame old age and being awaken by F-16s on combat patrols out of Andrews. For me the frame changed with the restart of the Cold War. I remember "Duck and Cover, McCarthyism, John Birchers, and Who Lost China". It has all come back. The Democrats are idiots for scapegoating Russia. President Donald Trump is incompetent. Scott Pruitt must fly first class because he cannot sit next to riff-raft like me who worked at his Agency for 37 years and hear that he has sold out the earth for short term gain and profit. America is at war, inside and out, with no way of winning.Erling , February 16, 2018 at 10:28 pm
I am going to try to see if I can make sense of what has been happening the past few years but I could easily be as wrong as the next person but will try nonetheless. In reading the comments I can see the tension seeping through so to try to come to terms with it I will use the US as my focus though I could just as easily be talking about any other western country like the UK, Germany, Australia, France, etc. The US though is at the forefront of these changes so should be mentioned first.
The American people are now in what the military call a fire-sac and the door has been slammed shut behind them. What is more, I think they realize it. A few threads need mentioning here. A study that came out last year showed that what Americans wanted their government to do never becomes a consideration unless it aligned what some upper echelon also wanted. People want a military pull-back but are ignored and now find that American troops are digging into Syria and are scattered in places like Africa with the military wanting to go head-to-head with North Korea, Russia, China and a host of other nations. It has become blatantly obvious too that their vaunted free media has become little more than Pravda on the Potomac and in fact has aligning with the wealthy against the interests of the American people. The media is even helping bring in censorship as they know that their position is untenable. The entire political establishment is now recognized as a rigged deck with radical neoliberal politicians in charge and at the last election the best candidates that they could find out of 330 million Americans were Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. The massive industry that built America has been mostly disassembled and shipped overseas and without the wealth and skills that it generated, infrastructure has been left to rack and ruin when it should be a core government function. Climate change cannot be ignored anymore and is starting to bite. Even the Pentagon is realising that some of its vaunted bases will be underwater in decades. I am sure other commentators can list yet more trends here but you get the picture.
OK, so there are massive problems but they can be faced and taken on but here is the kicker. The political establishment in your country does not want anything to change but to keep doing what is generated these problems. There is too much money at stake to change for them. In fact, one of the two presidential candidates in 2016 was specifically chosen to keep things going they way that they are. So where does that leave the American people? British officers have always been taught that when their men were complaining and bitching, that that was how it was but when the men were very quiet, that was the time to watch them carefully. I think something similar is at work here. It has not yet coalesced but what I think we are seeing is the beginnings of a phase shift in America. The unexpected election of Trump was a precursor but as nothing changed after he was elected the pressure is still building.
Now here is the part where I kick over everybody's tea wagon. In looking for a root cause to how all these challenges are being pushed down the road to an even worse conclusion, I am going to have to say that the problem lies in the fact that representative democracy no longer works. In fact, the representatives in the form of Senators, Reps, Judges and even the President have been almost totally dislocated from the will of the people. The connection is mostly not there anymore. It is this disconnection that is frustrating change and is thus building up pressure. I am all for democracy but the democracy we have is not the only form there is of democracy. There are others.
What this means is that somehow this is going to have to be changed and if not done peacefully, then I suspect that it will be done in some other way. That lull in the news may represent a general milling around if you will until some unknown catalyst appears to give the beginnings of a push in another direction. How it will work out in practice I do not know but if a mass of independents were elected in your mid-terms then that may be a good sign of change coming. If both parties clamp down and continue to keep all others out and continue with neoliberal policies, well, game on.
We have for the last generation or two, (maybe three?) been relentlessly conditioned (name your puppet-master of choice) to equate happiness and contentment with the never ending pursuit of keeping up with the Joneses. The competitive underpinnings encouraging our participation in this futile contest fit well with our innate drives for "success". The race was over-subscribed by throngs of enthusiastic participants yearning for glory.
For decades many of us did well. We ran strong and felt rewarded with the material enhancements to our lives, which encouraged many of us to run faster, even if that motivation was rooted more in the fear of being passed by Ron and Nancy Jones than it was for improving our chances of ending up on the podium.
Even though we never seemed to catch or pass Ron or Nancy, surely they must have been out there ahead in the haze somewhere? After all, this was the race that we so eagerly had trained for. Plus, life was going well while we chased, so we figured it was a fruitful one to be a part of. All the effort and toil would be worth it in the end.
The slow arc of realization and barely perceptible sense over time (coupled with the self delusion that comes with resisting acceptance) that we have been duped that this Jones Marathon has actually been taking place on a treadmill which gradually (hardly noticeable, but cumulatively significant) has been ratcheted up in both speed and incline, has now hit home. We have been running for years, but going nowhere. We can't find the stop button, and don't even want to think what will happen to us if we were to slow down or stop running! Problem is not only are we are growing physically weary, we are dejected and defeated in spirit knowing that all our efforts have yielded little other than illusionary gains.
Feb 17, 2018 | www.globalresearch.ca
The concern of the American ruling class is not Russian or Chinese "subversion," but the growth of social opposition within the United States. The narrative of "Russian meddling" has been used to justify a systematic campaign to censor the Internet and suppress free speech.
Senator Mark Warner
The performance of Senator Mark Warner , the ranking Democrat on the committee, was particularly obscene. Warner, whose net worth is estimated at $257 million, appeared to be doing his best impersonation of Senator Joe McCarthy . He declared that foreign subversion works together with, and is largely indistinguishable from, "threats to our institutions from right here at home."
Alluding to the publication of the so-called Nunes memo, which documented the fraudulent character of the Democratic-led investigation of White House "collusion" with Russia, Warner noted,
"There have been some, aided and abetted by Russian Internet bots and trolls, who have attacked the basic integrity of the FBI and the Justice Department."
Responding to questioning from Warner, FBI Director Christopher Wray praised the US intelligence agencies' greater "engagement" and "partnership" with the private sector, concluding,
"We can't fully police social media, so we have to work with them so that they can police themselves."
Wray was referring to the sweeping measures taken by social media companies, working directly with the US intelligence agencies, to implement a regime of censorship, including through the hiring of tens of thousands of "content reviewers," many with intelligence backgrounds, to flag, report and delete content.
The assault on democratic rights is increasingly connected to preparations for a major war, which will further exacerbate social tensions within the United States. Coats prefaced his remarks by declaring that "the risk of inter-state conflict, including among great powers, is higher than at any time since the end of the Cold War."
As the hearing was taking place, multiple news outlets were reporting that potentially hundreds of Russian military contractors had been killed in a recent US air strike in Syria. This came just weeks after the publication of the Pentagon's National Defense Strategy, which declared,
"Inter-state strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in US national security."
However, the implications of this great-power conflict are not simply external to the US "homeland." The document argues that "the homeland is no longer a sanctuary," and that "America is a target," for "political and information subversion" on the part of "revisionist powers" such as Russia and China.
Since "America's military has no preordained right to victory on the battlefield," the only way the US can prevail in this conflict is through the "seamless integration of multiple elements of national power," including "information, economics, finance, intelligence, law enforcement and military."
In other words, America's supremacy in the new world of great-power conflict requires the subordination of every aspect of life to the requirements of war. In this totalitarian nightmare, already far advanced, the police, the military and the intelligence agencies unite with media and technology companies to form a single seamless unit, whose combined power is marshaled to manipulate public opinion and suppress political dissent.
The dictatorial character of the measures being prepared was underscored by an exchange between Wray and Republican Senator Marco Rubio , who asked whether Chinese students were serving as spies for Beijing.
"What is the counterintelligence risk posed to US national security from Chinese students, particularly those in advanced programs in the sciences and mathematics?" asked Rubio.
Wray responded that
"the use of nontraditional collectors, especially in the academic setting, whether it's professors, scientists, students, we see in almost every field office that the FBI has around the country, not just in major cities, small ones as well, basically every discipline."
This campaign, with racist overtones, recalls the official rationale -- defense of "national security" -- used to justify the internment of some 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry during the Second World War.
In its open letter calling for a coalition of socialist, antiwar and progressive websites against Internet censorship, the World Socialist Web Site noted that
"the ruling class has identified the Internet as a mortal threat to its monopolization of information and its ability to promote propaganda to wage war and legitimize the obscene concentration of wealth and extreme social inequality."
It is this mortal threat -- and fear of the growth of class conflict -- that motivate the lies and hypocrisy on display at the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing.The original source of this article is World Socialist Web Site Copyright © Andre Damon , World Socialist Web Site , 2018
Feb 17, 2018 | economistsview.typepad.comTrump Doesn't Give a Dam, by Paul Krugman, NY Times : Donald Trump doesn't give a dam. Or a bridge. Or a road. Or a sewer system. Or any of the other things we talk about when we talk about infrastructure.
But how can that be when he just announced a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan ? That's easy: It's not a plan, it's a scam. The $1.5 trillion number is just made up; he's only proposing federal spending of $200 billion, which is somehow supposed to magically induce a vastly bigger overall increase in infrastructure investment, mainly paid for either by state and local governments (which are not exactly rolling in cash, but whatever) or by the private sector.
And even the $200 billion is essentially fraudulent: The budget proposal announced the same day doesn't just impose savage cuts on the poor, it includes sharp cuts for the Department of Transportation, the Department of Energy and other agencies that would be crucially involved in any real infrastructure plan. Realistically, Trump's offer on infrastructure is this: nothing .
That's not to say that the plan is completely vacuous. One section says that it would "authorize federal divestiture of assets that would be better managed by state, local or private entities." Translation: We're going to privatize whatever we can. It's conceivable that this would be done only in cases where the private sector really would do better, and contracts would be handed out fairly, without a hint of cronyism. And if you believe that, I have a degree from Trump University you might want to buy. ...
So why isn't Trump proposing something real? Why this dog's breakfast of a proposal that everyone knows won't go anywhere?
Part of the answer is that in practice Trump always defers to Republican orthodoxy, and the modern G.O.P. hates any program that might show people that government can work and help people.
But I also suspect that Trump is afraid to try anything substantive. To do public investment successfully, you need leadership and advice from experts. And this administration doesn't do expertise, in any field. Not only do experts have a nasty habit of telling you things you don't want to hear, their loyalty is suspect: You never know when their professional ethics might kick in.
So the Trump administration probably couldn't put together a real infrastructure plan even if it wanted to. And that's why it didn't.
pgl , February 13, 2018 at 03:19 PM
We need a lot more government financed infrastructure investment. Trump the clown is selling us a major cut in what the Federal government pays for. And some people are praising this proposal? Pardon me for calling Trump the clown as he is playing the rest of us as clowns.kurt -> pgl... , February 13, 2018 at 05:07 PM
As a corollary, what we DON'T need is to spend more $$ blowing up people in third world countries at the behest of oil companies.ilsm -> kurt... , February 13, 2018 at 06:08 PM
US could have Clinton blowing up the Russian Federation while doing for the Wahhabi profiting ARAMCO as Trump does.DeDude , February 14, 2018 at 07:11 AM
Federal input to roads and waterways is traditionally a small part of the total. 80% or so funded is by state and local sources where the economic benefit arises.
IIRC "indivisible public goods" are not a federal concern........ while the common defense is a preamble dictate.
The last Krugman criticism was about deficits hawks splurging when the economy is "good".
Why worry infrastructure in a good economy, the states enjoy it as well as the central government?
The private sector will usually just extract huge rents if you give them unrestricted monopoly rights - and they will either refuse to play or go bankrupt if you put restrictions on their ability to extract rents as they please.
If you want to make $1.5 trillion of infrastructure someone will have to borrow that money. The government can borrow at a much lower rate than the private sector. So by moving the project into the private sector you make them a lot more costly - its just that we will pay for them in user fees rather than taxes. That means poor people will pay more and rich people will pay less (and harvest profits in their investment portfolios).
Feb 16, 2018 | www.theamericanconservative.com
The hawks and internationalists who set our house on fire don't now deserve the contract to rebuild it.
While it may have significant popular support, much of the anti-Trump "Resistance" suffers from a severe weakness of message. Part of the problem is with who the Resistance's leading messengers are: discredited neoconservative poltroons like former president George W. Bush, unwatchable alleged celebrities like Chelsea Handler, and establishment Republicans who routinely slash and burn the middle class like Senator Jeff Flake. Furthermore, what exactly is the Resistance's overriding message? Invariably their sermonizing revolves around vague bromides about "tolerance," diversity, unrestricted free trade, and multilateralism. They routinely push a supposed former status quo that was in fact anything but a status quo. The leaders of the Resistance have in their arsenal nothing but buzzwords and a desire to feel self-satisfied and turn back to imagined pre-Trump normality. A president like Donald Trump is only possible in a country with opposition voices of such subterranean caliber.
Remember when Trump steamrolled a crowded field of Republicans in one of the greatest electoral upsets in American history? Surely many of us also recall the troupes of smug celebrities and Bushes and Obamas who lined up to take potshots at Trump over his unacceptably cruel utterances that upset their noble moral sensibilities? How did that work out for them? They lost. The more that opposition to Trump in office takes the same form as opposition to him on the campaign trail, the more hypocritical and counterproductive it becomes. Further, the resistance to Trump's policies is coming just at the moment when principled opposition most needs to up its game and help turn back the hands of the Doomsday Clock. It's social conservatives who are also opposed to war and exploitation of the working class who have the best moral bona fides to effectively oppose Trump, which is why morally phrased attacks on Trump from the corporate and socially liberal wings of the left, as well as the free market and interventionist conservative establishment, have failed and will continue to fail. Any real alternative is going to have to come from regular folks with hearts and morals who aren't stained by decades of failure and hypocrisy.
A majority of Democrats now have favorable views of George W. Bush, and that's no coincidence. Like the supposedly reasonable anti-Trump voices on their side, Bush pops up like a dutiful marionette to condemn white supremacy and "nativism," and to reminisce about the good old days when he was in charge. Bush also lectures about how Russia is ruining everything by meddling in elections and destabilizing the world. But how convincing is it really to hear about multilateralism and respect for human rights from Bush, who launched an unnecessary war on Iraq that killed hundreds of thousands of civilians and left thousands of American servicemen and women dead and wounded? How convincing is it when former secretary of state Madeleine Albright, who famously remarked that an estimated half a million Iraqis dead from our 1990s sanctions was "worth it," haughtily claims that she's "offended" by Trump's travel ban ? "Offended" -- is that so, Madame Secretary? I have a feeling millions of Muslims in the Middle East may have also been "offended" when people like you helped inflame their region and turned it into an endless back-and-forth firestorm of conflict between U.S.-backed dictators and brutal jihadists, with everyone else caught in between.
Maybe instead of being offended that not everyone can come to America, people like Albright, Kerry, and Bush shouldn't have contributed to the conditions that wrecked those people's homes in the first place? Maybe the U.S. government should think more closely about providing military aid to 73 percent of the world's dictatorships? Sorry, do excuse the crazy talk. Clearly all the ruthless maneuvering by the U.S. and NATO is just being done out of a selfless desire to spread democratic values by raining down LGBT-friendly munitions on beleaguered populations worldwide. Another congressman just gave a speech about brave democratic principles so we can all relax.
Generally, U.S. leaders like to team up with dictators before turning on them when they become inconvenient or start to upset full-spectrum dominance. Nobody have should been surprised to see John Kerry fraternizing in a friendly manner with Syrian butcher Bashar al-Assad and then moralistically threatening him with war several years later, or Donald Rumsfeld grinning with Saddam Hussein as they cooperated militarily before Rumsfeld did an about-face on the naďve dictator based on false premises after 9/11. Here's former president Barack Obama shaking Moammar Gaddafi's hand in 2009 . I wonder what became of Mr. Gaddafi?
It's beyond parody to hear someone like Bush sternly opine that there's "pretty clear evidence" Russia meddled in the 2016 election. Even if that were deeply significant in the way some argue, Bush should be the last person anyone is hearing from about it. It's all good, though: remember when Bush laughed about how there hadn't been weapons of mass destruction in Iraq at the White House Correspondents Dinner in 2004? It's all just a joke; don't you get it? (Maybe Saddam Hussein had already used all the chemical weapons the U.S. helped him get during the 1980s on Iran in the Iran-Iraq War, which killed over one million people by the time the coalition of the willing came knocking in 2003). That's the kind of thing people like Bush like to indirectly joke about in the company of self-satisfied press ghouls at celebratory dinners. However, when the mean man Mr. Trump pals around with Russian baddie Vladimir Putin, mistreats women, or spews out unkind rhetoric about "shitholes," it's far from a joke: it's time to get out your two-eared pink hat and hit the streets chanting in righteous outrage.
To be fair, Trump is worthy of opposition. An ignorant, reactive egotist who needs to have his unfounded suppositions and inaccuracies constantly validated by a sycophantic staff of people who'd be rejected even for a reality show version of the White House, he really is an unstable excuse for a leader and an inveterate misogynist and all the other things. Trump isn't exactly Bible Belt material despite his stamp of approval from Jerry Falwell Jr. and crew; in fact he hasn't even succeeded in getting rid of the Johnson Amendment and allowing churches to get more involved in politics, one of his few concrete promises to Christian conservatives. He's also a big red button of a disaster in almost every other area as commander-in-chief.
Trump's first military action as president reportedly killed numerous innocent women and children (some unnamed U.S. officials claim some of the women were militants) as well as a Navy SEAL. Helicopter gunships strafed a Yemeni village for over an hour in what Trump called a "highly successful" operation against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). A senior military official felt differently, saying that "almost everything went wrong." The raid even killed eight-year-old American girl Nawar al-Awlaki, daughter of previously killed extremist leader Anwar al-Awlaki, whose other innocent child, 16-year-old Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, was also droned while eating outdoors at a restaurant in 2010 (with several friends and his 17-year-old cousin). The Obama administration dismissed Abdulrahman's death at the time as no big deal .
The list goes on with the Trump administration, a hollow outfit of Goldman Sachs operatives and detached industry and financier billionaires helping out their hedge fund friends and throwing a small table scrap to the peasants every now and then. As deformed babies are born in Flint, Michigan , Ivanka grandstands about paid parental leave . Meanwhile, Trump and Co. work to expand the war in Afghanistan and Syria. It's a sad state of affairs.
So who are the right voices to oppose the mango man-child and his cadre of doddering dullards? Not degenerate celebrities, dirty politicians of the past, or special interest groups that try to fit everyone into a narrow electoral box so mainline Democrats can pass their own version of corporate welfare and run wars with more sensitive rhetoric and politically correct messaging. Instead, the effective dissidents of the future will be people of various beliefs, but especially the pro-family and faith-driven, who are just as opposed to what came before Trump as they are to him. The future of a meaningful political alternative to the underlying liberalism, materialism, and me-first individualism on the left and right will revolve around traditionalists and pro-family conservative individuals who define their own destinies instead of letting themselves be engineered into destinies manufactured by multinational corporations and boardroom gremlins with diversity outreach strategies. It's possible, for example, to be socially conservative, pro-worker, pro-environment, and anti-war. In fact, that is the norm in most countries that exist outside the false political paradigm pushed in America.
If enough suburbanite centrists who take a break from Dancing With The Stars are convinced that Trump is bad because George W. Bush and Madeleine Albright say so, it shows that these people have learned absolutely nothing from Trump or the process that led to him. These kind of resistors are the people nodding their heads emphatically as they read Eliot Cohen talk about why he and his friends can't stomach the evil stench of Trump or Robert Kagan whine about fascism in The Washington Post. Here's a warning to good people who may not have been following politics closely prior to Trump: don't get taken in by these charlatans. Don't listen to those who burned your town down as they pitch you the contract to rebuild it. You can oppose both the leaders of the "Resistance" and Trump. In fact, it is your moral duty to do so. This is the End of the End of History As We Know It, but there isn't going to be an REM song or Will Smith punching an alien in the face to help everyone through it.
Here's a thought for those finding themselves enthusiastic about the Resistance and horrified by Trump: maybe, just maybe , the water was already starting to boil before you cried out in pain and alarm.
Paul Brian is a freelance journalist. He has reported for BBC, Reuters, and Foreign Policy, and contributed to the Week, The Federalist, and others. He covered the fledgling U.S. alt-right at a 2014 conference in Hungary as well as the 2015 New Hampshire primary, and also made a documentary about his time living in the Republic of Georgia in 2012. You can follow him on Twitter @paulrbrian or visit his website www.paulrbrian.com .
Fran Macadam February 16, 2018 at 1:14 pmTrump is definitely a castor oil antidote. But if not him, then them.Frank , says: February 16, 2018 at 1:19 pmNow this is TAC material!Kent , says: February 16, 2018 at 1:48 pm"The future of a meaningful political alternative to the underlying liberalism, materialism, and me-first individualism on the left and right will revolve around traditionalists and pro-family conservative individuals who define their own destinies instead of letting themselves be engineered into destinies manufactured by multinational corporations and boardroom gremlins with diversity outreach strategies."Aaron Paolozzi , says: February 16, 2018 at 2:56 pm
They will have to lose their faith in "Free Market God" first. I don't believe that will happen.I enjoyed the heat. The comments made are on point, and this is pretty much what my standard response to reactionary trump dissidents are. Trump is terrible, but so is what came before him, he is just easier to dislike.One Guy , says: February 16, 2018 at 3:16 pm
Keep it coming.Even with inadequate opposition, Trump has managed to be the most unpopular president after one year, ever. I'm guessing this speaks to his unique talent of messing things up.RVA , says: February 16, 2018 at 4:11 pmWow! Paul! Babylon burning. Preach it, brother! Takes me back to my teenage years, Ramparts 1968, as another corrupt infrastructure caught fire and burned down. TAC is amazing, the only place to find this in true form.Donald , says: February 16, 2018 at 5:50 pm
Either we are history remembering fossils soon gone, or the next financial crash – now inevitable with passage of tax reform (redo of 2001- the rich got their money out, now full speed off the cliff), will bring down this whole mass of absolute corruption. What do you think will happen when Trump is faced with a true crisis? They're selling off the floorboards. What can remain standing?
And elsewhere in the world, who, in their right mind, would help us? Good riddance to truly dangerous pathology. The world would truly become safer with the USA decommissioned, and then restored, through honest travail, to humility, and humanity.
You are right. Be with small town, front porch, family and neighborhood goodness, and dodge the crashing embers.
The Flying Burrito Brothers: 'On the thirty-first floor a gold plated door
Won't keep out the Lord's burning rain '
God Bless.I agree with Frank. This was great.
The depressing thing to me is how hard it is to get people to see this. You have people who still think Trump is doing a great job and on the other side people who admire the warmongering Resistance and think Hillary's vast experience in foreign policy was one of her strengths, rather than one of the main reasons to be disgusted by her. Between the two categories I think you have the majority of American voters.
Feb 16, 2018 | nationalinterest.org
February 12, 2018Note: this article is part of a symposium included in the March/April 2018 issue of the National Interest .
OF COURSE there's a Deep State. Why wouldn't there be? Even a cursory understanding of human nature tells us that power corrupts, as Lord Acton put it; that, when power is concentrated and entrenched, it will be abused; that, when it is concentrated and entrenched in secrecy, it will be abused in secret. That's the Deep State. James Burnham saw it coming. The American philosopher and political theorist (1905–87), first a Trotskyist, then a leading conservative intellectual, wrote in 1941 that the great political development of the age was not the battle between communism and capitalism. Rather, it was the rise of a new "managerial" class gaining dominance in business, finance, organized labor and government. This gathering managerial revolution, as he called it, would be resisted, but it would be impervious to adversarial counteractions. As the managerial elites gained more and more power, exercised often in subtle and stealthy ways, they would exercise that power to embed themselves further into the folds of American society and to protect themselves from those who might want to bust them up.
Nowhere is this managerial elite more entrenched, more powerful and more shrouded in secrecy than in what Dwight Eisenhower called the military-industrial complex, augmented by intelligence and law-enforcement agencies. That's where America's relentless drive for global hegemony meshes with defense manufacturers only too willing to provide the tools of dominance.
Now we have not only a standing army, with hundreds of thousands of troops at the ready, as in Cold War days. We have also permanent wars, nine of them in progress at the moment and not one with what could even remotely be called proper congressional approval. That's how power gets entrenched, how the managerial revolution gains ever greater force and how the Deep State endures.
Few in the general public know what really happened with regard to the allegations of Trump campaign "collusion" with Russia, or how the investigation into those troubling allegations emerged. But we know enough to know we have seen the Deep State in action.
We know that U.S. agencies released an "Intelligence Community Assessment" saying that Russia and President Putin were behind the release of embarrassing Democratic emails in a plot to help Trump win the presidency. But we also know that it wasn't really a National Intelligence Assessment (a term of art denoting a particular process of expansive intelligence analysis) but rather the work of a controlled task force. As Scott Ritter, the former Marine intelligence officer and arms-control official, put it , "This deliberate misrepresentation of the organizational bona fides of the Russia NIA casts a shadow over the viability of the analysis used to underpin the assessments and judgments contained within." Besides, the document was long on assertion and short on evidence. Even the New York Times initially derided the report as lacking any "hard evidence" and amounting "essentially . . . to 'trust us.'"
We have substantial reason to believe that an unconfirmed salacious report on Trump, paid for by the Democratic Party and the Hillary Clinton campaign (with the FBI eventually getting hold of it), was used in an effort to get a secret national-security warrant so the government could spy on the Trump campaign. We know that the FBI went easy on Clinton in its investigation of her irresponsible email practices, and then we find out that a top FBI official involved in both the Clinton and Trump/Russia investigations despised Trump, liked Hillary and expressed an interest in doing what he could to thwart Trump's emergence. We know he privately told his lover that, while he didn't think Trump could win, he nevertheless felt a need for an "insurance policy" because "I'm afraid we can't take that risk." We know these matters were discussed in the office of FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe.
We know further that former FBI director James Comey used a cutout to leak to the press a rendition of an Oval Office conversation with the president that could be interpreted adversely to Trump. We know he did this to set in motion the appointment of an independent investigator, a potentially mortal threat to any president -- and perhaps particularly to this freewheeling billionaire developer.
Perhaps most significant, we know that all this had the effect of wrenching from the president the flexibility to pursue a policy agenda on which he had campaigned -- and which presumably contributed to his election. That was his promise to work toward improved relations between the United States and Russia. Prospects for such a diplomatic initiative now are as dead as the dodo bird. Trump lost that one. The Deep State won.
Robert W. Merry, longtime Washington journalist and publishing executive, is editor of The American Conservative . He is the author most recently of President McKinley: Architect of the American Century .
grumpy_carpenter , February 13, 2018 8:07 AMPaul Cressman grumpy_carpenter , February 13, 2018 6:20 PM
I don't believe there is a secret 'deep state' controlling the USA from the shadows like some Bond villian.
What people call the deep state is in fact the interests of the business elite who have been granted nearly unprecedented political influence by the American people in the form or nearly unlimited campaign contributions to politicians who promote their interests, unregulated lobbying, control of the MSM and the funding of think tanks and other institutions that promote their interests.
When historians look back at this time it will be Madison Avenue and the revolution in persuasion that they study.R. Arandas grumpy_carpenter , February 13, 2018 4:02 PM
1934 Major General Smedley Butler, US Marine Corp, was asked by US Industrialists to help them overthrow the government. Roosevelt was to remain as the figurehead of the US but the industrialists would be in charge. The industrialist would supply Butler with a 500,000 man army that he would be in charge of. Butler's father was a congressman in the 1920's and Butler told congress of the possible Coup. Read of The Committee of Foreign Affairs, CFA.JimmyD grumpy_carpenter , February 13, 2018 9:24 AM
Yes, it is quite disturbing that 2% of the world's population control about 50% of its total wealth though:
Teddy Roosevelt and the Presidents that followed him understood the dangers of the Robber-Barons buying the government. That's why they launched anti-trust, income tax and estate taxes to protect democracy.
Feb 16, 2018 | www.unz.com
If anything, recent weeks have offered remarkable evidence of just how victorious this country's losingest commanders and their colleagues really are in our nation's capital. In the bipartisan style that these days usually applies only to the U.S. military, Congress has just settled on giving an extra $165 billion to the Pentagon over the next two years as part of a formula for keeping the government open. As it happens, the 2017 Pentagon budget was already as large as the defense spending of the next seven nations combined. And that was before all those extra tens of billions of dollars ensured that the two-year military budget (for 2018 and 2019) would crest at a total of more than $1.4 trillion .
That's the sort of money that only goes to winners, not losers. And if this still seems a little strange to you, given that military's dismal record in actual war-fighting since 9/11, all I can say is: don't bring it up. It's no longer considered polite or proper to complain about our wars and those who fight them or how we fund them, not in an age when every American soldier is a " hero ," which means that what they're doing from Afghanistan to Yemen , Syria to Somalia , must be heroic indeed.
In a draft-less country, those of us not in or connected to our military are expected to say " thank you " to the warriors and otherwise go about our lives as if their wars (and the mayhem they continue to generate abroad) were not a fact of global life. This is the definition of a demobilized public. If you happen to be that rarest of all creatures in our country these days -- someone in active opposition to those wars -- you have a problem. That means Stephanie Savell, who co-runs the Costs of War Project , which regularly provides well-researched and devastating information on the spread of those wars and the money continually being squandered on them, does indeed have a problem. It's one she understands all too well and describes vividly today.
Feb 15, 2018 | www.moonofalabama.org
Rich | Feb 14, 2018 9:33:46 AM | 9
The oligarchy's desire to turn the clock back to 'the good old days' knows no bounds -- they want it all and they want it know; they're absolute ideal state for all us ordinary types would be a return to feudalism, so I guess bringing back slavery, all be it with a shiny new coat of point, is pretty much to be expected...
Once upon a time many, many years ago in the land of Anywhere, in a world long since forgotten, there was, at one time, a kind of Golden Age. It was not, it has to be said, an age that was Perfect but it was agreed by almost all that it was an age that was much, much better than That Which Had Gone Before. That time is best described by quoting from a well-known article historical document contemporaneous to the period
' after Generations Of Struggle against Social Injustice and two Catastrophic And Immensely Bloody Wars with the nearby land of Anotherplace, in which the Ordinary Folk had died and suffered to a catastrophic degree, it was decided by all except the Rapaciously Rich that Things Had To Change.
From that point on, Ordinary Folk were given access to Free Education, Free Healthcare, Pensions, Benefits to help those who fell upon Hard Times and all the advantages of what you would know in your world as a Welfare System. New taxes were introduced to redistribute some of the vast sums of money accumulated (mostly from Stealing, Cheating and Aggressive Tax Avoidance) by the Wealthy and the Aristocracy (known in the land of Anywhere as The Greedy One Percent) over the years and Political Reforms introduced to break their stranglehold over the Political And Economic Life of the country. Additionally, the Right to Vote was given to all.
And the land of Anywhere blossomed, for it was found that a populace Free From Hunger And Illness, that was properly Educated and Cared For, produced huge numbers of Talented men and women who previously had Languished due to Poverty And Lack of Opportunity. These Talented men and women drove the land of Anywhere to new heights of success, founding businesses, employing people, making a mark in the worlds of politics, science, medicine and culture. Slowly but surely, the Dead Grip of The Greedy One Percent, who had dominated and controlled the land of Anywhere for as long as anyone could remember, was broken.'
And the psychopathic Greedy One Percent, the Devil's Children, hated this new world, this New Bargain and Better Society, and all it stood for. They vowed to destroy it
Feb 15, 2018 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
Posted on February 14, 2018 by Yves Smith Yves here. Get a cup of coffee. This is an important, one-stop treatment of how financialization has harmed the real economy and increased inequality.
By Servaas Storm, Professor, Department of Economics, Faculty TPM, Delft University of Technology and co-author, with C.W. M. Naastepad, of Macroeconomics Beyond the NAIRU (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press), which has just won the Myrdal Prize of the European Association for Evolutionary Political Economy. Originally published at the Institute for New Economic Thinking website
Banks have long had undue influence in society. But with the rapid expansion of a financial sector that transforms all debts and assets into tradable commodities, we are faced with something far worse: financial markets with an only abstract, inflated, and destabilizing relationship with the real economy. To prevent another crisis, finance must be domesticated and turned into a useful servant of society.
The Financialization of Everything
Ours is, without a doubt, the age of finance -- of the supremacy of financial actors, institutions, markets, and motives in the global capitalist economy. Working people in the advanced economies, for instance, increasingly have their (pension) savings invested in mutual funds and stock markets, while their mortgages and other debts are turned into securities and sold to global financial investors (Krippner 2011; Epstein 2018). At the same time, the 'under-banked' poor in the developing world have become entangled, or if one wishes, 'financially included', in the 'web' of global finance through their growing reliance on micro-loans, micro-insurance and M-Pesa-like 'correspondent banking' (Keucheyan 2018; Mader 2018). More generally, individual citizens everywhere are invited to "live by finance", in Martin's (2002, p. 17) evocative words, that is: to organize their daily lives around 'investor logic', active individual risk management, and involvement in global financial markets. Citizenship and rights are being re-conceptualized in terms of universal access to 'safe' and affordable financial products (Kear 2012) -- redefining Descartes' philosophical proof of existence as: 'I am indebted, therefore I am' (Graeber 2011). Financial markets are opening 'new enclosures' everywhere, deeply penetrating social space -- as in the case of so-called 'viaticals', the third-party purchase of the rights to future payoffs of life insurance contracts from the terminally ill (Quinn 2008); or of 'health care bonds' issued by insurance companies to fund health-care interventions; the payoff to private investors in these bonds depends on the cost-savings arising from the health-care intervention for the insurers. Or what to think of 'humanitarian impact bonds' used to profitably finance physical rehabilitation services in countries affected by violence and conflict (Lavinas 2018); this latter instrument was created in 2017 by the International Red Cross in cooperation with insurer Munich Re and Bank Lombard Odier.
Conglomerate corporate entities, which used to provide long-term employment and stable retirement benefits, were broken up under pressure of financial markets and replaced by disaggregated global commodity-chain structures (Wade 2018), operating according to the principles of 'shareholder value maximization' (Lazonick 2014) -- with the result that today real decision-making power is often to be found no longer in corporate boardrooms, but in global financial markets. As a result, accumulation -- real capital formation which increases overall economic output -- has slowed down in the U.S., the E.U. and India, as profit-owners, looking for the highest returns, reallocated their investments to more profitable financial markets (Jayadev, Mason and Schröder 2018).
An overabundance of (cash) finance is used primarily to fund a proliferation of short-term, high-risk (potentially high-return) investments in newly developed financial instruments, such as derivatives -- Warren Buffet's 'financial weapons of mass destruction' that blew up the global financial system in 2007-8. Financial actors (ranging from banks, bond investors, and pension funds to big insurers and speculative hedge funds) have taken much bigger roles on much larger geographic scales in markets of items essential to development such as food (Clapp and Isakson 2018), primary commodities, health care (insurance), education, and energy. These same actors hunt the globe for 'passive' unearthed assets which they can re-use as collateral for various purposes in the 'shadow banking system' -- the complex global chains of credit, liquidity and leverage with no systemic regulatory oversight that has become as large as the regulated 'normal' banking system (Pozsar and Singh 2011; Gabor 2018) and enjoys implicit state guarantees (Kane 2013, 2015).
Pressed by the international financial institutions and their own elites, states around the world have embraced finance-friendly policies which included reducing cross-border capital controls, promoting liquid domestic stock markets, reducing the taxation of wealth and capital gains, and rendering their central banks independent from political oversight (Bortz and Kaltenbrunner 2018; Wade 2018; Chandrasekhar and Ghosh 2018). What is most distinctive about the present era of finance, however, is the shift in financial intermediation from banks and other institutions to financial markets -- a shift from the 'visible hand' of (often-times relationship) regulated banking to the axiomatic 'invisible hand' of supposedly anonymous, self-regulating, financial markets. This displacement of financial institutions by financial markets has had a pervasive influence on the motivations, choices and decisions made by households, firms and states as well as fundamental quantitative impacts on growth, inequality and poverty -- far-reaching consequences which we are only beginning to understand.
Setting the Stage
Joseph Alois Schumpeter (1934, p. 74), the Austrian-American theorist of capitalist development and its eventual demise, called the banker "the ephor of the exchange economy"  -- someone who by creating credit ( ex nihilo ) to finance new investments and innovation, "makes possible the carrying out of new combinations, authorizes people, in the name of society as it were, to form them." This same banker has, in Schumpeter's vision, "either replaced private capitalists or become their agent; he has himself become the capitalist par excellence. He stands between those who wish to form new combinations and the possessors of productive means." This way, the banker becomes "essentially a phenomenon of development", as Schumpeter (1934, p. 74) argued -- fostering the process of accumulation and directing the pace and nature of economic growth and technological progress (Festré and Nasica 2009; Mazzucato and Wray 2015). Alexander Gerschenkron (1968) concurred, comparing the importance of investment banks in 19th-century Germany's industrialization drive to that of the steam engine in Britain's Industrial Revolution:
" the German investment banks -- a powerful invention, comparable in its economic effects to that of the steam engine -- were in their capital-supplying functions a substitute for the insufficiency of the previously created wealth willingly placed at the disposal of entrepreneurs. [ ] From their central vantage point of control, the banks participated actively in shaping the major [ ] decisions of individual enterprises. It was they who very often mapped out a firm's path of growth, conceived farsighted plans, decided on major technological and locational innovations, and arranged for mergers and capital increases."
Schumpeter and Gerschenkron celebrated the developmental role played by bank-based financial systems, in which banks form long-run (often personal) relationships with firms, have insider knowledge and (as they are large creditors) are in a position to exert strategic pressure on firms, impose market rationality on their decisions and prioritize the repayment of their debts. However, what Schumpeter left unmentioned is that the absolute power of the 'ephors' could terribly fail: When the wrong people were elected to the 'ephorate', their leadership and guidance did ruin the Spartan state.  Likewise, the -- personalized relationship-based -- banking system could ruin the development process: it could fatally weaken the corporate governance of firms, because bank managers would be more reluctant to bankrupt firms with which they have had long-term ties, and lead to cronyism and corruption, as it is relatively easy for bank insiders to exploit other creditors or taxpayers (Levine 2005). Schumpeter's relationship-banker may be fallible, weak (when it comes to disciplining firms), prone to mistakes and errors of judgment and not necessarily immune to corruptible influences -- in short: there are reasons to believe that a bank-based financial system is inferior to an alternative, market-based, financial system (Levine 2005; Demirgüc-Kunt, Feyen and Levine 2012).
This view of the superiority of a 'market-based' financial system rests on Friedrich von Hayek's grotesque epistemological claim that 'the market' is an omniscient way of knowing, one that radically exceeds the capacity of any individual mind or even the state. For Hayek, "the market constitutes the only legitimate form of knowledge, next to which all other modes of reflection are partial, in both senses of the word: they comprehend only a fragment of a whole and they plead on behalf of a special interest. Individually, our values are personal ones, or mere opinions; collectively, the market converts them into prices, or objective facts" (Metcalf 2017). After his 'sudden illumination' in 1936 that the market is the best possible and only legitimate form of social organisation, Hayek had to find an answer to the dilemma of how to reformulate the political and the social in a way compatible with the 'rationality' of the (unregulated) market economy. Hayek's answer was that the 'market' should be applied to all domains of life. Homo œconomicus -- the narrowly self-interested subject who, according to Foucault (2008, pp. 270-271), "is eminently governable ." as he/she "accepts reality and responds systematically to systematic modifications artificially introduced into the environment -- had to be universalized. This, in turn, could be achieved by the financialization of 'everything in everyday life', because financial logic and constraints would help to impose 'market discipline and rationality' on economic decision-makers. After all, borrowers compete with another for funds -- and it is commercial (profit-oriented) banks and financial institutions which do the screening and selection of who gets funded.
Hayek proved to be extremely successful in hiding his reactionary political agenda behind the pretense of scientific neutrality -- by elevating the verdict of the market to the status of a natural fact, while putting any value that cannot be expressed as a price "on an equally unsure footing, as nothing more than opinion, preference, folklore or superstition" (Metcalf 2017). Hayek's impact on economics was transformative, as can be seen from how Lawrence Summers sums up 'Hayek's legacy':
"What's the single most important thing to learn from an economics course today? What I tried to leave my students with is the view that the invisible hand is more powerful than the [un]hidden hand. Things will happen in well-organized efforts without direction, controls, plans. That's the consensus among economists. That's the Hayek legacy." (quoted in Yergin and Stanislaw (1998, pp. 150–51))
This Hayekian legacy underwrites, and quietly promotes, neoliberal narratives and discourses which advocate that authority -- even sovereignty -- be conceded to (in our case: financial) 'markets' which act as an 'impartial and transparent judge', collecting and processing information relevant to economic decision-making and coordinating these decisions, and as a 'guardian', impartially imposing 'market discipline and market rationality' on economic decision-makers -- thus bringing about not just 'socially efficient outcomes' but social stability as well. This way, financialization constitutes progress -- bringing "the advantages enjoyed by the clients of Wall Street to the customers of Wal-Mart", as Nobel-Prize winning financial economist Robert Shiller (2003, p. x) writes. "We need to extend finance beyond our major financial capitals to the rest of the world. We need to extend the domain of finance beyond that of physical capital to human capital, and to cover the risks that really matter in our lives. Fortunately, the principles of financial management can now be expanded to include society as a whole."
Attentive readers might argue that faith in the social efficiency of financial markets has waned -- after all, Hayek's grand epistemological claim was falsified, in a completely unambiguous manner, by the Great Financial Crisis of 2007-8 which brought the world economy to the brink of a systemic meltdown. Even staunch believers in the (social) efficiency of self-regulating financial markets, including most notably former Federal Reserve chair Alan Greenspan, had to admit a fundamental 'flaw in their ideology'.
And yet, I beg to disagree. The economic ideology that created the crash remains intact and unchallenged. There has been no reckoning and no lessons were learned, as the banks and their shareholders were rescued, at the cost of about everyone else in society, by massive public bail-outs, zero interest rates and unprecedented liquidity creation by central banks. Finance staged a major come-back -- profits, dividends, salaries and bonuses in the financial industry have rebounded to where they were before, while the re-regulation of finance became stuck in endless political negotiations. Stock markets, meanwhile, notched record highs (before the downward 'correction' of February 2018), derivative markets have been doing rather well and under-priced risk-taking in financial markets has gathered steam (again), this time especially so in the largest emerging economies of China, India and Brazil (BIS 2017; Gabor 2018). In the process, global finance has become more concentrated and even more integral to capitalist production and accumulation. The reason why even the Great Financial Crisis left the supremacy of financial interests and logic unchallenged, is simple: there is no acceptable alternative mode of social regulation to replace our financialized mode of co-ordination and decision-making.
Accordingly, instead of a long overdue rethinking of Hayek's legacy, the economics profession has gone, with renewed vigour, for an even broader push for 'financial inclusion' (Mader 2018; Chandrasekhar and Ghosh 2018). Backed by the international financial institutions, 'social business' promotors (such as the World Economic Forum) and FinTech corporations, it proposes to extend financial markets into new areas including social protection and poverty alleviation (Lavinas 2018; Chandrasekhar and Ghosh 2018) and climate change mitigation (Arsel and Büscher 2015; Keuchyan 2018). Most economists were already persuaded, by a voluminous empirical literature (reviewed by Levine (2005)), to believe, with ample qualification and due caution, that finance and financial markets do contribute to economic growth -- a proposition that Nobel Laureate financial economist Merton Miller (1998, p. 14) found "almost too obvious for serious discussion". But now greater financialization is argued to be integral to not just 'growth' but 'inclusive growth', as World-Bank economists Demirgüc-Kunt, Klapper and Singer (2017) conclude in a recent review article: "financial inclusion allows people to make many everyday financial transactions more efficiently and safely and expand their investment and financial risk management options by using the formal financial system. This is especially relevant for people living in the poorest 40 percent of households." The way to extend the good life to more people is not to shrink finance nor restrain financial innovation, writes Robert Shiller (2012) in a book titled Finance and the Good Society , but instead to release it. Shiller's book celebrates finance's 'genuine beauty' and exhorts idealistic (sic) young students to pursue careers in derivatives, insurance and related fields.
'Really-Existing' Finance Capitalism
Financialization underwrites neoliberal narratives and discourses which emphasize individual responsibility, risk-taking and active investment for the benefit of the individual him-/herself -- within the 'neutral' or even 'natural' constraints imposed by financial markets and financial norms of creditworthiness (Palma 2009; Kear 2012). This way, financialization morphs into a 'technique of power' to maintain a particular social order (Palma 2009; Saith 2011), in which the delicate task of balancing competing social claims and distributive outcomes is offloaded to the 'invisible hand' which operates through anonymous, 'blind' financial markets (Krippner 2005, 2011). This is perhaps illustrated clearest by Michael Hudson (2012, p. 223):
"Rising mortgage debt has made employees afraid to go on strike or even to complain about working conditions. Employees became more docile in a world where they are only one paycheck or so away from homelessness or, what threatens to become almost the same thing, missing a mortgage payment. This is the point at which they find themselves hooked on debt dependency."
Paul Krugman (2005) has called this a 'debt-peonage society' -- while J. Gabriel Palma (2009, p. 833) labelled it a 'rentiers' delight' in which financialization sustains the rent-seeking practices of oligopolistic capital -- as a system of discipline as well as exploitation, which is "difficult to reconcile with any acceptable definition of democracy" (Mann 2010, p. 18).
In this regime of social regulation, income and wealth became more concentrated in the hands of the rentier class (Saith 2011; Goda, Onaran and Stockhammer 2017) , and as a result, productive capital accumulation gave way before the increased speculative use of the 'economic surplus of society' in pursuit of 'financial-capital' gains through asset speculation (Davis and Kim 2015). This took the wind out of the sails of the 'real' economy, and firms responded by holding back investment, using their profits to pay out dividends to their shareholders and to buy back their own shares (Lazonick 2014). Because the rich own most financial assets, anything that causes the value of financial assets to rise rapidly made the rich richer (Taylor, Ömer and Rezai 2015).
In the U.S., arguably the most financialized economy in the world, the result of this was extreme income polarization, unseen after WWII (Piketty 2014; Palma 2011). The 'American Dream', writes Gabriel Palma (2009, p. 842), was "high jacked by a rather tiny minority -- for the rest, it has only been available on credit!" Because that is what happened: lower- and middle-income groups took on more debt to finance spending on health care, education or housing, spurred by the deregulation of financial markets and changes in the tax code which made it easier and more attractive for households with modest incomes to borrow in order to spend. This debt-financed spending stimulated an otherwise almost comatose U.S. economy by spurring consumption (Cynamon and Fazzari 2015). In the twenty years before the Great Financial Crash, debts and 'financial excess' -- in the form of the asset price bubbles in 'New Economy' stocks, real estate markets and commodity (futures) markets -- propped up aggregate demand and kept the U.S. and global economy growing. "We have," Paul Krugman (2013) concludes, "an economy whose normal condition is one of inadequate demand -- of at least mild depression -- and which only gets anywhere close to full employment when it is being buoyed by bubbles."
But it is not just the U.S. economy: the whole world has become addicted to debt. The borrowings of global households, governments and firms have risen from 246% of GDP in 2000 to 327%, or $ 217 trillion, today -- which is $70 trillion higher than 10 years ago.  It means that for every extra dollar of output, the world economy cranks out more than almost 10 extra dollars of debt. Forget about the synthetic opioid crisis, the world's more dangerous addiction is to debt. China, which has been the engine of the global economy during most of the post-2008 period, has been piling up debt to keep its growth process going -- the IMF (2017) expects China's non-financial sector debt to exceed 290% of its GDP in 2022, up from around 140% (of GDP) in 2008, warning that China's current credit trajectory is "dangerous with increasing risks of a disruptive adjustment." China's insatiable demand for debt fueled growth, but also led to a property bubble and a rapidly growing shadow banking system (Gabor 2018) -- raising concerns that the economy may face a hard landing and send shockwaves through the world's financial markets. The next global financial catastrophe may be just around the corner.
How Finance Is Reshaping the 'Rules of the Game'
To understand this debt explosion we must comprehend what is driving the financial hyper-activity -- and how this is changing the way our economies work. For a start, the growth of the financial industry, in terms of its size and power, its incomprehensible complexity and its penetration into the real economy, is inseparably connected to the structural increase in income and wealth inequalities (Foster and McChesney 2012; Storm and Naastepad 2015; Cynamon and Fazzari 2015; Goda, Onaran and Stockhammer 2017). Richer households have a higher propensity to save and are more likely to hold financial wealth in risky assets (such as mutual funds, shares and bonds) and hence, more money ends up in the management of institutional investors or 'asset managers' (Epstein 2018; Gabor 2018). As a result, a small core of the global population, the so-called High Net Worth Individuals (Lysandrou 2011; Goda 2017), controls an increasingly larger share of incomes and wealth (Palma 2011; Saith 2011; Piketty 2014; Taylor, Ömer and Rezai 2015). This trend was strengthened by the shift towards capital-based pension schemes (Krippner 2011) and the structural increase in the liquidity preference of big shareholder-dominated corporations, which came about under pressure from activist shareholders wanting to 'disgorge the cash' within these firms (Lazonick 2014; Epstein 2018; Jayadev et al. 2018). However, with few sufficiently profitable investment opportunities in the "real economy", cash wealth -- originating out of a higher profit share, dividends, shareholder payouts and capital gains on earlier financial investments -- began to accumulate in global centrally managed 'institutional cash pools', the volume of which grew from an insignificant $100 billion in 1990 to a systemic $6 trillion at the end of 2013 (Pozsar 2011, 2015). 
OTC derivative trading requires the availability of cheap liquidity on demand (Mehrling 2012) and this means that the 'asset management complex' cannot invest the cash pools into long-term assets, but has to keep the liquidity available -- ready to use when the possibility for a profitable deal arises. But doing so poses enormous risks, because the global cash pools are basically uninsured: they are far too big to fall under the coverage of normal deposit-insurance schemes offered by the traditional banking system (Pozsar 2011). Securing 'principal safety' for the cash pools under their management thus became the main headache of the asset managers -- which proved to be a far greater challenge than generating adequate rates of return for the cash-owners. The reason was that the traditional way of securing principal safety of one's cash was by putting it in very short-term government bonds which were credit-rated as being 'safe' ( e.g. U.S. T-Bills or German Bunds ). This way, the cash pool became 'collateralized' -- backed up by sovereign bonds. But as inequality increased and global institutional cash pools expanded, the demand for safe collateral began to permanently exceed the availability of 'safe' government bonds (Pozsar 2011; Lysandrou and Nesvetailova 2017).
The only way out was by putting the cash into newly developed privately guaranteed instruments: asset-backed securities . These instruments were secured by collateral (Lysandrou and Nesvetailova 2017) -- that is, the cash pools were lent, on a very short term basis (often over-night), to securitization trusts, banks and other asset owners in exchange for safe and secure collateral -- on the agreement that the borrower would repurchase the collateral some time later (often the next day). This is called a repurchase or 'repo' transaction (Gorton and Metrick 2009) or an 'asset-backed commercial paper' deal (Covitz, Lang and Suarez 2013). Normally, the cash loan would be over-collateralized, with the cash provider receiving collateral of a higher value than the value of the cash; the basic workings of the 'repo' market are further explained in Storm (2018). These (short-term) deals are generally done within the shadow banking system, the mostly 'self-regulated' sphere of the financial sector which arose in response to the growing demand for risk intermediation on behalf of -- and the prioritization of a 'safe parking place' for -- the global institutional cash pools (Pozsar 2011; Pozsar and Singh 2011). The repo lender and the securities borrower -- each lends cash and gets back securities -- can re-use those securities as collateral to get repo loans for themselves. And the next cash lender, which gets the same securities as collateral, can re-use them again as collateral to get a repo loan for itself. And so on. This creates a 'chain' in which one set of securities gets re-used several times as collateral for several loans. This so-called re-hypothecation (Pozsar and Singh 2011) means that these securities were increasingly used as 'money', a means of payment in inter-bank deals, within the shadow banking system.
It should be clear that 'securities', which are privately 'manufactured' and guaranteed money market instruments, form the feedstock of this complex and opaque 'profit-generating machine' of inter-bank wheeling and dealing -- both by providing 'insurance' to the global cash pools and by acting as an (privately guaranteed) means of payment in OTC trading. 'Securitization' is the most critical, yet under-appreciated, enabler of financialization (Davis and Kim 2015). What then is securitization? It is the process of taking 'passive' assets with cash flows, such as mortgages held by commercial banks, and commodifying them into tradable securities. Securities are 'manufactured' using a portfolio of hundreds or thousands of underlying assets, all yielding a particular return (in the form of cash flow) and carrying a particular risk of default to their buyers. Due to the law of large numbers, the payoff from the portfolio becomes predictable and suitable for being sliced up in different 'tranches', each having a different risk profile. Storm (2018) provides a simple but illustrative numerical example of how a security is manufactured using a two-asset example. As Davis and Kim (2015) argue, securitization represents a fundamental shift in how finance is done. In the old days of 'originate-and-hold' (before the 1980s), (regulated) commercial banks would originate mortgage loans and keep them on their balance sheets for the duration of the loan period. But now in our era of 'originate-and-distribute', (de-regulated) commercial banks originate mortgages, but then sell them off to securitization trusts which turn these mortgages into 'securities' and vend them to financial investors. Securitization thus turns a concrete long-term relationship between a bank ( i.e. Schumpeter's 'ephor') and the loan-taker into an abstract relationship between anonymous financial markets and the loan-taker (in line with Hayek's legacy). Commercial banks are now mere 'underwriters' of the mortgage (which is quickly sold and securitized), while households which took the mortgage, are now de facto 'issuers of securities' on (global) financial markets. This is the essence of the shift in financial intermediation from banks to financial markets (Lysandrou and Nesvetailova 2017). Kane (2013, 2015) explains how this system is enjoying the implicit back-up of central banks and states and how it is leading to predatory risk-taking by mega-banks.
This securitization fundamentally transformed the 'rules of the capitalist game', often in rather perverse directions. For one, as finance expanded, the demand for 'investment-grade' (AAA-rated) securities grew -- and the result was a hunt for additional collateral akin to earlier gold rushes, write Pozsar and Singh (2011, p. 5): "Obtaining collateral is similar to mining. It involves both exploration (looking for deposits of collateral) and extraction (the "unearthing" of passive securities so they can be re-used as collateral for various purposes in the shadow banking system)." Collateral is the new gold -- and this explains why banks (before the Great Financial Crisis) gave loans to non-creditworthy (sub-prime) customers (Epstein 2018) and why these same banks are now eager to include the poor in the financial system (Mader 2018) and to enclose ever new spaces for profit-making (Arsel and Büscher 2012; Sathyamala 2017; Keucheyan 2018). Mortgage loans (sub-prime or prime) or micro-credit deals derive their systemic importance from the access they provide to the underlying collateral -- either in the form of residential property or of high-return cash flows on micro-loans, made low-risk by peer pressure.
This systemic importance (to the financial system, that is) by far exceeds the value of these loans to the actual borrowers and it has led to and is still leading to an overdose of finance -- with ruinous consequences. Likewise, one cannot understand what is going in commodity and food markets unless one appreciates that trading in 'commodities' and 'food' is not so much related to (present and future) consumption needs, but is increasingly dictated by the market's alternative collateral, store-of-value, and safe-asset role in the global economy (Clapp and Isakson 2018). That is, the commodity option or futures contract derives its value more from its usefulness as 'collateralized securities' to back-up speculative shadow-banking transactions than from its capacity to meet food demand or smoothen output prices for farmers. We can add a fourth law to Zuboff's Laws (2013), namely that anything which can be collateralized, will be collateralized. This even includes 'social policies', because the present value of future streams of cash benefits for the poor can serve as collateral (see Lavinas 2018). And because the major OTC markets require price volatility and spreads, exchange rate volatility and uncertainty, which are 'bad' for the economic development of countries attempting to industrialize (Bortz and Kaltenbrunner 2018), constitute a sine qua non for the profitability of major OTC instruments including forex swaps and credit default swaps (to 'hedge' the risks of the forex swaps).  Perverse incentives, excessive risk-taking, fictitious financial instruments -- it appears finance capitalism has reached its nadir. "In the way that even an accumulation of debts can appear as an accumulation of capital," as Marx (1981, pp. 607-08) insightfully observed, "we see the distortion involved in the credit system reach its culmination."
A 'One-Foot' Conclusion
The shift in financial intermediation from banks to financial markets, and the introduction of financial market logic into areas and domains where it was previously absent, have not just led to negative developmental impacts, but also changed the 'rules of the game', conduct and outcomes -- to the detriment of 'inclusive' economic development and in ways that have helped to legitimize -- what Palma (2009) has appositely called -- a 'rentiers' delight', a financialized mode of social regulation which facilitated rent-seeking practices of a self-serving global financial elite and at the same time enabled a sickening rise in inequality. Establishment (financial) economics has helped to de-politicize and legitimize this financialized mode of social regulation by invoking Hayek's epistemological claim that (financial) markets are the only legitimate, reliably welfare-enhancing foundation for a stable social order and economic progress.
It is this complacency of establishment economics which led to the global financial crash of 2008 and ten dire years of economic stagnation, high and rising inequalities in income and wealth, historically unprecedented levels of indebtedness, and mounting uncertainty about jobs and incomes in most nations. The crisis conditions crystalized into a steadily increasing popular dissatisfaction of those supposedly 'left behind by (financial) globalization' with the political and economic status quo; a dissatisfaction which amplified into a 'groundswell of discontent' -- to use the words of the IMF's Managing Director Christine Lagarde (2016). Angry and anxious electorates were transformed by demagogues into election-winning forces, as the British 'Brexit' vote, Trump's (2016) and Erdogan's (2017) election victories in the U.S. and Turkey, and recent political changes (toward authoritarianism) in Brazil, Egypt, the Philippines and India all attest (see Becker, Fetzer and Novy (2017) for an analysis of the Brexit vote; and Ferguson, Jorgenson and Chen (2018) for an assessment of the Trump vote).
We have to confront the Panglossian logic and arguments of (financial) economists, used to legitimize the current financialized global order as the 'best of all possible worlds". We must lay to rest the Hayekian claim that unregulated market-based finance is socially efficient -- as the macro- and micro-economic impacts of the rise to dominance of financial markets on capital accumulation, growth and distribution have overwhelmingly been deleterious (Epstein 2018). Market-based finance is no longer funding the real economy (Epstein 2018; Jayadev, Mason and Schröder 2018), but rather engages in self-serving strategy of rent-seeking (Chandrasekhar and Ghosh 2018; Mader 2018), looting the 'fisc' (Chandrasekhar and Ghosh 2018; Mader 2018), exchange rate and global stock market speculation (Bortz and Kaltenbrunner 2018), OTC derivatives speculation (Keucheyan 2018; Clapp and Isakson 2018) and collateral mining (Gabor 2018; Lavinas 2018) -- asphyxiating economic development.
This does not mean, however, that Schumpeter and Gerschenkron were wrong in calling the banker the 'ephor' of capitalism and a 'phenomenon of development'. Finance can positively contribute to economic development, something which indeed is "almost too obvious for serious discussion" as Miller wrote, but only when the 'ephor' is 'governed' and 'directed' by state regulation to structure accumulation and distribution into socially useful directions (Epstein 2018; Jayadev, Mason and Schröder 2018). The East Asian miracle economies prove the point that finance can be socially efficient if bankers can be made to work within the 'developmental mindset', the institutional arrangements and political compulsions of a 'developmental state', as argued by Wade (2018) -- China's recent move to (securities) market-based finance may be the beginning of unravelling of its growth miracle (Gabor 2018; BIS 2017).
Rather than letting financial markets discipline the rest of the economy and the whole of society, finance itself has to be disciplined by a countervailing social authority which governs it to act in socially desirable directions. One famous account in the Talmud tells about Rabbi Hillel, a great sage, who when he was asked to explain the Torah in the time that he could stand on one foot, replied: "Do not do unto others that which is repugnant to you. Everything else is commentary." If there is a one-foot summary of the literature reviewed in this introduction, it is this: "Finance is a terrible 'ephor', but, if and when domesticated, can be turned into a useful servant. Everything else is commentary."
Feb 14, 2018 | www.unz.com
Do you remember the terrible onslaught of the mainstream media on presidential candidate Donald Trump in 2016? Dozens of revelations about his fake hair, pussy grabbing, tax avoidance and what not; dozens of public polls proving that the nation wanted Hillary and hated Trump, opinion pieces convincing you that only racist white trash could think of voting for him. They even printed that Time weekly (or was it Newsweek ?) cover with a Madam President ! greeting. And then came the day of counting.
This development comes to my mind as I follow the incessant attacks in the Russian media and social networks on presidential candidate Paul N. Grudinin (usually nicknamed Gru). Russian state-owned TV is supposed, by its charter, to play a neutral role in the election campaign. They did it for a week after his name was entered into the race. In that week's time, Gru's rating skyrocketed and almost reached that of President Putin. This was an unexpected turn of events for the Kremlin, whose political witch-doctors expected Gru to make a modest showing and to improve the doubtful legitimacy of the forthcoming elections.
When they recognised the magnitude of their mistake, they gave a command to their obedient TV channels, and Gru became the target of their daily attacks. Out of eight candidates, Gru is the only one who gets negative coverage. About him, they speak bad or nothing, just like about Trump in the US in his time.
A veteran candidate, the old Nationalist Zhirinovsky gets plenty of time on the TV, for he has only one message, Down with Gru . His wild attacks on Gru are broadcasted in every election campaign program every evening on the TV.
There is a spoiler, a tiny 'Russian Communists' Trotskyite party, whose only purpose in life is to steal votes from the mainstream Communist Party (KPRF). It is a virtual party that disappears after elections to come back to life before new elections. Some innocent souls in the Russian hinterland vote for them being convinced that this is the Communist Party. They are violently anti-Gru, and post like mad in Facebook their denunciations of the not-quite-communist Gru.
However, Gru is not a run-of-the-mill communist candidate. A successful manager of an agricultural holding called Lenin Sovkhoz , he is a good example of Russian industrialists otherwise called 'Red directors', that is managers of Soviet factories and enterprises who adjusted to the new system. They are producers of goods for local consumption, and their interests do not coincide with those of the Putin (or Yeltsin) oligarchs. Those oligarchs made their fortunes by importing consumer goods and exporting raw materials; they are the base of Putin's power.
The producers, both industrialists and agriculturalists, want more protectionist measures and cheaper credits, they want to boost the buying power of ordinary Russians, that is increase salaries and pensions. Their fortunes lie with the fortunes of the ordinary Russian workers. They are dissatisfied with President Putin, and even more with his government led by Mr Medvedev.
Gru became the candidate for a plethora of political organisations from the Left and from the Right; he is supported by Russian Nationalists , though his main alliance is with the KPRF (the mainstream Russian Communist Party). He is a combination of Sanders and Trump, for workers, against immigration, for protective trade barriers and low-cost credits for small producers. A self-made-man of the upper-middle class, not a billionaire, but definitely a wealthy man, he does not scare middle-class Russians who would be afraid to support a real red-in-tooth-and-claw Communist.
Though the official prediction grouop, the Russian Public Opinion Research Center, VTSIOM (ВЦИОМ) claims 70% of electorate will vote for Putin and only 7% for Grudinin, the feeling on the ground is very different. There are a few sites allowing people to express their preference by "voting"; a biggish site of this sort is http://president-rf.ru/ where out of 180,000 voters 60% preferred Gru, and only 30% voted for President Putin. On other sites, Gru gets anything from 30 to 80 per cent of the vote.
It is difficult to predict the result, and it is still over a month until election day, but VTSIOM's assessment appears too low to justify the ferocious campaign against Gru. If he were about to get 6-7%, the top wheeler-dealer, the presidential administration, would not bother and would not activate its troll factories and fake social network accounts to stop Grudinin. It seems that man has a chance to win the battle, that is if the elections are reasonably fair.
Putin has been a good president, and a popular one, but he has his limitations. He still feels obliged to keep the Deal he made with the late President Yeltsin; he still keeps fighting the Soviet memory, he is surrounded by his buddies who roll in cash; he does not support local production except for the weapons industry. While he was good for a long while, there is a feeling that the country is ripe for a changing of the guard.
A teacher in the preparatory school may be wonderful, but sooner or later, the child should move on, to new teachers. Gru is the first man who has excited the Russians since 1996, and he is likely to make a strong bid.
The Russian Left is Different.
Grudinin has the support of the left and of the right; of workers and of managers; of communists and of nationalists. How could this happen? The main reason is that the Russian Left is quite different from the European Left. The Russians are Bolsheviks. The Western Left is predominantly Menshevik.
Historically, the Russian Social Democrats were divided into Bolsheviks, the Majorites, and Mensheviks, the Minorites. The actual argument that divided the Social Democrats into these majority and minority groups is of little importance now and of even less relevance. Nowadays, the Majorites are the Left for the Majority, while Minorites are the Left for Minorities.
The Russian Left is the force for the majority, for the workers, for the natives. The Western Left is for gender, ethnic, religious minorities. If you'd ask a Western worker about the Left, he will probably tell you: the Left is not for us, they care only for gays and migrants who take our jobs.
Mensheviks are (and were) better for Jews, as Jews are the ultimate minority. Bolsheviks accepted Jews as individuals and equals, not as a separate and preferred minority group. Bolsheviks fought against the Bund, the Jewish Social Democrats, while the Mensheviks joined with the Bund.
Stalin observed (and Trotsky quoted that in his book on Stalin):
"the majority of the Menshevik group were Jews. On the other hand, the overwhelming majority of the Bolshevik group were ethnic Russians. In this connection a Bolshevik observed in jest that the Mensheviks constituted a Jewish group while the Bolsheviks constituted a true-Russian group and, therefore, it wouldn't be a bad idea for us Bolsheviks to organise a pogrom in the Party".
While being comradely to Jewish comrades, Stalin effectively de-Jewified the Russian Communist Party by bringing in many ethnic Russian workers and peasants. He treated the Jews as just one of the tribes populating Eurasia, not as the Chosen Ones. This is the sin of Stalin in Jewish eyes, and that is why they condemn him now.
The Jewish influence in the Western Left has survived all these years and even outlived the massive Jewish involvement with the Left. After 1968, the Jews en masse departed to new pastures, but their influence lingered, entrenching the Jewish-friendly Menshevik tendency. They adapted the Western Left to fit their preferences and made it suitable for cohabitation with the elites. Along the way, they had lost their working class support, but they were more interested in keeping with the rulers.
The Jewish-run Mensheviks fit perfectly into the oligarchy. They believe that Anna and Susan Wojicki, the former wife of Sergei ("Google") Brin and her sister, are unhappy discriminated women, unlike welders and auto mechanics, who are white men, the patriarchal lords of the world.
The Bolsheviks struggle for women's equality is exemplified in free kindergartens, and the Mensheviks, in reserved places for women in the directorships of large companies.
Mensheviks are concerned about the rights of transgender people to a urinal of their preference. The Bolsheviks are concerned about the right of workers to work, to a decent wage, to their share of natural resources. You can easily understand what sort of Left is preferred in the eyes of mainstream media and their billionaire owners.
Migrants provide another cause of distinction. The Western working class achieved much during the years of the Cold War, when the Western ruling class had to compete with the Communists for workers' loyalty. Now the rulers are eager to void these achievements – and the easiest way is through population replacement by the massive importation of migrants and refugees. For this purpose, Capital is waging wars in the Middle East and fanning strife in Africa, and they facilitate the refugees' flight to Europe and America.
The Mensheviks, that is the Western Left, support migrants against the indigenous population, in the name of their anti-racism and internationalism. However, for all practical reasons they do the work for their masters, because migrants are easier to manipulate, they help to lower salaries, to undermine the workers' organisations, and to destroy natural solidarity.
The Bolsheviks are against the causes of mass migration, against the use of migrants and refugees to the detriment of the indigenous population. This is the position of the Russian Communists, whose anti-migration rhetoric is so outspoken that even Trumpists would find it too brusque.
Mr Grudinin has a history of anti-immigration demands behind him. He calls for enforcing a visa regime with the Central Asian republics of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kirgizstan, as now their working migrants do not need a Russian visa. He insists that every working migrant should be given the same salary as a native Russian worker, the idea being that in such conditions there will be less demand for migrants' labour. Perhaps it makes sense to hire inexperienced dirt-cheap Tajik migrants, but if for the same price you can hire a qualified Russian worker, you will probably employ the latter.
Grudinin's suggestions are anathema to the neo-liberal Kremlin. Putin keeps the doors of Russia wide open for immigration, to the detriment of native workers. If the immigration flow has decreased it is mostly the result of Rouble's depreciation.
In the West, these ideas of limiting migration belong fully to the realm of the Right, or even the Alt-Right. They are described as "populist", meaning they are popular but disapproved by the ruling elites. The Western Left has been manipulated into an unpopular position, while the popular ('populist') ideas have been transferred to the Right.
In Russia, the Russian Communists did not follow the path of the Mensheviks. They made all sorts of compromises, but they always stayed for the workers. They do not fight for gays, migrants and upper-class feminists. They make allies with the producers and against the rentiers and bankers.
Perhaps the Russian Communists will show the way to their Western comrades as they did a hundred years ago. These two branches of the world Left movement have had a checkered history. In the 19 th century, the new-born Russian revolutionary movement was keen to learn from the West; the Russian Narodniks went on a pilgrimage to visit Marx in London seeking his advice. The Western revolutionaries of that time (including Marx) were as distrustful of Russians as Robert Mueller or John McCain. They thought Russia was so backward and so reactionary that a Russian progressive Left was an impossibility.
And then something unexpected had happened. When the guns of the First World War struck, only the Russian Left, led by Vladimir Lenin, did not lose their heads, but led their country to the victory of socialist revolution. After 1917, for many years the Russian Left was the guiding star for the world Left.
The Russians paid heavily for their cutting edge achievement, while the European peoples became the main beneficiaries of the October Revolution. They've got all the Russians fought for, for free. Their leaders were afraid their workers would go over to the Communists; and thus the welfare state came into being.
Eventually, both branches of the Left forgot their history. The Western Left forgot their victories were due to the Red Army's might, and they proudly preached the new-fangled theories of Euro-Communism. The Russians, always eager to learn a new trick, fell for it, and dismantled the socialist state, sincerely expecting they would live as good as Swedes. The end was gruesome: the Russians were plunged into long years of depopulation and de-industrialisation, while the flagship of the Western left, the huge Euro-Communist parties of France and Italy disappeared. Swedish socialism has almost perished.
Over the years, the Western Left virtually disappeared, and its place was taken by the pseudo-left, who appropriated the name of the historical Left parties. Capital raised in its secret labs this poisonous pseudo-Left, with one supreme goal in mind – to make the very name of communism obnoxious and repelling.
For the Bolsheviks, the Good Ones were workers, they were the salt of the earth. Everyone could join this class by identifying with workers. The Menshevik pseudo-left has offered a shortcut to join the Good Ones: Identity Politics. You are Good if you are discriminated against. If you are black, you suffer discrimination, even if you are an Obama. If you are a woman, you suffer discrimination. If you like BDSM, you are discriminated against. If you are a migrant, you are discriminated against. If you are a Jew, a Soros or a Rothschild, you are still suffer discrimination, for just half a century ago your grandfather was not allowed to join a country club.
For Bolsheviks, discrimination is not the most urgent problem. They are surely against discrimination; but it takes a backseat after the really important question: labour/capital relationship. When the working people win, discrimination will vanish, they say. By keeping the eye on this most important bottom line, the Bolsheviks are the greatest natural enemies of the 1%.
The cause of socialism was defeated in 1991, no doubt, but it is not the first defeat. In November 1941, when the German troops reached the outskirts of Moscow, it also appeared socialism had been defeated. However, in 1945 socialism rebounded. Since 1991, the winner, Capital, claims its victory is irrevocable and irreversible. It is, they say, the end of history.
But victories and defeats can be reversed. The Soviets did not know that. They believed that "the victory of socialism is inevitable because it is progressive." Perhaps in the long run it is inevitable, but it can happen in a thousand years, and meanwhile a nuclear war or biological experiments can exterminate the human race.
The most basic ideals of French Republic – democracy, liberty, equality – were defeated by Napoleon, by the Bourbons, by Orleans, but they rebounded.
Nothing is inevitable. The Soviet Bolsheviks believed in inevitability – and lost; while their adversaries just fought hard, not giving an inch – and won. Their attitude should be emulated. The people of the West are ready for the real-Left turn. Recent successes of Jeremy Corbyn in England, of Bernie Sanders in the US, of Jean-Luc Mélenchon in France prove it. They are soft, but hard ones will come, too.
This is not the beginning of the end of the cruel man-eating neo-liberalism and its Menshevik allies, but this is the end of the beginning in the universal battle for socialism, as Churchill said of the British victory over the Germans at El Alamein. The light at the end of the tunnel is already visible. And then the Russian Communists will again become the beacon for the workers of the world.
Gru's success can change a lot of things. His worldview has many points in common with Donald Trump. In a month' time, we shall know how far this Russian Trump has succeeded in advancing.
Israel Shamir can be reached at email@example.com This article was first published at The Unz Review .
Feb 09, 2018 | www.unz.com
Few government organizations have been engaged in violation of the US citizens' constitutional rights for as long a time and against as many individuals as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Seldom has there been greater collusion in the perpetration of crimes against civil liberties, electoral freedom and free and lawful expression as what has taken place between the FBI and the US Justice Department.
In the past, the FBI and Justice Department secured the enthusiastic support and public acclaim from the conservative members of the US Congress, members of the judiciary at all levels and the mass media. The leading liberal voices, public figures, educators, intellectuals and progressive dissenters opposing the FBI and their witch-hunting tactics were all from the left. Today, the right and the left have changed places: The most powerful voices endorsing the FBI and the Justice Department's fabrications, and abuse of constitutional rights are on the left, the liberal wing of the Democratic Party and famous liberal media corporations and public opinion makers.
The recently published Congressional memo, authored by Congressman Devin Nunes, provides ample proof that the FBI spied on Trump campaign workers with the intent to undermine the Republican candidate and sabotage his bid for the presidency. Private sector investigators, hired by Trump's rival Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee, worked with pro-Clinton operatives within the FBI and Justice Department to violate the national electoral process while flouting rules governing wiretaps on US citizens. This was done with the approval of the sitting Democratic President Barack Obama.
The liberals and Democrats and their allies in the FBI, political police and other elements of the security state apparatus were deeply involved in an attempt to implicate Russian government officials in a plot to manipulate US public opinion on Trump's behalf and corrupt the outcome of the election. However, the FBI, the Justice Department and Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller have produced no evidence of collusion linking the Russian government to a campaign to undermine Hillary Clinton's candidacy in favor of Trump. This is despite thousands of interviews and threats of long prison sentences against former Trump campaign advisers. Instead, they focus their attack on Trump's early campaign promise to find common ground in improving economic and diplomatic ties between the US and Russia, especially in confronting jihadi terrorists.
The liberal-progressive FBI cohort turned into rabid Russia-bashers demanding that Trump take a highly aggressive stance against Moscow, while systematically eliminating his military and security advisors who expressed anti-confrontation sentiments. In the spirit of a Joe McCarthy, the liberal-left launched hysterical attacks on any and every Trump campaign adviser who had spoken to, dined with or exchanged eyebrows with any and all Russians!
The conversion of liberalism to the pursuit of political purges is unprecedented. Their collective amnesia about the long-term, large-scale involvement by the FBI in the worst criminal violations of democratic values is reprehensible. The FBI's anti-communist crusade led to the purge of thousands of trade unionists from the mid-1940's onward, decimating the AFL-CIO. They blacklisted actors, screen writers, artists, teachers, university academics, researchers, scientists, journalists and civil rights leaders as part of their sweeping purge of civil society.
The FBI investigated the private lives of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, even threatening their family members. They illegally spied on and infiltrated civil liberties organizations, and used provocateurs and spies in anti-war groups. Individuals lives were destroyed, some were driven to suicide; important popular American organizations were undermined to the detriment of millions. This has been its focus since its beginning and continues with the current fabrication of anti-Russian propaganda and investigations.
President Trump: Victim and Executor
President Trump has pursued an agenda mirroring the police state operations of the FBI – only on a global scale. Trump's violation of international law includes collaboration and support for Saudi Arabia's tyrannical invasion and destruction of the sovereign nation of Yemen; intensified aid and support for Israel's ethnic war against the Palestinian people; severe sanctions and threatened nuclear first-strike against North Korea (DPRK); increased deployment of US special forces in collaboration with the jihadi terrorist war to overthrow the legitimate government of Syria; coup-mongering, sabotage, sanctions and economic blockade of Venezuela; NATO missile and nuclear encirclement of Russia; and the growing naval threats against China .
Domestically, Trump's response to the FBI's blackmail has been to replace the original political leadership with his own version; to expand and increase the police state powers against immigrants; to increase the powers of the major tech companies to police and intensify work-place exploitation and the invasion of citizens' privacy; to expand the unleash the power of state agents to torture suspects and to saturate all public events, celebrations and activities with open displays of jingoism and militarism with the goal of creating pro-war public opinion.
In a word: From the right to the left there are no political options to choose from among the two ruling political parties. Popular political movements and mass demonstrations have risen up against Trump with clear justification, but have since dissolved and been absorbed. They came together from diverse sectors: Women against sexual abuse and workplace humiliation; African-Americans against police impunity and violence; and immigrants against mass expulsion and harassment. They staged mass demonstrations and then declined as their 'anti-Trump' animus was frustrated by the liberal-democrats hell-bent on pursuing the Russian connection.
In the face of the national-political debacle local and regional movements became the vehicle to support the struggles. Women organized at some workplaces and gained better protection of their rights; African-Americans vividly documented and published video evidence of the systematic brutal violation of their rights by the police state and effectively acted to restrain local police violence in a few localities; immigrant workers and especially their children gained broad public sympathy and allies within religious and political organizations; and anti-Trump movements combined with critics of the liberal/democrat apparatus to build broader movements and especially oppose growing war-fever.
Abroad, bi-partisan wars have failed to defeat independent state and mass popular resistance struggles for national sovereignty everywhere – from North Korea, Iran, Yemen, Syria, and Venezuela and beyond.
Even the fight within the two-headed reactionary party of the US oligarchy has had a positive effect. Each side is hell-bent on exposing the state-sponsored crimes of the other. In an unprecedented and historic sense, the US and world public is witness to the spies, lies and crimes of the leadership and elite on prime time and on the wide screen. We head in two directions. In one direction, there are the threats of nuclear war, economic collapse, environmental disasters and a full blown police state. In the other direction, there is the demise of empire, a revived and renewed civil society rooted in a participatory economy and a renewed moral order .
Feb 08, 2018 | www.unz.com
The public denunciation by thousands of women and a few men that they had been victims of sexual abuse by their economic bosses raises fundamental issues about the social relations of American capitalism.
The moral offenses are in essence economic and social crimes. Sexual abuse is only one aspect of the social dynamics facilitating the increase in inequality and concentration of wealth, which define the practices and values of the American political and economic system.
Billionaires and mega-millionaires are themselves the products of intense exploitation of tens of millions of isolated and unorganized wage and salaried workers. Capitalist exploitation is based on a rigid hierarchy with its private prerogatives, which enables the oligarchs to demand their feudal privileges, their seigniorial sexual predations.
US capitalism thrives on and requires unlimited power and the capacity to have the public treasury pay for its untrammeled pillage of land, labor, transport systems and technological development. Capitalist power, in the United States, has no counterpart; there are few if any countervailing forces to provide any balance.
Today, 93% of US private sector workers have no organized representation. Moreover, many of the 7% who are in unions are controlled and exploited by their corrupt union officials – in league with the bosses.
This concentration of power produces the ever deepening inequalities between the world of the billionaires and the millions of low-wage workers.
The much-celebrated technological innovations have been subsidized by the state and its educational and research institutions. Although these are financed by the taxpayers, the citizen-workers are marginalized by the technological changes, like robotics, that they originally funded. High tech innovations flourish because they concentrate power, profits and private privilege.
The hierarchical matrix of power and exploitation has led to the polarization of mortality rates and moral codes. For the working poor, the absence of competent health care has led to the massive use and abuse of prescription opioids and other addictive drugs. For the upper class, it has led to the flagrant physical and psychological abuse of vulnerable employees, especially, but not exclusively young working women. The prestigious bourgeois media blur the class polarization by constant reference to what they term 'our shared traditional democratic values.'
The pervasive and growing vulnerability of workers of both sexes coincides with the incorporation of the latest technological innovations in production, distribution and promotion. This includes electronic and digital advances, artificial intelligence, robotics and extensive surveillance on workers, which incorporate high profits for the investors and long hours of demeaning monotonous work for those who manufacture and transport the 'products'.
The proliferation of new technology has grown in direct relation with the abject debasement of labor and the marginalization and trivialization of workers. Amazon and Walmart approach trillions of dollars in revenue from mass consumption, even as the Chaplinesque speed-up of robotized humans race to fill the overnight delivery orders. The entertainment industry amuses the population across class lines with increasingly vulgar and violent offerings, while the moguls of film entertain themselves with their young workers – who are depersonalized and even raped.
The more egregious immorality exposes itself one time too often and is condemned, while the victims are temporality lionized for their courage to protest. The worst predators apologize, resign to their yachts and mansions and are replaced by new avatars with the same power and structures in place which had facilitated the abuse. Politicians rush to embrace the victims in a kind of political and media 'Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy' when one considers their own role as enablers of this dehumanization.
The problem is not merely corrupt and perverted individual miscreants: It is the hierarchy of inequality which produces and reproduces an endless supply of vulnerable workers to exploit and abuse.
The most advanced forms of entertainment thrive in an environment of absolute impunity in which the occasional exposé of abuse or corruption is hidden behind a monetary settlement. The courage of an individual victim able to secure public attention is a step forward, but will have greater significance if it is organized and linked to a massive challenging of the power of the bourgeois entertainment industry and the system of high tech exploitation. Sexual abuse of an individual in the workplace is just part of a chain that begins with exploitation of workers in general and can only be stopped through collective worker organization.
Can anyone say with a straight face that the US remains a nation of free and autonomous citizens? Servitude and moral degradation are the outcome of an atomized, impotent laboring class who may change one boss for another or one vulgar president for a moralizing hypocrite. We hope that the exposés will start something but without class conscious organizations we don't know what will arise.
Feb 06, 2018 | failedevolution.blogspot.gr
How Russiagate fiasco destroys Kremlin moderates, accelerating danger for a hot war with Russia globinfo freexchange
Corporate Democrats can't stop pushing for war through the Russiagate fiasco.
The party has been completely taken over by the neocon/neoliberal establishment and has nothing to do with the Left. The pro-Hillary warmongering media, the ones that pushed for war in Iraq and elsewhere, through big lies and false evidence, are the vanguard of this ugly machine that supports the most terrible Trump administration bills, yet, this machine can't stop accusing him for 'colluding' with Russia that 'interfered' in the 2016 US election. Of course, no evidence presented for such an accusation and no one really can explain what that 'interference' means.
But things are probably much worse, because this completely absurd persistence on Russiagate fiasco that feeds an evident anti-Russian hysteria, destroys all the influence of the Kremlin moderates who struggle to keep open channels between Russia and the United States.
Stephen Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies, history, and politics at NY University and Princeton University, explained to Aaron Maté and the Real News the terrible consequences:
They're accusing the President of the United States of being a Russian agent, this has never happened in American history. However much you may loathe Trump, this is a whole new realm of defamation. For a number of years, there's been a steady degradation of American political culture and discourse, generally. There was a time when I hoped or thought that it would be the Democratic Party that would push against that degradation.
Now, however, though I'm kind of only nominally, a Democrat, it's the Democratic Party that's degrading our political culture and our discourse. So, this is MSNBC, which purports to be not only the network of the Democratic Party, but the network of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, is now actually because this guy was a semi-anchor was asking the question to an American senator, " Do you think that Representative Nunes, because he wants the memo released, has been compromised by the Kremlin? "
I think all of us need to focus on what's happened in this country when in the very mainstream, at the highest, most influential levels of the political establishment, this kind of discourse is no longer considered an exception. It is the norm. We hear it daily from MSNBC and CNN, from the New York Times and the Washington Post, that people who doubt the narrative of what's loosely called Russiagate are somehow acting on behalf of or under the spell of the Kremlin, that we aren't Americans any longer. And by the way, if people will say, " Well, it's a weak capitulation of McCarthyism, " I say no, it's much more than that because McCarthy was obsessed with Communist. That was a much narrower concept than being obsessed with anybody who might be under Russian influence of any kind. The so-called affinity for Russia. Well, I have a profound affinity for Russian culture and for Russian history. I study it all the time. This is something new. And so, when you accuse a Republican or any Congressman of being a Kremlin agent, this has become a commonplace. We are degraded.
The new Cold War is unfolding not far away from Russia, like the last in Berlin, but on Russia's borders in the Baltic and in Ukraine. We are building up our military presence there, so the Russians are counter-building up, though within their territory. That means the chances of hot war are now much greater than they were before. Meanwhile, not only do we not have a discussion of these real dangers in the United States but anyone who wants to incite a discussion, including the President of the United States, is called treasonous. Every time Trump has tried with Putin to reach a cooperative arrangement, for example, on fighting terrorism in Syria, which is a necessary purpose, literally, the New York Times and the others call him treasonous. Whereas, in the old days, the old Cold War, we had a robust discussion. There is none here. We have no alert system that's warning the American people and its representatives how dangerous this is. And as we mentioned before, it's not only Nunes, it's a lot of people who are being called Kremlin agents because they want to digress from the basic narrative.
Meanwhile, people in Moscow who formed their political establishment, who surround Putin and the Kremlin, I mean, the big brains who are formed policy tankers, and who have always tended to be kind of pro-American, and very moderate, have simply come to the conclusion that war is coming. They can't think of a single thing to tell the Kremlin to offset hawkish views in the Kremlin. Every day, there's something new. And these were the people in Moscow who are daytime peacekeeping interlockers. They have been destroyed by Russiagate. Their influence as Russia is zilch. And the McCarthyites in Russia, they have various terms, now called the pro-American lobby in Russia 'fifth columnists'. This is the damage that's been done. There's never been anything like this in my lifetime.
https://www.youtube.com/embed/CpVBA4OIfb8The Democrats couldn't had downgrade their party further. This disgusting spectacle would make FDR totally ashamed of what this party has become. Not only they are voting for every pro-plutocracy GOP bill under Trump administration, but they have become champions in bringing back a much worse and unpredictable Cold War that is dangerously escalating tension with Russia.
And, unfortunately, even the most progressives of the Democrats are adopting the Russiagate bogus, like Bernie Sanders, because they know that if they don't obey to the narratives, the DNC establishment will crush them politically in no time.
Feb 05, 2018 | www.truthdig.com
There will be no economic or political justice for the poor, people of color, women or workers within the framework of global, corporate capitalism. Corporate capitalism, which uses identity politics , multiculturalism and racial justice to masquerade as politics, will never halt the rising social inequality, unchecked militarism, evisceration of civil liberties and omnipotence of the organs of security and surveillance. Corporate capitalism cannot be reformed, despite its continually rebranding itself. The longer the self-identified left and liberal class seek to work within a system that the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin calls " inverted totalitarianism ," the more the noose will be tightened around our necks. If we do not rise up to bring government and financial systems under public control -- which includes nationalizing banks, the fossil fuel industry and the arms industry -- we will continue to be victims.
Corporate capitalism is supranational . It owes no loyalty to any nation-state. It uses the projection of military power by the United States to protect and advance its economic interests but at the same time cannibalizes the U.S., dismantling its democratic institutions, allowing its infrastructure to decay and deindustrializing its factory centers to ship manufacturing abroad to regions where workers are treated as serfs.
Resistance to this global cabal of corporate oligarchs must also be supranational. It must build alliances with workers around the globe. It must defy the liberal institutions, including the Democratic Party, which betray workers. It is this betrayal that has given rise to fascist and protofascist movements in Europe and other countries. Donald Trump would never have been elected but for this betrayal. We will build a global movement powerful enough to bring down corporate capitalism or witness the rise of a new, supranational totalitarianism.
The left, seduced by the culture wars and identity politics, largely ignores the primacy of capitalism and the class struggle. As long as unregulated capitalism reigns supreme, all social, economic, cultural and political change will be cosmetic. Capitalism, at its core, is about the commodification of human beings and the natural world for exploitation and profit. To increase profit, it constantly seeks to reduce the cost of labor and demolish the regulations and laws that protect the common good. But as capitalism ravages the social fabric, it damages, like any parasite, the host that allows it to exist. It unleashes dark, uncontrollable yearnings among an enraged population that threaten capitalism itself.
"This is a crisis of global dimensions," David North , the national chairman of the Socialist Equality Party in the United States, told me when we spoke in New York. "It is a crisis that dominates every element of American politics. The response that we're seeing, the astonishing changes in the state of the government, in the decay of political life, the astonishingly low level of political and intellectual discourse, is in a certain sense an expression of the bewilderment of the ruling elite to what it's going through."
"We can expect a monumental explosion of class struggle in the United States," he said. "I think this country is a social powder keg. There is an anger that exists over working conditions and social inequality. However [much] they may be confused on many questions, workers in this country have a deep belief in democratic rights. We totally reject the narrative that the working class is racist. I think this has been the narrative pushed by the pseudo-left, middle-class groups who are drunk on identity politics, which have a vested interest in constantly distracting people from the essential class differences that exist in the society. Dividing everyone up on the basis of race, gender, sexual preference fails to address the major problem."
North argues, correctly, that capitalism by its nature lurches from crisis to crisis. This makes our current predicament similar to past crises.
"All the unanswered questions of the 20th century -- the basic problem of the nation-state system, the reactionary character of private ownership with the means of production, corporate power, all of these issues which led to the first and Second world wars -- are with us again, and add to that fascism," he said.
"We live in a global economy, highly interconnected," North went on. "A globalized process of production, financial system. The ruling class has an international policy. They organize themselves on an international scale. The labor movement has remained organized on a national basis. It has been completely incapable of answering this [ruling-class policy]. Therefore, it falls behind various national protectionist programs. The trade unions support Trump."
The sociologist Charles Derber , whom I also spoke with in New York, agrees.
"We don't really have a left because we don't have conversations about capitalism," Derber said. "How many times can you turn on a mainstream news like CNN and expect to hear the word 'capitalism' discussed? Bernie [Sanders] did one thing. He called himself a democratic socialist , which was a bit transformational simply in terms of rhetoric. He's saying there's something other than capitalism that we ought to be talking about."
"As the [capitalist] system universalizes and becomes more and more intersectional, we need intersectional resistance," Derber said. "At the end of the 1960s, when I was getting my own political education, the universalizing dimensions of the left, which was growing in the '60s, fell apart. The women began to feel their issues were not being addressed. They were treated badly by white males, student leaders. Blacks, Panthers, began to feel the whites could not speak for race issues. They developed separate organizations. The upshot was the left lost its universalizing character. It no longer dealt with the intersection of all these issues within the context of a militarized, capitalist, hegemonic American empire. It treated politics as siloed group identity problems. Women had glass ceilings. Same with blacks. Same with gays."
The loss of this intersectionality was deadly. Instead of focusing on the plight of all of the oppressed, oppressed groups began to seek representation for their own members within capitalist structures.
"Let's take a modern version of this," Derber said. " Sheryl Sandberg , the COO of Facebook, she did a third-wave feminism thing. She said 'lean in.' It captures this identity politics that has become toxic on the left. What does 'lean in' mean? It means women should lean in and go as far as they can in the corporation. They should become, as she has, a major, wealthy executive of a leading corporation. When feminism was turned into that kind of leaning in, it created an identity politics that legitimizes the very system that needs to be critiqued. The early feminists were overtly socialists. As was [Martin Luther] King. But all that got erased."
"The left became a kind of grab bag of discrete, siloed identity movements," Derber said. "This is very connected to moral purity. You're concerned about your advancement within the existing system. You're competing against others within the existing system. Everyone else has privilege. You're just concerned about getting your fair share."
"People in movements are products of the system they're fighting," he continued. "We're all raised in a capitalistic, individualistic, egoistic culture, so it's not surprising. And it has to be consciously recognized and struggled against. Everybody in movements has been brought up in systems they're repulsed by. This has created a structural transformation of the left. The left offers no broad critique of the political economy of capitalism. It's largely an identity-politics party. It focuses on reforms for blacks and women and so forth. But it doesn't offer a contextual analysis within capitalism."
Derber, like North, argues that the left's myopic, siloed politics paved the way for right-wing, nativist, protofascist movements around the globe as well as the ascendancy of Trump.
"When you bring politics down to simply about helping your group get a piece of the pie, you lose that systemic analysis," he said. "You're fragmented. You don't have natural connections or solidarity with other groups. You don't see the larger systemic context. By saying I want, as a gay person, to fight in the military, in a funny way you're legitimating the American empire. If you were living in Nazi Germany, would you say I want the right of a gay person to fight in combat with the Nazi soldiers?"
"I don't want to say we should eliminate all identity politics," he said. "But any identity politics has to be done within the framework of understanding the larger political economy. That's been stripped away and erased. Even on the left, you cannot find a deep conversation about capitalism and militarized capitalism. It's just been erased. That's why Trump came in. He unified a kind of very powerful right-wing identity politics built around nationalism, militarism and the exceptionalism of the American empire."
"Identity politics is to a large degree a right-wing discourse," Derber said. "It focuses on tribalism tied in modern times to nationalism, which is always militaristic. When you break the left into these siloed identity politics, which are not contextualized, you easily get into this dogmatic fundamentalism. The identity politics of the left reproduces the worse sociopathic features of the system as a whole. It's scary."
"How much of the left," he asked, "is reproducing what we are seeing in the society that we're fighting?"
Feb 11, 2018 | www.theguardian.com
Revolving door in actionBrand attracted interest because of her potential to assume a key role in the Trump-Russia investigation. The official overseeing the special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, the deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, has been repeatedly criticized by Trump. If Rosenstein had been fired or quit, oversight would have fallen to Brand. That job would now fall to the solicitor general, Noel Francisco.
"She felt this was an opportunity she couldn't turn down," her friend and former colleague Jamie Gorelick said. Walmart sought Brand to be head of global corporate governance at the retail giant, a position Gorelick said has legal and policy responsibilities that will cater to her strengths.
"It really seems to have her name on it," Gorelick said.
Feb 11, 2018 | www.theguardian.com
sammy3110 -> Mardak , 11 Feb 2018 00:04So the neolibs are acting like deficit hawks just to show up the raging hypocrisy of the Republicans? Gimme a break.Ben Groetsch , 10 Feb 2018 23:59Wolfe will never get it about Trump. The debt was left over by Bush and Obama in the last two decades. Party establishment politicians who are owned by corporate donors, didn't want fair taxes on the wealthy, but rather leave congressional budgets with large blobs of red ink. So far, that method has worked in order for voters to be duped with lies and corporate PR stuff. Meanwhile, Trump gets the shaft for something he didn't create in the first place. Maybe Wolfe should be spending his time and skills criticizing the last US Presidential Administration for grabbing the purse out of the hands of taxpayers by supporting worthless government programs like TARP, cash for clunkers, Obamacare, and shovel ready jobs that don't exist in reality.AttyFAM -> curious_in_uk , 10 Feb 2018 19:11The deficit is increasing.angryinsocal , 10 Feb 2018 18:12
Until Trump, the RATE of the deficit increase was declining under Obama. Now it is increasing.
Obama - 68% increase
Bush 2 - 101% increase
Clinton - 32% increase
Bush 1 - 54% increase
Reagan - 186% increase
https://www.thebalance.com/us-debt-by-president-by-dollar-and-percent-3306296Of all the comical lies sold to us by the RepubliKlan and their Antiglobalist allies, especially on this site and Breitshite, was that Trump the populist and Antiglobalist hero was going to free the poor oppressed white working man. Trump and his party just raised taxes on blue state poor, middle class, and upper middle class to give One trillion in tax cuts to megabillion dollar publicly traded corporations sitting on piles of cash. Sorry, Los Angeles dock worker, or New York construction worker, or New Jersey truck driver your taxes are going to go up because human parasite Jubba the Hut Adelson needs another billion in tax cuts.Joelbanks , 10 Feb 2018 16:59
And Trump showed the elites, by appointing generals and billionaires to his cabinet and then giving them all a big tax cut. Hurray for Antiglobalism and the white working class.The Trump Administration and a complicit U.S. Congress is on a colossal spending spree defiant of the USA's debt realities and unconcerned about consequences. At the same time, the IMF, under American Government sway, lectures applicant countries on fiscal discipline and imposes austere stabilisation & structural adjustment programs on them as a non-negotiable condition for credit. Inequitable practice for sure.Joelbanks , 10 Feb 2018 16:53America under Trump spends with abandon, confident that foreigners, including those in s***ho** countries in Africa, will pour their cash savings into U.S. Treasury bonds for peanuts in interest.Joelbanks -> Doug Eaton , 10 Feb 2018 16:50It differs in that it magnifies the Obama contribution to the U.S. deficit & debt.Mardak , 10 Feb 2018 16:39"Frugality" Mr. Wolffe? Is that your euphemism for Austerity, that nonsensical, ideologically motivated policy pushed by the Germans and the European Central Bank because their banks are too big to bail?memo10 -> big fordtruckguy , 10 Feb 2018 16:37laredo33 -> ThirdEye , 10 Feb 2018 16:09
Trump is cleaning the Obama mess up, as fast as he can. Leading from the front. The US Economy is on a fast track, and the US Military is ready again to kick some rear end.
Are you on crack?
The US Military is why we are broke and unhealthy unlike the other 1st-world countries. Do the math. We have the huge military. They have the free healthcare and free/cheap education.
Who is invading us? North Korea? Don't make me laugh. They are a shitty broke starving little country on somebody else's continent. They only got nukes because GWBush declared them an enemy out of the blue. They had been steadily disarming before that.
This isn't the 6th grade. International power comes from economic might. Money buys weapons a lot easier than weapons brings in money.
You don't get economic might when you keep pissing away your money on a private industry of military contractors. We should be spending that money on (non-bullshit) educations for our population, adequate healthcare so people can do the work when they have it, and maintaining our crumbling last-century infrastructure.You asked a one-dimensional question: who is rich enough to own stocks? I gave you a factual answer. Your response, while true, has nothing to do with the question asked and answered.tempestteacup -> mbidding , 10 Feb 2018 14:21
Here are a few reasons for the issues you correctly note: 1) Most Americans have a pittance of their own for their retirement. Our culture is one of immediate gratification. We are unwilling to wait. Putting money aside (no matter how small) requires patience and discipline. Most of us have neither. (Jackpot winners are an example. Studies shown most jackpot winners don't invest any of their winnings for retirement. On average, they blow it all within three years.) Savings for retirement reflect that. 2) Underfunded Defined Benefit Plans are underfunded because politicians today get re-elected by promising entitlements. If the promise is unreasonable, they kick the can down the road for someone else to take care of. Look at Illinois, Connecticut, and any number of cities and states in a financial bind because of overpromising and insufficient revenue. Then there's the national debt! Some union problems are a product of inflexibility and/or corruption (using retirement funds for other activities and loaning money for such things as Las Vegas casinos), and they and many companies in the private sector made two major errors. 1) They overestimated investment returns and didn't count on 10 years of minuscule interest rates and 2) didn't anticipate their membership/worker base would shrink so fewer people were contributing to retirement funds as the number of retirees rose. So they faced rising expenses combined the declining revenues. I agree that PBGC's ability to pay is questionable at best and that catching up for many is not likely and for some impossible. Since I don't watch it, my glib comments don't come from Fox News. They come from personal involvement with several retirement plans.I don't have the time, I'm afraid, to answer all of the points that you raised in what was another interesting post, but here are some New Dem/Blue Dog Democrats still serving in Congress: Henry Cuellar, Stephanie Murphy, Cheri Bustos, Krysten Sinema, Vicente Gonzalez, Tom O'Halleran (Republican until 2014!), Ami Bera, Gerry Connolly, and Jim Hines. They are all in the House of Representatives; as you say, many of the most overt Blue Dog Democrats didn't serve long in Congress, although I'd suggest that Heidi Heitkamp could be added to Manchin in the Senate.Nancy Smith Burleson -> laredo33 , 10 Feb 2018 13:32
When replying to you, I do so - or try to do so - from two perspectives at the same time. On the one hand, I am writing as someone far, far to the left of the Democratic Party. My understanding of how our society works is conditioned by my understanding of how the economy is structured according to who owns the means of production. As far as that goes, political change within the existing system can only ever be a more or less satisfactory compromise within a regime of exploitation and wealth extraction. The two party system, needless to say, is totally inadequate to address the fundamental causes of human misery, injustice, discrimination and environmental blight.
At the same time, I'm capable of temporarily swapping hats and thinking strategically about what would work within that system. According to that, I see the Democratic Party working to undermine its own sated aims through deal-making that is not, as you say, the necessary back-and-forth of liberal party democracy, but a much more duplicitous function in absorbing, then betraying, popular demands for change. One of the reasons why nominally left-wing parties fare poorly when they make unnecessary or excessive compromises within the existing system is because they, unlike Tories or Republicans, must also appear to represent the interests of those who that system victimises and exploits.
Look at how the DCCC has encouraged and elevated ex-Republicans or Blue Dog Democrats at the expense of more progressive candidates. They are well aware of what this does to the arithmetic balance of legislative power, on a state as well as federal level. Their current goal is to provide and validate reasons for inertia and produce cover for endless betrayals. I'd cite, too, the state of affairs in New York, where a Democratic majority in the state assembly has been turned into a Republican one via a collection of "independent" Democrats choosing instead to vote according to the Republican whip. This has gone on now for several years and has been enabled in part by Andrew Cuomo, who elsewhere and for reasons of presidential ambition has presented himself as some sort of progressive.
My point is that the conditions for inertia and political decadence are very much still in place within the Democratic Party as it continues to resist any movement away from its established course despite historic losses and a potential for renewal represented by Bernie sanders and the support that he mobilised.A reduction in "entitlements" is always the fallback position of conservatives; but that is not, unfortunately, what has caused, and is causing America's tremendous deficit. Military spending is where the budget has gotten out of control. Even before Trump's proposed increase in military spending, the U.S. budgets more than twice as much for military as the next 10 largest countries in the world COMBINED - let that sink in a minute. Undeclared wars since George W days put us into huge deficit, and the military budget continues to grow. There was no money to pay for those military actions so debt began to mount. It must be remembered that when Clinton left office, there was NO debt - he left the U.S. with a SURPLUS.
Feb 11, 2018 | consortiumnews.com
weilunion , February 9, 2018 at 5:44 pm
As the people protest, they might wish to read about how the SF police department worked with fascists to ID antifascists.
The cognitive dissonance is deafening. The FBI is a criminal organization. Trump and his cohorts are here to stay. If you think you can change the direction of failing America, best to organize a socialist party.
What is Mueller going to do about this?"
The opioid epidemic, alcohol abuse and suicides are leading causes of death in the US. The rate of fatal drug overdoses rose by 137 percent from 2000 to 2014. In 2015 alone, more than 64,000 people died from drug overdoses, exceeding the number of US fatal casualties in the Vietnam War. The suicide rate rose by a staggering 24 percent between 1999 and 2014.
These "deaths of despair" have disproportionately affected white Americans, including adults aged 25-59, those with limited education, and women. The sharpest increases have been in rural areas.
As to why the rise in mortality has been greatest among white, middle-aged adults and some rural communities, the editorial points to possible factors, which all relate to class issues. They include "the collapse of industries and the local economies they supported, the erosion of social cohesion and greater social isolation, economic hardship, and distress among white workers over losing the security their parents once enjoyed."
Nothing. The problem is capitalism. Wake up from a sorry nightmare.
This is the cost of the ruling elite's doing business.
Feb 10, 2018 | turcopolier.typepad.com
The Borgist foreign policy of the administration has little to do with the generals.
To comprehend the generals one must understand their collective mentality and the process that raised them on high as a collective of their own. The post WW2 promotion process in the armed forces has produced a group at the top with a mentality that typically thinks rigorously but not imaginatively or creatively.
These men got to their present ranks and positions by being conformist group thinkers who do not stray outside the "box" of their guidance from on high. They actually have scheduled conference calls among themselves to make sure everyone is "on board."
If asked at the top, where military command and political interaction intersect, what policy should be they always ask for more money and to be allowed to pursue outcomes that they can understand as victory and self fulfilling with regard to their collective self image as warrior chieftains.
In Obama's time they were asked what policy should be in Afghanistan and persuaded him to reinforce their dreams in Afghanistan no matter how unlikely it always was that a unified Western oriented nation could be made out of a collection of disparate mutually alien peoples.
In Trump's time his essential disinterest in foreign policy has led to a massive delegation of authority to Mattis and the leadership of the empire's forces. Their reaction to that is to look at their dimwitted guidance from on high (defeat IS, depose Assad and the SAG, triumph in Afghanistan) and to seek to impose their considerable available force to seek accomplishment as they see fit of this guidance in the absence of the kind of restrictions that Obama placed on them.
Like the brass, I, too, am a graduate of all those service schools that attend success from the Basic Course to the Army War College. I will tell you again that the people at the top are not good at "the vision thing." They are not stupid at all but they are a collective of narrow thinkers. pl
Jack , 09 February 2018 at 05:42 PMSirFredw , 09 February 2018 at 06:26 PM
IMO, this conformism pervades all institutions. I saw when I worked in banking and finance many moons ago how moving up the ranks in any large organization meant you didn't rock the boat and you conformed to the prevailing groupthink. Even nutty ideas became respectable because they were expedient.
Academia reinforces the groupthink. The mavericks are shunned or ostracized. The only ones I have seen with some degree of going against the grain are technology entrepreneurs.You remind me of an old rumination by Thomas Ricks:Peter AU , 09 February 2018 at 06:37 PM
Take the example of General George Casey. According to David Cloud and Greg Jaffe's book Four Stars, General Casey, upon learning of his assignment to command U.S. forces in Iraq, received a book from the Army Chief of Staff. The book Counterinsurgency Lessons Learned from Malaya and Vietnam was the first book he ever read about guerilla warfare." This is a damning indictment of the degree of mental preparation for combat by a general. The Army's reward for such lack of preparation: two more four star assignments.
http://foreignpolicy.com/2012/02/07/cmon-man-meathead-generals-and-some-other-things-that-are-driving-me-crazy-about-life-in-this-mans-post-911-army/"They are not stupid at all but they are a collective of narrow thinkers." I have found this to be the case with 80 to 90% of most professions. A good memory and able to perform meticulously what they have been taught, but little thinking outside that narrow box. Often annoying, but very dangerous in this case.Anna , 09 February 2018 at 06:48 PMSince Afghanistan and the brass were mentioned in the editorial statement, here is an immodest question -- Where the brass have been while the opium production has been risen dramatically in Afghanistan under the US occupation? "Heroin Addiction in America Spearheaded by the US-led War on Afghanistan" by Paul Craig Roberts: https://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2018/02/06/heroin-addiction-america-spearheaded-us-led-war-afghanistan/J , 09 February 2018 at 07:05 PM
" in 2000-2001 the Taliban government –with the support of the United Nations (UNODC) – implemented a successful ban on poppy cultivation. Opium production which is used to produce grade 4 heroin and its derivatives declined by more than 90 per cent in 2001. The production of opium in 2001 was of the order of a meager 185 tons. It is worth noting that the UNODC congratulated the Taliban Government for its successful opium eradication program. The Taliban government had contributed to literally destabilizing the multibillion dollar Worldwide trade in heroin.
In 2017, the production of opium in Afghanistan under US military occupation reached 9000 metric tons. The production of opium in Afghanistan registered a 49 fold increase since Washington's invasion. Afghanistan under US military occupation produces approximately 90% of the World's illegal supply of opium which is used to produce heroin. Who owns the airplanes and ships that transport heroin from Afghanistan to the US? Who gets the profits?"
---A simple Q: What has been the role of the CENTCOM re the racket? Who has arranged the protection for the opium production and for drug dealers? Roberts suggests that the production of opium in Afghanistan "finances the black operations of the CIA and Western intelligence agencies." -- All while Awan brothers, Alperovitch and such tinker with the US national security?Colonel,divadab , 09 February 2018 at 07:16 PM
There needs to be a 're-education' of the top, all of them need to be required to attend Green Beret think-school, in other words they need to be forced to think outside the box, and to to think on their feet. They need to understand fluid situations where things change at the drop of a hat, be able to dance the two-step and waltz at the same time. In other words they need to be able to walk and chew gum and not trip over their shoe-laces.
By no means are they stupid, but you hit the nail on the head when you said 'narrow thinkers'. Their collective hive mentality that has developed is not a good thing.God help the poor people of Syria.james , 09 February 2018 at 07:30 PMthanks pat... it seems like the usa has had a steady group of leaders that have no interest in the world outside of the usa, or only in so far as they can exploit it for their own interest... maybe that sums up the foreign policy of the usa at this point... you say trump is disinterested.. so all the blather from trump about 'why are we even in syria?', or 'why can't we be friends with the russia?' is just smoke up everyone's ass...David E. Solomon , 09 February 2018 at 07:50 PM
i like what you said here "conformist group thinkers who do not stray outside the "box" of their guidance from on high. They actually have scheduled conference calls among themselves to make sure everyone is "on board." - that strikes me as very true - conformist group thinkers... the world needs less of these types and more actual leaders who have a vision for something out of the box and not always on board... i thought for a while trump might fill this bill, but no such luck by the looks of it now..Colonel Lang,DianaLC , 09 February 2018 at 07:56 PM
Your description of these guys sounds like what we have heard about Soviet era planners. Am I correct in my understanding, or am I missing something?
As a young person in eighth grade, I learned about the "domino theory" in regard to attempts to slow the spread of communism. Then my generation was, in a sense, fractured around the raging battles for and against our involvement in Vietnam.Bill Herschel , 09 February 2018 at 09:11 PM
I won't express my own opinion on that. But I mention it because it seems to be a type of "vision thing."
So, now I ask, what would be your vision for the Syrian situation?This has been going on for a long time has it not? Westmoreland? MacArthur?turcopolier , 09 February 2018 at 09:40 PM
How did this happen?Bill Herschelturcopolier , 09 February 2018 at 09:48 PM
Westmoreland certainly, Macarthur certainly not. This all started with the "industrialization" of the armed forces in WW2. we never recovered the sense of profession as opposed to occupation after the massive expansion and retention of so many placeholders. a whole new race of Walmart manager arose and persists. plDianaCturcopolier , 09 February 2018 at 09:55 PM
The idea of the Domino Theory came from academia, not the generals of that time. They resisted the idea of a war in east Asia until simply ordered into it by LBJ. After that their instinct for acting according to guidance kicked in and they became committed to the task. Syria? Do you think I should write you an essay on that? SST has a large archive and a search machine. plDavid E. Solomonturcopolier , 09 February 2018 at 10:08 PM
I am talking about flag officers at present, not those beneath them from the mass of whom they emerge. There are exceptions. Martin Dempsey may have been one such. The system creates such people at the top. plelaine,turcopolier , 09 February 2018 at 10:12 PM
Your usual animosity for non-left wing authority is showing. A commander like the CENTCOM theater commander (look it up) operates within guidance from Washington, broad guidance. Normally this is the president's guidance as developed in the NSC process. Some presidents like Obama and LBJ intervene selectively and directly in the execution of that guidance. Obama had a "kill list" of jihadis suggested by the IC and condemned by him to die in the GWOT. He approved individual missions against them. LBJ picked individual air targets in NVN. Commanders in the field do not like that . They think that freedom of action within their guidance should be accorded them. This CinC has not been interested thus far in the details and have given the whole military chain of command wide discretion to carry out their guidance. plJturcopolier , 09 February 2018 at 10:24 PM
Thank you, but it is real GBs that you like, not the Delta and SEAL door kickers. plGaikomainakuturcopolier , 09 February 2018 at 10:27 PM
"I am not sure that I understand what makes a Borgist different from a military conformist." The Borg and the military leaders are not of the same tribe. they are two different collectives who in the main dislike and distrust each other. plAnna. Their guidance does not include a high priority for eradicating the opium trade. Their guidance has to do with defeating the jihadis and building up the central government. plturcopolier , 09 February 2018 at 10:30 PMPeter AUturcopolier , 09 February 2018 at 10:44 PM
Predictably there is always someone who says that this group is not different from all others. Unfortunately the military function demands more than the level of mediocrity found in most groups. pljamesPeter AU , 09 February 2018 at 11:01 PM
Trump would like to better relations with Russia but that is pretty much the limit of his attention to foreign affairs at any level more sophisticated than expecting deference. He is firmly focused on the economy and base solidifying issues like immigration. plThe medical profession comes to mind. GP's and specialists. Many of those working at the leading edge of research seem much wider thinking and are not locked into the small box of what they have been taught.turcopolier , 09 February 2018 at 11:16 PMPeter AUJ -> turcopolier ... , 09 February 2018 at 11:22 PM
The GPs do not rule over a hierarchy of doctors. plCombat Applications Group and SEALS don't even begin to compare, they're not in the same league as 'real deal' GBs. The GBs are thinkers as well as doers, whereas Combat Applications Group and SEALs all they know is breach and clear, breach and clear.kao_hsien_chih -> Jack... , 09 February 2018 at 11:22 PM
There is more to life than breach and clear. Having worked with all in one manner or another, I'll take GBs any day hands down. It makes a difference when the brain is engaged instead of just the heel.A lot of technology entrepreneurs--especially those active today--are stuck in their own groupthink, inflated by their sense that they are born for greatness and can do no wrong.FB Ali , 09 February 2018 at 11:23 PM
The kind of grand schemes that the top people at Google, Uber, and Facebook think up to remake the universe in their own idea of "good society" are frightening. That they are cleverer (but not necessarily wiser) than the academics, borgists, or generals, I think, makes them even more dangerous.Col Lang,turcopolier , 10 February 2018 at 01:03 AM
They are indeed "narrow thinkers", but I think the problem runs deeper. They seem to be stuck in the rut of a past era. When the US was indeed the paramount military power on the globe, and the US military reigned supreme. They can't seem to accept the reality of the world as it is now.
Of course, these policies ensure that they continue to be well-funded, even if the US is bankrupting itself in the process.dogearLondonBob , 10 February 2018 at 06:59 AM
He is still the Saudi Mukhtar for the US and most of the generals are still narrow minded. plThey [the generals] seem to have deliberately completely ignored the issues and policy positions Trump ran on as President. It isn't a case of ignorance but of wilful disregard.turcopolier , 10 February 2018 at 07:55 AMLondonBobDianaLC said in reply to turcopolier ... , 10 February 2018 at 09:23 AM
I think that is true but, they were able to talk him into that, thus far. plI've been reading this blog for some time. My question was facetious and written with the understanding of your statement about the generals not having a good grasp of "the vision thing" on their own.Terry , 10 February 2018 at 09:25 AMSo true and as others commented this is a sad feature of the human race and all human organizations. Herd mentality ties into social learning. Chimps are on average more creative and have better short term memory than humans. We gave up some short term memory in order to be able to learn quickly by mimicking. If shown how to open a puzzle box but also shown unnecessary extra steps a chimp will ignore the empty steps and open the box with only the required steps. A human will copy what they saw exactly performing the extra steps as if they have some unknown value to the process. Our massive cultural heritages are learned by observing and taken in as a whole. This process works within organizations as well.TV , 10 February 2018 at 10:18 AM
I suspect a small percentage of the human race functions differently than the majority and retains creative thinking and openness along with more emphasis on cognitive thinking than social learning but generally they always face a battle when working to change the group "consensus", i.e. Fulton's folly, scepticism on whether man would ever fly, etc.
One nice feature of the internet allows creative thinkers to connect and watch the idiocy of the world unfold around us.
"A natural desire to be part of the 'in crowd' could damage our ability to make the right decisions, a new study has shown."
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/12/141216212049.htmThe military by definition is a rigid hierarchical structure. It could not function as a collection of individuals. This society can only breed conforming narrow leaders as an "individual" would leave or be forced out.Barbara Ann , 10 February 2018 at 10:22 AM
That part of our brain responsible for the desire to be part of the 'in crowd' may affect our decision-making process, but it is also the reason we keep chimps in zoos and not the other way around. Or, to put it another way; if chimps had invented Facebook, I might consider them more creative than us.Babak Makkinejad -> Terry... , 10 February 2018 at 10:30 AMDo you think chimps are, per the Christian Docrine, in a State of Fall or in a State of Grace?Adrestia , 10 February 2018 at 10:32 AMThis is an interesting discussion. The top in organisations (civil and military) are increasingly technocrats and thinking like systems managers. They are unable to innovate because they lack the ability to think out of the box. Usually there is a leader who depends on specialists. Others (including laymen) are often excluding from the decision-making-proces. John Ralston Saul's Voltaires Bastards describes this very well.Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg -> gaikokumaniakku... , 10 February 2018 at 11:58 AM
Because of natural selection (conformist people tend to choose similar people who resemble their own values and ways-of-thinking) organizations have a tendency to become homogeneous (especially the higher management/ranks).
In combination with the "dumbing" of people (also of people who have a so-called good education (as described in Richard Sale's Sterile Chit-Chat ) this is a disastrous mix.
Homogeneity is the main culprit. A specialists tends to try to solve problems with the same knowledge-set that created these.
Not all (parts of) organizations and people suffer this fate. Innovations are usually done by laymen and not by specialists. The organizations are often heterogeneous and the people a-typical and/or eccentric.
(mainly the analytical parts of ) intelligence organizations and investment banks are like that if they are worth anything. Very heterogeneous with a lot of a-typical people. I think Green Berets are also like that. An open mind and genuine interest in others (cultures, way of thinking, religion etc) is essential to understand and to perform and also to prevent costly mistakes (in silver and/or blood).
It is possible to create firewalls against tunnel-vision. The Jester performed such a role. Also think of the Emperors New Clothes . The current trend of people with limited vision and creativity prevents this. Criticism is punished with a lack of promotion, job-loss or even jail (whistle-blowers)
IMO this is why up to a certain rank (colonel or middle management) a certain amount of creativity or alternative thinking is allowed, but conformity is essential to rise higher.
I was very interested in the Colonel's remark on the foreign background of the GB in Vietnam. If you would like to expand on this I would be much obliged? IMO GB are an example of a smart, learning, organization (in deed and not only in word as so many say of themselves, but who usually are at best mediocre)Isn't the "Borg" really The Atlantic Council?ISL , 10 February 2018 at 12:58 PMDear Colonel,ex-PFC Chuck said in reply to FB Ali ... , 10 February 2018 at 01:08 PM
Would you then say that a rising military officer who does have the vision thing faces career impediments? If so, would you say that the vision thing is lost (if it ever was there) at the highest ranks? In any case, the existence of even a few at the top, like Matthis or Shinseki is a blessing.FB Ali:Adrestia , 10 February 2018 at 02:03 PM"When the US was indeed the paramount military power on the globe, and the US military reigned supreme. They can't seem to accept the reality of the world as it is now."That's true not only of the US military but of US elites in general across all of the spectra. And because that reality is at odds with the group-think of those within the various elements that make up the spectra it doesn't a hearing. Anyone who tries to bring it up risks being ejected from the group.I forget an important part. I really miss an edit-button. Comment-boxes are like looking at something through a straw. Its easy to miss the overview.kooshy , 10 February 2018 at 02:19 PM
Innovations and significant new developments are usually made by laymen. IMO mainly because they have a fresh perspective without being bothered by the (mainstream) knowledge that dominates an area of expertise.
By excluding the laymen errors will continue to be repeated. This can be avoided by using development/decision-making frameworks, but these tend to become dogma (and thus become part of the problem)
Much better is allowing laymen and allowing a-typical people. Then listen to them carefully. Less rigid flexible and very valuable.
Apparently, according to the last US ambassador to Syria Mr. Ford, from 2014-17 US has spent 12 Billion on Regime change in Syria. IMO, combinedly Iran and Russia so far, have spent far less in Syria than 12 billion by US alone, not considering the rest of her so called coalition. This is a war of attrition, and US operations in wars, are usually far more expensive and longer than anybody else's.J , 10 February 2018 at 02:49 PM
"The United States spent at least $12 billion in Syria-related military and civilian expenses in the four years from 2014 through 2017, according to the former U.S. ambassador to the country. This $12 billion is in addition to the billions more spent to pursue regime change in Syria in the previous three years, after war broke out in 2011." https://goo.gl/8pj5cDColonel, TTG, PT,Richardstevenhack -> turcopolier ... , 10 February 2018 at 02:56 PM
FYI regarding Syria
https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/donald-trump/sen-tim-kaine-demands-release-secret-trump-war-powers-memo-n846176It may "demand" it - but does it get it? Soldiers are just as human as everyone else.dogear said in reply to Terry... , 10 February 2018 at 02:59 PM
I'm reminded of the staff sergeant with the sagging beer belly who informed me, "Stand up straight and look like a soldier..." Or the First Sergeant who was so hung over one morning at inspection that he couldn't remember which direction he was going down the hall to the next room to be inspected. I'm sure you have your own stories of less than competence.
It's a question of intelligence and imagination. And frankly, I don't see the military in any country receiving the "best and brightest" of that country's population, by definition. The fact that someone is patriotic enough to enter the military over a civilian occupation doesn't make them more intelligent or imaginative than the people who decided on the civilian occupation.
Granted, if you fail at accounting, you don't usually die. Death tends to focus the mind, as they say. Nonetheless, we're not talking about the grunts at the level who actually die, still less the relatively limited number of Special Forces. We're talking about the officers and staff at the levels who don't usually die in war - except maybe at their defeat - i.e., most officers over the level of captain.
One can hardly look at this officer crowd in the Pentagon and CENTCOM and say that their personal death concentrates their mind. They are in virtually no danger of that. Only career death faces them - with a nice transition to the board of General Dynamics at ten times the salary.
All in all, I'd have to agree that the military isn't much better at being competent - at many levels above the obvious group of hyper-trained Special Forces - any more than any other profession.
That is well put.most important is the grading system that is designed to fix a person to a particular slot thereby limiting his ability to think "outside the box" and consider the many variables that exist in one particular instant.Mark Logan said in reply to Peter AU... , 10 February 2018 at 03:30 PM
Creative thinking allows you to see beyond the storm clouds ahead and realize that the connectedness of different realities both the visible and invisible. For instance the picture of the 2 pairs of korean skaters in the news tells an interesting story on many levels. Some will judge them on their grade of proffiency, while others will see a dance of strategy between 2 foes and a few will know the results in advance and plan accordingly
https://www.google.com.au/amp/www.nbcolympics.com/news/north-south-korean-figure-skating-teams-practice-side-side%3famp?espv=1Peter AUturcopolier , 10 February 2018 at 05:03 PM
"They are not stupid at all but they are a collective of narrow thinkers." I've often pondered that concept. Notice how many of radical extremist leaders were doctors, engineers and such? Narrow and deep. STEM is enormously useful to us but seems to be a risky when implanted in shallow earth.Mark Loganturcopolier , 10 February 2018 at 05:13 PM
These narrow "but deep" thinkers were unable to grasp the nature of the Iraq War for the first couple of years. They thought of it as a rear area security problem, a combat in cities problem, anything but a popular rebellion based on xenophobia and anti-colonialism The IED problem? They spent several billion dollars on trying to find a technology fix and never succeeded. I know because they kept asking me to explain the war to them and then could not understand the answers which were outside their narrow thought. plISLoutthere , 10 February 2018 at 05:19 PM
War College selectees, the national board selected creme de la creme test out as 50% SJs (conformists lacking vision) in Myers-Briggs terms and about 15% NTs (intellectuals). To survive and move upward in a system dominated by SJs, the NTs must pretend to be what they are not. A few succeed. I do not think Mattis is an intellectual merely because he has read a lot. plLong ago when I was a professor, I advised my students that "the law is like a pencil sharpener, it sharpens the mind by narrowing it." I tried to encourage them to "think backwards".turcopolier , 10 February 2018 at 05:24 PM
My favorite example was a Japanese fisherman who recovered valuable ancient Chinese pottery. Everyone knew where an ancient ship had sunk, but the water was too deep to dive down to the wreck. And everyone knew the cargo included these valuable vases. And the fisherman was the first to figure out how to recover them. He attached a line to an octopus, and lowered it in the area, waited awhile, and pulled it up. Low and behold, the octopus had hidden in an ancient Chinese vase. The fisherman was familiar with trapping octopuses, by lowering a ceramic pot (called "takosubo") into the ocean, waiting awhile, then raising the vase with octopus inside. His brilliance was to think backwards, and use an octopus to catch a vase.TVturcopolier , 10 February 2018 at 05:31 PM
By your calculation people like Joe Stilwell and George Patton should not have existed. plAdrestiaked , 10 February 2018 at 05:56 PM
the original GBS were recruited in the 50s to serve in the OSS role with foreign guerrillas behind Soviet lines in th event of war in Europe. Aaron Bank, the founder, recruited several hundred experienced foreign soldiers from the likely countries who wanted to become American. By the time we were in VN these men were a small fraction of GBs but important for their expertise and professionalism. plCol, I think it might help people to think of "the Borg" - as you have defined & applied it - in a broader context. It struck me particularly as you ID'd the launching of our modern military group-think / careerism behavior coming from the watershed of industrialized scale & processes that came out of WWII.turcopolier , 10 February 2018 at 06:00 PM
We note parallel themes in all significant sectors of our civilization. The ever-expanding security state, the many men in Gray Flannel Suits that inhabit corporate culture, Finance & Banking & Big Health scaling ever larger - all processes aimed to slice the salami thinner & quicker, to the point where meat is moot ... and so it goes.
I note many Borgs... Borgism if you will. An organizational behavior that has emerged out of human nature having difficulty adapting to rapidly accelerating complexity that is just too hard to apprehend in a few generations. If (as many commenters on STT seem to...) one wishes to view this in an ideological or spiritual framework only, they may overlook an important truth - that what we are experiencing is a Battle Among Borgs for control over their own space & domination over the other Borgs. How else would we expect any competitive, powerful interest group to act?
In gov & industry these days, we observe some pretty wild outliers... attached to some wild outcomes. Thus the boring behavior of our political industries bringing forth Trump, our promethean technology sector yielding a Musk (& yes, a Zuckerberg).
I find it hard to take very seriously analysts that define their perspective based primarily upon their superior ideals & opposition to others. Isn't every person, every tribe, team or enterprise a borglet-in-becoming? Everybody Wants to Rule the World ... & Everybody Must Get Stoned... messages about how we are grappling with complexity in our times. I just finished reading Command & Control (about nuclear weapons policy, systems design & accidents). I am amazed we've made it this far.
Unfortunately, I would not be amazed if reckless, feckless leaders changed the status quo. I was particularly alarmed hearing Trump in his projection mode; "I would love to be able to bring back our country into a great form of unity, without a major event where people pull together, that's hard to do.
But I would like to do it without that major event because usually that major event is not a good thing." It strikes me that he could be exceptionally willing to risk a Major Event if he felt a form of unity, or self-preservation, was in the offing. I pray (& I do not pray often or easily) that the Generals you have described have enough heart & guts to honor their oath at its most profound level in the event of an Event.babakBarbara Ann -> outthere... , 10 February 2018 at 06:00 PM
As a time traveler from another age, I can only say that for me it means devotion to a set of mores peculiar to a particular profession as opposed to an occupation. plGreat example outthere.
Another springs to mind: James Lovelock (of Gaia hypothesis fame) was once part of the NASA team building the first probe to go to Mars to look for signs of life. Lovelock didn't make any friends when he told NASA they were wasting their time, there was none. When asked how he could be so sure, he explained that the composition of the Martian atmosphere made it impossible. "But Martian life may be able to survive under different conditions" was the retort. Lovelock then went on to explain his view that the evolution of microbial life determined the atmospheric composition on Earth, so should be expected to do the same if life had evolved on Mars. Brilliant backwards thinking which ought to have earned him the Nobel prize IMHO (for Gaia). Lovelock, a classic cross-disciplinary scientist, can't be rewarded with such a box-categorized honor, as his idea doesn't fit well into any one.
Another example of cross-disciplinary brilliance was Bitcoin, which has as much to do with its creator's deep knowledge of Anthropology (why people invented & use money) as his expertise in both Economics and Computer Science.
This is they key to creative thinking in my view - familiarity with different fields yields deeper insights.
Feb 10, 2018 | www.unz.com
A couple of decades or more ago when I was still in Washington, otherwise known as the snake pit, I was contacted by a well-financed group that offered me, a Business Week and Scripps Howard News Service columnist with access as a former editor also to the Wall Street Journal, substantial payments to promote agendas that the lobbyists paying the bills wanted promoted.
To the detriment of my net worth, but to the preservation of my reputation, I declined. Shortly thereafter a conservative columnist, a black man if memory serves, was outed for writing newspaper columns for pay for a lobby group.
I often wondered if he was set up in order to get rid of him and whether the enticement I received was intended to shut me down, or whether journalists had become "have pen will travel"? (Have Gun -- Will Travel was a highly successful TV Series 1957-1963).
Having read Bryan MacDonald's article on Information Clearing House, "Anti-Russia Think Tanks in US: Who Funds them?," I see that think tanks are essentially lobby groups for their donors. The policy analyses and reform schemes that they produce are tailored to support the material interests of donors. None of the studies are reliable as objective evidence. They are special pleading.
Think tanks, such as the American Enterprise Institute, Brookings Institution, and the Atlantic Council, speak for those who fund them. Increasingly, they speak for the military/security complex, American hegemony, corporate interests, and Israel.
Bryan MacDonald lists those who support the anti-Russian think tanks such as the Atlantic Council, the Center for European Policy Analysis, German Marshall Fund of the US, and Institute for Study of War. The "experts" are mouthpieces funded by the US military security complex. http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/48755.htm US government agencies use taxpayer dollars to deceive taxpayers.
In other words insouciant Americans pay taxes in order to be brainwashed. And they tolerate this.
Feb 10, 2018 | consortiumnews.com
CitizenOne , February 10, 2018 at 11:58 amCitizenOne , February 10, 2018 at 11:59 am
The reason we are in the pickle barrel is exactly the reasons stated in the article and by Annie. We are exposed to exactly what they want to show us and are blinded by other narratives which do not support the group think. It is as if the politicians, the intelligence community and the media are all involved in a conspiracy. Remember that word means a plan by two or more people. No tin foil hat required. But anyone suggesting conspiracy is instantly branded a nut hence the universal use of the term conspiracy nut as a derogatory term to label anyone with a different message that somehow captures the attention of a wider audience. It is not so much that all Holly Wood stars are liberal socialists. They are a diverse group. However they all have one thing in common which is they have the public's ear. They are also not on point with the approved messaging and so must be continuously branded as conspiracy nuts and socialist subversives. We all have seen the 24/7 bashing of these folks. Control is the reason.
The "Newspeak" we experience is straight out of Orwell's 1984. From Wikipedia: Newspeak is the fictional language in the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, written by George Orwell. It is a controlled language created by the totalitarian state Oceania as a tool to limit freedom of thought, and concepts that pose a threat to the regime such as freedom, self-expression, individuality, and peace. Any form of thought alternative to the party's construct is classified as "thoughtcrime".
It is truly scary how Orwellian our current situation has become reminding me that there are always two two takeaways from any story or historical record. Those that view it as a cautionary tale and those who use it as an instruction manual.
I am appalled by how the media at first put Trump in the game in the first place for economic gain (see Les Moonvies article) and then created another fictional fantasy which serves the goal of permawar and control of the citizenry through fear, confusion and ignorance. We are all exposed to the Daily Two Minutes of Hate another Orwellian concept. From Wikipedia: The Two Minutes Hate, from George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, is a daily period in which Party members of the society of Oceania must watch a film depicting the Party's enemies (notably Emmanuel Goldstein and his followers) and express their hatred for them for exactly two minutes. The difference is we can find it 24/7 on our technological wonder machines.
Another Orwellian concept is The Ministry of Truth: The Ministry of Truth (in Newspeak, Minitrue) is the ministry of propaganda. As with the other ministries in the novel, the name Ministry of Truth is a misnomer because in reality it serves the opposite: it is responsible for any necessary falsification of historical events. From Wikipedia: As well as administering truth, the ministry spreads a new language amongst the populace called Newspeak, in which, for example, "truth" is understood to mean statements like 2 + 2 = 5 when the situation warrants. In keeping with the concept of doublethink, the ministry is thus aptly named in that it creates/manufactures "truth" in the Newspeak sense of the word. The book describes the doctoring of historical records to show a government-approved version of events.
We are also controlled through Doublespeak another Orwellian concept. From Wikipedia: Doublespeak is a language that deliberately obscures, disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words. Some common examples are the branding of liberals by pundits in the media as Fascists in order to eliminate the historical understanding of exactly what that word refers to. Another example is the appearance of the term Alt Right which is used to confuse and obscure the true nature of these groups. A great example of the doublespeak the media exercises in service to the state is the instantaneous adoption of the term Alt Right and nary ever a mention of its former names such as White Supremacist, Neo Nazi, Racist, Hate Group etc. They just rename these movements and hide all the other terms from sight. Another example is scapegoating the same group of people but under a different term. Today the term is Liberal but in the past, the Nazi movement called them Jews, Communists, Intellectuals etc. Whatever the term, the target of these attacks are always the ones that threaten the Power Structure.
Joseph Goebbels was in charge of the war propaganda for the Nazis during WWII. He said: "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State."
If these things seem eerily similar to what is going on today then we probably have a power structure which is a grave threat for peace. Okay, we do have a power structure that is a grave threat to peace but oddly not democracy. Noam Chomsky wrote about propaganda stating, "it's the essence of democracy" This notion is contrary to the popular belief that indoctrination is inconsistent with democracy. The point is that in a totalitarian state, it doesn't much matter what people think because you can control what they do. But when the state loses the bludgeon, when you can't control people by force and when the voice of the people can be heard, you have to control what people think. And the standard way to do this is to resort to what in more honest days used to be called propaganda. Manufacture of consent. Creation of necessary illusions.
The folks who contribute here on this website are few indeed and what lies beyond the haven of the oasis is a vast barren dessert filled with scorpions, snakes and a whole bunch of lies.
Well said for Annie and the authors.
Democracy may be the ultimate tool of control of the masses.
More wisdom from Goebbels:
- Propaganda works best when those who are being manipulated are confident they are acting on their own free will
- A media system wants ostensible diversity that conceals an actual uniformity.
- We are striving not for truth, but effect.
- The worst enemy of any propaganda, it is intellectualism.
- For the lie to be believable, it should be terrifying.
- A lie repeated thousands of times becomes a truth.
- Some day the lie will fall under its own weight and the truth will rise.
I like that last one a lot but unfortunately it will not come to pass until things get bad.Elaine Sandchaz , February 10, 2018 at 5:34 pm
Link to article: http://www.latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-hiltzik-trump-moonves-snap-htmlstory.htmlCitizenOne , February 10, 2018 at 7:57 pm
Citizen One – You have beautifully & precicely nailed the means ( "how" ) the USA has gotten in such a mess : Newspeak, Daily Two Minutes of Hate, The Ministry of Truth, DoubleSpeak and the way and why of how Propaganda actually works. George Orwell was a seer.
AND now it would be helpful to understand "why" the USA has gotten in such a mess. The polarity of American politics tells a very long story but in short, polarity means there are only two ways and when the going gets tough, each way is in the extreme – the right way or the wrong way, it flips depending on each individual's political persuasion. When the going gets tough the extremes become the tail that wags the dog.
So my question is : WHY after the seemingly happy years under Obama did the going get so tough so fast?
My pet theory is that Trump threatened to "drain the swamp" which was understood – seemingly now quite rightly – that he was going to expose some very significant wrong doing in very high places. I believe that he was on "NYC/DC" friendly terms with the Clintons and both parties knew each other for the true devil they were. Thus the big red flag he waved in her face brought about what is turning in to a multi billion dollar ongoing attempt to discredit him in the eyes of the people, in the eyes of the World and in the eyes of the highest courts " America be damned".
And politically this is quite necessary because she is not only an icon of all that is American,"apple pie and motherhood"; she is to the under 45 age group the great white mother of democracy via Democrat rule. And the bad part of that iconography is that if she goes down so does the party. It was also critical for her to win because of all the swamp people who had chosen to compromise their life's work, thus had to continue in that compromise in the hope that they would come out clean since they believed that both Trump and the ordinary American were so naive, thus would be easily played for fools.
So all this crap to destroy Trump is about saving her hide to save the party. Things are so desperate now because there is nothing yet in place to replace her in the mind's eye of the Democratic half the voting public. All who might have been in 2nd place were kept diminished to raise her higher. It now is quite obvious that she has been told to shut up and lie low, to come out only when she is in safe company – as at the Golden Globes. So the big picture today as is being painted and hyped to intensify mass hysteria is that Mueller needs to be protected from Trump where really what is needed are the names and numbers to be called on for more $$$, more social media propaganda pages and to vote in November 2018.
Why only that? Because Trump is not going to fire Mueller; remember Mueller was a Bush man and so was Comey. They have a long history of going both ways. Survival is tricky business – especially in DC. The scapegoats are already cornered; possibly the new "lie" is already in draft form. Remember – "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State."
It is going to be an interesting next few months!! But we can hope that, from this one of many previous American political exercises in democracy, the ordinary defenders of those democratic values (the voters) will learn some significant truths about governance, transparency and the rule of law. The guys at the top are not gods and are not above the law; they must not only do right but be seen to do right.Mariam , February 10, 2018 at 7:11 pm
The only thing I can tell you is that the conspirators who concocted Russia Gate have figured out all the pieces to the puzzle of how to control events via the means I mentioned and many other means. We are as manipulated as a light switch. One way we are all fired up about some BS and flip the switch and we are all calm and mellow. Hopefully if you follow the threads here you will find out a lot of alternative information much of it thoroughly researched by highly respected and qualified individuals who are in a position to know the truth.
I agree with you wholeheartedly. They call themselves "liberals" in fact they are "new liberals."
Alas, these false ("new) liberals" are very well represented by the Obamas, the Clintons, the Trudeaus, the Macrons and so on.
If you truly believe in the "left" and call yourself "progressive" you couldn't stand for useless and pointless wars, period.
Feb 09, 2018 | economistsview.typepad.com
llisa2u2 , February 06, 2018 at 11:01 AMI am posting this info. to this site, as part of personal approach as a US citizen to try to get some REAL FACTS out into the supposedly professional platforms of economists. This platforms are woefully lacking in good, factual information to communicate to anyone, even amongst themselves, and especially to Joe living on an street, or hopefully any house on any street in the US.llisa2u2 said in reply to llisa2u2... , February 06, 2018 at 11:08 AM
Now, what am I posting? The information that I am posting is an example of confusing information that is extremely invalid and should NOT be posted by so-called reliable sources, of professional, or "expertise" information. The reason I am posting an article that is confusing is because this article by Krugman is also confusing, and just as unreliable as the "confusing article" that was written by Alan Harkin at INVESTOPEDIA.
If you can't believe Investopedia's information, then who can you believe? I am posting the article as an article that the reader can NOT believe. The linked article is absolutely mis-stating IRS facts. This article is one of many that confuse the message about corporate taxation.
Personally, I think it is deliberate. The title of the article: http://bit.ly/2Eof6eM
basically leads the reader "to believe" the article is about how much US corporations such as APPLE, GOOGLE etc. "actually" bottomline- deliver to IRS. BUT, wait, when the reader "really reads" the reader then notes, that the "charts" ONLY reflect the "tax rate". Now, that's a whole different story. Tax rate is not bottomline taxes paid.
So, now if my "logic" and conclusion is "faulty", please enlighten me. The IRS data and this article don't jive in the real world of statistical data. Here is link to STATISTA that is THE data base that is used by top researchers worldwide.
This link shows the REAL data and percentage of corporate TAX PAID, AND FUTURE projections for US etc. etc. I have selected the most obvious and easy to read chart.
The following link presents reliable fact VS The article from INVESTOPEDIA as garbage.
I am writing that the article in Investopedia by Aaron Hankin is BS. The content of the article also attempts to establish correlations to S/P action that has absolutely NO plausible fact to make any correlation about anything. I am also writing that most of the media reports about "corporate tax" is BS. I also am writing that this article by Krugman is a fluff, nonsense piece that is also BS. If Krugman were an economist that had any concern about the US economy, he would have, and would be posting this link everywhere on earth.
All that I definitely am trying to do is to get "reasonable data" out there to influence the public mindset to counter BS and try to present FACTS, just like a lot of other intelligent readers are trying to do.Please ignore the "typos", I did not hit preview first in this posted version on economists view.llisa2u2 said in reply to llisa2u2... , February 06, 2018 at 11:15 AMBasically, I am saying that the political posturing, and propaganda strategies of so many different monied groups is demanding that any "serf" needs to present any comment as if the "serf" is writing some sort of thesis. Really, all the "Talking Faces" are the ones who should be doing that as they present messages to the public"serfs". Otherwise, there should be public disclaimers as to who is paying the "Talking Faces" for delivering their "propaganda". The "sponsored message" dynamics is so convoluted, that any viewer sure can't presume anything. Basically, It just looks like a lot of "Talking Faces" are just making themselves into asses, based on their assumption, and presumptions.mulp said in reply to llisa2u2... , February 06, 2018 at 01:26 PMWhy do you think anyone associated with investors is an economist rather than a snake oil salesman in the medicine show that is extremely boring?
What to understand economics? Pay attention to Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos.
They pay US workers to build productive assets like factories, transportation products, energy harvesting products, information you want products, all of which can be matched only by competitors paying hundreds of billions to millions of US workers just to catch up in a decade.
Or you can read Keynes.
Feb 08, 2018 | turcopolier.typepad.com
SmoothieX12 -> David Habakkuk ... , 08 February 2018 at 11:28 AMAnother limitation on their understanding is that the last thing they are interested in his how the world outside the bubbles they prefer to inhabit operates, and they commonly have absolutely contempt for 'deplorables', be they Russian, British or American. This can lead to political misjudgements.
It is not just "can" it very often does. The whole situation with Russia, of which, be it her economy, history, military, culture etc., is not known to those people, is a monstrous empirical evidence of a complete professional inadequacy of most people populating this bubble.
Most of those people are badly educated (I am not talking about worthless formal degrees they hold) and cultured. In dry scientific language it is called a "confirmation bias", in a simple human one it is called being ignorant snobs, that is why this IC-academic-political-media "environment" in case of Russia prefers openly anti-Russian "sources" because those "sources" reiterate to them what they want to hear to start with, thus Chalabi Moment is being continuously reproduced.
In case of Iraq, as an example, it is a tragedy but at least the world is relatively safe. With Russia, as I stated many times for years--they simply have no idea what they are dealing with. None. It is expected from people who are briefed by "sources" such as Russian fugitive London Oligarchy or ultra-liberal and fringe urban Russian "tusovka".
Again, the level of "Russian Studies" in Anglophone world is appalling. In fact, it is clear and present danger since removes or misinterprets crucial information about the only nation in the world which can annihilate the United States completely in such a light that it creates a real danger even for a disastrous military confrontation. I would go on a limb here and say that US military on average is much better aware of Russia and not only in purely military terms. In some sense--it is an exception. But even there, there are some trends (and they are not new) which are very worrisome.
Feb 08, 2018 | consortiumnews.com
Daniel , February 5, 2018 at 6:57 pm
We are all victims of the pernicious 24/7 scientifically-designed propaganda apparatus. It has little to do with the victim's intelligence since almost all human opinions are formed by emotional reactions that occur even before the conscious mind registers the input.
Through critical thinking, we can overcome these emotional impulses, but only with effort, and a pre-existing skepticism of all information sources. And even still, I have no doubt that all of us who are aware of the propaganda still accept some falsehoods as true.
It could be that having former Intelligence Agency Directors as "news" presenters, and Goldman Sachs alum and Military/Industrial complex CEOs running important government agencies makes clear to some the reality that we live in an oligarchy with near-tyrannical powers. But most people seem too busy surviving and/or being diverted by the circus to notice the depths of the propaganda.
Feb 07, 2018 | www.zerohedge.com
Yes, fundamentally, a lot of flaws are built in to how the markets operate in a "financially engineered" manner, but it blew for the simple reason that interest rates nudged upward at the end of January as soon as the Federal Reserve got serious about its quantitative squeezing. That strongly supports my central thesis of this blog that this economy, built on caverns of debt and riddled with market design flaws, is too fragile to absorb any reduction in the Fed's balance sheet.
And that's why I was able to time when the first crash would be likely to hit. It's simple: When is the Fed scheduled to start getting serious in its Great Unwind? January. What week did they actually do it in? The last week of January. Kaboom!
The Fed cannot ever unwind. It will try because it believes it can, but kaboom! We'll find ways to recover from this first shock over what happens to interest when they stop rolling over government debt. The government will adapt. It will find other buyers. But the cost will go up. And the kabooms will keep happening. I've always maintained that the failure of the recovery is baked in by design and will show when the Fed's artificial life support is actually withdrawn. (Whether it is there by intentional design or design flaw, I'll leave up to one's conspiratorial imagination, as it doesn't matter to me; both get you to the same place: kaboom!)
Some bigger voices than mine are saying the same thing:
Carl Icahn says he expects stock markets to bounce back after the massive sell-off Friday and Monday, while warning that current market volatility is a harbinger of things to come . The volatility of recent weeks is cause for concern, Icahn said, adding that he doesn't remember a two-week period as turbulent as this one. He said the problem is that too much money is flowing into the index funds, where investors don't know what they're actually investing in.
"Passive investing is the bubble right now, and that's a great danger," he said. Eventually, that will implode and could lead to a crisis bigger than in 2009, he added.
"When you start using the market as a casino, that's a huge mistake," Icahn said. (" Carl Icahn Says Market Turn Is 'Rumbling' of Earthquake Ahead ")
The fact that the market has completed its de-evolution into a casino, rather than a place to buy ownership in a company, is part of the rickety framework I've described for our economy -- part of what makes it easy to shove over with a nudge in interest because the entire economy has been made utterly dependent on low interest.
... ... ...The mechanized meltdown -- machines rule and drool
"Dow Drops 900 Points in 10 Minutes as Machines Run Amok on Wall Street"
Risk parity funds. Volatility-targeting programs. Statistical arbitrage. Sometimes the U.S. stock market seems like a giant science project, one that can quickly turn hazardous for its human inhabitants.
You didn't need an engineering degree to tell something was amiss Monday. While it's impossible to say for sure what was at work when the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell as much as 1,597 points, the worst part of the downdraft felt to many like the machines run amok. For 15 harrowing minutes just after 3 p.m. in New York a deluge of sell orders came so fast that it seemed like nothing breathing could've been responsible.
The result was a gut check of epic proportion for investors . "We are proactively calling up our clients and discussing that a 1,600-point intraday drop is due more to algorithms and high-frequency quant trading than macro events or humans running swiftly to the nearest fire exit ."
"What was frightening was the speed at which the market tanked," said Walter "Bucky" Hellwig, Birmingham, Alabama-based senior vice president at BB&T Wealth Management . " The drop in the morning was caused by humans, but the free-fall in the afternoon was caused by the machines. It brought back the same reaction that we had in 2010, which was 'What the heck is going on here?"
It may never be clear what accelerated the tumble -- people still aren't sure what caused the flash crash on May 6, 2010. Unlike then, most of the theorizing about today's events centered not on the market's plumbing or infrastructure, but on the automated quant strategies that gained popularity with the advent of electronic markets last decade. Particular suspicion landed on trading programs tied to volatility , mathematical measures of which exploded as the day progressed . ( Newsmax )
There is some basis for saying, "this looks like a technically driven selloff," but this is another problem for which there is no solution, and one I've written about here in the past. No solution because they cannot even identify the problem back in 2010! You cannot solve what you cannot identify.
The machines that now run the stock market are out of control. They do the bidding for us, but their algorithms have been designed by college sprouts who have never seen a falling market. They try to trick each other, and try to bid the market up. They're an accelerant. Most dangerous of all, they're self-programming. They rewrite their own algorithms based on their successes and failures so that even their programmers no longer know why the machines are doing what they are doing. Even if one group of programmers does know exactly what its own algorithms are doing, they certainly don't know what is in all the others and, therefore, how they might interact to self-reinforce wrong actions.
They don't exist in one room where you can pull a circuit breaker and disconnect them from the market. They exist in office buildings by the hundreds of thousands all over the world. Even the decisions and bids that are made by humans doing their own thinking are placed through the machines, so there is usually no way to know if a single bid coming through is by a human or is machine generated. Therefore, there is not really any way to shut the machines entirely off if they get out of control because their disjointed, convoluted, false-bidding, intentionally tricking, interacting and over-reacting zillions of intercommunications per second all around the world add up to a sum that is far more evil than its innumerable mischievously and deviously conceived parts. The system is built from the core out factious parts intended to trick each other upward, but what happens if this amalgamated beast starts tricking itself downward? Who has the authority or the controls to stop the collapse in the microseconds in which it may originate and climax?
So, FUNDAMENTALLY, the market system, itself, is deeply and inexorably flawed by intentional human design. It wasn't designed to destroy the world. It was merely designed with its own sinful machinations because of the flaws of its designers. The whole beastly thing is of a corrupted nature because of all the people who hoped to use their machines to out-game all the other people's machines. It is a network of sparks and tricks. However, because it can multiply its devilish intentions millions of times per nanosecond, we have no idea how much market carnage it might create if all the algos one day just happen to line up in the wrong direction (wrong direction for humans, anyway).
The fifteen-minute, 900-point drop on Friday was a mere foreshock of that, too. We've already had a few flash-crash foreshocks that none of the experts can understand, but it hasn't slowed us from moving deeper and deeper into the machines' labyrinth. Nor have we even begun to try to work out some of the design flaws that caused those initial flash crashes.
Other problems with the machines emerged when trading became so frantic that the sheer volume was frying the brains of many computer networks, causing the financial services of several trading companies to go offline.
Investment firms T. Rowe Price Group Inc. and Vanguard Group apologized to customers for sporadic outages on their websites during the Dow industrials' 1600-point downturn . Online brokerages TD Ameritrade and Charles Schwab also experienced issues. ( Newsmax )
The computers couldn't handle all the other computers.
If the market technowizards have actually managed to get all the robo-traders unplugged or quickly reprogrammed, maybe the slide will stabilize before it becomes an all-out crash. They attempted that with some success today by stopping all volatility trading before the market opened, which I'll get into below. But, even if they've gotten the ill-programmed robots off to the side or have fixed their sizzling little heads, the market that opens tomorrow will be a whole new market -- no longer one that hyperventilates on the fumes of hope, but one that has relearned how to fear risk.
Iconoclast421 Feb 7, 2018 1:26 PM PermalinkEman Laer -> Iconoclast421 Feb 7, 2018 2:51 PM Permalink
All this talk about crashes when the DOW is still up YTD...Son of Loki Feb 7, 2018 1:36 PM Permalink
Right. Who would find it interesting or useful to discuss a market crash because the market is up for the year? *wipes drool*taketheredpill Feb 7, 2018 2:11 PM Permalink
At some point when things actually do correct (or crash as some call it), bond yields will soar.Bemused Observer Feb 7, 2018 2:48 PM Permalink
me feelings on how this ends....
So far haven't seen anything that makes me expect US 10's to break the top of the 30-year yield downtrend channel (driven by 30+ dis-inflationary years of borrowing growth from the future).
So if no break-out on US 10s, then what happened in previous years when US 10s touched the top of the channel?
Equities break down, slowly at first then OMG faster. Bonds rally.
The Fed makes noises about cutting rates but markets ignore.
Fed cuts rates and markets ignore. US 10s test previous yield lows again.
Fed goes "all in" with Helicopter money. End of $ and US Treasury market.
Bye!Haitian Snackout Feb 7, 2018 3:16 PM Permalink
Everything will hit the wall. Try to 'time' it if you must, but just be aware that those last few yards come up on you real quick...that's why people always get nailed by these events. (I'm always amused by the ones who seem to think that they can and will time it right...do they really believe all the folks who got nailed in the past were just stupid?...What kind of over-inflated ego would even entertain that idea?)
If it WERE possible to do that, there would BE no downturns, ever. These things do the damage they do because you CAN'T time them. Predict, yes, but not time.Wild tree -> Haitian Snackout Feb 7, 2018 4:47 PM Permalink
Regardless of what marky is doing, Dave's quite correct. The longtime flooring of interest rates has created a world dependent on it continuing. Maybe if it had something more going for it things would be different. The unwinding of the fed balance sheet was always just a theory. No one knew if or when it would happen. Or more important if it was even possible. But the car has no reverse gear and many people have spoken about this. That we will only hear a grinding noise if they try to shift into reverse. For myself, I'm certainly no expert, but I know enough about the housing market to know that somewhere around 2.80 on the ten year the increase will certainly be felt. And that once margin interest rates reaches parity with dividend yields, or sooner, that one goes pear shaped as well. The engine that has propelled housing prices to several times their real value ( granted, not everywhere ) is now in reverse. And that, as Dave has noted, is only the tip of the iceberg of total debt. And even if they reverse course, the debt saturation is so widespread the patient would only barely limp forward from here. There also are likely pension funds and others in the ICU. We won't know about everything right away.
Yes HS, Dave called it out correctly IMHO. Here is what he wrote in three sentences that is the sum of the whole article, and why the seeds of our destruction as a country, and world have been fervently watered since 2008.
"No, the fundamentals do not provide reason for optimism. They provide reason for grave concern. As I've been writing all along, the greatest fundamental that is exerting pressure right now is the massive debt that the entire global economy is built on."
The steam train is on the track, clickety-clack, clickety-clack,
Picking up speed as it heads down the mountain, clickety-clack, clickety-clack.
People are hanging on for dear life, clickety-clack, clickety-clack,
Won't matter none when the train runs out of track, clickety-clack, clickety-clack.
Feb 07, 2018 | www.project-syndicate.org
Market participants could easily be forgiven for their early-year euphoria. After a solid 2017, key macroeconomic data – on unemployment, inflation, and consumer and business sentiment – as well as GDP forecasts all indicated that strong growth would continue in 2018.
The result – in the United States and across most major economies – has been a rare moment of optimism in the context of the last decade. For starters, the macro data are positively synchronized and inflation remains tame. Moreover, the International Monetary Fund's recent upward revision of global growth data came at precisely the point in the cycle when the economy should be showing signs of slowing.
Moreover, stock markets' record highs are no longer relying so much on loose monetary policy for support. Bullishness is underpinned by evidence of a notable uptick in capital investment. In the US, gross domestic private investment rose 5.1% year on year in the fourth quarter of 2017 and is nearly 90% higher than at the trough of the Great Recession, in the third quarter of 2009.
This is emblematic of a deeper resurgence in corporate spending – as witnessed in durable goods orders. New orders for US manufactured durable goods beat expectations, climbing 2.9% month on month to December 2017 and 1.7% in November.
Other data tell a similar story. In 2017, the US Federal Reserve's Industrial Production and Capacity Utilization index recorded its largest calendar year gain since 2010, increasing 3.6%. In addition, US President Donald Trump's reiteration of his pledge to seek $1.5 trillion in spending on infrastructure and public capital programs will further bolster market sentiment.
All of this bullishness will continue to stand in stark contrast to warnings by many world leaders. In just the last few weeks, German Chancellor Angela Merkel cautioned that the current international order is under threat. French President Emmanuel Macron noted that globalization is in the midst of a major crisis, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has stated that the unrest we see around the world is palpable and "isn't going away."
Whether or not the current correction reflects their fears, the politicians ultimately could be proved right. For one thing, geopolitical risk remains considerable. Bridgewater Associates' Developed World Populism index surged to its highest point since the 1930s in 2017, factoring in populist movements in the US, the United Kingdom, Spain, France and Italy. So long as populism lingers as a political threat, the risk of reactionary protectionist trade policies and higher capital controls will remain heightened, and this could derail economic growth.
Meanwhile the market is mispricing perennial structural challenges, in particular mounting and unsustainable global debt and a dim fiscal outlook, particularly in the US, where the price of this recovery is a growing deficit. In other words, short-term economic gain is being supported by policies that threaten to sink the economy in the longer term.
The Congressional Budget Office, for example, has forecast that the US deficit is on course to triple over the next 30 years, from 2.9% of GDP in 2017 to 9.8% in 2047, "The prospect of such large and growing debt," the CBO cautioned, "poses substantial risks for the nation and presents policymakers with significant challenges."
The schism in outlook between business and political leaders is largely rooted in different time horizons. For the most part, CEOs, hemmed in by the short termism of stock markets, are focused on the next 12 months, whereas politicians are focusing on a more medium-term outlook.
As 2018 progresses, business leaders and market participants should – and undoubtedly will – bear in mind that we are moving ever closer to the date when payment for today's recovery will fall due. The capital market gyrations of recent days suggest that awareness of that inevitable reckoning is already beginning to dawn.
Dambisa Moyo, an economist and author, sits on the board of directors of a number of global corporations. She is the author of Dead Aid , Winner Take All , and How the West Was Lost .
Feb 07, 2018 | www.zerohedge.comOriginally written at RT, outspoken Aussie economist Steve Keen points out
Everyone who's asking "why did the stock market crash Monday?" is asking the wrong question; the real question, Keen exclaims, is "why did it take so long for this crash to happen? "
The crash itself was significant - Donald Trump's favorite index, the Dow Jones Industrial (DJIA) fell 4.6 percent in one day. This is about four times the standard range of the index - and so according to conventional economics, it should almost never happen.
Of course, mainstream economists are wildly wrong about this, as they have been about almost everything else for some time now. In fact, a four percent fall in the market is unusual, but far from rare: there are well over 100 days in the last century that the Dow Jones tumbled by this much.
Crashes this big tend to happen when the market is massively overvalued, and on that front this crash is no different.
It's like a long-overdue earthquake. Though everyone from Donald Trump down (or should that be "up"?) had regarded Monday's level and the previous day's tranquillity as normal, these were in fact the truly unprecedented events. In particular, the ratio of stock prices to corporate earnings is almost higher than it has ever been.More To Come?
There is only one time that it's been higher: during the DotCom Bubble, when Robert Shiller's "cyclically adjusted price to earnings" ratio hit the all-time record of 44 to one. That means that the average price of a share on the S&P500 was 44 times the average earnings per share over the previous 10 years (Shiller uses this long time-lag to minimize the effect of Ponzi Scheme firms like Enron). The S&P500 fell more than 11 percent that day, so Monday's fall is minor by comparison. And the market remains seriously overvalued: even if shares fell by 50 percent from today's level, they'd still be twice as expensive as they have been, on average, for the last 140 years.
After the 2000 crash, standard market dynamics led to stocks falling by 50 percent over the following two years, until the rise of the Subprime Bubble pushed them up about 25 percent (from 22 times earnings to 28 times). Then the Subprime Bubble burst in 2007, and shares fell another 50 percent, from 28 times earnings to 14 times.
This was when central banks thought The End of the World Is Nigh, and that they'd be blamed for it. But in fact, when the market bottomed in early 2009, it was only just below the pre-1990 average of 14.5 times earnings.Safe Havens
That valuation level, before central banks (staffed and run by people with PhDs in mainstream economics) decided that they knew how to manage capitalism, is where the market really should be. It implies a dividend yield of about six percent in real terms, which is about twice what you used to get on a safe asset like government bonds -- which are safe, not because the governments and the politicians and the bureaucrats that run them are saints, but because a government issuing bonds in its own currency can always pay whatever interest level it promises. There's no risk that it can't pay, and it can't go bankrupt, whereas a company might not pay dividends, and it can go bankrupt.
Now shares are trading at a valuation that implies a three percent return, as if they're as safe as government bonds issued by a government which owns the bank that pays interest on those bonds. That's nonsense.
And it's a nonsense for which, ironically, central banks are responsible. The smooth rise in stock market prices which led to the levels that preceded Monday's crash began when central banks decided to rescue the economy by "Quantitative Easing (QE)." They promised to do "whatever it takes" to drive shares up from the entirely reasonable values they reached in late 2009, and did so by buying huge amounts of government bonds back from private banks and other financial institutions (pension funds, insurance companies, etc.). In the USA's case, this amounted to $1 trillion per year -- equal to about seven percent of America's annual output of goods and services (GDP or "gross domestic product"). The Bank of England brought about £200 billion worth, which was an even larger percentage of GDP.
With central banks buying that volume of bonds, private financial institutions found themselves awash with money, and spent it buying other assets to get yields - which meant that QE drove up share prices as banks, pension funds and the like bought them with money created by QE.Blind Oversight
So this is the first central bank-created stock market bubble in history, and central banks have just had the first stock market crash where the blame is entirely theirs.
Were this a standard, private hysteria and leverage driven bubble, we could well be facing a further 50 percent fall in the market -- like what happened after the DotCom crash. This would bring shares back to the long-term average of 17 times earnings.
Instead, what I believe will happen is that central banks, having recently announced that they intend to end QE, will restart it and try to drive shares back to what think are "normal" levels, but which are at least twice what they should be.
As I said in my last book 'Can we avoid another financial crisis ?' QE was like Faust's pact with the Devil: once you signed the contract, you could never get out of it. They'll turn on their infinite money printing machine, buy bonds off financial institutions once more, and give them liquidity to pour back into the markets, pushing them once more to levels that they should never rightly have reached.
This, of course, will help to make the rich richer and the poor poorer by further increasing inequality. Which is arguably the biggest social problem of the modern era. So, as well as being incompetent economists these mainstreamers are today's Marie Antoinette. Let them eat cake, indeed.
DennisR Feb 7, 2018 6:57 PM PermalinkArrowflinger Feb 7, 2018 6:59 PM Permalink
What crash? Every 3% dip is met with money printing, secret QE, etc. You can't expect to have a free market in 2018...Dilluminati Feb 7, 2018 7:01 PM Permalink
It is too low on the scale to be a "crash"
Feb 07, 2018 | consortiumnews.comCold N. Holefield , February 5, 2018 at 4:09 pm
Yes, but increasingly there is no "working class" in America due to outsourcing and automation.
I hear that Trump wants to reverse all of that and put children to work in forward-to-the-past factories (versus back-to-the-future) and mines working 12 hours a day 7 days a week as part of his Make America Great Again initiative.
With all the deregulation, I can't wait to start smoking on airplanes again. Those were great times. Flying bombs with fifty or more lit fuses in the form of a cigarette you can smoke. The good old days.
backwardsevolution , February 5, 2018 at 5:50 pmDiana Lee , February 6, 2018 at 3:16 pm
Cold N. Holefield -- it's like Ross Perot said re NAFTA and globalization: "When the rest of the world's wages go up to $6.00/hour and our's come down to $6.00/hour, globalization will end." That's what's happening, isn't it? Our wages are being held down, due in large part to low-skilled labor and H-1B's flooding into the country, and wages in Asia are rising. I remember Ross Perot standing right beside Bill Clinton when he said this, and I also remember the sly smile on Bill Clinton's face. He knew.
Our technology was handed to China on a silver platter by the greedy U.S. multinationals, technology that was developed by Western universities and taxpayer dollars, technology that would have taken decades for China to develop on their own.
Trump is trying desperately to bring some of these jobs back. That's why he handed them huge corporate tax breaks and cut some regulations.
Things "should" be made locally. There's no reason, especially with declining energy resources, that a toaster should be shipped from thousands of miles away by boat, plane, truck, rail. That's simply ridiculous, never mind causing a ton of extra pollution. We end up working at McDonald's or Target, but, yay, we just saved $5.00 on our toaster.
Trump is trying to cut back on immigration so that wages can increase, but the Left want to save the whole world, doing themselves in in the process. He wants to bring people in with skills the country can benefit from, but for that he's tarred and feathered.
P.S. I remember sitting behind a drunk on a long flight, and I saw him drop his cigarette. It rolled past me like it knew where it was going, and I couldn't find it. I called the stewardess, and she and I searched for a few anxious seconds until we found it. Yes, the good old days.backwardsevolution , February 6, 2018 at 4:48 pm
I don't know how you know about the so-called safety net. I know because I had to use it while undergoing treatment for 2 types of stage 4 breast cancer the past 4 years. It is NOT what people think. It beats the already vulnerable into the ground -- -- this is not placating -- -- it is psychological breaking of human minds until they submit. The paperwork is like undergoing a tax audit -- - every 6 months. "Technicians" decide one's "benefits" which vary between "technicians".
Food stamps can be $195 during one period and then $35 the next. The technicians/system takes no responsibility for the chaos and stress they bring into their victims' lives. It is literally crazy making. BTW: I am white, a member of Phi Beta Kappa, have a masters' degree, formerly owned my own business and while married lived within the top 10%.
In addition, most of those on so-called social programs are children, the elderly, chronically ill, veterans. You are correct that the middle class is falling into poverty but you are not understanding what poverty actually looks like when the gov holds out its beneficial hand. It is nothing short of cruelty.
Diana Lee -- I hope you are well now. It breaks my heart what you went through. No, I cannot imagine.
I didn't mean the lower class were living "well" on food stamps and welfare. All I meant was that it helped, and without it all hell would break loose. If you lived in the top 10% at one point, then you would surely notice a difference, but for many who have been raised in this environment, they don't notice at all. It becomes a way of life. And, yes, you are right, it is cruelty. A loss of life.
Feb 07, 2018 | www.zerohedge.com
Whole Foods' new inventory management system aimed at improving efficiency and cutting down on waste is taking a toll on employees, who say the system's stringent procedures and graded "scorecards" have crushed morale and led to widespread food shortages, reports Business Insider .
The new system, called order-to-shelf, or OTS, "has a strict set of procedures for purchasing, displaying, and storing products on store shelves and in back rooms. To make sure stores comply, Whole Foods relies on "scorecards" that evaluate everything from the accuracy of signage to the proper recording of theft, or "shrink."
Some employees, who walk through stores with managers to ensure compliance, describe the system as onerous and stress-inducing . Conversations with 27 current and recently departed Whole Foods workers, including cashiers and corporate employees -- some of whom have been with the company for nearly two decades -- say the system is seen by many as punitive. - BI
Terrified employees report constant fear over losing their jobs over the OTS "scorecards," which anything below 89.9% can qualify as a failing score - resulting in possible firings. Whole Foods employees around the country thought that was hilarious. One such disaffected West Coast supervisor said "On my most recent time card, I clocked over 10 hours of overtime, sitting at a desk doing OTS work," adding "Rather than focusing on guest service, I've had team members cleaning facial-care testers and facing the shelves, so that everything looks perfect and untouched at all times."
Many Whole Foods employees at the corporate and store levels still don't understand how OTS works, employees said.
"OTS has confused so many smart, logical, and experienced individuals, the befuddlement is now a thing, a life all its own," an employee of a Chicago-area store said. "It's a collective confusion -- constantly changing, no clear answers to the questions that never were, until now."
An employee of a North Carolina Whole Foods said: " No one really knows this business model, and those who are doing the scorecards -- even regional leadership -- are not clear on practices and consequently are constantly providing the department leaders with inaccurate directions. All this comes at a time when labor has been reduced to an unachievable level given the requirements of the OTS model. "
peddling-fiction -> SloMoe Feb 6, 2018 9:52 PM PermalinkBabaLooey -> peddling-fiction Feb 6, 2018 9:58 PM Permalink
Have they been Amazoned?
Robots will soon pick up the slack...IH8OBAMA -> Cognitive Dissonance Feb 6, 2018 10:32 PM Permalink
Dr. EvilBezos strikes again!
The shit fuck......erkme73 -> JimmyJones Feb 6, 2018 11:11 PM Permalink
From Amazon workers, delivery drivers and now Whole Foods workers, it sounds like the Beezer is a real tyrant to work for. I'm surprised unions haven't been able to penetrate that organization. It is certainly big enough.A Nanny Moose -> erkme73 Feb 6, 2018 11:57 PM Permalink
Wife is an ER MD. The physician leasing firm that employs her, which has the contract at the local hospital, recently got bought out by a new group. Suddenly she has a new director who assigns quotas to everything, and grades every aspect of her performance. It is quite stressful, and takes much of what little joy there was in her profession, and flushes it away. She is actively entertaining head hunters' calls again.
Just finished a two-year project building a hospital's Information Security Program....everything heading toward performance metrics measured against some horseshit ticketing system. Such systems only encourage throwing of horseshit over the fence, by incapable amateurs, to the people who actually know how to think. This program was put in place by a CIO who was former Air Farce.
It now takes 5 fucking hours of bureaucratic horseshit to perform 1/2 hour of actual engineering/technical work. The next step is to automate technical work from within the change control and IT automation systems.
Mark my words....just wait until the vulnerabilities in these change control, and Information Security Automation systems are exploited. Wait for the flaws in the code used to automate creation of entire networks, sever farms, security policies, etc.
I don't want to be within 100 miles of anything modern when this all goes to shit.
Feb 03, 2018 | www.zerohedge.com
ruffhouse Feb 3, 2018 4:31 PM Permalink
Post-American Politics Is Kayfabe.
KAYFABE: kayfabe /ˈkeɪfeɪb/ is the portrayal of staged events within the industry as "real" or "true," specifically the portrayal of competition, rivalries, and relationships between participants as being genuine and not of a staged or pre-determined nature of any kind.
Kayfabe has also evolved to become a code word of sorts for maintaining this "reality" within the direct or indirect presence of the general public.
Feb 03, 2018 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
Posted on February 2, 2018 by Yves Smith As we've said, Jeff Bezos clearly hates people, except as appendages to bank accounts. All you need to do is observe how he treats his workers.
In a scoop, Business Insider reports on how Amazon is creating massive turnover and pointless misery at Whole Food by imposing
a reign of terrorimpossible and misguided productivity targets.
Anyone who has paid the slightest attention to Amazon will see its abuse of out of Whole Foods workers as confirmation of an established pattern. And even more tellingly, despite Whole Foods supposedly being a retail business that Bezos would understand, the unrealistic Whole Foods metrics aren't making the shopping experience better.
As we'll discuss below, we'd already expressed doubts about how relevant Bezos' hyped Amazon model would be to Whole Foods. Proof is surfacing even faster than we expected.
But first to Bezos' general pattern of employee mistreatment.
It's bad enough that Bezos engages in the worst sort of class warfare and treats warehouse workers worse than the ASPCA would allow livery drivers to use horses. Not only do horses at least get fed an adequate ration, while Amazon warehouse workers regularly earn less than a local living wage, but even after pressure to end literal sweatshop conditions (no air conditioning so inside temperatures could hit 100 degrees; Amazon preferred to have ambulances at ready for the inevitable heatstroke victims rather than pay to cool air ), Amazon warehouse workers are, thanks to intensive monitoring, pressed to work at such a brutal pace that most can't handle it physically and quit by the six month mark. For instance, from a 2017 Gizmodo story, Reminder: Amazon Treats Its Employees Like Shit :
Amazon, like most tech companies, is skilled at getting stories about whatever bullshit it decides to feed the press. Amazon would very much prefer to have reporters writing some drivel about a discount code than reminding people that its tens of thousands of engineers and warehouse workers are fucking miserable. How do I know they're miserable? Because (as the testimony below demonstrates) they've told every writer who's bothered to ask for years.
Gawker, May 2014 – "I Do Not Know One Person Who Is Happy at Amazon"
The New York Times, August 2015- " Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace "
The Huffington Post, October 2015 – " The Life and Death of an Amazon Warehouse Temp "
For a good overview of the how Amazon goes about making its warehouse workers' lives hell, see Salon's Worse than Wal-Mart: Amazon's sick brutality and secret history of ruthlessly intimidating workers .
Mind you, Amazon's institutionalized sadism isn't limited to its sweatshops. Amazon is also cruel to its office workers. The New York Times story that Gizmodo selected, based on over 100 employee interviews, included:
Bo Olson lasted less than two years in a book marketing role and said that his enduring image was watching people weep in the office, a sight other workers described as well. "You walk out of a conference room and you'll see a grown man covering his face," he said. "Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk."
While that paragraph was the most widely quoted from that story, some reporters reacted strongly to other bits. For instance, from The Verge :
Perhaps worst of all is Amazon's apparent approach when its employees need help. The Times has uncovered several cases where workers who were sick, grieving, or otherwise encumbered by the realities of life were pushed out of the company. A woman who had a miscarriage was told to travel on a business trip the day after both her twins were stillborn. Another woman recovering from breast cancer was given poor performance rankings and was warned that she was in danger of losing her job.
The Business Insider story on Amazon, 'Seeing someone cry at work is becoming normal': Employees say Whole Foods is using 'scorecards' to punish them , is another window on how Bezos thinks whipping his workers is the best way to get results from them:
voteforno6 , February 2, 2018 at 6:21 amCollapsar , February 2, 2018 at 7:45 am
I have yet to hear of anyone who has actually enjoyed working for Amazon. I know several people who have worked on building out their data centers, and it's the same type of experience – demanding, long hours, must be responsive to calls and emails 24×7. Even people who are otherwise highly skilled, highly competent workers are treated as disposable items. It's no surprise that they treat grocery workers the same.David Carl Grimes , February 2, 2018 at 7:54 am
According to this Business Insider article the OTS inventory management system was something brought in by whole foods management; not amazon. Employees are actually hoping amazon fixes the issues created by OTS.
Things are definitely bad when workers are hoping things will get better with Bezos in charge.
I can't remember where I read an article in which an amazon employee said people at the company joked that amazon is where overachievers go to feel bad about themselves.Left in Wisconsin , February 2, 2018 at 10:37 am
If working conditions are so bad at the warehouses (heatstrokes from lack of air conditioning), then why hasn't the Department of Labor gone after them? Surely the DoL or some local labor bureau most have gotten hundreds if not thousands of complaints?Ransom Headweight , February 2, 2018 at 1:05 pm
Where are the unions? The Teamsters or UFCW should be all over this. Their complete absence from the story is telling. When the first three conclusions to be drawn from this story are:
1. That boss (and company culture) are awful
2. Why doesn't the government do something?
3. Maybe the workers can do a class action
then it's really not surprising that things are this bad.jrs , February 2, 2018 at 1:35 pm
Where are the unions? They've been systematic eradicated or are being led by "pro-business" stooges. About the only union worth a damn and bucking the system is the Nurses Union led by Rose Ann DeMoro. If you have the inclunation, take a look at labor during the first Gilded Age (late 1800s early 1900s) to see what it took to get the modest reforms of the New Deal enacted -- the very policies that are almost extinct now.Anon , February 2, 2018 at 1:53 pm
Well even trying to unionize fast food failed badly is my impression. So often the laws make it hard but the workers also have to *WANT* to unionize.flora , February 2, 2018 at 11:21 am
An article in The Atlantic provides an explanation for the absence of unions:
Efforts to get Amazon to change its labor practices have been unsuccessful thus far. Randy Korgan, the business representative and director of the Teamsters Local 63, which represents the Stater Brothers employees, told me that his office frequently gets calls from Amazon employees wanting to organize. But organizing is difficult because there's so much turnover at Amazon facilities and because people fear losing their jobs if they speak up. Burgett, the Indiana Amazon worker, repeatedly tried to organize his facility, he told me. The turnover was so high that it was difficult to get people to commit to a union campaign. The temps at Amazon are too focused on getting a full-time job to join a union, he said, and the full-time employees don't stick around long enough to join. He worked with both the local SEIU and then the Teamsters to start an organizing drive, but could never get any traction. He told me that whenever Amazon hears rumors of a union drive, the company calls a special "all hands" meeting to explain why a union wouldn't be good for the facility. (Lindsey said that Amazon has an open-door policy that encourages associates to bring concerns directly to the management team. "We firmly believe this direct connection is the most effective way to understand and respond to the needs of our workforce," she wrote, in an email.)
This is a common anti-union trick among low-wage jobs these days -- intentionally abuse your workers as much as possible to ensure the highest possible turnover (and even better, turnover in the form of voluntary quits, which do not qualify for unemployment benefits or impact the employer's UI tax). Workers who have zero investment in their jobs and who intend to quit at the earliest possible opportunity are less likely to go through the trouble and risk of supporting a union effort.
As a bonus, the high turnover results in many of the workers not ever becoming eligible for benefits. Most common tax-advantaged benefit plans, like health insurance and 401(k), are required to be offered to all employees with only a few limited exceptions. The permitted exceptions differ depending on the benefit type, but usually include criteria like length of service (often no more than 12 months or so) and in some cases, minimum work hours. The plan will lose its tax-advantaged status if it excludes more employees than the law permits, which can cost the employer back taxes and penalties. Firing employees for the purpose of interfering with their ERISA-regulated benefits is illegal , but treating them so poorly from day 1 that they are unlikely to last long enough to qualify for benefits is not.
From a policy perspective, we need to realize the instability created by high-turnover and fissured work environments and penalize it accordingly. A beneficial side effect of this is that it would likely incentivize employers to train and promote low-level workers upwards; low-level jobs like warehouse workers probably inherently have higher turnover than average, just because most workers don't want to do that for the rest of their lives (and some are successful in finding a way out), but when there's a path for the janitor to become CTO you can reduce that turnover.Fraibert , February 2, 2018 at 9:09 am
When you own the politicians' trade newspaper – WaPo – why would the politicians attack you?Pespi , February 2, 2018 at 4:02 pm
Pretty sure, at least at the federal level, it would be OSHA jurisdiction issues. With that said, OSHA has received complaints, and done investigations: e.g., https://www.osha.gov/news/newsreleases/region3/01122016 ; https://www.recode.net/2017/11/9/16629412/amazon-warehouse-worker-killed-deaths-osha-fines-penalties
I found these just by Googling "OSHA amazon". Keep in mind, the low amounts of the fines doesn't necessarily reflect the severity of the underlying issues–my understanding is that OSHA has relatively weak abilities to fine violators in the first place.maria gostrey , February 2, 2018 at 9:38 am
OSHA has been neutered. If you're lucky enough to get someone to come without also being fired, they'll fine the business an ant's eyelid and be gone.Adam , February 2, 2018 at 2:07 pm
the salon article referenced above perhaps is indicative of regulators' attitude toward those we expect them to regulate:
june 2, june 10 & july 25 – the days OSHA received complaints about the 100+ weather in the Allentown warehouse.
nothing about any sort of OSHA response.Big River Bandido , February 2, 2018 at 10:00 am
Cooks at restaurants routinely work in similar heat with similar levels of exertion. I know, because I was a cook at multiple restaurants.
Now I am a machinist, and temps like this are routine during the summer in most shops I worked.
The reason OSHA doesn't care is because working people in extreme heat is SOP for scores of industries that you may not even realize.EoH , February 2, 2018 at 11:27 am
The regulatory agencies were captured decades ago by the industries they purport to regulate.Elizabeth Burton , February 2, 2018 at 2:54 pm
Government regulation and enforcement? In an earlier generation, that would be an excellent question. But since then, we've seen the distribution and adoption of the neoliberal memo that such things are always and everywhere bad. Nor would they be high on the current administration's to do list.Mikerw , February 2, 2018 at 8:18 am
Amazon doesn't employ the workers. It employs temp agencies who supply the workers. This is a standard procedure these days for high-turnover workplaces, because in the end no one is responsible for what happens to the workers.visitor , February 2, 2018 at 8:34 am
To quote: "the beatings will continue until morale improves"
A service business that gives crappy service will not prosper. There is a high touch rate between customers and employees in this industry. Also, this is an industry with many options and competition; unlike airlines for example. We shop at WF from time to time, partly due to the experience being more pleasant. We have no issue moving (and no love of Amazon).Fraibert , February 2, 2018 at 9:24 am
A service business that gives crappy service will not prosper.
if and only if there are preferable alternatives. If that business is cheaper, a monopoly, or if all other businesses deliver crappy service too, then it may well prosper. Case in point: the telecommunications market in the USA.EoH , February 2, 2018 at 11:41 am
This is an important reason why the notion that market competition will increase social welfare isn't inherently true. It's long been understood that in concentrated markets (oligopolies) the market actors might implicitly coordinate their prices without a price increase. For example, Companies A, B, and C sell widgets; Company A announces a price increase via press release; B and C follow with similar increases a week later.
But companies can also implicitly coordinate on the quality of goods. If Company A pursues crapification, that can cover B and C for doing the same.
It's akin the the Greesham's Dyamic that Professor Black has written about extensively on this blog and in other places in connection with finance creating a criminogenic environment. Under the right circumstances, cheap bad quality can drive out good quality, leaving only bad.Wisdom Seeker , February 2, 2018 at 2:03 pm
Indeed. A "market" focusing solely on profitability would consider human values an inefficiency. It would remove them, along with what produced them, from the system, using routine failure modes and effects analysis. (An interesting point for promoters of AI.)
California witnessed considerable consolidation in its grocery business ten years or so ago. Similar, if somewhat less draconian conditions, resulted. I don't believe the "market" will generate a different result this time.
In addition, there's the question of Jeff Bezos's purposes in buying WF. It would not be to learn from another industry; I don't imagine Bezos values that concept. It would more likely be to expand his own methodologies and priorities to another industry, one that gives him access to a human activity outside the already extensive reach of his current business.
WF may be an experiment, whose survival might not be dictated by immediate notional profitability. Besides, the utility and profitability of the data flow from this experiment might never be visible.jrs , February 2, 2018 at 2:10 pm
This is an important reason why the notion that market competition will increase social welfare isn't inherently true. It's long been understood that in concentrated markets (oligopolies) the market actors might implicitly coordinate their prices without a price increase.
I agree, except that the situations you describe are not "market competition". Any marketplace with fewer than about 7 truly independent competitors is not a competitive market.
But as you say, when there are few participants there is a lot of implicit signaling and coordination, which work to benefit the few participants at the expense of the general welfare.
We have a lot of faux markets, and a lot of faux competition. This is not helped by the prevalence of multiple "brands" owned by the same small number of large conglomerates. You could shut down just 2 or 3 companies in each product line and the supermarket shelves would lose 90% of their items. That ain't a competitive marketplace, even though the proliferation of brands provides the illusion of freedom of choice.
We need a populist wave to take back our democracy.Dave , February 2, 2018 at 8:22 am
Yes it's not textbook competition, but while textbook competition with many small players may be good for the consumer, there is no evidence that it is good for the worker. In fact I suspect it's bad for the worker as super competitive industries will nearly kill their employees just to stay in business. I'd rather work for an oligopoly (but it all depends on which one) as the freedom from relentless competition enables better working conditions in theory (again does not always materialize).hemeantwell , February 2, 2018 at 8:42 am
I spent 25 years in the grocery business with 20 of them in management. The expectations stated above were industry standards (except the minutiae of sales goals). Only in Whole Foods was this model ignored. When the industry wide profit margin of grocers is less the 3cents on the dollar you have to be a TIGHT operator to turn a profit or you are doomed. As a department manager my entire job depended on how I managed my P&L report on a quarterly basis .. if I was over on payroll hours I DAMN well better be cutting back on other areas such as shrink, supplies or payroll mix (high paid FT vs low paid PT)
I guess the Whole Foods employees are learning this now.pretzelattack , February 2, 2018 at 8:48 am
Thanks for bringing up the industry baseline! Bezos' intense exploitation of labor merits a spotlight, but what's happening off in the shadows in other corporations? I recall seeing Costco held up as a + example, but what about others?Fraibert , February 2, 2018 at 9:15 am
if the industry standards decimate the work force and make customers unhappy, maybe it's the standards that are at fault.PlutoniumKun , February 2, 2018 at 9:36 am
To me, it doesn't make sense to penny pinch if you're a quasi-monopolistic supplier due to a special brand position. Whole Foods was associated with high quality goods, and was clearly able to charge a substantial price premium. Changing its operations as described above appears to reduce the justification for the price premium and destroy the company's unique market position.
It is almost like McDonald's deciding that beef patties cost too much, and that it would only serve chicken going forward.EoH , February 2, 2018 at 11:45 am
It seems to me that in the grocery business (like many), you either make money by being more efficient and cheaper than your competitors, or by having a unique selling point that allows you charge a premium (high quality, great service, etc).
If you look at the car industry, when mass market brands have bought high value brands (for example, Ford buying Jaguar), the sensible companies have been very cautious about ensuring that the brand aura (and hence high profit margin per car) is not tarnished by crudely cutting costs. Mercedes made that mistake in the 1980's with excessive cost cutting and it took them more than a decade, and billions of DM in investment, to win back their brand value when it became apparent that their cars were often less reliable than cheap Asian compacts.
It seems to me that Amazon are a one trick company (albeit, a very good trick), and they are likely to get burned very badly if they extend their predatory model to high value brands..bob , February 2, 2018 at 9:19 am
In scale, WF is a hobby business for Bezos, little more than a personal tax deduction. If it does not go as Bezos intends, it is not likely to have an effect on his primary business.Chuck W , February 2, 2018 at 11:12 am
"When the industry wide profit margin of grocers is less the 3cents on the dollar" This figure is complete nonsense. It means nothing. It's the "profit margin" after paying themselves rent, which is where the profits in grocery stores end up.. No one is in business for a 3% return. It does make good for PR though.bob , February 2, 2018 at 11:44 am
A 3% margin isn't the same thing as a 3% return. Maybe think about it this way, 26 turns on a 3% margin (once every 2 weeks). Without compounding that's a 78% return on average inventory level, before fixed and variable costs, interest expense and equity returns. You're right nobody is in the business for a 3% return!Chuck W , February 2, 2018 at 12:31 pm
"A 3% margin isn't the same thing as a 3% return." I know this. But the way that figure is trotted out, relentlessly, is to leave the masses, and employees, with the idea that they only 'make' 3%, which is nonsense. Whatever they "make" is carefully chosen in accounting fairytale land.
The point about rents still stands. Most grocery stores/chains are REITs with captive retailers. No one ever sees the REIT side of things. Rite Aid is well know for being the captive retailer in this practice. Rite Aid doesn't 'make' any money (118M 'income' over 25 billion in sales = .004 Less that half a percent).. They 'make' the landlord LOTS of money. Tax dodge or money laundering, which does it better fit the definition of?Mel , February 2, 2018 at 12:40 pm
Agreed. I think they trot out the 3% meme so nobody pushes them too hard on their "providing a public good" nature.
And on rent and landlord's, I absolutely agree. Regrettably it seems most of us are making our commercial landlords a lot of money (before we ever get to equity returns). So many small business owner's would loose their minds if they thought about that thoroughly. And to answer your last question, "I'll take Tax Dodge for $500, Alex"Jean , February 2, 2018 at 9:46 pm
The way I read it way back when was that that 3% markup is on fresh produce and what not. So the turnover is necessarily high. So their return on invested capital might get as high as 3%/day, if they're lucky.cnchal , February 3, 2018 at 12:26 am
Chuck W, please explain the "26 turns comment", don't assume people understand business jargon.Dave , February 2, 2018 at 10:41 pm
Assumes stock turns over every two weeks, so 26 times per year.rd , February 2, 2018 at 3:43 pm
bob, can you direct me to an article and/or site which backs your claims. I would be most interested to read it. Perhaps my information is incorrect, but multiple Google searches have articles in which independent grocery business analysts confirm my number.Kurtismayfield , February 2, 2018 at 3:44 pm
Its not clear to me that OTS originated with Amazon. Amazon only completed the Whole Foods purchase around Labor Day in 2017. It usually takes more than a month or two to come up with an entire computer-based software system and roll it out company-wide.
My guess is that Whole Foods was able to conceive of this all by themselves and since it fits into the Amazon way of doing things, they didn't stop them.
Corporate America is capable of coming up with bone-headed implementations of what could be good ideas without the need to get Amazon, Google, Facebook, or Apple to push them to it. Wells Fargo was able to come up with "Eight is Great" for new account generation even with the guidance of Warren Buffet instead of Jeff Bezos.Whiteylockmandoubled , February 2, 2018 at 4:57 pm
Does this 3% margin count the rent that is extracted from manufacturers for prime real estate in the stores? ( End caps for example). Slotting fees are rent extraction. Customers pay for this with higher prices for the items.Tony Wikrent , February 2, 2018 at 8:29 am
Oh please. I shop at two of the major branded grocery chains, and while the staff is generally good and competent, they exhibit none of the hyper-awareness expected under OTS.
If you run into an employee and ask them where certain items can be found, they'll usually know and usually direct you to an aisle that has the item. But they will generally not know the exact location in the aisle, shelf, blah blah.
And the stupidity of corporate management is beyond belief. Due to niche marketing, items can be found in 3, 4 or even 5 different places. (My favorite is canned beans – organic and other high-end brands in the specialty fancy food aisle, a bunch in the Mexican/international/Spanish aisle, run of the mill murican brands and the same Goya brands that are in the international aisle in the general canned vegetable aisle, sale displays at the end of any random aisle. And dont even get me started on gluten-freeness).
At stop and shop they replaced the end of the checkout counters with a carousel for bagging, meaning a) that checkers had to bag each item as they went, b) no more baggers c) customers couldn't help bag stuff, and, my favorite, d) making it nearly impossible to use reusable bags. Talking to workers about it is simultaneously hilarious and enraging. "They said it was supposed to make it easier for us, but *shrug*". Everyone understands that it's designed to fail, slow things to a crawl, and piss customers off so they'll use the self-check line.
So spare us the tight-ship, low margin Whole-Foods-and-Amazon-are-just-just-learning-how-intense-the-business-really-is-and-too-bad-for-those-whiney-workers old school macho bullshit. Yes, it's not the most profitable industry in the world. But amazon is a whole other level of abusive monitoring of workers everywhere it goes.Huey Long , February 2, 2018 at 8:29 am
Makes me wonder what's happening at Washington Post. Quick search results are that Post has been "revived." Note that Bezos stays out of editorial process, but is heavily involved in tech ops.SufferinSuccotash , February 2, 2018 at 8:37 am
I happened to stop by the Whole Foods in Columbus Circle, NYC yesterday for some produce and something is definitely different there.
It was around 4 pm, the store was packed, and apparently management had people out there with brooms and dustpans sweeping up what appeared to be clean floors. Between the crowds, the sweeping employees, and the boxes of stock on the floor it was much harder to move in there.
After navigating the aisles, I grabbed a bottle of cold beer for my subway ride home, and then proceeded to the in-house ramen/draft beer spot. The employees there seemed absolutely miserable and kept wandering away to talk in hushed voices about what was clearly some sort of work problem in the store from what I could gather. To the employees' credit however, they treated me with courtesy and respect even though their body language and demeanor screamed misery.
Following my mediocre Ramen and yummy draft beers, I wandered back over to the beer aisle to exchange my now warm subway subs for a cold bottle. I was shocked to find that the entire cold reach-in beer shelves had been re-stocked while I was in the ramen bar. After several moments of digging through freshly stocked warm beer I found a cold one, paid, and departed Whole Foods.
Thanks for this article, as it ties together all the oddities I observed today. It is really sad what happened to Whole Foods, particularly that location. I used to work on the Time Warner Center maintenance staff and frequently interacted with employees in that particular store and they used to be a jolly bunch.
At any rate, I won't be frequenting Whole Foods any longer as I find worker abuse nauseating.The Rev Kev , February 2, 2018 at 8:56 am
So much paperwork that there's no time to deliver the food, hence empty shelves. A situation instantly recognizable to anyone who ever lived in the USSR.Wyoming , February 2, 2018 at 9:56 am
Funny that. It was only a coupla months ago that a big story making the rounds was that Walmart shelves ( http://theweek.com/articles/466144/why-walmarts-shelves-are-empty ) were constantly empty. I suppose you have to be a mega-corporation to make blunders like this but still get away with it for a few months running.Carolinian , February 2, 2018 at 1:23 pm
Interesting you mention Wallmart. I live in central AZ and our local Wallmarts (3 ea) for several years had empty shelves, few workers – and they did not know where anything was, the greeters were gone, literally 1-2 actual cashiers – they were trying to force you to the self-checkout. Recently the stores are almost like they used to be with more workers, greeters back, still not enough cashiers though, and better stocking.
Has anyone else noticed this. It does seem to coincide with the Amazon purchase of WF. Correlation is not causation and all that but it might be a reaction to some extent.Pespi , February 2, 2018 at 4:07 pm
I'm probably one of the few people around here that shops at Walmart and yes they have cleaned up their act although it depends on the store. I'd say the thing people don't get about Walmart is that they are responsive to public opinion and customer gripes even if they supposedly treat their employees like disposable parts, easily replaced (but then they have lots of company in that department). For example a few years ago they took the clutter out of the aisles and did away with the craft/sewing section–trying to be more like Target -- and then reversed all those changes because their customers hated it.
Seems to me Bezos is taking on a much bigger challenge trying to reinvent brick and mortar than he did by innovating mail order. Here's betting he's not up to it. Perhaps his top honchos–meditating in their new waterfall equipped Seattle biosphere–will prove me wrong.diptherio , February 2, 2018 at 10:01 am
You didn't hear it from me, but from a friend who was a cashier at a grocery store, a small way to fight back against self checkout is to be creative in naming your produce to get a 95% discountThe Rev Kev , February 2, 2018 at 7:52 pm
Just FYI, that article is 5 years old. I remember discussing it here on NC. Unfortunately, it didn't portend the end of Wally World.Eureka Springs , February 2, 2018 at 8:47 am
Yeah, that one was 5 year old but I chose it because it gave a bit more info in it. There are plenty more from last year. Just go to Google and punch in the search term Wal-Mart shelves empty and see what come back, especially Google images. This means that this problem is not a one-off but has been a running theme for at least a four year period. Amazing.Fraibert , February 2, 2018 at 9:18 am
People who shop at Whole Foods want to look at employees with that NPR vegan faux-hippy gaze. Not a lot of difference from the evangelical gaze, imo. Some sort of self hypnosis involved? Now that gaze will be replaced with the look of a desperate near homeless employee all Wal-Mart shoppers have grown accustomed to ignoring, Wal-Mart can man-up with a new ad campaign – Our Employees Don't Cry, they get food stamps.
If I were a rich man I would give everyone of these people a T-shirt which says – I am not a robot.SufferinSuccotash , February 2, 2018 at 10:06 am
I wonder if Wal-Mart will discover increasing in-store staff, as well as an upgraded store experience, will actually improve its competitive position versus online retailers. That's pretty much what Best Buy has to do.Marco , February 2, 2018 at 10:32 am
Or maybe pay the help more. falls out of chair laughingoh , February 2, 2018 at 1:43 pm
Is this just an Amazon/WF issue or something larger for grocer chains? I find myself shopping at a Meijers (big Midwest chain) superstore whilst visiting my mother and noticed the same kind of strangeness with not just employee morale (they are clearly miserable) but stocking issues. Items that were ALWAYS available are no longer there. I needed pasta shells the other day. They had none. How can a super grocer NOT have pasta shells. Larger than normal sections of shelves are bare. Pallets haphazardly placed. Meijors used to be a somewhat pleasant and orderly experience with happy workers now approaching a WalMart experience.Adar , February 2, 2018 at 3:34 pm
Vegan faux-hippy-Hillary Obamba-gaze?lakecabs , February 2, 2018 at 9:16 am
Re the NPR vegan faux-hippy gaze, The WF near me in suburban Philadelphia, has a very upscale clientele. Once, in the produce section, they had set up a booth where a Hispanic woman would mix guacamole using just the ingredients the customers wished, without any extraneous chatter on her part. Wow! Your guac would be mixed by an ACTUAL MEXICAN PERSON! Just gotta be good, eh? Conservatives might say she was happy to have such a nice job. I thought it was downright creepy, like those catalogues where people beam as they demonstrate expensive vacuum cleaners. Yuk.McWoot , February 2, 2018 at 9:47 am
Our Soviet style master planners hard at work. At least the Soviets had 5 year plans that they would abandon after 5 years. How many years of failure can we tolerate? What ever happened to profit?diptherio , February 2, 2018 at 10:04 am
Not a fan of Bezos, Amazon, or their practices, but strict planogram scorecarding is not uncommon in grocery, auto parts and similar retail orgs. The only part of that section of the article that strikes me as out of the ordinary is the employee's reaction to it.McWoot , February 2, 2018 at 10:16 am
Translation: "Employee abuse is the norm, so I don't see what everyone is complaining about. Back to work, peasants!"diptherio , February 2, 2018 at 1:54 pm
The framing of the article suggests this is Amazon-ian behavior. Just pointing out that I don't believe that's accurate because the practice is commonplace in the industry.Harry , February 2, 2018 at 10:00 am
I've got more than a few friends who have worked in grocery stores recently, and while they had many complaints, having to know last week's best selling item or this week's sales goals weren't among them. Just sayin' .Chuck , February 2, 2018 at 10:05 am
DE shaw culture spread by its alumniBukko Boomeranger , February 2, 2018 at 6:12 pm
Thank you for highlighting Amazon's continued abuse of its employees. I'm amazed at how many people choose to simply ignore the fate of Amazon's employees in order to receive free shipping. My favorite people are the type that by books on late stage capitalism and plutocracy through their Amazon prime accounts.J-Mann , February 2, 2018 at 7:41 pm
"I'm amazed at how many people choose to simply ignore the fate of Amazon's employees in order to receive free shipping."
Sad but true, Chuck. My daughter, who's a total Social Justice Warrior type (speaking as a progessive, I'm proud of her for that) and her long-time boyfriend are proud Amazon customers. They have Amazon technobuttons on the walls of the house they bought so that all they have to do to re-order toilet paper and kitty litter is touch the device. (Suggesting that AMZ is a sh*t business.) A day or two later, it's delivered, for free, because they are Primes! Daughter's BF, who luuuuuvs him some tech, revels in this because it's so futuristic. When I suggest going to the store to buy some -- it's quicker -- or simply thinking ahead and purchasing stuff before they run out, I get the eye-roll given to Olds who old-splain oldways. They're Jellbylically concerned about the plight of abused North Koreans and the like. When I mentioned why I was buying their Christmas book gifts via Barnes & Noble rather than Amazon due to its mistreatment of workers, their ears glazed over. I'll forward this post to her, but I doubt it will get read, since it wasn't on her Fakebook feed.Simple Life , February 2, 2018 at 10:35 am
I like the cut of your jib: " to Olds who old-splain oldways."
Grampa Simpson classic – One trick is to tell 'em stories that don't go anywhere – like the time I caught the ferry over to Shelbyville. I needed a new heel for my shoe, so, I decided to go to Morganville, which is what they called Shelbyville in those days. So I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time. Now, to take the ferry cost a nickel, and in those days, nickels had pictures of bumblebees on 'em. "Give me five bees for a quarter," you'd say.
Now where were we? Oh yeah: the important thing was I had an onion on my belt, which was the style at the time. They didn't have white onions because of the war. The only thing you could get was those big yellow onesLouis Fyne , February 2, 2018 at 12:13 pm
Find a local co-op market. if you can't find one, start one!Arizona Slim , February 2, 2018 at 12:14 pm
Local co-ops are a great idea but (sorry for the but) in much of the country wholesale food distribution has been decimated or wiped out over the years due to competition from Wal-Mart, Target, Whole Foods, the legacy grocers or Sysco (on the restaurant side).
Geographically, few areas in the US are fortunate enough to have an independent and thriving food/produce wholesale market which helps bring down price and bring up quality to be competitive with the vertically integrated big boys.diptherio , February 2, 2018 at 3:32 pm
Well, here's Slim from drought-stricken AZ. And I'm about to rain on that co-op parade. When I lived in Pittsburgh, I worked at a food co-op that was the lone survivor after its main competitor went under. And we got REAL busy. We also had a bit of a management problem. Ours was a drunk who often came to work hungover. All the better way to abuse the rest of us. After a staff revolt (yes, I took part in it), he left and took a job as manager of the regional co-op warehouse in Columbus, Ohio. Where he treated the warehouse gals as his harem and got one of them pregnant.
To our utter and total amazement back in Pittsburgh, he took responsibility for his son and tried to be the best father he could. I have no idea what happened with the drinking problem.
The manager who succeeded him was even worse. He even called himself a martinet, and he was. After less than a year of his BS, I bailed out of the co-op and got a sit-down job in an office. Yeah, there was another lousy boss there, and I've talked about her on other threads.
But there was further fun and merriment back at the co-op. I was still friendly with the people who worked there, and guess what? Another staff revolt! They ran Mr. Martinet outta there too! Go staff! Mr. Martinet went to a yuppie grocery store in North Carolina. From there, he went on to become one of the original senior executives in Whole Foods.Pespi , February 2, 2018 at 4:13 pm
Bummer about the food co-op, Slim. Some of us "in the movement" are trying to work out how to provide accountability for guys like the drunk manager you mention, so that they don't end up doing like he did, and just sliding around from one co-op to another. Open to suggestions
Unfortunately, the co-op name doesn't necessarily imply that everything is groovy for the workers. Hence, REI workers in Seattle trying to unionize, and why UFCW has had such success in organizing every single food co-op in Minneapolis-St. Paul (and there are quite a few). The history of consumer co-ops seems pretty clear – workers in them need union representation just as much as workers in regular businesses.jrs , February 2, 2018 at 1:54 pm
Hahaha, an excellent story, well told. I have fond memories of the little local co-op from when I was a kid.rd , February 2, 2018 at 3:46 pm
it failed.EoH , February 2, 2018 at 4:00 pm
Or a Wegmans. https://www.wegmans.com/
https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/money/business/2010/05/14/alec-baldwins-mom-really-really-likes-wegmans/2195927/EoH , February 2, 2018 at 10:35 am
For those who need examples, there is an excellent co-op in Ocean Beach, San Diego. Its customer/members are devoutly loyal. By design, each is small and adapted to its local culture and food ecosystem. Michael Pollan is a good resource for ideas on this topic and on real food in general.
American businesses might prefer home runs, but singles and bunts are more common and sustainable. Besides, co-ops are harder to buy up or put out of business in the manner reputed to be practiced by, say, some retail coffee companies.Louis Fyne , February 2, 2018 at 12:58 pm
Jeff Bezos. John Galt. No difference.HotFlash , February 2, 2018 at 1:05 pm
Except Jeff Bezos has sold the Ayn Rand way of life to the 'progressive' intelligensia who would happily rant over John Galt if you gave them your ear and a glass of Bordeaux.cnchal , February 2, 2018 at 4:18 pm
Didn't John Galt go away?Jeff N , February 2, 2018 at 10:38 am
I don't know, did he?. I didn't finish the stupid book to find out.Croatoan , February 2, 2018 at 10:42 am
Not just at Amazon, but I'm seeing an anecdotal trend of "get people to quit within a year or two of starting". Not just with ridiculous requests from above, but even with good ol' passive-aggressiveness. I can't remember if this article was tipped off to me by NC but here it is anyway:
(paywall, or websearch for "how employers manage out unwanted staff")The Rev Kev , February 2, 2018 at 7:59 pm
Don't you all get it? First they took away their freedom to form unions with others. Now they want to take away your freedom to form a union with you own bodies actions. This will crush the idea of sabotage and work slowdowns as an expression of labor power.Jeff Z , February 2, 2018 at 10:57 am
Of course there is always this simple WW2 manual-https://www.cia.gov/news-information/featured-story-archive/2012-featured-story-archive/simple-sabotage.htmlEoH , February 2, 2018 at 11:04 am
OSHA is a part of the DOL. https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/safety-healthrd , February 2, 2018 at 3:52 pm
Waste is inherent to selling fresh food. Trimmings, dry, damaged meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, breads, prepared foods. That's especially true of anything organic and not engineered to be harder, more colorful, durable and less tasty than their natural analogs. Whole Paycheck's intended customers – really, most shoppers anywhere – do not want to buy adulterated, processed versions of eggs, beakless turkeys, caged hens, and drugged industrially raised cows and pigs.
Fresh food, especially organic, does not last as long as industrial bread, fruits and vegetables or highly sugared packaged foods. It is the antithesis of such foods. The reason chicken soup made the way it was c.1940 is tastier and nutritionally better than soup made from a caged, medicated, neurotic fowl today is not great Grandma's recipe: it's the chicken.
Local sourcing, environmentally safe, animal friendly methods of raising require a wider supplier net. What Michael Pollan would call real food costs more. It should. But real food and real people are ripe for the cruel "more efficient" methods of production, distribution and sale that seem part of Jeff Bezos's DNA. Besides, what he really wants is probably the data flow. WF is simply a way to get it.Trey N , February 2, 2018 at 11:19 am
https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/money/business/2017/03/03/wegmans-looks-cut-food-waste-with-new-state-regulations-coming/98049694/Jeff N , February 2, 2018 at 4:41 pm
Typical uber-"capitalist" idiocy -- seen this happen in a lot of different industries over the years (esp techs):
CEO: "Our product sucks. We've grown too big, lost our innovative edge, we need to get back to our roots!"
Toady: "Uh, tried that already, boss. No can do. Too much bureaucracy now."
CEO: "Shit! Any ideas?"
Toady: "Actually, yes! We can buy out and take over one of the smaller competitors that's eating our lunch now, and steal their latest ideas and projects."
CEO: "Brilliant! Make it so!"
fast forward 1-2 years
CEO: "How's that takeover working out?"
Toady: "Well, it's taken a while, but we've fully integrated the company in with ours -- all of our corporate policies and procedures etc etc are in place there now."
fast forward 1-2 more years .
CEO: "Our product sucks! What happened to all those great ideas coming from that company we took over?"
Toady: "Well, most everyone working there when we bought it out are gone now. The founders and senior management cashed out the takeover premium and bailed immediately, and everybody else got frustrated with our corporate style and policies and eventually quit. Our people took over their projects, and promptly fucked them up beyond all belief. Instead of a cash cow, we got a dead cow on our hands now."
CEO: "Shit! Any ideas?"
Toady: "Yeah. We can either spin it off to the public again or just shut the whole fucking thing down and take a huge earnings write-off."
CEO: "Hmmm,..decisions, decisions . By the way, are there any other small competitors out there that we can buy out to rejuvenate our stale product line, toady?
Rinse. Repeat. Ad nauseum, ad infinitum .Sean , February 2, 2018 at 11:20 am
haha that's my place!JBird , February 2, 2018 at 12:35 pm
Amazon corporate sounds like a sweatshop. Their treatment of warehouse staff is nothing short of an abomination. But I can't help feeling that some of the employee comments at WholeFoods are less about bad management and work conditions and more about Millenials and a lack of ability handle criticism and work pressure. (The average age of a Whole Food employee at my store is easily 28yo.)
To call working on an inventory system "punitive". It's called business, and yes, it is difficult and takes a lot of effort. Punitive, though. To use an inventory system. Sorry. Not buying the whole story.Yves Smith Post author , February 2, 2018 at 3:11 pm
If it's common for people to actually cry at work, and to have nightmares, with massive turnover, decreasing quality of service, product, and cleanliness blaming millennials is an inadequate response. Apparently Amazon wants to run Whole Foods with inadequate staff, fails to reward good good work, unfailingly punish not only poor work, but honest mistakes, and makes no allowance within the system for reality. If you did animal training this way, you would see the same results, I promise. The management "techniques" described will destroy any company, or at least reduce productivity massively.RMO , February 3, 2018 at 12:11 am
You are straw manning the post and the underlying article. The staff is grilled very frequently and graded, and much of what they are graded on isn't relevant to customer service. The shelves are supposed to be "leveled" all day, which is a ridiculous standard. The testing and insane shelf appearance standards are not normal to the industry and minor deviations are the basis for firing.Anarcissie , February 2, 2018 at 11:54 am
I have yet to met a single "Millennial" that fits that ridiculous stereotype – and I know a lot of people in that age bracket even though I was born in 1970. The very few who even seem to have tendencies in those directions seem more influenced by being from wealthy families than by their year of birth and I can think of at least as many Boomers and Gen X'ers that are like that too.
When I think of the high-school age or university age jobs the people I grew up with had and compare them to the jobs I've seen my "Millennial" friends doing the younger people have had it substantially worse over all.Jonathan Holland Becnel , February 2, 2018 at 12:40 pm
According to my browser, the word 'union' does not exist in this article.Arizona Slim , February 2, 2018 at 1:09 pm
Also theres an Ad for the 'United States Secret Service' that wants to recruit me. Lol Not with my Reenlistment Code (RE4)!!!!!Eclair , February 2, 2018 at 12:41 pm
A college friend of my mother went on to run the Secret Service detail for the White House. Very demanding position, but one that Mom's friend was quite proud of.Chauncey Gardiner , February 2, 2018 at 3:32 pm
Lordy, Yves, please put a warning sign on that video! It's still breakfast time here in Seattle, and I clicked on it. No, it didn't offend my 'sensibilities.' But it encapsulated all the frustration and anger and helplessness I feel against our system. As well as being a powerful metaphor for 'late stage capitalism.'Pelham , February 2, 2018 at 1:16 pm
Share your sentiments, Eclair. Having breakfast? The observations about employee abuse also pair well with a video of a 10 minute bike ride through the homeless encampments along the Santa Ana River near Angels Stadium and Disneyland in Anaheim:
Fear is part of their toolkit.Oregoncharles , February 2, 2018 at 1:59 pm
Whole Foods employees still outnumber these Amazon creatures checking up on them, I presume. If the WF workers and others at Amazon are so universally tormented and humiliated, shouldn't they be taking some kind of collective action?
Twice during WWII German officers tried to get rid of Hitler. I guess American workers don't measure up to even that standard.EoH , February 2, 2018 at 3:37 pm
Those places are begging for union organizers – but are likely to fight back ruthlessly.Petter , February 2, 2018 at 1:31 pm
I suspect Jeff Bezos would view unions at WF or Amazon the way Reagan viewed unionized Air Traffic Controllers. Or Wal-Mart, which has abandoned markets whose employment laws provide for unions or simply too many protections for employees.
Bezos is extracting resources from his employees with the same thought and in the same manner that early California hard rock miners used massive water hoses (monitors) to liquidate mountains in search for a few gold nuggets. (h/t Gray Brechin)Arizona Slim , February 2, 2018 at 1:53 pm
Why don't they quit? If you allow yourself to be treated as and act as a slave, you become complicit in your own slavery.Oregoncharles , February 2, 2018 at 1:58 pm
Which is why I Q-U-I-T the food co-op job mentioned above. Did the same in that office job, which was my second-to-last full-time job.
Have I ever had a good job? Yup. Working in a hot, dark, and greasy bike shop. Place closed in 2000 and I still miss the camaraderie with my fellow mechanics -- and the pride of accomplishment that came with fixing the customers' bikes.Yves Smith Post author , February 2, 2018 at 3:13 pm
Because, like most Americans, they have no savings and no fallback if they lose their job.Craig H. , February 2, 2018 at 2:16 pm
The article said many are quitting. Of course, the better employees will probably have the best options and be able to leave faster.Punxsutawney , February 2, 2018 at 2:51 pm
From The Atlantic:
What Amazon Does to Poor Cities
Mostly about their warehouse in San Bernardino. The employees describe working there as The Hunger Games.JBird , February 2, 2018 at 7:06 pm
Decades ago I worked in retail,
When arguing with my boss about crap we were required to do, he finally got frustrated and told me "Shit flows downhill", "DEAL WITH IT!". To which my response was "Yep, right onto the customer!"
It made him so angry I was lucky I wasn't fired on the spot, though in hindsight it would have been a blessing. Looks like nothing has changed 30 years later.Synoia , February 2, 2018 at 6:42 pm
I think it's gotten worse as the whole retail industry specifically and perhaps most industries gradually, have had the slowly MBA'd management reorganized, streamlined, outsourced and efficiencied it into a monetized Hades.
I was lucky to work in a couple of well run, or at competently run, businesses. So I know one can be profitable without brutalizing people. It's depressing to see what has happened.Jean , February 2, 2018 at 10:03 pm
I imaging the quickest route to being fired is:
Hi, my name is Jeff Bezos, and I'm a union organizer!
Well maybe not the Bezos part.Yves Smith Post author , February 2, 2018 at 10:29 pm
Wonder what would happen if a customer started handing out union brochures to Whole Foods employees in one of their stores. What are they going to do? Kick you, a customer, out of the store?Dongo , February 2, 2018 at 8:51 pm
They probably would. It's private space. But it would make for good news stories. You would need to actually shop in fact handing them out to all the cashiers when you are checking out would be the best move, since you'd be out the store before management would catch on.Jean , February 2, 2018 at 9:37 pm
As the articles in the Business Insider series explicitly point out, this hated new system preceded the acquisition by Amazon.
Amazon is terrible. The way Whole Foods is now treating its workers is terrible. But Amazon simply did not develop or implement the policies at Whole Foods that this article is ascribing to it.Yves Smith Post author , February 2, 2018 at 10:39 pm
OTS, What is that?
I know two Whole Foods employees who have quit in the last week.
The new name for the store is "Asswhole Foods".
The game is to sabotage as much as possible and give away and undercharge customers for as much as possible in the weeks before you quit.
A walkout strike on a busy Saturday would be a beautiful thing to see and would really get the public's attention.lentilsoup , February 2, 2018 at 10:40 pm
Good for your saboteurs! Amazon is trying to stop shrinkage but they'll lose more through deliberately missed scans. Oh, and a freezer door left open or temperature mysteriously reset would wreak even more havoc.
I was in a Whole Foods last night, where I shop a few times per month, here in central California. Lots of unfamiliar faces working there. Produce section definitely looking worse than usual -- empty shelves, low quality items. At checkout, the cashier was a young woman I'd never seen before, who looked tired and dispirited. I asked how she was doing that evening. Smirking wearily, she said, "Hangin' in there " (Which is about how I feel these days, too.) When it came time to pay, it was the first time in my life that the total at Whole Foods was less than I was expecting. Wow, I thought, I didn't think Amazon changed the prices that much? After I got home and looked at the receipt, I realized why -- she hadn't charged me for all the items! Bless her.
I don't believe Amazon and Whole Foods were ever a good match for each other, and with unhappy employees and other problems, I expect this particular branch of WF to be gone in a few years. And I really couldn't care less. There are other good places to shop.
erisx May '17
Feb 03, 2018 | www.commondreams.org
Trump could be playing us all. And not considering that is, well, idiotic.
Turns out, the first word a lot of people think of when it comes to President Donald Trump is this one: idiot .
The White House's handling of the Comey firing looks a lot like a clip from The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight . The Press Secretary hiding in the bushes, Trump sending virtually his entire staff under the bus with his various and rapidly shifting versions of his reasons for the firing, and his unhinged Twitter rants at the press for covering the fiasco as a fiasco.
Once again, pundits are talking about impulse control, the ADD Presidency, rank amateurism in the Oval Office, threats to Democracy -- all the stuff that they talked about in the campaign. The stuff that was supposed to doom his bid for the presidency to failure.
"It's worth considering what we are not talking about as we watch this political pornography play out."
All of this is grim stuff. We haven't seen a threat to democracy as serious as this since Watergate, so I'm not suggesting that we shouldn't be addressing it.
But it's worth considering what we are not talking about as we watch this political pornography play out and also, how does the focus on Russia undercut the Democratic Party? In other words, what if this is exactly what Trump intended when he fired Comey? It's worth remembering Trump's mentor was Roy Cohn, who was a master at controlling the narrative and one of his favorite techniques was to change the subject with an in-your-face outrage of one kind or another.
Let's examine what we're not talking about, and then what the effect of the whole Russian narrative is having on the Democratic Party.
What We Aren't Talking About
Shortly before Trump tossed in the Comey Molotov Cocktail into the national living room, here's what was dominating the news:
- The Republicans in the House had just passed a disastrous Health Care Bill that was essentially a giant tax cut for the rich and a "screw you" to anyone who actually needs health insurance;
- Trump had just put out a "budget" that exploded the deficit and gave huge tax cuts to corporations and the ultra-wealthy;
- The Congressional Progressive Caucus had just released a budget that preserved social programs, cut the deficit, and increased revenues using provisions that are popular with both Republicans and Democrats.
But none of that is being discussed much any longer. And if you ran as a populist, but all your policies are benefitting the top 1%, that's exactly what you'd hope for. Yes, the few Congressional members who are brave enough to hold town meetings are still getting mugged by outraged constituents, but these meetings are not getting the kind of coverage they would have pre-Comey. And that means the Health Care Bill isn't getting the kind of serious examination it would have if the media weren't doing all Comey, all the time. Again, exactly what you'd want if you knew the guts of the legislation were so bad, that if it got out there, even the Trump bobble heads would be pissed off. So folks aren't talking about the fact that it was rushed to the floor before getting scored by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), before we knew what its effects were and what its ultimate cost could be, before people caught on to the fact that the state waiver provision stuck in the revised version of the bill turned it from merely a cruel piece of legislation to the cruelest piece in modern history.
Or take the budget "proposal," which was getting panned by the media and even the few Republicans left in the Senate who actually are fiscal conservatives. Hell, even Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) took issue with some of the cuts. This reprise of "trickle down" and "supply side" chicanery was being almost universally ridiculed by the press and economists, and it was heavily influenced -- if not outsourced to -- the Heritage Foundation, an outfit funded by the likes of the Koch Brothers. Here again, the last thing Trump wants after running as a populist and a fiscal conservative is to get widespread coverage of just how much this plutocrat's budget resembles the stuff he railed against in his campaign.
And speaking of budgets, the media once again ignored the sanest budget proposal in Washington, The Congressional Progressive Caucus's Better Off Budget , which cuts the deficit by more than $4 trillion over the next 10 years -- Trump's budget would have increased it by at least $1.4 trillion over that time period, by the way -- while creating 8.8 million new jobs. The Better Off Budget uses policies that are wildly popular with the majority of Americans to accomplish this.
Now, it must be said that the press always ignores the CPC's budget proposals, but maybe Trump was taking no chances -- after all, if anyone held them up side-by-side, Trump and the Republicans would have been unmasked as the charlatans they are.
But there's no danger of that when it's all Comey, all the time.
Much is made of the fact that Trump's popularity among those who voted for him hasn't budged, despite the fact that he's screwing them left and right with his policies. Well, these kinds of maneuvers may explain why. Look back. When the Russian stuff was first heating up big time, we suddenly just had to bomb Syria. Wagging the dog is a time-honored way to change the subject. So is firing a controversial senior public servant.
Comey, the Russians, and the Establishment Arm of the Democratic Party
If Trump isn't an idiot, then here's where his tactics are brilliant. The neoliberal elitists who control the Democratic Party have been trying to keep the focus on the Russian intervention in our election as the reason Hillary Clinton lost. The progressives in the Party have been attacking the Party's estrangement from the people and its rejection of the New Deal policies as the reason. In short, there's a battle on for the heart and soul of the Party.
Firing Comey, brings the whole Russian thing to the fore, and works to sidetrack the real debate the Democratic Party needs to have about its future.
"Firing Comey, brings the whole Russian thing to the fore, and works to sidetrack the real debate the Democratic Party needs to have about its future."
Two things were working to undermine the establishment's hold on the Party until Comey's firing. First, Sanders continued to poll as the most popular politician in America. Second, people were beginning to realize that it was the content of Secretary Clinton's emails that hurt her, not the emails per se . And that content revealed the soft underbelly of the Democratic Party. To wit: the neoliberal belief in small government, the power and goodness of the market, free trade, deregulation, and fiscal austerity was simply too close to the Republican dogma to generate enough passion among progressives to get a good turnout, and Democrats need a good turnout to win elections.
But now it's all Comey all the time, and the Democratic establishment is taking full advantage of that to deflect attention from the real reason they're losing at all levels of government. It appears they'd rather risk losing elections than embrace a truly progressive agenda, and Trump just reinforced their self-serving narrative.
Yeah. What if he's not an idiot?
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License
John Atcheson John Atcheson is author of the novel, A Being Darkly Wise , and he has just completed a book on the 2016 elections titled, WTF, America? How the US Went Off the Rails and How to Get It Back On Track , available from Amazon. Follow him on Twitter @john_atcheson
notwistalemon May '17Quote from your article:drone1066 May '17
"But now it's all Comey all the time, and the Democratic establishment is taking full advantage of that to deflect attention from the real reason they're losing at all levels of government. It appears they'd rather risk losing elections than embrace a truly progressive agenda, and Trump just reinforced their self-serving narrative."
In my opinion you are right on the mark; especially with your last paragraph. Practically all the ultra rich in the world live in the same "gated community". Their goal is to control the world's resources and somehow survive the coming mass die-off due to severe climate disruption. To them their party never ends!It's possible he's not stupid AND he has zero impulse control. That seems most likely. He's good at subverting the few things he does think out.SkepticTank May '17
But Democrats have quintupled down on Russia. For them, it's a battle for existence. They were completely exposed, and it's going to take a lot of "Russia!" to keep that conversation about their profound corruption from taking place.
And Atcheson is also right that this party much prefers losing than giving up its donorship buffet. That's why they do nothing to correct the course to get more votes. They're relying completely on their corporate media allies to keep the illusion going. So far it's working, to the great shame of rank and file Democrats.drone1066The D-Party would rather stumble back to electoral victory on the anti-Trump effect than offer policy that might clash with the wishes of their corporate donors.
Case in point: Single Payer now back-burnered as a distraction from anti-trump hysteria.
Sad to see so many otherwise intelligent commenters here falling for the usual D-Party parlor tricks.
Whether Trump's just lucky or know how to work a room is unimportant. Results matter, and the result is that the important stuff's not being discussed, and the Greatest Heist In The World continues. Lest we forget, that Heist is NOT just about the USA. There's a reason they call it 'globalization.'natureboy May '17
Excellent assessment.ontheres May '17
Corporate bribes, big salaries, perks and tv star jobs will have to be torn from Neoliberal Democrats' cold dead hands.
And Don, Rupert and the rest of Mammon's soldiers will soon have to deal with an Artificial Intelligence that learns in one day what it took humans 40,000 years to learn. Interesting times.
Anyone who carefully followed the primaries knows that the democratic machine used all kinds of corrupt methods to defeat Bernie Sanders. And, anyone who follows the general election knows that the election is easily rigged - especially computer voting that leaves no paper trail and cannot be audited. The hypocrisy of Russians hacking our elections when they are hacked by our own politicians, and Russians interfering with our elections when our corporate elite have no problem interfering with elections in other countries all makes me ill. Don't know how many other voters out there are like me, but sure would like to hear from them.BWilliamson May '17
Somehow almost none of this get mentioned in any press, progressive or otherwise.
bjoldlygoTrump can't control what he himself thinks. He's been a promoter of the Trump name for 40-50 years. That is a reflex with him. That is the extent of his thinking. There are many others around him, supporting him. Praising his genius, as this article is inclined towards, is their means of exploiting his great weakness. BWilliamson May '17
wolfessThere is nothing behind the scenes. Everything is happening center stage. If you spend your time trying to see behind the scenes you're going to miss the whole show. Olhippy May '17
ontheresNo, the seething undercurrent of the discontented is rarely reported on in the "news". Only when it explodes as in Missouri riots or Occupy Wall Street takeovers, does it get coverage which is put down by government forces, either civilian or feds. The Democratic primaries were changed, back in the 70's I believe, after anti-war candidate McCarthy got the nomination nod. That's when the super delegates came about, so they had more control of things. Expect the GOP too, to change things to keep future Trumps' from getting the nod. Wereflea May '17 1
I see Atcheson's point but I think he needs to remember that Trump is a Prince of inherited wealth. Trump may be an idiot (he really did seem more intelligent before he got elected and then we had a good look at him and listened to his sometimes unintelligible speech patterns) but he has always been in a position where he delegated authority to people who got paid to be smarter than he was, so his 'idiocy' didn't show as much.
Trump paid high priced lawyers to arrange his deals. He paid expensive consultants and investment managers and on and on and all of those people were exceptionally intelligent. He paid someone to ghost write his book for him. Trump makes the same mistakes as he was always wont to do but back then they were always covered and massaged for him by his staff! After all... he was the Prince!
The Oval Office is not quite the same as a business conference with his lawyers, assistants, bankers and etc. Thus we see Trump blurting out statements that his advisors pull him back from as soon as they get the chance . Being president means everything you say gets publicized and despite all his billions that was not the case for the Prince back when he was just a wheeler and dealer.
Trump runs without a script too often but who in his entourage will dare tell the Prince that when he speaks (without their permission first) he ends up sounding like an idiot! Trump may be feeling constrained by his need to be less reckless and impulsive.
Trump unfiltered? Yeah well maybe he really is an idiot too!
Trumps just wanna have fun!Lrx May '17 1
Olhippy I think you need to go back and review the history of Democratic primaries. Until 1972 the candidates were largely chosen in smoke-filled back rooms. George McGovern was instrumental in largely turning the Democratic primaries over to the voters. And that is how he got the nomination. Unfortunately he only won a single state but he was the people's choice to run. I wouldn't be concerned about the superdelegates. They always go along with the candidate who got the most pledged delegates. It is unlikely they would ever do otherwise. Unless the people chose a candidate who was really off the charts like Trump. Without superdelegates the Republicans were unable to stop Trump once the RNC backed him. Given what happened to the Republicans a case can be made for the superdelegates. Parties can choose their candidates any way they want. They don't have to let the people vote. Both parties now do and for the first time that turned into a complete disaster. Godless May '17
The Comey firing also distracted from the Kushner family peddling visas for real estate deals in China; the Pence-Koback Commission to make voter cross-checking a federal law; and Sessions reinvigorating the war on drugs and legal marijuana to strike more minority voters from the rolls. El Presidente Naranja Mentiroso only cares about playing to his base and his base loves watching Democratic heads explode. As long as his base is happy, and they are happy with his performance, the Reptilians in Congress will be afraid to move against him. I thoroughly believe that the voter suppression moves will win the Reptilians the elections in 2018 and 2020. With their control of gerrymandering for another decade and the paid-to-lose Democrats only concerned about donor money, the Reptilians have clear sailing to gain 38 governorships and the ability to rewrite the constitution in their twisted image.skiendhiu May '17
WerefleaI agree with you on your points of Trump having smart lawyers, assistants,bankers etc. around him doing the "smart" work, I am sure he allso used other tactics, of itimidation of one kind or another , taking it to the courts, threats of financial ruin, he allso wasnt kidding when he said he "knew' the system and how it worked, ..or rather how to work it, but he didnt do that singlehanded either, and i am sure there are more than one or two politicians at different levels from municipalitys on up, in his pocket and or good graces.
But to think him not an idiot is getting to be a bit of a stretch, does he really believe that he actually came up with the phrase "prime the pump"? I knew he was an idiot years before he made fun of the disabled reporter, but that single act confirmed it for me.
Yeah "prime the pump" what is he going to lay claim to next? "four score and seven years ago" " E=mc2" or how about.."and Trump said...let there be light"... I 'll tell you who else the idiots are...and that is any one taking this guy seriouslly any longer at least in a presidentiall sense,... that is just ...idiotic in the extreme.formerly May '17
What If He's Not an Idiot?Michael_Wilk May '17
Anyways, most of the American people are idiots .... the dark state and the 0.1% mostly aren't idiots -- just psychopaths.
I think it's more likely that the Democrats are even more moronic than is Drumpf, which is why, as usual, they are serving only to strengthen the GOPhers while pretending they're defenders of the public. Why do you think that hundred or so Democrats are signed onto John Conyers' single-payer bill now that Drumpf is in the Oval office and the Republicans hold majorities in both houses of Congress, when they could have done so when Obama was the chief executive and their party controlled Congress including a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, but instead passed a bill that was modeled on the Heritage Foundation's plan? It's all so much political theater designed to distract the public from the last great plundering of the nation before it collapses in on itself.cassandra May '17
LrxThe Republicans used rule-changing, altho not superdelegates, to derail Ron Paul. There is never just one way to subvert truth. cassandra May '17
ontheresI'm with you. The whole Russian thing is ridiculous. And they've never been accused of actually hacking voting machines, just the DNC emails which showed how slimy the DNC is. I have read that Georgia believed someone tried to hack their voting machines and they hired a private firm to investigate. What they found was hacking was attempted the the Dept of Homeland Security.
The simple fact that, after losing in 2000 by voting manipulation and probably via voting machines in 2004, the Dems took over the House in 2007 and 2 years later the Presidency and the Senate, they never, to my knowledge, introduced any legislation to require paper trails in federal elections. As far as I'm concerned that said all one needs to know about the Dems. It would have been a simple one page piece of legislation, Ok, maybe 2 pages.ToniWintroub May '17
WerefleaFactor in his mafia connections here and abroad. To roll around in that slime at the high level he's in requires cunning to kiss up to the really rich guys who can hurt him and whom, actually, he can hurt. Then he's learned how to survive while he manipulates. Idiot? Define the term.
Cunning. Sociopathic. Narcissistic needing his constant narcissistic supply (adorers). Blackmailer and probably blackmailed. I gotta get Barrett's biography of this POS.Wereflea May '17
ToniWintroubI wore out years ago but it just goes on and on! Lol
Actually at this point in time I am very much engaged in this garbage since Trump is stunningly entertaining as a rightwing boob out of his element and unraveling as we speak. Trump's adventures in incompetency fascinate me. It is just week after week in a steady progression of mistakes, attempted corrections, attempts at re-correcting those corrections that make them even worse and so forth. It would make for an interesting TV show (sort of like the 'apprentice got himself fired') except that this gross and often crude person can trigger a nuclear war on a whim which puts a damper on the pleasures of watching him deconstruct in front of our eyes.
Nevertheless, it is without doubt the most unexpected presidency of my life. Watergate was a comeuppance but Trump is bizzaro world in action.
Btw... Trump inherited great wealth. He learned one big lesson in life early on. Hire competent people and they will save your ass when you make a blunder. Trump's one skill is as a promoter of Trump. He was never a big brain and up until recently, he never pretended to be.
He is rich and loves being the center of attention. However his being rich is often at the expense of others. You assume that because Trump has long had shady connections that he must be an intellect to survive the association. Not really. Trump makes sure that he is profitable for them and they have no problem with that. It isn't genius on his part. It is always having his projects go way over budget. He guarantees them the cream and they 'have an arrangement'.
Prior to becoming president, Trump's associates, advisors, lawyers and accountants kept Trump making money and that made them money.
Trump is truly like the medieval Prince who lives in a sumptuous palace but who needs his Grand Vizier to actually run things in the country. Keep your eye on Kushner who has become the architect of oligarchy by being the real deal maker (he has the intellect) that Trump only promotes (he has the ego and the big mouth)!
Feb 02, 2018 | oilprice.comtoo much hype surrounding U.S. shale from the Saudi oil minister last week, a new report finds that shale drilling is still largely not profitable. Not only that, but costs are on the rise and drillers are pursuing "irrational production."
Riyadh-based Al Rajhi Capital dug into the financials of a long list of U.S. shale companies, and found that "despite rising prices most firms under our study are still in losses with no signs of improvement." The average return on asset for U.S. shale companies "is still a measly 0.8 percent," the financial services company wrote in its report.
Moreover, the widely-publicized efficiency gains could be overstated, at least according to Al Rajhi Capital. The firm said that in the third quarter of 2017, the "average operating cost per barrel has broadly remained the same without any efficiency gains." Not only that, but the cost of producing a barrel of oil, after factoring in the cost of spending and higher debt levels, has actually been rising quite a bit.
Shale companies often tout their rock-bottom breakeven prices, and they often use a narrowly defined metric that only includes the cost of drilling and production, leaving out all other costs. But because there are a lot of other expenses, only focusing on operating costs can be a bit misleading.
The Al Rajhi Capital report concludes that operating costs have indeed edged down over the past several years. However, a broader measure of the "cash required per barrel," which includes other costs such as depreciation, interest expense, tax expense, and spending on drilling and exploration, reveals a more damning picture. Al Rajhi finds that this "cash required per barrel" metric has been rising for several consecutive quarters, hitting an average $64 per barrel in the third quarter of 2017. That was a period of time in which WTI traded much lower, which essentially means that the average shale player was not profitable. Not everyone is posting poor figures. Diamondback Energy and Continental Resources had breakeven prices at about $52 and $37 per barrel in the third quarter, respectively, according to the Al Rajhi report. Parsley Energy, on the other hand, saw its "cash required per barrel" price rise to nearly $100 per barrel in the third quarter.
A long list of shale companies have promised a more cautious approach this year, with an emphasis on profits. It remains to be seen if that will happen, especially given the recent run up in prices. But Al Rajhi questions whether spending cuts will even result in a better financial position. "Even when capex declines, we are unlikely to see any sustained drop in cash flow required per barrel due to the nature of shale production and rising interest expenses," the Al Rajhi report concluded. In other words, cutting spending only leads to lower production, and the resulting decline in revenues will offset the benefit of lower spending. All the while, interest payments need to be made, which could be on the rise if debt levels are climbing.
One factor that has worked against some shale drillers is that the advantage of hedging future production has all but disappeared. In FY15 and FY16, the companies surveyed realized revenue gains on the order of $15 and $9 per barrel, respectively, by locking in future production at higher prices than what ended up prevailing in the market. But, that advantage has vanished. In the third quarter of 2017, the same companies only earned an extra $1 per barrel on average by hedging. Part of the reason for that is rising oil prices, as well as a flattening of the futures curve. Indeed, recently WTI and Brent have showed a strong trend toward backwardation -- in which longer-dated prices trade lower than near-term. That makes it much less attractive to lock in future production.
Al Rajhi Capital notes that more recently, shale companies ended up locking in hedges at prices that could end up being quite a bit lower than the market price, which could limit their upside exposure should prices continue to rise.
In short, the report needs to be offered as a retort against aggressive forecasts for shale production growth. Drilling is clearly on the rise and U.S. oil production is expected to increase for the foreseeable future. But the lack of profitability remains a significant problem for the shale industry.
Feb 02, 2018 | www.truth-out.org
The United States is one of the most depressed countries in the world. Could it be because of the country's adoption of neoliberal economic policies? We speak to Johann Hari, author of a controversial new book, "Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression -- and the Unexpected Solutions." He writes, "Junk food has taken over our diets, and it is making millions of people physically sick. A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that something similar is happening with our minds -- that they have become dominated by junk values, and this is making us mentally sick, triggering soaring rates of depression and anxiety."
TRANSCRIPTNERMEEN SHAIKH : We turn now to mental illness and its treatment in the United States. According to the National Institutes of Health, the disease is widely prevalent: Almost 20 percent of adult Americans suffer from mental illness every year. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the US, affecting 40 million adults in the US, or 18 percent of the population, every year. About 7 percent of adult Americans suffer from major depression. According to the World Health Organization, the US is one of the most depressed countries in the world, and, globally, depression is the leading cause of ill health and disability. Depression is also the major contributor to suicides worldwide, which number close to 800,000 a year. The National Alliance on Mental Illness finds that more than half of Americans don't receive treatment for mental illness.
AMY GOODMAN : Well, we now turn to a new book that argues that people who do receive treatment for depression and anxiety are not being treated adequately. Author Johann Hari says too much emphasis is placed on brain chemistry, to the exclusion of equally and often more important environmental causes. He points specifically to what he calls, quote, "junk values," writing, quote, "Junk food has taken over our diets, and it is making millions of people physically sick. A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that something similar is happening with our minds -- that they have become dominated by junk values, and this is making us mentally sick, triggering soaring rates of depression and anxiety."
Johann Hari has experienced mental illness himself, found he was still depressed after having been on antidepressants for well over a decade, starting when he was a teenager. In his research, Johann Hari found his experience was far from unique and that a staggering 65 to 80 percent of people on antidepressants continue to be depressed.
Well, Johann Hari joins us now from Washington, D.C. He is a writer and a journalist. His book on depression is called Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression -- and the Unexpected Solutions . His previous book, Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs .
Johann, welcome back to Democracy Now! Let's start with the title, because I think that very much conveys what your underlying thesis is: Lost Connections .
JOHANN HARI : Yeah. So, everyone watching this knows that they have natural physical needs, right? You need food, you need water, you need clean air, you need warmth. If I took those away from you, things would go real wrong real fast.
One of the things I learned on the big journey I did for this book, over 40,000 miles, interviewing the best experts in the world on what causes depression and anxiety and what solves them, is there's equally strong evidence that we have natural psychological needs. You've got to feel you belong. You've got to feel your life has meaning and purpose. You've got to feel that people see you and value you. You've got to feel you've got a future that makes sense. And our culture is good at lots of things, but we've been getting less and less good at meeting people's deep, underlying psychological needs. And that's one of the key reasons why we have this exploding depression and anxiety crisis.
So, that can sound a bit weird in the abstract, so I'll give you a specific example. I noticed that lots of the people I know who are depressed and anxious, their depression and anxiety focuses around their work. So I started to look at the evidence. How do people feel about their work in our culture? Turns out Gallup did the best research on this. Thirteen percent of us like our work most of the time. Sixty-three percent of us are what they called "sleepworking" -- you don't like it, you don't hate it. Twenty-four percent of people hate their work. So you think about that. Eighty-seven percent of people don't like the thing they're doing most of their waking lives. I started to think, "Could that have some relationship to our mental health crisis?"
So, I discovered the incredible Australian social scientist called Professor Michael Marmot, who discovered the core, in the 1970s, of what makes you depressed at work. If you go to work and you feel you have low or no control, you are significantly more likely to become depressed, or even more likely to have a heart attack. That's because human beings have a need to feel their life is meaningful. And if you're controlled, that disrupts your ability to create meaning. And I started to think, chemical -- so, I believe strongly that chemical antidepressants have a real role, they give some relief to some people. But I started to think, "What would be the antidepressant for that problem?" Right? Which is so prevalent in our culture. And I learned there is one.
In Baltimore, not far from where I am now, I went and met a woman called Meredith Keogh. Meredith used to go to bed every Sunday night just sick with anxiety about her work. And one day, with her husband Josh, she did this quite bold thing. Josh had worked in bike stores since he was a teenager, which is, you know, insecure, controlled work. And Josh and Meredith decided they were going to set up a bike store with their colleagues that ran on a different principle. It's a democratic cooperative. You might call it democracy now. The way it works is they don't have a boss. They take all the big decisions together. They share the profits, obviously. They share out the good tasks and the less good tasks, so no one gets stuck with the, you know, more depressing tasks. And one of the things that was so fascinating, spending time with them, and in other democratic cooperatives, is how many of them talked about how depressed and anxious they'd been in their previous workplace, but they weren't now, which is completely in line with Professor Marmot's findings.
And as Josh put it to me, there's no reason why any workplace should operate like this. We have a society that is putting in place all sorts of structures that are causing depression and anxiety, yet we tell people this -- so, your depression and anxiety, if you're watching this -- I learned about these nine causes of depression and anxiety for which there is scientific evidence. Two are biological, and the rest are in the way we live. If you're depressed, if you're anxious, you're not crazy. You're not a machine with broken parts. You're a human being with unmet needs. And there are ways we can change our society so that those needs are met and you won't be in such pain.
NERMEEN SHAIKH : Well, Johann Hari, I want to ask you about some of the criticism your book has received. In a Guardian piece headlined "As a psychiatrist, I know that Johann Hari is wrong to cast doubt on antidepressants," Carmine Pariante writes, quote, "[J]ust as knowing that you have broken your legs in a car crash does not miraculously heal your broken bones, knowing the 'rational reason' for being depressed does not make depression any less real, or the sufferer any less in need of support and treatment." She [ sic ] disputes the argument in your book that depression and anxiety are treated only as a chemical problem by the psychiatric community.
She goes on to say, quote, that your "suggesting that prescribing antidepressants to a patient who suffers from clinical depression is the equivalent of treating them as a 'machine with malfunctioning parts' is wrong, unhelpful and even dangerous."
JOHANN HARI : Yeah, the --
NERMEEN SHAIKH : "Antidepressants are no cure-all, but demonising them plays into stigma meaning that, tragically, more people will be held back from receiving help for a debilitating condition."
JOHANN HARI : Yeah, the individual you're quoting -- yeah.
NERMEEN SHAIKH : So, Johann Hari, can you respond to that, and specifically --
JOHANN HARI : Yeah.
NERMEEN SHAIKH : -- the claim that she makes that your book demonizes an illness that's already demonized and stigmatized, and that people already hesitate to go on antidepressants precisely because of this stigma?
JOHANN HARI : Yeah. The individual you mentioned admits they've not read the book. In the book, I'm very clear: I want to expand the menu of options for people with depression and anxious people; I don't want to take anything off the menu. Some of the people I most love, some of my closest relatives take chemical antidepressants. I've never urged them to stop. Chemical antidepressants do give some relief to some people, which is really valuable. They don't solve the problem. This isn't just my position, this is the position of the World Health Organization. World Health Organization explains, mental health is produced socially. It is a social indicator. It needs social as well as individual solutions. So we need to be able to have a serious conversation about these causes that doesn't just descend into kind of ridiculous straw men. Of course I'm not against chemical antidepressants. I took them for 13 years. Some of the people I most love take them. But we have to be able to talk about the wider context that's happening and how we deal with that.
One thing that helped me really change how I think about this is when I went to interview a professor called Derek Summerfield, amazing South African psychiatrist. And he explained to me -- he was in Cambodia when they first introduced chemical antidepressants, right? And the doctors there didn't know what they were. So he explained. And they said, "Oh, we don't need them. We've already got antidepressants." And he said, "What do you mean?" They explained. They talked about a farmer in their community who worked in the rice fields, who one day got blown up by a land mine. They gave him an artificial limb. He went back to work in the fields. And he started just to become very depressed. Apparently it's very painful to work underwater with an artificial limb. He -- I imagine it's pretty traumatic -- starts just crying all day, didn't want to get out of bed. They said, "We gave him an antidepressant." Derek said, "What did you do?" They said, "We went. We sat with him. We listened to his problems. We realized that his pain made sense. We figured if we bought him a cow, he could become a dairy farmer, he wouldn't be so depressed." They bought him a cow. Within a few weeks, his crying stopped. Now, what those Cambodian doctors knew intuitively is what the World Health Organization has been trying to tell us for years, that our depression makes sense. Far from stigmatizing depressed people, I think this destigmatizes them.
There's actually a really interesting experiment I go through in Lost Connections that demonstrates this really powerfully. Because what we've done up to now is we've told people an exclusively biological story about their distress. That's what my doctor told me. Now, there are real biological factors to depression, but most of the causes are in the way we live. And I think that's much more powerfully destigmatizing. It says it's not you. You're actually surrounded by loads of people who feel this way. You feel this way for perfectly understandable reasons. And, of course, Dr. Pariante, who, to be fair to him -- it's a man, not woman -- said he agrees with me on these social causes and that we need to deal with these deeper social causes. I think part of the problem is we've been in this funk of pessimism where we think we can't change anything. There are loads of experiments that have demonstrated that we can powerfully change them.
I'll give you one example. In Canada, in the 1970s -- something that's been covered by Democracy Now! really well -- in Canada, in the 1970s, they did an experiment. They chose a town, at random, called Dauphin -- it's near Manitoba -- and they gave a huge number of people in this town a guaranteed basic income. It was the equivalent of $15,000 a year. They said to them, "We're just going to give you this money in monthly installments. There's nothing you have to do in return for it, and there's nothing you can do that means we'll take it away." And they followed what happened over the next three years. The most powerful thing for me is, there was a massive fall in depression and anxiety. Depression and anxiety that was so severe people had to be hospitalized fell by 9 percent.
Now, that tells us something. It tells us the financial insecurity of neoliberalism, that guys document so brilliantly, is causing a lot of that depression and anxiety. Firstly, it's very empowering to people to tell them, "Your depression is caused by these factors in the way we're living. It's not that just your brain is broken." There are factors in your brain going on, of course. We are biological beings. But that's not the primary driver here. And there are solutions that we can band together and fight for. That's much more destigmatizing and empowering, and it's not a kind of straw man about saying the drugs are bad. Of course they're not.
AMY GOODMAN : Johann, earlier this month, British Prime Minister Theresa May appointed a minister for loneliness, following a year-long investigation which found 14 percent of the population in the UK often or always feels lonely. Can you talk about the connection between loneliness and depression? And you have 20 seconds.
JOHANN HARI : Yeah, we are the loneliest society there's ever been. Professor John Cacioppo, with Chicago University, has shown that. There are doctors that have started prescribing lonely people to take part in voluntary gardening groups. That is twice as effective as chemical antidepressants in reducing depression. We've got to look at the wider solutions. The book goes through the nine causes of depression and anxiety for which there is scientific evidence, and seven different kinds of antidepressant that we should be utilizing, alongside chemical antidepressants.
AMY GOODMAN : We're going to do Part 2 of this discussion. We'll post it online at democracynow.org. Johann Hari's new book is out. It is called Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression -- and the Unexpected Solutions .
That does it for our broadcast. Democracy Now! is hiring a full-time news fellow . Submit your application by February 5th to democracynow.org. This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source. Nermeen Shaikh Nermeen Shaikh is a broadcast news producer and weekly co-host at Democracy Now! in New York City. She worked in research and non-governmental organizations before joining Democracy Now! She has an M.Phil. from Cambridge University and is the author of The Present as History: Critical Perspectives on Global Power (Columbia University Press). Amy Goodman Amy Goodman is the host and executive producer of Democracy Now!, a national, daily, independent, award-winning news program airing on more than 1,100 public television and radio stations worldwide. Time Magazine named Democracy Now! its "Pick of the Podcasts," along with NBC's "Meet the Press." Related Stories Neoliberalism Is Killing Us: Economic Stress as a Driver of Global Depression and Suicide By Noelle Sullivan, Truthout | Op-Ed Neoliberalism in the Driver's Seat: Trump and Ryan's Ruling-Class Schemes By C.J. Polychroniou, Truthout | Interview Neoliberal Investment Banker Macron Defeats Openly Xenophobic and Racist Le Pen in French Election By Juan González, Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! | Video Interview
Feb 02, 2018 | www.unz.com
Amid a roaring stock market and a planet of upbeat CEOs , few are even thinking about the havoc that a multi-trillion-dollar financial system gone rogue could inflict upon global stability. But watch out. Even in the seemingly best of times, neglecting Wall Street is a dangerous idea. With a rag-tag Trumpian crew of ex-bankers and Goldman Sachs alumni as the only watchdogs in town, it's time to focus, because one thing is clear: Donald Trump's economic team is in the process of making the financial system combustible again.
Collectively, the biggest U.S. banks already have their get-out-out-of-jail-free cards and are now sitting on record profits after, not so long ago, triggering sweeping unemployment, wrecking countless lives, and elevating global instability. (Not a single major bank CEO was given jail time for such acts.) Still, let's not blame the dangers lurking at the heart of the financial system solely on the Trump doctrine of leaving banks alone. They should be shared by the Democrats who, under President Barack Obama, believed, and still believe, in the perfection of the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 .
While Dodd-Frank created important financial safeguards like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, even stronger long-term banking reforms were left on the sidelines. Crucially, that law didn't force banks to separate the deposits of everyday Americans from Wall Street's complex derivatives transactions. In other words, it didn't resurrect the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 (axed in the Clinton era).
Wall Street is now thoroughly emboldened as the financial elite follows the mantra of Kelly Clarkston's hit song: "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." Since the crisis of 2007-2008, the Big Six U.S. banks -- JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley -- have seen the share price of their stocks significantly outpace those of the S&P 500 index as a whole.
Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, the nation's largest bank (that's paid $13 billion in settlements for various fraudulent acts), recently even pooh-poohed the chances of the Democratic Party in 2020, suggesting that it was about time its leaders let banks do whatever they wanted. As he told Maria Bartiromo, host of Fox Business's Wall Street Week , "The thing about the Democrats is they will not have a chance, in my opinion. They don't have a strong centrist, pro-business, pro-free enterprise person."
This is a man who was basically gifted two banks, Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual , by the U.S government during the financial crisis. That present came as his own company got cheap loans from the Federal Reserve, while clamoring for billions in bailout money that he swore it didn't need .
Dimon can afford to be brazen. JPMorgan Chase is now the second most profitable company in the country. Why should he be worried about what might happen in another crisis, given that the Trump administration is in charge? With pro-business and pro-bailout thinking reigning supreme, what could go wrong?
Protect or Destroy?
There are, of course, supposed to be safeguards against freewheeling types like Dimon. In Washington, key regulatory bodies are tasked with keeping too-big-to-fail banks from wrecking the economy and committing financial crimes against the public. They include the Federal Reserve, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Treasury Department, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (an independent bureau of the Treasury), and most recently, under the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (an independent agency funded by the Federal Reserve).
These entities are now run by men whose only desire is to give Wall Street more latitude. Former Goldman Sachs partner, now treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin caught the spirit of the moment with a selfie of his wife and him holding reams of newly printed money "like a couple of James Bond villains." (After all, he was a Hollywood producer and even appeared in the Warren Beatty flick Rules Don't Apply .) He's making his mark on us, however, not by producing economic security, but by cheerleading for financial deregulation.
Despite the fact that the Republican platform in election 2016 endorsed reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act, Mnuchin made it clear that he has no intention of letting that happen. In a signal to every too-big-not-to-fail financial outfit around, he also released AIG from its regulatory chains. That's the insurance company that was at the epicenter of the last financial crisis. By freeing AIG from being monitored by the Financial Services Oversight Board that he chairs, he's left it and others like it free to repeat the same mistakes.
Elsewhere, having successfully spun through the revolving door from banking to Washington, Joseph Otting, a former colleague of Mnuchin's, is now running the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). While he's no household name, he was the CEO of OneWest (formerly, the failed California-based bank IndyMac) . That's the bank Mnuchin and his billionaire posse picked up on the cheap in 2009 before carrying out a vast set of foreclosures on the homes of ordinary Americans (including active-duty servicemen and -women) and reselling it for hundreds of millions of dollars in personal profits .
At the Federal Reserve, Trump's selection for chairman, Jerome Powell (another Mnuchin pick ), has repeatedly expressed his disinterest in bank regulations. To him, too-big-to-fail banks are a thing of the past. And to round out this heady crew, there's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) head Mick Mulvaney now also at the helm of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), whose very existence he's mocked.
In time, we'll come to a reckoning with this era of Trumpian finance. Meanwhile, however, the agenda of these men (and they are all men) could lead to a financial crisis of the first order. So here's a little rundown on them: what drives them and how they are blindly taking the economy onto distinctly treacherous ground.
Joseph Otting , Office of the Comptroller of the Currency
The Office of the Comptroller is responsible for ensuring that banks operate in a secure and reasonable manner, provide equal access to their services, treat customers properly, and adhere to the laws of the land as well as federal regulations.
As for Joseph Otting, though the Senate confirmed him as the new head of the OCC in November, four key senators called him "highly unqualified for [the] job." He will run an agency whose history snakes back to the Civil War. Established by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 , it was meant to safeguard the solidity and viability of the banking system. Its leader remains charged with preventing bank-caused financial crashes, not enabling them.
Fast forward to the 1990s when Otting held a ranking position at Union Bank NA, overseeing its lending practices to medium-sized companies. From there he transitioned to U.S. Bancorp, where he was tasked with building its middle-market business (covering companies with $50 million to $1 billion in annual revenues) as part of that lender's expansion in California.
In 2010, Otting was hired as CEO of OneWest (now owned by CIT Group). During his time there with Mnuchin, OneWest foreclosed on about 36,000 people and was faced with sweeping allegations of abusive foreclosure practices for which it was fined $89 million . Otting received $10.5 million in an employment contract payout when terminated by CIT in 2015. As Senator Sherrod Brown tweeted all too accurately during his confirmation hearings in the Senate, "Joseph Otting is yet another bank exec who profited off the financial crisis who is being rewarded by the Trump Administration with a powerful job overseeing our nation's banking system."
Like Trump and Mnuchin, Otting has never held public office. He is, however, an enthusiastic proponent of loosening lending regulations . Not only is he against reinstating Glass-Steagall, but he also wants to weaken the "Volcker Rule," a part of the Dodd-Frank Act that was meant to place restrictions on various kinds of speculative transactions by banks that might not benefit their customers.
Jay Clayton, the Securities and Exchange Commission
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) was established by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1934, in the wake of the crash of 1929 and in the midst of the Great Depression. Its intention was to protect investors by certifying that the securities business operated in a fair, transparent, and legal manner. Admittedly, its first head, Joseph Kennedy (President John F. Kennedy's father), wasn't exactly a beacon of virtue. He had helped raise contributions for Roosevelt's election campaign even while under suspicion for alleged bootlegging and other illicit activities.
Since May 2017, the SEC has been run by Jay Clayton, a top Wall Street lawyer . Following law school, he eventually made partner at the elite legal firm Sullivan & Cromwell. After the 2008 financial crisis, Clayton was deeply involved in dealing with the companies that tanked as that crisis began. He advised Barclays during its acquisition of Lehman Brothers' assets and then represented Bear Stearns when JPMorgan Chase acquired it.
In the three years before he became head of the SEC, Clayton represented eight of the 10 largest Wall Street banks, institutions that were then regularly being investigated and charged with securities violations by the very agency Clayton now heads. He and his wife happen to hold assets valued at between $12 million and $47 million in some of those very institutions.
Not surprisingly in this administration (or any other recent one), Clayton also has solid Goldman Sachs ties. On at least seven occasions between 2007 and 2014, he advised Goldman directly or represented its corporate clients in their initial public offerings. Recently, Goldman Sachs requested that the SEC release it from having to report its lobbying activities or payments because, it claimed, they didn't make up a large enough percentage of its assets to be worth the bother. (Don't be surprised when the agency agrees.)
Clayton's main accomplishment so far has been to significantly reduce oversight activities. SEC penalties, for instance, fell by 15.5% to $3.5 billion during the first year of the Trump administration. The SEC also issued enforcement actions against only 62 public companies in 2017, a 33% decline from the previous year. Perhaps you won't then be surprised to learn that its enforcement division has an estimated 100 unfilled investigative and supervisory positions, while it has also trimmed its wish list for new regulatory provisions. As for Dodd-Frank, Clayton insists he won't " attack " it, but thinks it should be "looked" at.
Mick Mulvaney, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Office of Management and Budget
As a congressman from South Carolina, ultra-conservative Republican Mick Mulvaney, dubbed " Mick the Knife ," once even labeled himself a " right-wing nut job ." Chosen by President Trump in November 2016 to run the Office of Management and Budget, he was confirmed by Congress last February .
As he said during his confirmation hearings, "Each day, families across our nation make disciplined choices about how to spend their hard-earned money, and the federal government should exercise the same discretion that hard-working Americans do every day." As soon as he was at the OMB, he took an axe to social programs that help everyday Americans. He was instrumental in creating the GOP tax plan that will add up to $1.5 trillion to the country's debt in order to provide major tax breaks to corporations and wealthy individuals. He was also a key figure in selling the plan to the media.
When Richard Cordray resigned as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in November, Trump promptly selected Mick the Knife for that role, undercutting the deputy director Cordray had appointed to the post. After much debate and a court order in his favor, Mulvaney grabbed a box of Dunkin' Donuts and headed over from his OMB office adjacent to the White House. So even though he's got a new job, Mulvaney is never far from Trump's reach.
The problem for the rest of us: Mulvaney loathes the CFPB, an agency he once called "a joke." While he can't unilaterally demolish it, he's already obstructed its ability to enforce its government mandates. Soon after Trump appointed him, he imposed a 30-day freeze on hiring and similarly froze all further rule-making and regulatory actions.
In his latest effort to undermine American consumers, he's working to defund the CFPB. He just sent the Federal Reserve a letter stating that, "for the second quarter of fiscal year 2018, the Bureau is requesting $0." That doesn't bode well for American consumers.
Jerome "Jay" Powell, Federal Reserve
Thanks to the Senate confirmation of his selection for chairman of the board, Donald Trump now owns the Fed, too. The former number two man under Janet Yellen, Jerome Powell will be running the Fed, come Monday morning, February 5th.
Established in 1913 during President Woodrow Wilson's administration, the Fed's official mission is to "promote a safe, sound, competitive, and accessible banking system." In reality, it's acted more like that system's main drug dealer in recent years. In the wake of the 2007-2008 financial crisis, in addition to buying trillions of dollars in bonds (a strategy called "quantitative easing," or QE), the Fed supplied four of the biggest Wall Street banks with an injection of $7.8 trillion in secret loans. The move was meant to stimulate the economy, but really, it coddled the banks.
Powell's monetary policy undoubtedly won't represent a startling change from that of previous head Janet Yellen, or her predecessor, Ben Bernanke. History shows that Powell has repeatedly voted for pumping financial markets with Federal Reserve funds and, despite displaying reservations about the practice of quantitative easing, he always voted in favor of it, too. What makes his nomination out of the ordinary, though, is that he's a trained lawyer, not an economist.
Powell is assuming the helm at a time when deregulation is central to the White House's economic and financial strategy. Keep in mind that he will also have a role in choosing and guiding future Fed appointments. (At present, the Fed has the smallest number of sitting governors in its history .) The first such appointee, private equity investor Randal Quarles, already approved as the Fed's vice chairman for supervision, is another major deregulator .
Powell will be able to steer banking system decisions in other ways. In recent Senate testimony, he confirmed his deregulatory predisposition. In that vein, the Fed has already announced that it seeks to loosen the capital requirements big banks need to put behind their riskier assets and activities. This will, it claims, allow them to more freely make loans to Main Street, in case a decade of cheap money wasn't enough of an incentive.
The Emperor Has No Rules
Nearly every regulatory institution in Trumpville tasked with monitoring the financial system is now run by someone who once profited from bending or breaking its rules. Historically, severe financial crises tend to erupt after periods of lax oversight and loose banking regulations. By filling America's key institutions with representatives of just such negligence, Trump has effectively hired a team of financial arsonists.
Naturally, Wall Street views Trump's chosen ones with glee. Amid the present financial euphoria of the stock market, big bank stock prices have soared. But one thing is certain: when the next crisis comes, it will leave the last meltdown in the shade because our financial system is, at its core, unreformed and without adult supervision. Banks not only remain too big to fail but are still growing , while this government pushes policies guaranteed to put us all at risk again.
There's a pattern to this: first, there's a crash; then comes a period of remorse and talk of reform; and eventually comes the great forgetting. As time passes, markets rise, greed becomes good, and Wall Street begins to champion more deregulation. The government attracts deregulatory enthusiasts and then, of course, there's another crash, millions suffer, and remorse returns.
Ominously, we're now in the deregulation stage following the bull run. We know what comes next, just not when. Count on one thing: it won't be pretty.
Nomi Prins is a TomDispatch regular . Her new book, Collusion: How Central Bankers Rigged the World (Nation Books), will be published this May. Of her six other books, the most recent is All the Presidents' Bankers: The Hidden Alliances That Drive American Power . She is a former Wall Street executive. Special thanks go to researcher Craig Wilson for his superb work on this piece.
Jan 29, 2018 | angrybearblog.com
Via Bloomberg Obsession for the Perfect Worker Fading in Tight U.S. Job Market points to an issue in hiring that has been discussed here at AB:
This is a problem because, at 4.1 percent last month, U.S. unemployment is at the lowest level since 2000 and companies from Dallas to Denver are struggling to find the right workers. In some cases this is constraining growth, the Federal Reserve reported last week.
Corporate America's search for an exact match is "the number-one problem with hiring in our country," said Daniel Morgan, a recruiter in Birmingham, Alabama, who owns an Express Employment Professionals franchise. "Most companies get caught up on precise experience to a specific job," he said, adding: "Companies fail to see a person for their abilities and transferable skills."
U.S. employers got used to abundant and cheap labor following the 2007-2009 recession. Unemployment peaked at 10 percent in October 2009, and didn't return to the lows of the previous business cycle until last year. Firms still remain reluctant to boost pay or train employees with less-than-perfect credentials, though recruiters say that may have to change amid a jobless rate that's set to dip further.
Bill H , January 29, 2018 9:53 amJ.Goodwin , January 29, 2018 11:39 am
The way the article is cut off with the wage gains chart makes it seem that the article is on the Dean Baker theme of "pay higher wages and they will come," in which he argues that there is no shortage because you can hire workers away from your competitor, thereby merely moving the deficit from one place to another without eliminating it and unintentionally suggesting that there is actually is a shortage after all.
Immediately after that chart, however, the article segues into a pretty intelligent discussion of employers learning to ascertain "how can your experience be used in my application," making it unclear why the wage chart is even there.
The "lack of trained workers" complaint has long annoyed me, with its implication that it is the public sector's responsibility to train workers for the private sector. Why? If a company needs welders, why should that company not train its own welders?Mona Williams , January 29, 2018 1:09 pm
Last week we were reviewing a job description we were preparing for a role in Canada. It was basically a super senior description, they wanted everything, specific experience, higher education, what amounts to a black belt project management certification but also accounting and finance background.
At the bottom it says 5 years experience.
I almost fell off my chair. That's an indicator of the pay band they were trying to fill at (let's say 3, and the description was written like a 10-15 years 6).
I tried to explain it to the person who wrote it and I said hey if we put this out there, we will get no hits. There is no one with this experience who will take what you are offering. I'm afraid we're going to end up with another home country expat instead. They're often not up the same standard you could get with a local if you reasonably scoped the job and gave a fair offer.
I think companies have forgotten how to compete for employees, and the recruiters are completely out of touch. Or maybe they are aware of the conditions and HR just won't sign on to fair value.axt113 , January 29, 2018 1:26 pm
Before I retired 12 years ago, on-the-job training was much more common. Borders Books (remember them?) trained me for a week with pay for just a temporary Christmas-season job. Employers have gotten spoiled, and I hope they will figure this out. Some of the training programs I hear about just make me sigh. Nobody can afford to be trained while not being paid.rps , January 29, 2018 3:58 pm
My Wife works as a junior recruiter, the problem she says is with the employers, they want a particular set of traits, and if there is even a slight deviation they balk
She says that one recent employer she worked with wanted so many particulars for not enough pay that even well experienced and well educated candidates she could find were either unwilling to accept the offer, or were missing one or two traits that made them unacceptable to the company.
This is exciting news for many of us who've been waiting for the pendulum to swing in favor of potential employees after a decade of reading employers help wanted Santa wish list criteria for a minimum wage job of 40+ hours. I'd argue the unemployment rate is not 4.1%; rather, I know of many intelligent/educated/experienced versatile people who've been cut out of the job market and/or chose not to work for breadcrumbs.
HR's 6 second resume review rule of potential candidates was a massive failure by eliminating candidates whose skills, experience and critical thinking abilities could've cultivated innovation across many disciplines. Instead companies looked for drone replacement at slave wages. HR's narrow candidate searches often focused on resume typos or perceived grammatical errors (highly unlikely HR recruiters have an English Ph.D), thus trashing the resume. Perhaps, HR will be refitted with critical thinking people who see a candidate's potential beyond the forgotten comma or period.
Jan 27, 2018 | consortiumnews.com
Randy Credico: A lot of mainstream journalists complain when Trump refers to them as the enemy of the people, but they have shown themselves to be very unwilling to circle the wagons around Assange. What is the upshot for journalists of Assange being taken down?
John Pilger: Trump knows which nerves to touch. His campaign against the mainstream media may even help to get him re-elected, because most people don't trust the mainstream media anymore.
In my experience as a journalist, the public have always been ahead of the media. And yet, in many news outlets there has always been a kind of veiled contempt for the public. You find young journalists affecting a false cynicism that they think ordains them as journalists. The cynicism is not about the people at the top, it's about the people at the bottom, the people that Hillary Clinton dismissed as "irredeemable."
CNN and NBC and the rest of the networks have been the voices of power and have been the source of distorted news for such a long time. They are not circling the wagons because the wagons are on the wrong side. These people in the mainstream have been an extension of the power that has corrupted so much of our body politic. They have been the sources of so many myths.
This latest film about The Post neglects to mention that The Washington Post was a passionate supporter of the Vietnam War before it decided to have a moral crisis about whether to publish the Pentagon Papers. Today, The Washington Post has a $600 million deal with the CIA to supply them with information.
Media in the West is now an extension of imperial power. It is no longer a loose extension, it is a direct extension. Whether or not it has fallen out with Donald Trump is completely irrelevant. It is lined up with all the forces that want to get rid of Donald Trump. He is not the one they want in the White House, they wanted Hillary Clinton, who is safer and more reliable.
Dennis J Bernstein is a host of "Flashpoints" on the Pacifica radio network and the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom . You can access the audio archives at www.flashpoints.net .
Annie , January 24, 2018 at 3:29 pmAnnie , January 24, 2018 at 4:33 pm
I've always liked Mr. Pilger, and Mr. Parry, of course, and Hedges and so on However in this statement made by Mr. Pilger, "Trump knows which nerves to touch. His campaign against the mainstream media may even help to get him re-elected, because most people don't trust the mainstream media anymore." I would really disagree based on my own personal experiences. I have found that those who voted for Clinton are very quick to swallow what mainstream media has to say, and those that voted for Trump, at this moment, hold the media in contempt, however they also very willingly accept Trump's policies and his lies, like his climate change denial and his position on Iran. It's more about taking sides then it is in being interested in the truth.Joe Tedesky , January 24, 2018 at 6:28 pm
I would like to add, that In the US most of Americans are usually ignorant of politics and government. Many believe that their votes are unlikely to change the outcome of an election and don't see the point in learning much about the subject. So we have a country of people with little political knowledge and little ability to objectively evaluate what they do know.Annie , January 24, 2018 at 10:18 pm
You got that right Annie. In fact I know people who voted for Hillary, and they wake up every morning to turn on MSNBC or CNN only to hear what Trump tweeted, because they like getting pissed off at Trump, and get even more self induced angry when they don't hear his impeachment being shouted out on the screen.
I forgive a lot of these types who don't get into the news, because it just isn't their thing I guess, but I get even madder that we don't have a diversified media enough to give people the complete story. I mean a brilliant media loud enough, and objective enough, to reach the mass uncaring community. We have talked about this before, about the MSM's omission of the news, as to opposed just lying they do that too, as you know Annie, and it's a crime against a free press society. In fact, I not being a lawyer, would not be surprised that this defect in our news is not Constitutional.
Although, less and less people are watching the news, because they know it's phony, have you noticed how political our Late Night Talk Show Host have become? Hmmm boy, sometimes you have to give it to the Deep State because they sure know how to cover the market of dupes. To bad the CIA isn't selling solar panels, or something beneficial like that, which could help our ailing world.
We are living in a Matrix of left vs right, liberal vs conservative, all of us are on the divide, and that's the way it suppose to be. You know I don't mean that, but that's what the Deep State has done to us, for a lack of a better description of their evil unleashed upon the planet.
I like reading your thoughts, because you go kind of deep, and you come up with angles not thought of, well at least not by me so forgive me if I reply to often. JoeKiza , January 25, 2018 at 12:36 am
I know I keep referring to Facebook, but it really allows you to see how polarized people have become. Facebook posts political non issues, but nonetheless they will elicit comments that are downright hateful. Divide and conquer is something I often think when I view these comments. I rarely watch TV, but enough to see how TV Talk Show hosts have gotten into the act, and Trump supplies them with an endless source of material, not that their discussing core issues either.
I don't remember whether I mentioned this before in a recent article on this site, but when a cousin posts a response to a comment I made about our militarism and how many millions have died as a result that all countries do sneaky and underhanded things, I can only think people don't want to hear the truth either, and that's why most are so vulnerable to our propaganda, which is we are the exceptional nation that can do no wrong. Those who are affluent want to maintain the status quo, and those that live pay check to pay check are vulnerable to Trump's lies, and the lies of the Republican party whose interest lie with the top 1 percent.Annie , January 25, 2018 at 2:15 am
Talking about lies you mention only Trump and the Republicans Annie. Is this because the Democrats are such party of criminals that you consider them worth mentioning only in the crime chronic not in the context of lies?
About that "Climate Change" religion of yours: how much does it make sense that people around US are freezing but TPTB still want to tax fossil fuels, the only one thing which can keep people warm? Does that not look to your left-wing mind as taking from the poor to give to the Green & Connected ? Will a wind-turbine or a solar-panel keep you warm on a -50 degree day? I am yet to live to see one green-scheme which is not for the benefit of the Green & Connected, whilst this constant braying about global warming renamed into climate change is simply as annoying as the crimes of the Israelis hidden by the media (Did you see that photo of a 3-year old Palestinian child whose brain was splattered out by an Israeli sniper's bullet? She must have been throwing stones or slapping Israeli soldiers, right?).
I am not a US voter and I do not care either way which color gang is running your horrible country, because it always turns out the same. But the blatant criminality of your Demoncrats is only surpassed by their humanitarian sleaze – they always bomb, kill and rape for the good of humanity or for the greenery or for some other touchy-feelly bull like that, which the left-wing stupidos can swallow.Kiza , January 25, 2018 at 6:46 am
Oh, Kiza, are you one of those people that patrol the internet for people who dare mention climate change? I have no intentions of changing your mind on the subject, even though my background is in environmental science with a Masters degree in the subject. I am not a registered democrat, but an independent and didn't vote for Clinton, or Trump. I'm too much of a liberal. I'm very aware of the many faults of the democratic party, and you're right about them. They abandoned their working class base decades ago and they pretty much shun liberals within their own party, and pander to the top 10 percent in this country. Yes, both parties proclaim their allegiance to their voting base, but both parties are lying, since in my opinion their base is the corporate world and that world pretty much controls their agenda, and both parties have embraced the neocons that push for war.
P. S. However being fair, the Republican base is the top 1 percent in this country.Sam F , January 25, 2018 at 7:02 am
Hello again Annie, thank you for your response. I must admit that your mention of climate change triggered an unhappy reaction in me, otherwise I do think that our views are not far from each other. Thank you for not trying to change my mind on climate change because you would not have succeeded no matter what your qualifications are. My life experience simply says – always follow the money and when I do I see a climate mafia similar to the MIC mafia. I did think that the very cold weather that gripped US would reduce the climate propaganda, but nothing can keep the climate mafia down any more – the high ranked need to pay for their yachts and private jets and the low ranks have to pay of their house mortgages. But I will never understand why the US lefties are so dumb – to be so easily taken to imperial wars and so easily convinced to tax the 99% for the benefit of 1% yet again. Where do you think the nasty fossil fuel producers will find the money to pay for the taxes to be or already imposed? Will they sacrifice their profits or pay the green taxes from higher prices?
Other than this, I honestly cannot see any difference between the so called Democrats and the so called Republicans (you say that the Republicans are for the 1%). Both have been scrapping the bottom of the same barrel for their candidates, thus the elections are always a contest between two disasters.Joe Tedesky , January 25, 2018 at 9:09 am
Good that you both see the bipartisan corruption and can table background issues.Bob Van Noy , January 25, 2018 at 11:05 am
Yeah Sam I was impressed by their conversation as well. JoeRealist , January 25, 2018 at 1:04 pm
I agree, an excellent thread plus a civil disagreement. In my experience, only at CN. Thanks to all of you.Virginia , January 25, 2018 at 12:16 pm
I am with you, Annie, when you state that "They [the Democrats] abandoned their working class base decades ago and they pretty much shun liberals within their own party, and pander to the top 10 percent in this country." And yet they are so glibly characterised as "liberal" by nearly everyone in the media (and, of course, by the Republicans). Even the Nate Silver group, whom I used to think was objective is propagating the drivel that Democrats have become inexorably more liberal–and to the extreme–in their latest soireé analysing the two parties:
In reality, the Dems are only "liberal" in contrast to the hard right shift of the Republicans over the past 50-60 years. And what was "extreme" for both parties is being sold to the public as moderate and conventional by the corporate media. It's almost funny seeing so much public policy being knee-jerk condemned as "leftist" when the American left became extinct decades ago.Annie , January 25, 2018 at 2:54 pm
Annie, it's not just the Democrats who are bought and paid for.Virginia , January 25, 2018 at 3:04 pm
Virginia, I didn't say that only the democrats were bought and paid for, but said, " yes, both parties proclaim their allegiance to their voting base, but both parties are lying, since in my opinion their base is the corporate world and that world pretty much controls their agenda, and both parties have embraced the neocons that push for war." I also mentioned that the republicans pander to the top 1 percent in this country.
And my reply was meant to say,
It's not just the Democrats who pander to the 1% who have bought and paid for them!
NeoCons and NeoLiberals -- same thing!
Jan 23, 2018 | www.youtube.com
Michelle The Security Guard , 17 minutes ago (edited)mrmavaw70 , 1 hour ago
If the FBI keeps losing stuff they need to hire a security guard to keep it safe. Come on! Start charging these people with treason and this will stop!!
THERE ARE NO TEXTS MISSING!
DETECTIVES GET SEARCH WARRANTS FOR TEXT MESSAGES ALL THE TIME! WHY ARE THESE PEOPLE ANY DIFFERENT!
I wonder what their plan is when they really have to arrest someone? lol It ain't gonna happen. Theatric, scripted politics. It's like a bad reality show. Compare criminal politics to the sitcom Gilligan's Island. They never get rescued, and criminal politicians never see jail time.
Jan 21, 2018 | www.defenddemocracy.pressOriginally from: Germany's dystopian plans for Europe: from fantasy to reality?By Thomas Fazi 4 December 2017
For Germany, the idea of Europeanism has provided the country's elites with the perfect alibi to conceal their hegemonic project behind the ideological veil of 'European integration'
After Emmanuel Macron's election in France, many (including myself) claimed that this signalled a revival of the Franco-German alliance and a renewed impetus for Europe's process of top-down economic and political integration – a fact that was claimed by most commentators and politicians, beholden as they are to the Europeanist narrative, to be an unambiguously positive development.
Among the allegedly 'overdue' reforms that were said to be on the table was the creation of a pseudo-'fiscal union' backed by a (meagre) 'euro budget', along with the creation of a 'European finance minister', the centre-points of Macron's plans to 're-found the EU' – a proposal that raises a number of very worrying issues from both political and economic standpoints, which I have discussed at length elsewhere .
The integrationists' (unwarranted) optimism, however, was short-lived. The result of the German elections, which saw the surge of two rabidly anti-integrationist parties, the right-wing FDP and extreme right AfD; the recent collapse of coalition talks between Merkel's CDU, the FDP and the Greens, which most likely means an interim government for weeks if not months, possibly leading to new elections (which polls show would bring roughly the same result as the September election); and the growing restlessness in Germany towards the 13-year-long rule of Macron's partner in reform Angela Merkel, means that any plans that Merkel and Macron may have sketched out behind the scenes to further integrate policies at the European level are now, almost certainly, dead in the water. Thus, even the sorry excuse for a fiscal union proposed by Macron is now off the table, according to most commentators.
At this point, the German government's most likely course in terms of European policy – the one that has the best chance of garnering cross-party support, regardless of the outcome of the coalition talks (or of new elections) – is the 'minimalist' approach set in stone by the country's infamous and now-former finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, in a 'non-paper' published shortly before his resignation.
The main pillar of Schäuble's proposal – a long-time obsession of his – consists in giving the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), which would go on to become a 'European Monetary Fund', the power to monitor (and, ideally, enforce) compliance with the Fiscal Compact. This echoes Schäuble's previous calls for the creation of a European budget commissioner with the power to reject national budgets – a supranational fiscal enforcer.
The aim is all too clear: to further erode what little sovereignty and autonomy member states have left, particularly in the area of fiscal policy, and to facilitate the imposition of neoliberal 'structural reforms' – flexibilisation of labour markets, reduction of collective bargaining rights, etc. – on reluctant countries.
To this end, the German authorities even want to make the receipt of EU cohesion funds conditional on the implementation of such reforms , tightening the existing arrangements even further. Moreover, as noted by Simon Wren-Lewis , the political conflict of interest of having an institution lending within the eurozone would end up imposing severe austerity bias on the recovering country.
Until recently, these proposals failed to materialise due, among other reasons, to France's opposition to any further overt reductions of national sovereignty in the area of budgetary policy; Macron, however, staunchly rejects France's traditional souverainiste stance, embracing instead what he calls 'European sovereignty', and thus represents the perfect ally for Germany's plans.
Another proposal that goes in the same direction is the German Council for Economic Experts' plan to curtail banks' sovereign bond holdings. Ostensibly aimed at 'severing the link between banks and government' and 'ensuring long-term debt sustainability', it calls for: (i) removing the exemption from risk-weighting for sovereign exposures, which essentially means that government bonds would no longer be considered a risk-free asset for banks (as they are now under Basel rules), but would be 'weighted' according to the 'sovereign default risk' of the country in question (as determined by credit rating agencies); (ii) putting a cap on the overall risk-weighted sovereign exposure of banks; and (iii) introducing an automatic 'sovereign insolvency mechanism' that would essentially extend to sovereigns the bail-in rule introduced for banks by the banking union, meaning that if a country requires financial assistance from the ESM, for whichever reason, it will have to lengthen its sovereign bond maturities (reducing the market value of those bonds and causing severe losses for all bondholders) and, if necessary, impose a nominal 'haircut' on private creditors.
As noted by the German economist Peter Bofinger , the only member of the German Council of Economic Experts to vote against the sovereign bail-in plan, this would almost certainly ignite a 2012-style self-fulfilling sovereign debt crisis, as periphery countries' bond yields would quickly rise to unsustainable levels, making it increasingly hard for governments to roll over maturing debt at reasonable prices and eventually forcing them to turn to the ESM for help, which would entail even heavier losses for their banks and an even heavier dose of austerity.
It would essentially amount to a return to the pre-2012 status quo, with governments once again subject to the supposed 'discipline' of the markets, particularly in the context of a likely tapering of the ECB's quantitative easing (QE) program. The aim of this proposal is the same as that of Schäuble's 'European Monetary Fund': to force member states to implement permanent austerity.Read also: Lack of Credible Leftist Alternatives is fueling national movements. Catalonia wants independence from the small Madrid Empire, but inside Brussels Great Empire
Of course, national sovereignty in a number of areas – most notably fiscal policy – has already been severely eroded by the complex system of new laws, rules and agreements introduced in recent years, including but not limited to the six-pack, two-pack, Fiscal Compact, European Semester and Macroeconomic Imbalances Procedure (MIP).
As a result of this new post-Maastricht system of European economic governance, the European Union has effectively become a sovereign power with the authority to impose budgetary rules and structural reforms on member states outside democratic procedures and without democratic control.
The EU's embedded quasi-constitutionalism and inherent (structural) democratic deficit has thus evolved into an even more anti-democratic form of 'authoritarian constitutionalism' that is breaking away with elements of formal democracy as well, leading some observers to suggest that the EU 'may easily become the postdemocratic prototype and even a pre-dictatorial governance structure against national sovereignty and democracies'.
To give an example, with the launch of the European Semester, the EU's key tool for economic policy guidance and surveillance, an area that has historically been a bastion of national sovereignty – old-age pensions – has now fallen under the purview of supranational monitoring as well. Countries are now expected to (and face sanctions if they don't): (i) increase the retirement age and link it with life expectancy; (ii) reduce early retirement schemes, improve the employability of older workers and promote lifelong learning; (iii) support complementary private savings to enhance retirement incomes; and (iv) avoid adopting pension-related measures that undermine the long term sustainability and adequacy of public finances.
This has led to the introduction in various countries of several types of automatic stabilizing mechanisms (ASMs) in pension systems, which change the policy default so that benefits or contributions adjust automatically to adverse demographic and economic conditions without direct intervention by politicians. Similar 'automatic correction mechanisms' in relation to fiscal policy can be found in the Fiscal Compact.
The aim of all these 'automatic mechanisms' is clearly to put the economy on 'autopilot', thus removing any element of democratic discussion and/or decision-making at either the European or national level. These changes have already transformed European states into 'semi-sovereign' entities, at best. In this sense, the proposals currently under discussion would mark the definitive transformation of European states from semi-sovereign to de facto (and increasingly de jure ) non-sovereign entities.
Regardless of the lip service paid by national and European officials to the need for further reductions of national sovereignty to go hand in hand with a greater 'democratisation' of the euro area, the reforms currently on the table can, in fact, be considered the final stage in the thirty-year-long war on democracy and national sovereignty waged by the European elites, aimed at constraining the ability of popular-democratic powers to influence economic policy, thus enabling the imposition of neoliberal policies that would not have otherwise been politically feasible.
In this sense, the European economic and monetary integration process should be viewed, to a large degree, as a class-based and inherently neoliberal project pursued by all national capitals as well as transnational (financial) capital. However, to grasp the processes of restructuring under way in Europe, we need to go beyond the simplistic capital/labour dichotomy that underlies many critical analyses of the EU and eurozone, which view EU/EMU policies as the expression of a unitary and coherent transnational (post-national) European capitalist class.
The process underway can only be understood through the lens of the geopolitical-economic tensions and conflicts between leading capitalist states and regional blocs, and the conflicting interests between the different financial/industrial capital fractions located in those states, which have always characterised the European economy. In particular, it means looking at Germany's historic struggle for economic hegemony over the European continent.
It is no secret that Germany is today the leading economic and political power in Europe, just as it is no secret that nothing gets done in Europe without Germany's seal of approval. In fact, it is commonplace to come across references to Germany's 'new empire'. A controversial Der Spiegel editorial from a few years back event went as far as arguing that it is not out place to talk of the rise of a 'Fourth Reich':
"That may sound absurd given that today's Germany is a successful democracy without a trace of national-socialism – and that no one would actually associate Merkel with Nazism. But further reflection on the word 'Reich', or empire, may not be entirely out of place. The term refers to a dominion, with a central power exerting control over many different peoples. According to this definition, would it be wrong to speak of a German Reich in the economic realm?"
More recently, an article in Politico Europe – co-owned by the German media magnate Axel Springer AG – candidly explained why 'Greece is de facto a German colony'. It noted how, despite Tsipras' pleas for debt relief, the Greek leader 'has little choice but to heed the wishes of his "colonial" masters', i.e., the Germans.
This is because public debt in the eurozone is used as a political tool – a disciplining tool – to get governments to implement socially harmful policies (and to get citizens to accept these policies by portraying them as inevitable), which explains why Germany continues to refuse to seriously consider any form of debt relief for Greece, despite the various commitments and promises to that end made in recent years: debt is the chain that keeps Greece (and other member states) from straying 'off course'.Read also: Boris Johnson: Why not a preemptive strike on Korea?
Even though the power exercised by Europe's 'colonial masters' is now openly acknowledged by the mainstream press, it is however commonplace to ascribe Germany's dominant position as an accident of history: according to this narrative, we are in the presence of an 'accidental empire', one that is not the result of a general plan but that emerged almost by chance – even against Germany's wishes – as a result of the euro's design faults, which have allowed Germany and its satellites to pursue a neo-mercantilist strategy and thus accumulate huge current account surpluses.
Now, it is certainly true that the euro's design – strongly influenced by Germany – inevitably benefits export-led economies such as Germany over more internal demand-oriented economies, such as those of southern Europe. However, there is ample evidence to support the argument that Germany, far from having accidently stumbled upon European dominance, has been actively and consciously pursuing an expansionary and imperialist strategy in – and through – the European Union for decades.
Even if we limit our analysis to Germany's post-crisis policies (though there is much that could be said about Germany's post-reunification policies and subsequent offshoring of production to Eastern Europe in the 1990s), it would be very naïve to view Germany's inflexibility – on austerity, for example – as a simple case of ideological stubbornness, considering the extent to which the policies in question have benefited Germany (and to a lesser extent France).
Germany (and France) have been the main beneficiaries of the sovereign bailouts of periphery countries , which essentially amounted to a covert bailout of German (and French) banks, as most of the funds were channelled back to the creditor countries' banks, which were heavily exposed to the banks (and to a lesser degree the governments) of periphery countries. German policy, Helen Thompson wrote , overwhelmingly 'served the interests of the German banks'.
This is a telling example of how Germany's policies (and the EU's policies more in general), while nominally ordoliberal – i.e., based upon minimal government intervention and a strict rules-based regime – are in reality based on extensive state intervention on behalf of German capital, at both the domestic and European level.
As Andy Storey notes, not only did the German government, throughout the crisis, show a blatant disregard for ordoliberalism's non-interference of public institutions in the workings of the market, by engaging in a massive Keynesian-style programme in the aftermath of the financial crisis and pushing through bailout programmes that largely absolved German banks from their responsibility for reckless lending to Greece and other countries; German authorities have also been more than happy to go along with – or to encourage – the European institutions' 'exercise of unrestrained executive power and the more or less complete abandonment of strict, rules-based frameworks' – Storey is here referring in particular to the ECB's use of its currency-issuing monopoly to force member states to follows its precepts – 'to maintain the profitability of German banks, German hegemony within the Eurozone, or even the survival of the Eurozone itself'.
Germany (and France) are also the main beneficiaries of the ongoing process of 'mezzogiornification' of periphery countries – often compounded by troika -forced privatisations –, which in recent years has allowed German and French firms to take over a huge number of businesses (or stakes therewithin) in periphery countries, often at bargain prices. A well-publicised case is that of the 14 Greek regional airports taken over by the German airport operator Fraport.
France's corporate offensive in Italy is another good example: in the last five years, French companies have engaged in 177 Italian takeovers, for a total value of $41.8 billion, six times Italy's purchases in France over the same period. This is leading to an increased 'centralisation' of European capital, characterised by a gradual concentration of capital and production in Germany and other core countries – in the logistical and distribution sectors, for example – and more in general to an increasingly imbalanced relationship between the stronger and weaker countries of the union.
These transformations cannot simply be described as processes without a subject: while there are undoubtedly structural reasons involved – countries with better developed economies of scale, such as Germany and France, were bound to benefit more than others from the reduction in tariffs and barriers associated with the introduction of the single currency – we also have to acknowledge that there are loci of economic-politic power that are actively driving and shaping these imperialist processes, which must be viewed through the lens of the unresolved inter-capitalist struggle between core-based and periphery-based capital.
From this perspective, the dichotomy that is often raised in European public discourse between nationalism and Europeanism is deeply flawed. The two, in fact, often go hand in hand. In Germany's case, for example, Europeanism has provided the country's elites with the perfect alibi to conceal their hegemonic project behind the ideological veil of 'European integration'. Ironically, the European Union – allegedly created as an antidote to the vicious nationalisms of the twentieth century – has been the tool through which Germany has been able to achieve the 'new European order' that Nazi ideologues had theorised in the 1930s and early 1940s.
In short, the European Union should indeed be viewed a transnational capitalist project, but one that is subordinated to a clear state-centred hierarchy of power, with Germany in the dominant position. In this sense, the national elites in periphery countries that have supported Germany's hegemonic project (and continue to do so, first and foremost through their support to European integration) can thus be likened to the comprador bourgeoisie of the old colonial system – sections of a country's elite and middle class allied with foreign interests in exchange for a subordinated role within the dominant hierarchy of power.
From this point of view, the likely revival of the Franco-German bloc is a very worrying development, since it heralds a consolidation of the German-led European imperialist bloc – and a further 'Germanification' of the continent. This development cannot be understood independently of the momentous shifts that are taking place in global political economy – namely the organic crisis of neoliberal globalisation, which is leading to increased tensions between the various fractions of international capital, most notably between the US and Germany.
Trump's repeated criticisms of Germany's beggar-thy-neighbour mercantilist policies should be understood in this light. The same goes for Angela Merkel's recent call – much celebrated by the mainstream press – for a stronger Europe to counter Trump's unilateralism. Merkel's aim is not, of course, that of making 'Europe' stronger, but rather of strengthening Germany's dominant position vis-à-vis the other world powers (the US but also China) through the consolidation of Germany's control of the European continental economy, in the context of an intensification of global inter-capitalist competition.
This has now become an imperative for Germany, especially since Trump has dared to openly challenge the self-justifying ideology which sustains Germany's mercantilism – a particular form of economic nationalism that Hans Kundnani has dubbed ' Exportnationalismus' , founded upon the belief that Germany's massive trade surplus is uniquely the result of Germany's manufacturing excellence ( Modell Deutschland ) rather than, in fact, the result of unfair trade practices.
This is why, if Germany wants to maintain its hegemonic position on the continent, it must break with the US and tighten the bolts of the European workhouse. To this end, it needs to seize control of the most coveted institution of them all – the ECB –, which hitherto has never been under direct German control (though the Bundesbank exercises considerable influence over it, as is well known). Indeed, many commentators openly acknowledge that Merkel now has her eyes on the ECB's presidency. This would effectively put Germany directly at the helm of European economic policy.
Even more worryingly, Germany is not simply aiming at expanding its economic control over the European continent; it is also taking steps for greater European military 'cooperation' – under the German aegis, of course. As a recent article in Foreign Policy revealed , 'Germany is quietly building a European army under its command'.
This year Germany and two of its European allies, the Czech Republic and Romania, announced the integration of their armed forces, under the control of the Bundeswehr. In doing so, the will follow in the footsteps of two Dutch brigades, one of which has already joined the Bundeswehr's Rapid Response Forces Division and another that has been integrated into the Bundeswehr's 1st Armored Division.
In other words, Germany already effectively controls the armies of four countries. And the initiative, Foreign Policy notes, 'is likely to grow'. This is not surprising: if Germany ('the EU') wants to become truly autonomous from the US, it needs to acquire military sovereignty, which it currently lacks.
Europe is thus at a crossroads: the choice that left-wing and popular forces, and periphery countries more generally, face is between (a) accepting Europe's transition to a fully post-democratic, hyper-competitive, German-led continental system, in which member states (except for those at the helm of the project) will be deprived of all sovereignty and autonomy, in exchange for a formal democratic façade at the supranational level, and its workers subject to ever-growing levels of exploitation; or (b) regaining national sovereignty and autonomy at the national level, with all the short-term risks that such a strategy entails, as the only way to restore democracy, popular sovereignty and socioeconomic dignity. In short, the choice is between European post-democracy or post-European democracy.
There is no third way. Especially in view of the growing tensions between Germany, the US and China, periphery countries should ask themselves if they want to be simple pawns in this 'New Great Game' or if they want to take their destinies into their own hands.
Some portions of this article previously appeared in this article published by Green European Journal. Thomas Fazi is the co-author (with William Mitchell) of Reclaiming the State: A Progressive Vision of Sovereignty for a Post-Neoliberal World (Pluto, 2017).
Jan 15, 2018 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
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