Volatility

February 26, 2010

“The Law” Fought The Law and the Law Lost

 

On Thursday Obama held his health care summit with the Republicans. This is part of his desperate attempt to reinvigorate his zombie health racketeering/bailout bill. It’s also part of the ongoing saga of his demented and creepy fixation on “bipartisanship.”
 
We can hope his vile corporate sellout racket mandate goes down in flames as it deserves. As for bipartisanship, while it’s true that the MSM demands of Democrats that no matter how far to the right they’ve already gone, they must still go further to appease the Reps, since when does anyone obey the MSM? We all know the MSM are cowardly little worms who would cave in and lick your boots if you popped them one in the nose. That’s what the Republicans did with their absurd “liberal media” accusations, and to this day the media are their flunkies. So if the Dems wanted to simply shout back, “you’re Republican waterboys and stenographers!”, I doubt it would take long to force a shift.
 
(The MSM’s corporate whoredom doesn’t make a difference here. Both parties are corporatist. It’s simply a matter of which is the media’s favorite. Who does it always implicitly side with, and of whom does it always demand, “you have to shift to work with the other”?)
 
As for the summit itself, this is all kabuki. It’s really stupid that the Dems even tilted at this windmill at all. If Obama weren’t a moron where it comes to politics he’d have known that the Reps weren’t going to help him or give him any political cover for the mandate whatsoever. Why would they? This is win-win for them. However rapacious the bill gets will simply give the Reps even more space to attack the Dems as corporate sellouts in November. That’s absurd, of course: the Reps love the bill, as long as they can make the Dems take on all the responsibility and blame for it. The Dems seem to be out of their minds on this one, even more idiotic than usual. They’re not going to get any corporate love for it; the rackets are already shifting back to the Reps, as always happens.
 
For some odd reason, the Dems have taken what started out as a simple plan to entrench the status quo while pretending to seek “reform” (as the Congress is doing with Wall Street) and turned it into an invasion of Russia. They’re now fixated on getting one of most monstrous bills in American history passed. No matter how bitter the lonely partisan cold, they’re determined to endure it. However high the snowdrifts of adverse polling, they’re crazily burrowing through them. November looms before them, a more horrific vista than a burning Moscow in the dead of winter, but they stagger on, hypnotized. Any sane person can see how they’ll be left to do nothing but shiver in the blizzard amid the smoldering ashes, sick and hungry as the rags start to fall off their backs.
 
Can anyone think they’ll ever recover? Nobody else ever has. If the Republicans don’t get their “permanent majority” in the end after all, it won’t be for lack of every Democratic effort to hand it to them.
 
Since they never intended to seek real reform in the first place, why did the Dems take this health bill seriously and bring this debacle upon themselves? The Reps understand this is a phony process, how nobody in the power structure or media takes it seriously except as political theater. (In yesterday’s post I spoke of how under imperial corporatism domestic issues are treated frivolously except as plunder opportunities. Now of course the Dems want to use this bill to help the rackets with their extortions. But they had the option of doing a lot less if the Reps really weren’t going to join in the charade. The point is supposed to be one’s own political survival. And perhaps literal survival – many Dems and liberals in general are deluded that if the Reps ever had total power that they would refrain from governing as overt one-party fascists. Keep dreaming. A lot of supercilious “liberals” who started out laughing in 1933 were in for a nasty surprise.)
 
This is an example of how the Republicans bring a knife to a knife fight and the Dems bring a water pistol. The Reps understand that we no longer have the rule of law or any real civic endeavor but just a zero sum brawl. It’s political, and it’s to the death.
 
Anyone who still wants to believe in law or civics should look at examples like the Blackwater acquittal, or the Obama administration’s direct defiance of domestic law, international law, and treaty, in its refusal to bring war criminals to justice. Most recently we had its whitewashing of war crimes laundered through legal briefs. I think of all the times in reading history I see a situation deplored where a country or province was letting fugitives and outlaws walk around in the open, free and brazen. Even in supposedly backward, rotten Serbia, Karadzic had to stay disguised, and Mladic has to lay low. But in today’s America, even admitted war criminals are not only out in the open but still hold positions of respect and lucre. I don’t recall any of those stories form history depicting such temerity of flouting the law.
 
And of course we’ve had no significant Wall Street indictments at all. The entire cadre should be swept clean, for larceny, fraud, control fraud, embezzlement, bribery, extortion, conspiracy, racketeering, and treason.
 
Several times I’ve compared modern America with the 19th century France of the Dreyfus Affair. I first did so in connection with this same health racket issue, the Teabagger protests last summer. There Astrofurfed mobs are clearly redolent of the reactionary shock troops the anti-Dreyfusards sent out to temporarily dominate the streets in the first stages of the Affair. Just as then, so today the criminal system is ready to bolster its lawlessness with shock troops. And just as back then, the media either won’t touch it or is scrupulous in denying we’re in a state of political anarchy, where the only “politics” which exist any longer are the politics dictated by corporate interests.
 
In the broad sense the parallel with that “origin of totalitarianism” (Arendt) and today’s situation is this general top-down anarchy, this general liquidation of the law and of any substantive politics. It’s the abdication of journalism, which was supposed to be a public-interest watchdog. It’s the atmosphere where TPTB set the tone and enforce the notion that everything’s a joke, that everything’s shabby theater, or in its “progressive” version that everything should focus on incremental “process”. The result is the same punchline.
 
What’s left to defend and empower today? We’ve lost our politics and our law. Justice, fairness, democracy, freedom itself no longer exist under this system. We’re on the same path down to the abyss Europe earlier descended. What can we do? What’s left to uphold? What’s left to grasp and cherish?
 
Or to put that question in a less abstract and more concrete way, who will still fight for these things? The measure of their existence is simply the people’s will to be vigilant and fight. That’s the perception and the will which lay at the core of America’s 18th century revolutionary endeavor.
 
I too see no place to make a stand for freedom, morality, and justice within the system. That’s why my endeavor has been to critique the system, to try to figure out what the forces are which assail these great values, how they’re configured, their strategy.
 
And now it’s time to find the space where we can make a stand, and to construct the counter-strategy, and to embark upon the systematic action. 
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February 25, 2010

“Parasites Upon Patriotism”

Filed under: Corporatism, Global War On Terror, Globalization, Neo-feudalism — Russ @ 3:36 am

 

This sounds familiar:
 

The curious weakness of popular opposition to imperialism, the numerous inconsistencies and outright broken promises of liberal statesmen, frequently ascribed to opportunism or outright bribery, have other and deeper causes. Half consciously and hardly articulately, these men shared with the people the conviction that the national body itself was so deeply split in to classes, that class struggle was so universal a characteristic of modern political life, that the very cohesion of the nation was jeopardized. Expansion again appeared as a lifesaver, if and insofar as it could provide a common interest for the nation as a whole, and it is mainly for this reason that imperialists were allowed to become “parasites upon patriotism.” (Hobson)

 
That’s from Arendt’s analysis of the delusions of imperialism and infinite growth in The Origins of Totalitarianism. These delusions are invoked and followed today as ardently as they were in the 19th century Europe she writes about, and today with even greater urgency and desperation.
 
As bottlenecked socially and economically as Europe was in the 1800s, they still had physical frontiers to push, and fossil fuel production was only beginning its great surge. As nasty as it was for the non-European peoples, Europe could in theory have conserved itself. The resources and energy were there. Yet even with such favorable conditions, in the end they destroyed themselves with their greed and selfishness and lust for violence.
 
Today the entire world is in the same bottleneck. The colonized peoples are mostly still colonized, either still by the West (now through such administrators of domination as multinational corporations or globalist enforcers like the IMF) or by their own oligarchies, as in China. Meanwhile the colonization process is entering its final stage as it returns to the Western countries themselves. The illusionary “middle classes” of the cheap oil-soaked mid 20th century are now being liquidated. Serfdom is planned for all of us.
 
As we move beyond the oil age and return to something closer to history’s normal level of energy consumption and economic output, so the power elites plan to restore something similar to feudal socioeconomic and political organization. While it’s too early to know whether they’ll try to reinstate formal serfdom (and whether Russia, having been the last to free its serfs, or America, even more belated in freeing its slaves, will be the first to reshackle peasants to the land), or just stick with the de facto indenture already being imposed on more and more millions of the economically dispossessed. But either way, we’re on a medieval mission.
 
The new foreign imperialism, redolent of what Arendt described, is branded and sold as the Global War on Terror, and is in fact a private corporate war being waged with hijacked public resources for private profit. But just like Arendt wrote of the 19th century adventure, its political significance is to redirect the generalized tension, fear, and dread the age invokes in a people who deep down senses its social and economic doom.
 
If terrorism didn’t exist, the government would have to invent it. (The 9/11 truthers believe it did.) There’s no good objective correlative between the magnitude of the fear and the reality of the threat, which is really more of a nuisance than a real danger. Instead, terrorism has provided a focal point for every kind of generalized dread, from the very real economic tension which has built for years, to forbidden social topics like the racial tensions which are bound to grow as vast numbers of middle class whites are economically wiped out.
 
The monstrous silhouettes of big corporations, militarized police forces, and sinister technology loom on a darkening horizon. No one wants to look at them, and they don’t want to be seen as they are. And of course their age old game has been to play off the non-rich, non-entitled, liquidated peoples against one another. The anti-terrorist hysteria and its concomitant war represent a way to objectify and misdirect fear and hate. It also provides ways to launder the hate against the usual suspects of right-wing demonology, but who are really the enemies of corporatism – activists, unions, environmentalists and others. And the anti-Muslim obsessive focus of the terror war provides a way to launder racial strife without looking overtly racist. (See here for an MSM clinic in how the word “terrorist” is only to be used for non-whites.)
 
But it wouldn’t be enough for corporatism to provide only a strictly negative outlet for the great dread. The people need something to exalt them, even if it’s the feverish euphoria of a cokehead. That’s where the growth ideology comes in. No matter how bad things get in reality, a new surge of “growth”, magically powered by the innovative magic of bankers and engineers, will suddenly descend from on high to save us. In the end consumer prosperity and the American Dream shall triumph if everyone simply stays in his proper place and obeys the leadership. The dream of infinite growth and mythical prosperity is the real religion of America. Its cults have been debt consumerism, the dotcom bubble (even arch-corporatist Greenspan called it “irrational exuberance”), and the mortgage hysteria.
 
The Permanent War, and the hundreds of bases splayed around the earth, in some perverse way seem a guarantor of this expansionist magic. We physically girdle the globe; this is existential proof of our permanent economic dominance. And if America is still the one and only superpower, which our alleged ability to wage war at will everywhere, forever, seems to prove every day, then surely our economic dominance will rain its bounty down upon the people any day now.
 
And so American patriotism, once a real ideal spurring us to sacrifice today’s comfort and today’s easy dreams toward the real prosperity which could be achieved tomorrow if and only if we worked hard for it, the patriotism which amended pride with wisdom, the patriotism which rose to FDR’s call to renounce “fear itself, nameless, unreasoning terror”, has been reduced to the prostitute of this same fear itself, and the pimp of this same unreasoning terror. It has been reduced from pride and wisdom to loutish arrogance and defiant stupidity. It has been reduced from the spirit of work and sacrifice to the petty sentiments of greed and hate. It’s gone from the calls of Washington and Lincoln, which have echoed down through history, to the snivellings of George Bush telling people the answer to 9/11 was to “go shopping”, and Barack Obama telling the children of America they should look to Lloyd Blankfein and Jamie Dimon as heroes to emulate. It’s gone from an ideal to a scam.
 
That’s patriotism in the hands of the parasites of patriotism, the corporatist slavers and purveyors of war. That’s the lie they tell to try to steal this too, another of the finest elements of our heritage. They’ll never stop until everything has been engulfed and destroyed forever.
 
It’s no accident that our times have seen the rise of the imperial presidency, as practice and today as ideology. There’s a historical precedent for this as well, from the old prelude to totalitarianism:
 

The contemptuous indifference of imperialist politicians to domestic issues was marked everywhere, however, and especially in England…[I]mperialism was the chief cause of the degeneration of the two-party system into the Front Bench system, which led to a “diminution of the power of opposition” in Parliament and to a growth of “power of the cabinet as against the House of Commons.” (Hobson) Of course this was also carried through as a policy beyond the strife of parties and particular interests, and by men who claimed to speak for the nation as a whole…The cry for unity resembled exactly the battle cries which had always led peoples to war; and yet, nobody detected in the universal and permanent instrument of unity the germ of universal and permanent war.

 
It’s the president who wages the imperial war, just as he presides over globalization, the Bailout, and the government contract state as well. These are all things which only call for Congressional rubber-stamping at most, and often not even that (thus the Obama adminstration’s moves to achieve complete executive independence of the legislature in pushing forward with the Bailout). Meanwhile the contempt for domestic issues speaks for itself when every issue is openly regarded as nothing but another opportunity to fleece the people.
 
In the corporate state there’s no real function for the legislature or the courts. These will be more or less maintained in a cosmetic role, as window dressing for inverted totalitarianism, for however long that model of tyranny is sustainable.
 
And so the president, as the chief parasite upon patriotism, will preside over the permanent war and the Bailout state for as long as he can.
 
His success will depend upon his ability to keep false patriotism pumped up and prevent the resurgence of the true patriotism which would seek to take back the country.

February 24, 2010

Our Thunderdome

Filed under: Bailouts Only Propped Up Zombies, Corporatism — Tags: — Russ @ 5:00 am

 

The teabagger position of being non-rich, demonizing the government, and yet at least implicitly supporting the big banks (which is implicit, since for all their howling none of them are actually organizing along anti-corporatist lines), is certainly incoherent from the point of view of their own interests. In theory the government could in fact help them, while the banks will never be anything other than their enemy. (The real populists this country used to have in the old days never lost sight of that, however anti-government they may otherwise have been inclined to be.)
 
However, this position is also intellectually incoherent. Looking to this government for help or for reform is in fact pointless. But the reason for this is precisely because the government is the hired arm of Wall Street. It serves as bodyguard, mugger, and bagman. It rigs the laws to legalize the banksters’ crimes (and where necessary ensures that they’re never brought to justice where they do commit de jure crimes). It has embarked upon the Bailout to steal $14 trillion and counting from the people to hand it over to the banks. So to condemn the government but not to do so as part of an attack on the big banks is incoherent, since the servant of the banks is really all the government is. This lies at the core of everything government does, and everything government does it does from the point of view of some benefit to the banks, some extension of or supplement to the Bailout.
 
Conversely, to attack the banks but not the government is also lack of coordination. Wall Street is dependent upon the government. Obviously, it could never have bloated in the first place without the promiscuous Fed pushing decades of easy fiat money. (If anyone wants to quibble over what exactly the Fed is alleged to be, I’ll just say that if it prints the currency, that makes it public and part of the “government”, period. All the definitional and conceptual fog around its hybrid public-private nature is just an arbitrage scam, so that it can play heads-I-win-tails-you-lose vs. anyone demanding accountability of it. It’s a public agency where convenient, and it’s a private bank where convenient. For the public interest, of course, everything is rigged to be very, very inconvenient.)
 
And then of course Wall Street would today be a smoking crater if it weren’t for the Bailout. The Wall Street zombie is insolvent, and will continue to exist only for so long as the Bailout props it up. This is a permanent condition. In fact we know that monopoly finance is not capable of existing for long without destroying itself, and each time it would be gone forever if the government didn’t steal from its own people to preserve it. Citi alone has been bailed out at least four times.
 
And then there’s the fact, as flunkeyboy Obama himself told the banksters a year ago, “I’m the only thing between you and the pitchforks”. By now it may very well be true that they owe their continuing physical existence to their goonish government.
 
So in these ways we can see how Wall Street, while master of government, is also utterly dependent upon it. (Anyone who’s seen “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” may recall Master-Blaster.)
 
Yet for all its dependence Wall Street is surprisingly fickle and scornful. We’ve seen how it happily shifted from Democrats (Clinton) to Republicans (Bush) and back to Obama and his Corprocrats, and now they’re looking again to the Robublicans. This is how the vagrant banksters have always been. Throughout history the moneylenders sat complacent while governments, kings, empires, rose up and were overthrown, revolutions and counterrevolutions convulsed the land, while cities burned, while masses were murdered or fled as refugees, through all of it the filthy banks blandly sat there, open for business to all comers. What’s a government, let alone a country or, spare us, a people? That’s all just noise and nonsense. It doesn’t exist in the eyes of the bankster, except as something that may bleed if squeezed. 
 
This puny little master in fact has no independent existence at all. Like all usurers everywhere throughout history it is an absolute parasite. Parasites like this have no roots in the community, in the people, in the country. Their rootless and stateless and unproductive existence makes them worthless. Their destructiveness and predation make them traitors. The finance sector’s bloat over the last 40 years is the black metric of our sorrow.
 
It’s the loss of our country, it’s the loss of faith with ourselves as a people.
 
Do you dream of anything in life other than servitude to this great villain? If you dream of a political solution, know that the corporate monster has stolen our politics. Do you want America back? Think in terms of your politics. Whatever you want, any ideal, they are standing in the way. All the money they steal to buy the government, and all the (far greater) money the government steals to hand over to them, is money stolen from us. So we must Smash them.
 
We see how the government and the big banks are now so inextricably intertwined as to be one symbiotic ooze. We can’t smash one without smashing the other. So the Astroturf/teabagger anti-government notion won’t do the trick, since it only aims as the non-essential appendages of government, not at the real body. And looking to this government for “reform” of Wall Street is an utter fool’s errand.
 
The only way out is a full frontal attack on the body, and the only way available to do this is the way of ju-jitsu. We’re far too small to fight weight vs. weight, but we can use the monster’s weight against it. Relocalization, reskilling, rediscovering self-reliance, getting out of debt, ceasing to incur debt in the first place, moving our money out of the banks, these are the paths of resistance and victory. This strategy is in the tradition of Gandhi and of Sun-Tzu.

February 23, 2010

Corporatist Party “Politics”: An Antecedent

Filed under: Corporatism — Russ @ 5:54 am

 

What’s the clearest link between today’s corporatist parties and the 19th century antisemitic parties? Each aspires to rule as a one-party state. Arendt identified this aspiration to one-party rule as an “origin of totalitarianism.”
 
Historically, the political parties in a nation-state frankly represented the interests of their voters. The antisemitic parties were the first to declare themselves parties “above all parties.” Today in America we’re so used to bromides like “post-partisan” and “bipartisan” and “beyond parties” that we forget (or never knew) the sinister history behind this pretension, and how the implications are just as sinister today.
 
Previously only governments had claimed to stand above parties and to rule with the goal of a balance of interests. When the antisemitic parties called themselves above all parties, they signaled their aspiration to complete power over the state, but to exercise that power as a special interest party. So in the same words they expressed their contempt for the very idea of the nation-state, which implied different interest parties together comprising a balance. The old antisemitic parties of Europe, like today’s corporatist parties, want no balance.
 
The party-above-parties rhetoric was similar to the equally bogus imperialist propaganda of the imperial interest being “truly” national and therefore above all parties. The antisemite parties also contradicted the nationalist trend of the age and instead established international cooperation among their parties, convening congresses which tried to coordinate national policies in the interest of the shared international party goal. We can compare this to the shared neoliberal ideology of corporatists everywhere, whether they call themselves Republicans in America or Communists in China or anything in between. Globalization is the true ideology and policy of every corporatist, and every national society, economy, and government are intended to be nothing but mines, tools, weapons toward the goal of the elite neoliberal plot.  
 
Contrary to today’s media mythology, it’s not “bipartisanship” or “post-partisanship” which would represent real compromise, real give and take; on the contrary it’s moderate, reasonable partisanship which leads to real coexistence.
 
But the worshipped terms of today mean no such thing. On the contrary bipartisanship is code for the “two” parties agreeing on how to plunder the people on behalf of the corporations, while the people have no representation at all. No one is partisan on the public’s behalf. That’s what’s really behind the media’s demonization of “partisanship.” The political sound of phony democracy, of the phony “partisan” clash among a truly nonpartisan because completely captured polity, of the inverted totalitarianism (Wolin) of the corporatist system, is the sound of one hand clapping.
 
Just as with the old antisemites, the corporatists want to liquidate the body politic of the country as a whole. They want to take over the state and use it for the party, which in this case really means the corporate, interest.
 
Today, post-partisanship is just boilerplate. Both parties consistently sell out their “base” (although the Republicans do a better job of pretending to deliver something; it helps that their voters are more easily misdirected by culture war “issues”). Neither governs on behalf of those who are allegedly its special interests – for the Reps, non-rich whites, small business, the religiously-motivated (and the only reason gun rights activists get what they want is because they fight for it as a bottom-up bloc, and not because the Reps would otherwise deliver for them); for the Dems, minorities, women, environmentalists, union members, gays, identity-politics activists, and others. In either case none of these are ever satisfied except once in awhile by accident.
 
The main reason for this isn’t gridlock, as if two conscientious interest parties were constantly fighting one another to a draw. The gridlock is largely a sham. What’s really happening is an identity of corporate-interest looting. Any jockeying is on account of how each party wants to get credit for the more politically salable corporate pandering while foisting the more disreputable stuff onto the opposite party. (Although in 2009 Obama and the Dems have shown a bizarre willingness to take the complete opprobrium of disgusting piracy like the Bailout and the health racketeering bill completely upon themselves while letting the Reps off scot-free with their obstructionism and refusal to provide any cover and share the political risk. And we’re seeing how the corporate elites repay them – Wall St is already shifting resources to the Reps. Exactly what we’d expect when we’re dealing with such a combination of malevolence, fecklessness, and incompetence as the Democratic party. On some days it’s almost enough to make me wish I were a Republican. Oh, the fun I’d be having these days, the whole past year, really.)
 
The Republicans have in fact declared their goal of achieving a de facto one-party dictatorship with their “permanent majority” slogan. If it weren’t for their cowardice and myopia I suppose the Dems would seek the same thing. One thing both fervently seek is a monopoly on corporate bribes. They’re hoping the “supreme court” decision on Citizens United will really open the floodgates.
 
By now the Reps and the Dems are nothing but two big Astroturfs, and their non-rich voters are all teabaggers in the sense of voting against their own interests.

February 22, 2010

Let’s Get Austere, Baby!

 

William Astore recently gave a good example of the triumph of the bourgeois political mentality in America. He discusses how the American military’s response to its defeat in Vietnam was not to question the imperial premise, but to double down on it, deny defeat, and simply blame faulty organizational tactics. The problem, it turns out, was simply a lack of old-style Germanic professionalism. Astore first noticed this when, as an Air Force cadet and officer, he found that his childhood admiration for German arms in WWII not only had been widely shared by fellow officers, but the German model of professionalism was increasingly seen as something to be emulated by the officer corps itself.
 
The professional: He has no overt politics, which means his politics are implicitly those of the status quo. He is similarly absolved/stripped of any sort of concern for civics or law. These are the business of other types of professionals. The end goal is no longer a citizen who is also a professional, but simply a hyperprofessional.
Meanwhile the recruitment process can similarly dispense with the citizen aspect and be revamped as a standard marketing campaign seeking its target audience, which is a consumer like any other.
 
In saying that I didn’t even specify “professional officer”, “citizen-soldier” and the like, since it applies as well to most other professional cadres by now. These are all examples of the assimilation of real politics and citizenship by the perverted bourgeois version of politics and civics, which is really anti-politics, anti-citizenship.
 
This domestic process, which represents a long, erosive struggle, the attempt to destroy American politics, has been greatly intensified by the process of neoliberal imperialism “coming home.” For all the gaudy embellishments of ideology, all the hype and lies and cooing whispers from academia and the MSM, globalization was always the same brutal plunder raid that imperialism has eternally been. (I wrote about it here and here, among many other times.)
 
In the end it’s always the same – power for power’s sake, violence for violence’s sake. The whole thing can make some kind of pseudo-sense only within the framework of the “growth” ideology. Expansion for expansion’s sake is itself institutionalized insanity, and growth is “the logic of the cancer cell”, as Albert Bartlett called it. But the whole system has long been dedicated to propping up this exponential growth, via exponential debt, and to brainwashing the people into believing the growth ideology is not only rational, equitable, and sustainable, not only the “best” way of doing things according to all these measures, but is the only way.
 
Alternative ideas are shouted down where necessary, ridiculed, drowned in lies. But most of all they’re simply ignored. Every fact, every metric, every idea, every proposal is implicitly considered only from the point of view of how will this help of hinder “growth”? Growth as such is considered analogous to oxygen. Its needfulness is beyond dispute or even explicit mention.
 
So this enshrined growth ideology in turn is used to justify the what are alleged to be its mere tactics, domination, plunder, and violence, wherever it’s impossible to simply deny these outright. But in fact it’s not growth, which will allegedly trickle down to benefit the people as a whole, which requires power and violence. It’s the lust for domination itself which is sowing its oats here, which is exercising itself via the vehicle of globalization, and which is using “growth” as both a concentration mechanism and a political fig leaf. But “growth” as a real, sustainable process, and “trickle down” as any kind of reality whatsoever, are nothing but Big Lies. They’re meant to mollify and misdirect the people while economic and (anti-)political liquidation creeps along, and this people themselves are the eventual target of this creeping tyranny.
 
So that’s the real purpose behind the liquidation of politics, which has always lay at the core of the bourgeois ideology. The imperial process is simple enough. It destroys politics and imposes corruption and corporatism overseas. For example, after having destroyed the Saddam regime in Iraq, the imperialists intentionally let the country be looted and internecine insurgency to flourish. All this was meant to prevent any kind of stable polity cohering to fill the void left by Saddam’s departure. (That they didn’t anticipate how the insurgency would become virulent enough to prevent their turning Iraq into a corporate park of the “American” multinationals was the result of a deficiency in their competence, not in their malevolence.) Even at this late date, when according to Obama they’re “withdrawing”, they’re still manipulating elections. Via their stooge regime they’re trying to disqualify candidates insufficiently coordinated with the imperial master plan.
 
Similarly, they lie when they say they’re trying to build a new Afghanistan. The record is clear that America is trying to turn Afghanistan into a veritable contractor state, while the Karzai regime is a standard stooge kleptocracy.
 
These have been the overseas manifestations of “nation-building” as nation-destroying in the most profound sense, destruction of the politics and community at all levels. And so the same process has been brought home to America, by these same neoliberal ideologues on behalf of the same tyrannical predatory corporations, who bankroll the whole thing. All this dovetails with the longstanding bourgeois ideology of privatization, “property rights” which really means the right to property aggression, and “freedom” envisioned as purely negative. The goal of the ideology, and of its economic and anti-political strategy, is to destroy the nation, destroy the community, destroy positive, political freedom, and leave the lonely, atomized individual naked and unprotected in the face of the overwhelming violence of the corporation. 
 
We can see this in Tom Friedman’s Orwellian theme that Obama needs to engage in “nation-building at home”. He has, he has. In the exact same way as Reagan, Clinton, and Bush before him. All stable political bodies are in the way of total power and wealth concentration. That’s why both Republicans and Democrats, as flunkies of the corporations, want to dissolve all existing public institutions, privatize entitlement programs like Social Security (they really want to gut all entitlements, strip all social spending), privatize all services and amenities.
 
We can look back to the same totalitarian pattern from history. The Nazis as well corporatized all public services and professional cadres. Nothing non-ideological was allowed to exist at all, let alone anything left to serve the public interest detached form ideology. So in modern America the bourgeois privatization/negative libertine ideology seeks total Gleichschaltung, “coordination”, with its rapacious imperatives. All public services all politics, all civic mentality, the public interest as such, all are slated for complete and absolute destruction, targeted by the same hate-filled, fanatical totalitarian will which has previously infested history.
 
So we’ve been afflicted for decades now. I’m not sure yet on where to declare the turning point. Structurally it came over the late 60s to early 70s, with the Vietnam adventure in deficits and the American oil peak in 1970 leading to the closing of the gold window in 1971. American real wages peaked in 1973, right around the same time that predatory globalization, previously somewhat ad hoc, started becoming systematized. International and national manipulation were entwined from the start, as petrodollar recycling was used to facilitate the beginning of the American “middle class” debt binge. (I think this was the start of the by now notorious pattern of trade deficits with the foreign exporter lending the fat American consumer the dollars to buy the junk he’s peddling.)
 
But it seems like the overt political manifestation of this lagged a few years, finally coming in with Reagan. Since then all presidents and the prevailing ideology of all Congressional delegations has been broadly the same: aggressively bourgeois, neoliberal, corporatist. Even the alleged mavericks like Perot were mostly objecting that the government wasn’t being “run like a business” enough. Those who would object to corporatist ideology and government have been driven out completely.
 
By definition real politics is not Social Darwinist but assimilates the economically “unsuccessful” as well as those who have “succeeded” (i.e., who inherited, extracted rents, scammed, or stole, in most cases). Modern American “politics” is seeking to destroy all public political spaces, strip away all safety nets, and enshrine street fighting as the social standard. It’s seeking to detach public affairs from politics just as much as violence does. Indeed, there’s an intimate relationship between Social Darwinism and violence. The former implies the latter, and there’s no moral standard according to which you can exalt the first but deplore the second.
 
And as we’ve seen, in their various more bloodthirsty incarnations, as neocon, as “law and order” fanatic (as police rioter), as torture fantasist, these corporatists do in fact revere violence. Their pose, that their advocacy of extreme violence is in response to extreme contexts, is a lie. We have no extreme contexts other than the ones they have created. They seek the power, they need the violence, so they create the context for it, in order to further concentrate the power. And as soon as it’s necessary for them to deploy fascist-level violence right here in America, they will try to do so.
 
And today we have the apotheosis, Obama, the ultimate neoliberal, bourgeois corporatist, the product of nothing but hype and branding, the guy who worships Blankfein’s “savvy” because savvy is the only quality Obama himself possesses and the only quality he recognizes and respects; zero principle, zero values, zero true politics or community, total vapidity of avarice, total nihilism.
 
Here’s Adolph Reed’s devastating takedown of Obama as early as 1996; the whole picture was clear even then:
 

In Chicago, for instance, we’ve gotten a foretaste of the new breed of
foundation-hatched black communitarian voices; one of them, a smooth
Harvard lawyer with impeccable do-good credentials and
vacuous-to-repressive neoliberal politics, has won a state senate seat
on a base mainly in the liberal foundation and development worlds. His
fundamentally bootstrap line was softened by a patina of the rhetoric of
authentic community, talk about meeting in kitchens, small-scale
solutions to social problems, and the predictable elevation of process
over program — the point where identity politics converges with
old-fashioned middle-class reform in favoring form over substance. I
suspect that his ilk is the wave of the future in U.S. black politics,
as in Haiti and wherever else the International Monetary Fund has sway.
So far the black activist response hasn’t been up to the challenge. We
have to do better.

 
Imperialism has been raised to the ultimate domestic political principle. Unless we the people get our heads out the sand and fight for our country as against a foreign invader, the American ex-middle class will now join its poor to become a globalized, structurally adjusted, austerity-clobbered third world people.
 
It all comes home..  

February 19, 2010

“The Grifters”, Taibbi’s Remake

 

Matt Taibbi’s new Rolling Stone piece, “Wall Street’s Bailout Hustle”, attacks the great crimes of our day with his usual vigor and ferocity.
 
This piece doesn’t really tell us anything new, but is another piece of the ongoing project in cataloguing these crimes and describing their real nature. We basically have two narrative options. The first is to describe it in terms of classical totalitarianism, corporatism masking itself in the simulacrum of democracy and capitalism (needless to say, what’s happening has literally nothing to do with democracy and textbook “free” markets and everything to do with their complete destruction). Hannah Arendt’s monumental work The Origins of Totalitarianism remains frighteningly relevant today. More topically up to date authorities are Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine (which I’ve long considered practically a part four of Arendt’s book) and Chris Hedges’ attempts to popularize Sheldon Wolin’s concept of “inverted totalitarianism” (corporatist tyranny which maintains the trappings of democracy for a while), as in these two excellent pieces.
 
The second is to describe it in terms of gutter gangsters and con men, swindlers and thugs. Both approaches are correct, and I use both myself. Tyranny is always infused to some extent with flim-flammery and thuggery. Although perhaps this corporatist tyranny is the most brazen and undiluted kleptocracy of all.
 
Here Taibbi goes all in on the con man lexicography. I don’t know where he picked up these quaint-sounding terms, but they all sound dead on.
 
So we have the rundown on the basics of this infinite capital crime, described in terms of its true wretched, sniveling, gutter crackhead pickpocket essence.
 
There’s “the Swoop and Squat”, originally describing an auto insurance scam, here describing how Goldman first bought CDS on mortgage securities from AIG, then bet against those MBS, then made $5.9 billion in collateral calls on the deterioration of its own bubble in order to cash in on as much of this “insurance” as possible before AIG went bankrupt. For the grand finale, Goldman used its government influence to extort another $13 billion in theft from the taxpayers, laundered through the AIG bailout. Grand total swindled: almost $19 billion. That right there wipes out Goldman’s alleged $13.4 billion in 2009 “profits”. That’s quite an insurance claim. But there’s lots, lots more.
 
We have “the Dollar Store”. For no reality-based reason, Goldman and Morgan Stanley were allowed to become bank holding companies, which gave them access to infinite free money from the Fed. (In spite of the MSM’s lies at the time, this move was heads-I-win, while the tails-you-lose was that the government never for a second intended to exercise the vaunted “greater regulatory oversight” holding company status was supposed to incur.) The FDIC helpfully guaranteed almost $30 billion of borrowing by this “bank”. The Dollar Store is simply a place set up to look like a legitimate outfit but really intended to fleece the mark. Here the banks, the government, the MSM were hustling and bustling about, looking intent, speaking of “getting the banks lending again” while the gullible taxpayer was taken for all he had. (Never explained was why, if it’s all government money, we needed the banks at all. I asked that the very first day Paulson said we need to get the banks lending again, and I’m still waiting for a real answer. I’ve always known there is none.)
 
Everybody thinks he knows a “Pig in a Poke” when he sees one, but if he’s the average American taxpayer, apparently not. Otherwise it’s hard to explain how the Fed got away with changing its rules to accept worthless toxic crap paper as Grade-A collateral for the free money it’s been shelling out.
 
The “Rumanian Box” was originally a scam counterfeiting device, but via its MBS buys and QE ideology, the Fed has become the biggest counterfeiter the world has ever seen. If you’re a casino bankster, this box works flawlessly and bounteously. If you’re any kind of saver or pensioner, or anyone who depends upon a paycheck, you’re the rube who bought a box that has stopped working.
 
“The Big Mitt” refers to a rigged poker game. Here the government and the banksters tip one another off and manipulate the deck so that the banks always draw aces while the taxpayer always gets a worthless hand. A particularly noxious example was how Treasury tipped off the banks on the mechanisms of the PPIP scam so they could load up on toxic paper ahead of time, which would promptly be exchanged with the government for stolen taxpayer money. At what point does corruption pass over into treason?
 
None of us needed Taibbi to remind us of how Goldman’s high-frequency trading algorithms are simply a legalized form of “the Wire”, the old scam whereby the manipulator of inside information acts upon it before releasing it to other stakeholders, to his profit and their detriment. After months of denial Goldman was finally forced to acknowledge that it sometimes acts against its own clients’ interests, if it can see an advantage in some fast insider trade based in the info a client has given them. It’s simply astounding that Goldman Sachs is allowed to exist at all, let alone that anybody still seeks their business.
 
Finally, “the Reload” is where the scammer tries to hit the same mark again. In the case of the docile doormat taxpayer I guess it’s hard to resist. So no sooner had the crash occurred and the Bailout was on then all the Wall St and Washington criminals pulled together to try to reflate some bubble, any bubble. The most obvious new bubble is the stock bubble, fueled 100% by public money stolen by the banks (and perhaps even surreptitious direct government buying). But quietly the Fed and Treasury have bought far above $1 trillion in MBS to prop up toxic paper prices and try to get this bubble as well reflated. They’re so desperate for bubbles they’ve even been pretending to take climate change seriously, because via cap and trade they’re on the scent of another bubble.
 
Of course, they have no choice but to try to reflate the bubble. America’s real economy, any productive basis for an economy, have long since been gutted. Those aren’t coming back under the auspices of this system. The one and only way the power structure can try to preserve its wealth and power is to prop up the zombie system, keep blowing bubbles, use the crashes for disaster capitalism and to consolidate creeping totalitarianism (this to be “inverted” as long as possible). Overt mass state violence will be postponed as long as possible. The final goal is remedievalism. The restoration of the Dark Ages. A handful of warlords, a mass of starving, freezing serfs.
 
This is the one and only path they can tread. The only alternative is to voluntarily relinquish power, return it to the people. I doubt they’ll do this.
 
What comes through most clearly from all this:
 
1. The big banks are permanently insolvent. None has made a legitimate cent in ages, and none ever will again. Especially now, 100% of their “profit” is: (A) simply looted from the taxpayer, (B) accounting fraud, (C) the result of crimes like HFT front-running.
 
2. America’s apathy and docility in the face of its liquidation, this docility being a form of extremism in itself, is exceeded only by the absolute derangement of the sodomites. The orgy, the “bonuses”, the psychopathic behavior, make it clear that by now they can’t help themselves. They’re like sharks in a feeding frenzy. They’ll rip and tear and gorge and bathe in blood until all the food is destroyed and all that’s left is to rip themselves to shreds.
 
To harken back to yet another example from medieval history, this is a modern example of the Dance of Death.
 
3. Taibbi brings in one last term from con lingo – America looks like “the True Believer.” The mark is desperate not to hear what he hears, not to see what he sees, not to know what he knows, and most of all not to do what he must do to redeem what was stolen from him. Too invested in his delusions, in the false comfort of the short-term status quo, in all the lies the con man convinced him to believe to the point that by now they constitute a significant part of his identity, or perhaps all of it, he refuses to hear, to see, to know, to do.
 
Instead he listens as the criminal himself sidles up again with a new scam. One which convinces the mark he can get everything back if he only believes another lie and forks over what little he has left. As long as for another moment the believer, who believes so intimately in such a bundle of lies that he can’t bear the thought of existence without them, can be warmed with a new reason to believe the lie, he can stave off the coldness of reality.
 
And so in a sense Lloyd Blankfein is right when he says he provides something in return for his theft. He tells the True Believer the lie he needs to believe in, lest he be forced to face his fleecing. Lest he be forced to face the cold hard choice of fighting back for what’s his, or submitting once and for all, before the world, before history, before himself, to abject slavery, forever.
 
So the only question is, will the inertia True Believers defeat the real truth and the real call to arms?
 
Meanwhile, there’s no question at all about the cons themselves. There’s not enough rope in America to hang ’em all. 

February 18, 2010

What Does Nietzsche Say About Credit Scores?

Filed under: Land Reform, Law, Neo-feudalism, Nietzsche — Tags: — Russ @ 6:22 am

 

When I wrote previously about strategic defaults (part one of the series here), one of the issues I discussed was the creditor’s ability to rat out the defaulter to the credit report bureau, to trash his score.
 
This kind of punishment is general throughout the process, for missing a payment, for being foreclosed upon, for strategically defaulting, for going bankrupt. Little of it has any relation to one’s actual behavior. It doesn’t matter whether somebody was a rampaging “flipper” or someone pumped full of American Dream propaganda and hard-sold on a predatory loan, who later loses his job, sustains a medical crisis, or simply is dumped underwater by the bursting of the bubble. In every case the point of the system is to intimidate and bully the consumer into docile, compliant rat-racing behavior.
 
In this particular case, the banks blew up the bubble and made the subprime loans, while the government and MSM indoctrinated the people into the home-ownership debt ideology. And now that the bubble has burst, the hapless borrower is supposed to take the full hit, while every cent of fraudulent bank “profit” is conserved.
 
As Brent White writes, this is not only a unilateral reshuffling of the contractual balance of exposure, but hinders any rational, equitable mortgage modification policy goals.
 

Most lenders will, in other words, take full advantage of the asymmetry of norms between lender and borrower and will use the threat of damaging the borrower’s credit score to bring the borrower into compliance. Additionally, many lenders will only bargain when the threat of damaging the homeowner’s credit has lost its force and it becomes clear to the lender that foreclosure is imminent absent some accommodation. On a fundamental level, the asymmetry of moral norms for borrowers and market norms for lenders gives lenders an unfair advantage in negotiations related to the enforcement of contractual rights and obligations, including the borrower’s right to exercise the put option. This imbalance is exaggerated by the credit reporting system, which gives lenders the power to threaten borrowers’ human worth and social status by damaging their credit scores – scores that serve as much as grades for moral character as they do for creditworthiness. The result is a predictable imbalance in which individual homeowners have borne a huge and disproportionate burden of the housing collapse……

The suggestion that Congress should amend the Fair Credit Reporting Act to prevent lenders from reporting mortgage defaults is premised upon the underlying mortgage contract, in which lenders agree to hold the house alone as collateral. In the case of underwater mortgages, however, the portion of the mortgage above the home’s present value essentially becomes unsecured. Lenders compensate for this by holding the borrowers’ credit score, and thus their human worth, as collateral – thereby altering the underlying agreement that the home serves as the sole collateral. As a consequence, lenders are often able to reap the benefit, but escape the costs, of their bargain.

 
The credit score has been institutionalized as a key metric not only of financial reliability but of character, reputation in general. The point is not only to clinically catalog financial behavior, but to threaten, extort, punish, shame, outlaw.
 
This seems like a recrudescence toward olden times where the punishment of debtors was actually part of what Nietzsche called the “festival of cruelty.”
 
N writes (On the Genealogy of Morals, essay II, sections 5-6) of the creditor inflicting pain, even literally extracting flesh, as recompense when the debtor can’t pay.
 

Let us clarify for ourselves the logic of this whole method of compensation—it is weird enough. The equivalency is given in this way: instead of an advantage making up directly for the harm (hence, instead of compensation in gold, land, possessions of some sort or another), the creditor is given a kind of pleasure as repayment and compensation—the pleasure of being allowed to discharge his power on a powerless person without having to think about it, the delight in “de fair le mal pour le plaisir de le faire” [doing wrong for the pleasure of doing it], the enjoyment of violation. By means of the “punishment” of the debtor, the creditor participates in a right belonging to the masters. Finally he also for once comes to the lofty feeling of despising a being as someone “beneath him,” as someone he is entitled to mistreat—or at least, in the event that the real force of punishment, of executing punishment, has already been transferred to the “authorities,” the feeling of seeing the debtor despised and mistreated. The compensation thus consists of an order for and a right to cruelty.

 
He goes on:
 

In this area, that is, in the laws of obligation, the world of the moral concepts “guilt,” “conscience,” “duty,” and “sanctity of obligation” has its origin—its beginning, like the beginning of everything great on earth, was watered thoroughly and for a long time with blood. And can we not add that this world deep down has never again been completely free of a certain smell of blood and torture—(not even with old Kant whose categorical imperative stinks of cruelty)? In addition, here that weird knot linking the ideas of “guilt and suffering,” which perhaps has become impossible to undo, was first knit together. Let me pose the question once more: to what extent can suffering be a compensation for “debts”? To the extent that making someone suffer provides the highest degree of pleasure, to the extent that the person hurt by the debt, in exchange for the injury as well as for the distress caused by the injury, got an extraordinary offsetting pleasure: creating suffering…

 
N calls this a conjecture regarding how the whole sense of guilt, the “bad conscience”, was branded into prehistoric man. And today the system, in scrambling to maintain that sense of guilt among the peasants even as its own criminality and abdication of authority becomes ever more manifest, is retrogressing to measures redolent of this primordial guilt branding.
 

It seems to me that the delicacy and, even more, the Tartufferie [hypocrisy] of tame house pets (I mean modern man, I mean us) resist imagining with all our power how much cruelty contributes to the great celebratory joy of older humanity, as, in fact, an ingredient mixed into almost all their enjoyments and, from another perspective, how naive, how innocent, their need for cruelty appears, how they fundamentally think of its particular “disinterested malice” (or to use Spinoza’s words, the sympathia malevolens [malevolent sympathy]) as a normal human characteristic:—and hence as something to which their conscience says a heartfelt Yes!* A more deeply penetrating eye might still notice, even today, enough of this most ancient and most fundamental celebratory human joy. In any case, it’s not so long ago that people wouldn’t think of an aristocratic wedding and folk festival in the grandest style without executions, tortures, or something like an auto-da-fé [burning at the stake], and similarly no noble household lacked creatures on whom people could vent their malice and cruel taunts without a second thought.

 
This puts reality TV, ever more humiliating and destructive, in perspective. Are Stephen King’s dystopic game shows “The Long Walk” and “The Running Man” far off in reality?
 
We’re seeing the new outlines of the old medieval jurisprudence – outlawry, debtors’ prison, and the festival of cruelty. Sublimated judicial combat, in the form of the adversarial legal system becoming a monetized arms race, who can afford to hire the fanciest lawyers, has long been entrenched. (I doubt that the right to an attorney at all if you can’t afford one would ever be enshrined today if it weren’t a superprecedent already; and we can expect to see that under increasing nominal attack, just as it’s long been under surreptitious attack via budget cuts.) Most of all, just as the perverted religious premise that wealth equals merit and virtue has long been the establishment ideology, so more and more all of society is becoming a large scale trial by ordeal, wherein being able to find and hold a living wage job is just as inscrutable a religious Mystery as remaining in perfect health if you can’t afford health insurance, and in either case your success or failure is simply the judgement of god, of mysterious forces of nature. Were you one of the Elect or not?
 
Can you hold your hand in the flame without flinching? This judges your innocence or guilt, and in our times your human worth. There is no “society”, and certainly calculated top-down neoliberal policy has nothing to do with what’s happening, oh no.
 
These are all familiar signposts on our journey back to feudalism.

February 17, 2010

Bailout Tyranny

 

Today we have the Bailout tyranny. Its proximate goal is always the loot, as we know. But just as importantly, TPTB must keep erecting the Tower of Babel. Their debt economy, their power machine must keep growing exponentially, must keep expanding, or else it collapses. Since there’s no real economic basis for the debt tower, since the aggregate system is insolvent, to keep it zombified now requires the total liquidation of what wealth is still distributed among the people. This means the remnants of uncollected political democracy must be destroyed as well.
 
The only alternative for the power structure is to voluntarily relinquish its accumulated power and wealth back to the people.
 
So how can they keep the zombie perambulating? They probably can’t pass another TARP. That’s why they’re trying to do an end run around the political process:
 
1. Secretive, in principle infinite Fed QE and MBS buys.
 
2. The Fannie and Freddie debt ceilings have been lifted completely. The purpose of the GSEs is to be a loss-socializing buyer of all MBS using public funds whenever the “market” prices aren’t satisfactory to the bundlers. Since everyone now knows the real value of this paper is little or nothing, and therefore these market prices will never again be so lucrative as the banks demand as their god-given entitlement, from here on the ONLY buyer will be the conscripted worker and taxpayer, his money stolen and laundered to the banks through the GSEs.
 
3. Paulson failed in his original attempt to get congressional authorization making him a veritable Treasury dictator. The attempt was to get a permanent, open-ended resolution authorizing force very similar to the Afghanistan resolution of fall 2001, which has since been used to justify anything and everything. In principle it can be used to impose totalitarianism. The actual “legal” basis of the Hitler regime wasn’t really the infamous Enabling Act. Rather, the Enabling Act only reinforced the state of emergency declared following the Reichstag fire, which state remained in force throughout the Nazi era. In the fall of 2008 they overreached, in effect trying to get the administrative emergency language codified as law immediately. They ended up having to backpedal and settle for the imperfect TARP (although, as I’ll get to shortly, this did have some subsequent political advantages).
 
Since then they’ve gone back to the more circumspect sequence, establishing the permanent channels of the Bailout in a politically less conspicuous and more arcane way. And now we’ve come back to the post hoc legislative codification, as Geithner has sought to get the original Paulson dictator power enshrined in the financial “reform” legislation, via the “resolution authority” scam.
 
When he was asked at a Congressional hearing, would there be any limits in principle to his disbursement authority, any limit on the trillions in taxpayer dollars he could legally hand over to the banks at will, he happily replied, “No.”
 
So they’re going for end runs, secrecy, lies. The basic Bailout lie for public consumption is simply, TARP = Bailout. The government and the MSM have been all too successful with this line of propaganda so far.
 
(So a main task of public education is to break this Big Lie. The people have to understand that the Bailout, the theft, goes vastly beyond the TARP. Maybe some simple metaphors and stories can help. You catch the burglar running out the front door with your toaster, while the others are hauling your TV, stereo, and jewelry out the back.)
 
The system’s enemies are transparency, accountability (including real accounting), democracy, the people. On Sunday the NYT had two articles about this. Gretchen Morgenson asked an obvious question: Shouldn’t the impresarios of the Bailout at least have to go public with what all this will cost? She describes the work of Martin Phaup, who did an expose of Fannie and Freddie’s government subsidy back in 1995. This was much to F and F’s “outrage”, according to Morgenson. And yet the numbers back then were paltry by today’s standards. Today we know little of the astronomical costs, except that the government felt the need to remove the $400 billion capacity limit on this conveyor belt of the Bailout. That says it all on how much they expect it to cost.
 
Today Phaup calls for new sunshine. He thinks forcing the GSEs’ accounting into the light would force government to either really constrain the banks, and/or find a way to pay for the Bailout with taxes rather than borrowing and accounting fraud. (I’d love to see them forced to dedicate taxes to pay for the Bailout. It would be politically impossible. Or, if they tyrannically pushed ahead with it, we really would have a revolutionary situation.)
 
But as Morgenson says:
 

Lawmakers interested in re-election have little incentive to be truthful about what implied guarantees of powerful companies will cost the taxpayer. Better to brush it under the rug or pretend the costs don’t exist. Then, when they must be paid, policy makers can argue that it’s an unforeseen emergency and an odious necessity.

As the number of firms with implicit government backing has risen because of the crisis, so too have the expected costs of those commitments, Mr. Phaup said. And yet, under current budget policy, those costs will be ignored until the recipient of the guarantee collapses — the precise moment when the guarantee is likely to cost taxpayers the most.

Three years into the crisis, we are no closer to reining in too-powerful-to-fail companies or eliminating the risks they pose to taxpayers. Both goals are achievable, yet our legislators refuse to do what is necessary to protect us from trillion-dollar bailouts down the road.

It’s a disservice to a bewildered and beleaguered nation.

 
Similarly, we the people have a right to all Fed information. First, democracy requires it. Second, this information is public property. Third, according to their own neoclassical ideology, the “market” is supposed to have all the information universally distributed.
 
But as this article on the fight for sunshine of Mark Pittman, Bloomberg and others describes, it’s like pulling teeth to get this cabal to open up.
 
Here the Fed goes into “private” mode, openly sides with the banks, is sensitive, solicitous, sentimental regarding their interests, while openly contemptuous of the people’s interest.
 
But let’s be 100% clear. The Fed has been vested with the printing press and with responsibility for the stability and job creation of the people’s economy. So whatever you call it, it is 100% a public institution, it is 100% the people’s property, and this includes its information and its prerogatives. We own it all, and we have a right to shine light on it all.
 
The piece asks:
 

EVEN a layman understands the fundamental role that information plays in the economy. But what about secrecy? Does it have a place in high finance? The Clearing House and the Fed believe it does.

 
There’s no question of that. It’s self-evident.
 

The Federal Reserve has wrapped itself in secrecy since the turn of the 20th century, when a select group of financiers met at the private Jekyll Island Club off the eastern coast of Georgia and, forgoing last names to preserve their anonymity among the staff, drafted legislation to create a central bank. Its secrecy, of course, persists today, with Ben S. Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, refusing to tell even Congress which banks received government money under the bailout. There is also a heated battle to force the Fed to disclose its role in the controversial attempt to save the insurance giant American International Group.

In its appellate briefs, the Clearing House invoked this tradition of silence. It pointed out that the Federal Reserve Board does release information on its Web site about the total money it gives out, although not about loans to specific banks. Bloomberg News, it maintained, was trying to “upset the board’s longstanding policy against disclosure.”

 
This “tradition of silence” is something arrogated and unconstitutional. We do indeed want to “upset this policy against disclosure” of our facts about our money.
 
The article delivers a terrorist threat from the Fed’s lawyer. (Who’s no doubt being paid with our money to try to destroy our democracy. How do like it that the Fed is always hiring fancy private law firms? Shouldn’t they have (far less expensive) in-house counsel? Yet another example of laundering, of embezzlement.)
 

Mr. Giuffra argues that the open flow of information — while ostensibly a virtue — can, in fact, be dangerous. The Fed’s discount window, which provides money on a short-term emergency basis, is a lender of last resort, as is its alphabet soup of special programs. If depositors or creditors were to find out that a bank had reached the point of needing last resorts, it might be compromised in public. And, as Mr. Giuffra notes in his court papers, “banking history is replete with examples of financial institutions failing when the public loses confidence.”

Indeed, his papers can, at times, sound something like the highlight reel from a financial disaster film. They refer to no fewer than eight bank runs — many large, some small — in recent years, though only two had anything to do with central banks.

 
We shouldn’t have confidence in a system whose lies and criminality are matched only by its incompetence and recklessness.
 
The same goes for this, which at least has the virtue of comedy:
 

To bolster the case that transparency is not, as the news media would have it, an unfettered good, the Fed and the Clearing House filed affidavits from several Fed employees, each one testifying that banks face a “stigma” when their emergency borrowing habits are known. The Fed wrote that these affidavits, coming as they did from experts on the front lines, were themselves enough to prove its case.

Bloomberg’s lawyers have said that this line of argument smacks vaguely of “father knows best.”

 
Here’s a paragraph which really lays bare the Fed’s derelictions:
 

The Fed, meanwhile, has worried that if the appeals court rules for Bloomberg, then savvy traders could quickly get their hands on such data in the future and use it to their advantage even as the government was trying to stabilize the markets.

 
How would that happen, if everything was simply fully publicized? On the contrary, it’s clear that the current furtive practice has been tailored to facilitate insider trading and other scams. This insults the intelligence in the same way as their claim that listing who got money through the “facilities” would compromise perceptions of those banks’ solvency, when on the contrary the current coverup simply confirms the perception that all the big banks are probably insolvent without massive welfare payments.
 
And as always, every claim about some weakness in the system they’re allegedly trying to compensate for immediately provokes the question – What are you doing to fix this so the government will never again be involved in “stabilizing markets”?
 
Oh, you’re doing nothing? That proves your bad faith.
 
The piece says the judges for the appeal were openly skeptical of this Fed argument:
 

It is notoriously hard to infer judges’ leanings from the questions they ask, but even Mr. Giuffra acknowledged that the panel, which is not likely to rule for several weeks, seemed to take a dim view of some of his points. Among them was his argument that the information in the documents was not the releasable kind generated by the government — in this case, by the Fed — but was instead obtained from “a person,” or the banks, and was therefore private and protected.

 
The “personhood” lie never stops doing damage. And even if it were “correct”, why would a “person” under these circumstances have any privacy rights? These same right-wingers are always demanding that other kinds of welfare recipients give up every kind of privacy right. So why would these recipients of trillions in welfare payments have any “privacy” rights? They’re stealing public money.
 
But the article close on a high note:
 

Whatever the results, Ms. Bennett and her investigative team have walked away from the experience with their tribal energies revitalized.

“You can’t know how exciting and explosive it’s been,” she said. “This wasn’t some plan where we said, ‘We’re going to file the FOIA, then we’re going to wait, then we’ll check it and our ultimate goal is to sue the Fed.’

“It came up spontaneously. It’s like what it was like 30 years ago. Back in the days when journalism was exciting — really exciting.”

 
Now that’s what life is supposed to be about. (Although that quote says a lot about how far Bloomberg’s normal practice has fallen from real afflict-the-comfortable journalism.) How did we lose it all so badly? What depths of the soul could exist, that we’d let gutter greed overcome our humanity? Nothing else can work unless we can get that back.   

February 15, 2010

Tower of Debt, or Greeced Pole?

 

It looks like we have shaping up in Europe a reprise of 2008. Everyone’s comparing Greece to Bear Stearns, or Lehman, or AIG, depending on the point of view.
 
The AIG angle looks especially enticing when you look at the inevitable entanglements of Goldman Sachs. Goldman encouraging Greece to spend like a drunken sailor, Goldman helping it hide the debts from the EU and its accounting rules, Goldman meanwhile taking on lots of CDS protection vs. the inevitable default, and Goldman then seeking to trigger that default, to force a bailout of Goldman’s positions.
 
Yes, in that sense it’s like rewriting a play. Greece ~ AIG, Germany/the EU ~ Treasury/the Fed, Goldman = Goldman.
 
On the other hand, if you leave out the actual mechanism of crime and take the eagle’s-eye view, this sure looks like Lehman – it’s collapsing, everyone wants to pretend they can let it collapse without crashing the system – but this time everyone knows you can’t let Greece default and still keep on with business as usual. Nope, Portuguese and Spanish default would probably follow hard on a Grecian jubilee, and from there the dominoes quickly get much bigger. There are dark allusions to the big European banks’ exposure to Greek debt, and the UK itself is being held together by duct tape.
 
What this all adds up to is that they have to figure out something, but they don’t know what. That’s why so far they’ve just issued unsatisfying declarations of moral support and nothing more. I guess they’ll have to try to bail out Lehman this time around (especially if it’s also AIG and Goldman is demanding its terrorist payoff).
 
(They’re also saying the EU charter doesn’t allow bailouts, but I think we can imagine what that’s worth. Watch how they evade it or openly flout it, compare that to America’s PCA law which was also ignored, and then ponder how much credence we should put in American “reform” proposals involving “resolution authority.” It’s always been a scam, it’ll be a scam today in Europe, and it’ll always be a scam in days ahead.)
 
The basic delusion with the EU is the same as in the American finance sector. They assumed assets would forever appreciate, that marking to market would always mean marking upward, and that no level of anyone’s debt servicing would ever outrun asset appreciation. That’s why no one worried about Greece’s Goldman-assisted profligacy.
 
While reading that NYT piece I found myself nodding and saying, “Greece played by the rules.” Including the “cheating” of which many are now accusing them: “If a government wants to cheat, it can cheat”, the NYT quotes an IMF cadre. It can indeed; that’s the way you all set it up with the IMF and with every other aspect of financialized globalism.
 
But don’t listen to the scapegoating – Greece did what it did with tacit German approval, because the Tower of Debt was supposed to climb forever while the banks raked in tremendous tolls. Collecting bingeworthy tolls doesn’t work if everybody fails to binge.
 
And when the crash comes? Disaster capitalism: bailouts, “structural adjustments”, privatizations, liquidation, expansion of tyranny. It’s set up to be win-win for the criminals. That’s the way it’s playing out so far in America, and now they’ll try to take the next step in Europe.
 
(Anybody who ever doubts a word of what I say must answer the two simple questions: (1) Why was the wealth so unevenly distributed in the good times, and more importantly (2) when the crash and depression come, why don’t those who benefited the most during the boom now have to sacrifice the most during the bust?
 
I think the record proves the criminal intent of all system ideology and practice throughout the cycle.)
 
So the Euro elites are having a little problem with one of their junior members? The Greek local bosses are getting uppity? But what did Greece really do? It’s just a microcosm of the whole scam. “Borrowing” while cooking the books. Stealing from the future. The way it’s piled up today, all government debt is exactly that; everyone cooks his books. The whole point of the EU is to run up debt. The whole point of exponential debt in general is to allow the already rich to live even further beyond their means, and to faciliate even further stealing from the non-rich who have to go catastrophically into personal debt just to try to keep up appearances. The financialized debt economy is simply a vast repetition of the original physical and geographic accumulation under feudalism. But this time the accumulation is not “primitive”, and a precursor of capitalism, but rather the terminal accumulation as capitalism dies out completely and feudalism returns. (Capitalism was only a temporary outgrowth of cheap, plentiful fossil fuels.)
 
The only reason the power structures of Germany and France set up this “EU” in the first place is because they thought it would provide them with even more exploitation opportunities at the expense of the smaller countries, and eventually of their own people as well.
 
How much responsibility does Greece have here, as opposed to Germany and the EU themselves, as opposed to Goldman? In looking at the whole gangland network, I rank everyone, from bosses to capos to the made men among soldiers, to the rank and file soldiers, to all the lowly hangers-on, and assign responsibility accordingly.
 
According to that ranking, Goldman and the EU/Germany are bosses, while the Greek establishment is pretty far down – a soldier, I guess.
 
So if Germany is whining because another boss directly advised one of the EU’s lower level guys on how to secretly run up debt, I say that’s mainly the fault of the bosses, while the Greek government is small potatoes.
 
As for the allegedly spendthrift Greeks in general who are being demonized by the establishment, I doubt much of this bingeing went to benefit the people as opposed to Greece’s own rich parasite gang, who will now try to socialize the pain after having pocketed the gain. (Just look at all the public revenues they already promised to Goldman as “collateral.” I’d love to see the Greek people tear up those “contracts.”)
 
And that’s just what Germany will end up trying to do, as it has to take the lead in a new round of Bailouts.
 
(And Spain is up next? Of course, it was mostly German banks who pumped up Spain’s housing bubble. Let’s remember that when German elites are whining about the Spanish Bailout.)
 
Yes, imposing totalitarianism by stealth and gradual economic strangulation is hard work.
 
So now, thanks to Greece, it looks like the Eurocrats will have to move into Bailout/disaster capitalist mode sooner than expected. “Austerity” measures, “structural adjustments”, like in Weimar Germany, are now demanded for Greece (and increasingly for America). Privatize the gain and then socialize the pain.
 
Greece, Germany, America – the taxpayer is the target, in exactly the same way that the poor of the Global South previously have been the target of globalization. The tsunami is now to engulf all of us, and we’re to be liquidated and feudalized.
 
If we let that happen.
 
Maybe we can look at each taxpayer base as a potential insurgency. So far the Americans have proven craven and docile. So now we look to the Greeks, and soon to the Germans. Maybe they’ll show a little more life in the face of their proposed liquidation.
 
I would call to all peoples. Greeks! Germans! Americans! The governments in Athens, Berlin, most of all in Washington and Brussels, are your enemies! The banks are your enemies! And the governments serve the banks!
 
We’ll see. Disgustingly, the Big Lie of trickle-down, a-rising-tide-lifts-all-boats, still seems to have a lot of traction.
 
No! The rising tide is a tsunami to smash all but the biggest boats!
 
Will anyone, anywhere, Stand Up? Complaining, the way the taxpayers have contented themselves so far, will do no good.
 
A country must cleanse itself. Purge, burn, purify.       

February 14, 2010

Marja – Notions of Counterinsurgency

Filed under: Afghanistan, Freedom — Russ @ 4:03 pm

 

A few days ago American forces launched an offensive to capture the Taliban-held town of Marja. It’s part of the counterinsurgency strategy to secure “urban” areas and use them as foundations to dangle the prospect of stable civic life and good jobs to the many insurgents who are allegedly motivated by money and not jihad.
 
(Everything I read puts it in those Manichean terms – the fighters are either fundamentalist fanatics or have only socioeconomic motives. That many might not be fanatical Islamists, have economic motives, but also feel the normal motives of freedom-fighting and national liberation against the invader and his quislings, was too nuanced for Bush, and evidently for Obama as well.
 
Are American soldiers also either pure mercenaries or pure fanatics?)
 
An NYT analysis gives the basics:
 

On Saturday morning the long-awaited battle for the walled town began. But as one of Mr. Obama’s own advisers conceded in December, when recounting the arguments that took place in the Situation Room last fall, “it’s not about the battle, it’s about the postlude.”….
In the Bush years, the rallying cry when operations like Marja began was “clear, build and hold.” Mr. Obama has added a fourth step, “transfer.” At the end of the three-month-long review of Afghan strategy, Mr. Obama vowed he would begin no military operation unless a plan was in place to transfer authority promptly to the Afghans.

That plan exists in Marja, at least on paper. Both the Americans and the Afghan military did everything to advertise the coming military strike short of posting billboards with the date and size of the operation. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the American commander who persuaded Mr. Gates, and ultimately Mr. Obama, to try his form of counterinsurgency, insisted last week that the “transfer” element of the strategy had been prepared and would kick in as soon as the Taliban fled or were defeated.

 
So evidently adding the magic word “transfer” to the old trio which proved to be less than magical is supposed to do the trick.
 
If the Taliban stick to the guerrilla playbook, they’ll put up a token resistance and then get out of there. A basic rule in fighting the bloated enemy is never to fight a pitched battle at a time and place of his choosing. So I don’t doubt the Americans can “clear.”
 
But if I were the Taliban this wouldn’t frighten me much. Let them “clear”, let them delude themselves that they’re “building” as they “hold”. And then the “transfer” – I sure wouldn’t be afraid of the yahoos they’re going to transfer it to. Most of them probably secretly support me, and even if they don’t they’re not going to fight once I come back.
 
The whole build-transfer is a joke since everybody knows that you can’t “transfer” anything here, any more than they could with Vietnamization. Whatever stooges they install, the Americans will be the ones “holding” for as long as they stay, and once they leave the insurgents come back. So it’s still the same clear-hold-build-leave that it always was.
 
And while they hold, can they induce these insurgents to come back in, become clerks or whatever?
 

“We’ve got a government in a box, ready to roll in,” General McChrystal said.

The gamble here is that once Afghans see the semblance of a state taking hold in Marja, rank-and-file Taliban will begin to take more seriously the offers that Mr. Karzai and the West are dangling to buy them off. Enticed by the offer of some political role in Afghan society — and a regular paycheck — they will think twice about trying to recapture the town. “We think many of the foot soldiers are in it for the money, not the ideology,” one British official said recently. “We need to test the proposition that it’s cheaper to enrich them a little than to fight them every spring and summer.”

 
As someone who’s socioeconomically disaffected as well as something of an “extremist”, let me try to put myself in their shoes.
 
Let’s say I’m a Pashtun with no good job prospects, who hates the invader, seeks action, but is not a jihadist. So of course I’ve joined the Taliban (or fight alongside them; I’m not sure how formal “joining” is). I’m with the insurgency.
 
Now I look at this regime which is supposedly offering me a job if I give up fighting. I despise the American puppet regime, but I suppose if there really was a good job waiting I might come in. But I look at the Tajik-dominated army, the Tajik-dominated police, the Tajik-dominated civil service, how American contractors paying slave wages (and usually to foreign laborers anyway) dominate many other sectors, and I assume that any future economy will similarly be dominated by a combo of the Tajiks and American corporate interests…..well, I wouldn’t have to be a genius to figure out that there’s no future for me there other than as a little flunkeyboy.
 
If the insurgency loses, or if I personally cave in and come in, then I’m finished. From then on I’d live as a dog.
 
But if we could fight and win, and the Pashtuns again dominate all those sectors, all those career paths for which I as a fighter am skilled, then a great career would be in my grasp. All I need to do is keep fighting, grab for the main chance, for any chance at a good life.
 
If those were the choices, I know what I’d choose in a heartbeat.
 
So that’s the proposition upon which the American COIN strategy is premised. It depends upon many insurgents choosing the guaranteed wretchedness of a lifetime of low-level drudgery in an army, police, or government where they can never advance, vs. choosing the high-risk, high-reward path of resistance.
 
They’re counting on cravenness, cowardice, docility, security blanketism, myopia being the main qualities of these men, over courage, daring, vision.
 
In other words they’re counting on these fighters to be more like today’s Americans, and the way today’s Americans have “reacted” to their own being plundered and enslaved, than like the fighting Americans of the 1770s.
 
Ascribing your own mindset to that of the enemy is usually a mistake.
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