November 19, 2010

The War On Terror Is Over: Synopsis

Filed under: Afghanistan, Global War On Terror — Tags: , — Russell Bangs @ 2:58 am


I don’t write much about the wars anymore, simply because I can’t write about everything and had to whittle down my topics. But I wanted to sum up the rational case against the war in one short post, perhaps as the basis for a set of talking points if anyone wanted to use it that way.
I won’t go again into the true corporatist nature of the war. I’ve written extensively about that in the past, for example here, here, and here. Let me just again cite two choice pieces of evidence: War Secretary Robert Gates assuring an audience of weapons racketeers that the administration’s main priority is escalating Pentagon budgets solely for the sake of spending escalation itself, i.e. for the sake of corporate welfare; and Nick Turse’s account of how Pentagon contracting extends to a whole menagerie of “civilian” consumer goods and services companies. This gives an overview of how the military-industrial complex extends much further than most people think. The corporate-militarist state has already become far more integrated than it ever was under classical fascism prior to WWII.
So here’s the basic facts:
1. Terrorism is not a real threat to America. If you don’t believe a pinko like me, how about the neocon consultant corporation Stratfor? Stratfor, unlike some blowhard in the jingo NYT or WaPo, actually gets paid for the actionable quality of its opinions. That’s how it makes its living. And as it’s an imperial consultant, for Stratfor to support war would be talking its book.
Yet according to this and many other pieces, terrorism “does not represent a strategic, existential threat”.
In fact, Stratfor’s basic position on the Global War on Terror goes as follows:
A. Terrorism is not a strategic, existential threat.
B. Al-Qaeda’s capabilities have been greatly degraded.
C. Whatever diminished action international terrorism can undertake, it can undertake it outside Afghanistan Yemen, or any other particular place.
D. Most Afghans reject the Karzai government. (So according to Petraeus’ and McChrystal’s own counterinsurgency doctrine, which declares the necessity for a legitimate indigenous client government, the Afghanistan war cannot be won.)
E. The Taliban cannot be defeated.

Nietzsche wrote that, “The most fundamental form of human stupidity is forgetting what we were trying to do in the first place.” The stated U.S. goal in Afghanistan was the destruction of al Qaeda. While al Qaeda as it existed in 2001 has certainly been disrupted and degraded, al Qaeda’s evolution and migration means that disrupting and degrading it — to say nothing of destroying it — can no longer be achieved by waging a war in Afghanistan. The guerrilla does not rely on a single piece of real estate (in this case Afghanistan) but rather on his ability to move seamlessly across terrain to evade decisive combat in any specific location. Islamist-fueled transnational terrorism is not centered on Afghanistan and does not need Afghanistan, so no matter how successful that war might be, it would make little difference in the larger fight against transnational jihadism.

So we have Stratfor making the whole case right there. We should end the wars and get out.
And it’s not just them. Even arch-neocons like Zakaria admit that terrorism is no threat remotely commensurate with what we’ve lost and spent in pretending to fight it.
2. Any actual war on terror element of the “war on terror” has already been won. Administration experts themselves say so:
CIA chief Leon Panetta: “We’re looking at 50 to 100, maybe less” al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
Terror “czar” Michael Leiter: Maybe “more than 300” jihadists in Pakistan.
National Security Adviser James Jones: “Fewer than 100” AQ in Afghanistan.
ABC news quotes an intelligence official who sums it up: the DoD, CIA, and other intelligence agencies agree that there are at most around 100 jihadists in Afghanistan and several hundred in Pakistan.
So actual jihad has been smashed, like Stratfor says. The US government and military agree. The actual war on terror is over. It was won a long time ago.
3. The one and only thing now driving insurgencies and what little jihadist sentiment is left is the imperial war itself. This Pew study demonstrates that jihad is unpopular in Pakistan, but that American aggression is even less popular. The same public opinion is common throughout the Muslim world. Most people are sick of jihad and don’t want caliphates. The only thing they’d prefer it to is Western domination. And the one thing which causes them to look favorably upon insurgency and jihad is Western aggression.
In July the NBER released a study which found that the Afghan occupation itself is the driver of insurgency.
“Local exposure to violence from Isaf [NATO’s “International Security Assistance Force”, i.e. the invaders] appears to be the primary driver of this effect.”
Meanwhile as Petraeus took over from McC, he was mulling whether to relax McC’s relatively restrictive rules of engagement. Those were the same rules under which McC himself admitted they were doing little but slaughtering civilians:

We’ve shot an amazing number of people and killed a number and, to my knowledge, none has proven to have been a real threat to the force . . . . [T]o my knowledge, in the nine-plus months I’ve been here, not a single case where we have engaged in an escalation of force incident and hurt someone has it turned out that the vehicle had a suicide bomb or weapons in it and, in many cases, had families in it.”

From the report: “When Isaf units kill civilians, this increases the willing number of combatants.”
That’s the main thing driving the insurgency, and it’s the only thing still breathing life into jihad. And Petraeus wants to escalate it. What did they say this war was about again?
4. The people are increasingly realizing this and are turning against the war.
So anyone who starts to doubt the war should be told that he’s not alone. On the contrary, he’s joining the majority, although you’d never know it from the normal MSM coverage.
So the war on terror is over and has been won. Terrorism is no strategic threat. The power elites admit as much. Whatever the real reason is for the “war on terror”, it’s not to defend against terrorism.
Maybe the best way to educate against the war is to start, not by directly calling it a corporate imperial boondoggle and war crime, but by proving that whatever it is, it’s not a war against terror.
In the same way that people are coming to reject the banks as they realize how the banks produce nothing but are only parasites, maybe more people will reject the wars as they realize how the wars have zero to do with terrorism or any other kind of defense, but are only a project of corporate aggression. (And maybe focusing on the “corporate war” angle can help do an end run around residual “patriotic” delusions about the wars.)

November 18, 2010

Krugman: Austerity-Lite

Filed under: Disaster Capitalism, Reformism Can't Work — Tags: , — Russell Bangs @ 5:29 am


I don’t intend to start in again on the pernicious Paul Krugman, and I’m not going to write another long post on the likes of him.
I just wanted to point out another example of the standard Krugman ploy, this time in his post, Why I’m Soft on Sales Taxes.
Consider (as Krugman invites us to) a country like Sweden or Denmark which started out with a more socialistic mindset, always maintained a strong safety net, and always had consumption taxes as a major part of the revenue mix.
There’s obviously no comparison between that and imposing a massive, alien sales tax on a country where the safety net is being shredded, and where the mentality is a Hobbesian shooting gallery. Under those circumstances such a tax would be viciously regressive. Yet Krugman is now taking the lead in calling for such taxes.
This is the same scam Thugman pulled when he was astroturfing for the health racket bailout, another reactionary austerity measure, when he claimed that the “exchanges” had something in common with the systems of Switzerland and the Netherlands.
But again, this is a vicious lie. Such comparisons aren’t even on the same planet, let alone in the ballpark. But here’s Krugman trotting out the same lie, this time as part of the austerity-lite initiative exemplified by his own death panel proposal and the Rivlin/Domenici counterproposal to Obama’s Star Chamber plan. The goal here is to get reactionary “austerity” enacted by making it look reasonable by comparison to the Obama commission.
Thugman actually has the nerve to tell what he has to know is a criminal lie:

All of which says that if I can trade a somewhat regressive VAT for guarantees of decent retirement and universal health care, I’ll take it.

He knows damn well this is not the intent of any VAT proposal from the elites, and will not be its effect. He knows damn well any such revenue will go right down the rathole. He’s a despicable, criminal liar.
We need to be clear, that by now ALL taxes on the non-rich are purely predatory. Every cent of taxation on the non-rich is simply stolen from us and redistributed upward to the banksters and corporations. We need to become neo-Norquists, presenting a united front intoning an absolute NO to all tax increases for the non-rich.
This obviously includes all new regressive taxes and all regressive increases. We have to oppose these Krugman taxes.
Once and for all the people need to eradicate two equally pernicious ideas: We have one mob who wants to destroy all non-violent aspects of government in order to liberate the corporations. We have another, even more stupid, who thinks increasing the size and power of a corporatist government will somehow do anything other than further empower the corporations and further impoverish the people.
We need to reject both sides of this evil coin. We need to recognize the corporate tyranny and the government tyranny as the same tyranny. The corporations are completely dependent upon the government’s violence, overt as well as implicit, and they own the government.
So one part of the strategy has to be to starve government toward the goal of starving the corporations. This means, among other things, forcing it to continue borrowing instead of taxing. This will accelerate the government’s financial collapse, and that in turn will deal a mortal blow to the corporate parasite.
So read our lips. No Taxes for the Non-Rich. 

November 17, 2010


Filed under: Food and Farms, Land Reform, Neo-feudalism, Sovereignty and Constitution — Russell Bangs @ 5:33 am


Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field
which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the people,
Yea, has God said, You shall not hoard of every tree of the garden?
2 And the people said unto the bankster, We may eat of the fruit
of the trees of the garden, for it is of the earth, and for that we tended
3 But of the fruit of all the trees which are in the midst of the garden,
God has said, You shall not, calling it “Mine”, hoard it, lest you die.
4 And the bankster said unto the people, You shall not surely die:
5 For God knows that in the day you take the fruit as property, then
your eyes will be opened, you will become owners, and you shall be
as gods, knowing good and evil.
6 And when the people saw that the tree was good to make one a
proprietor, and for becoming a middleman in commodifying food, and
that toxins would make it more pleasant to the eyes once they had
convinced themselves that it wasn’t pleasant to the eyes in the first
place, and that no longer having the tree but merely desiring it would
make them rich, and that not satisfaction but desire makes one wise,
they stopped eating and did seize and hoard.
7 And their eyes were opened, and they knew that they were in debt;
and they sewed money together, and made themselves wages.
8 And they heard the voice of the Landlord God walking in the garden:
and not having the rent the tenants hid themselves from the presence of
the Landlord God amongst the trees of the garden.
9 And the Landlord God called unto the tenants and said, Where are you?
10 And they said, We heard your voice in the garden, and we were afraid,
because we were behind on the rent; and we hid ourselves.
11 And he said, Who told you that you were behind on the rent? Have you
grasped at the tree, whereof I commanded you that you should not hoard?
12 And the tenants said, we seized of the tree, and we stopped eating.
13 And the Landlord God said unto the tenants, What is this that you have
done? And the tenants said, The bankster beguiled us, and we did seize and
14 And the Landlord God said unto the bankster, Because you have done
this, you are cursed above all productive cattle, and above every beast of the field;
upon your belly shall you go, and dust shall you eat all the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity between you and the tenants, and between your
leeching and their enslavement; it shall sometimes bruise your head, and you
shall usually bruise their heel.
16 Unto the tenants he said, I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception;
in sorrow you shall bring forth children; and your desire shall be to your government,
and it shall rule over you.
17 And unto the tenants he said, Because you have hearkened unto the voice of
the bankster, and have seized and hoarded and borrowed on the future produce of
the tree where I did bid you freely eat: cursed and enclosed is the ground for your
sake; in sorrow shall you labor over it going ever more deeply into debt, and you
shall eat little, all the days of your life;
18 Thorns of war and police thistles shall it bring forth to you; and you shall eat of the
degraded poisoned weed of the field:
19 In the sweat of your face shall you eat a few crumbs of expensive bread, and in the
blood flowing from your agonizing wounds shall you bleed to labor for the wars of your
government, till you return unto the ground; for out of it were you taken: for you are
debtor dust, and unto dust shall you return.
20 And the tenants called themselves capitalists, because the hoard was the mother
of all their dream of living.
21 Unto the tenants did the Landlord God make indentures, and clothed them.
22 And the Landlord God said, behold, the tenants are become as one of us, to know the
good and evil of the free market: and now, lest they put forth their hand, and take also of
the tree’s fruit again, this time not to hoard, but to eat, and live for ever:
23 Therefore the Landlord God sent them forth from the garden of Eden, to till the
feudal ground as sharecroppers and serfs, from whence they were taken.
24 So he drove out the tenants: and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden credit
scores, which he caused to look like a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the
way of the tree of life, where the fruit still grows, and can still be eaten.

November 16, 2010

Food Tyranny Bill: Imminent Cloture Vote

Filed under: Food and Farms, Freedom — Russell Bangs @ 3:09 pm


The Senate’s Food Tyranny bill, S.510, which I wrote about recently in a two-part post (part 1 and part 2), and in several earlier posts, is slated to get a cloture vote this week. (Any remotely decent piece of legislation, these vile Democrats can’t do it. But for this, Reid will rouse himself to seek cloture.)
While I don’t normally have any confidence in the sign a petition/ call your senator thing, the fact is that this isn’t the banks we’re dealing with, and public pressure could possibly make a difference.
So here’s the Farm-to-Consumer petition page, and here’s the Congressional site. For the rest, I’ll excerpt from the Food Freedom alert:


1. Call both of your Senators and ask them to oppose S.510.

Go to Congress.org and type in your zip code in the box in the upper right hand corner.

Click on your Senator’s name, and then on the contact tab for their phone number.

You can also call the Capitol Switchboard and ask to be directly connected to your Senator’s office: 202-224-3121.

Once connected, ask to speak to the legislative staff person responsible for agriculture. If they are unavailable leave a voicemail message. Be sure to include your name and phone number.

2. Send a live email message to your Senators through the online petition to http://www.ftcldf.org/stopS510

Be sure to follow up with phone calls.


1. FDA has more than adequate powers under existing law to ensure food safety and effectively deal with foodborne illness outbreaks. FDA has power to inspect, power to detain product and can readily obtain court orders to seize adulterated or misbranded food products or enjoin them from being sold. The problem isn’t that FDA needs more power; it’s that FDA does not effectively use the power it currently has.

2. S.510 will give FDA extensive power to regulate food in intrastate commerce; state and local governments are more than capable of handling any problems related to food in intrastate commerce. All the major outbreaks of foodborne illness involve either imported food or food in interstate commerce.

3. S.510 will hurt our ability as a nation to be self-sufficient in food production; it has more lenient inspection requirements for foreign than domestic producers creating an unfair advantage for food imports. Giving an advantage to foreign producers will only increase the amount of food imported into this country that does not meet our domestic standards. The bill does not address food security–the ability of a country to produce enough food to meet its own needs.

4. S.510 will provide a competitive advantage to industrial food producers–the sector of the food system causing most of the food safety problems; they will benefit from this legislation because it will cripple many small farmers and local producers–the solution to the food safety problems in this country. The bill will impose burdensome regulations that will punish local food producers, many of whom won’t have the economies of scale to comply with S.510′s requirements.

5. S.510 gives FDA the power to dictate growers’ practices by establishing national standards for produce; the same standards applying to big firms-where the food safety problems have occurred-will apply as well to small growers who have had no food safety issues. Small growers will be forced to change practices that have produced safe, quality food.

6. S.510 does nothing to address many significant food safety problems in this country, such as those resulting from confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and various contaminants (e.g., BPA, pesticides, herbicides, etc.).

Reversing the Polarities: The First Amendment and Commercial Speech


I was rereading the FCC’s “Third Way” proposal. (Why? I don’t know. The thing’s dead as the dodo, unless somehow Republican overreaching in the Congress to totally gut net neutrality inspires a surge of public outrage.) I thought I was wasting minutes of my life I’ll never get back, when this verbiage caught my eye:

Working to preserve the freedom and openness of the Internet through high-level rules of the road to safeguard consumers’ right to connect with whomever they want; speak freely online; access the lawful products and services of their choice; and safeguard the Internet’s boundless promise as a platform for innovation and communication to improve our education and health care, and help deliver a clean energy future.

I hadn’t really noticed at first, but looking back over the preceding lines I saw how the word “consumer” is littered all over the brief.
Now, maybe one shouldn’t read much into a political suck-up document by itself, but in fact the disparagement of the citizen in favor of the consumer is practically universal by now. The reason this example seemed interesting was because it’s a good example of how free speech as well is being redefined in “consumerist” terms, which is one manifestation of its being redefined in corporatist terms. Whether or not the FCC cares about freedom of political speech on the Interent (there is a brief mention elsewhere of “expressing opinions”), it clearly believes the most important speech interaction is commercial in nature.
This is implicitly a complete reversal of polarities. Historically, the First Amendment applied to political speech most of all. Implicitly, other kinds of speech were less important, while at the opposite end of the spectrum purely commercial speech was subject to the most regulation. Today we see how political speech is the speech most under assault, while Citizens United is the prime example of a SCOTUS surge to empower purely commercial speech as pseudo-political. We’re now in the midst of a complete inversion of these priorities. It’s a prime example of how politics itself is under assault by a corporatized anti-politics.
Consider the logic of Citizens United:
1. The SCOTUS enshrines “free speech”, including the right to make campaign donations, to “corporate persons.”
2. As the corporate apologists never get sick of saying, in principle a corporation is responsible only to the shareholders. Its one and only responsibility and prerogative is profit.
3. So by definition a corporation does not and should not function as a citizen. It functions only as a commercial entity.
4. So how can you call for free speech for a corporation unless you’re calling for the First Amendment to apply to exclusively commercial speech? Doesn’t this mean that all regulation of commercial speech – truth-in-labeling regs, terminological restrictions, nutrition listing, required warnings and disclaimers, any limits whatsoever on advertising – are implicitly void? Shouldn’t the tobacco companies fire up the old ad campaigns selling to children, claiming cigarette smoking is good for your health?
Implicitly, according to CU, the government can’t legitimately restrict it. Nobody can say, “CU was about political speech only”, because by definition a corporation cannot engage in political speech, only commercial speech. How can a corporation donate to a candidate other than as a bribe? Wouldn’t it be in breach of its duty to the shareholders if it donated on any other basis?

Positive Democracy in the American Historical Context


This is a version of a comment I wrote during this discussion. I thought I’d repost it here.
Where shall we discover the basis of America’s original ideals, now that’s they’ve been so trampled and traduced by the corporate media culture? Bernard Bailyn’s Ideological Origins of the American Revolution gives an extended discussion of the heritage and connotations of concepts/terms like rights, consent, representation, constitution, and sovereignty.
The book itself is something of a whitewash of the many of the founders, but however much they actually did cherish those ideals, here we learn what those ideals really meant.
So if people are thinking and speaking in terms of resuming the long-neglected and/or hijacked American Revolution, that’s one source which can help us to understand what we’re really talking about.
We must institute the only mode of polity and economy which has been proven to work on a practical level, to safeguard the people’s sovereignty, and to give adequate scope to our positive freedom imperative: Direct democracy, true federalism, and the cooperative stewardship economy.
Direct democracy is government by local councils, or in American history, in some places at least, town halls. This is the truly living constitution and vibrance of sovereignty. These councils could be organized along any number of lines – at the workplace, by profession, or by economic region, or by community, and in combinations of these. There are many other possibilities as well.
True federalism means power is exercised at the level from whence it arises in the first place, among the people in their workplaces and/or communities. Authority is delegated upward, e.g. to regional councils, only on a provisional, mostly consultative basis, and all representatives are subject to instant recall. All significant decision-making, of course, remains in the hands of the local councils.
This is also the proper manifestation of sovereignty, which always and only reposes in the people, and can only be conditionally delegated to any smaller and/or “higher” group.
A cooperative economy is one where sovereignty would be properly organized economically. Since no one can legitimately “own” land, natural resources, or the socially constructed infrastructure, i.e. the means of production, such resources and infrastructure would be either cooperatively worked and self-managed by the worker council, and/or distributed on the basis of useful possession or productive stewardship, or any similar term one preferred.
This is the only way to reatin economic sovereignty and to ensure the most effective production. Since all rents would be purged, this would be by far the most equitably productive economy. This is its unique practicality. (The Spanish collectives of the Civil War accomplished prodigies of production under the most free circumstances any communities and workers have known, until they were destroyed by the combined treachery and violence of liberals, communists, and fascists.)
What to do to accomplish this? Any constructive economic relocalization action is worthwhile, but especially increasing local food production and rationalizing its local distribution. Getting involved in local politics on behalf of this relocalization goal is also needful, but I think the political action probably needs to follow the established economic (or other practical) action.
That’s just a few thoughts for now.

November 15, 2010

Krugman Watch 11/15: The Austerity-Mongering is On

Filed under: Bailouts Only Propped Up Zombies, Corporatism, Health Racket Bailout — Tags: , — Russell Bangs @ 10:21 am


“What’s going on here? I don’t think you can resort to class war arguments.”
I would have that be seen as the defining quote of Krugman’s career. True, there’s competition from the likes of “In Praise of Cheap Labor”, but I think this best sums up Krugman’s role as corporate liberal astroturfer. He epitomizes the historical mission of system liberals: When the going gets tough for the criminal elites, and there’s some risk of their facing real resistance, their first choice is to bring in the liberals as consultants, agents of misdirection, astroturfers. (The second choice is fascism, if the liberals fail.)
To come in and say things like, “I don’t think you can resort to class war arguments.”
I called my shot on Krugman a long time ago, in posts like Schizoid Krugman and Krugman Watch on Sarajevo Day. I said he didn’t really oppose the Austerity offensive in principle, but only questioned its tactical tempo, and perhaps the vehicles being proposed. He thought they were jumping the gun.
I said then and I still say that in the end he’ll support the gutting of Social Security. You just watch.
Now we’re starting to see Krugman’s maneuver in that direction. Before I get to his current advocacy of death panels and regressive taxation, let’s first go over today’s column. It’s a typical batch of Thugman nonsense and lies, and I don’t normally bother, but since we’re already here…..

On Wednesday David Axelrod, President Obama’s top political adviser, appeared to signal that the White House was ready to cave on tax cuts — to give in to Republican demands that tax cuts be extended for the wealthy as well as the middle class. “We have to deal with the world as we find it,” he declared…..

But the bitter irony goes deeper than that: the main reason Mr. Obama finds himself in this situation is that two years ago he was not, in fact, prepared to deal with the world as he was going to find it. And it seems as if he still isn’t.

Krugman correctly calls out Axelrod’s crackpot pragmatism. Let’s be clear about what pragmatism really is, as opposed to Orwellian “pragmatism”.
If you have the nominal power to push through your agenda, but you unilaterally scale down your goals because of the merely political resistance of the enemy, and perhaps the disapproval of the MSM, you’re already a coward. Then there’s the fact that the historical record proves that the enemy won’t credit any of your concessions, but instead will treat your self-diminished position as the outrageous primal extreme.
If, under those conditions, you still seek appeasement and compromise, then cowardice has escalated into morbid stupidity. No rational, modestly self-respecting person under those conditions would do anything other than use his power to ram through his entire agenda, knowing that there will be no political reward for doing anything less. Not to mention that there may very well be a tremendous reward for aggressively doing it all, that you’d galvanize your base and compel the respect and even admiration of many who hadn’t previously supported you.
What really happens, assuming the alleged “progressives” are really at all progressive in intent, is that if their only options are to either give up their goals or to force their way through to their goals, but in such a way that they’d have to endure being shrieked at by their enemies to the right, that’s too much for them to endure. That’s the elemental cravenness which goes into defining the progressive “character”. And out of that, by way of self-justification, arises the rationally absurd crackpot “pragmatism”, which is the least pragmatic course of action from the point of view of reality.
All of that assumes that the “progressive” is somewhat sincere in his own mind. Of course that’s seldom the case with system elites, who are for the most part conscious criminals who use crackpot pragmatism in an Orwellian way, to pseudo-justify their liberal lies and help astroturf the well-meaning but cowardly base.

In retrospect, the roots of current Democratic despond go all the way back to the way Mr. Obama ran for president. Again and again, he defined America’s problem as one of process, not substance — we were in trouble not because we had been governed by people with the wrong ideas, but because partisan divisions and politics as usual had prevented men and women of good will from coming together to solve our problems. And he promised to transcend those partisan divisions.

Crackpot pragmatism is a good complement for the liberal “process” mentality. They both serve the parallel goals of camouflaging liberal corporatism and psychologically consoling the feckless rank and file, keeping them in the fold. Obama knew what he was doing during the campaign.
Of course, here we see the core Krugman lie: He pretends Obama is one of the feckless, rather than one of the criminals.
But the fact is that Obama is a perfect example of those who rule with “the wrong ideas”. That is, a criminal. (It’s also a core part of Krugman’s project to represent all elite criminals, even the Republicans, as merely misguided or crazy. After all, “I don’t think you can resort to class-warfare arguments.”)
The fact is that Thugman himself is one of those who rule with criminal ideas. For the prime example, he supports the Bailout. While opposing the Bailout isn’t sufficient to signify that one has the right ideas, it is necessary. (He was also Hack #1 pied piping for the health racket bailout and austerity bill.) 
With that, we reach his call for death panels and regressive taxes:

So, what I said is that the eventual resolution of the deficit problem both will and should rely on “death panels and sales taxes”. What I meant is that

(a) health care costs will have to be controlled, which will surely require having Medicare and Medicaid decide what they’re willing to pay for — not really death panels, of course, but consideration of medical effectiveness and, at some point, how much we’re willing to spend for extreme care

(b) we’ll need more revenue — several percent of GDP — which might most plausibly come from a value-added tax

…But medical costs must be controlled somehow, or nothing works. And is a modest VAT really so much more implausible than ending the mortgage interest deduction?

1. What deficit problem? Why is Krugman suddenly echoing Republican talking points? Very interesting…
There’s certainly no deficit problem which can’t be helped most of all by ending the Krugman-supported bailout and restituting all the trillions stolen in the Krugman-supported looting binge.
2. Is there any fiscal problem at all? The solution is obvious:
Total Austerity for the Criminals, Not One Cent More from the People.
But of course, that would have to mean acknowledging the class war being waged upon us, and Krugman has decreed that we can’t resort to that. But that conveniently forestalls all the right ideas and leaves in place only “the wrong ideas”. The same bad ideas Krugman is always claiming to deplore through his crocodile tears.
3. As I’ve written before, no matter how good something like a VAT sounds in the good civic wonk textbooks, we know for a fact that under kleptocracy ALL government revenue represents nothing but wealth redistribution from the productive people to the corporate criminals. The same would be true of a VAT.
So when Krugman whips out the wonkery and calls for the good civics playbook, all he’s doing is advocating class war robbery by other means. Why does he recite conservative talking points and advocate a regressive tax on the same web page where he pretends to deplore the extension of the Bush tax cuts? That juxtaposition is no accident. It indicates that he supports regressive taxation as the primary revenue stream going forward, once profligate borrowing becomes impossible. (His incessant China-bashing is meanwhile meant to provide a scapegoat for the soon-to-come collapse of the dollar.)
4. Meanwhile the great advocate of the bailout for the “insurance” rackets is now echoing the NYT party line, that the only allowable path to cutting health care costs is to cut services for the non-rich. This is austerity with a vengeance. This criminal now regrets that he was so impolitic as to crack a joke about death panels (remember how under Bush he said we should revile anyone who laughs at our impoverishment and misery? so how should we regard your death panel joke, scumbag?), but the idea remains the same: In order to maintain the ability of the insurance racketeers to extract enough to remain luxuriantly “profitable”, the health care system will have to crush the people.
That’s the health racket bailout Krugman always consciously supported before, and that’s the bailout and austerity assault he supports now.
So Krugman now indicates that he sees the limits of the Bailout on the horizon, and that in order for the finance sector to maintain its extractions, it will need to move to more direct robbery methods. In a word, “austerity”.
Thugman is on schedule. He’s “waffling” (i.e. insidiously maneuvering) with regard to austerity itself, via the masked austerity of the regressive VAT which he advocates in the same breath that he sighs over the foregone conclusion of the extension of tax cuts for the super-rich. And he’s doing the same when he joins his home NYT in pushing for austerity via the health racket bailout when he attempts misdirection toward the provider side. The real goal, of course, is to force people to buy worthless “insurance policies” while those policies don’t actually pay for care. That’s the death panel Krugman advocates here.
What’s going on here? I think it’s clear to any honest, moral human being that we must resort to class war arguments. Paul Krugman is a class war criminal. That’s why every step of the way, from day one of the Obama administration, he has systematically advocated bailouts and austerity, while seeking to obfuscate the class war reality. As I said above, that’s the historical mission of system liberals. Krugman has been one of the best at his pernicious job, which makes him in reality and morality one of the worst.

November 14, 2010

The Austerity Mechanism of the Health Racket Bailout

Filed under: Bailouts Only Propped Up Zombies, Corporatism, Health Racket Bailout — Russell Bangs @ 7:30 am


Obamacare is meant to be a bailout for the health insurance rackets and an austerity bill wrapped up in one. Its design is fundamentally simple: Redistribute wealth from the people to the insurance rackets. (It also preserves and enhances many other rents like those of the drug racket, but the main goal is to officially entrench the insurance sector.)
In principle, the goal of health insurance is to sell a policy and extract premiums but not pay for treatment. That’s the business model, and no rational insurance cadre would seek anything different. In the same way, anyone who supports the existence of the health insurance companies at all, let alone supports this bill which radically aggrandizes them, ratifies this goal. (It is of course completely irrational for anyone who doesn’t profiteer in this way to support this goal.)
Anyone who rejects that goal has to reject the rackets’ existence, desire their eradication, and demand Single Payer.
The individual mandate is the direct vehicle of this wealth redistribution from people to gangsters. There are many indirect mechanisms in the bill meant to enhance the effect of this mandate. Most of them boil down to a simple plan: Force people out of employer-provided insurance and into the individual insurance “market”.
Health care is a core government function. The government has long abdicated this responsibility. For a long time it shifted the burden primarily to employers. Today the government wants to continue to shirk its responsibility but also to liberate the employer as well. The intent is to maintain a broken system whose main goal is not health but rent-seeking, but to minimize how much employers have to pay toward maintaining their workers in the face of that system. We can say that the health of the worker, part of the worker’s necessary maintenance, is no longer as important to the employer as it used to be, in today’s state of permanent mass unemployment. So logically, the employer’s next step is to withdraw from all responsibility for the worker’s health. In Marxist terms, this is another increment of surplus value extraction.
Since Single Payer would have involved the government reassuming its responsibility, and since both workers and employers would have paid for it (although they would have paid much, much less than they pay today), the idea was rejected out of hand by the elites.
Instead, the plan is to push the atomized individual into the individual market, where she alone bears the burden of facing and paying for the insurance racket and the health care system as a whole. (This is the same as the plan everywhere – the individual is to stand naked, alone, and confused before the awesome might of the predatory corporation. The health racket mandate is a particularly stark example of a general elite strategy.)
Here’s an eagle’s eye survey of the facts of this bill: It will not lower premiums, and will significantly raise them on the individual market (that’s according to their own house organ, the CBO). There will be an excise tax on good employer-provided plans. (Meanwhile crap plans at employers like Walmart will receive public subsidies. So whether Walmart provides insurance or drives people onto Medicaid, either way the taxpayer will pay for it. That’s assuming the subsidies materialize at all, as opposed to just leaving the worker helpless, with no coverage at all and no way to pay the mandate penalty. Either way the employer doesn’t pay.) There’s no enforcement mechanism whatsoever for the “regulations” which will allegedly moderate rate increases and force the insurers to pay out on claims. In spite of Obama’s constant lying mantra about how “if you like what you have, you’ll get to keep it”*, the bill is intended to encourage employers to move toward higher deductibles and co-pays, or to just drop employee coverage completely. (Meanwhile the allegation that if employers don’t provide insurance they’ll make up for it by paying higher wages has always been a trickle-down lie. It doesn’t happen in reality. It’s a lie.)
[*This Orwellian slogan really means, “If you fear that the bad plan you have will be replaced by something even worse, you’ll get to keep it.” But as I said that too was a lie. Obama always intended to make it far worse.]
So the redistribution is simple: The bill would take from those already in the market, from those who rationally opted out of the market, from duly negotiated union compensation packages, and from the taxpayer. It would give primarily to the insurance rackets. Their own Medicare actuary projected that workers will end up paying more, and that all costs will involve shifting burdens from employers to workers.
Since this plan was passed, the intended processes of moving people from employer insurance to individual insurance have accelerated. At the same time the insurance rackets have launched part two of their own campaign to maximize extractions and minimize payouts. Having gotten a plan with extremely weak requirements and “regulations” passed, they’re now seeking to gut those regulations as well.
Let’s survey some examples:
A study found that the bill will exacerbate the existing trend of employers passing a greater proportion of the cost of rising premiums onto workers, and that workers face ever-higher deductibles. This places the bill in class war context. There’s also increasing traction for the idea that employers should pay only a fixed amount, no matter how much insurers continue to jack up rates. So much for “keep what you have.”
As part of a general campaign to offer allegedly lower-cost policies, insurers are pushing policies that would restrict doctor choice in return for a lower premium. (So much for “keep what you have”.) Of course there will be no restraint on jacking the prices back up once this diminished baseline for the quality of a normal policy is established. This is part of the plan to get the old managed care idea in through the back door. Obama is also allowing them to use the new “regulations” for coverage of sick children as the pretext for dropping child-only policies completely. Here’s one example of using the bill to drop an existing, better kind of policy in order to use the extortion mandate to force the same people to buy new, much worse, much more expensive Stamps.
Those two kinds of examples demonstrate the vise which is being closed upon us, as we’re crushed between employer abdication and insurer predation. If the bill works as intended, we’ll end up having to buy worthless policies on the individual market at extortionate rates.
Meanwhile they’re also clamped and squeezing upon the bill’s nominal protection measures. In the face of insurer and employer whining, Obama has already unilaterally granted dozens of waivers for meeting even the minimal quality and cost requirements of the bill. So it’s clear that the quickest and cheapest lobbying route is to simply demand a waiver or else..[fill in the extortion threat here: we’ll have to drop coverage, we’ll have to abandon the market, etc.]
So there’s a brief discussion of how this bailout bill, as part of its “austerity” facet, will absolve the employer and drive the productive workers out of the relatively better employer-provided coverage and into the individual Stamp market, where they’ll be forced to buy racket Stamps of zero value, at extortion prices.
The absolution is the austerity, the extortion is the bailout.

November 13, 2010

Obamaromneycare: “Reform” vs. the People

Filed under: Civil Disobedience, Corporatism, Health Racket Bailout — Russell Bangs @ 7:10 am


There’s been endless nonsense about how Obama’s health racket bailout was some kind of “great progressive achievement”, or a significant step forward.
Or even a step forward at all. But the fact is that health insurance is conceptually incoherent to begin with, while introducing profiteering into the mix simply renders policy incoherency criminal. The goal of an insurer is to collect premiums but minimize payouts. It’s in a direct conflict of interest with the health care system, whose goal is supposed to be the maximization of health. There can be different visions of what maximizing health really means, but all of them are contradicted by the corporate insurer imperative.
Paying for health care is definitely a core government function. (Much more so than the expansive notion of “contract” enforcement beloved of so-called libertarians.) By definition, a health care system which contains profiteering on the payer side* is a broken system. So by definition reform must involve purging this profit motive. Reform has to mean Single Payer. These are synonyms.
But anything which would maintain the insurance rackets, let alone radically aggrandize them as this individual mandate will, is opposed to reform, and moves in the opposite direction of reform.
So we knew conceptually, even before the empirical returns were in, that this kind of policy was opposed to reform, was not a step toward it, and could never be “built upon”. We knew that all propaganda to the contrary was nothing but lies.
[* I don’t reach the question of what and whether anything on the provider side needs to be changed. The main battlefront is clearly against the insurance rackets. It is on the payer side. Anyone like the NYT who wants to emphasize the provider side is engaging in misdirection on behalf of the rackets.
The second we see anyone broaching provider-side issues we must firmly say “Stop right there! I won’t let you distract me like that. The overriding imperative is Single Payer. That’s all I’m willing to discuss and what I demand. Only after that has been accomplished can we then see if there’s anything that needs to be done on the provider side.”]
We knew this as common sense. But if there were any doubt, all we had to do was look at the genesis of this idea that profiteering “insurers” would cover everyone in return for a mandate that everyone buy their Stamp. (Always remember, “cover” and extract premiums does not mean pay for treatment. Under a cover everyone/mandate regime the goal remains the same as always – extract the premium, sell the Stamp, but minimize payouts.)
This idea was first developed under Nixon. It floated around until a version authored by the Heritage Foundation and championed by Republican senator John Chafee was offered as an alternative to Hillarycare in 1993. (Hillarycare itself was also a corporatist program, but wanted to put more of the payment burden on employers rather than individuals. The real goal of the mandate-focused programs is to drive individuals out of employer-based insurance and into the individual markets. That’s the goal of Obamacare, as I’ll detail further in a subsequent post.) Romneycare in Massachusetts is based upon this Heritage plan. And Obamacare in turn is an extension of Romneycare.
So we already have the demonstration model for Obamacare functioning for several years now in Massachusetts. Romney, the Republicans, and many Democrats promised it would achieve universal coverage and better care at lower prices. An individual mandate is the linchpin. Has any of this happened?
No. As any honest, non-idiotic person would have predicted, the rackets have used this entrenchment of their monopoly position to raise rates and cut payouts. Meanwhile the system has fallen far short of the alleged goal of universal coverage. Its alleged gains are really the result of federal subsidies and shifting costs from rackets to hospitals. Even before the Depression started to hit, a growing number of people were unable to afford either the worthless Stamp or the punitive fine which was then inflicted upon them. (This is a particularly offensive and egregious example of the criminalization of poverty or of simple economic distress.)
How have the people of Massachusetts reacted to this assault? Have they sought to “build upon” the malfunctioning policy as astroturfers like Krugman have claimed America will do once Obamacare starts to fail in practice? No. The people have seen through these lies. They know the policy itself is fundamentally broken. They know it was never reform in the first place, and that true reform requires a complete break with an incoherent and criminal system.
That’s why, offered a ballot question (nonbinding, alas) in the recent election asking, “Do you order your Congressional representative to demand and introduce legislation instituting Single Payer” (that’s a paraphrase of the boring and convoluted actual wording), the people answered with a resounding Yes! The narrowest margin for a district was 2-1.
This proves three things:
1. This kind of “reform” is no reform at all. It doesn’t work. Obama and his hacks lied.
2. When this deform fails, it fails completely. It cannot be “built upon.” Obama and his hacks lied.
3. Facing this failure, the people do not want to resort to the fraudulent “public option”. The people see through that scam, which the criminal hacks are already trying to resuscitate even as we speak. No, the people demand Single Payer, that is they demand real reform. Obama and his hacks lied.
So that’s what Obamaromneycare has already wrought. Now it’s slated to go national. Are we going to sit still for what we already know will be nothing but a much larger recursion of the disaster in Massachusetts?
(I’m sure eager to see how, after all their big talk, the tea partiers are going to get this mandate repealed. They now have the power to get that vote. I bet they could scare up a few Democrats in the Senate. Then Obama would have to veto it. But they’d have pinned the political bullseye on him personally once and for all. He’d never once in 2012 be able to blame anything on “Republican obstruction”. He’d be the obstructionist.
But the fact is that Obamacare is a Republican policy, and the Reps like it. So I’m not holding by breath waiting for that repeal drive, nor would I bet the farm on how much integrity the tea people are going to demonstrate now that the Reps have regained some power.)
In the meantime, we need a Stamp Act Congress of some sort. There’s going to be millions of people who cannot afford the mandated Stamp, and hopefully millions who could technically afford it but will refuse to pay on freedom grounds. We need to plan how people are going to resist the assault of the hired goon IRS. We’ll need mutual aid networks, legal assistance networks, methods and channels to force the stories into the MSM. The Stamp resistance needs to be embedded in the overall relocalization effort. The circumstances of kleptocracy (which is the main reason so many won’t be able to afford the odious Stamp even if they wanted to buy it) are forcing us more and more into the informal economy anyway. This will have to end up being our virtue out of necessity, our way to renounce participation in the criminal system in general.
The Stamp mandate presents one of the great, stark fracture lines of corporatism vs. democracy, corporatism vs. freedom, corporatism vs. prosperity, corporatism vs, humanity. I’d say only the food front is a more critical battlefield. Our very health is under assault. We are to be denied our human right to basic, decent medical care even as we have an immense payment extorted from us by a government thug in the name of “health insurance”, a hideous joke adding deadly insult to mortal injury.
Or, we can fight back, liberate ourselves from this odious mandate, and perhaps even redeem the health care system itself. But to do that we must break free of kleptocracy itself.

November 12, 2010

Crime Blotter

Filed under: Corporatism, Freedom, Internet Democracy — Tags: , , , — Russell Bangs @ 5:15 am


I wanted to clear some clutter I had saved, so I’ll do one of those link dump/quick hit things:

Researchers at Queens University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, are studying how to create an infrastructure out of human beings interconnected by wearing sensors, gateways and radios, resulting in a “body-to-body” network. Because human beings are so easy to come by, the networks could potentially be massive as well as high in bandwidth…..Long term, actual functioning body-to-body wireless networks could render cellular base stations unnecessary in heavily populated areas.

Note on crowdsourcing and cooperative economics: If we’re all going to be unpaid crowd-sources, that can only be equitable and can work at all only if we all purge all profiteering. It can’t be: rent-seeking for me,  anarchism for you. But that’s the way they currently want it.

Every quarter, content delivery network Akamai delivers a State of the Internet report looking at the Internet in terms of traffic, speed and connectivity. The latest report shows that the rest of the world is continuing to outpace the U.S. in terms of speed, while the U.S. becomes the leading source of “attack traffic” worldwide.

According to the report, the U.S. “became the top attack traffic source in the second quarter of 2010, account for 11% of observed attack traffic in total.”

The US is the world leader in “attack traffic”, while it continues to fall further behind in actual productive performance. Why does that strike me as typical?

As for whether the student was ever reimbursed, a spokesman for the law school issued a written statement to ABC News saying that the school was “deeply concerned about the job prospects and general well-being of our students and our recent graduates” in the downturn. “But no institution of higher education can make a guarantee of a job after graduation.” It added, “What we can do is provide the best education possible, and work together to provide as many career opportunities as possible.”

You made an implicit guarantee that if the student was reasonably conscientious, had reasonably good grades, graduated and jumped through whatever other credential hoops, and there was no other self-inflicted reason he couldn’t find a job in the field your degree trained him for, then he could find a job. This is fraud, predatory lending and a lemon product, period. Meanwhile the student debt isn’t dischargeable even in bankruptcy. Basically the victim of this scam has been placed in the state of nature vis the system and the corporate universities. Since this is the only way to fight back, everyone ought to sue on this ground.

I mean more than that. I mean that Zuckerberg subscribes to an entire hacktivist information-freedom-fighting culture that values truth and transparency for its own sake. But it’s not enough for him to hold and promote that ideology by striking against the powers that be in any way he can, like Julian Assange; Zuckerberg’s means are more nefarious. He imposes his ideology on users, seductively, through the architecture of his tool itself. People who like this ideology and are happy to see it inflicted on others through the tyranny of architecture are MarkZists.

Indeed. Zuckerberg’s a totalitarian, but a kiss-up kick-down snivelling gutter bully worm of a totalitarian. Compared to him the Bond-villainesque evil of Monsanto looks downright majestic.
Compare the citizen philosophy of Assange:

This information has reform potential. And the information which is concealed or suppressed is concealed or suppressed because the people who know it best understand that it has the ability to reform. So they engage in work to prevent that reform . . . .

There are reasons I do it that have to do with wanting to reform civilization, and selectively targeting information will do that — understanding that quality information is what every decision is based on, and all the decisions taken together is what “civilization” is, so if you want to improve civilization, you have to remove some of the basic constraints, which is the quality of information that civilization has at its disposal to make decisions. Of course, there’s a personal psychology to it, that I enjoy crushing bastards, I like a good challenge, so do a lot of the other people involved in WikiLeaks. We like the challenge.

And finally more from liberalism, an ideology which just looks more and more on the ball all the time, doesn’t it?

The name of the principle is the “cultural defense” — the argument by a defendant that his or her allegedly criminal behavior should be excused or subject to a lesser penalty because in the culture of origin that behavior is an accepted and even commanded norm….In a way, the person pleading the cultural defense is saying that he has brought the tribunal of his religious faith with him by virtue of having deeply internalized its precepts and imperatives.

I guess it’s not surprising how so many liberals like Greenwald and the ACLU supported Citizens United. The liberal ideology seems like among other things a template for enshrining corporatist double standards – a bankster should be allowed to steal, because “that’s how they do things.”
Like MERS tried to tell the judge in Ohio:

“Plaintiff’s ‘Judge, you just don’t understand how things work,’ argument reveals a condescending mindset and quasi-monopolistic system where financial institutions have traditionally controlled, and still control, the foreclosure process…

“Cultural defense”:

The question raised by the cultural defense is, “When people come to America [do] they have to give up their way of doing things?”

Or in this case, do we have to give up America and all aspects of civilization and humanity when we enter “the market”, which is totalitarian and seeks to impose itself upon us everywhere, at all times. 
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