Volatility

June 28, 2011

School of Athens: The Greek General Strike Against the Austerity Assault

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The School of Athens, by Raphael

As I write this the people of Greece are embarked upon a protest action which the unions optimistically termed a general strike in their call to action. The symbolic goal is to try to encircle the parliament building and prevent a vote on the assault package the Greek branch of kleptocracy (the Greek “government”) wants to inflict. The real goal has to be to muster enough fervor and enough of a consciousness that this government is illegitimate that the Greek people renounce it and its crimes once and for all. In the end, that’s the only worthwhile goal for a general strike.
 
We’re all familiar to the point of nausea with what’s happening in Greece. The government ran up tremendous debt to fund the extractions of the rich while not having to tax them. It allowed the entire taxation system to be flouted even as it engaged in this spending. Little of the short-term bounty went to the people. But the Greek government seeks to saddle them with the odious debt. Now that the banksters have crashed the European economy and revealed the insolvency of the German and French banks who engaged in this predatory lending, the goal of the “troika” (the ECB, EU, IMF) is to use these debts as the pretext for a disaster capitalist looting binge. The plan is nothing less than to steal all real assets in Greece through privatization while dismantling all remaining public interest spending, and to extend the robbery by raising taxes (and presumably collecting them this time) on the non-rich of Greece.
 
(We can take it as an axiom of taxation going forward that kleptocracy will never raise taxes on corporations and the rich. Such taxes won’t be nominally imposed, and even if they are, they won’t be collected. Therefore our watchword and the battle line we must hold is, No Taxes on the Non-Rich. We must oppose all regressive taxes (existing or proposed) and not waste our energy calling for more progressive taxation, since this will never be enacted and only plays into the hands of the austerian lie that the government needs to tax at all for the sake of revenue. But taxation has no purpose but social control.)
 
The process and lies of disaster capitalism are clear. A year ago this bailout was foisted upon the Greeks as the only way to maintain their status within the euro. They were foolish to ever want this in the first place, let alone to continue to want it, but at any rate except for some anarchists and other “fringe” dissidents, the people grumbled but submitted. There would be pain, there would be austerity, but they’d get their bailout and eventually recover. Here we are a year later and, as the dissenters predicted, the blackmail already agreed to isn’t enough. The blackmailers are back demanding far more as the price of continuing on the course already agreed to. (What’s at stake today isn’t a new bailout package, but only a vastly more severe austerity rampage as the price of continuing the bailout already agreed to a year ago. Once again we see the truth of what should be common sense. You can’t appease aggressors. If you pay a blackmailer, he’ll just keep coming back demanding more.)
 
Today far more Greeks realize what’s happening and what’s at stake. The protests and direct actions are no longer the monopoly of mere “leftists”. Today they increasingly encompass all demographics (except the rich). In particular, the middle classes and non-rich businessmen are increasingly turning against the regime as they see how it plans to liquidate them all at the behest of alien banksters and technocrats. More and more the Greek streets talk about nation and sovereignty. (I’ve tried to talk about those at this blog and elsewhere for a long time now, but I think I’m still far ahead of any America curve there; it’s great to see a nation anywhere starting to become conscious of itself, and of the fact that it’s being destroyed.)
 
But if the Greeks want to take back their sovereignty, they’ll need to go far beyond what they still articulate as their goals. A two-day general strike, even if the breadth of the action warrants that name, is still mired in the limits it imposes upon itself. The general strike won’t work to drive out the criminals completely until it becomes permanent toward achieving that goal. On the other hand, a general strike toward a limited goal like encouraging parliament to vote down the austerity assault (which is the proclaimed goal of the unions and, so far as I read, is still the consciousness of the streets) has two major flaws.
 
1. It still wants the people to coexist with kleptocracy, but dreams of “reforming” it. But we know this is impossible.
 
2. It’s still mired in the mindset of receiving from elites, petitioning elites, waiting upon elites to learn their will and then reacting.
 
For both these reasons, even if the Greeks temporarily stave off this new assault, that will still leave them where they were a few weeks ago: Vulnerable, ravaged, and waiting for the next blow to fall. It won’t have been a step forward toward liberation, but just holding a line which is politically and spiritually undesirable, and which in the longer run is untenable on a practical level.
 
So that’s a criticism. But I’m not completely pessimistic. I’ll close on the optimistic note that every action, however insufficient in itself, can help build the movement consciousness so that it becomes ever more intrepid and radical. A two-day general strike toward a limited goal can be a step toward the truly revolutionary general strike. (Especially when the people see how the limited action fails, either immediately as in France last year, or a few months later.)
 
The only strategic plan worth anything has the goal of taking back our countries and driving out all criminals with a whip. The Greek people can do far more than protest in the streets. They can default from the bottom up, go on a total and permanent tax strike, and through direct action take back all that land that’s been stolen. With any favor from the forces of history, the street action shall be the catalyst toward a structural uprising. Once again we can have the School of Athens, already once so seminal and fruitful for Western history.

June 24, 2011

A Brief Statement of the Facts

Filed under: American Revolution, Disaster Capitalism, Neo-feudalism — Tags: — Russ @ 2:37 am

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The entire debt economy was forced upon civilization from the top down. It was done in order to deliver humanity into the hands of history’s worst villains. Financialization has been the core of the neoliberal strategy. Inducing your intended victim’s indenture can be just as much an aggressive plot against him as crafting a gun with which to physically kill him. (Of course, they’ve made and used plenty of physical weapons as well.) This liquidation phase of neoliberalism is war by other means. It is vicious war by criminal elites upon the people. It is class war; it is civil war. The goal, intent, and procedure are veritably totalitarian.
 
The whole bubble-crash-bailout-austerity-feudal enslavement process is a planned strategy for the complete looting of nations and the imposition of tyranny upon them.
 
We the people must respond in kind:
 
We owe nothing. On the contrary, only the existence of the society built by people who work ever enabled finance extractors and other leeches to exist at all. So they were already our creatures even before the crash they inflicted upon us and the bailouts they stole from us. The latter have only cinched it once and for all. Through the bailouts we the people own the banksters and their political lackeys. We own them, we own their banks, we own their corporations, we own every cent any of them stole on a personal level, we own it all. They owe us everything they have. They must repay it all upon demand.
 
Then there’s their systematic assault upon our jobs, upon the real economy, upon the safety net we paid for, upon civil society itself. There’s their intentional crashing of the economy, and the systematic robbery of trillions for which they used this crash as the pretext. The restitution they owe for these crimes is beyond tally. Here again, they owe us everything they have, and vastly more. They must repay it all upon demand.  
 
The banksters and corporatists are chattel of we the people. They’ve stolen so much that if we put them all in chains tomorrow, it would take a million years for them to work off their debt to us. It’s they who owe such a monumental debt to the people of Greece, not the other way around. What’s true for Greece is true for all other countries – Latvia, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy, and on up to the Britain and America. All nations.
 
To recap:
 
1. They were never anything but parasites upon us in the first place.
 
2. They intentionally crashed the economy (by blowing up a bubble and then picking their moment to puncture it, using the allowed collapse of Lehman as the political pretext for the Bailout).
 
3. Although they forced the Bailout upon us, nevertheless our money was stolen for it, so the Bailout means we the people are now the formal owners of the banks, in addition to how we already morally owned them.
 
4. Meanwhile the banksters have engaged in a monumental criminal conspiracy against our economies and polities. The induced crash, stolen bailouts, and austerity assaults comprise the climactic phase of this long arc of crime.
 
The debt they owe us is literally infinite. We owe them nothing.
 
This is the simple, wholesome, true consciousness all of humanity must develop, if we intend to continue as human beings at all, instead of being terminally reduced to the most wretched servitude.
 
All of humanity is standing tall in Syntagma Square.

June 12, 2010

Walls (European Union, Kleptocracy, Relocalization)

 

According to Simon Johnson at Baseline Scenario Eurozone commentators in their hysteria have been calling Spain their “Maginot Line”, meaning that although they could possibly let Greece and Ireland go, the EU has to either prop up Spain’s tottering debt or be destroyed itself. They don’t seem to understand the “Maginot” reference very well, if they think that’s a ringing call and an auspicious portent.
 
Historically the Maginot Line was the physically and financially massive, ponderous, immovable, inflexible wall the French built along their border with Germany. Their logic was that the Germans could never penetrate it; that in the event of another war the Germans would have no choice but to replicate the 1914 pseudo-Schlieffen Plan and invade through central Belgium (which the French assumed the Germans would be prone to do anyway; the Maginot Line was supposed to cinch this); and that therefore, having dictated the whole German attack plan ahead of time, the French and British would be well-placed to meet and repulse the German offensive.
 
Complacent in this assurance, which calcified into dogma, the French vegetated behind the wall. They came to embody a brew of psychological softness and mental stagnation.  
 
When the war came things didn’t happen the way the French guaranteed it would. (I stress the lack of agency in that sentence; of course Hitler really started the war, predictably so, but from the point of view of the passive French mindset it simply “came”, which is part of the rot I’m writing about here.) Instead of repeating the 1914 offensive, the Germans attacked through the thick Ardennes forest, which conventional wisdom declared was impassible for armor. The Panzer columns broke through onto the French northern plain and debauched at will all over the countryside. Caught in Belgium completely by surprise and cut off from the real action (they had taken the bait of a German feint at the 1914 route and launched their full counteroffensive into Belgium), the Allies fell apart.
 
While most of the BEF just barely managed to escape at Dunkirk, the French had to retreat south in growing disorder. They never mounted any coherent counterattack. The vaunted, majestic, impregnable Maginot Line sat there like a character in a satire, quiet and pointless until the Germans deigned to roll it up from behind, almost as an afterthought.
 
So what can we learn from this? What does it mean to cite the “Maginot mentality”? To me it means that in the face of a threat you take a passive, defensive stance based on the premise of “walling off” one set of possibilities in order to force the danger onto a predestined path, where you expect to be able to counteract it.
 
This depends upon:
 
1. That your perception of reality (the array of possibilities) is accurate in the first place.
 
2. That reality remains static in the interim, so your premises remain valid.
 
In the case of the Maginot Line, the 1940 events demonstrated that these assumptions were both invalid. First, the French were wrong in discounting the Ardennes route as impossible, and second they were wrong about being able to maintain their own will to fight as they softened behind the physical wall and the wall of their assumptions. As we saw at Munich as well as in other cases like their rejection of Pilsudski’s pre-emptive war proposition, the French, while maintaining their hostile attitude toward Germany, had lost the will to fight. The wall was supposed to artificially enable the continuance of a mindset/policy mismatch which lacked all integrity.
 
Meanwhile this passive-aggressive mindset is chosen instead of a more aggressive course of action (as was available and would have worked in 1938 or 1939, among other times), or instead of changing one’s own behavior to defuse the danger in the first place.
 
So Eurozone cadres themselves think the Maginot example is a good portent for them? Let’s apply the real lesson to today’s situation. The Hun horde this time around is reality wanting to deflate the insane debt bubble. The columns of reality are trying to penetrate the defenses of pretense and propaganda to smash the ponzi scheme once and for all. Reality wants to deflate and it will, one way or another. Since there’s no real economic basis for this tower of debt, and since even if there were kleptocratic arrangements make it impossible for the real economy to function at anywhere near its potential, the tower must fall. One way or another.
 
To the extent that government and globalization cadres aren’t simply conscious kleptocrats (but the vast majority are), they’ve hunkered down behind the wall of belief in infinite growth, infinite energy, the social and economic sustainability of the exponential debt “civilization” in general.
 
[Just to be clear, lest there seem to be an inconsistency between my point of view here and in my prior post, in that post I was discussing the criminal actions of kleptocracy and the lies which would try to distract from the criminal character of the actions and actors.
 
Here I'm discussing the kleptocracy's belief in its own sustainability, in the possibility of its being able to continue committing its crimes indefinitely. Of course any such delusional mindset doesn't for a moment absolve them of full guilt for all their crimes.]
 
So with the permanent Bailout they expect to keep the whole Ponzi scheme going. They think German and French banks, themselves insolvent, can keep lending to the Greeks, Spanish, and so on ad infinitum enough money that they can indefinitely service their existing debt to those same banks. (And they assume that in principle there will be more bailouts, meta-bailouts, to enable them to service what they owe on these bailouts.)
 
That sounds like satire, but they sound serious. To say the least, they’re hunkered down behind the wall of their assumptions and expect reality to behave in a way very precisely laid out in their ideology and textbooks. Maginot mentality.
 
Meanwhile they had the option of trying to save some aspect of the system by purging it of the gangster rackets and restoring debt-based fiat economies but on a conventional, “narrow” banking basis only. I don’t think this could work on account of Peak Oil, but they could have tried it.
 
Or, what I would have done, is recognize the unsustainability of the exponential debt/”growth” system, the futility of trying to zombify it forever, and the immense extra pain such attempts will inflict over the long run. Instead of bailing out Wall Street and global finance, we could have let it perish while using what real wealth remained to bolster Main Street and carry it through the growing pains of transformation to the relocalized, steady-state, post-oil economies which are in store for us anyway.
 
This would have been hard, but far less painful and far more healthy for freedom, justice, and humanity, than the malevolent path taken by kleptocracy, the path of cannibalizing all economies and the earth itself to temporarily prop up their wealth and power.
 
(When I refer to the passive-aggressive Maginot mentality, I refer only to the mindset in the face of deflationary reality. But in terms of politics and humanity their policy is extremely aggressive, larcenous, and destructive. In that sense I’d compare them not to the French in 1940 but to their opponents.)
 
So the power structure’s self-described “Maginot Line” cannot and will not protect them against physical and economic reality. But they also hunker behind this line in expectation of indefinite political control. Can their wall hold up against resurgent forces of freedom? Do such forces exist?
 
We who are officers of the freedom force may be able to get some help from the far vaster structural forces of history, but in the end our own ability to breach the line depends upon our own ingenuity and resolve. I hope it’s not too grotesque if carrying the metaphor forward (or perhaps laboring it further; but I’m not the one who first cited it :) ) requires me to compare our position to that of the Wehrmacht in 1939-40.
 
We can’t directly attack the wall (for as long as the police defend the system), while trying to surge through central Belgium is exactly what they want us to do. (Perhaps that can figuratively stand in for seeking “reform through the system”.) So what’s our equivalent of the Manstein Plan? Where’s the Ardennes we supposedly can’t breach? It has to be something which is considered “impossible”.
 
The answer lies with things like the integrated financial system, the way all our expectations have been bound up in it, the sunk costs of suburbia and cars in America and of stock-marketized pension systems everywhere, the industrialized and centralized food production and distribution systems, the systematic disparagement and suppression of all self-reliance skills and points of view and the consequent infantilization of the people, and the whole brainwashing of consumerism itself.
 
These and others combine to try to forcibly build a wall within our own minds against ourselves. But if we can breach the barriers of indoctrination, inertia, and fear of the unknown; if we can recognize how we can only improve our futures if we reject the criminal present and the feudal future being planned for us; how the monstrous ways of the world are doomed in any event, and we can only help ourselves if we prepare for the storm; if we recognize the necessity and the benevolence of restoring our economies, our societies, our polities, on the regional and local basis; if we can first accomplish this revolution in our minds, we’re already breaching the impassible, impossible barrier.
 
And to the extent we can then transform our lives in reality in accord with our vision, we’ll be accomplishing the great end run around the criminals’ line of defense against us. Beyond lies the vast plain of our renewed democracy and prosperity. 

June 10, 2010

Eurozone Lethal Zone

 

An update on the latest stage of the crash in the tottering Eurozone. Over the past week the calls for calm were throttled into incoherency by new waves of bad news. Redolent of Greece last fall, Hungary announced that its impending budget deficits will be worse than expected. This resounded ominously among the similarly precarious budgetary perches throughout Eastern Europe. It’s unclear how exposed Austrian banks are. (By which I mean, whether they’re far more insolvent than we previously thought. Of course, all the banks are insolvent.)
 
Meanwhile Ireland, already deeply enmeshed in bailouts and “austerity”, indicated that its own ongoing bailout will soon need another bailout. But all of us who scoffed at there being any such thing as a final, sustainable Greek bailout were of course just being silly, right?
 
The Greek and Icelandic protestors who are in combat against embarking upon the bailout-austerity path in the first place are now proven correct. They saw what happened to Latvia, how the austerity immolation is burning the people alive while the bailout helped the banksters only. Now they see the same thing playing out in Ireland. Keep fighting.
 
Meanwhile the speculators, the finance terrorists, are extending their attacks from the Mediterranean countries to Belgium and France itself. Suddenly all “safe havens” other than the dollar itself don’t look so safe.
 
The response among the Eurozone’s stronger ( a relative term) economies looks to be pre-emptive austerity. Germany and the UK have announced the usual package of cuts in public sector jobs and spending. They’ve made the usual failure to announce any “sacrifice” on the part of the banks or the rich whatsoever.
 
Meanwhile Timmy Geithner of all people was in Europe to suggest that the trade surplus countries should NOT be thinking about austerity and what in the US would be called “fiscal responsibility”, that is gutting public spending in order to benefit the banks. Instead they should forget about deficits for now and focus on increasing domestic consumption.
 
Needless to say Timmy’s not becoming a born-again Keynesian. Rather, as he thrashes about looking for a way out of Bailout America’s debtor predicament, one of the mutually contradictory things he wants is to correct “trade imbalances”, and that would mean Europe imports more from the US. Trade imbalance of course means lowering the US trade deficit. So the euro has to become stronger relative to the dollar, which seems like it shouldn’t be so hard given the Fed’s churning out of free money to the banks and the US treasury’s continued profligate borrowing. But then in the same breath Geithner also wants the Chinese to stop “manipulating” the renminbi, by which he means they should let the Fed’s currency manipulation prevail to the point that the dollar strengthens vs. the renminbi. But how devalued can a currency get? The Fed already wants Goldman’s and JPM’s borrowing costs to be zero or better. The “primary dealer” banks actually lend the money they borrow from the Fed to the Treasury at a higher rate; they’re thus being paid by the government to borrow from the government. (Since, as MMT demonstrates, the currency is public property, if the Fed prints the currency it’s by definition part of the government. Having the Fed exist at all is simply adding unnecessary complexity for the purpose of enabling bank looting. It’s obvious from the public interest point of view the Treasury should directly issue the currency.)
 
So how can any of that work? Ask Timmy. It’s a complete mystery to sane people. Meanwhile, in spite of the Fed’s and Treasury’s heroic efforts to destroy the dollar, it’s still even now the last resort of for the markets, the last “safe” haven. Therefore try as they might they can’t weaken it enough against other currencies.
 
Prior to the crisis the EU was close to being in trade balance, and that’s the course Geithner was trying to convince them to maintain. But instead they’re starting to bail out on the Bailout, each man looking out for himself.
 
To Geithner’s pleadings, Merkel responded, “NEIN!” The Germans are trying to break free of the external round of bailouts (where they’re expected to dig deeper as bailout creditors, even as Geithner wants them to stop being such immense trade creditors; the contradictions abound), while they of course try to continue to bail out their domestic finance sector, and do it all while scapegoating those nasty spendthrift deadbeat “PIIGS”. But Germany has been so much in surplus and the Mediterranean economies so much in debt because the Eurozone strait jacket relatively devalued the euro in France and Germany while overvaluing it in the South. That can no longer hold. Therefore Merkel also shouted, “ACHTUNG! AUSTERITY!” It turns out she wants the German people to have to pay after all. Just, instead of being liquidated to directly bail out the Greek rich and indirectly bail out the German and French banks, they’re to be liquidated to directly bail out the German banks. I wonder how many German teabaggers will fall for that one? So far election polls and results look somewhat better than in Bailout America. Merkel’s neoliberal coalition’s being rejected.
 
At the same time French prime minister Sarkozy was heard to chirp happily, “I see only good news in parity between the euro and the dollar”. (Which is too much for the Germans, not wanting that much of a euro devaluation; thus we see more daylight between tottering France and the relatively stronger Germany. But don’t worry, in the end every debt domino will fall.) ECB honcho Trichet is mouthing the party line of deficit terrorists everywhere, we must give the markets what they may someday want, much lower deficits.
 
For everyone it’s going to be “beggar thy neighbor”, try to make him go into debt and not you. (Why this moral slogan? Funny how capitalism and “free markets” are supposed to be so dispassionate and “rational”, except where the game is going against a player. Then it’s suddenly immoral. How dare you try to beggar thy neighbor! Don’t you know we’re all in the same boat?)
 
As I’ve written, the system’s reaching the limits of what the Bailout can do by itself. The bailout’s unsustainability is now manifest, as mass defaults are imminent at every fractal level. As always, the entire bubble wants to deflate, and gravity becomes ever more insistent as more bailout weight is added to the agglomeration of debt. Perhaps in most places (but not in the US, alas) we’re at the political limits of the Bailout as well.
 
That’s why they’re moving on to the next step, “austerity”. They already foreclosed and repossessed your car. Now they’re going to directly mug you for what’s in your wallet. That’s also the purely economic reason (as opposed to any Peak Oil reason) why “free trade” will have to break down. It was always a scam to benefit the elites only, but now those elites will have to start throwing one another overboard, beggaring their neighbors.
 
But all of this can be swept away at any moment if the whole Tower of Babel simply crashes down all at once. That’s a possibility, and who knows what will trigger it. But whatever happens, our journey into the post-debt, post-oil age has commenced, and we should be preparing. That’s why I hope we in America look to a new convention.
 
As for Europe, they better look to their nation-states where relevant, and in most cases to their medieval cities. Because the ridiculous “European Union” sure won’t be making the trip with us.

June 2, 2010

Beyond the Freedom Flotilla: Neoliberal Assault (2 of 2)

 

Outside the US tabloid media zone the world remains transfixed by the horror of the Israeli government’s murderous act of piracy and its ongoing holding of the boats it hijacked and hundreds of hostages kidnapped on the high seas.
 
As I said in my previous two posts on this, I think this act had a dual purpose. Israel’s specific, proximate goal was of course to enforce its illegal blockade. But the lengths of aggression and piracy (even technically to acts of war) to which it was willing to go, and the nature of the blockade itself, which the Israelis have openly admitted is intended not to achieve practical security goals but to punish the people of Gaza, demonstrate that this government’s mindset goes beyond any reality-based goal, and is really trying to enforce total domination for its own sake wherever these criminals believe their power prerogative extends.
 
In the end, as always with totalitarians, the true crime isn’t the proximate allegation, which in this case the Israelis can’t even get straight. (That the humanitarianism of the mission was bogus? But they have all the cargo now; they’ve had it for two days. The fact that they can’t even plausibly try to plant contraband proves the complete innocence of the cargo.)
 
No, as always with such thugs, the true crime is defiance itself. Sure enough, the Israelis sound the most outraged when they simply sputter that the Flotilla was a “provocation”. Yes, indeed it was, and was meant to be. It was meant to challenge Israel’s illegal and illegitimate blockade as such. It was meant to challenge this tyrannical arrogation of power, an arrogation based not on authority or law, both of which on the contrary it flouts, but on brute force. The mission was the same as the eternal mission of all decent people who challenge tyranny. And just as they challenge tyranny on principle, so tyranny seeks to prop itself up on its own anti-principle, which is simply the lust for power and greed for phony wealth itself.
 
Which brings us to the larger significance of this act. On a global scale a great crime is progressing. The criminals seek to condemn ever more people to permanent impoverishment and servitude. The goal of the global finance elite and its flunkey governments is the restoration of feudalism itself, not only across the Global South but throughout the West itself.
 
I’ll give a quick recap.
 
1. As capitalism matured it should, according to reality and to its own textbooks, have seen profits fall to marginal levels. There should be very little profit left in the economy by now. Instead, the entire economy should have long since been functioning smoothly and efficiently, with sufficient goods and services in every sector, while government largely shrunk as it would have little role to play as economic arbiter. There would be rough equality of wealth and power distribution, little wealth and power concentration. Democracy would become steadily more healthy and strong.
 
This is how capitalism was supposed to function. This is what its promoters always promised. This is what would have happened, if every word hadn’t always been a lie.
 
2. In the reality of greed fundamentalism, elites were never textbook capitalists but always gangsters. No one ever wanted to be a capitalist. No one ever wanted to compete and innovate. They wanted to concentrate wealth and power, period.
 
As capitalism reached its terminal profit crisis in the latter 20th century, the power elites resolved to deploy an ever more aggressive command economy. They’d use the power of government to substitute extorted and stolen rents for their diminishing “capitalist” profits.
 
Globalization and financialization comprised the campaign of oligopoly capitalism to prop itself up while stringing along the Western middle classes. They substituted debt for production while obscuring the assault on all public amenities and power. Real wages have steadily eroded since the 70s while wealth concentration has exponentially risen. (That juxtaposition right there is a basic metric of robbery.) The system attacked unions on every political and “legal” level. Social Security has been steadily undermined via ploys like the rigging of inflation metrics (to fraudulently depress COLA increases). Other entitlements have been similarly eroded. Globalization’s open border for unskilled labor provides the basic force of gravitation for all wages, while outsourcing and offshoring destroyed many mid-level jobs completely, forcing and ever greater number  of workers into the undifferentiated unskilled mass. (The system did somewhat protect most kinds of professionals for a long time, but now that’s been eroding for many as well.) Walmartization provides a kind of linchpin, the direct conduit for addicting ex-citizens to cheap consumerism while directly destroying self-proprietors and middle class jobs in general, along with the communities anchored by the people who held such jobs.
 
In this way the temporary “middle class”, fueled by debt and cheap oil, had the carpet slowly pulled out from under it. Meanwhile the basic unproductivity of the Western system was covered up by bubbles, culminating in the housing bubble (itself fueled propagandistically by the Big Lie that you should rely on your house to provide for your retirement, not any other pension; this nicely provided cover while public entitlements and private pensions were gradually being subverted).
 
3. The crash of 2007-8 was the beginning of the collapse of this final bubble. No bubble could any longer be sustained on just propaganda. Now the command economy had to take a direct, very heavy hand. Thus we’ve had the advent of the Bailout and a new level of the disaster capitalist rampage, since the global economy is now nothing but an ongoing disaster, and the criminals have no outlets left but to drive disaster ever harder in order to extract profits from it.
 
In the new regimes, Bailout America and the Bailout Eurozone, all government policy (not just monetary, not just fiscal, but all policy) is now predicated on massive redistribution of public wealth to the banksters. The mechanisms have been too many and varied for me to recapitulate them here, but I and many others have written about them many times.
 
But this Bailout can’t be propped up forever. How long will anyone keep buying dollars? The bonds of indebted countries? Everyone knows these are all ponzi schemes. So in the end the Bailout itself must succumb to the same diminishing returns on “confidence” which did in the “regular” debt economy. Again the bubble must collapse. Reality wants to deflate.
 
4. So the next step is liquidation. It’s the good old “structural adjustment”. The old odious debt which the criminal West used to inflict such suffering on non-industrialized economies is now being brought home to the Western middle classes themselves. Today the term of art is “austerity”.
 
The fact that the “conventional wisdom” (to paraphrase Voltaire, it’s neither “conventional” nor “wise”, but manufactured propaganda intended to whitewash crime) is now that of the deficit terrorists, that the message is “the markets don’t really fear inflation now but might fear it in the future, so governments should act in obedience to this hypothetical future fear”, means the finance vanguard thinks the end is in sight for what free money can do for them, and that in order to continue their extractions they’ll have to move into more direct class warfare. It’ll no longer be sufficient to simply gut the interest returns for savers on pensions; now the pensions themselves must be directly stolen.
 
In the Baltics, in Eastern Europe, now intended for Greece,  now intended for Iceland, and next up Spain, Portugal, Italy, Ireland, and soon after the UK, and soon after that the US itself, the non-rich will have their wages, salaries, and pensions liquidated (i.e. stolen) while all public property is privatized (i.e. stolen).
 
Even as you take home ever less in pay and see all prospects for paying for any kind of emergency, illness, or retirement become hopeless, at the same moment you’ll find yourself having to pay ever more extortionate tolls for anything and everything which used to be provided by the fabric of society itself. Driving on any road, receiving any government service, police, fire, calling 911 itself, are just examples of everyday critical extortions we’ll face.
 
Even basic health care will become completely unaffordable (and this at the same time that the system intends to collect Obama’s fascist insurance mandate for a worthless piece of paper), all public parks will be fee-generating private parks, libraries will cease to exist altogether, all environmental, health, consumer, and safety regulations will be removed. Access to the courts themselves will be restricted to the rich. Even the poll tax may be reinstated (although by now at least at the federal level the vote is so meaningless they might not bother with that one).
 
Anyone who doubts the malevolent intentions of Obama and the US kleptocracy on this score needs to learn about Obama’s “deficit commission”. This Star Chamber is dedicated to achieving what Bush failed to do, privatize Social Security. (Thus Obama hopes to outdo his predecessor in consummating the heritage of their shared hero, Reagan.) Pete Peterson and the Washington Post have led the call to bring the full force of “austerity” to America. Obama is simpatico with this goal. With his extralegal and anti-democratic commission he hopes to achieve this and far more. The ultimate goal is to strip all government spending except on corporate welfare, war, and the police state. (Although both war and the police state are being privatized as well.)
 
5. So that sums it up, where we are today. The gangster elite intends to reinstate feudalism, with all of us reduced to the literal serfdom of debt. As our debts become utterly impossible to ever pay, we’ll be indentured in various ways, become sharecroppers at every kind of job, and debt prison under hideous chain gang conditions will be applied as a constant threat to anyone who doesn’t meekly comply with his servitude, since we’ll all be convicts anyway in one big country-wide debtor prison.
 
But there’s an obvious alternative to all this. We debtors and cash cows can simply overthrow the debt at will. We can impose the debt jubilee from the bottom up. (That’s the same debt liquidation “our” governments would have allowed to naturally transpire in 2008 the way the real market wanted it to, if these really were our governments and not irrevocably rogue kleptocracies.)
 
The kleptocracy must expect real resistance at some point. This isn’t like the 60s, which was basically political protest against political crime on the part of the system. It was epiphenomenal. Today the struggle is far more elemental. It’s a zero sum fight to the death at the socioeconomic core. This is end game for neoliberalism and corporatism – totalitarianism of total collapse of their wealth and power. Liquidation of the people, or liquidation of their own power.      
 
So however repulsively meek the American people have been so far and perhaps will be in the future, the elites don’t expect things to be so easy everywhere else. In Iceland and Greece especially we’re seeing some will to resist the gangsters. We can expect protest and resistance of many sorts to become stronger and to see people fight back with ever greater resolve, if the people can ever develop a real consciousness of the crimes which afflict them, and the morale of the struggle which feeds on struggle itself.
 
Conversely, the criminals must want to strangle the very thought of resistance in its cradle. A few well-placed blows could sufficiently demoralize people that they’d more pliantly submit to their fate. This is part of the classical shock doctrine. It’s worked before in specific countries like Chile. Today it has to work on a global scale.
 
If we put the murderous assault on the Flotilla in that context, it looks like a rather clumsy attempt to provide such an object lesson. It’s clumsy because Israel’s so hated that outrage over its crimes seems to be one of the few things that can reconcile many peoples and governments. Indeed it’s consistently been used as a divide-and-conquer astroturfing tactic by every Arab government. It’s also clumsy because much like the Wall Street banks, Israel itself can exist in this form only through welfare handed out by the US government. Israel’s gratuitous crimes, which the despicable Obama must now stand isolated to defend, add yet another burden to the already absurdly overextended US government commitment. Once again we see how the best thing we have going for us is the tactical incompetence of the system thugs.
 
So we’ll have to expect the gangsters to become ever more violent and tyrannical as they try to tighten their feudal grip. Throughout history it’s always been this way, and the end of the oil age, the end of the exponential debt age, portend the most vicious reaction yet. The restoration of feudal organization in the form of debt slavery can only be accomplished through a combination of extreme violence and extreme slavishness on the part of the victims. Shock treatment means, among other things, applying the former to enforce the latter.
 
So the Israeli pirates weren’t just firing literal shots into the boats, but a far more profound metaphorical shot across the bow of the much larger Freedom Flotilla in prospect, all over the world. The killers hope that if they demoralize us pre-emptively, they won’t have to board us on the high seas of history at all. They’ll board us in our docile ports, at our jobs, in our unemployment, in our homes, in our thoughts.
 
So that’s the way we need to see this, and this is the propaganda and action of terrorism we must never allow to defeat us. Another flotilla has already embarked for Gaza. Everywhere, let’s put our own ships to sea.

May 14, 2010

The Battle Lines

 

.
 
The rain taps out a melancholy march.
The skies smooth out to a flattened gray.
The road of day now opens with lament,
Straining out its sad song upon the world,
Demanding an overdue destiny,
Compelling our souls to march along.
The road of the rain is a passive path,
We only need blink and the world is drowned……
 
The small points of light amid the sea of darkness, the lonely calls to resistance like in Greece, are the only light by which it’s possible to see any hope for humanity. The Greek bailout is a new evolution of the Bailout, as it must become ever more aggressive to propagate itself.
 
Here we see the exact same battle lines which are so clear in Bailout America replicated on the stage of the great globe itself. The battlefront in the hominid civil war is stark.
 
We have the kleptocracy – the big banks, all other corporate rackets, all Western governments, and the rootless globalization cabals like the IMF and the EU which never had any authority or legitimacy even in theory, all of these basing their strength upon the financialization of all economy and politics.
 
This financialization assault, nothing other than the modern form of criminal looting, is upon humanity itself, upon all peoples, all taxpayers, all workers, upon all real, productive economic activity, upon all human politics, all democracy, all true freedom.
 
The gangsters fight to: 1. loot; 2. prop up the exponential debt tower. Each stage in the Bailout serves only these two goals, while supplementary campaigns like the “war on terror”, the “war on drugs”, and the general assault on civil liberties, are intended to shore up government power as it has to eventually become overtly tyrannical and violent to keep the Bailout going.
 
Basically, the elites want to loot as much as they can on a personal basis for as long as they can keep the debt system zombified. They know the debt system is doomed to collapse, and probably sooner rather than later, which is the reason for the brazenness of the robbery (“bonuses” and such) which seems so politically stupid . They know they have no political future, so normal political calculations are a moot point. Soon only violence will suffice for them. They know they have no economic future, so it’s time to get while the getting’s good.
 
Since it’s becoming impossible for the kleptocracy to keep stealing while pretending to maintain any sort of semblance of human society, we’re now reaching the point of the more direct liquidation of the people. All public programs, pensions, health care, all social spending and public property, are targeted for conversion to bank property, and then through laundering and “bonus” looting, to the personal property of the banksters and their minions. That’s the purpose of “austerity” in the Baltics, in Iceland (so far rejected by the people), now in Greece, soon in Portugal, Spain, Ireland. Soon in the UK. And in Bailout America, as we see with the growing chorus in the MSM and among corporate academics and intellectuals, “entitlements”, Social Security and Medicare, are the main target for liquidation and conversion to private bankster property. This is Obama’s great goal, his great “I Have A Nightmare”, his great tribute to his ultimate hero Ronald Reagan.
 
As we see, the very existence of a “middle class” was nothing but a tactical concession on the part of monopoly finance corporatism. Just like with the Bolsheviks and their NEP (New Economic Policy) and the ephemeral middle class this allowed to arise, so the Western “capitalist” middle class was meant to be temporary and was despised every step of the way. It is now being liquidated, as was always the intended eventual goal.
 
Our very governments no longer exist, having been hijacked by finance. A “government” which sees its only allowed activities to be borrowing, privatizing public property, and police state repression, which will only ever tax in order to directly steal from the poor to give to the rich (as we see with the growing calls in Bailout America for tax increases on the non-rich only, like a VAT), is no longer a government in any legitimate sense. By definition kleptocracy has no legitimacy or authority, and its “power” is based only upon violence and the threat of violence. Meanwhile rootless globalist cabals like the IMF, the EU, the WTO, NAFTA and planned assaults in the Americas like the SPP and the FTAA, are not states or governments even by any theoretical measure, but rather unelected, purely unaccountable, authoritarian bureaucracies, ruling not through any legitimate political procedure but through bureaucratic decree. They have their closest analogue in a lawless administrative dead zone like the Nazis’ General Government of Poland (where all the crimes of a place like Auschwitz were not technically illegal at all).
 
(Speaking of illegality, just like how in the US the TARP and the rest of the Bailout were technically illegal according to the PCA law, which requires the resolution of all insolvent banks including so-called TBTFs, so things like EU “facilities” to launder bailouts for Austrian and Swedish banks through EU “loans” to debt slaves like Hungary, Romania, and Latvia are illegal according to the no-bailout rules of the EU treaty.
 
So that should put in the proper perspective today’s calls in Bailout America for “resolution authority” or No-Bailout promises. These are always lies, and anyone who proposes either is always a liar.)
 
Democracy itself has been abstracted by sleight of hand. We should grab the con man, turn him upside down and SHAKE HIM until our freedom, and our national wealth, fall back out of his pocket.
 
We see how we’ve come either to the end of politics and freedom, or back to the beginning. The original beginning where the choice can be to submit to violence and tyranny, to lash out blindly with inchoate destruction in return, or to find anew the real political genius of humanity, our real political heritage, its basis in covenant and principle.
 
This is the end of the fossil fuel age. The real economy, always bound by the limits of nature, will never again be so profligate as it was during the fossil fuel blip, really an outlier on the chart of history. The normal course of economy and history shall resume.
 
This is the end of exponential debt and “growth”. The finance economy, in spite of its lies and delusions, was also completely dependent upon endlessly growing supplies of cheap energy. But even if we disregard Peak Oil, debt and growth weren’t sustainable on their own. This was proven in 2008, as the biggest, best bubble attempt the system could inflate blew up on its own, and since then they’ve been able to do nothing, and have literally no ideas, but to try to keep this terminal bubble as inflated as possible as long as possible. But as we see with Greece and from there the EU in general, this reflation attempt is doomed, and everybody knows it.
 
Normal history and economic production shall resume. But does this mean normal feudal political relations, serfdom and slavery, must again prevail as well? Or can the spirit of the American Revolution, so long despised, rejected, ignored, neglected, traduced, and hijacked, also resume?
 
As we return to history, we can, if we choose, if we muster the will, carry with us some piece of political progress. As we return to civilization’s normal economic level we can maintain political and economic rights. We don’t need feudal political organization.
 
But for that Peak Oil by itself, as a force of history, isn’t enough. While freedom activists cannot directly challenge the kleptocracy while it remains intact, we can indirectly subvert it through relocalizing our politics and economies as much as possible, through becoming as self-reliant (as individuals, families, and communities) as possible, and through preparing to seize the coming opportunity of exponential debt collapse. That will be the great moment of decision, where the fragments of elite power will seek to fully refeudalize. That’s when relocalization will have to become militant, if it wants to build new democracies, new vistas of freedom.

May 7, 2010

A Rocky Day For the Bailout

 

Yesterday was quite a day, with lots of sound and fury signifying in the end very little other than reinforcement of what we already know about this busted system.
 
The biggest headline among several big stories was the Dow’s temporary plunge almost 1000 points followed by an equally dramatic recovery of much of the lost position. The market still ended up down 347 points. The media’s all aflutter with descriptions of this which hardly reach the level of explanations. The most absurd way of looking at it is to blame it on an alleged trader error. Even if this discrete “error” actually happened at all, it’s still not an accident by any means.
 
There are three structural explanations here. One regards the actual mechanism of HFT trading. It’s largely based on pro-cyclical computer algorithms which respond to stimuli by accelerating the trend of those stimuli. So if a large dip occurs, the computers automatically start selling off in compliance with the dip, thereby exacerbating it. This is characteristic of our whole fragile, interdependent system. At every level, from the way our desperation to keep the oil flowing at the same rate through ever more tenuous extraction lines increases the chances of catastrophic failures like the Gulf blowout (where there are reports that the situation is far worse than BP and the administration are allowing to be made public) to the way the Bailout keeps requiring ever more thin, expansive band-aids to cover the rapidly expanding cracks in the Tower walls (I’ll get to Greece in a moment), to the minute-to-minute falls and surges of the computer trading lemmings, everywhere we’ve become critically exposed, critically vulnerable, utterly fragile.
 
The other explanation of the stock lurch is the market’s political terrorism function. Throughout the crisis the market has always stood ready to punish any sign of the government acting in the public interest (for example rejecting the TARP, or contemplating Bernanke’s rejection, or the SEC’s suit against Goldman), or even looking irresolute in its will to the infinite Bailout (letting Lehman go down, or when early in 2009 Geithner looked tentative in laying out the administration’s plan to aggressively further the Bailout). So yesterday there was lots of buzz about Congress possibly “doing something” for once. The market had the attitude that this must be punished, and so it was. Not that I think Brown-Kaufmann would have passed, or that we’d be getting a full audit plan, if yesterday’s crash hadn’t occurred. But it provided reinforcement for the general Capitol Hill attitude that Congress must never do anything to upset Wall Street or the markets, and it’s that attitude which causes these attempts to be defeated, even when they seem buoyed by such a surge of public enthusiasm that it seems to penetrate even the hermetic vaults of the corporatist Congress. I’ll get to Congress in a minute.
 
(I’m not saying there’s a specific cabal on Wall Street which decrees when the market must tank. There doesn’t have to be – all the big players understand that signs of government wobbling need to be punished with a sell order. Many of them probably don’t even consciously see it as punishment. It’s simple ideology that government must be flamboyantly pro-bank, and that wherever this enthusiasm seems to be flagging, that’s a bad sign, and it’s probably best to start liquidating positions to take profits now. The aggregate effect is terrorist extortion. The market holds a gun to the head of the country. That’s the way they want us to see things, and for as long as we continue to cave in and not call the bluff, we’ll remain under the market’s thumb. [If you want to read a disgusting example of this ideology, the mindset of these cretins, check this out.])
 
Third, the markets must become ever more jittery as the Zombie Debt Monster becomes harder and harder to keep upright and in motion. Everybody knows it must collapse once and for all, which could happen at any time, so everyone who’s riding what they know is a phony, purely Bailout-driven rally looks anxiously to every moment wondering when will be the right moment to sell once and for all. Greece, the Gulf of Mexico, and even the sham Congress are indicators which render the moment full of portent. Anything can trigger a sell-off. And someday soon the terminal sell-off must commence. 
 
As for public enthusiasm and the isolation of Congress, by yesterday there did seem to be such a surge and such a penetration. While I still don’t expect a real bill, I’ll grant that yesterday they put on the best show yet. Senator Feingold now proclaims that he’ll join a filibuster of any sham bill. (Of course, I’ll believe that when I see it.) A few days ago Brown-Kaufmann looked like it wouldn’t be allowed to come up for a vote at all. Yesterday, in what I suppose is mild progress, it did get a vote. It was still resoundingly defeated, with the No votes including half the Democrats. So there the show was a little better than expected, but it was still all show.
 
Meanwhile Bernie Sanders seems to have made a deal which will greatly cut back the scope of his proposed Audit the Fed amendment but preserve one good part. The deal would direct the GAO to conduct a one time only audit of the existing and previous Fed lending facilities by December, at which time we’d learn who was handed trillions in public money. This would be good to know, but the deal meanwhile guts the plans to audit the Fed’s embezzlement going forward. It would leave the existing politicization of the FOMC sacrosanct and unaccountable. So if this ends up being the deal, we’d end up with a mostly gutted audit. It would be better than nothing, but still a defeat. That’s if this ends up being the deal. They’re not expecting to vote on it till next week, so that’s plenty of time for the deal to be altered further, or for Sanders to cave in completely.
 
I’ll conclude with Greece, which is currently the raging battlefront where the Bailout’s vanguard is facing stiffening resistance, both politically and from economic reality. The Greek parliament voted Yes to the economic immolation of the people, in direct flouting of the people’s will as expressed by the rage in the streets. This is reminiscent of the similarly rogue US Congress voting Yes on the TARP, though of course we cannot compare the resolve of American protest. (Pro-bank commentators keep saying protest is common in Greece, as if that’s a bad thing which somehow invalidates the protests of today. On the contrary, that’s a barometer of a far more vigorous populace among whom the spirit of democracy is not completely quenched. Chronic street protest is one of the correct, rational, virtuous responses to chronic kleptocracy and creeping police statism at the top. To say that in general Greeks protest far more than Americans does not condemn the Greeks, but the Americans. To imply the opposite is simply another way of alleging that the power structure is truthful and sound and right and should be obeyed.) Next up will be the vote in Germany, where the people are also hostile to the Bailout.
 
A “Greek” bailout, like every other specific manifestation of the Bailout, is simply another bailout for the big banks, in this case the German and French banks who hold the largest part of the debt. I’ll again link to this graphic which lays out the debt relations. The entire Bailout is nothing but:
 
1. the now permanent looting expedition of the bank rackets, and
 
2. the only way the whole structure of the globalized debt economy, which is one big zombie, can be propped up and ambulated at all.
 
Every iteration of the Bailout serves only these two goals.
 
So it follows in parallel with these two goals that we the non-rich are:
 
1. slated to be the permanent victims and slave stock for this permanent looting, and
 
2. the only way to save ourselves to arrest the progress of the Bailout so that the whole zombie collapses.
 
The structure is existentially unsustainable and must collapse of its own weight, but how long this will take is unknown. We don’t know to what extent political resistance can accelerate the process, or even to what extent political resistance is dialectically hardwired into the unsustainability function itself.
 
Either way, political resistance is helpful and morally necessary.
 
So that’s a brief recap. Despite some political theater in Congress and some real action in Greece, the Bailout is still hacking its way forward and reform is still stalled. The structural fraudulence of the system is being physically embodied in the oil eruption of the Gulf, economically and politically embodied in the Bailout’s torturous progress in the Eurozone. Even in America, little by little things are getting tougher for them.
 
The day ended as another loss for humanity, but we put up a slightly better fight this time, while we continue to receive indications that the planet and history itself are weighing in on our side.
 
No matter what happens in the short run, in the end the Earth will always win out over the petty insults of a few of its ugliest creatures. The Bailout will fail, and the kleptocracy will perish.

May 2, 2010

Bailout War, New Theater: The Assault on Greece

 

(And I mean that word “theater” in every sense, since any Greek bailout is just more kabuki, just another scam to prop up the zombie a little longer.)
 
We’ve reached a new level of stridence in this latest this-time-we’re-serious iteration of the Greek bailout talk. Maybe they really are serious this time as Papandreou’s “socialist” government has caved in completely to the demands of the IMF-German junta that the price of a bailout, meaning German and US taxpayers lend the Greek government money to pay off existing debts to German banks, has to be the complete economic liquidation of the Greek people.
 
Who is this bailout really for? It’s for the profits of German banks, French banks, bankster speculators the world over, to appease the terroristic stock and bond markets, and to preserve Greek feudalists, land barons and banksters, in their positions, and enable them to profit from the fire sale of their people into serfdom.
 
Check out what Papandreou has agreed to, after the machetes of austerity have already been hacking into the people for many months already, going back into 2009.
 

Greek officials said Greece would slash public sector spending by 8 billion euros in the 14 months after the plan was adopted. They said Greece had also pledged to raise its value-added tax to 25 percent , to freeze civil servants’ wages and to eliminate public sector bonuses amounting to two months’ pay. The government would pass legislation increasing the monthly annual quota of workers companies can fire from two per cent to four per cent. It also intended to increase taxes on fuel, tobacco and alcohol.

 
While reasonable people can argue in isolation about whether or not the Greek public sector is bloated, we can’t look at this in isolation. What does that itinerary lay bare? How, after the rich partied and looted, the entire cost of the aftermath is to be placed on the people, and all for the sake of zombifying the debt, to enable the party to continue for a handful of looters.
 
The pro-bailout NYT piece itself, in between repeated genuflections before “jittery markets” and advising the Greek people to bend over and take it (and be “muted” about it, why don’t they), concedes that the austerity assault is unconstitutional and represents “a cultural revolution in the social contract between state and citizen.” In other words, a fascist revolution from above.
 
Like I said, maybe people can argue about the terms of that contract itself. But before we can legitimately do that, how about we first default and eradicate the gangsters. Liquidate all their rents and hoards. Once we’ve done that and restored the real economy and real markets, then we can see whether there actually are any overpaid workers. But I for one am not willing to discuss that with anyone who doesn’t agree that the first thing to be done is smash the rackets and the gangsters.
 
Speaking of gangsters, the Greek government has long collaborated in pandemic tax evasion by the rich of Greece. By conservative estimates the amount evaded is over $30 billion a year. Meanwhile this same Greek government which is so gung ho for austerity proposes to try to step up enforcement enough to collect an extra $1.6 billion per year. It’s hard to imagine a juxtaposition which more clearly highlights this government’s kleptocratic priorities. The NYT itself, directly contradicting its own lies in the other piece, says $30 billion a year gone missing has played a big role in its debt situation, and that collecting it now could be a big help going forward.
 
Everyone’s been titillated by the Economist’s cover story, “Acropolis Now”, depicting the IMF and Merkel as the Americans of the movie. This is an (unwittingly?) accurate analogy.  Apocalypse Now was a demonstration of the insanity and criminality of the US government’s war in Vietnam, and the atrocities and suffering inflicted upon the helpless people. So now the Economist itself is saying this is a criminal assault on the Greek people?
 
The big picture is how each theater of the Bailout is another, ever more desperate attempt to prop up the Tower of Babel in general. The fools are blathering about trying to restore “sustainable growth” to Greece. But there can be no sustainable growth anymore. Exponential debt was always a fraudulent basis for alleged “growth”. It was never anything more than a Ponzi scheme, accounting fraud writ large. And that’s all each and every step of the Bailout has been so far. I earlier wondered whether, in this Bailout iteration, Greece is more like Lehman or AIG. Either way, it’s the same fraud, the same robbery, and the same insanity. The whole Tower has to come down.
 
So far the Greek people have shown some signs of fighting back, but the kinds of protest so far enacted won’t be sufficient. It’s true that any way you look at it the days of guaranteed jobs and relatively fat salaries for Greek public sector workers are finished. But they still have the choice of whether they transform their economy to a more modest size while still maintaining a decent (or even improved) level of fairness, or whether they allow themselves to be violently dispossessed and stripped naked so that what wealth is left can be looted by the same criminals who already stole the rest of the country.
 
That’s the same question every Western people now faces. The same question America faces.

April 20, 2010

What if the Volcano Erupts Forever?

 

Watching animation of the ash dispersal from the Eyjaffjollajokull volcano is mesmerizing. The chaotic turbulence seems an apt image for the chaos spreading over the world today. The last three times this volcano erupted it triggered a greater eruption by its neighbor Katla. These are synchronized parts of a system. The greater eruption may come within the week.
 
I wonder if anyone’s trying to generate a similar graphic to depict the turbulence of the bailout; the now zombified, insolvent, yet ever more intense global finance casino, the Tower of Debt Babel becoming more top heavy by the day even as it totters more dynamically.
 
More and more criminal energy keeps being pumped into the system, accompanied by more and more fear, despair, and rage on the part of the victimized peoples of the planet. Non-linear jumps are inevitable.
 
This volcano, arising in Iceland of all places, the one place where people are showing any sign at all of being willing to fight back and say No, seems eerily symbolic.
 
If I were a mystic I’d think it’s no coincidence at all…..
 
By now we’re so used to the pulse of globalization and its mechanisms like cheap, on-demand air travel that it seems an odd interlude for so many planes to be grounded. (My fellow Naked Capitalism readers are familiar with how Yves Smith has been trapped in England for days now.) It’s especially unfathomable and infuriating that there’s no easy way to cast political blame for a volcano, though some are trying, and of course everyone’s looking for how to turn it into a scam. The system being what it is, the airlines are already whining for a bailout. The response to yet another shot across the bow from the uncanny orb itself is to try to build the Debt Tower higher, add another layer to the pyramid scheme, double down and compound the crime.
 
The system has literally zero ideas beyond theft by now. The hubris of kleptocracy has become extraordinary. Since the Greek meltdown has transfixed all us  perplexed commentators, we’ve grasped at the imagery and morality tales of Greek mythology. Today the story of Icarus seems apropos. Full of irrational exuberance, Icarus defied his father’s warnings and flew too close to the sun, which melted the wax of his wings and sent him plummeting into the sea.
 
Today the planes want to fly into the ash. Every flier wants to fly ever higher into what he thinks is the sun of infinite greed and power satiety. As Lloyd Blankfein and others have said, they consider themselves gods. But they are not. They’re louts and thugs who managed to strap on the artificial wings of cheap oil and a phony economy based on a fictive fiat dollar and exponential debt. That sun toward which they fly, into which they want to drag us all, is actually their hell on earth. But it shall be the furnace of their own immolation.
 
Just as a flight of fancy (though no more fanciful than the flight plan of infinite globalization itself), we can see the volcano as a parable. The flight gods now rescind our wings, which took us too close to the sun.
 
We face the impending economic and energy descent into the Second Great Depression, this one permanent by our measure of time. If this is to be what most would experience as a new Dark Age, what might be the effect of a physical blast out of Katla? A new, quickly-descending physical, literal Dark Age, including the mass failure of crops and subsequent famine? Yet this would not be a wild card, like the asteroid which mortally wounded the dinosaurs. It would just be an acceleration of everything that’s fated anyway by Peak Oil. The failure of globalization, of industrial agriculture, of consumerism, and the acceleration of every pathology, and of the system’s eventual collapse.
 
What if the planes were grounded forever? We see how the system’s already pushing back against reality. They’re already saying European transportation ministries overreacted and should lift the restrictions. Everyone was too hysterical about the threat of the ash. That you can fly through it just fine. Let the “free market” do its thing. There go those pointy-headed safety freaks again. All the same arguments which have worked out so well with the finance sector, and at every single other point they were deployed against reason, common sense, and reality.
 
But just as a thought experiment, what if the planes were grounded forever right now? The reality is that they will eventually be grounded forever, and any grounding today only lessens the finite number of flights left in our future. Man cannot fly forever on renewable energy and biofuels. You can’t have cheap globalized flight without cheap fossil fuels. As the oil depletes and becomes impossible to extract except at prohibitive costs, we’ll face a choice about flight. We can allow “essential” flight to continue. In practice this will mean elites, the rich, and the military get to fly, while the rest of us are permanently grounded. This particular technological stratification will be a stark milestone on the road to our impending enslavement, as we look up in wonder at the alien things in the sky in the same way a South Seas islander once did.
 
We’re already enshrining our own version of cargo cults, as we keep absurd faith in things like consumerism, what the elites call “capitalism”, the “ownership society”, the monetized version of the “American dream”, even as these have been proven to be Big Lies. So we may even tolerate the dear, slave-extracted oil being used to power luxury jets that hop among fortified elite compounds while we grovel in the mud. So far that’s been our response to things.
 
Or, we can make the choice, find the resolve, to say the oil, like every other resource, belongs to we the people, and we’re going to take it back to use for the public good. In the unlikely event of such morality and wisdom prevailing, we will indeed ground the planes as a stupid luxury which under corporatism produces almost nothing but generates enormous waste and pathology.
 
The reality is that the fossil fuel economy will be grounded. Financialization will be grounded. All the volcanoes are rumbling. The only one we’re not sure about is the political volcano. There too, only in Iceland have we felt some slight shaking of the earth.
 
Meanwhile the whole airline fiasco is being derided as yet another EU failure. Just as they thought they could have their monetary union cake but eat their sovereign fiscal policies too, so it turns out their parochial transportation ministries don’t know how to coordinate responses to things like volcanoes. Following the eruption it took five days for the ministries of the whole gaggle of countries to even get together. After the disparate, nationally based responses to the financial crisis, to the Georgian war, and the feckless pseudo-coping with Greece, this is yet more evidence of the absurdity of “Europe” as an entity and as a concept.
 
Once again I’m reminded of how the “EU” like every other aspect of globalization and financialization, is in itself a bubble phenomenon. It looks good and functions well only on the upswing, only when things are going well. But the moment things go wrong, having to mark it to market becomes a disaster.
 
(And with something like a volcano, there’s no craven FASB to cave in and let you cook the books. You fly the plane or you don’t.)
 
And what about that Greek bailout? After all the tedium and angst of the protracted negotiations toward a bailout, everyone has concluded almost immediately that this bailout won’t work. Greece may still default in 2010, 2011 at the latest. And the wobble in Portugal’s debt tower is becoming more pronouced.
 
(At Zero Hedge they joked that the Greeks should still sell islands like Santorini. There’s another volcano, which leveled the Minoan civilization at Thera and gave rise to the legend of Atlantis. So where to for today’s Atlantis? It’s the same flagitious pseudo-civilization, the same crime and depravity as in the original legend. Once again we see how symbolic this volcano is.)
 
One last rumble which some are claiming (or hoping) to detect is that the SEC’s suit against Goldman will open the floodgates of a general offensive against this particular hedge fund, and against the whole compass of the TBTFs. Since Friday several other actions against Goldman have commenced. We’ll see what happens.
 
My position has long been that on the longer, more ponderous curve, this is the downslope of fossil fuel globalization and the financialized pseudo-economy, and the pseudo-civilization which by now is a diseased vestige. But politically there’s no linear reform curve here. The only linear political curve heads down as well – to neo-feudalism, neo-medievalism, serfdom.
 
Only a non-linear political break, seizing an opportunity opened up by some stumble along the vaster economic curve, can flip the political trend over to a different strange attractor. The two attractors are fascism or revolution (I take solace in the fact that either way corporate liberals are doomed). By “revolution” I mean the people transforming themselves back into a true constitution the way we once were, when we still lived according to the values of freedom, justice, morality, and community. The great volcano of the age already casts its pall over modern “civilization”, which was really just an oil- and debt-fueled blip. All that must choke and die.
 
But it’s our choice whether we die with it, or whether we use the surge and winds of our own spiritual volcano to loft us above the ashes of the burning neoliberal world, where we can again soar the currents and breathe the clear, bracing air of our redeemed humanity.
 
They flew into their false sun of greed, war, destruction, despair. But they and their gaslight sun will now crash to the inexorable earth. Will we fall with them? Or shall we seek the old, and what can again be the new, light? Humanity never had a sunset, only a light blotted by the smog of crime. Our sun can still be rising, if we rise to meet that dawn. It’s a choice of volcanoes.

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.       

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