Volatility

February 12, 2017

Ambivalence

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We see how Trump has made hay out of xenophobia. His appeal is only a more overt form of the standard bipartisan xenophobia. Obama/Clinton and the Democrats similarly comprise a xenophobic party. Trump has done nothing and proposes nothing qualitatively different from the status quo embraced by the Democrat Party and its voters.
 
Mass migration, of course, is driven by the corporate globalization forced upon the world by the US government. No other power would have been strong enough to force the World Bank, IMF, WTO upon the world. No other power could have forced NAFTA upon itself and its continent, none could have forced CAFTA upon its hemisphere, none could force the same pattern across both oceans in the form of the TPP and TTIP. Again, this is the policy of what’s objectively a one-party system, the Corporate One-Party. “Republicans” and “Democrats” are nothing but two identical gangs within this monolithic system, and they share consensus on always escalating corporate and technocratic domination, always destroying all they can of humanity and the Earth.
 
Forcing people off their lands, out of their home economies, rendering them homeless and stateless, forcing them into regional and global mass migrations, has always been a primary intent and goal of globalization. The corporations force this migration to drive down wages in some places and to clear others completely of human beings. This was a core purpose of NAFTA, to drive Mexican farmers off their land to clear it for industrial plantations, and to drive them into the US to drive down wages there.
 
The xenophobia of US conservatives and liberals reflects their ambivalence toward globalization and corporate rule. They want to believe the corporate system will continue to maintain them as a parasite class and for this reason they support the crimes of globalization. But at the same time they sense how they too are being liquidated, how the same bell tolls for them. If more gradually, nevertheless just as surely the shantytown and hunger are their ultimate destination as well. They struggle to relieve these fears through such expedients as xenophobia.
 
Similarly, they believe “Islamists” are aliens who are obstructing the full boons of globalization. The Middle East is the geopolitical center of global war, so Islamophobia and “war on terror” fantasies become proxies of ambivalence. The US middle class wants to continue to enjoy the parasitism afforded them by cheap oil, but they sense the fact that the cheap oil is just about spent, only the far more expensive (in every way) remains, the massive subsidies aren’t sustainable, and most fearful of all, the hype touting substitutes for cheap fossil fuels is nothing but a mirage, nothing but a scam.
 
This in turn is an example of the broadest ambivalence, the fantasies of technophilia and scientism bound up with the rising subconscious realism of skepticism about all this. The political parallel is the fantasy of total control over people and earth through technocracy, vs. the sure knowledge that this system is trying to destroy humanity and the earth once and for all.
 
We come full circle. The “civilized” hate the earth, hate the human body, hate that we’re physically forced to eat food which comes from the soil, hate every part of physical reality. The most perfect, most distilled example of this is the American combination of promiscuity and puritanism about sex. This extreme ambivalence is the perfect symbol of Americanism, and of the civilized mindset as such.
 
So it goes for all of reality. That’s the psychological basis of the scientism religion, the technocracy cult. They worship the idea of what they call “high-tech”. They worship only this idea, no matter how much high-tech really means nothing but high-maintenance, no matter how shoddy, inefficient, malfunctioning, wasteful, and destructive this technology really is in practice.
 
This religious ambivalence is how corporations have gained so much power. On a subconscious level the civilized literally worship this corporate person they created, as a kind of demon-worship. This is the objective character of the actions of the Western masses. (In the mass media this corporate worship often becomes nearly overt and self-aware.)
 
But at the same time they hate these fantasies. They know it’s all impossible, they know it’s all lies. They know there’s no way out – the Earth’s patience is at an end. They know the corporations mean to crush them once and for all. They know the STEM establishment is a collective Mengele viewing them literally as a mass of captive test subjects to be manipulated, tormented, controlled, and killed. They know technocracy exalts nothing but the most extreme anti-human, anti-ecological evil.
 
But like the monkey who stuck his arm into the jar to try to pull out the banana, they can’t bring themselves to let go, even though the ground around them is covered with fruit for the taking. That’s how deep the indoctrinated horror of physical life has gone. Today’s “civilized” Babylonian captives would rather starve to death than pack up and return to their Jerusalem, return to the Earth.
 
 
 
 

October 10, 2016

By Any Measure, the Corporate Sector Fails to Deliver Seeds

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Here’s yet another piece proving the superior productivity of non-GM conventional agriculture to GM-based, and thus the lack of any agronomic rationale for GM varieties. The article describes the great increase in India’s commodity yields over 60 years of non-GM production.
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Of course it’s all about industrial, poison-based agriculture for commodity export, not agroecology for food production. (Acre for acre the latter is far more productive in terms of calories and especially nutrition, not to mention health and environmental services, than the former.) And of course the establishment insists that normalizing GM deployment will continue to extend the trendline of increase according to this non-food, commodity measure of “productivity”.
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But the #1 takeaway is here: It was all done with public research and public money.
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“Expansion of irrigation coverage too helped in increasing production but it was supported by the development of a number of drought and water-logging resistant varieties of seeds in the country’s public research institutions like ICAR, Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) and state\central agriculture universities.
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“These institutions, over the years, developed more than 2,000 seed varieties of cereals, including rice, wheat, maize and millet and over 700 varieties of oilseeds, which led to the phenomenal growth in foodgrain production.”
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These are the same public agricultural research entities which the IMF, at the US government’s command, targeted for destruction around the world.
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The record is clear throughout modern history: The private sector is far less productive and efficient than the public sector where it comes to seed research and distribution. This includes the currently dominant “public-private” model. Even the USDA has admitted this for years. See Jack Kloppenburg’s First the Seed for the whole ugly history of corporate seeds.
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November 10, 2010

Food Sovereignty vs. the Final Stage of Neoliberalism

 

What is globalization, really? Among other things, it’s the replacement of national sovereignty by corporate anti-sovereignty. Their own cadre, Dani Rodrik, wrote of how national sovereignty and democracy are incompatible with the corporate pseudo-sovereignty, and how if you want to maximize the latter you must destroy the former. This association of nation and democracy as the twin targets of the “free trade” onslaught demonstrates how national sovereignty itself can only arise out of the people. We can deduce from this that the only way to defend either and maximize both is to eradicate corporatism and elitism completely. It’s democracy which must be maximized: Direct democracy.
 
Who are the globalizers? Don’t look first at the World Bank, IMF, WTO and so on. Those are just the power launderers, the stooge cadres. In America, the real globalizers are Wall Street, the Republican and Democratic Parties, the weapons rackets, and the Big Ag rackets – Monsanto, Cargill, ADM, Tyson, Smithfield, and others. These are the players who concoct the “agreements” among “countries” which are really turf deals among gangster elites. The politicians sign these agreements and set up special organizations like the WTO and IMF to serve as the point men. But the WTO, and for that matter most of the Dems and Reps, are the hired goons. The “free” trade treaties are really corporate contracts, written by the likes of Monsanto and Cargill. But these contracts aren’t actual agreements among free parties. They’re instruments of tyranny to be imposed by elite diktat, from the top down, from the highest, most concentrated power, as a hail of rocks, burning ash, and poison upon the disenfranchised people below.
 
The proper legal term for a “contract” imposed by thuggery is an unconscionable contract of adhesion. Where there’s a huge power and need differential between the parties, it’s obviously impossible for them to freely contract with one another. Such contracts clearly have no moral validity. In theory these are also supposed to be legally invalid. But in practice the whole endeavor of neoliberalism, at every level, from the basic employer-employee “negotiation” to the most univeralized global trade agreements, is to replace actual freedom of contract with these contracts of adhesion. It’s to replace true economic freedom with gangster-imposed and enforced protection rackets and direct plunder.
 
All this proves how freedom of contract is impossible under conditions of wealth inequality. It’s been proven a thousand times – you can have one or the other, but never both.
 
What’s the final stage of neoliberalism? The elites have imposed financialization and are manipulating it to amass all power and real assets. This is positioning them for neofeudalism.
 
What’s neofeudalism? This is the elites’ strategy to achieve corporate totalitarianism and maintain as much of their material luxury as possible under Peak Oil and energy descent. Their strategy has been to use the corporate form, the propaganda of “capitalism” and “democracy”, and the forms of representative pseudo-democracy, to monopolize ever growing portions of wealth and power. Having achieved this position of dominance, they will now use it to push the rest of us down into actual medieval conditions. Their preferred path for doing this will be debt slavery. If necessary they’ll try to use the police state whose skeleton they’ve assiduously constructed, and even classical fascism.
 
Meanwhile, in various ways, they’ll attempt the shift from fossil fuels to alternate fuels, for the sake of their own luxury consumption. We’ve already seen a larger-scale version of this, with the diversion of vast amounts of food from the already-hungry people of the world to the gas tanks of the Western personal car. This is the industrial agrofuel strategy. Just like all other liquidations, this one’s coming home as well. America itself already has ever growing numbers of the hungry while more and more corn is hijacked for agrofuels. Obama just doubled down on the ethanol scam. So here we can see one iteration of the basic pattern I’ve called resource fascism. All ideas along the lines of corporate renewable energy buildouts have the same basic goal. Picture a network of fortresses powered by the “smart grid”, biofueled private jets travelling between, while outside the walls permanently indentured debtors slave in the fields and sleep in shantytowns, their labor compelled by the draconian penalties dangling over the heads of all defaulters, their debt compounding every day. That’s the goal of the political and economic elites.
 
How is the barbed wire being strung around us? For example, where it comes to food policy? The Green Revolution itself was intended to eradicate food self-sufficiency and economic independence. It hooks the farmer on fossil fuels, proprietary seeds, and growing cash crops for export. This then plunges him into the age-old vicious circle of debt indenture. The elites used petrodollar recycling to leverage the GR-imposed need for oil (which had to be bought with dollars) into brute power over those countries. As they sank into hopeless debt (enriching the Western banks along the way), the goon IMF could deploy its structural adjustment programs to use the existence of this unilaterally imposed debt to completely loot the people of the country, who had already been dispossessed by the same corporate process which imposed the odious debt upon them.
 
Once again we see the basic fraudulence and tyranny of the corporate “contract”.
 
Other assaults include the globalization “treaties” whose only goal was to destroy all barriers civil society and democracy posed for naked corporate aggression. The WTO, NAFTA, and subsequent proposed assaults like the FTAA, CAFTA, and the SPP, right up to the bilateral “agreements” of today, are intended to prevent messy elections or protests, or meddling laws and regulations, or any archaic notions that public property belongs to the people, from interfering with the corporate rampage. (These, including the bilateral pacts like the one Obama’s trying to impose on India, are of course agreements only among elite gangs; the respective peoples of these countries are disenfranchised in principle and are regarded as the targets for plunder in practice.)
 
There’s also the quest for domination via “patents” over seeds and genes. And then we have the new colonial land grabs. These are the maneuvers of rich countries brazenly trying to lock up their future food and biofuel supply by directly stealing the land of poor countries.
 
All of this takes place under the supervision of the big banks, who use globalization to impose their ideal of ruthless commodification upon every part of the economy.
 
As Sophia Murphy puts it:
 

The AoA [globalized Agreement on Agriculture] presupposes a particular model for agriculture and reinforces that model through the rules it establishes. It is a model for wealthy countries pursuing industrial agriculture, and for developing country governments that wish to follow suit. It ignores the needs and interests of the billions of farmers who do not live in that world. Only 10 to 15 percent of food is traded internationally, yet the AoA pressures all of agriculture to be run as if it was a trade concern.

 
This brings us back to the essence of globalization itself. The goal is to take what according to the capitalists’ own textbooks should be a small appendage of the economy and ruthlessly, recklessly, destructively impose its morals and culture on all of life. Not just economic life, but political, social, cultural, and private life as well. These “morals” and “culture” are really sociopathy and barbarism. Their goal is the absolute eradication of all competing values, which means all moral and cultural value as such. The intent and the practice is literally totalitarian, and neoliberalism is a totalitarian ideology and strategy in the classical sense.
 
Today in America the Food Tyranny bill intends to formally bring this globalization regime home. It would explicitly subordinate all domestic food policy to the WTO:
 

COMPLIANCE WITH INTERNATIONAL AGREEMENTS.

Nothing in this Act (or an amendment made by this Act) shall be construed in a manner inconsistent with the agreement establishing the World Trade Organization or any other treaty or international agreement to which the United States is a party.

 
This overthrows the doctrine of “perfect protection”, enshrined in America from the outset of globalization, that these rules didn’t supersede our own domestic food sovereignty. (Perfect protection was of course hypocrisy on the part of US elites, since they were destroying the same principle elsewhere. But the point is that all peoples deserve food freedom, and should receive such protection if we’re to have “free trade” at all. But by now we know the very point of free trade was to wipe out all such protections. Now it’s coming home.)
 
The bill could also subordinate us to the Codex Alimentarius, which is a globalized version of the disaster capitalist “food safety” scam. Just as in America, so everywhere globalism reigns there’s the same pattern of allowing corporate agriculture to cause food outbreaks, then use these outbreaks as the pretext to impose further corporate domination. The Codex is one “legal” vehicle to empower administrative tyranny over food. Revolving door corporate bureaucrats could issue fiats banning medicinal herbs or vitamin supplements, while requiring all growers right down to the backyard gardener to use any kind of synthetic fertilizer, pesticide or herbicide, hormone in an animal, or GMO seed. (As always in this connection, let me remind the reader that if Obama’s health racket mandate is allowed to stand, that will provide another precedent for any and every corporate mandate. The exact same logic will allow the FDA or even the WTO to “constitutionally” force us to buy, for example, GMO seeds. I defy any Obama cultist to explain how that’s incorrect. But then, an Obama supporter probably also supports Monsanto. More here and here.)
 
The bill’s extended power of recall, forced destruction of animals and product based on the flimsiest allegations, and the goal of forcing all small producers to register their animals (via NAIS) and all the details of their land and facilities (via “traceability”) with corporate databases demonstrate how the plan is to bring all non-corporatized, independent food activity under the surveillance and then control of the big corporations.
 
These are a few examples of how the food bill seeks to impose the corporate anti-sovereign assault upon us in our own country. That this is being done as a bipartisan project of our own government proves that this is a rogue government which no longer serves the people but assaults the people on behalf of our enemies. And the bipartisanship of it is stark proof (as if we needed it by now) that both Parties are equally malevolent, criminal gangs out only to rob and hurt us.
 
We’ll never be free until we get rid of them completely.
 
So this food bill needs to be put in the big picture context of debt indenture, offshoring, Walmartization and the general destruction of jobs, the assault on civil liberties, “austerity”, and the ever-tightening stranglehold of corporatism everywhere.
 
What’s the common thread everywhere? They seek to steal what wealth is left and destroy all economic and political possibilities and our very freedom to try to improvise any way out of the trap.
 
Will we ever draw a line and say No Further? A good place to draw that line is at our food. We should resolve to be growers, farmers, seed savers, on our own and in tandem, to do it directly and to assist one another, in the direct act and in resisting criminal assaults upon us.
 
More affirmatively, we need the land. We must demand it in principle (demand it, not of the elites who stole it, but as exemplary toward reawakening the people to the fact that our land has been stolen, and that if we’re to survive and prosper we must redeem it) and flow like water onto all available land. Our tactics must embrace everything from guerrilla gardening to adverse possession and organized squatting to mass land reclamation movements. Food production stewardship, and any other mode of productive economic relocalization, must always be the basis.
 
This is the only road to growing the millions of small farmers America needs, and meeting the twin goals of growing sufficient food post-oil, and providing the economic and cultural basis for the redemption and flourishing of democracy itself.

June 22, 2010

How Kleptocracy Congealed (The New Feudal War 1 of 4)

 

Beyond the simplest town hall and tribal communities, all governments are to some extent corrupt, and all economies contain legalized racketeering. But this doesn’t mean every system is a kleptocracy. We can’t be so profligate with superlatives without rendering concepts useless, although that too is a common modern disease. I’d wager it’s part of the indoctrination plan to have the perception spread that “everything has always been like this”. It fits in with the Status Quo Lie, that today’s status quo is really the normal baseline, a law of the universe. If people believe the situation is not just superficially similar to e.g. the Gilded Age, but exactly the same, then they can believe the solution is the same – time and “reform”. But this is not in fact the case.
 
The fundamental difference between today’s situation and that of past corruptions is its basis in the physical limits of Peak Oil. To describe the process one way, throughout the ascent of the oil age, the overall economic pie was getting bigger, and the goal of the elite gangsters was to steal from this growing pie. Although the goal of capitalism is always to either exacerbate existing scarcities or artificially generate scarcity where the natural state is abundance, cheap oil afforded such a surplus that it was actually difficult enough to generate artificial scarcity that it was politically easier for the elites to let the workers keep a relatively high proportion. This people’s piece of the pie wasn’t remotely proportional to their rightful share (that would be 100%), but it was still high by historic standards. This was the basis of the West’s mid-20th century temporary mass middle class.The gangsters temporarily had greater leeway to both satiate their avarice (within the political limits they temporarily acknowledged, which were also imposed by the Cold War, as I’ll get to below) and allow a broad wealth distribution.
 
That’s one way to look at the effect of the oil surplus. A parallel process was how all economic sectors were temporarily able to use cheap oil to undergo exponential “growth”. This temporarily generated what we call capitalist profits. (The classical economists like Smith and Ricardo and the critics like Marx never understood how they were really discussing an economic system based on investment and distribution of surplus from the fossil fuel drawdown. A “special case” economics indeed.)
 
The first thing to give was this economic growth process. Even if the oil surplus had been infinite, the sectors of the economy do have limits to entrepreneurial innovation. At some point the major innovations are complete, what’s left is more or less pointless tinkering, and the sector is mature.
 
In a previous post I summarized what happens next, and rather than reinvent the wheel I’ll just present it again here, if it pleases the court.
 

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.

 
This was happening in tandem with other political processes. Even during the time of the expanding pie, America was completing the sellout of its revolutionary birthright. As Hannah Arendt discusses in On Revolution, at the end of WWII it was clear that the colonial empires of Europe would be challenged everywhere by revolutionary movements. These would all necessarily be nationalist in part, but the rest of their ideological content was up for grabs. That many like the Vietminh would become communist was not a foregone conclusion. Among many anti-colonial insurgents, the American Revolutionary tradition was held in high esteem. America had total freedom to choose the path of encouraging these national revolutions along the lines of its own heritage.
 
Instead the US government chose the opposite path. It chose to trash its own revolutionary heritage, go rogue against its own best angels, and become the ultimate counter-revolutionary power. It chose everywhere to try to help sclerotic, decrepit Europe prop up its vapid imperialism. Although the propaganda lie was that this had to be done to counteract communist aggression, in fact communism instead was the beneficiary of America’s abandoning the field. Given the anti-colonial movements of the Global South, looking to the competing revolutionary heritage powers for assistance and inspiration, America simply punted and betrayed itself, and communism entered the vacuum left behind.
 
So to sum up, post-WWII, with the advent of the Cold War and the inevitable liquidation of the anachronistic colonial empires, America chose the path of counter-revolution rather than to compete as a revolutionary power. Meanwhile domestically it sought to co-opt the workers.
 
Vietnam was a milestone toward greater aggression and unsustainability for this reactionary agenda. It was an exercise in consolidating the military-industrial complex and in driving fiscal recklessness, which would culminate in Nixon closing the gold window in 1971. So the Vietnam-driven deficits were already unsustainable while the dollar could still be redeemed for gold, such that the system had to retrench even before the oil shocks set in starting in 1973, although this was foreshadowed by the American production Peak in 1970. (To get a little ahead of myself, we can compare this to the financial collapse of 2007-08 and say that in both cases the unsustainability of the finance structure in itself brought on the crisis before the energy fundamentals forced it. So in both cases the reckless financial “choice” preceded the structural change, but only as a preview.)    
 
As I said, this was bound to happen even without the looming end of the oil age. But in fact the US oil Peak was an alarm bell. Not that the system widely consciously registered it, but everyone sensed that oil supplies would be getting tighter in the future. Combining this with the end of “legitimate capitalist profits”, the system was clear in its mind that the temporary middle class would now have to be liquidated.
 
Here’s how I described how this was planned out, and how it’s been done:
 

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).

 
So we had the basic structural change. Peak Oil meant an expanding pie would first stop expanding and then start shrinking. This would radically exacerbate the dropping of the profit rate. This was structurally challenging a system whose “normal” aggression and greed had already been stepped up in the post-war era.
 
Combining these three determinants, two structural and one political, the gangsters saw that the only way they could continue large-scale extractions at all would be to radically intensify them. Since stealing each dollar would get harder and harder, it followed that you no longer had the luxury of conceding any wealth to the people who actually produce it. Allowing the existence of a middle class in principle was a luxury of the mid-century. The gangster elite no longer saw itself as having that luxury. You now had to try to steal every cent, and you had to be as systematic and ruthless as possible in doing it.
 
History since the 1970s has been primarily the playing out of this endgame. I’ll just describe the strategy and tactics as they were conceived and played, though they’re mostly epiphenomena of the structural forces of Peak Oil and the transformation from alleged capitalism to confirmed corporatism.
 
The ideology and strategy for all this was neoliberalism.  This was accompanied by such strands as economic “libertarianism”, AKA anarcho-capitalism as its more honest adherents called it, and neoclassical economics, AKA monetarism (with its “liberal” variant, the “neoclassical synthesis”). Buckley conservatism gave it a culturally respectable sheen, while Goldwater and later Reagan added a nimbus of pseudo-heroism. At the more scurrilous level, the Big Lies included the “ownership society”, “trickle-down” supply-side economics, the Laffer curve, and later “third way” politics and “compassionate conservatism”. We were allegedly going to move from a manufacturing economy to a “service economy”, and later to an “information economy”.
 
Maybe the most concise expression of the battle plan written up in one place was Lewis Powell’s 1971 corporatist strategy memo. This is a classical example of totalitarian reversal – for every word of its accusations against the enemies of American business, it’s meant to be read, “this is what we should be doing”. (He stays in character throughout.) 
 
All of this was enlisted to justify the replacement of a human society with the exponential debt treadmill. The now targeted middle class was supposed to go into debt and look to its “investments”, while quietly social spending was diverted to gangster plunder, regulation of the corporate gangs was gutted, public property was everywhere given away to private looters at pennies on the dollar, public spaces everywhere were privatized, and democracy itself was completely pimped out.
 
Everything was wrapped up in a propaganda package which justified intensifying wealth concentration, skyrocketing executive extractions, a war of extermination against unions, and the offshoring/outsourcing/downsizing of all decent American jobs. Globalization shills like Mankiw and Krugman promised all of these were temporary growing pains on the road to paradise, but like all totalitarian flacks they were simply lying about this.
 
All of this was worked out in principle in the 70s. The oil shocks gave the project new urgency, as the global rape wouldn’t work without ready cheap oil. The Nixon administration worked out the deal with OPEC whereby its oil would be priced and purchased with dollars. This gave the now fiat reserve currency a de facto “real” basis to replace the gold-based Bretton Woods basis Nixon had just abrogated. In return the US promised to prop up the undemocratic plutocracies of the Middle East against all democratic pressures. This was formally enshrined in the Carter Doctrine, which declared that anything which could interfere with the flow of Mideast oil was aggression against the US. Although advertised against foreign troublemakers, the real target was clearly people’s activists among the Arabs. There was probably also an implied military threat if OPEC producers didn’t deal.
 
Meanwhile under the scheme of petrodollar recycling, the dollars the West paid for oil would be put right back in the Western banks, who would lend it at predatory rates to developing countries for their own oil purchases. Every time OPEC received the dollars they’d extract some and send the rest back to the banks, who would extract some and lend the rest to third world elites, who would extract some and send the rest back to OPEC while saddling their own hapless peoples, who received none of the benefits, with the debt.
 
The goal was for the banks and OPEC to profit, for the West and corrupt regimes around the undeveloped world to get their oil, while the poor of the world would be forced to pay for all of it. Since they could never actually pay these odious debts, neoliberalism in the guise of its thug organizations the IMF and World Bank would stand ready to swoop in with a “structural adjustment”, which basically meant the complete looting of the helpless country. All its natural resources, and what little public property the people may have managed to accumulate, and what little social safety net they may have managed to stitch together, would all be confiscated to pay the debts these people never incurred, but which were criminally inflicted upon them.
 
(In part 3 of this series I’ll describe how, under the new name “austerity”, this same structural adjustment is being brought home to the Western countries themselves.)
 
Another detail was the transformation of the finance sector. It was of course always a gang of thieves, but it didn’t fully rationalize itself until the 70s and 80s. This was the period of the switch from partnerships as the common organizational model to limited liability corporations, and later to public corporations. The trend here is clear – enabling first the owners, and eventually the officers, to unshoulder all responsibility and risk, first on society, and later on the “owners” themselves (shareholders).
 
At the behest of Wall Street this drive to send every corporation public added the feature that stock price became the most important measure of a firm’s “health”. Productivity, real innovation and profitability, meant nothing next to short-run goosing of the stock price. Needless to say the welfare of the workers meant nothing. The goal here was to transform the entire economy into a casino for the benefit of the gamblers of the finance sector. They figured, with the end of the oil age the real economy as we’ve known it is doomed anyway, so we might as well run the risk of blowing it up prematurely for the sake of our personal profit.
 
The also had the benefit of setting up the stock market as a combination of dictator and terrorist. Even politicians who might have wanted to act in the public interest against the banks were prone to be intimidated by the market’s threats and tantrums. Most pols, of course, were happy to use the market’s “expected” reactions as a pretext for the crimes they already wanted to commit. This is taking on especially chilling significance today in the runup to “austerity”, as I’ll describe in part 3. The stock market terrorist also holds hostage the middle class in the form of its promised pensions, which have all been inextricably linked with the fortunes of the market. The message has long been clear – don’t get uppity, worker bee, or your 401(k) gets it.
 
This was all part of financialization, whose structural basis was the previously mentioned impossibility of keeping “real” profits up. Turning the flow of capital itself, previously a mechanism of capitalism, into the very core and purpose of the machine, was a way to temporarily garner fabulous rents. Again, since the real economy was doomed anyway, there was no reason not to take the finance sector, previously a periodically troublesome epiphenomenon of capitalism’s normal boom-bust cycle, and turn it into a pure extortion racket and con ring to maximize profiteering off the ultimate bubble and the ultimate bust, both of which would be engineered by this very racket.
 
(The exponential surge of “innovation” in financial “products” was part of this as well, a primary mechanism of its functioning.)  
 
All of this was already progressing through the 1980s. But the Cold War still imposed some restraints upon it, both because of the direct threat of the Soviet bloc and also because as long as the USSR existed it offered a political alternative to Western neoliberalism. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War this last restraint was removed. Now Western corporate aggression could rage forth in its full fury. In spite of the Big Lie, no “peace dividend” ever materialized, nor was it ever intended to. Irving Kristol wrote a manifesto openly declaring that with the Soviet Union gone, the West must greatly increase its military spending and aggression. This is exactly what was done, as planned. Thus every allegation throughout the Cold War about the West’s fundamental aggression was fully confirmed. It was a textbook example of what Arendt called a core trait of totalitarianism, that it steps up its aggression and its terror after the war has been won. So it was with neoliberalism.
 
From here on there was no restraint on plundering expeditions, especially in the former Soviet bloc countries; on terrorism and war as the response to any resistance or dissent; on disaster capitalism as the response to any opportunity anywhere which left people damaged and weakened. There is never a moment where any consideration enters the minds of Western leaders other than power and plunder. Everything is gauged at every moment according to those vicious imperatives.
 
And so today we have the full-blown kleptocracy. It rose out of, first, the imperative of gangsterism to survive as long as possible in the face of Peak Oil and the stagnation of the capitalist profit rate, and second to profiteer as much as possible off the final big binge and bubble which oil and debt were going to afford before burning out. The goal for the elites was simply to loot as much as possible, amass as much power as possible, impoverish and disempower the people as much as possible, undermine or destroy democracy; and to position themselves to prevent any democratic adaptation to the post-oil world, but instead to reimpose feudalism, constituting themselves as a new version of the medieval elite.
 
In parts 2-4 I’ll describe how this is meant to play out. Part 2 will recap the Bailout and describe its status today.
 
 

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.

March 7, 2010

New Icelandic Sagas

 

It’s a good moment in Iceland, as voters overwhelmingly rejected the bailout assault their rogue government is trying to impose upon them.
 

Another implication is that an IMF-led loan is now in limbo, demonstrating that the international bailout watchdog is truly powerless when the people of the bailout recipient nation want to have nothing to do with the international rescue circuit.

 
The corporate NYT seems to be in some denial about this, judging by its headline “Voters in Iceland Appear to Reject Repayment Plan”. Yes, 93% against is quite an appearance.
 
And of course, this is no proposed “repayment” but rather a demand that Iceland’s people be stripped naked in the Icelandic wind to pay off British and Dutch governments who already bailed out their own speculators at least at par. But the NYT piece seems confused about this, and confused about itself as well. It thinks it’s an op-ed piece, evidently.
 

How to repay the debt, which represents more than 40 percent of Iceland’s gross domestic product, has consumed this small, isolated nation for the last year and a half, since its banks failed, its stock market crashed and its currency collapsed.

 
Shouldn’t that be, whether to pay off this debt, and is “the” debt their debt at all? The banksters’ debt is definitely not their debt at all.
 

But the vote has been overtaken by events, the government said: the deal at issue in the referendum is no longer the deal that is currently on the table in international negotiations.

Each day of delay increases Iceland’s financial burden. The second installment of a much-needed loan from the International Monetary Fund and a coalition of Nordic countries has been put off pending resolution of the dispute.

Britain has warned Iceland that it risks being an international pariah if it does not pay the money back and has threatened to stall the country’s efforts to join the European Union.

The Icesave matter has put increasing pressure on the year-old Icelandic government, a fragile coalition led by Johanna Sigurdardottir of the Social Democratic Party. On the one hand, it needs to show that it acknowledges the public’s deep bitterness; on the other, it needs to negotiate a deal quickly in order to move economic recovery along.

“We need to keep going,” Ms. Sigurdardottir said in a television interview. “We have to get an agreement.”

 
“It needs to negotiate a deal quickly in order to move economic recovery along.” That’s some reportage. We know that’s what the government says Iceland “needs” to do. (And “quickly” – that’s how you know you’re dealing with disaster capitalist vultures: everything always has to be so fast, always a stampede. Why does it have to be done “quickly”? I thought about it, and I can’t think of the reason. The fact is, as always they want to cut of the thought process, because anybody who thinks much about this realizes that none of these bailouts should be done at all. That they’re all great capital crimes.)
 
The government hastened to make clear its anti-democratic intent:
 

But the referendum was more symbolic than substantive, and the Icelandic government hastened to make clear that Iceland would still pay back the money, albeit on different terms from the ones rejected.

“We want to be perfectly clear that a ‘no’ vote does not mean we are refusing to pay,” Finance Minister Steingrimur Sigfusson said. “We will honor our obligations. To maintain anything else is highly dangerous for the economy of this country.”

 
Evidently you are wrong. You don’t seem to speak for the people, in spite of your lies to the contrary. But then, what can we expect from someone whose entire vocabulary is a compendium of criminal lies about “obligations” and what’s “highly dangerous” to the economy. What’s dangerous to the economy is to allow a criminal cabal to run it. Iceland did that for too long, and now they’re paying the price. They’ve taken some small steps to take back their country, but as these “negotiations” make clear, they still have a long way to go. They’re still saddled with the same criminals.
 
The banksters themselves earlier fled the country. As well they should have, given how direct some of the rage has been, with even some physical vandalism of their houses. And where are these banksters today? Conferring with their counterparts on how to ram this bailout down the Icelandic people’s throats. How to “take back” the country for themselves. They’re exactly like the monarchist conspirators against France during the early part of the Revolution. They are in fact traitors.
 
That’s why the French cut off the King’s head – for treason.
 
And that’s what the people of Iceland need to do. They should indict the gangsters for the whole litany of their crimes, starting with treason. Demand extradition. Meanwhile they should speak directly to the people of Britain and the Netherlands. They should say: “Don’t let them direct your anger against us. As we speak, our gangsters and your gangsters are conspiring against all of us. Direct your anger and your action against them. We’re taking back our country. How about you?”
 
(But it’s true, if you’re still brainwashed and still a slave to consumerism, then there’s no way off the debt treadmill. In that case, after this tantrum the people of Iceland will indeed have to bow and crawl and grovel in the end. The NYT and the Iceland gang will be proven right.)
 
But if they’re willing to grow up, to get serious, to take their lives and freedom back into their hands, perhaps the means are at hand. If Iceland rejects its debt immolation and faces consequent economic hardship, then its most pressing need will be food.
 
From things I’ve read over the years (during the boom), Iceland’s geothermal energy is so abundant they have a vast infrastructure of spas and heated pools. If they have enough energy for such luxury, they must have enough for necessities.
 
So I’d say shut down Nero’s bathhouses, take all the energy that frees up, and use it to heat greenhouses to grow crops.
 
I haven’t looked at the numbers, so I don’t know for sure if they could become self-sufficient in food that way, but they could take a huge step toward it, which would be a huge step toward economic self-sufficiency in general.
 
If they’re serious about their human freedom and their human dignity, that’s what they’d do. What could be more pressing than food security for the people? And who other than an antisocial criminal could oppose it? Any such obstruction rules himself out of the community, rules himself an outlaw.
 
The same food lesson of course applies far beyond Iceland. This post isn’t really even about Iceland. 

March 5, 2010

Beware of Greeks Forswearing Thrift, Say the Bubble-Blowing Germans

 

Today Greek Prime Minister Papandreou visits his German counterpart, probably to beg for a bailout. It’s hard to tell, with every kind of rumor buzzing about for weeks now, each one contradicting the last. Do the Greeks really want a bailout at the price they’d have to pay? Are the Germans willing (able?) to bail them out under any circumstances? Will the Greeks bring in the IMF? What does anyone really think or want? No one seems to know.
 
The confusion is understandable. The European Union is another creature of the bubble. The concept only ever made any sense if prices rose above the cost of debt servicing forever. So just like every other absurd pretension of the bubble, this one too was doomed to collapse the moment prices peaked and fell.
 
Attain a unified currency and a unified monetary policy, but otherwise retain full national sovereignty including over fiscal policy. Today we see how luxurious such a concept is.
 
Now that the music stopped and there’s not enough chairs even for all the gangsters, everyone’s scrambling to conserve what he looted, cast blame, and if possible go into disaster capitalist mode.
 
We should be clear that the Greek gang, while certainly venal, did spread out the loot more than many other countries. For as long as the bubble lasted, at least some non-rich Greeks such as public workers benefited. Of course, that has set them up to be the scapegoats now that everything’s falling apart, even though the main beneficiaries by far were the rich and powerful, as always. (I don’t doubt the official hostility toward Greece, so suspiciously absent where it has come to a corporate entity like Lehman or AIG, has a lot to do with the fact that some of the Greek loot was spread further than the halls of rapacity.)   
 
The German government, with a big assist from the Western media, has taken the lead in castigating the Greeks. The lie is that the Germans have been responsible and frugal. In fact, the Germans themselves have been just as irresponsible. Their own budget deficit is running at 6.3% of GDP, over double the EU’s vaunted 3% limit. But of course for Germany and France (7.5%) the rules are made to be broken. They’re only ever meant to apply to those lazy “Club Med” countries. It’ll be funny to watch the Germans indulge themselves in the same rhetoric when the Spanish bailout is at hand. How much did the Germans complain when German money was blowing up the Spanish housing bubble?
 
Germany is just as insolvent as Greece. But since its economy is bigger it has more inertia, and since it has more clout it has more Too Big To Fail cred and gets a premium on its ridiculous debt. But that just means its own default is postponed.
 
Here’s the basic chronology. In October Papandreou came into office, discovered the long-running budgetary accounting fraud, and publicized it. Since then he’s been scrambling to find some way to get a bailout while not having to enact “austerity” measures so severe that he’d be committing political suicide at home. He’s been finding it difficult to thread this course between Scylla and Charibdis. (Greeks must be exasperated by now at all these mythological allusions. But look at what Americans have to put up with – comparisons to stuff like Donald Trump and “American Idol”. Consider yourselves blessed there.)
 
Led by Germany, the EU has demanded the standard crowbar be taken to the people before any candy is dispensed. It wasn’t enough when Greece pledged to freeze wages, cut bonuses, crack down on tax evasion, and raise the retirement age from 61 to 63, provoking widespread protests. Papandreou has since promised a second wave of attacks, raising the 19% VAT to 21%, imposing higher fuel pirces, and abolishing part of the bonus pay of many workers. These are all, needless to say, highly regressive measures, just like the first round. But jolly Olli Rehn, economic commissioner of the ECB, says this isn’t enough gutting and looting: “But further on, in 2011 and 2012, further measures will be necessary.” No word on whether these further measures include his surrendering his bonus, or if he and his colleagues will be undergoing a clawback for their incompetent performance as “economic commissioners”.
 
The MSM has been especially lurid in its depiction of the sinister “fourteenth month” pay many Greek workers get. Needless to say, we don’t need to take that term seriously so long as the Wall Street scum who crashed the economy and have already stolen $14 trillion from the taxpayers are still collecting “bonuses”. Eradicate all bankster bonuses and then come back and complain to me about any hard-fought element of worker pay.
 
The “Club Med” version of Phil Gramm’s “predatory borrowers” lie is the standard MSM line. (We’re even getting lectures and Just So stories about Alexander Hamilton of all people. Yes indeed, you can define success any way you want according to your ideology. Saddle the common people with the debts of the rich? Yes, Hamilton is your patron saint.)
 
Greece has suggested it might turn to the IMF for a bailout. This could make some sense from Greece’s point of view. The IMF would make the same crowbar “austerity” demands as Germany and France, but in return they’d be guaranteed sufficient assistance, whereas Germany and France are making the demands but are still all squirrelly about the candy. Indeed there’s some doubt about whether they even can bail Greece out.
 
Politically it’s a mess. The German people are just as furious about a possible bailout as the Greeks are about being crowbarred. (Both are certainly putting the American sheeple to shame.)
 
There’s also the technicality that an EU bailout would be illegal. But no one takes that seriously.
 
(Yesterday’s Economist story is amusing on this. This passage gave me a grim chuckle:
 

The German constitutional court ruled two decades ago that the Maastricht treaty was acceptable only if its no bail-out provisions were respected—so any bail-out would have to be disguised to avoid legal challenges.

 
Ho-hum. Another stupid law. Another stupid treaty. Another stupid constitution. So how will they get around it this time? Such a world-weariness….)
 
But it’s mostly the economic uncertainty, the bailed-out leading the bailout, which is causing such dithering. Nobody can figure out even in concept what they might want to do. One bailout possibility is for individual countries (i.e. Germany and France) to give foreign aid assistance to Greece. Another is for German and French banks to buy Greek bonds (just like Fed MBS purchases). Or a joint loan from, once again, Germany and France. Or they could guarantee Greek bonds. Nothing appeals, and nobody really wants to do any of this. There’s a real ick factor about it.
 
But at the same time they’re taking offense at the possibility of IMF involvement. On Wednesday ECB head Trichet said it would be “inappropriate.” It would certainly be humiliating to the EU concept, subversive of its auctoritas.
 
Meanwhile the speculators have been getting more and more excited. This week the terrorist markets reacted well to the new austerity announcement and the bullish bailout talk. In spite of Greek travails its latest bond issue was oversubscribed. The rates they’re paying, while high, are still low compared to other countries which have been in such a predicament. That’s the Euro bailout premium.
 
The bond terrorists are trying to use Greece’s small, troubled market to attack the Euro as a whole. The Europeans have been whining about how these acts of war on the part of Goldman and others are “legal” in America. Yes, it’s despicable, but America’s government is despicable, and its law has been hijacked. So Europe should criminalize it. Label them the terrorists they are, indict them, demand their extradition. Make it impossible for them to set foot in Europe. Meanwhile civilly sue those banks in Europe.
 
But silly me. They don’t really object to terroristic speculation as such. On the contrary they’re committed to it. They’re just whining when they’re the ones getting hammered by it. They’re like Charlie Sheen in “Wall Street”, who’s clearly never repentant about his crimes in general, but only that he brought the assault down on his own people.
 
These “traders” plan to exploit Greek weakness and use it to destabilize the rest of Europe. They’ll be taking the Continental Tour, from Greece to Spain, Portugal, Italy, perhaps a side trip to Ireland…..
 
Perhaps as we speak Papandreou and Merkel are discussing these things. We’ll have to wait to find out if the always-classy Germans like Merkel’s coalition ally Josef Schlarmann shout directly in Papandreou’s face things like “Sell your islands, you bankrupt Greeks! And sell the Acropolis too!”
 
Polite or not, disaster capitalism is always the top item on the agenda. The boom-bust, bubble-crash, rent-extracting/bailout/disaster looting model is now the true “business cycle” according to the system’s agenda. What’s happening today in Europe is the according to the same template as in America in 2008. The Greek gang and the finance terrorists, with the acquiescence of the bosses, ran up public debt for private looting, just like a two-bit third world tinpot despot. Now the crash, and they’re crying for the bailout. Here as before we have disaster capitalism’s quadruple goal: (1) preserve the existing privatized loot, (2) loot more through the bailout, while (3) terrorists use the chaos to speculate, while (4) the gangs seize the opportunity to privatize public property, gut social spending, deregulate, and wage class war on the workers. 
 
Look around this bailout, and you’ll see how every detail fits into the scheme, just as with all previous bailouts.
 
Meanwhile the Greek protests have been fiery. In their latest action the people seized the Finance Ministry building. We must hope for such resistance to continue and grow. And maybe the Germans will be next, as their system begins to collapse as well. Every assaulted populace can be the base for a take-back-the-country insurgency. Who knows? Enough protest, and they might even accomplish the seemingly impossible: to wake up the American people.        
 
So I wonder what’s going on in that meeting right now?

August 3, 2009

Where’s the Omelette?

Back during the Cold War fellow-travelers often would defend the Soviet Union with the saying, “you have to break eggs to make an omelette”. The anti-communist reply was, “OK – where’s the omelette?”
 
Today we must ask the same question of big capitalism. For so long we’ve been regaled with promises about the bounty which would flow from the invisible hand, from free markets and free trade. If we only cut taxes and deregulated and repealed bothersome laws and tolerated massive wealth inequality, the machine of capitalism would generate massive wealth which would trickle down to everyone. The rising tide would lift all boats. We’d have an ownership society.
 
Sure, some eggs had to be broken along the way, but the omelette would be so thick and rich and delectable, everyone would happily gorge to his heart’s content.
 
So where’s the omelette? Trickle-down has had decades, the invisible hand has had centuries. If this was ever going to benefit all, where’s the benefits?
 
The fact is, capitalism and the rich have abdicated. They create nothing, they innovate nothing, they add nothing of value.
 
Does capitalism better organize the workers for more efficient production? The answer to that depends upon the value of what’s being produced. We can see that in decades there have been no real improvements in any real goods or services.
 
Instead the “innovation” has gone not to making people’s lives better but to destroying lives by destroying jobs. Globalist capitalism and technology have focused above all on assaulting the worker and the people as a whole. Their imperative has been to downsize, deskill, outsource, offshore, to break unions and drive down wages. So by their own premise, that capitalism is the best system for the people, they have abdicated completely.
 
(Their shibboleth of “freedom” is simply a gutter lie. In modern civilization there can be no freedom without broad socioeconomic freedom for the people, which is precisely what corporatism seeks to destroy. They mean only freedom for the rich and for big corporations. That’s the only debased measure of freedom which enters into our discussions here.)
 
A few more points on the globalization scam:
 
1. “Comparative advantage”, a dubious boon even if it ever had really existed or been meant to exist, was always a lie. It was an ideological fig leaf under which Western corporatism sought absolute advantage. Backed by the force of the reserve currency, bullying one-way protectionism, and the guns of the military, Western multinationals turned the rest of the world into a new colonial plantation, whose only “advantage” was its endless slave-wage labor and its cheaply extracted national resources. This onslaught continues at full fury today.
 
2. Even if any part of the “free trade” ideology were true, still isn’t the point of a country to look out for its own people? If there’s such a thing as a national economy, and a national economic policy, and if business benefits from the existence of a national government, then isn’t the number one point of all of these to do well by the nation’s own workers? And in turn, not allowing corporate treason vs. your own country, you therefore also don’t empower corporate rapacity around the world?
 
But the whole point of globalism was always to crush the nation and any sense of national morality or international benevolence or even neutrality. It was from the start the ideology of lucrative treason and global economic aggression. 
 
3. It’s ironic: the right-wingers say they’re opposed to One World government. But by this they only mean the feckless UN.
 
On the contrary, they cherish and worship the only true one-world government. This is the system of the GATT, the World Bank, the IMF and WTO, with all its implementations: NAFTA, CAFTA, the SPP, FTAA, and on and on toward complete corporate totalitarianism.
 
So much for globalization. What about America’s domestic sectors?
 
Banking: What is their measure of innovation (by their own proclaimed invisible hand/trickle-down premise)? They claim to move capital about such that the economy “grows”, ever larger, ever more robust, ever more bountiful for all Americans. Good jobs and prosperous incomes for all, steady wages, stable asset and consumer prices, an economically healthy society. All this the banks promised us.
 
And what have the banks wrought instead? We have oppressive wealth concentration and inequality, massive layoffs everywhere, prices wildly volatile within a general trend of inflation outrunning nominal wages (and real wages always downward), a new economic norm of wild booms and busts, binges and purges, each flow further concentrating wealth, each ebb wiping out an ever greater swath of the people, and encompassing all of it instability, tension, fear as the true leading indicators of social illness.
 
And now amid the disaster the banks can act only as rampaging disaster capitalists, obsessed with mergers and acquisitions (in their own sector as well as facilitating them in every other sector) and with squeezing the same consumers (for example mortgage and credit card holders) whose tax dollars are the only thing propping these banks up.
 
Let’s sample two other critical social sectors.
 
Health care: The measure of innovation is clear. Quality of life, lifespan, infant mortality all improve, while care becomes less expensive and equitably distributed.
 
What do we have instead? By most health indicators America is an also-ran among industrialized countries. The care gets worse, more expensive, more bureaucratically complicated, more tenuous, with ever more uninsured, whose only access to care is the emergency room. The result is ever greater fear and suffering, physical, mental, moral.
 
Agriculture: The measure of innovation is that food becomes more healthy (of higher quality and safer), less expensive, better distributed, with better working conditions and wages for food workers, and greater economic security for independent farmers, who are the backbone of any healthy, resilient food system.
 
Instead, under the reign of industrial agriculture, we have ever greater “food insecurity” (hunger). Diets become ever less healthy. Obesity skyrockets. The diet is loaded with toxins, filth, additives, and empty calories. The factory farm system is set up as a vast network of unregulated bioweapons laboratories which are proving grounds for every kind of livestock-borne disease. Animal cruelty is institutionalized. Regulation is legislatively and administratively defanged and starved of funds. Prices are ever more volatile and generally increasing. The whole thing is an environmental disaster.
 
So we see from just three pivotal sectors how corporatist capitalism has produced, according to its own premises and promises, a world-historical failure.
 
Then we have the general behavior of the greedy rich. Their lifestyle inflation drives up prices for everyone. They doom the non-rich to the rat race. They force the middle class into the mortgage bubble, since the root of extreme housing prices is monopoly behavior by the rich, with their multiple McMansions and cornpone villas, which gives Big Developers the incentive to institute the McMansion model as the American baseline. This drives the non-rich into desperate debt as they are deluded into believing they must keep up in this class war arms race. And so it goes, all the way down to the subprime borrowers.
 
This is just one example of the sociopathy which fuels and in turn is exacerbated by extreme wealth inequality. Where wealth is so unevenly distributed it becomes a weapon used to more aggressively steal social property in the form of privatized profit while externalizing and socializing private cost, risk, and waste.
 
The big corporations and the rich innovate nothing, create nothing, produce nothing of value, do no worthwhile work, serve no social function whatsoever. They add nothing but cost, complexity, instability, volatility, pollution, social tension, uncreative destruction, violence, and ugliness. Their worthlessness and malevolence as parasites is complete. 
 
There is the noble proposition, “The law exists for man, not man for the law.” And now we must ask, are the banks there for man, or man for the banks? For example, should bailed-out banks be facilitating job-destroying mergers in a time when jobs are hemorrhaging? Or, should banks be refusing mortgage modifications if these are not profitable for them?
 
Or on the contrary does this nullify the very reason we allow them to exist?
 
Does the profit motive serve man (as the capitalists claim it does), or is man there to be mined by profiteers (the way it now always turns out in practice)?
 
If the profiteering of a few no longer helps us as a whole, if the wealth of a few is now useless to us; if these things are not only useless but aggressively harmful; then we cannot and must not any longer tolerate their existence.
 
Where’s the omelette? If there ever was one, it was only cooked up to be eaten by a handful of criminals, who left us nothing to eat and the trashed kitchen to clean up.
 
We now must clean up a much larger mess. No doubt it’ll require a ferocious disinfectant. But it’s the only way we’ll cleanse ourselves.    

July 8, 2009

Globalism to Relocalism

I want to offer a few thoughts on globalization, and why opposition to it is linked to relocalization.
 
The European Union has just decided to impose a tariff for the next five years on American biodiesel imports. This is in retaliation for massive American subsidies to this pseudo-industry, which in turn enable biodiesel exporters to dump their product in Europe below cost, hammering European producers. The targeted companies include Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill. The usual suspects.
 
This is of course a mere squabble among gangsters. The Europeans are just as guilty of dumping in Africa and elsewhere (where local economies are unable to defend themselves against this aggression). We’ll no doubt hear the usual jeremiads against “protectionism”, although this is no such thing.
 
Leaving European hypocrisy aside, this is not flat earth protectionism but self-defense against what a good globalist should call an abuse of the system. (It’s not really an abuse, as I’ll explain below.)
 
(As for the omnipresent cry that protectionism will hinder the Great Recovery, we should know that this is a crock. There can be no “recovery” in their sense. Consumers are at the end of their debt rope and must either let go or be hanged. We are not going to see a restoration of the consumer orgy. We’ve seen Peak Consumerism, and we can happily bury it.
 
The banks know this, which is why they will not lend, why they only sit on the bailout money. They know, far from a consumer phoenix being ready to rise from the flames, there’s instead a lot more burndown to go: the credit card debt crash has barely begun.
 
While oil prices temporarily plummetted, they have risen again. From here they’ll likely continue to fibrillate wildly for the next several years until the true Peak Oil effect sets in, and oil becomes permanently expensive. So while shippers have had a temporary respite (if they had anything to ship) on energy prices, they know they can’t rely upon anything but price volatility.
 
Globalization’s great wave has broken and now ebbs. Anyone who is counting on that wave to roll in again to refresh the parched global economy is going to go thirsty.
 
So no one has to worry about protectionism hindering recovery. Protections will simply be a logical part of decoupling from the already-doomed globalization model.
 
We who are glad to see the end of an unsustainable civilizational model can applaud protectionism as an example of Dmitri Orlov’s doctrine of boondoggles to the rescue.)
 
Getting back to biofuels and Big Ag, the way this racket works is clear. They are the recipients of massive federal subsidies, which enable them to export and dump their product, destroying local economies and pocketing all profits.
 
If you know the movie Goodfellas you’re familiar with the part where the mob becomes a partner in a restaurant. They immediately start buying huge amounts of consumer goods like TVs on the restaurant’s credit, take delivery there, and literally bring the stuff in through the front door and out the back into the back alley, where they sell it for cash at a big discount. The place is stuck with the bill. “Nobody’s going to pay for it anyway. It’s all profit!”
 
That’s exactly the way corporatist rackets like agrofuels and industrial agriculture work under globalization. The taxpayers subsidize production, the corporations take the goods overseas and dump them. “It’s all profit”, while the taxpayers are stuck with the bill, and overseas economies are assaulted.
 
The EU’s complaint against America is 100% correct. But they are just as guilty, and often collaborate with the Americans in these crimes. Look at the example of Smithfield. The American multinational had a golden road paved for it into Eastern Europe. It promptly CAFOized the pork economies of Romania and Poland, ravaging those farm economies (and strewing various environmental and public health disasters along the way). It received huge state and EU subsidies for this, and then received further payments for exporting pork scraps to Africa, where it dumped them, largely eradicating local hog farmers there as well. European producers are guilty of the same crimes.
 
(This also illustrates how EU expansion to Eastern Europe was conceived as a colonial endeavor in the same way that Western Europe always looked at the global South.)
 
It’s clear that predatory pricing is not an abuse of globalization, but a feature. It is completely within the mainstream of its logic. Globalism’s ideologues always talked about “comparative advantage”, but what Western countries and corporations have always sought in practice is absolute advantage. The only thing the third world was ever comparatively best at was gutting all environmental and labor regulation, driving wages down to starvation levels, and deploying any level of violence necessary to keep the slaves in line.
 
As Larry Summers said, the best use for the third world is as a toxic waste dump. That’s the inherent logic of globalization.
 
Who invented and imposed globalism? Not the global South. It was the West and its self-constructed, therefore self-serving international trade structure (the World Bank, IMF, WTO – a veritable Economic One World Government). So we can assume that the standard predatory practice of America and the EU is the intended practice of globalization itself. This means subsidy, protections, dumping for its own industry, while ferociously opposing all protections, and any regulation in general, in the “toxic waste dump”.
 
Why should a Peak Oiler care very much about this if it’s true that globalization is being rolled back?
 
First, it’s a moral and philosophical imperative. Fighting back against organized crime, even where it’s in the fifth act, is worth doing for its own sake. 
 
Second, we’re not likely to have a fast crash, if that means the end of industrial civilization in a year or two. These corrections of history are going to take time to work themselves out, and in the meantime marauders are still going to do a lot of damage.
 
Third, anti-globalization is a relocalization initiative. To oppose Big Ag’s third world dumping is to help weaken its domestic stranglehold, which in turn helps domestic small farmers, which is the core priority for anyone concerned with energy descent, since America will need millions of small farmers.
 
So Europe’s biodiesel tariff, however hypocritical, is helpful. And of course, any blow to the agrofuel racket and all its wickedness is a good thing.
 
This is just one piece of the puzzle, one loose thread in the unravelling of industrialism. As more and more threads come loose, the thinner and weaker the garment. Perhaps at some point there will even be ways for the people to pull on those threads.

April 7, 2009

A Not-so-distant Mirror?

Filed under: Global War On Terror, Globalization — Tags: , , , , — Russ @ 9:36 am
Modern history shows that the basic process of growth economies is that they must always seek new frontiers where they can repeat their original “pre-capitalist” accumulation, i.e. plunder. Where the economy runs up against limits to this expansion, it falls into boom-bust cycles. In effect, if there’s nowhere for surplus wealth to go, then wealth must be destroyed so that it can be rebuilt. The old rueful joke about how GDP is all about building a bridge, tearing it down, and then rebuilding it is basically true. Wars are especially fruitful in this regard.
 
Now the globalized economy is running up against the ultimate limits of the Earth’s natural resources. Delusions of space colonization notwithstanding, there’s no frontier left to open up. We can look at the entire Industrial Revolution as a one-time spend-down of the fossil fuel hoard. (For all the delusions of capitalist grandeur, all modernity has really been is one big rent-collecting binge, which is now coming to an end.)
To the extent humanity now moves to unconventional oil and aggrofuels, this means the spend-down is over, and it’s time to recrudesce to the civilization of hard work.
 
To look at an early run-through of the West’s predicament, we may compare the rise of fascism in 20th century Europe. The socioeconomic predicament Europe faced is similar to the resource predicament we now face. The fascists were just premature.
 
As Hitler’s biographer Joachim Fest put it, fascism was trying to formulate a “last-ditch defensive ideology for the bourgeoisie”. Europe had run out of space, was depleting its own resources, while the old-style imperialism had run its course. It was entering “bust” time; the Great Depression was a foretaste of this. Fascism proposed to prop up the system first through military Keynesianism, then internal imperialism, then continental aggression, using violence and slavery throughout. The reason this was necessary, and the reason it didn’t work, was that history had entered an interregnum.
 
To repeat, Europe’s population was at the boom level, while its indigenous resources were constrained. It’s old colonial frontier and plunder grounds were closing up.
At the same time, technology, the globalist form of imperialism, and consumerism were not yet ripe as a new stage of economic intensification.
America and the Soviet Union, still rich in resources, could afford to wait. Europe could not.
 
A crystallization of the dilemma is how Hitler envied Stalin. He was well aware of how time was running out for Germany, while the USSR had all the time in the world, all on account of natural resources – oil, grain, metals, timber. This was the “rational” aspect of Hitler’s Lebensraum  (living space)  ideology. The point of the war was to seize space and resources, and therefore time, from the USSR and for Germany.
 
So what happened:
1. Natural resources won the war for the West and the Soviet Union.
 
2. The war itself spurred development of the technology and the globalization system (Bretton Woods, dollar as reserve currency, the IMF) which would open up the new frontiers, globally and internally, to the new cycle of expansion, expropriation, and accumulation. The old direct colonization would be replaced by the new sublimated imperialism.
 
But all of this, even when leveraged through the financialization of the global economy, which became an exponential debt economy, could still only buy limited time. 
 
These are the terms we must think in when we see Western multinationals, Asian cartels, Mideast sovereign wealth funds making land deals in Brazil or Madagascar or Indonesia; or where we see unholy consortiums of Monsanto and Bill Gates seeking GM biofuel plantations in Africa. It’s at core the same Lebensraum program, just prettified and not so overtly violent. This is broadly true of all of globalization, petrodollar recycling, the whole round of multinational colonization, “outsourcing” and “offshoring”, “free” trade, and the intentional trapping of the global South in the predatory lending/debt/structural adjustment cycle purveyed by the World Bank and IMF.
 
So where are we now? The whole developed world (including the elite strata of the BRIC countries, Southeast Asia, the Pacific Rim, the Mideast and elsewhere) is in the same position as Europe entering the 20th century. We have resource depletion, trade outlets are saturated, population has exploded beyond all rational measure. There is almost certainly no frontier left to colonize. The technophiles still blather about how “technology will save us”, but anywhere we look there is no conceivable technological solution which doesn’t quickly run up against physical (fossil fuel platform) and economic barriers which are insurmountable. Even where it comes to well-established tech like wind or solar, we must face the truth. As Vaclav Smil said, “beware of the scale!” They cannot be scaled.
 
I said a moment ago that the barriers are insurmountable. But there is in fact one option for temporarily propping up a zombie system. The rich and powerful can seek to prop up their wealth and power through a rerun of the old fascist gambit. This time, however much they try to demonize various foreigners or “terrorists”, they won’t really have the old-style fascist “classless” option, since this is a globalized world. Multinationals are completely unmoored from any national anchor, in practical or moral terms. This unanchoring has been with the full consent and active corporatist assistance of so-called “national” governments. Governments, administrations, and corporations are now fully cognizant of their basic thug vagrancy. They will now seek to recolonize the Earth. First on a North vs. South basis, and then on an internal basis within each and every “country”. The process is well advanced in America already, with the shredding of the safety net, rampant privatization, the addiction to consumer debt as the entire basis of physical life, and the complementary expropriation of wealth, more and more of which resides in fewer treasure hoards. The Bailouts and the Global War on Terror are stepped up processes of wealth redistribution upward.
 
In the meantime, the essence of Western life, which must be preserved at all costs, for the sake of which the people will happily throw away all wealth, all power, all spirit, all freedom, is the car. Everything else in American life boils down to this. It’s the basis of the war on terror. In effect, as long as the power elite can keep delivering the fuel, the people will consent to anything and everything.
 
This is how and why the leading edge of the new, temporary accumulation cycle of interior colonization is the “alternative fuels”, unconventional oil and biofuels. You can gauge the progress of tyranny by the progress of their development.        
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