Volatility

April 21, 2017

Corporate Scientists “Mostly Say, Hooray for Our Side”

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It’s a space-age church, all right.

 
 
Yet another gang of corporate conformists will be out shrieking about nothing, this time holding a so-called “March for Science”. Their premise is that this administration is “anti-science” in a way previous administrations* were not.
 
This of course is a lie. There is perfect consensus among the US political class and both divisions of the Corporate One-Party that science is supposed to serve corporate imperatives. There is no significant dissent from this dogma within the system. Therefore according to the measure of the Popperian scientific method, all US political and economic institutions are anti-science. But more accurately, today’s Kuhnian “normal science” is the corporate science paradigm, which can be summed up as, “Science is whatever the corporate marketing department says it is, nothing more and nothing less.” As always, the only difference among the pro-corporate factions is cosmetic: Trump’s “science” has some superficial differences in tone from Obama’s “science”, no significant differences. The main cosmetic difference is in their respective modes of climate denial. Trump is reviving old-style de jure denial which had fallen into relative disuse, while Obama represented the full development of the de facto denialism of crying crocodile tears but insisting that nothing has to change. While liberals, leftists, and mainstream environmental groups shrilly invoke the specter of climate change, by their actions, from their continued personal jet-setting to their fraudulent corporate-aggrandizing policy prescriptions, they prove every day that they don’t really believe there’s a climate crisis. At any rate it’s a proven fact that they don’t want to do anything about it.
 
The climate crisis is very real, but those among the system political class who claim to believe in it and care about it are liars and con artists. Indeed, this mass political abdication and embrace of such cynicism is part of the political and cultural manifestation of the greater crisis, of which physical climate chaos (a deliberate corporate campaign), is itself a part.
 
Meanwhile from Obama to Trump there’s not even a cosmetic change in the “science” propaganda and deployment of agricultural poisons. How could there be: Where it comes to poisonism the Obama administration was the most aggressively anti-science, pro-corporate administration yet.
 
We see that the March for Science is a typically stupid misdirection ploy. As with every other version of this lie, the goal is to keep the people imprisoned with the chains of the corporate system’s ideas and the limits of its “politics”. In particular, the lie’s two main parts are:
 
1. Never question the overall status quo, which is permanent and never will change or can be changed.
 
2. Refer all questions to the conflict of Republican vs. Democrat, which encompasses all conflict.
 
These are both extremely stupid lies designed to keep the people stupid and comatose. But in reality the status quo is impossible and will collapse of its own physical limitations and self-destruction. And in reality there’s no difference between Republican and Democrat and they do not conflict in any significant way. On the contrary, as I said above they have perfect consensus: On corporate rule, and on the fundamentalist religion of the goodness and permanency of the extreme energy consumption model of civilization.
 
Where it comes to this latter faith, they are true believers. And when they preach their Republican/Democrat lie they are preaching to fellow believers among the people, who are the real constituency for this propaganda. They’re also trying to smother in the cradle any nascent awakening to the truth.
 
All system propaganda institutions, from political parties to regulatory agencies to NGOs to academia and the media to the scientific establishment, are working on this same role of reinforcing cult faith in extreme energy consumption and suppressing any new idea. The March for Science is the latest such gambit of the corporate science establishment.
 
 
Meanwhile why doesn’t someone organize a march to liberate science from corporate control? For starters, only about two people would show up. (Indeed, even the critics of corporate control of science are still system grinders who prefer to party with the cool kids.)
 
 
*If you’re wondering whether our political science class thought George Bush was anti-science, I refer you to their valedictorian and head cheerleader Neil DeGrasse Tyson:
 

Q: President George W. Bush named you to a pair of aerospace commissions, but how do you feel about Bush’s relationship with science?

A: People can say and think what they want, but what matters is whether or not it becomes policy or legislation, and I don’t remember any legislation that restricted science. In fact, the budget for the National Science Foundation went up. What matters is money in Congress. What does Congress do? Allocate money. That’s really what they do. So the science budget of the country went up during the Bush administration, and the budget for NASA went up 3 percent—and it had actually dropped 25 percent in real spending dollars under the eight years of President Clinton. I don’t care what you say or think. I care about legislation, and policy.

Also, he appointed me! There may have been some science that he hadn’t learned yet or didn’t know fully, but he’s not creating legislation based on it. Speeches are politics, so you can’t fault a politician for saying something political.

 
So Bush was OK. I also appreciate Tyson’s refreshing honesty in openly acknowledging that he and other scientists are for sale and will espouse whatever “science” they’re paid to espouse, especially if presidents also heap honors upon them. And that the March for Science is nothing but speeches and politics, about nothing but speeches and politics and money. Yes, all this is what Popper was talking about.
 
 
Help propagate the necessary ideas.
 
 
 
 

March 12, 2010

Bush Rehab (Social Fascists, 1 of 2)

 

It’s long been known among those familiar with him that Obama is a neoliberal corporatist. That’s why, under Robert Rubin’s tutelage, he became the recipient of the bulk of Wall Street donations. Still, even the corporatists must be pleasantly surprised at the gleeful alacrity with which Obama has broken all his change promises and instead devoted his presidency to looting the country on their behalf even more brazenly than Bush did.
 
Meanwhile the Republicans, who had to expect the worst for themselves (since Obama could easily have served his masters while still hammering the Reps), must be amazed at how well Obama and the Democrats have fixed things up for them as well. If Obama’s actions prove that his first priority is to serve Wall Street and the big rackets, his second has been to rehabilitate George Bush and the Republicans.
 
It was only a little while ago that Bush policy and Bush disasters were almost universally repudiated as one long bad dream. Everyone agreed that Iraq was a debacle, that the MSM had behaved shamefully in shilling for it, serving as stenographer for administration lies, that Democrats had been wrong to support it. Since the financial crash everyone uttered a big sigh of relief that Social Security privatization had failed. Everyone said, Where would we be today if Bush and Wall Street’s plot had succeeded? Fighting back to defeat it was the Democrats’ one great moment in an otherwise dismal decade of cowardice and betrayal. Even Republicans didn’t want to associate themselves with the Bush years exemplified by the monumental failure and betrayal of Katrina. 
 
Katrina broke Bush’s spell over the people. Katrina opened up the space for the Dems to crawl back into power, as Bush’s real approval rating permanently plummeted below 30%. For the rest of history, any revived good feelings for Bush and his Republicans will only be the result of nostalgia as things get even worse. The truth about how the people really saw him will never change.
 
But Democrats are also eternally Democrats, and the same cowardice and betrayal which characterize them in opposition even more profoundly mark them in power. Look at how Obama and the Dem establishment have embarked upon the full-scale rehabilitation of all the defining Bush policies and actions.
 
Obama’s refusal to obey the law and bring Bush war criminals to justice is one part of a broader program to reglorify Bush’s war, including Iraq. Obama did say he’d continue the war in Afghanistan, while promising to get out of Iraq. But he never hinted at the sprawling escalation he’s actually embarked upon in the Afghan theater. Meanwhile, he’s indicating that the vaunted Iraq withdrawal also isn’t going to happen.
 
The Democratic rehabilitation of the Iraq war and the most vile tactics used to fight it has in turn encouraged the MSM to flip yet again on the war. After their sojourn of some years of apologetics and even some alleged self-searching, outfits like the WaPo and NYT coming back full circle to their original jingoism. (These days chickenhawk Bill Keller at the NYT seems to want to outdo the Times’ old bloodlust, even soliciting op-eds complaining that Americans aren’t killing enough civilians.) Afghanistan, just like Iraq before it, is the glorious project for a unified front of the same old warmongering flacks representing themselves as decent, responsible people. And now even Iraq is being restored to its old respectable position.
 
Surely it could never be possible that the worst fuck-up of an American government imaginable, the multiple SNAFUs which converged in the Katrina disaster, could ever be rehabilitated? For the first time in broad daylight, for all the world to see, America was revealed in its true banana republic nature. No one would ever want to revise this as a great time. And when Naomi Klein depicted in Shock Doctrine how American governments and business leaders were overjoyed at the disaster capitalist opportunities the havoc had opened up, this was surely a slanderous exaggeration on her part? Sure, there’s always a few rotten crooks and vultures in any disaster, but decent people would never so much as think, let alone act upon, such a notion as exploiting the great suffering of a disaster-beleaguered people to do things like destroying their homes and schools permanently?
 
Well, yes they could. And while Bush’s own people lied about their intent and actions, it was left to Obama himself to openly say, “Katrina was a good thing”. We now have smoking gun confirmation that Klein was always right not only about the actions but the systematic intentions and precalculation. Yet it’s not even unreconstructed Bush Republicans who are cheering on the Bush system’s crimes here. Here, as with Iraq, it’s the Obama administration which has dedicated itself to rehabilitating Bush’s worst crimes and failures. Obama’s goal is nothing less than to revise history so that Bush’s worst disasters are reformulated as triumphs.
 
Obama’s actions prove that he cherishes his position as steward of Bush’s assault on civil liberties. And, as the keystone of his overarching dream of out-Bushing Bush, Obama even wants to carry to completion Bush’s failed project to privatize social security. Never mind that there’s no reason to even think of this; that for this zombie system a dozen crises loom, any one of which is more pressing than this; how the system will be brought down of its own weight long before Social Security could ever come into crisis of its own accord; how even acknowledging the notion gives aid and comfort to Republican memes in general; how nobody who’s not a criminal wants to even discuss “entitlement reform” right now.
 
None of that matters. Obama, with the support of the deficit terrorists* in the MSM, has unilaterally decreed that privatization must be on the table. The only conceivable reason to do it is to further empower Wall Street, and that as always is Obama’s main motivation. But he also wants to step up the assault on the social safety net, on general principle. That’s part of his homage to his true hero, Reagan. And here above all we see the reason for his rehabilitation of Bush. If Obama can first redeem Bush, revive all of Bush’s ideas and projects, reaffirm them all as good, and then outdo Bush at their achievement, he’ll have proven himself even more Reaganesque than Bush. He’ll be the real Bush, and therefore the real consummator of the Reagan revolution, and therefore the consummator of neoliberalism and the imperial presidency in themselves. Here we see the true evil and derangement of Obama’s deepest fantasy.
 
That’s why some commentators, including myself, have compared gutting Social Security and Medicare to Nixon’s going to China. Just as it’s been supposed that only a Republican could go to China, so now they’re trying to make it look like only a Democrat can undertake the necessary (in the mind of the establishment) painful job of destroying these popular programs.
 
Does this sound like a fanciful interpretation? It’s borne out by the evidence. It’s hard to explain Obama’s actions otherwise. And Obama’s only the epitome of the true nature of Democratic party hacks and liberal cadres. He exemplifies what they really are, as I’ll discuss in the sequel to this post.
 
[*Just to be clear, the reason deficits don’t matter is because the system is already unsustainable because of the lack of sufficient physical energy to keep it “growing”, and because, as we’re already seeing, the debt tower is just one big ponzi scheme. Even if there were no such thing as Peak Oil, the system’s own contradictions render it impossible to prop it up. They’re liquidating the rest of the existing “consumers”, and they’re not going to be able to create new ones out of Chinese peasants.
 
So for these reasons the reserve currency’s already a dead dollar walking. The entitlement system is already doomed. All these now are just political fictions. So if the issue of a “reform commission” comes up, that’s just the same exercise in political theater as the legislative kabuki over bogus health “reform” or finance “reform”. The only question is who gets a political boost out of the way a play is performed.
 
So if Obama makes up out of thin air this alleged necessity to resurrect a Republican meme which was dead and buried, this can only help the Republican political brand as such. Indeed, it’s so obvious that it’s hard to believe even he’s stupid enough not to realize that. That’s why it’s such a prime piece of evidence that Obama actually wants to rehab the Republicans.
 
If we ask how he could think that sacrificing himself for the sake of the Republicans would gain him credit as having consummated the Reagan legacy, why he doesn’t know that they’ll still revile him as a “socialist” and spit on his memory, I guess we can chalk that up to his fundamental kumbaya character flaw. Deep down he’s not only desperate for the right-wing cool kids to like him, but is actually deluded that his own personal greatness and righteousness (as he’s deluded into seeing them) will overcome all their resistance, contempt, and hatred.] 

January 27, 2010

The Real State of the Onion

 

State of the Union is an odd title unless this speech is going to sound a sincere alarm over the centrifugal forces of crime and antisociality spinning this “union” to pieces. We know we’re not going to hear any such alarm.
 
The state of the union according to Obama is a joke. We know with absolute clarity that Obama’s state is a nightmare of bailouts, war, secrecy, destruction of civil liberties, the imperial presidency, and the tyranny of corporatism.
 
We are clear that he and his party don’t care about jobs, health reform, farm reform, food reform, energy reform, or reform of any sort.
 
I don’t doubt Obama consciously fails to understand himself. His cognitive dissonance looks deeply engrained. Asked to grade his performance so far, he didn’t even demur to answer but leapt to give himself a “B+”. The only reason he didn’t give himself an A is because he thinks, however stellar his performance thus far, there’s always room for improvement.
 
And we’ve seen ad nauseum how the Democrats think Massachusetts, O’s plummeting approval ratings, and other political boners are all because of inadequate messaging; none of them are about flawed substance.
 
Today administration flacks say that in tonight’s speech Obama will “take responsibility” but not the blame.
 
How do you do that? Would you let your ten year old get away with that? “OK, it’s my responsibility, I’m sorry, but it’s not my fault”?
 
I remember Rumsfeld saying something like, “I don’t know where people get the notion that just because you’re head of an organization that you’re responsible for what happens in it.” (I couldn’t find the quote, but I think it was at the same assembly where he said “you go to war with the army you have, not the one you want”.)  
 
(I’m often reminded of the “army you have” notion when I hear Democrat hacks saying “you govern with the Democratic party you have, not the one you want”. But then these hacks remind me of Bush hacks with every lying word they say.)
 
Again: Bailouts, yes we can. War, yes we can. Ever-bloating Pentagon budgets, yes we can. Insurance racketeering, yes we can. Torture, yes we can. Secrecy, yes we can. Disappearing people, yes we can. Anything which empowers tyrannical corporations, yes we can. Anything which empowers tyrannical government, yes we can.
 
Jobs, no we can’t. Reform, no we can’t. Anything which benefits the people, no we can’t. Morality, spirit, happiness, justice, freedom, no we can’t.
 
That’s how we can classify, for example, all the lying gambits emitting from his lying “populist” epiphany.
 
Size limits on banks! No, they’ll just be capped at their existing monopoly sizes. maybe. For now.
 
No more prop trading for government-backstopped banks! Except for all the loopholes. On second thought, any restriction will be the exception. And of course we won’t touch the structural pathology of prop trading as such, which shouldn’t exist at all; of financial speculation as such, which shouldn’t exist at all.
 
Help for the middle class! In the form of mere crumbs. Insulting, really, when you compare it to the looting on behalf of the banks, health insurance rackets, weapons contractors, and others.
 
And now cuts in non-defense spending. That wouldn’t put a dent in the debt, wouldn’t comfort the afflicted, wouldn’t afflict the comfortable, and would on the contrary afflict the afflicted on behalf of the comfortable. No one can even figure out who the political constituency for that is supposed to be. It looks absolutely idiotic from any point of view.
 
Through it all Obama continues to support “Heckuva job, Bennie” Bernanke.
 
Bennie is doing a heckuva job for the banksters, as since December the ceiling on the Fed’s MBS purchases on the taxpayers’ bill, the ONLY thing which is still propping up the insolvent zombie system, are now in principle infinite.
 
(Meanwhile Robert Gates has similarly assured weapons dealers that Pentagon budgets are to be expanded without limit, purely for the dealers’ sakes, as explicit corporatist administration policy.)
 
That’s what Obama really thinks of the budget and its deficit.
 
And that’s why he self-refutes all his newfound anti-bankster talk with his support for Bennie.
 
Meanwhile we’re actually starting to zero in on the first identifiable de jure crime, the Fed’s money laundering through AIG. Testimony is coming up today.
 
From here the next step is the assault on ALL Fed secrecy. This secrecy is intended to cover up crime, to cover up the magnitude of the Bailout, to cover up how insolvent all the banks are, how the entire premise of the Bailout is a lie.
 
It’s a refutation on principle of Obama’s claims to “transparency” and confirms his imperial pretensions; that Obama agrees with Cheney on the imperial presidency and executive secrecy as a principle, a privilege, a prerogative.
 
That they even went so far as to try to claim “national security” as justification for AIG secrecy provides a case study in the general national security lie; how we must assume it’s ALWAYS a lie.
 
Let’s hope these hearings go somewhere, though the pattern indicates it’ll be a whitewash.
 
And this can still only nibble at the fringes of the great crime, for which we must someday convene a new Nuremburg Tribunal.
 
In the meantime we can dispose of Obama’s stupid speech.   
 
“State of the Union” is an odd title for a speech describing the progress of the class war from above. It’s a document of America’s continuing descent into a gangland cesspool. But since it will be a package of lies, the Orwellian title is blandly appropriate.
 
This speech, like all the other lying words oozing from this criminal politician and every other politician of the criminal system, will only insult our intelligence and our deepest instinct for morality, our deepest demand for justice.

October 30, 2009

Bailout War

Filed under: Disaster Capitalism, Global War On Terror — Tags: , — Russ @ 11:01 am
As we enter year two of Bailout America and reach the end of year two of the official bank-created recession, and as we continue further and deeper into the decades-long quagmire of financialization and the devastation of the real economy, we should look to the state of what’s supposed to be our democracy as well, since it has been just as degraded as our wages, just as hollowed out as our manufacturing, just as fictitious as our “growth”.
Last fall the Bush administration tried to seize the ultimate disaster opportunity when it sought to steamroll Congress into passing a three-page authorization which would have made Henry Paulson a veritable dictator. They threatened a complete meltdown, that by Monday “there might not be an economy” unless Congress stampeded. The “leadership” was suitably terrified, which reinforced their normal corporatism and cowardice. They did all they could to deliver the “emergency” war powers Bush and Paulson sought. (That’s exactly how the inception of the bailouts should be seen, as an internal economic war authorization, and very similar to the Enabling Act demanded and obtained by Hitler in 1933.)
 
By some miracle the House at first listened to the fierce wisdom of the people who immediately saw this for the coup d’etat it was. But the miracle was ephemeral. The coup plotters added a few pages and toned down a few provisions. They added some limits and oversight authority. Meanwhile the corporate media kept up a drumbeat similar to the SA troopers outside the Reichstag shouting in unison, “We want the Enabling Act or there’ll be hell to pay!”, while an astroturf telephone and e-mail campaign laid seige to the holdouts. “We want the Bailout or there’ll be hell to pay!” It was a classic top-down/bottom-up vise.
 
Congress caved and Bailout America was officially established. The result wasn’t perfect from the looters’ point of view. They’d had to compromise on those limits, deadlines, oversight.
 
But one year in Obama and Geithner are trying to finish the job. They’ve proposed, as part of the general package of phony reforms being bandied about, that Treasury war authorization be made permanent, that there no longer be independent oversight, and that there be no limits on time frames or funds conveyed to the Too Big To Fail rackets. When Congressman Brad Sherman, wanting to avert this “TARP on steroids”, asked Geithner if he could accept a $1 trillion limit on his discretion, Geithner flatly said No. He’s demanding complete bailout dictator power.
 
(All this comes as another TBTF corpse, GMAC, staggers up to the trough for the third time. It’s been a year since the crisis hit and two bailouts already for GMAC, a dog so decrepit and diseased that its own daddy, Cerberus, won’t put money into it. Yet in all this time not only has the administration done nothing to unwind and dismantle it, or any other TBTF entity, but every policy has sought to make them bigger, more unsustainable, to further concentrate them, further entrench them.)
 
You put all this together and it’s clear that this administration, beyond even the normal standard of corrupt government, is nothing but the hired thug arm of the bank rackets. This is the one and only priority. Bush was always rightly pegged as a childish warmonger who wanted to let big corporations loot the country. Obama was rightly questioned for running a vacuous campaign based on nothing but charisma and vaporous rhetoric. What would be the basis of an Obama presidency, and how would it represent Change from Bush?
 
Now we see that Obama represents not change from but the refinement of Bush corporatism. The core of his policy is delivering the country to the Wall Street racketeers as a mine and a playground. The pretext is the crisis, the vehicle is the bailout. Every other policy flows from this.
 
So the overthrow of democracy and institutionalization of looting remains the same, but it’s more focused, better organized. It has more of a sense of permanency.
 
Just as the Global War on Terror is intended to now be permanent (Gates and others consistently refer to the “Long War” and “our wars”), so the Bailout War will now be permanent. The GWOT represents the institutionalization of military Keynesianism (that is, the state as dedicated corporatist buyer to the military-industrial complex), the security- and prison-industrial complexes, and rising authoritarianism, fostered by the power of these complexes as well as by MSM propaganda. The astroturf teabaggers will supplement with street terror from below, if necessary.
 
Similarly, the Bailout War institutionalizes the government as primarily a loot conveyor to the finance sector (and, using Wall St as conduit, to other sectors and to the GWOT), while here authoritarianism takes the form of releasing the government’s fiscal powers from any democratic accountability. This will dovetail with the Fed’s existing anti-democratic unaccountability in its monetary policy, to remove the government from all taxpayer oversight and accountability.
 
Put the bailouts and the Global War on Terror together, see them being used to pursue the policy of resource fascism, and you have a complete precis of what this power structure intends to do in the coming decades of Peak Oil energy descent. It’ll be serfdom for an increasing majority, the looting of our wealth, labor, and blood, and the creeping totalitarianism which won’t be creeping much longer.
 
We’ll have come full circle to the original taxation without representation. After over 230 years we’ve come back to ground zero. American history must end here or start anew.

October 9, 2009

No Good “Options” in Afghanistan

Filed under: Afghanistan, Global War On Terror — Tags: , , , — Russ @ 2:32 am
Earlier this week Obama met with a Congressional delegation to discuss the war in Afghanistan. In spite of rhetorical assurances that the White House team was discussing “all options”, the real point of this meeting with Congressional cadres was to assure them that none of the options being discussed involved devolving the troop presence or the war. (Indeed, the only persons invited to the meeting were varying species of hawk, but no one who is demanding an exit strategy.)
 
According to reports, the options on the table are the McCrystal plan for a large troop escalation and a broad shift in strategy from search-and-destroy (“terrorist-hunting”) to Vietnamization (counter-insurgency and “nation-building”); a fuzzy middle-of-the-road combination of some of McC’s recommendations with muddling through as we are now; or the Biden proposal to wind down troop activities and focus on the video game war of drone assassinations.
 
Obama still hasn’t made up his mind what he wants to do here; unlike his all-in policy for domestic corporatism, and unlike his earlier bland jingoism, he seems to be getting squeamish as he has to face this war up close. Clearly the proximate reason for this meeting was to assure the Congressional chickenhawks, and by extension the neocon establishment and MSM, that no matter what happens, even if he broadly accepts Biden’s proposal, there will not be any troop de-escalation. At the very least Obama is committing to “stay the course”.
 
(It is interesting, though, that he felt the need to do this. It seems to indicate that there was at least the perception that troop reductions were “on the table”, and it definitely means that Biden has gained on McC in the terrorist-hunting vs. COIN (counterinsurgency) sweepstakes.)
 
Obama declared that the choice between “doubling-down” or “leaving” was a “straw man”. Of course that doesn’t mean he won’t still double down as McC demands, he just won’t call it that.
 
Everybody’s still sifting through the debris of McC’s alleged power play. His public declarations, his leaking of the policy report, even the personal insult of wearing fatigues to a meeting with Obama on board Air Force One, all are taken to represent a pattern of at least pressuring Obama to enact the proposal, and probably of insubordination as well.
 
I suppose it is “insubordinate”, and everyone assumes Obama must be furious. There’s plenty of Truman-MacArthur comparisons going around. But we who don’t respect the prerogatives of the imperial presidency and who care about transparency and small-d democracy can be content with McC’s publicity campaign. There are certainly no military secrets involved here, only politics. If the only thing at stake is McC disrespecting Obama, that’s fine.
 
(And I doubt McC is in much danger of being fired. He’s Obama’s guy after all; O picked him to make exactly the kind of proposal he’s made. If O now is leery of that proposal, it means O changed, not McC. All the evidence indicates that even if he doesn’t really want to escalate any more he’ll cave in anyway. And there’s no evidence that he’d ever have the backbone to fire anyone other than lower-level public interest activists like Van Jones and ACORN.)
 
So how do we sum up all this? It’s all political nonsense firmly within the policy bounds of continuing the war. Ending it is off the table. But should we end it? What’s the point of it?
 
National Security Adviser James Jones himself says there are fewer than 100 Al Qaeda cadres in Afghanistan. Meanwhile according to the Pew Research Center Pakistanis support their own government’s efforts to expel Afghan and Arab militants, but do not support doing so in military conjunction with the US or to serve the imperialist purposes of the US. (They give the US a 16% favorable rating, and 76% oppose partnering with the US for drone attacks.)
 
When you couple this evidence with the administration’s own testimony that there’s only a vestigial Al-Qaeda still active in Afghanistan, it looks like the real war-on-terror aspect of the Global War on Terror has been won. We can wrap it up and go home. But to continue to seek corporatist, imperial goals, which is all the GWOT does by now, can only incite further resistance and militancy. If the real goal is anti-terrorism, by now the return on investment is becoming negative.
 
We can tolerate the Taliban if they’re unwilling and/or unable to reproduce the terrorist sanctuary they previously offered. Common sense says they’re likely to be unwilling, after what AQ has already put them through. In spite of sympathies, Jordan kicked out the PLO in 1970 when the heat got to be too much.
 
And now that we know what we’re dealing with and have this counterterrorist infrastructure in place, it should be possible to monitor and target any recidivism of the terrorists in Afghanistan. Contrary to neocon propaganda, it’s not clear why counterterror requires maintenance of current troop levels in Afghanistan. It seems we can garner sufficient intelligence regarding AQ in Pakistan without such troop levels there. Neocons would argue that the troop presence in Afghanistan somehow facilitates intelligence in Pakistan, but this is only asserted, not proved or even evidenced.
 
We don’t need to combat the broader social movement, which has been gradually and steadily losing support on the Muslim street, just the terrorists’ technical capabilities. The polling in Pakistan is just one piece of evidence that the Muslim people don’t support the jihadists, except where American imperialism drives them to. That’s just as true today as it has always been, right from the start.
 
As for the costs, we can’t afford them. This war is being fought on credit. Just like every other rathole down which we’re throwing trillions of dollars, this one only accelerates doomsday for the dollar. We could be using what wealth we still have, including what remaining credibility the dollar has as reserve currency, to prepare for the hard times ahead, to help make them somewhat less hard.
 
But even as Obama draws lines in the sand on health care reform having to be “deficit neutral”, he perpetuates the Bush crime of off-budget debt financing for the war. Meanwhile normal Pentagon and weapons expenses never have to meet any deficit standards at all. All the same Republican and right-wing Democrat scum who are such budget hawks wherever money could be spent to help people don’t care about throwing infinite wealth into this bloody pit.
 
It’s very simple: You can’t be serious about the debt and still support the war. If you support the war, you forfeit all right to complain about the debt.
 
From today forward the American imperative must be to roll back every stupid bloated expense – bailouts, war, the existence of the health insurance racket, and everything else which distills to corporatist looting.
 
Meanwhile the insurgents are getting an excellent return on investment from cheap Kalashnikovs and RPGs. 

September 28, 2009

Which Way in Afghanistan?

Filed under: Afghanistan, Global War On Terror — Tags: , , , — Russ @ 4:27 am
In 2001 America had the opportunity and the justification to launch a big raid to capture and destroy Al Queda and, as punishment, knock the Taliban out of power. If the Bush administration had been acting in good faith to avenge 9/11 and apprehend or kill the AQ leadership, this would probably have been accomplished.
 
But Bush was really using 9/11 as a pretext of power, and the real target was Iraq. As always with the Bush crew, where they didn’t really care about what they were doing, they totally botched it. So it was in Afghanistan. (I’ve wondered whether the idea actually was that Osama bin Laden was more useful alive and at large, as a political bogeyman, than dead, and that they let him get away at Tora Bora. It’s possible, but we hardly need such explanations. Bush incompetence and half-assedness always lay at the root of everything he did.)
 
For the next seven years the Bush war was ad hoc, without strategy, without consistent funding or staffing, without sufficient forces. When the Taliban regrouped and reasserted their control of much of the country, Bush and his Pentagon simply lied about it.
 
As a result, Afghanistan is today a quagmire, and the question of the day is whether to extract the mired leg or plunge in with the other. It’s now that the long-feared Vietnam parallels begin to get triggered.
 
Obama is frequently being compared to Lyndon Johnson. The situation looks the same. A proclaimed domestic reformer comes into office saddled immediately with an existing war. Johnson thought his Great Society agenda depended upon a quid pro quo with Congressional hawks, that he give them their war in exchange for their votes. He also thought he was politically vulnerable if he wasn’t a warrior president. (This was rendered nonsensical when he ran in 1964 as the peace candidate; that he still had political fears after that was idiotic.)
 
So it seems nominally with Obama. He says he really wants to reform health care and the financial system, but also has to deal with this inherited war. But that’s really an illusion, since Obama definitely never needed any Republican votes to achieve anything, was never going to get them anyway, and seems to really like the Global War on Terror in principle. So if he ever really believed any of this LBJ parallel stuff, that’s just his personal demon. It’s not reality-based.
 
(I should also mention that LBJ sincerely wanted, ferociously fought for, often against odds, sometimes losing, his Great Society program. Meanwhile all the evidence is that Obama never really wanted finance reform or health care reform. So far he has certainly been unwilling to lift a finger to get either. So as rightfully tarnished as LBJ’s legacy is thanks to his Vietnam derangement, it would still be unjust to regard he and Obama as the same.)
 
If Obama really is having second thoughts about an Afghan escalation, he should remember that he’s had no problem breaking all his other campaign promises. So he shouldn’t worry about this promise, to escalate in Afghanistan. This is the one promise he should break.
 
Obama has compared American war policy to a large ship at sea. It takes time to make a ponderous turn toward a new course. That’s true; government policy has considerable inertia. But:
 
1. The point is nevertheless to turn as quickly as possible.
 
2. With an intrepid mindset, you can do it much faster. For example, although they don’t like to talk about it this way, one of the reasons they can’t withdraw troops more quickly from places like Iraq is because they’re protecting not American interests but the private interests of war profiteers. Another piece of dead weight is existing privateer contracts in these war zones.
 
Well, I think a good way of trimming down this tanker to a sleeker vessel would be to jettison these invalid concerns and illegitimate “interests”. If it’s true that there’s no right to strike against the public interest, it’s equally true that no one in government has a right to sign contracts against the public interest.
 
It’s all academic for the moment; tanker or speedboat, so far Obama is full steam ahead.
 
So where are we chronologically, compared to Vietnam? In one sense Obama is Nixon, taking on an existing war and making it his own. As Nixon and his new commander Creighton Abrahms came in with the “new” strategy of withdrawing troops, Vietnamization, and extending the war beyond Vietnam’s borders into Cambodia and Laos, so Obama has indicated that he cherishes a new emphasis on Pakistan, while his guy McChrystal wants to refocus the military effort in Afghanistan from search-and-destroy to pacification and Vietnamization. Richard Holbrooke, a pacification cadre in Vietnam himself, is gung ho about this program.
 
At the same time, the parallel is also to 1965 and LBJ. Here the newly elected president inherits an ongoing but still relatively small scale war and chooses to greatly escalate the troop levels and the scope of action. Thus Obama has already deployed 21000 more troops toward a total of 68000 by December (plus 75000 contractors, plus the fact that they’ve been rotating out support troops, whose positions are taken by contractors, while they rotate in more “trigger-pullers”; in this way they are escalating the combat troop level without additionally escalating the aggregate troop level), and McC is expected any day now to request anywhere from 10-45000 more, with the expectation being that Obama would end up authorizing the middle case of twenty-something thousand, what they’ve been calling the Goldilocks figure.
 
Or, that was the expectation, until Obama reportedly began to hesitate. In spite of denials, the brass has apparently been putting on the pressure. Last week they leaked McC’s classified report predicting failure without a large troop escalation. JCS Chairman Mike Mullen has been beating the drums for more troops to retrieve a “deteriorating” situation. Mullen, Centcom commander Petraeus, and McC had a powwow in Germany a few days ago. The bloodmongers in the media and Congress (republican and democrat) have been shrieking. It’s hard for me to believe Obama’s going to stand up to this kind of confrontation, even if he did end up changing his mind about the policy. We might end up with Obama himself becoming the McNamara here, in his mind no longer believing, but too weak to say No.
 
We can take this moment to point out another parallel. Just as Westmoreland could never give a coherent explanation of why the Vietnam war should be fought, but took it for granted and kept demanding ever more troops, so these admirals and generals today also offer no cogent rationale for the GWOT or for any of its theaters, beyond parroting neocon boilerplate. We’re of course not talking about something like WWII, where the point of the war was obvious to almost everyone, and it had to be fought to the bitter end regardless because it was total war. One would think that mercenary wars of choice, being fought for no obvious reason, and certainly no existential reason, call for explanations. But instead calling for escalation is simply what officer cadres in a professional military fighting mercenary wars do. It’s ingrained; it’s careerist; it’s inertial.
 
So when we turn to those neocons and their MSM megaphone, what reasons do we hear? Pretty much the same reheated Vietnam leftovers. Just as aggressive global Communism had to be fought everywhere or it would triumph everywhere, so now Islamofascism is the hydra who will keep sprouting heads if you don’t chop off the existing ones. It’s the Domino theory redux. Just as victory in Vietnam would set off a chain reaction sending communism on a triumphal progress through Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and so on until we’d have to “fight them in San Francisco”, as LBJ put it in a report to Kennedy while still VP, so if a fundamentalist regime can triumph in Afghanistan, down will go Pakistan, Yemen, and from there the rest of the Mideast and Central Asia, until we ended up fighting them in San Fran and other American cities.
 
Since this already looks dubious, since we already, through American-brokered elections, brought fundamentalist or quasi-fundamentalist regimes to power in Gaza and Iraq, not to mention the pre-existing Iranian regime, it looks like if dominoes are going to fall they’re going to fall anyway. And so far American arms have shocked and awed only in their fecklessness and inability to achieve what American leaders say they want to achieve.
 
So the jingoists have already trotted out the most malicious Vietnam tropes, “credibility” and even “honor”. These are of course moonshine, as Sherman would have called them. Needless to say America’s Vietnam disaster brought to the government only discredit and dishonor, abroad and for many at home.
 
What “credit” could Obama possibly seek today in Afghanistan? Credibility with terrorists? The concept makes no sense. If they are physically able to attack, they will attack. They’re not gauging America’s “moral fiber” the way it might have been done in Cold War brinksmanship. They care nothing for their perception of American resolve.
 
More important, it’s just as true today as it was during Vietnam that the best way to salvage credibility is to recognize when you’ve taken on a misguided project, horrendously expensive in money and blood, which you can never finish in any satisfactory way (where you cannot attain “peace with honor” in the stupid phraseology of 1969, “honor” being some nebulous substitute term for “victory”, but as a concept just as vague, empty, and bombastic), and make the decision that it’s not worth continuing. To keep going at that point is madness.
 
Meanwhile, just as the North Vietnamese were not stooges of the Soviet Union or China, so the Taliban is not controlled by Al Queda (and AQ itself is no longer the tight global network it once was; today terrorism is decentralized and generally far less professional, with “Al Queda” more a name than anything else, its professional cadre having been decimated – the war on terror has succeeded, to the extent it was meant to be just a reality-based war on terror).
 
But there is an incontrovertible stooge here, the mayor of part of Kabul, I mean Afghan President Diem, I mean Karzai. Karzai is an illegitimate kleptocrat presiding over a regime where corruption and impotence vie for supremacy. His latest theft has been any semblance of legitimacy for the election in which Obama vested such hopes (and for whose protection and integrity he dispatched those extra 21000 troops). This client will almost certainly never be any more legitimate, self-supporting, or morally worthy of support than any of the plutocratic and kleptocratic South Vietnamese regimes. If you want to build a nation, and a nation means a government, then there’s no nation to build. You can only temporarily clear, you can’t hold for long, and you certainly can’t build.
 
(Some are already playing the “blame Diem” card. If we could only get a good guy in there…It’s not that the very concept of “South Vietnam” is flawed. No – we just have some bad personnel.)
 
There’s other echoes. The frequent, reiterated fact-finding tours and “assessments” (redolent of the Peter Principle), as if you think asking the same question of the same facts over and over will eventually return a better answer. The gradually growing resistance in Congress (today we have Jim McGovern in the House and Feingold in the Senate taking the lead in calling for a timeline for withdrawal). The increasingly frequent atrocities.
 
There are some real contrasts. The most obvious and important is that today there’s no draft, nor is it politically conceivable that there could be a draft. This places a cap on how far the troop escalation can go (Mullen has been complaining about how overstretched the army already is, and yet he still wants to escalate in Afghanistan).
 
On the other hand, we’re no longer on the gold standard. This placed a cap on how far LBJ could economically escalate, as following Tet in 1968 a delegation of Europeans lectured him on how he needed to rein in the cost of the war, or else they’d have to think about demanding gold for their dollar holdings. It was probably that more than anything which signalled “peak war” to LBJ. He psychologically gave up after that.
 
Obama in theory faces no such limits. His administration has already shown a willingness to borrow obscene amounts to throw down a rathole – the bailouts. So presumably cost and debt would be no object for something equally stupid and useless like this war (only worthwhile things that could actually help people, like health care reform or a carbon cap, are to be subject to cost controls).
 
And perhaps the gathering depression will throw enough people out of work, render the masses desperate enough, that they wouldn’t need a draft to build a mass army. If the reserve army of capitalism gets big enough, and permanent war is the only job opportunity left…
 
But it won’t be possible to print that much cash without triggering hyperinflation. Gold standard or not, there’s a limit to how much borrowing you can do. Eventually they’ll have crammed so much cash down the world’s throat that it’ll have to be vomited back out, and that’ll be the end of the dollar. It’s difficult to see how they could keep waging high-input, high-tech, high-maintenance imperial war after that.
 
And then there’s Peak Oil…..
 
Also, “victory” in Vietnam, although unachievable, could at least be defined: the continued existence of the South Vietnamese regime, under its own strength, for a long enough time after American withdrawal that America’s honor and credibility could remain plausible.
 
But what constitutes victory in the Afghan theater, let alone the Global War on Terror? They have no idea. “We’ll know it when we see it” is the glib response of administration war hawk Holbrooke. This reply, a combination of know-nothing arrogance and desperation, can be taken as exemplary of the administration’s entire mindset.
 
So now Obama gets to be the decider. Almost no one, including Obama, questions the GWOT or its Afghan theater in principle. In spite of the efforts of McGovern and Feingold, it’s highly unlikely Congress would resist any level of escalation in the foreseeable future. (Although if the health care Progressive Block could hold together, that might embolden them to make another stand. As for the Republicans, don’t be surprised if they cheerfully vote against war measures. As extraordinarily hypocritical as that would be even for them, we know they care nothing for anything but money and political advantage. I imagine they’d be confident they could “vote against the troops” and then go back home and successfully blame it on the Democrats. Their voters would fall for it.) The military, the rightist thugs, and the corporate media are pressing him.
 
This doesn’t look like a situation where Obama fails to take the path of least resistance. But we’ll see.

September 25, 2009

Afghanistan and the Corporate Abyss

Filed under: Afghanistan, Corporatism, Global War On Terror, Globalization — Tags: , , — Russ @ 1:08 pm
As we wait to learn what will be General McChrystal’s troop request (today or in the next few days), and as the neocons across the political spectrum from moderate right to hard right (that’s almost all of it) have been revving up the propaganda machine for war, war, WAR!, we’ve been hearing, wonder of wonders, that Obama may actually be having second thoughts here.
 
Obama’s warmongering on the campaign trail was one of his few cases of truth in advertising, as he embraced the Afghanistan-as-Good-War theme and vowed to play the tough guy there, even as he withdrew from Iraq.
 
Well, it turns out we’re perhaps not going to be withdrawing all that much from Iraq after all, and on every other front Obama has been delighting corporate feudalists everywhere, but at least where it comes to escalating in Afghanistan he’s been as good as his word. Early on he replaced the previous theater commander with McC and approved an escalation of 21000 troops. (This was supposed to ensure an orderly, credible election.) With these two actions he took full personal ownership of the war.
 
For good measure, in an August speech he endorsed all foregoing neocon ideology and “morality”, declaring Afghanistan, and by extension the Global War on Terror, a “war of necessity”.
 
But now Obama contemplates his handiwork. He sees what a heckuva job we did with the election, what a great friend we have in Karzai (and, perhaps, he looks at the stiffening political resistance he’s facing from all the people he betrayed at home, who he assumed he could strong-arm and kiss off). Now he faces the demand for tens of thousands more troops to continue with an already dubious adventure rendered even more doubtful by the “election”. He sees how his only friends in arms are the Republicans and the neocon establishment, while the people increasingly reject the war.
 
Is it possible that he might look into the abyss, see the abyss staring back into him, and decide he doesn’t want to become such a monster himself? (Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil section 146) And could the transformation of a knee-jerk warmonger into a sober statesman presage a more aggressively human policy on the domestic front, where contrary to the international front, war, on the banks, on the insurance racket, on the agricultural racket, and on all the other rackets, is exactly what we do need?
 
Maybe it’s too much to hope for such a revolution. (I was indulging some spacious thoughts.)
 
But according to the reports Obama is for the moment second-guessing the expansion of the war, at least in terms of sending more troops. Thus he’s coming under thuggish pressure from the militarists, for example in the leaking of McC’s policy report.
 
But such a second-guessing brings up more fundamental questions. Economically America has become a permanent war society. This is true not only regarding direct Pentagon budgets, but extends further and further into what is nominally the civilian economy as well. This is even increasingly true psychologically.
 
The economy is based on exponential growth, and must collapse completely without such growth. This growth in turn depends on a permanently increasing oil supply, and the ever-repeated feudal accumulation of plunder, as economic fuel which can then be fed into global finance capitalism.
 
Neither of these are any longer attainable other than through permanent imperial war. To end the Global War on Terror (GWOT), or even significantly hinder its expansion, is tantamount to packing up the whole growth machine. To wince at expanding the Afghanistan theater would make it hard to keep the war momentum going. (There’s some speculation that Obama instead wants war with Iran, and that’s why he’s hesitating on Afghanistan, but speculation is all that is so far.)
 
The corporate war establishment understands this, as we can see in its ecumenical rhetoric, ideology, and personnel. Robert Gates in particular seems the epitome of the pure permanent warrior, as much at home as Defense Secretary in the Obama administration as he was for Bush. He has effortlessly carried over his rhetoric and policy of permanently looking “beyond the horizon” to “the next war”; “our wars”, whichever we fight at the moment, always simply the stepping stones to the next war, always and forever. America’s military must be organized, its foreign policy tailored, its economy geared, its populace primed, for an endless string of wars of choice to “seize the global commons”, including in “space and cyberspace”.
 
This overt goal of military world domination dovetails with globalization. In both cases the “global commons”, all public resources, all public property, everywhere, is the corporate target. The GWOT is the military (neoconservative) manifestation of the parallel neoliberal economic onslaught. Just as the financial policy everywhere has been bailouts, “quantitative easing”, and where necessary fiscal stimulus, anything to artificially shock the global economic machine into continued life, so the physical crisis policy has been troop deployments and war. These together, bailouts and war, constitute the imperial momentum. Both have been institutionalized as permanent. The slacking of either threatens to bring on the collapse of Western “civilization”.
 
This is the prospect Obama faces. By the corporatist logic of his administration, and indeed by the capitalist logic of his whole upbringing (brainwashing), he must push on with the bailouts and the GWOT. As must any corporatist president.
 
But his domestic political outlook is getting more rotten by the day. More and more he must turn to the Republicans if he wants aid and comfort. (But he won’t find any there. I bet the Reps will happily vote against appropriations, authorizations, whatever, that is fail to “support the troops” by their own standard, and still be able to explain to the hillbillies how that’s really Obama’s fault.) During the campaign McCain was slammed for speaking of how he envisioned a hundred years’ war in Iraq. Turns out he was simply too honest for the campaign, that’s all. Now we have Obama officer Richard Holbrooke (a pacification cadre in Vietnam, perhaps still trying to redeem the crimes of his youth) chirping about victory, “we’ll know it when we see it”.
 
Even LBJ and Nixon knew what victory in Vietnam was supposed to look like (a lasting South Vietnam; America leaving with “honor” and “credibility” intact), however unattainable this vision was.
 
But here we have the Obama administration admitting it can’t even visualize “victory” in the GWOT. That’s because by definition permanent war can never realize victory, and a permanent war society, like ancient Sparta, can never know peace. These concepts are simply ruled out of existence, and ruled out of the language as well.
 
It’s a hideous, anti-American prospect. It’s a betrayal of everything America was founded to be, everything it was ever supposed to stand for.
 
Is Obama having second thoughts about being such a traitor? Does he really want to surrender America completely to the banks, and through them to the military-industrial and security-industrial complexes? So far his actions have come through loud and clear. He’s governed as this corporatist. If he intends to continue along this path, he has to go all the way with it. If he backpedals on Afghanistan, none of the rest of it makes any sense, and none of the rest of it will stand for even the short time that the doomed attempt at permanent war could help prop it up.
 
Or, he could take the radical step of relinquishing and reversing the corporate war on all its fronts. Such may be the last chance America has at rediscovering, cleansing, and redeeming itself.
 
Like I said, this is just a meditation on “what could be”, if Obama really is, for the first time, questioning one of the fundamental props of the nightmare. I’m not saying I think that’s what’s likely to happen, or that those reports themselves aren’t overblown.
 
And of course, as we speak, he still seeks a reactionary health anti-reform bill. And the bank front keeps caving in (the last few days: caving on “vanilla” requirements; caving on consumer protections vis non-bank entities; bizarre FDIC shenanigans like with the Franklin Bank). Things look extremely bad.
 
Which always just renders it all the more painful and repulsive, when we see how easily everything could be turned around….

September 15, 2009

Two Speeches, One Policy

Another week, another speech. Another year, another unfolding disaster.
 
We saw quite a contrast yesterday between two opposed philosophies on what public service is supposed to be about, and what America is supposed to be about. Judge Jed Rakoff finally said he’d had enough of the criminal collusion in his court. The case is over how Bank of America lied to its shareholders about its pending deal to buy Merrill Lynch, promising that there would be no “bonuses” paid at Merrill. In fact they already knew that $3.6 billion in bonuses were all set to go. Under pressure from defrauded Bank of America shareholders, the SEC felt constrained to bring an action against BofA, which the collaborating parties agreed to settle for a slap on the wrist and no admission of wrong-doing. Corporatism in action. All the bigshots are happy, and everyone can get back to business as usual.
 
Just by accident, this case landed in the court of a judge who actually takes his job seriously. He repeatedly denounced the settlement as a whitewash and demanded more answers. He demanded to know who was personally responsible for this crime. BofA tried to claim that its executives never made any decisions, but only obeyed the advice of lawyers. But in order to maintain their client-attorney privilege they laundered the lawyer story through the SEC brief. So “both” sides agreed, no one in particular could be held responsible.* When the litigants (that is, the defiant defendant and its flunkey “prosecutor”) finally were reduced to insulting the court’s and the public’s intelligence in this way, Rakoff had enough. He rejected the settlement and ordered them to prepare for trial.
 
Everything the judge wrote sounds downright quaint. He said the settlement was “not fair”. He demanded to know where “justice and morality” have gone, where personal responsibility. He was especially incensed that even the token $30 million fine in the settlement would have been paid not by the executive wrongdoers, but by the very shareholders who were defrauded.
 
It’s a good bet that everyone on Wall St and in Washington today are scratching their heads over this decision and its language. It doesn’t make any sense to them. The words are familiar enough; we hear them all the time in politics. But what’s up with this action which seems to indicate that this guy actually means something by those words?
 
Luckily everyone could relax and listen to some similar words in a more familiar way, when Obama went up to Wall St to say something about financial reform. Here everyone could expect the same platitudes and bluster as in last week’s health reform speech, equally contradicted by his every action. He didn’t let them down. (Of course as the psychopathic louts they are they couldn’t even pretend to feel remorseful, even as an exercise in political tact. That’s how confident and incorrigible they are.)
 
“We will not go back to the days of reckless behavior and unchecked excess at the heart of the crisis.”
 
Just as with health care, this rhetoric is belied by this administration’s policy. From day one, and indeed going all the way back to the campaign, Obama has supported the massive redistribution of wealth from the people to the finance racket. He has done all he can to facilitate this conveyance, through bailouts, loan guarantees, loan “facilities”, maintaining illegal secrecy about these disbursements, and generally flooding the system with cash in order to prop up phony values on the stock market and on bank balance sheets. They call this “quantitative easing”, and it certainly does make it easy to pretend we’re “recovering”, even as the debt-hallucinated “wealth” of the middle class vaporizes like the hologram it has long been.
 
Meanwhile the very real jobs America used to enjoy have been permanently destroyed. They will not come back under this system. Even the propagandists are forced to call what they’re peddling a “jobless recovery”. Except that the phony mortgage bubble recovery following the early-2000s recession was already the start of a permanent jobless death march, which itself was the intensification of a forty year trend of eroding wages and concentration of wealth. The financialization of the economy was dialectically both a cause and effect of this increasingly social Darwinist economy.
 
Obama says they can’t commit the same crimes “and expect that next time, American taxpayers will be there to break their fall”. This is a flat out lie, because everyone knows Too Big to Fail is now officially enshrined American policy. Every aspect of Obama policy, simply following through on Bush policy, contradicts this lie and promises that in the inevitable future crashes the bailouts will be repeated. The entire sector, and by extension the business class, are structuring around this promise.
 
Indeed there’s no reason to believe the bailed-out banks will ever again be anything but wards of the lemon socialist state. Although Goldman and JPMorgan and a few others “paid back” the TARP money with much fanfare and administration self-congratulation, this was only a small portion of the bailouts. Trillions remain outstanding; nobody outside the Fed or government knows how much or held by whom, since the administration has tyrannically kept this information a secret from the very taxpayers whose money is being looted.
 
For this reason Congressman Brad Sherman, one of those who voted against the TARP last fall, raised a protest after yesterday’s speech over the provisions of the administration’s proposed systemic risk plan, which would, reminiscent of its health care proposal, require a large number of institutions to pay into an insurance fund which would offer benefits to only a handful of privileged big banks. As usual, the mass of small players must bear all the costs and losses of the big rentiers, who rake in all the profits. Sherman condemned it as “TARP on steroids.”
 
We can only wish that protest like this could lead to another kind of Progressive Block. 
 
This taxpayer bailout promise is summed up in the sardonic term “Bernanke put” (AKA Geithner put, back when they were attempting a more direct loot conveyance through the PPIP; today it’s more through the Fed’s quantitative easing)
 
This term can encapsulate the entire Obama economic ideology and policy, which is simply an extension of the longstanding corporatist ideology and policy.
 
So this economy is both mean and predatory in general, and has become permanently unstable and prone to crisis and crash as well. There is no longer any real, stable basis for this economy. It’s now a permanent casino, dependent upon the bubble and crash, boom-bust cycle.
 
This is the economy as dominated by the finance sector. It’s an economy of, by, and for the bankers. A government policy which is dedicated to sustaining this casino is as pure a distillation of corporatism as is possible. This is truly the end stage of monopoly finance capitalism.
 
Obama’s government has dedicated itself to this casino barker role. It has done nothing to restrain the “recklessness” and “excess”; on the contrary it has enshrined it as the core quality of America.
 
All American policy now emanates logically from this racketeering core. Every other racket, and even the legitimate businesses, are arranged according to their logical places in the financialized structure. All other policies stand or fall according to whether they fit in with this logic.
 
Thus with health care reform, since the combination of individual mandate-phony regulation confirms the loot flows along the chart from people to insurers and up to banks and bank shareholders, this is anointed as not only the correct policy but the only policy in the eyes of the feudal nexus of corporation-government-mainstream media.
 
Meanwhile since single-payer or a real public plan make no corporatist sense, they are beyond consideration. Establishment Democrats and the MSM treat a public plan as a stupid whim on the part of romantics, while single-payer is so alien as to not even be deemed a fit topic for conversation. Even the progressives are wobbling: are we really going to stand against the entire logic and vote against its result?
 
I guess the answer boils down to, is it really just a whim on the part of those who are system players at heart? Or are they true progressives, who have no choice by now but to become rebels vs. this system?
 
Where you see anyone say, let’s cave in again, but we’ll get ’em next time, you have your answer.
 
So it has been so far with pretty much everyone vis the big banks.
 
[* This Kafkaesque idea of saying “the lawyers told him it was OK, so we can’t prosecute him”, while the lawyers can’t be held to account at all since they were simply giving professional advice for which they take no responsibility, seems to be popular with the Obama people. It’s also Eric Holder’s preferred way of dealing with the Bush administration’s war crimes.]      

September 10, 2009

Obama’s Speech: The Poll Tax Plan

So Obama’s speech was just about what I expected. Nothing very good, a lot that’s very bad, and overall a continuation of every incompetence and perfidy which have distinguished his tenure thus far.
 
The basics and appeals were OK. He hit the general points on choice, security, cost in a workmanlike manner. America is the only democracy and the only wealthy country which allow this kind of system. Insecurity – the pitfalls can befall anyone. Some horror stories. That stuff was fine.
 
(Although the line about America’s unique depravity, like many others in this speech, spontaneously begged the question “So why are you intent on continuing with this depravity?” And every reference to the status quo, how he’s not gonna stand for it: “Then why are you staking your presidency on not only perpetuating it but making it worse?”)
 
In my prelude I said the core of the speech, the meat which would make the meal, was whether or not Obama stood up for a strong public option. He didn’t. That he mentioned it at all was clearly under duress, and the anodyne mentions he made were meant to be a sop to his stupid recalcitrant DFH “progressive friends”.
 
He hopes that progressives will be so grateful to even be mentioned that they’ll drop their substantive demands and cave in. Given progressives’ track record, there’s a decent chance he’ll be right about this. I’ll get back to this.
 
He starts out with an attempt to place his own proposal (and implicitly the public plan) somewhere near the middle, by explicitly triangulating between single-payer and a fictional Republican plan to do away with everything except individual purchasers. This triangulation is a fraud because (A) regardless of anything the Reps claim to “advocate”, they’re really in full obstruction mode and will simply say No to anything Obama advocates (more on this shortly), so they’re not even on the “spectrum”. Single-payer can only be assessed vs. other Democratic proposals, and this leads to the fact that (B) given single payer’s tremendous level of expert and decent level of public support, it’s far closer to the center than some ad hoc piece of villainy like the Baucus plan, which can stand in for what a Republican plan would look like.
 
Regardless of what Obama would like us to think, the public plan has consistently had 70+% support among the public, which places it smack dab in the center.
 
But he instead brings it up only to suggest it’s a nice little frill, a supplement at best, but hardly something of pivotal significance. He twice suggests it’s not necessary, and the “progressive friends” shouldn’t be so stubborn about it. The public option is only a “means to an end”. (This too is wrong in a way he just doesn’t get, as I’ll get to further down.)
 
Having declared to his own satisfaction how misguided the progressive friends are in obsessing on a public option, he then moves to demonize them, repeatedly framing false equivalences between two groups of “partisan spectacle”, “scare tactics”, “unyielding ideological camps”,”special interests”, those seeking to score “short-term political points”. He “will not waste time” with us.
 
He says these things to attack those whose special interest is to demand real reform, who are unyielding and ideological on behalf of the people, whose partisan spectacle is to denounce the partisan spectacle which has been ranged against the people, of which this speech is an example.
 
The demagogue proclaims: “I will not accept the status quo as a solution. Not this time. Not now.”
 
He says this as he aggressively seek to further entrench the status quo. 
 
His favorite special interests include the insurance parasites: they provide a “legitimate service”. Obama is so exuberant in his desire to laud them even as he decries abuses in the system that he absurdly contradicts himself, saying the insurers are not “bad people”, they only do bad things. This is of course utterly incoherent, the most ancient way to try to defend bad people.
 
His scare tactic is to claim that his plan is real reform without which disaster will befall, when in fact his plan will make the disaster worse, while what progressives demand could possibly stave off the disaster.
 
He is unyieldingly in the ideological camp of perpetuating the status quo. To him anything which would slightly modify business as usual is a “radical shift” away from “building on what we have”. He lies and claims there’s a “broad consensus” for the garbage and tyranny he espouses.
 
(Unless he’s referring to the broad consensus in Congress for the status quo. This certainly does exist. The Republicans approve of what Obama is doing even though they’ll vote against it.
 
The speech is littered with absurd love letters to Congress, to the alleged “difficult votes that put us on the path to recovery”. Do you know what votes he might be referring to? Me neither.
 
This brings me to how this clown is still flogging “bipartisanship” with his “Republican friends”. Could he really be so stupid, such a victim of the Stockholm syndrome, or battered wife syndrome, that he fails to understand that he has no Republican friends, that Republicans do not want to solve problems or do anything for the good of America, but only to destroy his presidency? And that he’s been simply serving himself up to them?
 
He’s a kumbaya-singing hippie to the point of dementia. I’ve always said, since last winter, that Obama’s fetish of “bipartisanship” does not represent some misguided political strategy, although it’s that too, but a deep-seated character flaw. The fact that he has absolutely refused to learn from experience on this proves I was right.)
 
His partisan spectacle is to stake his presidency on his solicitude for the insurance companies. Which brings up the bizarre politics of the individual mandate.
 
While he grudgingly muttered about the public option like a child forced to eat some nasty Brussels sprouts, he was quite cheerful in trumpeting the mandate which will override the “irresponsible behavior” of the “young and healthy”. He even made a patently fraudulent comparison to requirements to buy auto insurance.
 
To begin with, any irresponsibility of individuals is NOTHING compared to the irresponsibility of the insurance and drug rackets and the irresponsibility and cowardice of government, including most of all Obama’s personal irresponsibility and cowardice.  The absolute minimum for a responsible position is a strong public plan, Medicare for All. Anyone who does not demand this as his minimum forfeits all right to lecture anyone else about irresponsibility.
 
Let’s be clear on this: Obama has zero moral legitimacy, zero authority, he deserves zero respect or deference on any issue involving morality or responsibility, as he has completely and definitively abdicated on this front.
 
He displays his bad faith with the fraudulent auto insurance comparison (evidently he knew not to bring up Social Security or Medicare, successful single-payer systems). Any mandate to buy auto insurance is of course contingent upon choosing to own a car.
 
So there’s no comparison here at all. An insurance mandate, to buy a useless private “product”, as the price of being allowed to physically exist, is an unconstitutional POLL TAX, farmed out to private collectors, enacted on behalf of these collectors.
 
What I don’t get is the politics of this. That Obama was lying when he promised Change and ran on that promise, that he was always a Bush corporatist traitor, that I get. That he and his party seek to further enhance the position of feudal parasites in return for their campaign bribes, I get. It’s repulsive, but from their point of view it makes sense.
 
But why, in addition to conveying the normal loot from the people to the feudal rackets, would they also want to convey their political future to them as part of the loot by handing them this extra gimmie of a “mandate” which, when it bites, is going to be blamed directly on him and the Dems (with the Reps leading the charge)? This Poll Tax Plan, if enacted, really will be the end for the Democrats. It’s like they want to commit suicide, and for no reason at all.
 
Why don’t they just go through the motions of pretending to seek reform and when they get only a meager bill which changes nothing, blame that on the Reps? Why take upon yourself the full political burden of adding this very obvious, very burdensome policy of tyranny, which is so brazenly being set up for the sole purpose of collecting loot for a privileged special interest which is universally reviled, and which will not help anyone but only add tremendous pain and hardship for the very people already in pain?
 
And people say the Republicans have lost their minds. The Reps aren’t into anything nearly as politically deranged as this. If I were a Republican I’d be dumbfounded at how things have turned around since last fall, how infinitely better our future looks, and all of it handed to us by Obama! It boggles the mind.
 
After that, it seems superfluous to go into the other idiocies of the speech. He does draw his line in the sand, makes his veto threat – on the deficit. That really stirs the soul.
 
No one has understood Obama’s fetish of deficit hawkery on health reform while he clearly doesn’t care about the deficit at all where it comes to the bailouts or the Global War on Terror. (There was also the dubious salesmanship of saying “My plan won’t hurt the deficit as much as Iraq or tax cuts for the rich”, both of which Obama still supports anyway.)
 
In general, there was way too much emphasis on details of costs and cost control mechanisms. This guy just doesn’t get it – nobody cares about such details. It’s clear that whether or not anybody cares about the cost of something depends upon whether or not they support the thing in itself. Whether they care or not, period. You’re never going to convince anybody by spewing out a slew of numbers.
 
Evidently Obama doesn’t accept the research which has shown that repeating enemy talking points in order to rationally refute them accomplishes nothing but to further associate you with those canards. he hasn’t learned the lessons of the Saddam-9/11 connection. So in the speech he devoted an idiotic length of time to reminding everyone of every slander and attack, just in case anyone had forgotten.
 
So for all his vaunted oratorical prowess, he flunks Rhetoric 101. Good work.
 
(BTW, my first thought as the speech ended was, is this the kind of speech he used to give on the stump? He was cracked up to be such a mesmerizing, uplifting orator? Because the guy who gave that speech was just a boor. Once he had finished with the substance, such as it was, and then vamped on tediously for another 10-15 minutes, without even achieving any rhetorical climax.)
 
From here on I’m not going to judge Obama any differently from how I judged Bush. Bush was always clearly the enemy, while Obama has inflicted the added sting of betrayal. But now we know exactly who he is.
 
So the only question is, what must a progressive do now? Are you going to support the Poll Tax Plan?
 
When Obama said the public option was a mere “means to an end” he was dead wrong. By now it must be emblematic of possibilities and betrayals. No one who still, at this late date, continued to trust Obama can continue to do so. (Except for the insurance thugs, of course). He is bent on betraying his promise of reform and of imposing new levels of tyranny. This was clear at the outset with the bailouts and the resolve to maintain the Too Big to Fail banks in existence, and to make them even bigger and to further enhance the protection racket they have imposed.
 
Now he’s trying to impose the same pattern with health insurance feudalism. He has dedicated his entire policy to the core goal of benefiting this racket (just as Geithner said at the outset, our main goal is to maintain private profits for private banks). He wants to maintain the status quo, and he wants to enhance it by adding this Insurance Poll Tax, with the IRS commandeered as a private collection agency to enforce it.
 
From here on, our ONLY view of the Poll Tax Plan must center on this attempted imposition of tyranny. There is no other substantive aspect to it. Reform is dead for now.
 
Now it’s simply a question of, do progressives roll over, cave in, as they so often have, since Obama and the Democrats have rightly calculated that he can do whatever he wants to betray them and they’ll still support him since they have no other choice? One thing’s for sure: anyone who does cave in now has no right to ever complain again. From here on they get exactly what they deserve, since we now know that Obama is Bush.
 
Or have they wrongly calculated this time? Will progressives finally get over their timidity and impatience and resolve to turn their backs, renounce the Democratic party once and for all, and get to the hard, lengthy work of building a new party?
 
One thing’s for sure – nothing “progressive” will ever come out of the Democratic party. So are they who call themselves progressives really progressives? Or are they just the pliant “progressive friends” who can always be counted on the roll over in the end?
 
Obama, the Republicans, the lapdog Democrats, and the corporate rackets are counting on it.
 
One other thing I kept wondering about toward the end there, as Obama appropriated the memory of Ted Kennedy – is this really what Ted Kennedy would have wanted? Was he too that much of a sellout? Or would he have been appalled and disgusted at the travesty his great cause had come to? 

September 7, 2009

More Obama Cowardice: Van Jones

Oh calm, dishonorable, vile submission….
                                 – Mercutio, in
                                   Romeo and Juliet                                        
 
So here we have yet another example of Obama and Democratic cowardice, perhaps the most clear-cut yet, precisely because it’s a relatively small matter in the big scheme of things.
 
Van Jones, a leading environmental activist, was green jobs point man in the White House Council for Environmental Quality. This council was a greenwashing clearing house under Bush, but progressives had high hopes that Obama would actually take his environmental responsibilities seriously. These hopes were boosted by Obama’s environmental appointees, who were for the most part legitimate people (unlike most of his other appointments). Van Jones was one of the best of these.
 
(I’ve been out of the environmental loop for awhile, so I can’t give a good detailed account of Jones’ excellent work with green jobs, especially in the cities, but here and here are some places to read more.)
 
So apparently Jones once had a run-in with Fox News vermin Glenn Beck. I don’t know the details and don’t care. But Beck has carried on a vendetta ever since and recently started spewing about how Jones:
 
1. Signed a petition calling for further investigation of 9/11, which petition turned out to be distributed by “truthers”.
 
2. Get this – Jones once publicly referred to Republicans as – shhhh, and don’t let the little ones read this – “assholes”….
 
Once Beck publicized these atrocities, the Republican attack machine went on the offensive, with Mike Pence among others demanding that Obama fire Jones.
 
At first people laughed, assuming the White House would tell the Reps to go fuck themselves, just like any White House would do in the face of such an absurd tantrum. (Picture what Bush or Clinton would have done.)
 
But the laughing died away when……the White House did nothing. Showed no support. Was actually cowering.
 
That’s apparently when Jones realized his position was untenable. Not, of course, because of the right wing, who couldn’t force a dogcatcher’s firing if he was caught accepting bribes from cats.
 
No, Jones had to go because Obama, in his elemental cowardice, had made the attack his own. Just like he took ownership of Republican bailouts and pro-bank policy, and the Republican Global War on Terror, and a Republican health care scheme, and so many other things, so now it was Obama who was the one and only person whose opinion matters at all who wanted Jones gone.
 
So he resigned. (And who knows if he actually made that decision on his own, as the administration is claiming, or if he was ordered to quit.)
 
That’s bad enough. But what really got me going, what made me write a post on this, was the way Democrats are talking about it. I’ve never seen such an attitude of apologetics, appeasement, abjectness, supplication, servility, “calm, dishonorable, vile submission” across the board.
 
Nobody was willing to say how ridiculous this was. Nobody was willing to say that Republicans are assholes and much worse, and that Jones should be commended for his restraint. Everybody tried to rationalize the petition saying he didn’t know what he was signing, or he didn’t feel well, or they misrepresented it to him….Nobody was willing to say, even if he is a 9/11 truther that’s pretty tame by the standards of people who believe in death panels and that Obama’s not a citizen.
 
(Just to be clear, I’m not a truther, nor apparently is Jones,  but I couldn’t care less whether he is or not. My response would be like that of Lincoln when somebody whispered to him that “Grant drinks.”
 
Lincoln said “Oh yeah? Well then find out what whiskey he likes and send a case to all my other generals.”)
 
Here’s some quotes from the Sunday gab shows, which I’m pasting from this Gristmill piece. (At Grist itself there’s the same apologetic attitude, the same shameful “explaining” at length, and zero defiance.)
 

OBAMA ADVISER DAVID AXELROD: Absolutely not. This was Van Jones’s own decision. You know, he is internationally known as an advocate for green jobs, and that’s the basis on which he was hired. He said in his statement that he didn’t want his comments to become a distraction from the issue, which is so important to the future of our economy and communities around the country. And I commend him for making that decision.

MR. GREGORY: Was he the victim of a smear campaign, as he alleges?

MR. AXELROD: Well, look, this is a—you know, the political environment is rough, and so, you know, these things get magnified.

But the bottom line is that he showed his commitment to the cause of creating green jobs in this country by removing himself as an issue, and I think that took a great deal of commitment on his part.

********

HOWARD DEAN: Well, I was just going to say this guy’s Yale-educated lawyer. He’s a best-selling author about his specialty. I think he was brought down. I think it’s too bad.

Washington’s a tough place that way, and I think it’s a loss for the country.

HOST CHRIS WALLACE: Governor, how about the fact that he had made a series of statements and had signed this petition in 2004 indicating—suggesting that the government might have some role or some complicity in 9/11?

DR. DEAN: Well, he was told by the people waving those clipboards around that he was signing something else, so I think that’s too bad.

Look, all of us campaigning for office have had people throw clipboards in front of our face and ask us to sign, and he learned the hard way you ought not to do that.

But I don’t think he really thinks the government had anything to do with causing 9/11.

*******

HOST GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Does the president believe that he is the victim of a smear campaign or does the president think that Jones actions and words merit resignation?

WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY ROBERT GIBBS: Well what Van Jones decided was that the agenda of this president was bigger than any one individual. The president thanks Van Jones for his service in the first eight months helping to coordinate renewable energy jobs and lay the foundation for our future economic problem…The president accepted his resignation, but Van Jones as he said in his statement he was going to get in the way of the President.

STEPHANOPOULOS:  So the president doesn’t endorse in any way the things that Van Jones said before but the president doesn’t want him to go?

GIBBS: He doesn’t but he thanks him for his service.

 
Here’s another example. The blogs and websites I frequent are places where most people, regardless of their politics, think the “two”-party stranglehold is loathsome. So I rarely have sightings of actual Obama supporters, or self-identified Democrats. But I’ve wondered what people like that must be saying among themselves these days. Just by coincidence today I paid my first visit to MyDD and read two pieces on the Jones blowup.
 
The pieces were on target, but in the comment threads, while there were some commenters who had the right idea (and some trolls), it was sickening to see how many Democrats (I assume that’s what they were) agreeing that Jones had to go, that he was going to be a distraction from health reform (what reform?), that Beck’s allegations were indeed severe, that Obama did the right thing, and plenty more attempts at defensiveness and apology…
 
It was sickening. What must it be like to go through life as such a coward, afraid of your own shadow, pusillanimous to the point that when an obnoxious little mouse squeaks you leap screaming onto a chair?
 
Let’s be clear on one point: even to this day the Right and the Republicans cannot do anything to Obama. Everything he’s done to appease them he has done 100% to himself.
 
And with this latest cave-in he has dramatically emboldened them. Now they know all they have to do to put strings on him and make him dance is to start screaming about even the most trivial nonsense, making some absurd demand, and it’s certain that Obama will cower and cringe, and there’s an excellent chance he’ll cave.  
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