12/31/10

Death Comes True

I gives me great pleasure to bring you. Like the last of life in the transit lounge. You can pay for it in easy stages.

All I need now is a name for the company. To end yet again. We make your death come true.

The Text Starts Here

America's 'State' Media

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The US media are the propaganda branch of the government. Any member who departs from his duty to lie and spin the news is expelled from the fraternity.

The media have segued into being part of the state apparatus, which regards insistence on civil liberties and references to the Constitution as signs of extremism, especially when the Constitution is invoked in defense of dissent or privacy or placarded on a bumper sticker.

A public increasingly unemployed, broke and homeless is told that they have vast enemies plotting to destroy them in the absence of annual trillion dollar expenditures for the military/security complex.

There are wars lasting decades, no-fly lists, unlimited spying and collecting of dossiers on citizens supplemented by neighbors reporting on neighbors, full body scanners at airports, shopping centers, metro and train stations, traffic checks, and the equivalence of treason with the uttering of a truth.

Two years ago when he came into office Obama admitted that no one knew what the military mission was in Afghanistan, including the president himself, but that he would find a mission and define it.

On his recent trip to Afghanistan, Obama came up with the mission: to make the families of the troops safe in America, his version of Bush’s “we have to kill them over there before they kill us over here.”

No one snorted with derision or even mildly giggled. No media outlet dared to wonder if perhaps, maybe, murdering and displacing large numbers of Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen might be creating a hostile environment that could breed anti-American movements.

And US support for Israel’s similar treatment of Lebanese and Palestinians might be spreading hatred of US foreign policy among Muslims. If there still is such a thing as the Newspaper Publishers Association, its members are incapable of such an unpatriotic thought.

Today no one believes that our country’s success depends on an informed public and a free press. America’s success depends on its financial and military hegemony over the world.

Any information inconsistent with the indispensable people’s god-given right to dominate the world must be suppressed and the messenger discredited and destroyed.

Feminism Legitimizes Neoliberal Capitalism

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Feminism Seduced: How Global Elites Use Women’s Labor and Ideas to Exploit the World, by Hester Eisenstein weaves a compelling account of how the central ideas of “hegemonic feminism” have legitimized the corporate capitalist assault on the working class in the United States and on small farmers and workers, both urban and rural, in the global South.

In this way, she argues, mainstream feminism has served as unwitting handmaiden to the capitalist class. Situating her analysis of mainstream feminism in a broader context of the economics of capitalist globalization, Eisenstein connects changes in the gender order to the rise of neoliberalism.

By hegemonic feminism, she means that certain liberal feminist ideas have become part of the “commonsense” of U.S. culture. In particular, she argues, the notion that paid work, in itself, represents liberation for women is widely accepted.

Second-wave feminism included a strong tradition of socialist/anarchist feminism, third-world and women of color feminism, as well as radical feminism.

But the dominant ideas of the movement emphasized individual achievement and the possibilities for self-actualization inherent in the competitive, free-for-all marketplace and political system.

Liberal feminism addressed many different issues, but focused overwhelmingly on women’s right to compete with men on equal terms in the labor market.

While purporting to represent all women, mainstream feminism has primarily advanced the interests of women with higher education, so that after forty years of feminist activism, there is now an enormous class divide among women workers.

To understand how and why this has happened, Eisenstein traces the history of feminist ideas and politics in the context of the fundamental restructuring of the global economy and the rise of the neoliberal political order.

Taking globalization as the framework for describing this “sea change” in the world capitalist political economy, Eisenstein identifies deindustrialization, the rise of export processing zones in the global South, the growth of the service sector, the explosion of the financial sector, and the employers’ offensive against unions as key to the transformation of women’s relation to waged labor.

In the North, globalization entailed a precipitous decline in men’s wages, marking the end of the “family wage” for men who had often provided sole financial support in traditional male breadwinner marriages. At the same time, the rise of the service economy opened up a huge demand for low-wage, female labor.

In the South, the “new enclosure” movement threw women into an expanding labor market. Insofar as mainstream feminism had lauded paid employment for women as a route to escape the oppression of patriarchal marriage, feminism in the United States helped to create a new pool of labor that capitalist employers could use to cut costs.

Women’s willingness to enter the workforce in massive numbers allowed corporations to resist the pressure for wage increases. And, by identifying freedom with paid work, mainstream feminism offered the perfect cover to multinational corporations exploiting women’s labor in free trade zones. In short, feminism became the language of capitalist modernization.

US House Prices Slump Even More

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There is widespread distress among homeowners. More than one in eight homeowners with a mortgage was behind in payments or in foreclosure, 12.6 percent, compared to 12.8 percent one year ago. About half of these, or 5.8 percent of the total, were at least 90 days behind in payments, while 3.6 percent were actually in foreclosure.

The glut of foreclosed homes continues to depress the housing market, with home prices falling 1.3 percent in October, Home prices in several major cities have fallen 20 percent or more.

Distressed sales, where the homeowner is either in foreclosure or behind on payments, account for about one-third of all US home sales. These sales were only made based on an average drop of 27 percent in the purchase price.

At least one estimate predicts that total foreclosures will reach 1.8 million for this year, bringing the total number of foreclosures since the subprime mortgage crisis exploded in 2007 to more than 5.5 million.

It's estimated that 2.1 million families would be foreclosed in 2011. The total number threatened with losing their homes is four million. That would bring the total number who lost or will lose their homes over the five-year period, 2007-2011, under the combined impact of financial collapse and economic slump, to a staggering nine million families.

An additional 10.9 million families are “under water” on their homes, meaning that they owe more in mortgage debt than the home can be sold for in the current depressed market.

Adding to the potential financial impact is the $426 billion in second mortgages on the balance sheets of just four banks: Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Citigroup.

In the face of this colossal social crisis, the Obama administration program to assist distressed homeowners is a complete failure. The total number aided through the life of the program is now estimated at 700,000 to 800,000, less than one in ten of those threatened with foreclosure.

The actual shortfall is much greater, since, perversely, only homeowners with the smallest gap between mortgage debt and ability to pay have received any support.

The Obama administration initially pledged $75 billion for the loan modification program, but the Treasury has paid out less than $800 million and the total cost is now estimated at $4 billion.

The stinginess towards families facing foreclosure and eviction is in sharp contrast to the hundreds of billions lavished on the banks and other financial institutions that benefited from the Wall Street bailout.

A Few Americans Accumulate Vast Wealth

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America is on a collision course with itself. This month's deal between Obama and the Republicans in Congress to extend the tax cuts initiated a decade ago by Bush is being hailed as the start of a new bipartisan consensus. But it's a false truce in what will become a pitched battle for the soul of American politics.

As in many countries, conflicts over public morality and national strategy come down to questions of money. In the United States, this is truer than ever.

The US is running an annual budget deficit of around $1tn, which may widen further as a result of the new tax agreement. This level of annual borrowing is far too high for comfort. It must be cut, but how?

The problem is America's corrupted politics and loss of civic morality. One political party, the Republicans, stands for little except tax cuts, which they place above any other goal.

The Democrats have a bit wider set of interests, including support for healthcare, education, training, and infrastructure. But, like the Republicans, the Democrats, too, are keen to shower tax cuts on their major campaign contributors, predominantly rich Americans.

The result is a dangerous paradox. The US budget deficit is enormous and unsustainable. The poor are squeezed by cuts in social programmes and a weak job market. One in eight Americans depends on food stamps to eat.

Yet, despite these circumstances, one political party wants to gut tax revenues altogether, and the other is easily dragged along, against its better instincts, out of concern for keeping its rich contributors happy.

This tax-cutting frenzy comes, incredibly, after three decades of elite fiscal rule in the US that has favoured the rich and powerful. Since Ronald Reagan became president in 1981, America's budget system has been geared to supporting the accumulation of vast wealth at the top of the income distribution.

Amazingly, the richest 1% of American households now has a higher net worth than the bottom 90%. The annual income of the richest 12,000 households is greater than that of the poorest 24m households.

The Republican party's real game is to try to lock that income and wealth advantage into place. They fear, rightly, that, sooner or later, everyone else will begin demanding that the budget deficit be closed in part by raising taxes on the rich.

After all, the rich are living better than ever, while the rest of American society is suffering. It makes sense to tax them more. The Republicans are out to prevent that by any means.

Futile Attempts to 'Fix' Capitalism

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Today's blah-blah about economic recovery accompanies government actions that will repeat in 2011 more of the bailouts, monetary easing, and fiscal stimuli that proved insufficient since 2007.

None of those actions dare to question, let alone address, how capitalism redistributed income and wealth in the decades leading to the crisis or how that redistribution contributed to the crisis.

The recovery being planned and hyped aims at a return to the US economy before it crashed. However, that capitalism was like a train hurtling toward the stone wall of crisis. To return to a pre-crisis capitalism risks resuming our places on a similar train heading for a similar crash.

Republican and Democratic politicians alike dare not link this crisis to an economic system that has never stopped producing those "downturns" that regularly cost so many millions of jobs, wasted resources, lost outputs, and injured lives.

For them, the economic system is beyond questioning. They bow before the unspoken taboo: never criticize the system upon which your careers depend.

Thus, this crisis and its burdens will continue until capitalists see sufficiently attractive opportunities for profit to resume investing and hiring people in the US as well as elsewhere.

The freedoms of US capitalists to gain immense government supports as needed and yet to invest only when, where, and how they can maximize their private profits are paramount: the first obligations of government.

The freedoms from want and insecurity for the US people remain a distant second priority until mass political action changes that.

In good times as in bad, capitalism is a system that places a small minority of people with one set of goals (profits, disproportionally high incomes, dominant political power, etc.) in the positions to receive and distribute enormous wealth.

Those people include the boards of directors that gather the net revenues of business into their hands and decide, together with the major shareholders in those businesses, how to distribute that wealth. Not surprisingly, they use it to achieve their goals and to make sure government secures their positions.

No Keynesian monetary or fiscal policies address, let alone change, how that system works and who uses its wealth to what ends. No reforms or regulations passed or even proposed under Obama would do that either.

To avoid the instability of capitalism and its huge social costs requires changing the system. That remains the basic issue for a new year and a new generation. Will they break today's version of a dangerous old taboo: never question the existing system?

12/30/10

The Simulation of Death

If I were running things I'd include a suicide suite. Where you can simulate the death of your choice. With practice we lose the fear of. Paradise as a package holiday. You know it has to come.

Can raise enough capital? It's like this, sir. I want to sell the people something they must experience. There are no exceptions.

The Text Starts Here

Economic 'Recovery'

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The end of 2010 brings renewed Washington rhetoric, media hype, and academic me-too declarations about the US economy "recovering." We've heard them before since the crisis hit in 2007. They always proved wrong.

But recovery noises are useful for some. Republicans claim that government should do less since recovery is underway (of course, for them, government action is always counterproductive).

Likewise, Republicans and many centrist Democrats claim that income redistribution policies are no longer needed because recovery means growth, which means everyone gets a bigger piece of an expanding economic pie. Recovery hype also helps the Obama administration to claim that its policies succeeded.

Yet this is more fantasy than reality. After all, the nearly 20% of the US labor force that became unemployed or underemployed in 2009 remains so as we enter 2011. No recovery there. Worse still, a quarter of those who found work since the crisis began only got temp jobs without benefits.

Second, foreclosure actions by banks -- including those who got most of the government's bailouts -- continue to eject millions from their homes. No recovery there either (except for the bigger banks).

Third, consider why (1) the Federal Reserve decided last month to create another $600 billion of new money and (2) Congress and the President agreed this month on an additional fiscal stimulus (extending Bush's tax cuts, reducing social security withholding for 2011, etc.).

They took those steps because all the previous bailouts, monetary easing, tax cuts, and government fiscal stimulus expenditures had failed to end this crisis. Those immune to hyperecognize that more of the same policies that failed before might do so again.

More importantly, the recovery noise distracts from a more basic failure of our economic system: its fundamental instability. Recurring "downturns" -- that neither private nor government actions have ever managed to prevent -- impose massive costs on society.

They plunge millions of effective, productive workers into unemployment and resulting personal, family. and community disasters. Governments tap the collective purses of their nations chiefly to rescue just those private capitalists who were major contributors to the crisis and whose wealth insulates them from the crisis' worst effects.

Then governments turn on their people to impose austerities (cutbacks in social programs, social security, etc.) needed to restore government budgets busted by that rescue's huge costs.

Like someone convicted of murdering his parents who demands leniency as an orphan, corporate America demands conservative government and austerity on the grounds of excessive budget deficits.

Mainstream media and politicians take those corporate demands seriously, reminding us who controls whom.

Julian Assange: This Year's Pop-Idol Winner

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Assange has won the readers' poll in Time magazine's person of the year for 2010, way ahead of second place, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the same Erdogan whom US diplomats, in WikiLeaks' "cablegate", described as a dangerous anti-American Islamist.

Now couple this progressive Assange/Erdogan double bill with a CNN poll where 44% of Britons declared themselves sure that the Swedish sex charges against Assange are "an excuse" to keep him in custody so he can be prosecuted by the US government. Oh, those dangerous liaisons between sex and press freedom, again.

And all this after Assange didn't fail to drop a bombshell, "We now know that Visa, Mastercard and PayPal are instruments of US foreign policy. It's not something we knew before." Now that's a front page, if there ever was one.

So who gives the chief executive officers of Amazon, Mastercard, Visa, PayPal, Facebook, Twitter and, sooner rather than later, Google - all private corporations who exercise a barely-disguised Internet monopoly - the right to act as editors of what sort of information public opinion should have access to?

Mega-corporations making public-interest political decisions? World public opinion may say: "OK, you can buy the US Congress as much as you want, but don't mess with our right to choose."

Instead of following the - granted, gripping - made-in-Scandinavia sex saga, the whole world ought to be discussing the really key issue of the times.

Who is bound to benefit the most from crucial information leaks? Will it be relentlessly hegemonic hyper-capitalism and its minions? Or will it be democratic, anti-hegemonic global social movements - in sum, people power?

Were the great Herbert Marcuse alive, he would already be warning that the empire is very quick in learning, and profiting from, the WikiLeaks lesson.

Realists already expect fresh imperial, "anti-terrorist" legislation. It doesn't matter that former Central Intelligence Agency analyst Ray McGovern has stressed a key point to CNN: Pentagon head Robert Gates said the WikiLeaks cables do not put American lives in danger (these reports are "greatly overwrought", said Gates).

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization also said: "no sources have been compromised". Even AfPak supremo General David "I'm always positioning myself to 2012" Petraeus said the same thing.

But that should not be enough to appease the power elite establishment, with its slimy coterie of sycophants, ideological gangsters and assorted parasites, all frothing at the mouth and eager to take out Assange.

Make no mistake on what the real "new world order" is all about: the battlefield reads like a resistance movement to the appropriation of information technology by the power elites.

The eagerness to silence if not take out Assange by all means necessary reveals the true face of the emperor: "I shall have undisputed, indivisible control over any technology."

Capitalism Rules by 'Consent'

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On the surface of it, millions of people “consent” to going to work. Usually, no-one has to physically force them to do so. Of course many people want to work for obvious reasons—they want to do jobs that help other people, they want to be socially-useful, they want to earn a decent wage, and so on.

But the system also puts pressure on people to work. If people refuse to work, what happens? Unless they have some rich relatives or win the lottery they will live in poverty. The state will hound them, trying to snatch away their measly benefits and force them into work.

In short, the system will do everything it can to make life miserable—so no wonder most people go to work.

Many people aren’t happy with capitalism, but don’t think radical change is possible. This is partly because they accept the idea that capitalism is natural, but also because they don’t see how it could be changed.

The biggest section of society is the working class and the smallest is the ruling class—the rich people who own and control things.

The working class creates all the wealth in society so it is potentially the most powerful class. But workers don’t feel they have much power in their day-to-day experience.

The Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci said that the rich use different ways to get everyone else to go along with their system.

He said capitalists rule by consent and force. So for most of the time, the bosses use their influence over things like the education system and the media to keep power.

But despite the fact that the bosses’ ideas dominate, that doesn’t mean that the mass of people are happy, nor that they never have ideas that challenge the dominant ones.

Gramsci described how ordinary people end up with contradictory ideas. He said that workers’ experience under capitalism, which is often negative, pushes them to challenge dominant ideas.

Bosses exploit workers. They make their profits by not paying workers the full value of their labour. Because bosses are competing with each other, they try and exploit workers more all the time—paying them less or forcing them to work faster.

But capitalism isn’t simply exploitative, it is also unstable and prone to crisis. The current round of cuts is an attempt to make ordinary people pay for such a crisis.

This pushes workers to fight back—which can transform their ideas. If a racist worker strikes alongside black and migrant workers, it undermines his bigotry.

In struggle workers can see most clearly that they have a common interest against the bosses. They can also see how powerful they are.

Capitalism isn’t as stable as it can sometimes seem. Protests, uprisings, strikes and revolution mark the world. Ordinary people have toppled governments—most recently in Argentina and Kyrgyzstan.

Millions more don’t want to live in a world wracked by poverty, oppression, war and environmental devastation. As the economic crisis has deepened, class confrontations have intensified across the world.

When clashes seriously threaten the ruling class it will deploy the full force of the state—the police and the army—to try and hold onto power.

But workers can beat back even this. And in a huge crisis, soldiers can switch sides and back the workers—and they have. The police can then melt away.

We have the power to take back our world and run it to meet the needs of the majority. But we must be aware that the rich won’t hesitate to use violence to stop us if “consent” fails—and we have to be prepared to take them on.

Unbridled Consumerism

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Christmas is perhaps the single most vivid symbol of the West's obsession with unfettered and environmentally irresponsible consumerism.

Each year, people in economically advanced nations buy millions of presents, the production and transportation of which requires emitting massive quantities of carbon and degrading massive quantities of natural resources.

In Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism, Richard Robbins writes that "the production, processing, and consumption, of commodities requires the extraction and use of natural resources (wood, ore, fossil fuels, and water).

"It requires the creation of factories and factory complexes whose operation creates toxic byproducts, while the use of commodities themselves (e.g. automobiles) creates pollutants and waste."

In short, consumerism is an environmental problem.

With this in mind, Meriel Lenfestey and Tracy Currer launched Ecomodo, a new social enterprise that encourages a reduction in consumer waste by enabling people to borrow items from members of their community.

Ecomodo is an online forum for borrowing and lending items locally. The site permits people to request items they seek and list items they want to share.

After testing the concept with friends and family, Lenfestey and Currer sent the site live in April 2010. In just a few months, Ecomodo has been recognized by the Green Awards and the StartupsUK Awards for its innovation and potential for reducing consumer waste.

According to World Watch Institute, 12 percent of the world's population lives in North America and Western Europe and accounts for 60 percent of private consumption spending.

But a third of humanity lives in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa and accounts for only 3.2 percent. The average American requires around 23.7 acres of earth resources to maintain his or her level of consumption, while there are only about 4.6 acres available for the average human.

Ecomodo makes it easy for people to borrow and lend from each other with confidence. The business takes a percentage from every transaction on the site, and still needs to reach a critical mass of transactions to make it a viable business. T

hat said, the site is growing; around 10 London councils have signed up and the Big Society Network has shown interest in working with Ecomodo to help develop David Cameron's Big Society.

"We know we are trying to create a new market as well as a brand," said Currer, who has a background in product design and sustainable design. "Making people aware that there is another way of doing things will take time."

The Global Financial Oligarchy

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The nation-State in the era of globalization in short becomes a custodian of the interests of international finance capital, which has the obvious effect of attenuating, diminishing and making a mockery of political democracy.

The restrictions on the activities of the nation-State are imposed not just by the fear of a capital flight. A whole ideological apparatus, and with it a whole army of ideologues, gets built for supporting neo-liberal policies.

Since finance capital itself becomes international in character, the controllers of this international finance capital constitute, to borrow Lenin's expression, a global financial oligarchy.

This global financial oligarchy requires for its functioning an army of spokesmen, media persons, professors, bureaucrats, technocrats and politicians located in different countries.

The creation of this army is a complex enterprise, in which one can discern at least three distinct processes. Two are fairly straightforward.

If a country has got drawn into the vortex of globalized finance by opening its doors to the free movement of finance capital, then even well-meaning bureaucrats, politicians, and professors will demand, in the national interest, a bowing to the caprices of the global financial oligarchy.

Not doing so will cost the country dear through debilitating and destabilizing capital flights. The task in short is automatically accomplished to an extent once a country has got trapped into opening its doors to financial flows.

The second process is the exercise of peer pressure. Finance Ministers, Governors of Central Banks, top financial bureaucrats belonging to different countries, when they meet, tend increasingly to constitute what has been called an "epistemic community".

They begin increasingly to speak the same language, share the same world view, and subscribe to the same prejudices, the same theoretical positions that have been aptly described as the "humbug of finance".

Those who do not are under tremendous peer pressure to fall in line; and most eventually do. Peer pressure may rang from straightforward bribes to lucrative offers of post-retirement employment.

But, whatever the method used, conformism to the "humbug" that globalized finance dishes out as true economics becomes a mark of "respectability".

But even peer pressure requires that there should be a group of core ideologues of finance capital who exert and manipulate this pressure. The "peers" themselves are not free-floating individuals but have to be goaded into sharing a belief-system.

There has to be therefore a set of key intellectuals, ideologues, thinkers and strategists that promote this belief system, shape and broadcast the ideology of finance capital, and generally look after the interests of globalized finance.

They are not necessarily capitalists or magnates; but they are close to the financial magnates, and usually share the "spoils".

The financial oligarchy proper, consisting of these magnates, together with these key ideologues and publicists of finance capital, constitute the "global financial community". The function of this global financial community is to promote and perpetuate the hegemony of international finance capital.

And this global financial community insinuates its way into the political systems of various countries, initially as IMF and World Bank-trained "advisers" into economic ministries, and subsequently as cabinet ministers, and even office-bearers, of established political Parties.

Reforms are undertaken everywhere in the education system to rid it of the vestiges of any world view different from what the global financial community propagates.

They play an important role in the ideological hegemony of finance capital. The process of privatization and commodification of education facilitates the instituting of such reforms.

12/29/10

Being by Yourself: Thirty-Three

Axiom of the Day: Be Unprepared

As the dealer, it's my choice. We'll play improvisation. If I ruled the game, I'd make it mandatory. Put like this, I'm provised to determine by chance.

I trust you're unprepared. I know it makes you anxious

Follow These Unforeseen Instructions

Stretch a bit further. You can call the alert. Now you're really charged. In the mood to pick a fight. At least tease somebody.

You want to make it, don't you? An alpha being the mark. Follow these unforeseen instructions. Are your pupils dilated? We can begin.

A Pitch Unprepared

You know the gut feeling. You've got to give a pitch unprepared. These are important clients. It's worse than being naked on a crowded street. We need to feel threatened.

Am I developing a theme here? It could turn into a proposal. How do you fancy the idea of? A little book of alertness. In which I get on your nerves.

I Want to Be Feral Again

Need we consider the chances of? Look, if you're anxious you must be alert. Increasing domestication lessens the danger that. I want to be feral again. On the sexual prowl Put the excitement back in life

The Institutional Fear of Failure

All this sitting around, picking my cuticles. Where's the risk in that? But, like every other drive, it's got to be displaced.I suppose one way's to become a danger to yourself. Then there's the institutional fear of failure. Like being seen in yesterday's trainers.

To Start Yet Again

Isn't it enough to know I'm going to die? That's dread with no danger. It doesn't count.

Do you want to know what I do? At this stage I'm unprepared to act on it. To start yet again. What shall we do? Let's see what happens.

You Should Take After Me

We could always try the simple present for habitual action. I mean, it's a question of.

Did you throw up on the way here? I usually do before a performance. The midn explorer experiences occasional pitfalls. Can you feel the lurch intestine? You Should take after me.

The Text Starts Here

Thirty-Four

Obama's Image Makeover

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For the past two weeks the US media has been pumping out admiring commentaries on Obama's “comeback”. As if on signal, the man widely portrayed before and immediately after the November midterm elections as presiding over a failing presidency is being depicted as the protagonist of a political tour de force that has turned defeat at the polls into a triumph of reform legislation.

He's being built up because he has made clear that his cave-in on tax cuts for the rich is only the prelude to a further shift to the right on social policy.

Appearing on Sunday's NBC’s “Meet the Press” program, Obama aide Valerie Jarrett, a multimillionaire Chicago real estate investor who is described as Obama’s liaison to business, said Obama would focus in the immediate future on reining in the deficit and improving his relationship with American business.

The administration has already called for a freeze on non-defense discretionary spending and federal employee pay and backed proposals for cuts in Social Security benefits, increased taxes on consumption, and a broad “reform” of the tax system that will sharply reduce income taxes for the rich as well as corporate taxes and an accelerated attack on ever-broader sections of the working class.

Not accidentally, the media has in recent days largely dropped the Tea Party movement. Built up by the media in the pre-election period as a mass movement on the right reflecting popular angst over budget deficits and coercive government interference in the market, the Tea Party was used to shift Obama and the Democrats further to the right and engineer the Republican victory in November.

For the present at least, with that mission having been accomplished and Obama making all of the right moves, the Tea Party is being pushed to the background. It stands ready to be revived by the media when the ruling elite deems it politically expedient to do so.

Media 'Objectivity'

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Why has the corporate media been so keen to fuel a smear campaign against founder of WikiLeaks Julian Assange?

He has been described as slippery, slimy, bizarre and irresponsible, has been accused of endangering lives and as being a self-seeking publicist devoid of morals.

Assange has had to endure a series of attacks on his personality and demeanour. Shock-horror - he is even castigated for wearing pointy boots, not having a house and owning few possessions. More "serious" journalists have been a little more subtle when attacking Assange.

They have criticised him for his apparent lack of "ethical judgement'" and for supposedly being unaccountable to anyone. Where is his objectivity, they usually asked.

Of course these journalists, very often privileged in their own positions under the guise that they adhere to rigid professional standards, are accountable and employ high levels of objectivity in their work.

Under this smokescreen of respectability they claim to be "responsible" men and women to be revered by the public. But just what does this mean in reality? To whom are journalists accountable and who shapes their ethical standards?

To find the answer to this we need look no further than media owners, advertisers, contacts in officialdom and lobbyists who shape agendas and a range of other influences that affect the production and reporting of news.

News is the end product of selective filtering by or on behalf of media owners and by managers and employed commentators of the corporate media. Corporate sponsored think-tanks and scientists, advertisers, government spokespersons and PR machines also feed into the process.

The outcome effectively keeps public discussion within a narrow range of discourse, which ultimately provides support for certain state-corporate decisions and policies.

This is not necessarily a conscious conspiracy, but a result of structural and commercial constraints within which the media operates under capitalism.

This is the respectability that journalists talk of. This is the basis of their spurious objectivity. This is the wobbly foundation of their professional neutrality and impartiality. This is the myth of their unbiased integrity.

The internet has changed everything and WikiLeaks has used it to good effect. Professional journalists and media commentators are no longer the self-appointed high priests or priestesses of the truth.

Survival-of-the-Richest Capitalism

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Extremist Republicans [Capitalism's storm troopers] are relentless in their war against the working class. They practice the same disaster capitalism that has been the mainstay of the political right for decades.

Any crisis becomes the means to weaken the social safety net, defeat social democracy while rolling back workers' post-WWII gains, with return to 19th century norms. Unwarranted wars are also a useful diversion of taxpayer funds away from social spending.

Rallying cries of "deficit reduction" and austerity are further excuses to weaken government and labor, to privatize Social Security and Medicare in order to leave the working class destitute, while lowering corporate taxes and extending Bush tax cuts for the financial gain of the same corporate financiers who were bailed out by the working class.

Simultaneously, the Bowles-Simpson deficit reduction hawks hand the rich another bonanza, with the recommended corporate tax rate cut from 35% to 26%, while lowering tax rates for the wealthiest individuals also.

Continually operating under a model of disaster capitalism, the Republican right for decades has moved to "defund the left" and to transfer evermore tax dollars to corporate and right-wing evangelical groups.

The 104th Congress' transparent attempts to terminate both welfare and church-state -separation led to diversion of money away from the less well-off (so-called "liberal" programs) in the name of deficit reduction and "social re-engineering," with concerted efforts to reroute it to Republican constituencies: Christian evangelicals and big business.

This is Survival-of-the-Richest Capitalism: The Privileged vs. the 'Undeserving Underclass,' a term beloved by the right. Lacking a strong Democratic voice to counter the political right, U.S. democracy has been subverted by a coalition of extreme greed-centered authoritarian plutocrats and theocrats.

Contrary to common wisdom on the right, we are not a center-right nation and the recent election was not a mandate for Republican policy, just a cry for change. The demagogues and disaster capitalists are out-shouting everybody else, to the detriment of all.

Sex, Power & Wikileaks

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You don't need to possess Michel Foucault's analytical powers to be extremely suspicious of how the power elites, be they in Sweden or the US, and always in the name of "freedom", "security" and a market-friendly consensus, try to impose their own hegemonic brand of transparency.

Sweden has managed to circumscribe and frame virtually every overtone of freedom and unpredictability in the realm of sexual relations - with the extra bonus that everything can be furiously dissected/inspected.

So beware those fornicators whose condoms malfunction in the middle of the proceedings! And be 100% sure that in each and every second of the nitty gritty there is irrefutable, foolproof mutual consent. Otherwise, you're a rapist.

Once again, it sounds like a "liberal" re-run of Monty Python's Spanish Inquisition sketch. Confess! Confess! The Orgy of Transparency meets the Joy of Inquisition.

And that's where Saint Julian the Apostle (of freedom of expression) converges with Assange the Rapist, the Martyr of Transparency. And this in a country that has one of the more advanced freedom of expression laws in the world.

Deep down, it gets shabbier. From Naomi Klein to Naomi Wolf, it's clear to every thoughtful woman that Assange's Scandinavian groupies thought they were enraptured by "love".

Well, it was just a one-night stand piled up on another - and how horrible to find out, in a "girlish" chat, that "love" was in fact "betrayal" by the usual soulless, chauvinist male. Who would have thought that Scandinavia harbors "women scorned" who believe in Hollywood fairy tales.

Worse yet: cultured, fiercely independent women in both Europe and the US who take Hollywood for what it is consider it deeply humiliating for this chameleon Swedish law to infantilize women to such an extent.

Meanwhile, Italian Prime Minister Silvio "Il Cavaliere" Berlusconi, who Wiki cables basically depict as a greedy, irresponsible nutcase fond of cavorting with nymphs at Nero-style parties, barely survived a non-confidence vote and immediately afterwards Rome was (literally) burning in rage. Makes one think of Nero in reverse.

Yet make no mistake: it's not only Ancient Rome that's burning. It's the whole empire.

Hardcore hyper-capitalism may be simultaneously a Terminator and a giant with clay feet. Progressives must solve the riddle of how to fight this paradox.

Sun Tzu's Art of War meets Gilles Deleuze and his underground war machine. Nomad information-technology guerrillas are already deployed. The US counter-insurgency is being turned upside down. Netwar is a go. And don't forget the condoms.

Is Endless Growth Over?

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In his latest book, The Enigma of Capital, David Harvey continues his deeply valuable work in Marxian popularization and advances a controversial thesis:

Capitalism may have reached a point at which endless growth and profitable investment is no longer possible, making it possible and necessary to begin talking about making an anti-capitalist transition to a new mode of production.

Drawing on Marx's argument in the Grundrisse, Harvey describes capital not as a thing, but a fluid process of circulation and accumulation that cannot abide limits. When capital confronts a potential blockage point in this process, it must convert it into a barrier that can be transcended or bypassed.

He identifies seven blockage points that could prevent capitalism from attaining growth and profitability in the coming years, but here I want to focus on four of them: the financial system, the labor market, availability of the means of production and scarcities in nature, and effective demand.

Continuous economic growth requires a financial system that can put investment funds in the right place and the right time -- what Harvey calls the assemblage of capital.

In the 1970s, capitalists became convinced that the finance sector was too heavily regulated and needed to be unleashed to initiate a new round of capital accumulation.

Why? Because, by the early 1970s, labor in the advanced capitalist countries became so well organized and powerful that it could block the free circulation of capital through collective bargaining and political action.

So the neoliberal revolution carried out by Thatcher and Reagan smashed the power of labor and deregulated finance. This solved capitalism's labor problem, but, as we have seen in recent years, financial deregulation has created the conditions for massive financial crises that threaten the stability of the entire system.

At the same time the question of ecology has come to the fore, raising the possibility that capitalism's plundering of the earth's resources has brought us to the brink of ecological catastrophe.

Finally, and this point is related to the question of the labor market, there is the problem of effective demand. In smashing the political power of the working class, capitalism also smashed the purchasing power of the working class.

If the workers don't make the wages necessary to buy the products they make, they can only fund their consumption through debt.

Eventually mass indebtedness leads to a financial crisis, which leads to state intervention in the form of bailouts, which leads to a fiscal crisis of the state.

This then leads to attempts by capital to pursue austerity measures that aggravate the problem of effective demand -- a situation that perfectly defines the present conjuncture.

Harvey uses all this to make the point that capitalism never actually solves its crises, but rather moves them around from one place to another.

12/23/10

You Should Take After Me

We could always try the simple present for habitual action. I mean, it's a question of.

Did you throw up on the way here? I usually do before a performance. The midn explorer experiences occasional pitfalls. Can you feel the lurch intestine? You Should take after me.

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Support Our [Gay] Troops Bullshit

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Part of the reason why even an administration that is incapable of bold leadership succeeded in shepherding "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" [DADT] repeal through Congress is that public opinion, even in the military, was strongly in favor.

One would not have thought it possible just a few decades ago, but Hispanics are evidently now more despised than homosexuals.

Perhaps, in the long run, there is moral progress, but lately it looks like what progress there has been in the past two or three decades has only been redistributed, not advanced.

My cynical response has nothing to do with the shortcomings of Obama or the Democratic leadership. It has to do with line taken by the repeal's supporters.

In taking aim at discrimination within the military, they said nothing against the military itself or the uses to which it is put. Instead, they implied support.

Equality should work both ways. Instead of demanding that homosexuals be treated like heterosexuals, how wonderful if someone had demanded that everybody not gay be treated as gays are, putting the military out of business.

What is our military for? Defense? You must be joking. Its job is to make the world safe for American corporations by keeping the empire in line. Yet repeal supporters took the line that ending DADT would enhance, not impede, military efficacy. They were so 'patriotic' in pressing the case that even Joe Lieberman could champion their cause.

The stance that the repeal advocates assumed is identical to the "support the troops" sloganeering that has increasingly deformed our political culture, making "wars of choice" even easier to fall into.

It seems that gays want to be accepted as all-American. The propaganda works, even for supposedly rebellious queers. Let's get married, let's have children, let's be patriotic, let's die for our country. It's fucking ridiculous.

America's 'Liberal' Imperialism

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The death of longtime US diplomat Richard Holbrooke has provoked an outpouring of praise from official spokesmen and apologists for American imperialism, and particularly from those who, like Holbrooke himself, came to prominence as advocates of US military intervention in the Yugoslav civil war of the 1990s.

In contrast to Vietnam, where Holbrooke first entered the service of American militarism, and the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US intervention in Bosnia in 1995 and then in Kosovo in 1999 were hailed by the representatives of American liberalism as wars that demonstrated the role of the United States as a “force for good.”

The attempt to use his death to revive illusions in the “humanitarian” role of American imperialism is a particularly foul effort to rewrite history. The Clinton administration’s professions about its noble goals in the former Yugoslavia were always a sham.

These pretenses were perhaps useful for deluding Manhattan liberals who wanted to be deluded, but only thinly disguised the imperialist appetites that drove all the outside powers that helped create the bloodbath, including Germany and Russia as well as the United States.

The Clinton administration actually supported the largest single act of ethnic cleansing, the expulsion of 250,000 Serbs from the Krajina region of Croatia in the summer of 1995. Holbrooke personally conveyed this support to Croatian President Franjo Tudjman.

We exhaustively analyzed the false analogies between the Nazi Holocaust and the crimes committed by nationalist militias on all sides in the civil wars that ravaged the former Yugoslavia from 1991 on, and exposed the real economic and strategic motives for the US intervention.

12/22/10

Financial Capitalism Vs The Nation-State

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In the current phase of imperialism, finance capital has become international, while the State remains a nation-State. The nation-State must bow before the wishes of finance.

Otherwise finance (both originating in that country and brought in from outside) will leave that particular country and move elsewhere, reducing it to illiquidity and disrupting its economy.

The process of globalization of finance therefore has the effect of undermining the autonomy of the nation-State. The State cannot do what it wishes to do, or what its elected government has been elected to do, since it must do what finance wishes it to do.

It is in the nature of finance capital to oppose any State intervention, other than that which promotes its own interest. It does not want an activist State when it comes to the promotion of employment, or the provision of welfare, or the protection of small and petty producers; but it wants the State to be active exclusively in its own interest.

It brings about a change in the nature of the State, from being an apparently supra-class entity standing above society, and intervening in a benevolent manner for "social good", to one that is concerned almost exclusively with the interests of finance capital.

To justify this change which occurs in the era of globalization under pressure from finance capital, the interests of finance are increasingly passed off as being synonymous with the interests of society.

If the stock market is doing well then the economy is supposed to be doing well, no matter what happens to the level of hunger, malnutrition and poverty. If a country is graded well by credit-rating agencies, then that becomes a matter of national pride, no matter how miserable its people are.

The point however is that this "inverted logic", this apparent illusionism, is not just a misconception or false propaganda; it has an element of truth and is rooted in the actual universe of globalization.

It is indeed the case that if finance lacks "confidence" in a particular country and flows out of it, then that country will face dire consequences through a liquidity crisis, so that pleasing finance, no matter how oppressive it is, is a pre-condition for economic survival within this system.

This "inverted logic" therefore is the direct off-shoot of a real life phenomenon, namely the hegemony of international finance capital. It cannot be overcome by appealing to some "correct logic" or some "correct priorities of the State".

It requires the transcendence of the hegemony of international finance capital. It requires in short not "reform" within a system dominated by finance capital but an overcoming of the system itself.

Finance capital's insistence upon a non-activist State, except when the activism is in its own interest, takes in particular the form of imposing fiscal austerity upon the State.

In the old days, the "sound finance" on the part of the State that was favoured by finance capital consisted in a balancing of its budget.

At present it takes the form, pervasively, of a 3 percent limit on the size of the fiscal deficit relative to GDP. This is the limit legislated across the world from the EU to India and sought to be enforced.

The one exception among capitalist countries is the U.S. which systematically ignores whatever "fiscal responsibility" legislation exists in its statute books, and alone among these countries enjoys a degree of fiscal autonomy.

But this is because its currency is still considered de facto, though no longer de jure, "as good as gold", and hence constitutes the medium in which much of the world's wealth is held.

Capital flight out of the U.S., owing to displeasure on the part of finance over the size of its fiscal deficit will be resisted by the entire capitalist world, a fact that speculators themselves are well aware of.

Inequality: Caviar & Cat Food

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What's been derisively termed "The Cat Food Commission" [cutbacks to Social Security will force older people to eat cat food to survive] recently issued its list of extensive cuts to already intolerable American living standards that we'll be asked to accept so that criminally corrupt Wall Street banksters and corpulent corporate honchos can keep their second or third luxurious residences, yachts and caviar luncheons.

We, the creators of the wealth that they stole, are expected to make an ungodly trade-off, compliantly absorbing what amounts to a total abandonment of everything that constitutes either an existing or anticipated "good life."

This impoverish-my-kids-so-that-capitalists-can-flourish "solution" just isn't going to fly.

And yet, due to the thoroughly depraved nature and ruthlessness of capitalism in its moribund imperialist stage, America's reactionary elite will repeatedly attempt to send that dead albatross into the air.

At some point, much sooner than many think, the masses will just revolt in angry disgust.

That's when the New York Stock Exchange will be set ablaze.

In a dramatic foretaste of things to come, English protesters enraged by exorbitant college tuition hikes recently attacked the limousine carrying Prince Charles and Lady Camilla, with accompanying shouts of "Off with their heads!"

Sentiments equally as bitter have risen in several countries. Super-exploited multitudes have reached their breaking point.

The entire capitalist world is but a hair's breadth away from wholesale rebellion.

Hardline Capitalism at War with the Rest of Us

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The Tea Party movement had some spontaneous beginnings, but over the course of the recent election had become part of Karl Rove's spider's web. We know Rand Paul's campaign received more than $1 million, apparently, of money funneled through Karl Rove's organizations.

There are a lot of this other of Koch money and other right-wing billionaire money helping to fund not just general Republicans but focusing on the Tea Party.

At this moment of economic crisis, instead of seeing a kind of workers left upsurge, they're actually creating a right upsurge. The more they can build a right-wing movement and accomplish some of the aims that they wanted to accomplish during the Bush-Cheney years.

Hard-line capitalists have been doing it for decades. They want to roll back the victory of the working people after the Second World War. We're familiar with this from Reagan. They want to roll back the state. They want to roll back regulation.

They don't want any interferences by the government on how they make their money or what they do with their money or how they treat their workers. They want a weak working force. They want no opposition. They want the 19th century.

They want the power of the 19th century. And the fact that large financial institutions have created this devastating crisis is empowering them in the agenda everywhere.

So if we look, for example, at Greece or Portugal or whatever, countries that really had difficulties meeting the debt requirements that came out of this crisis.

They got money from the European community, they got money from the IMF, and in return for this, they essentially were told that they have to slash their spending, that they have to cut pensions, that they have to slash public workers, fire them and cut their wages. Public workers are the people who provide the social services that are part of the social welfare system.

If you look at it from the Koch's perspective or from a long-term perspective of a lot of these really rich people, this is a golden opportunity for them.

Essentially, they want to defeat the forces that created the social welfare system, social democracy, a government which was basically looking to support the public. And to do that, they have to regulate and control business interests. So this may be an important historic moment.

12/21/10

To Start Yet Again

Isn't it enough to know I'm going to die? That's dread with no danger. It doesn't count.

Do you want to know what I do? At this stage I'm unprepared to act on it. To start yet again. What shall we do? Let's see what happens.

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Zombie Economics

The Trickle-Down Effect

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When historians look back at 2008-10, what will puzzle them most is the strange triumph of failed ideas. Free-market fundamentalists have been wrong about everything — yet they now dominate the political scene more thoroughly than ever.

To borrow the title of a recent book by the Australian economist John Quiggin on doctrines that the crisis should have killed but didn’t, we’re still — perhaps more than ever — ruled by “zombie economics.” Why?

Part of the answer, surely, is that people who should have been trying to slay zombie ideas have tried to compromise with them instead. And this is especially, though not only, true of Obama.

He has consistently tried to reach across the aisle by lending cover to right-wing myths. He has praised Reagan for restoring American dynamism, adopted G.O.P. rhetoric about the need for the government to tighten its belt even in the face of recession and offered symbolic freezes on spending and federal wages.

None of this stopped the right from denouncing him as a socialist. But it helped empower bad ideas, in ways that can do quite immediate harm. Right Obama is hailing the tax-cut deal as a boost to the economy.

Yet Republicans are already talking about spending cuts that would offset any positive effects from the deal. And how effectively can he oppose these demands, when he himself has embraced the rhetoric of belt-tightening?

Politics is the art of the possible. We all understand the need to deal with one’s political enemies. But it’s one thing to make deals to advance your goals.

It’s another to open the door to zombie ideas. When you do that, the zombies end up eating your brain — and quite possibly your economy too.

Monopoly Capitalism & 'Democracy'

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Britain's ruling class proclaims its deep attachment to democratic values at every turn.

It claims to defend them against the "enemy within," while seeking to impose them abroad - usually after aerial bombardment - when "rogue" regimes fail to comply with British or US imperialism.

It is part of the long struggle by our rulers to redefine "democracy," to limit it to the electoral and parliamentary arena, where monopoly power can exercise greatest control.

Democracy must be reduced to the right to take part in the election of a pro-capitalist government every so often - not rule by the people, nor even people seeking to influence their rulers by means of mass expression, and certainly not workers seeking to influence wealth and power through industrial action.

Today the ruling Establishment in Britain and elsewhere intend to resolve a substantial economic and financial crisis in the interests of monopoly capitalism - and at the expense of most of the population.

Capitalist democracy is now defined as a commodity, an investment in anticipation of future profits, nicely wrapped for sale to the electorate, has been losing its appeal for decades.

So in the face of popular anger and mobilisation, these monopoly capitalist politicians are also contemplating a fresh round of attacks against democratic freedoms.

Further restrictions on the right to demonstrate may also include more importations of crowd-smashing techniques from Northern Ireland. Big business is demanding harsher curbs on the right to strike in the public sector and emergency services and local government is to lose more powers and resources.

Our rulers and their politicians understand that, in a class society, democracy is a class question. They fear the consequences of the people on the march, with the organised working class at the core of a popular democratic anti-monopoly alliance.

That is why, with the assistance of the European Union, they seek to render democratic freedoms impotent and redundant.

Obama's 'Benefits' for the Extremely Rich

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The claim by Obama and Congressional Democrats that the new tax law is an economic stimulus that will benefit working class people is a lie. It is a law tailored to benefit the extremely wealthy.

At a cost of $150 billion over the next two years, it maintains George W. Bush’s reduction in the high-end income tax rate―for those taking home over $250,000 for married couples and $200,000 for individuals―at 35 percent.

According to the Center for Tax Justice, the wealthiest one percent of taxpayers will pocket almost $77,000 per year more as a result of the deal. The top 1 percent would take home over 25 percent of the total tax cut; the bottom 60 percent would share less than that, about 20 percent.

The law has specific benefits for the Wall Street elite, whose reckless financial speculation triggered the global economic collapse.

“[A]mong the big winners are private-equity and hedge-fund executives who prevailed in their battle against ‘carried interest’ provisions that would have taxed their earnings at higher ordinary-income rates rather than as capital gains,” the Wall Street Journal notes.

In other words, the law shelters the most lucrative forms of speculative wealth accumulation on Wall Street from the personal income tax by defining these as capital gains, a form of wealth accumulation historically associated with productive investment.

The law also puts in place a two-year repeal of two laws already on the books that sought to limit the ability of the extremely wealthy to claim tax write-offs, the Pease Limitation and the Personal Exemption Phase-out (PEP).

The net effect of the law is an acceleration of the redistribution of wealth from the working class to a tiny layer of the financial elite.

This takes the immediate form of tax cuts for the wealthy, but the resulting deficit spending will be paid for through unprecedented cuts to social spending.

Come the Revolution

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A planetary revolution is assuredly, unavoidably coming.

It'll be a united uprising by both what Franz Fanon termed the Third World's "wretched of the earth" and industrialized nations' outraged proletarians, unwilling to sacrifice their living standards on the altar of "austerity," just so a few fat cats can continue luxuriating to an unconscionable degree.

This impending cleansing of our capitalism-putrefied cosmic home will be openly socialist in those countries where leftist thought and theory have long had fertile ground in which to grow. Europe will go unequivocally red, for instance.

In places like the United States, however, a kind of instinctive, spontaneous Marxism will initially arise, as it's occasionally done during our historical past, in a localized way

The primary example of this is how white, Christian, and ordinarily quite conservative coal miners in Kentucky and West Virginia were forced by their chronically exploitative circumstances to take on plundering coal companies with tactics and ideological underpinnings of economic fairness that could have been advocated -- and in fact were -- by communists.

Anyone who views the award-winning documentary film "Harlan County, USA" will quickly understand that blue-collar souls who adhere to cynical diversions (such as those posited by today's Tea Party) will break with their wrong beliefs to become impassioned battlers for real worker advancement as mass consciousness and resulting action grow.

Struggle itself is the decisive teacher and key radicalizing agent.

The 'Financialization" of Capitalism

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In this third phase of imperialism there has been such an immense growth of the financial sector within each capitalist economy and of financial flows across the globe that many have talked of a process of "financialization" of capitalism, rather like "industrialization" earlier.

While this may be an accurate description of the processes involved, it does not draw attention to the entity that has come into centre-stage, namely international finance capital. This entity differs from finance capital of Lenin's time in at least three ways.

First, while Lenin had talked about the "coalescence" of finance and industry and had referred to finance capital as capital "controlled by banks and employed in industry", which tended to have a national strategy for expanding "economic territory" that would also serve the needs of its industrial empire, the new finance capital is not necessarily tied to industry in any special sense.

It moves around the world in the quest for quick, speculative gains, no matter in what sphere such gains accrue. This finance is not separate from industry, since even capital employed in industry is not immune to the quest for speculative gains, but industry does not occupy any special place in the plans of this finance capital.

Not only does capital-as-finance function as capital-as-finance, but even capital-in- production also functions as capital-as-finance; capital-as-finance on the other hand has no special interest in production.

This is basically what the process of "financialization" involves, namely an enormous growth of capital-as-finance, pure and simple, and its quest for quick speculative gains.

Secondly, finance capital in Lenin's time had its base within a particular nation, and its international operations were linked to the expansion of national "economic territory".

But the finance capital of today, though of course it has its origins in particular nations, is not necessarily tied to any national interests.

It moves around globally and its objectives are no different from the finance capital that has its origins in some other nation.

It is in this sense that distinctions between national finance capitals become misleading, and we can talk of an international finance capital, which, no matter where it originates from, has this character of being detached from any particular national interests, having the world as its theatre of operations, and not being tied to any particular sphere of activity, such as industry.

Thirdly, such uninhibited global operation requires that the world should not be split up into separate blocs, or into economic territories that are the preserves of particular nations and out of bounds for others. The interests of international finance capital therefore require a muting of inter-imperialist rivalry.

If this process of muting of inter-imperialist rivalry began in the post-war period as an outcome of the overwhelming economic and strategic strength of the U.S. among capitalist powers, it gets sustained in the current phase by the very nature of international finance capital.

12/20/10

The Institutional Fear of Failure

All this sitting around, picking my cuticles. Where's the risk in that? But, like every other drive, it's got to be displaced.I suppose one way's to become a danger to yourself. Then there's the institutional fear of failure. Like being seen in yesterday's trainers.

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The US Deficit & The Addiction to War & Empire

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There are three ways to examine the relationship between military expenditure and U.S. deficits.

Beginning with one aspect of arms spending: the "war on terror." Launched in 2001, it has had three components:

Operation Enduring Freedom (the war in Afghanistan), Operation Iraqi Freedom (the war in Iraq) and Operation Noble Eagle (beefing up U.S. military bases and homeland security).

The official bill to-date for this "war on terror" is almost identical to the amount of money created in the first round of quantitative easing--$1.1 trillion.

What would the picture be like had the "war on terror" not been launched? A change begins to take place in the picture of U.S. deficit spending.

It doesn't eliminate the deficit problem. But it does lessen it, to the extent that as late as 2007--the year the financial crisis first revealed itself--the U.S. central government would have actually run a modest surplus.

But the "war on terror" is just the tip of the iceberg. The United States, as documented above, spends money on the military at a rate far greater than any country in the world.

In 2010, for instance, the War on Terror costs of $130 billion were dwarfed by the $534 billion spent on other aspects of the military. Since 2006, the total "defense" budget of the U.S. has been over half a trillion dollars. By 2011, it is projected to be closing in on three quarters of a trillion dollars.

In 2009 and 2010, there are, of course, quite large deficits. This is the normal "Keynesian" turn to deficit spending that occurs in any economic downturn.

What is remarkable however, is the fact that in terms of non-military spending, before 2009 and 2010, there would have been no deficit whatsoever. In fact, in many years, there would have been surpluses, twice (in 2000 and 2007) touching half a trillion dollars.

With a budget history for the last 20 years, a pacifist U.S. government could have spent billions on its stimulus package, without borrowing a dime. Stimulus could have been completely financed out of accumulated surpluses from the last 20 years.

And in fact, this understates the situation. Many of the costs of the U.S. bloated war budget are hidden.

It would take a team of forensic accountants with unlimited time and unlimited funds to sort through government finances and corporate balance sheets to tease out the actual costs of sustaining the world's biggest military, and the world's only truly global empire.

But there are two "non-defense" line items that we can say with certainty are directly related to the U.S. military.

Veterans Affairs spending is extremely high in the U.S. precisely because so many young people have come back maimed and broken through U.S. military adventures abroad.

And the space program is a barely disguised excuse to develop and test the rocket technology that is the backbone of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

The U.S. central government deficit problem has one source: addiction to war and empire. That addiction has led to borrowing on an unprecedented scale.

It has made it impossible for the U.S. to stimulate its economy through accumulated savings and making it increasingly nervous about the accelerating practice of borrowing on a mass scale.

The quantitative easing approach - creating money out of nothing - has been made inevitable by the massive deficits used to sustain empire abroad.

Is Capitalism Obsolete?

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Capitalism is currently in its most serious crisis for eighty years. This is not just a financial crisis which started with the breakdown of the financial system in September 2008.

The financial crisis is itself the result of a long, deep crisis which started long before, around 1975, with unemployment, precariousness, poverty, inequality, having grown continuously.

This real crisis in capitalism has been overcome by financialization of the system. That has become capitalism's Achilles heel.

The system will start breaking down and moving into a deeper crisis through a financial crisis, which is what happened. Now we are at that point in time and we have to look into what strategy will work best.

Is it reasonable to think that the system was not so bad and that therefore we should go back, restore the system as it was before the financial breakdown? That is one alternative. It is the choice of the ruling power of capital.

It is the choice of Stiglitz and people who are presented as critical. But they they aren't critical. There is an alternative. To look at that deep crisis of the system as the signal that the system is an obsolete system.

It's now come to a point where continuing the accumulation of capital is deepening and continuing the destruction of the natural basis for the reproduction of civilization. And therefore we ought to move and start moving beyond capitalism.

The crisis started from the mid 1970s of the last century and developed fast.

By the 1980s and more so the 1990s, the objective consequences of the so-called neoliberal alternative choices were growing monopolization of the economy, growing liberal globalization, and financialization.

This has created growing poverty, precariousness and poverty.

The Rich Leech off Us

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The "fabulous" wealth of the super rich didn't miraculously fall from the sky, nor is it attributable to the imagined entrepreneurial genius or other supposedly superior qualities of Mister Money Bags.

In most cases, there's a direct link connecting palatial estates in plush, gated communities to deteriorating working-class neighborhoods, either here or abroad, where people who toil too hard in their bosses' enterprises, for too little pay and scant benefits, experience lives ranging from merely hard-pressed to desperately poor.

It's a one-way pipeline through which the value created by workers' blood, sweat, and tears at the daily job site is routinely appropriated in its greatest part, leaving little left over for the actual producers.

The owning class sucks "its" wealth from those who make the things, or deliver the services, that business owners profitably sell, without an instant's thought to the reality that veritable wage slaves on the shop floor are responsible for the lavish "rewards" that they so ostentatiously enjoy.

For every tycoon being chauffeured about in a Rolls Royce, there are hundreds of haggard souls driving rusting clunkers, or using creaking donkey carts, who put in often egregiously under-compensated time in factories, mines, mills, and retail counters to make the magnate's enormous prosperity possible.

Which is why global working-class revolution, never mind half-hearted measures to try to hike taxes on the upper crust, will be entirely justified, if strict emphasis on economic justice is the deciding factor.

Ruling-Class Attack

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The scale of the assault on the U.S. working class is massive. There is a relentless drive for austerity measures against the less well-off.

From Europe to Asia to Latin America and Africa, the attack is even harsher in many cases. In every country, the ruling class is determined that workers must pay the price for an economic crisis set off by the financial elite that has spread to every corner of the globe.

2010 will go down in history as a year of austerity, when political leaders pressed demands for cutbacks and other anti-worker measures on a shocking scale.

Their aim everywhere is clear--a future in which the business and political elite have unquestioned power and greater wealth, while working people must make do with a lower standard of living.

The drive for austerity is the centerpiece of a strategy for resolving the economic crisis. Capitalism's age-old solution in an economic slump is to restore profitability and stability by forcing through a decline in living standards for the working majority.

Each aspect of the ruling-class attack--from private corporations making fewer workers work harder for less, to state attacks on social programs that working people and the poor depend on--is connected to this goal.

The drive for austerity is justified with the claim that everyone was living beyond their means during the boom, so it's time for all of us to tighten our belts and share the sacrifice.

But the truth is that the wealthiest and most powerful section of the capitalist class caused this crisis--and now they're out to make working people pay for the economic devastation that followed.

America's Financial Aristocracy Just Got Wealthier

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On Friday Obama signed into law a package of tax cuts that will funnel hundreds of billions of dollars to the richest Americans.

The law includes a number of measures designed to secure the hereditary prerogative of what is, in all but name, an aristocracy.

It increases the size of fortunes exempt from the estate tax to $10 million for couples and $5 million for individuals. For fortunes beyond those thresholds, the law will reduce the tax rate to 35 percent.

The rate was going to reset to 55 percent after this current year’s “holiday” in which the rich could pass on their estates without any taxation.

To further sweeten the deal for the rich, the bill includes a measure that will allow multi-million dollar estates settled in 2011 for deaths taking place in 2010 to take advantage of the zero percent tax rate.

The law also allows the $5 million exemption to apply to gifts and “generation-skipping investments,” making it much easier for wealthy taxpayers to make gifts during life to grandchildren.

The package also perpetuates for two years the all-time low tax rate on capital gains and dividends at 15 percent, along with a number of additional tax write-offs for corporations.

The tax law will be funded entirely by government borrowing, which will immediately be used to demand new cuts in social spending that benefits the working class. Obama made this intention clear in a jovial bill-signing ceremony that was attended by leading members of both parties.

"In some ways this was easier than some of the tougher choices we're going to have to make next year," Obama said. “There will be moments, I’m certain, over the next couple of years when the holiday spirit won’t be as abundant as it is today,” Obama quipped to the laughter of those in attendance in an auditorium at the Executive Office Building in Washington.

“Tough choices” is the euphemism used in ruling circles to refer to cuts in popular programs such as Social Security, the federal retirement program, and Medicare, the health insurance program for the elderly.

12/19/10

I Want to Be Feral Again

Need we consider the chances of? Look, if you're anxious you must be alert. Increasing domestication lessens the danger that. I want to be feral again. On the sexual prowl Put the excitement back in life

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'Precarious Work' [Capitalist Exploitation]

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Workers around the world face a double crisis. Not only are they trying to survive the worst crisis of capitalist overproduction since the 1930s, but this crisis came during a massive global restructuring that has eliminated untold numbers of formerly secure jobs.

A growing number of workers are “precarious,” which according to the Merriam-Webster definition means “characterized by a lack of security or stability.” Temporary, part-time, contingent, contract, flexible — whatever word defines their status — these workers’ lives are indeed precarious.

They never know from day to day if they will work, for how many hours, or if they will be let go. Having a “flexible” workforce is highly profitable for the bosses. They only pay wages to the workers needed for a given time period or on a given day. More often than not these precarious workers receive no benefits.

For many working class and oppressed young people, precarious work is all they have to look forward to when they graduate from high school or college.

Precarious work is a term used to describe non-standard employment which is poorly paid, insecure, unprotected, and cannot support a household.

In recent decades there has been a dramatic increase in precarious work due to such factors as: globalization, the shift from the manufacturing sector to the service sector, and the spread of information technology.

These changes have created a new economy which demands flexibility in the workplace and, as a result, caused the decline of the standard employment relationship and a dramatic increase in precarious work.

An important aspect of precarious work is its gendered nature, as women are continuously over-represented in this type of work.

Precarious work is frequently associated with the following types of employment: “part-time employment, self-employment, fixed-term work, temporary work, on-call work, homeworkers, and telecommuting."

All of these forms of employment are related in that they depart from the standard employment relationship (full-time, continuous work with one employer).

Each form of precarious work may offer its own challenges but they all share the same disadvantages: low wages, few benefits, lack of collective representation, and little to no job security.

Privileged & Powerful Operators

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The claim that we 'common people' govern ourselves in a democracy called the United States is a false claim. And the claim that common people can freely and fundamentally criticize our political and economic system and work to build one that is more democratic without reprisal is a lie.

Republican representatives and the US president who marketed himself on the need for "change" audaciously said in a statement last week that "Today, the Senate passed with strong bipartisan support a bill that's a win for American families, American businesses, and our economic recovery.

"This vote brings us one step closer to ensuring that middle class families across the country won't have to worry about a massive tax hike at the end of the year."

The 10-year price tag of this bill is $858 billion. Democrats providing some theatrical drama to provide the illusion of debate chanted "Just Say No," in a closed door session.

The men and women of Congress, as elites within the public and private economy, seek mainly to protect individual gains for themselves and their masters.

Political decisions are defined and influenced by those with access to essential life sustaining resources and the stability of those resources over time. These resources include consumption capital, investment capital, skill capital and social capital.

They, like their forefathers, are the privileged class who legislate for themselves and their class stable and secure resources that they can expect to be available to them over time.

They preside over the working class, composed of those who have unstable and insecure resources over time, and the wretched who have no access to resources.

Who are the privileged and powerful? Those who own the banks, corporations, factories, mines, news and entertainment industries and agri-business firms of this country are what are meant by the "owning class" or the "rich".

The "ruling elites" or "ruling class" are the politically active portion of the owning class. They and their faithful acolytes and scribes compose the business round-tables, the business councils, the trilateral commission and the council on foreign relations, all organizations started by the Rockefellers, Mellons, Morgans and other economic royalists.

From their ranks are recruited the secretaries of state, defense and treasury, national security advisors and CIA director, and indeed, US senators, presidents and vice presidents. For the very top positions of the state, the ruling class is largely self-recruiting.

That's how the privileged and powerful operate. They denounce government handouts to the poor and needy, while themselves feed shamelessly at the public trough. They denounce government regulations, and then rig the regulations to suit their own interests, otherwise known as corporate welfare.

The rules of this audacious con-game are designed primarily to transmit advantage and disadvantage across generations and are based on three principles.

The First, class structure has inter-generational permanence. If you were born rich it will be passed on to you and your children; if you were born poor poverty will be passed on.

Second, there is no middle class anymore.

And third, classes have conflicting interests. Under capitalism it is not in the interest of the rich to care about the poor or working people.

These two classes of privileged and "other" people have fundamentally different and opposed objective interests. When one class improves its situation the other class loses. We, the "others" have been losing for a long time.

Speculative Corporatism

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The capitalist model has basically collapsed, becoming a victim of its own evolution into a cycle of boom and bust. Every time there is a bust, countless jobs and futures are lost. Countless small and medium companies (SMCs) are forced to close, amalgamate or be bought up by larger fish in the capitalist pool.

Welcome to the new model, speculative corporatism. Where are your local grocery stores? Where are your bakeries? Butchers? When there is a public tender, why are there minimum requirements set for bidders which exclude small players?

This is not capitalism. It is corporatism. Only the large corporations can compete in today's world, and today only those connected to these corporations hold any political sway in governments, parliaments and municipalities.

The freedom for the small businessman to act has been taken away. It was a temporary illusion, a chimera while behind the scenes the octopus flexed its muscles.

This corporatist monster has taken control of our pension funds, of the hospital trust funds, of the municipal investment funds, of equities, unit trusts.

The system it created was one in which corporations started to rule, not individuals (capitalism), not the citizens of the state (Socialism) and what did they do?

They invested personal, private and public funds into their own grey area of corporate speculation, where betting on the future value of copper in 2016 becomes something very significant, because it can dictate whether or not we receive a pension. Why? Because they invested our pension funds in this potential meltdown.

Letting Wall Street Off the Hook

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The bipartisan Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission was established by law to “examine the causes, domestic and global, of the current financial and economic crisis in the United States.”

The hope was that it would be a modern version of the Pecora investigation of the 1930s, which documented Wall Street abuses and helped pave the way for financial reform.

Instead, the commission has broken down along partisan lines, unable to agree on even the most basic points.

All four Republicans on the commission voted to exclude the following terms from the report: “deregulation,” “shadow banking,” “interconnection,” and, yes, “Wall Street.”

When Democratic members refused to go along with this insistence that the story of Hamlet be told without the prince, the Republicans went ahead and issued their own report, which did, indeed, avoid using any of the banned terms.

That report is all of nine pages long, with few facts and hardly any numbers. Beyond that, it tells a story that has been widely and repeatedly debunked — without responding at all to the debunkers.

In the world according to the G.O.P. commissioners, it’s all the fault of government do-gooders, who used various levers.

Especially Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored loan-guarantee agencies who promoted loans to low-income borrowers. Wall Street — I mean, the private sector — erred only to the extent that it got suckered into going along with this government-created bubble.

It’s hard to overstate how wrongheaded all of this is. For one thing, the housing bubble was international — and Fannie and Freddie weren’t guaranteeing mortgages in Latvia. Nor were they guaranteeing loans in commercial real estate, which also experienced a huge bubble.

Beyond that, the timing shows that private players weren’t suckered into a government-created bubble. It was the other way around. During the peak years of housing inflation, Fannie and Freddie were pushed to the sidelines; they only got into dubious lending late in the game, as they tried to regain market share.

But the G.O.P. commissioners are just doing their job, which is to sustain the conservative narrative. And a narrative that absolves the banks of any wrongdoing, that places all the blame on meddling politicians, is especially important now that Republicans are about to take over the House.

Europe Kowtows to Financial Capitalism

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There isn't a single European government, whether conservative, liberal or social democratic, that is willing to oppose the dictates of the international financial aristocracy. Like an insatiable Moloch, it constantly requires fresh sacrifices, until the last remnants of the social gains of the working class over six decades have been destroyed.

At the same time, the banks are aggravating national tensions in Europe. While governments prostrate themselves before international financial capital, they try to push the brunt of the crisis onto their neighbours.

This threatens the economic fragmentation and political balkanization of the continent. The incitement of nationalism goes hand in hand with xenophobia and attacks on democratic rights.

In Germany, there is talk of founding an Anti-Euro Party. To this end, economic nationalists such as former employers’ federation president Hans-Olaf Henkel and racists like Social Democratic Party (SPD) member Thilo Sarrazin are boosted by the tabloids and talk shows.

They find support in the right wing of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the Free Democratic Party and sections of the SPD. The uncompromising posture of CDU leader Merkel on the European stage is in no small part due to fears that her own party may break apart.

In Greece, right-wing and pseudo-left demagogues try to turn popular outrage over the austerity measures of the Papandreou government into anti-German nationalism.

A crucial role in the nationalist agitation is played by the trade unions, which everywhere stand behind their respective governments, either openly or behind the scenes. They support the austerity measures and sabotage any attempt to develop a pan-European movement of the working class.

In 1924, Leon Trotsky wrote of the fragmentation of Europe:
Bourgeois economists, pacifists, business sharpers, daydreamers and mere bourgeois babblers are not averse nowadays to talk about a United States of Europe.

But that task is beyond the strength of the European bourgeoisie, which is utterly corroded by contradictions. Europe can be unified only by the victorious European proletariat.

No matter where the revolution may first break out, and no matter what the tempo of its development may be, the economic unification of Europe is the first indispensable condition for its socialist reconstruction. (Leon Trotsky, “Europe and America”).
These words still apply today.

Europe is at a crossroads. The alternatives are a descent into economic depression, dictatorship and war, or the unity of the European working class in the fight for workers’ governments and the socialist transformation of society in the form of the United Socialist States of Europe.

12/17/10

A Pitch Unprepared

You know the gut feeling. You've got to give a pitch unprepared. These are important clients. It's worse than being naked on a crowded street. We need to feel threatened.

Am I developing a theme here? It could turn into a proposal. How do you fancy the idea of? A little book of alertness. In which I get on your nerves.

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Right-Wing Republicans Link 'Terror' & Immigration

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Just what kind of politics is going to grow in the strange, rich Petri dish of the new Congress?

Consider just one area that will be a major focus of Republicans: immigration, an issue that will gain potency as it melds into the rhetoric of terror.

Foreigners and terrorists: Really, what's the difference? That the nation has grown and prospered precisely because of adaptive immigration is beside the point, an obvious reflection of someone caught in the old mindset of the September 10th world.

What should be increasingly clear is that Republican members of the incoming Congress are looking for terrorism in ever more startling places. In fact, it seems that, for them, all domestic issues are potentially terrorist issues, perhaps none more so than immigration.

America's prevailing nativist mythology is used by right-wing Republicans to meld terrorism, Islam, and immigration into a single muddy brew (a characteristic of much public debate in the U.S. since 9/11). It appears we have entered a post-analytic world where the point of public discourse is not to make distinctions but to obliterate them.

Even political dissidents in the United States have been absorbed into the terrorism trope as well. Information -- which is, after all, what has been disseminated by WikiLeaks -- is increasingly viewed as a potential terrorist weapon.

Absorbing that information (that is, reading the documents) could even amount to material support for terrorism. In such a world, the counter-terrorism efforts of the U.S. government are trained on the entire civilian population, whether through electronic monitoring or fiddling with everyone's junk.

Former attorney general John Ashcroft noted the importance of blurring all distinctions years ago. "In this new war, our enemy's platoons infiltrate our borders, quietly blending in with visiting tourists, students, and workers," he proclaimed in June 2002.

"They move unnoticed through our cities, neighborhoods, and public spaces. They wear no uniforms. Their camouflage is not forest green, but rather it is the color of common street clothing.

"Their tactics rely on evading recognition at the border and escaping detection within the United States. Their terrorist mission is to defeat America, destroy our values and kill innocent people."

It's all right there, hidden in plain sight. Terrorists are Muslims, Muslims are immigrants, immigrants are residents. Around it goes.

Increasingly, immigration enforcement is becoming an anti-terrorism effort. Anyone and everyone is a suspect. That is the reality played out at every airport; it is the narrative touched by every monitored email and tapped telephone call.

We are a fearful nation eating away at itself and the wolves are prowling the southern borders. Welcome to Congress, 2011.