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The American people do not have an appetite for war and the suffering it causes.  The same cannot be said about those who directly benefit when tensions rise and the likelihood of war increases.  The arms industry and their associated lobby are firmly on board with the idea that adding another disastrous imperial venture to the already overloaded table of lost wars and failed rearguard actions would be a good thing.

 

“Experts predict as many as a million people could die if the current tensions lead to a full-blown war. Millions more would become refugees across the Middle East, while working families across the U.S. would bear the brunt of our casualties.

But there is one set of people who stand to benefit from the escalation of the conflict: CEOs of major U.S. military contractors.

This was evident in the immediate aftermath of the U.S. assassination of a top Iranian military official on January 2. As soon as the news reached financial markets, these companies’ share prices spiked.

Wall Street traders know that a war with Iran would mean more lucrative contracts for U.S. weapons makers. Since top executives get much of their compensation in the form of stock, they benefit personally when the value of their company’s stock goes up.

I took a look at the stock holdings of the CEOs at the top five Pentagon contractors (Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Raytheon, and Northrop Grumman).

Using the most recent available data, I calculated that these five executives held company stock worth approximately $319 million just before the U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian leader Qasem Soleimani. By the stock market’s closing bell the following day, the value of their combined shares had increased to $326 million.

War profiteering is nothing new. Back in 2006, during the height of the Iraq War, I analyzed CEO pay at the 34 corporations that were the top military contractors at that time. I found that their pay had jumped considerably after the September 11 attacks.

Between 2001 and 2005, military contractor CEO pay jumped 108 percent on average, compared to a 6 percent increase for their counterparts at other large U.S. companies.

Congress needs to take action to prevent a catastrophic war on Iran. De-escalating the current tensions is the most immediate priority.”

The negligent spreading ‘peace & democracy’ in foreign lands is a supremely profitable venture.

Funny how that works.

 

 

Societies that do not adequately redistribute wealth face the Shit-life syndrome problem.  Living on the margins is stressful at best.  Living precariously is the reality for all to many Americans and Canadians and unfortunately it can lead to some very self destructive voting patterns.

“My state of Ohio is home to many shit-life syndrome sufferers. In the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton lost Ohio’s 18 electoral votes to Trump. She got clobbered by over 400,000 votes (more than 8%). She lost 80 of Ohio’s 88 counties. Trump won rural poorer counties, several by whopping margins. Trump got the shit-life syndrome vote.

Will Hutton in his 2018 Guardian piece, “The Bad News is We’re Dying Early in Britain – and It’s All Down to ‘Shit-Life Syndrome’” describes shit-life syndrome in both Britain and the United States: “Poor working-age Americans of all races are locked in a cycle of poverty and neglect, amid wider affluence. They are ill educated and ill trained. The jobs available are drudge work paying the minimum wage, with minimal or no job security.”

The Brookings Institution, in November 2019, reported: “53 million Americans between the ages of 18 to 64—accounting for 44% of all workers—qualify as ‘low-wage.’ Their median hourly wages are $10.22, and median annual earnings are about $18,000.”

For most of these low-wage workers, Hutton notes: “Finding meaning in life is close to impossible; the struggle to survive commands all intellectual and emotional resources. Yet turn on the TV or visit a middle-class shopping mall and a very different and unattainable world presents itself. Knowing that you are valueless, you resort to drugs, antidepressants and booze. You eat junk food and watch your ill-treated body balloon. It is not just poverty, but growing relative poverty in an era of rising inequality, with all its psychological side-effects, that is the killer.”

Shit-life syndrome is not another fictitious illness conjured up by the psychiatric-pharmaceutical industrial complex to sell psychotropic drugs. It is a reality created by corporatist rulers and their lackey politicians—pretending to care about their minimum-wage-slave constituents, who are trying to survive on 99¢ boxed macaroni and cheese prepared in carcinogenic water, courtesy of DuPont or some other such low-life leviathan.”

For a democracy to work, the people’s representatives need actually represent the needs of the people.

 

The war drums are beating – again.  Quell them.

 

Lessig speaks to the notion that the media divide in American culture lies near the root of many of the countries problems when it comes to their democratic process.

 

“What is the role of education in a democracy? Must the electorate be informed? What happens when we are operating with a different view of reality?

Obviously it’s incredibly important that people understand their democracy. They understand the facts about what’s going on in the world and they begin to use their values in light of the facts to press for one set of policies over another. So we need some level of education. But we have moved from a world where much of a public education about matters of public import was provided by broadcasting and into a world where we can’t rely on that anymore. People are going to be less reliably aware of important issues––at least in a way which is grounded on a common set of understandings or a common set of facts. So it’s going to be harder for us as a people to resolve certain questions when those questions require common judgment.

For example: the question of impeaching the president. If the Congress goes through with the impeachment, and the Senate goes through with trying the President, there will be a very significant proportion of Americans who cannot believe the results, and a significant proportion of Americans who take the results as completely obvious. And that’s true regardless of what the result is. And that’s because we built this world where people live in these separate tribal bubbles and they don’t have an understanding of facts held in common. That’s a product of the media environment.

We’re not going to solve that, in the sense that we’re going to get to a place where we all know the same stuff. We need to think about solving it without trying to get everybody to the right place. We need alternatives to everyone being in the right place. That’s why I talked about things like the civic juries that can help people decide issues. That would enable reflective and informed judgments of the people, as opposed to unreflective judgments of the people. Regularizing that dynamic would be a critical part of what we need to do.

Will the result of the Impeachment hearings also illustrate something about whether our democracy is representative?

The reality of today is that any impeachment is going to be conducted in an environment where politicians can see the people and the people can see the politicians––but the people don’t see a common set of facts that the politicians are supposed to be viewed against. That’s because a significant chunk of the people are going to view the facts through the lens of MSNBC and another are going to view the facts through Fox News, and those two realities are going to conflict. They don’t agree; they don’t see the world in the same way. So that conflict is really debilitating, because it’s going to lead to one side believing something deeply unjust has occurred. That kind of recognition or belief is really invidious, poisonous to democracy. It’s something we should recognize as new. When we’ve had impeachments before, either the public was invisible, like with Andrew Johnson, or the public came to a similar judgment, or was driven to a similar judgment, like in the context of Nixon. So this change is very significant.”

This scares me.  Not sharing a common set of facts is essential to functioning society.  What’s worse is that the same phenomena is happening in Canada.  I hazard to guess that the majority of my fellow residents of Alberta do not take the time to reach outside their media bubble and sample the waters of the ‘other’ side.  I hear it in the online debates and talking with my fellow citizens, a decided lack of common ground and lack of agreement on shared facts when it comes to the governance of the province of Alberta.

Talking across the divide is very difficult and often ends in insults and more pertinently no forward movement toward a nuanced understanding of the issues at hand.  And as Lessig says, the lack of common reference, is toxic for democratic societies.

The introduction from a non officially approved version of what happened in Bolivia by Jeff Mackler and Lazaro Monteverde writing for Counterpunch:

“On Sunday, October 20 Evo Morales was re-elected president of Bolivia with 46.85 per cent of the vote against his nearest competitor, Carlos Mesa, who received 36.74 percent. In anticipation of a Morales victory the U.S. corporate media launched a fake news disinformation barrage nine days earlier aimed at discrediting the result and setting the stage for a well-orchestrated fascist-led coup. Presented to the world as a popular democratic revolution against a dictator, the coup was led by fascist groups in alliance with Bolivia’s defecting police and army. The relentless media watchdog, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), aptly reported: “The New York Times’ editorial (11/11/19) accused Morales of “brazenly abusing the power and institutions put in his care by the electorate. The Washington Post (11/11/19) alleged that ‘a majority of Bolivians wanted [Morales] to leave office’ –a claim for which they provided no evidence – while asserting that he had ‘grown increasingly autocratic’ and that ‘his downfall was his insatiable appetite for power.’ The Wall Street Journal (11/11/19) argued that Morales ‘is a victim of his own efforts to steal another election,’ saying that Morales ‘has rigged the rules time and again to stay in power.’” FAIR’s corporate media accounting goes on to list several major media outlets in the country that dutifully sang the same song. Not a single major daily challenged these baseless accusations. These “manufacturing consent” specialists were unanimous in denouncing Morales and his re-election long before the votes were tallied. The Bolivian coup was conceived as a relatively quiet U.S.-supported regime change endeavor in comparison to the overt and monstrous full court failed coup that U.S. imperialism conducted against the Venezuelan government of Nicholas Maduro several months earlier.

     On November 10, twenty-one days after his election victory Morales, in the name of “peace” and to avoid “violence and bloodshed,” resigned the presidency and fled to Mexico at the invitation of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. On November 22 Morales told a New York Times reporter in Mexico that the coup leaders had placed a $50,000 “wanted dead or alive” price tag on his capture. Mexico’s air force jet sent for the rescue operation arrived via a circuitous route including a stop in Paraguay after several nations – including U.S.-allied Peru and Ecuador – denied flyover or refueling rights. Mexico’s Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard, who greeted Morales upon his arrival, denounced the coup as well as the concerted interference with Mexico’s effort to retrieve Morales. No doubt the U.S.-backed coup makers had informed their allies of Morales’s departure plans, while evaluating the merits and demerits of arresting, if not murdering him by the still-undeclared formal coup leaders.”

Funny, this coup seem to just come and go.  The overthrow of democratically elected government not really a big deal.  As to the reasons why, I would assume that Morales was not big business friendly enough and thus, regime change was the way to go.

Contrast this with Pinochet coup and bloody dictatorship, that was open for business, and deemed quite acceptable by the major Western powers.

This is the world we live in, and the majority of people don’t even have the slightest clue about the depth of treachery and malfeasance being carried out in their name.

We have to dispel the notion that the US, UK, and Canada are on always on the side of justice and that we can do no wrong.  If this was the case, we would happily welcome the scrutiny of the ICC in our wars and international affairs, as we would (in theory) have nothing to hide.  Vijay Prashad writing for Counterpunch disagrees.

Clearly, this is not the case.

“The United States is not a party to the International Criminal Court (ICC). It had helped establish the Court, but then reversed course and refused to allow itself to be under the ICC’s jurisdiction. In 2002, the U.S. Congress passed the American Service-Members’ Protection Act, which allows the U.S. government to “use all means” to protect its troops from the ICC prosecutors. Article 98 of the Rome Statute does not require states to turn over wanted personnel from a third party if these states had signed an immunity agreement with the third party; the U.S. government has therefore encouraged states to sign these “article 98 agreements” to give its troops immunity from prosecution.

The enormity of evidence of war crimes by U.S. troops and U.S.-affiliated troops in Afghanistan and Iraq weighed on the credibility of the ICC. In 2016, after a decade of investigation, the ICC released a report that offered hope to the Afghan people. The ICC said that there is “a reasonable basis” to pursue further investigation of war crimes by various forces inside Afghanistan—such as the Taliban, the Haqqani network, and the United States military forces alongside the Central Intelligence Agency. The next year, the ICC went forward with more detailed acknowledgment of the possibility of war crimes. Pressure on the ICC’s prosecutor mounted.

Pressure on the Court

This is where everything seemed to end. The Trump administration, via John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, made it clear to the ICC that if they pursued a case against the U.S., then the Trump administration would go after the ICC prosecutor and judges personally. An application for a U.S. visa by Fatou Bensouda, the ICC prosecutor, was denied; she had intended to come to the U.S. to appear before the United Nations. This was a shot across the bow of the Court. The U.S. was not going to play nice. Not long thereafter, in April 2019, the ICC said that it would not go ahead with a war crimes case against the United States, or indeed against any of the belligerents in Afghanistan. The Court said it would “not serve the interests of justice” to pursue this investigation.

Trump responded to this decision by calling the ICC “illegitimate” and—at the same time—that the ICC’s judgment was “a victory, not only for these patriots, but for the rule of law.”

Staff at the ICC were dismayed by the ICC’s decision. They were eager to challenge it, fearing that if they let the U.S. mafia tactics prevent their own procedures then the ICC would lose whatever shred of legitimacy remains. As it is, the ICC is seen as being deployed mainly against the enemies of the United States; there have been no serious investigations of any power that is closely aligned with the United States.”

We have one set of rules for the rest of the world and another version that we apply to ourselves.  The exceptionalism that is portrayed in our media and repeated by our political classes needs to be dispelled.  We should not be above the ICC’s reach, nor should we be impeding the investigations that it undertakes.  Yet it is the reality we inhabit.

Most nations will act with a certain level of impunity when it comes to their interests at home and abroad.  We in the West need to acknowledge that through our actions, are no better or worse then the countries we seek to censure through the ICC and the war crimes it prosecutes.

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