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No one likes talking about the corruption in OUR system, yet it is present and it is a festering problem that threatens the social fabric we all depend on.

 

Elections boil down to conflicts within the business community.” ( T. Ferguson)

When you add together the Reagan deregulations, the Clinton deregulations, the Bush deregulations with Citizens United allowing unlimited, unidentified corporate cash to flow into politics, and McDonnell v. United States letting that cash flow through to the hands of public officials, then the United States really did lose, not just in court. The people have lost control of the state to a hydra of business, government and criminal bad actors. The result is inequality so extreme, a regulatory environment so lax, and a judicial system so unresponsive that all the systems we’ve been patching and nursing could fail all at once with cataclysmic results.

“Forty years after the 1980 turning, the world today seems to be back on the course first charted in the Gilded Age. Bending and distorting economic and political systems to suit their purposes, globalized networks of kleptocratic elites compete in pursuit of wealth without limit. In the process, they are debasing or destroying priceless treasures and countless human lives.” — Sarah Chayes

 

Like the trajectory of the pandemic, I wish we could as a society seriously examine the history of what untrammeled greed does to to a society and move to mitigate the rot before it hurts more people.

I know, I know.  Good luck with that.  :/

 

William Astore writes for Tom’s Dispatch on the overreach of the American Industrial complex.  The reality of the situation is this, the only thing that arms manufacturers cannot create is peace.

 

Paraphrasing Joe Biden, show me your budget and I’ll tell you what you worship. In that context, there can’t be the slightest doubt: America worships its Pentagod and the weapons and wars that feed it.

Prefabricated War, Made in the U.S.A.

I confess that I’m floored by this simple fact: for two decades in which “forever war” has served as an apt descriptor of America’s true state of the union, the Pentagod has failed to deliver on any of its promises. Iraq and Afghanistan? Just the most obvious of a series of war-on-terror quagmires and failures galore.

That ultimate deity can’t even pass a simple financial audit to account for what it does with those endless funds shoved its way, yet our representatives in Washington keep doing so by the trillions. Spectacular failure after spectacular failure and yet that all-American god just rolls on, seemingly unstoppable, unquenchable, rarely questioned, never penalized, always on top.

Talk about blind faith!

The Pentagod advances a peculiar form of war, one that would puzzle most classic military strategists. In fact, its version of war is beyond strategy of the Clausewitzian sort. I think of it as prefabricated war, borrowing a term from the inestimable Ann Jones’s recent piece for TomDispatch on our Afghan disaster. It’s a term pregnant with meaning.

Prefabricated war is how the Pentagod has ruled for so endlessly long. There is, as a start, the fabrication of false causes for war. In Vietnam, it was the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, the “attacks” on U.S. Navy ships that never happened. In Afghanistan, it was vengeance for the 9/11 attacks against a people who neither planned nor committed them. In Iraq, it was the weapons of mass destruction that Saddam Hussein didn’t have. Real causes don’t matter much to America’s war god since false ones can always be fabricated, after which enough true believers — especially in Congress — will embrace them fervently and faithfully.

But prefabricated war doesn’t just start with or consist of manufactured causes. It’s fabricated far ahead of time in a colossal cathedral of violence — President Eisenhower’s military-industrial-congressional complex — that sends its missionaries and minions around the planet on a mission of global reach, global power, and full-spectrum dominance. War is prefabricated on 750 military bases scattered across the globe on every continent except Antarctica, in America’s giant arms corporations like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon, and by Special Operations forces that act much like the Jesuits of the Catholic Counter-Reformation, spreading the one true faith to 150 countries.

Since America’s war god is also a jealous deity, it insists on dominating all domains — not just land, sea, and air but space as well. Even more ethereal realms like cyberspace and virtual/augmented realities must be captured and controlled. It seeks omnipotence and omniscience in the name of your safety and, if you let it, will also know everything about you, while having the power to smite you, should you stop blindly worshipping it and feeding it more money.

It won’t be business as usual for very much longer.  The mantle of world power is quite possibly changing hands within my life time.  Lovely.  Alfred McCoy tackles the large geopolitical issues that we will all be facing in the future.

 

The Bipartisan Nature of U.S. Decline

America’s decline started at home as a distinctly bipartisan affair. After all, Washington wasted two decades in an extravagant fashion fighting costly conflicts in distant lands, in part to secure the Middle East’s oil at a time when that fuel was already destined to join cordwood and coal in the dustbin of history (though not faintly soon enough). Beijing, in contrast, used those same years to build industries that would make it the world’s workshop.

In 2001, in a major miscalculation, Washington admitted Beijing to the World Trade Organization, bizarrely confident that a compliant China would somehow join the world economy without challenging American global power. “Across the ideological spectrum, we in the U.S. foreign policy community,” wrote two former members of the Obama administration, “shared the underlying belief that U.S. power and hegemony could readily mold China to the United States’ liking… All sides of the policy debate erred.”

A bit more bluntly, foreign policy expert John Mearsheimer recently concluded that “both Democratic and Republican administrations… promoted investment in China and welcomed the country into the global trading system, thinking it would become a peace-loving democracy and a responsible stakeholder in a U.S.-led international order.”

In the 15 years since then, Beijing’s exports to the U.S. grew nearly fivefold to $462 billion annually. By 2014, its foreign currency reserves had surged from just $200 billion to an unprecedented $4 trillion — a vast hoard of cash it used to build a modern military and win allies across Eurasia and Africa. Meanwhile, Washington was wasting more than $8 trillion on profitless wars in the Greater Middle East and Africa in lieu of spending such funds domestically on infrastructure, innovation, or education — a time-tested formula for imperial decline.

When a Pentagon team assessing the war in Afghanistan interviewed Jeffrey Eggers, a former White House staffer and Navy SEAL veteran, he asked rhetorically: “What did we get for this $1 trillion effort? Was it worth a trillion? After the killing of Osama bin Laden, I said that Osama was probably laughing in his watery grave considering how much we have spent on Afghanistan.” (And keep in mind that the best estimate now is that the true cost to America of that lost war alone was $2.3 trillion.) Consider it an imperial lesson of the first order that the most extravagantly funded military on Earth has not won a war since the start of the twenty-first century.

Donald Trump’s presidency brought a growing realization, at home and abroad, that Washington’s world leadership was ending far sooner than anyone had imagined. For four years, Trump attacked long-standing U.S. alliances, while making an obvious effort to dismiss or demolish the international organizations that had been the hallmark of Washington’s world system. To top that off, he denounced a fair American election as “fraudulent” and sparked a mob attack on the U.S. Capitol, functionally making a mockery of America’s long history of promoting the idea of democracy to legitimate its global leadership (even as it overthrew unfriendly democratic governments in distant lands via covert interventions).

In that riot’s aftermath, most of the Republican Party has embraced Trump’s demagoguery about electoral fraud as an article of faith. As it happens, no nation can exercise global leadership if one of its ruling parties descends into persistent irrationality, something Britain’s Conservative Party demonstrated all too clearly during that country’s imperial decline in the 1950s.

  Liz Theoharis writing for Tom’s Dispatch on poverty and the solidarity and ingenuity of the American people when it came to helping the poor in their country.  The underclasses in the USA have begun to organize again, I just hope it isn’t too late because the road before them is steep and filled with many pitfalls.  The recent addition of social media to the mix with it’s tendency to fragment and cause division among groups will provide a significant challenge for those organizations that wish to once again reform and reforge the poor into a political force in the US.  I hope they succeed as the survival of their nation is dependent on them achieving their goals.

“Another example was the transformative work of the Black Panther Party, whose legacy still impacts our political life, even if the image of the party remains distorted by myths, misrepresentations, and racist fearmongering. This October marked the 55th anniversary of its founding. For many Americans, its enduring image is still of ominous looking men in black berets and leather jackets carrying guns. But most of their time was spent meeting the needs of their community and building a movement that could transform life for poor Black people.

In a recent interview, Fredericka Jones, a Black Panther herself and the widow of the party’s co-founder, Huey Newton, explained that among their projects,

“the most famous and most notable would be the free breakfast the Panthers offered to thousands of children in Oakland and other cities, providing basic nutrition for kids from poor families, long before the government took on this responsibility. We knew that children could not learn if they were hungry, but we also had free clinics. We had free clothing. We had a service called SAFE (Seniors Against a Fearful Environment) where we would escort seniors to the bank, or, you know, to do their grocery shopping. We had a free ambulance program in North Carolina. Black people were dying because the ambulance wouldn’t even come and pick them up.”

Before his murder in 1989, Newton himself characterized their work this way:

“The Black Panther Party was doing what the government should’ve done. We were providing these basic survival programs, as we called them, for the Black community and oppressed communities, when the government wasn’t doing it. The government refused to, so the community loved the Party. And that was not what you saw in the media. You didn’t see brothers feeding kids. You saw a picture of a brother who was looking menacing with a gun.”

As Newton pointed out, the Panthers bravely stepped into the void left by the government to feed, educate, and care for communities. But they were also clear that their survival programs were not just about meeting immediate needs. For one thing, they purposefully used those programs to highlight the failures of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty and the contradictions between America’s staggering wealth and its staggering poverty and racism, which existed side by side and yet in separate universes. In those years, the Panthers quite consciously tried to shine a light on the grim paradox of a nation that claimed there was never enough money to fight poverty at home, even as it spent endless billions of dollars fighting a war on the poor in Southeast Asia.

Their programs also gave them a base of operations from which to organize new people into a human-rights movement, which meant that all of their community work would be interwoven with political education, highly visible protest, cultural organizing, and a commitment to sustaining leaders for the long haul. While deeply rooted in poor black urban communities, the Panthers both inspired and linked up to similar efforts by Latino and poor-white organizations.

These were, of course, the most treacherous of waters. At the time, J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI listed the Black Panthers and their breakfast program as “the greatest threat to internal security in the country.” Government officials recognized that such organizing could potentially catch fire across far wider groups of poor Americans at a moment when the War on Poverty was being dismantled and the age of neoliberal economics was already on the rise.”

The COP26 Summit, like other climate initiatives will be remembered as yet another paving stone laid on the path of collective good intentions by the nations of the world (excluding Russia and China…).

GLASGOW, Scotland — Climate activist Greta Thunbergsaid Friday that the COP26 climate summit is a failure, lambasting the U.N.-brokered talks for turning into a public relations exercise.

“It is not a secret that COP26 is a failure. It should be obvious that we cannot solve the crisis with the same methods that got us into it in the first place,” Thunberg said.

“The COP has turned into a PR event, where leaders are giving beautiful speeches and announcing fancy commitments and targets, while behind the curtains governments of the Global North countries are still refusing to take any drastic climate action.”

Well, there looks to be a little substance behind all of the green washing:

Here’s a reminder of what has been happening today at COP26 – where there has been a focus on energy.

  • More than 40 countries agreed a pledge to shift away from coal but some of the world’s major coal burners, including the US and China, did not sign up
  • Critics said that because of that, the announcement fell short of what is needed
  • However the US, Canada and the UK were among the signatories to a joint statement on ending international public financing for fossil fuels
  • COP26 president Alok Sharma said coal was “no longer king” but admitted more needed to be done
  • The influential International Energy Agency said that promises made at the conference would keep the world to a 1.8C degree rise in temperatures
  • However that would depend on all promises being kept and delivered – which experts say is far from certain”

Glad to see all those promises being rolled out.  I think that a lukewarm response is justified as such promises, once they hit the reality of country’s national politics and ‘interests’ will be quickly ignored and the business will return to usual.

 

I think many, including myself, are now entertaining their own Dr.Strangelove moment.  Presently, renamed to How I Stopped Worrying and Love the Climate-Change.

The forthcoming changes to our way of lives will simply happen.

We will have arable farmland until after the nth season of drought, thenwe will not.

We will have polar vortex events consistently through Canada’s winter at a great pace.

We will have affordable energy and energy infrastructure, until well, we don’t.

 

Various climate switches are being, and have been thrown, across the world.  For instance in the US the involuntary test and stress of its resiliency is already happening –

“Trevor Riggen, the head of the American Red Cross’s domestic disaster program, said the agency is “testing the limits” of its network. This week alone, more than 2,000 staff and volunteers have deployed across 10 states. Many of them are on their second or third crisis of the summer.

“It’s no longer, ‘We have a big event and then there’s time to recover,’” Riggen said. “Disaster has become a chronic condition.”

But the extent of damage wrought by climate change will be determined by how the nation plans for it, and how the communities rebuild.

Almost half of public roadways are currently in poor or mediocre condition, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers — making events like the deadly collapse of a Mississippi highway during Hurricane Ida more likely. The location and condition of some 10,000 miles of levees in the United States are unknown. Chronically underfunded storm water systems are unable to cope with record rainfall. Many electric utilities have not taken steps to ensure the grid keeps functioning amid worsening hurricanes and wildfires.

Communities need to start preparing for the unprecedented, Fugate said. Coastal cities should develop alternative evacuation plans to avoid getting caught off-guard by rapidly intensifying storms — for example, building comfortable, well-equipped shelters for people who don’t have time to flee. Levees and storm-water systems must be built to withstand floods that would have been impossible in a cooler world. Amid unstoppable wildfires, homes at the edge of forests can be made safer with flameproof building materials.

Social systems are also in need of repair, said Arcaya. During heat waves, early warning systems and check-ins from neighbors have been proved to save hundreds of lives. After hurricanes, research shows, people with strong connections to their neighbors experience less trauma and are better able to get back on their feet.

The country will need a robust support system to help thousands of displaced people navigate the bureaucracy required to obtain federal assistance, Arcaya said. And since disasters often destroy affordable housing, the nation will need to invest in building more places for people to live.

These changes will be expensive, Fugate acknowledged. But the cost of responding to disasters already totals more than $81 billion per year. “It’s a choice between spending now or spending more in the future.”

   I’m not going to go out on a limb here and state that we are going to choose to spend now aaaand spend more in the future as we try to correct the fuck ups of the present day.

   The saving grace of the entire situation is that when the truly calamitous events start, I most likely will be dead.   Strangely reassuring I suppose, but honestly, I think it’s the only way the exploitation driven economic system we have ends.  When it starts fucking over the ‘important’ people – then and only then – will we move as a collective to ‘save the earth’.  Vastly too little too late, but at least the effort will be genuine then.

 

 

 

The power to make decisions in society must remain primarily in the hands of a democratically elected government. In private hands, there is only one concern, and that is the bottom line. We have too much ‘bottom line’ directed policy as it is.

“There’s a striking difference between physicists and economists. Physicists don’t say, hey, let’s try an experiment that might destroy the world, because it would be interesting to see what would happen. But economists do that. On the basis of neoclassical theories, they instituted a major revolution in world affairs in the early 1980s that took off with Carter, and accelerated with Reagan and Thatcher. Given the power of the United States compared with the rest of the world, the neoliberal assault, a major experiment in economic theory, had a devastating result. It didn’t take a genius to figure it out. Their motto has been, “Government is the problem.”

That doesn’t mean you eliminate decisions; it just means you transfer them. Decisions still have to be made. If they’re not made by government, which is, in a limited way, under popular influence, they will be made by concentrations of private power, which have no accountability to the public. And following the Friedman instructions, have no responsibility to the society that gave them the gift of incorporation. They have only the imperative of self-enrichment.

Margaret Thatcher then comes along and says there is no such thing as society, just atomized individuals who are somehow managing in the market. Of course, there is a small footnote that she didn’t bother to add: for the rich and powerful, there is plenty of society. Organizations like the Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, ALEC, all kinds of others. They get together, they defend themselves, and so on. There is plenty of society for them, just not for the rest of us. Most people have to face the ravages of the market. And, of course, the rich don’t. Corporations count on a powerful state to bail them out every time there’s some trouble. The rich have to have the powerful state — as well as its police powers — to be sure nobody gets in their way.”

-Noam Chomsky interviewed on Tom’s Dispatch

Meghan Murphy doesn’t hold anything back as she decries the tomfoolery of the gender-magic on display from the US federal government.

“Yesterday, we witnessed a historic moment: US assistant health secretary Rachel Levine was sworn in as the first ever female four-star admiral of the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. Wait, no. That’s not right… Let me start again.

Yesterday, the man President Joe Biden selected as assistant health secretary became the sixth man to be named four-star admiral of the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.

Yesterday, America became a laughing stock, as the president elected by the good people of America (not to be confused with the bad people of America) and all of mainstream media presented the appointment of an old, fat white man (with long hair!) as admiral of the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps as a historic moment.

“Dr. Rachel Levine, the nation’s most senior transgender official, made history again Tuesday by becoming the first openly transgender four-star officer across any of the country’s eight uniformed services,” NBC News reported.

The New York Times went even further, tweeting:

“Dr. Rachel Levine was sworn in as the first female four-star admiral in the history of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, a uniformed service of more than 6,000 health, science and engineering professionals.”

To be fair, they were only repeating what had been announced by the Biden administration, which was that “Admiral Levine now serves as the highest ranking official in the USPHS Commissioned Corps and its first ever female four star admiral.” But to also be fair, it is the job of the New York Times (and all media) to report the truth, not to simply parrot whatever the government feeds them. And, to be fair, Rachel Levine is not female and never will be. And, to be fair, everyone knows it.

What kind of planet are we living on wherein we all pretend putting yet another man into a role that has always been filled by men equates to “a giant step forward towards equality as a nation”? Or “a history-making show of diversity and inclusion”? Has there never before been a man who enjoys wearing women’s clothing in such a position? Do they screen men for fetishes before they can be appointed to admiral? Clearly they don’t screen them for having spent time as military officers, as Levine has not had any military career to speak of. I suppose his time spent in dresses makes up for his lack of service.”

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