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Both exist.  The interface between the public and private sectors of society need to be closely monitored, as the potential for nefarious ‘deep state’ activities is quite real.

 

(Rebecca Gordon writing for Tom’s Dispatch writes) “McLaughlin told National Public Radio’s Greg Myre and Rachel Treisman that he had received some “blowback” from his joke, and added:

“I think it’s a silly idea. There is no ‘deep state.’ What people think of as the ‘deep state’ is just the American civil service, social security, the people who fix the roads, health and human services, Medicare.”

I’ll give one cheer for that kind of deep state: not a secret, extra-official shadow government, but the actual workings of government itself for the benefit of the people it’s meant to serve. Personally, I’m all for people who devote their lives to making sure our food is as safe as possible, the cars we drive won’t kill us, our planes stay up in the air, and roads and railways are built and maintained to connect us, not to speak of having clean air and water, public schools and universities to educate our young people, and a social security system to provide a safety net for people of my age — all of which, by the way, is in danger from this president, his administration, and the Republican party.

But there’s another way of thinking about the deep state, one that suggests an ongoing threat not to Donald Trump and his pals but to this democracy and the world. I’m thinking, of course, of that vast — if informal, complex, and sometimes internally competitive — consortium composed of the industries and government branches that make up what President Dwight Eisenhower famously called the “military-industrial complex.” This was exactly the “state” that I think President Obama encountered when he decided to shut down the George W. Bush-era CIA torture program and found that the price for compliance was a promise not to prosecute anyone for crimes committed in the so-called war on terror. January 2009 was, as he famously said, a time to “look forward as opposed to looking backwards.”

Here is Mike Lofgren, a long-time civil servant and aide to many congressional Republicans, writing in 2014 about that national security machine for BillMoyers.com. In “Anatomy of the Deep State,” he described the power and reach of this apparatus in chilling terms:

“There is the visible government situated around the Mall in Washington, and then there is another, more shadowy, more indefinable government that is not explained in Civics 101 or observable to tourists at the White House or the Capitol…

“Yes, there is another government concealed behind the one that is visible at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue, a hybrid entity of public and private institutions ruling the country according to consistent patterns in season and out, connected to, but only intermittently controlled by, the visible state whose leaders we choose.”

Lofgren was not describing “a secret, conspiratorial cabal.” Rather, he was arguing that “the state within a state is hiding mostly in plain sight, and its operators mainly act in the light of day.” This has certainly been the experience of those who have, in particular, opposed U.S. military adventures abroad. They discover that many of the lies, deceptions, and crimes of that “state within a state” are openly there for all to see and are being committed in the equivalent of broad daylight with utter impunity.”

As always, we in our democracies need to be vigilant and aware of the potential for collusion and skullduggery and do our best to make sure terrible things do not happen in our name.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

I, for one, am not looking forward to the social fabric of our province being torn asunder by the austerity crazed UCP government in 2020.

“Speaking of blaming others for Alberta’s ills, 2020 will see the UCP government maintain its pugilistic approach to issues via its Fight Back Strategy that includes the “war room” — officially, the Canadian Energy Centre — the public inquiry into the government’s foreign-funded conspiracy theory, and the “fair deal” panel that is looking into whether Alberta should have, for example, its own police force and pension plan.

These are all tactics designed to keep Alberta on a war footing and keep Albertans angry, frustrated and easily manipulated by a government that equates legitimate opposition with sedition.

The past year ended with some frustrated public sector workers musing about a general strike. That strike never happened and perhaps it never will. But we might see strikes by individual public sector unions in 2020. They are upset by a government that is pressing workers to take wage cuts. The government has made it clear if the unions win wage hikes, they can expect job cuts.”

Good times ahead folks. :(

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.

 

Believe the actions, not the words of the political class.  We need to reassert the democratic will in our societies.

 

“The idea that trade is always and everywhere beneficial has been the ‘American’ position, left, right and center, since the reemergence of neoliberalism in the mid-1970s. This is why having labor representatives ‘at the table’ during trade negotiations slowed the evisceration of labor’s power not one whit. To follow the logic, trade is so beneficial that labor benefits from it even though labor’s power has been eviscerated through trade agreements. As even Clintonite supporters of ‘free trade’ like Paul Krugman argued early on, trade creates winners and losers— there is no universal benefit.

Through neoliberal ideology, the prior distribution of political and economic power should have had no impact on the distribution of the benefits of trade agreements. Otherwise, the argument over ‘free trade’ turns into rococo apologetics to benefit the already rich and powerful. As it turned out, oligarchs and corporations got cheap labor in subsidized factories and freedom from environmental regulations and effective taxation. The laboring classes got gradually debased paychecks and benefits followed by exciting new career opportunities as Uber entrepreneurs and greeters at Walmart.

What this means is that understanding power is more important to predicting the winners and losers of neoliberal economic policies than knowing the economics. This is more likely than not the reason why power is assumed out of capitalist economic theory. But what else are establishment politicians referring to when they claim that wildly popular policies in the public interest can’t be gotten through congress? If the people elect representatives to do the people’s bidding, but the representatives do the bidding of business interests, then where does the power lie? It lies with the oligarchs, and that isn’t democracy.

The concept of power at work is as part of an iterative social-political-economic process that neoliberal ideology can’t accommodate. The theorized point of capitalism is to tie economic distribution to economic production. The equal distribution of political power implied by democracy comes from membership in a democratic society, not from a system for meritoriously allocating it. Without perpetual redistribution to place people in equal starting positions, neither capitalism nor democracy operate as the theories that support them claim.”

The populace of the US wants Universal Health Care.  Why don’t they have it?  The important people in society would lose money, thus healthcare for all is ‘too far-fetched’ and idea to work in the US.

 

We will need to fight against market fundamentalism and help our politicians remember that they exist to serve not only the economy, but the people of a country as well.

 

“As we have seen, cutting carbon with carbon pricing or regulation is not politically painless, so the main efforts from citizens should be directed at the political process by encouraging what Jaccard calls “climate-sincere” politicians. Since making real economic changes is politically difficult, politicians prefer ineffective window-dressing that does little except making voters think they are taking action.

“These might include funding for electric vehicle rechargers, a tax-break for wind power, training for electric car technicians, grants for biofuel producers, climate research, adaptation planning, an educational kit for schools … subsidies for home insulation … funding for urban transit feasibility studies…” writes Jaccard in a much longer list.

He calls such spending political sleight-of-hand to avoid real action and that merely demonstrates the politicians are not sincere at all. While Jaccard himself drives an electric car and heats his home with an electric heat pump, he says the most important place for concerned citizen to invest in stopping climate change is political action.

The trouble is changing your own personal behaviour by say, selling your car or refusing to fly, may make you feel like you are doing something useful, but the effect is tiny when all your neighbours drive SUVs and air travel continues to soar.  

In fact, rather than trying to assuage your guilt at flying or driving by buying carbon offsets as many are now doing, Jaccard recommends taking the money and donating it to a pro-climate group that can identify and support climate-sincere politicians and point a finger at the majority of those who are “faking it.”

Because in the long run, getting carbon out of world’s atmosphere cannot be completed by a few individuals doing good, it must instead be a project of people using politics to transform regional and national rules about carbon. Jaccard says those regions and countries will then combine to put carbon tariffs on the world’s free riders, not a project for 2020.”

Let’s hope we can get most politicians on board before it is too late.

 

 

It would be nice if our current government would start taking responsibility for the mess that they are creating.  Blaming the “Anti-Alberta Conspiracy” for the lacklustre economic performance of the economy reeks of desperation and deceit.  Alberta’s Premier is busily talking out of both sides of his mouth when it comes to Moody’s Investor Service.

“When Moody’s Investors Service downgraded Alberta’s credit rating this week, Premier Jason Kenney reacted swiftly and decisively — to attack the messenger.He took aim at Moody’s for daring to include environmental risk in its report card.  As Moody’s pointed out: “Alberta’s oil and gas sector is carbon intensive and Alberta’s greenhouse gas emissions are the highest among provinces. Alberta is also susceptible to natural disasters including wildfires and floods which could lead to significant mitigation costs by the province.”

Moody’s conclusion was understandable. In a time of climate change, credit rating agencies are taking environmental risk into account.

But Kenney refuses to accept that.

For him, this is just one more example of an anti-Alberta conspiracy.  According to Kenney, financial institutions, including Moody’s, “are buying into the political agenda emanating from Europe, which is trying to stigmatize development of hydrocarbon energy. And I just think they are completely factually wrong.”

Kenney all but accused Moody’s of being part of the foreign-funded conspiracy he claims is out to landlock Alberta’s oil.”

Wait for it…

“The UCP, while in opposition, was happy to accept the conclusions of agencies, including Moody’s, whenever they downgraded the NDP government’s credit rating.

Consider this quote from UCP MLA Jason Nixon back in December of 2017 after the NDP government-of-the-day suffered yet another credit downgrade: “We have a government that is showing no signs of controlling their spending and clearly the credit agencies don’t trust them right now.”

However, as former-premier Ralph Klein was fond of saying, that was then, this is now.

According to the UCP back then, Moody’s was a purveyor of the truth.

According to the UCP now, Moody’s is “completely factually wrong.”

The Moody’s report, of course, put the UCP government in an awkward spot. This is a government that promised to turn the Alberta economy around with jobs and pipelines. Even though the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is forging ahead, significant job creation is stuck in neutral.”

Yeah.  The bullshit is that thick here in Alberta.  It would be nice, for once, to let the facts speak for themselves without the partisan glaze that has become the norm.  The UCP has demonstrated a distinct lack of leadership when it comes to the promises made on the campaign trail – job losses, negative economic growth, and more taxes (user fees) for the people of Alberta.  Nothing like ‘making Alberta open for business, and getting people back to work’.

 

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