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The massive disparity between the social classes in the US make it difficult to find the equality as set down by their law, in their society.

“1. The United States, by the way, is fundamentally unjust. Even before the Trump Virus sparked a depression and corporate bailout that deepened inequality in the U.S., the three wealthiest Americans’ combined wealth already exceeded that of the nation’s bottom 50 percent. The top tenth of the upper U.S. One Percent already had a shared net worth greater than that of the nation’s bottom 90 percent and median Black household wealth amounted to 6 cents on the white median household dollar. The nation has long been riddled by massive, interrelated disparities of class, race, ethnicity, gender, and power that make an abject mockery of its claim to represent democracy and equality before the law. Exhaustive empirical research shows that progressive majority public opinion is close to irrelevant in the making of “public” policy, which consistently reflects the preferences of the wealthy Few and their giant corporations and financial institutions. You can learn all about this from mainstream researchers and journalists who never identify with “ideologies such as Marxism” or acknowledge that significant socioeconomic disparity and top-down class rule are inherent to the profits system.”

 

The US would do well to start to manage the current distribution of wealth.  A country that is run for the benefit of a small elite is a society that is doomed to fail.

 

 

It seems like William Greider was frighteningly correct with the thesis of his book from 1997. This snippet from Counterpunch has raised my curiousity enough to make it point to borrow or buy the book.

“Back in 1997, Greider wrote a book, One World, Ready or Not: The Manic Logic of Global Capitalism, which warned that competition from the developing world would put downward pressure on the wages of manufacturing workers and that large trade deficits could lead to serious shortfalls in aggregate demand, meaning weak growth and high unemployment. The book was widely trashed by economists, including the leading liberals of the day. In particular, they ridiculed the idea that trade deficits could lead to unemployment, after all, the Fed could just lower interest rates to make up any shortfall in demand.

Two decades later, most of the mainstream of the profession accepts the idea of “secular stagnation,” meaning a sustained shortfall in demand that leaves the economy operating well below its potential level of output. With interest rates having bottomed out at zero following the Great Recession, most economists would concede that the Fed does not have the ability to boost the economy back to full employment, or at least not with its traditional tool of lowering the federal funds rate.

While economists generally do not like to talk about the trade deficit as a cause of secular stagnation, fans of logic and arithmetic point out that if we had balanced trade rather than a deficit of 3.0 percent of GDP, it would provide the same boost to the economy as an increase in government spending of 3.0 percent of GDP or roughly $650 billion a year in today’s economy. There is little doubt that would be a huge boost to demand and would have gone far towards ending the problem of secular stagnation. (There is no magic to balanced trade. I only use it as a point of reference.)

There were certainly things that Greider got wrong in One World, Ready or Not, as he did in his other economic writings. He was a journalist not an economist. Still, as one great economist commented, it is better to be approximately right than exactly wrong, a position that described many of his economist critics.”

 

The book, read now, will probably read like a fairly large “I told you so”, but I think it would be interesting to see what evidence he used to make the assertion.

 

 

The conclusion of Paul Street’s essay is important in naming the situation the US currently inhabits.  “You cannot maintain democracy at home while conducting an authoritarian empire abroad” is the idea that lies at the bottom of the problems plaguing the United States.  The notion that there are people, by default, undeserving of the same rights you grant to your citizenry, who don’t deserve the access to the rights/responsibilities (liberty, equalty, happiness) is eroding those very same ideals within the United States itself.

 

What Goes Around: “Trampling on the Helpless Abroad” Comes Home

     A final matter concerns the problem of imperial chickens coming home to roost. Liberals don’t like to hear it, but the ugly, richly documented historical fact of the matter is that their party of binary and tribal choice has long joined Republicans in backing and indeed crafting a U.S. foreign policy that has imposed authoritarian regimes (and profoundly undemocratic interventions including invasions and occupations) the world over. The roster of authoritarian and often-mass murderous governments the U.S. military and CIA and allied transnational business interests have backed, sometimes even helped create, with richly bipartisan support, is long indeed.

     Last fall, Illinois Green Party leader Mike Whitney ran some fascinating numbers on the 49 nation-states that the right-wing “human rights” organization Freedom House identified as “dictatorships” in 2016. Leaving aside Freedom House’s problematic inclusion of Russia, Cuba, and Iran on its list, the most remarkable thing about Whitney’s research was his finding that the U.S. offered military assistance to 76 percent of these governments. (The only exceptions were Belarus, China, Central African Republic, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Russia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Syria.). “Most politically aware people,” Whitney wrote:

     “know of some of the more highly publicized instances examples of [U.S. support for foreign dictatorships], such as the tens of billions of dollars’ worth of US military assistance provided to the beheading capital of the world, the misogynistic monarchy of Saudi Arabia, and the repressive military dictatorship now in power in Egypt… apologists for our nation’s imperialistic foreign policy…try to rationalize such support, arguing that Saudi Arabia and Egypt are exceptions to the rule.  But my survey…demonstrates that our government’s support for Saudi Arabia and Egypt are not exceptions to the rule at all. They are the rule.”

     The Pentagon and State Department data Whitney used came from Fiscal Year 2015.  It dated from the next-to-last year of the Obama administration, for which so many liberals recall with misplaced nostalgia. Freedom House’s list should have included Honduras, ruled by a vicious right-wing government that Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton helped install in a June 2009 military coup.

     The problem here isn’t just liberal hypocrisy and double standards. The deeper issue is that, as the great American iconoclast Mark Twain knew, you cannot maintain democracy at home while conducting an authoritarian empire abroad.  During the United States’ blood-soaked invasion and occupation of the Philippines, Twain penned an imaginary history of the twentieth-century United States. “It was impossible,” Twain wrote, “to save the Great Republic.  She was rotten to the heart.  Lust of conquest had long ago done its work; trampling upon the helpless abroad had taught her, by a natural process, to endure with apathy the like at home.”

     “Just a decade after Twain wrote those prophetic words,” the historian Alfred W. McCoy has observed, “colonial police methods came home to serve as a template for the creation of an American internal security apparatus in wartime.” The nation’s first Red Scare, which crushed left and labor movements during and after World War One, drew heavily on the lessons and practices of colonial suppression in the Philippines and Cuba. As McCoy shows in his latest book, In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power,the same basic process – internal U.S. repression informed and shaped by authoritarian and imperial practices abroad and justified by alleged external threats to the “homeland” – has recurred ever since.  Today, the rise of an unprecedented global surveillance state overseen by the National Security Agency has cost the US the trust of many of its top global allies (under Bush43 and Obama44, not just under Trump45) while undermining civil liberties and democracy within as beyond the U.S.

    “The fetters imposed on liberty at home,” James Madison wrote in 1799, “have ever been forged out of the weapons provided for defense against real, pretended, or imaginary dangers abroad.” Those are wise words well worth revisiting amidst the current endless Russiagate madness, calculated among other things to tell us that the FBI, the CIA, and the rest of the nation’s vast and ever more ubiquitous intelligence and surveillance state are on our side.

    I am playing catch up with the recent dust-up around the choice of tactics used by Antifa in the United States in it’s struggle against the proto-fascist elements energized by the current Republican Administration led by Trump.  There are several sources in this brief overview, first from a academic journal to help with the context of state violence, then a rough sketch of the position taken by Hedges and Chomsky, and finally the reply found in Counterpunch.  The last article from Counterpunch, is a retort to Chris Hedges, a voice on the credentialed left who has taken a stance against the violent tactics used by Antifa.

We’ll be visiting Hedges’ article (and criticism)on Truthdig in a later post, but for now, examining the question of violence and how it is used, and by who it is used by in society provides a stepping stone toward providing a more nuanced entry into this debate.  To better understand how (in just one way) the state uses violence to arrange society we turn to an article written by Carol Nagengast, in the Annual Review of Anthropology titled Violence, Terror, and The Crisis of the State (p. 24): 

“The state must be a state of mind that divides people into the purified and honest who do legitimate work and a politically suspect or criminal,
deviant underworld of aliens, communists, loafers, delinquents, even thieves, killers, and drug lords who do not. The violent dissident must be positioned
and repositioned as necessary, “in a negative relationship with middle-class rational masculinity, a model that ensures a relationship of dominance and
subordination … by locking the two into a mutually defaming relationship”

     (16:15,21). In the United States, the presumed idleness of the unemployed, the poverty-stricken, the drug user or gang member, the single parent, gay man or
lesbian woman (all the latter with overtones of promiscuity and contagious disease) is also seen as violence against the social body. It cannot be just any
old work; it must be work that contributes to what dominant groups have defined as the common good (153).

     The hegemony of respectable culture and good taste and the denigration of what is represented as the disgusting, degenerate, worthless, criminal lower
parts of the social body is so strong that, according to a poll conducted by the Washington Post and ABC News in September 1989, 66% of those surveyed
favored random searches of peoples’ houses, cars, and personal belongings, even if the police had no suspicion of any wrongdoing. Seventy-two percent
said they approved of censorship of any film depicting illegal drug use. People have been so inoculated with the fear of evil and with the myth of an essential
relationship of repression to the cure of society, that they are willing to give up some of their own rights for what has been defined as the good of the social
body

The questions the fascist/antifa situation embodies goes back to the genesis of why we have states in the first place and the techniques used (see the myth of the relationship between the use of repression to cure soceity) to maintain order in said States.  The use of fear to discipline society is nothing new, case in point, consider the the fear cultivated in the buildups to the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.  The use/misuse of fear as a cultural motivator in Western society is being replayed yet again on the national (within the US) instead of international stage.   Looking toward answering the question of who gets to legitimately use violence in society with regards to the fascist/antifa question Noam Chomsky opines:

     “As for Antifa, it’s a minuscule fringe of the Left, just as its predecessors were,” Noam Chomsky told the Washington Examiner. “It’s a major gift to the Right, including the militant Right, who are exuberant.”  Many activists affiliated with the loosely organized Antifa movement consider themselves anarchists or socialists. They often wear black and take measures to conceal their identity.  Chomsky said, “what they do is often wrong in principle – like blocking talks – and [the movement] is generally self-destructive.”  “When confrontation shifts to the arena of violence, it’s the toughest and most brutal who win – and we know who that is,”

So, it would seem that Chomsky and Hedges, who cites this interview, believe that the antifa use of violence is not the correct course of action.  The counterpoint to their assertion comes in with

     “One crucial question in this regard is why the conversation about violence that is continually re-staged in the media overwhelmingly focuses on tactics of resistance by the underclasses. Among those who are vociferously proclaiming a pure form of “non-violence” as an unquestionable moral principle, who of them is arguing that this principle should be applied to the corporate state and all of its imperial endeavors? Alongside the countless statements reprimanding anti-capitalist activists for street scuffles, where are the articles calling for the dismantling of the military-industrial complex, the dissolution of the police force, or the abolition of the prison system? Why isn’t the debate around non-violence centered precisely on those who have all of the power and all of the weapons? Is it because violence has actually worked successfully in these cases to impose a very specific top-down agenda, which includes shutting out anyone who calls it into question, and diligently managing the perception of their actions? Is violence somehow acceptable here because it is the violence of the victors, who are the ones who presume to have the right—and in any case have the power—to define the very nature of violence (as anything that threatens them)?

     Clearly, the fetishization of non-violence is reserved for the actions of the underlings. They are the ones who, again and again, are told that they must be civil (and are never sufficiently so), and that the best way to attain their objectives is by obeying the moral dictates of those above. Let us recall, in this light, James Baldwin’s powerful statement in the context of the black liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s: “The only time non-violence is admired is when the Negroes practice it.”

So, what is the answer here?  How effective will violent leftist action be, and will the backlash further empower state repression?   Will the backlash continue to inoculate the citizenry with fear of violent ‘leftist violence’ thus justifying an increase in state use of coercive and repressive force against the left even though the initiators of said violence (aka the proto-fascist/nationalist Right in the US) are ultimately responsible for the situation in question?

 

   This excerpt from Paul Street’s essay, “Bob Kerrey, Fulbright University, and the Neoliberal Erasure of History.”

Mistakes Happen

“And besides, the conventional imperial American exceptionalist wisdom holds. mistakes happen. It’s true, dominant media and reputable intellectuals acknowledge, Uncle Sam and his innately gallant gendarmes occasionally make “mistakes” in their inherently noble (because American) zeal to improve an often nasty and unruly world. It’s a messy, imperfect planet on which the intrinsically benevolent, peace- and freedom-loving United States struggles selflessly to make its righteous mark. Slip-ups and oversteps occur. “Mistakes,” you know, like the so-called Vietnam War and its many My Lais and Thanh Phongs. “Mistakes” like the U.S. invasion of Mesopotamia, which led to the premature death of more than a millions Iraqis. Still, the reigning American thought-habit holds, U.S. intentions are always virtuous. The “blunders” take place in the context of an ugly and dangerous world where evil is rife – a world where the United States always strives mightily to stay morally upright while dealing with “bad guys” like “the Viet Cong” (the American military and media’s racist label for Vietnamese revolutionaries who fought for national independence and social justice). As Bill Clinton’s second Secretary of State Madeline Albright (the one who said that the death of more than half a million Iraqi children through U.S-led economic sanctions was “a price worth paying” for the advance of U.S. foreign policy goals) once explained, “The United States is good…We try to do our best everywhere.”

We must never forget how splendid we are, something that makes it essential for us to toss vast volumes of U.S. “foreign relations” (imperial) history down Orwell’s “memory hole.”

[Source:Counterpunch]

From Counterpunch:

 

“Jill Stein, the Green Party’s nominee for president, has been the sudden target of attacks from all corners of online media since the official end of Bernie Sanders’ campaign at the Democratic National Convention. Outlets like the Washington Post, New York Magazine and Gizmodo have assaulted Stein by using out-of-context quotes to assail her, wrongly, for being anti-vaccination and anti-WiFi, which is a code for being “anti-science.” This allows us a unique opportunity to confirm the structural role of the media as hypothesized by Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman in Manufacturing Consent: that the media is a propaganda arm for the elite and powerful, and is used to condition us to accept the bounds of socio-political discourse as set by the ruling class. It also shows us the desperate need we have for an alternative media culture to counteract mainstream discourse.

The attack on Stein (and not, conveniently, on Gary Johnson), is linked to the need by the elite to de-legitimize A.) critics of neoliberal policies and B.) potential alternatives to the political status-quo. Trump and Clinton have had and will have no discussion about thirty years of neoliberalism and austerity. Sanders gave a voice to those within the Democrats who were willing to question, but since his defeat momentum on the left has shifted to Stein and the Green Party. It is, granted, still early, but the outpouring of support means there is a possibility the left could begin to regroup outside the Democratic Party. Real success for Stein could mean a permanent presence on the national stage for the left, to which a president Clinton or Trump would have to answer and which would be able to build an entirely different ideological discourse in the United States.”

The treatment of Jill Stein should be an interesting application of the propaganda model.  What we’ve seen during the election cycle confirms much of what Herman and Chomsky hypothesized – issues that affect the public are not being discussed, there is an acceptable line of questions, answers, and responses that are allowed in the media – the rest are swept to the margins and actively ignored.

Is there any wonder left as to why the American people look so dimly on their Congressional representatives?  They are supposed to speak for the people, yet strangely enough, once elected other interests seem to take precedence.

You can read about the Propaganda Model of Herman and Chomsky here.

 

“A generation ago, a post-modern cult now known as “identity politics” stopped many intelligent, liberal-minded people examining the causes and individuals they supported — such as the fakery of Obama and Clinton;  such as bogus progressive movements like Syriza in Greece, which betrayed the people of that country and allied with their enemies.

Self absorption, a kind of “me-ism”, became the new zeitgeist in privileged western societies and signaled the demise of great collective movements against war, social injustice, inequality,  racism and sexism.”

-John Pilger.  A World War has Begun:Break the Silence

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