Alternate angle of the Zapruder Film (sort of)

George Carlin and Bill Hicks tell it like it is.

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Greenwald: The REAL U.S. Government

I’ve been posting the Washington Post’s recent series on the Stasi-esque security state that has sprung up in the U.S. since 9/11.  It’s a pretty good piece, but it’s the Washington Post, and if you’re reading this, chances are that you’re already aware of the fact that the mainstream media has merely been a branch of U.S. intelligence for decades, so you can be certain that we’re getting a heavily sanitized version, more akin to a controlled leak than to an actual exposé.

It’s still well worth a read, but Glenn Greenwald’s reaction to the WaPo piece is possibly the best thing he’s ever written, and as you all know, I’m of the opinion that Greenwald is required reading on a DAILY basis.

The Real U.S. Government

By Glenn Greenwald

The Washington Post‘s Dana Priest demonstrates once again why she’s easily one of the best investigative journalists in the nation — if not the best — with the publication of Part I of her series, co-written with William Arkin, detailing the sprawling, unaccountable, inexorably growing secret U.S. Government:  what the article calls “Top Secret America.”  To the extent the series receives much substantive attention (and I doubt it will), the focus will likely be on the bureaucratic problems it documents:  the massive redundancies, overlap, waste, and inefficiencies which plague this “hidden world, growing beyond control” — as though everything would better if Top Secret America just functioned a bit more effectively.   But the far more significant fact so compellingly illustrated by this first installment is the one I described last week when writing about the Obama administration’s escalating war on whistle blowers:

Most of what the U.S. Government does of any significance — literally — occurs behind a vast wall of secrecy, completely unknown to the citizenry. . . . Secrecy is the religion of the political class, and the prime enabler of its corruption. That’s why whistle blowers are among the most hated heretics. They’re one of the very few classes of people able to shed a small amount of light on what actually takes place.

Virtually every fact Priest and Arkin disclose underscores this point.   Here is their first sentence:  “The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.”  This all “amounts to an alternative geography of the United States, a Top Secret America hidden from public view and lacking in thorough oversight.”  We chirp endlessly about the Congress, the White House, the Supreme Court, the Democrats and Republicans, but this is the Real U.S. Government:  functioning in total darkness, beyond elections and parties, so secret, vast and powerful that it evades the control or knowledge of any one person or even any organization.

Anyone who thinks that’s hyperbole should just read some of what Priest and Arkin chronicle.  Consider this:  “Every day, collection systems at the National Security Agency intercept and store 1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications.”  To call that an out-of-control, privacy-destroying Surveillance State is to understate the case.  Equally understated is the observation that we have become a militarized nation living under an omnipotent, self-perpetuating, bankrupting National Security State.  Here’s but one flavoring anecdote:

Command centers, internal television networks, video walls, armored SUVs and personal security guards have also become the bling of national security.

“You can’t find a four-star general without a security detail,” said one three-star general now posted in Washington after years abroad. “Fear has caused everyone to have stuff.  Then comes, ‘If he has one, then I have to have one.’ It’s become a status symbol.”

What’s most noteworthy about all of this is that the objective endlessly invoked for why we must acquiesce to all of this — National Security — is not only unfulfilled by “Top Secret America,” but actively subverted by it.  During the FISA debate of 2008 — when Democrats and Republicans joined together to legalize the Bush/Cheney warrantless eavesdropping program and vastly expand the NSA’s authority to spy on the communications of Americans without judicial oversight — it was constantly claimed that the Government must have greater domestic surveillance powers in order to Keep Us Safe.  Thus, anyone who opposed the new spying law was accused of excessively valuing privacy and civil liberties at the expense of what, we are always told, matters most:  Staying Safe.

But as I wrote many times back then — often by interviewing and otherwise citing House Intelligence Committee member Rush Holt, who has been making this point repeatedly — the more secret surveillance powers we vest in the Government, the more we allow the unchecked Surveillance State to grow, the more unsafe we become.  That’s because the public-private axis that is the Surveillance State already collects so much information about us, our activities and our communications — so indiscriminately and on such a vast scale — that it cannot possibly detect any actual national security threats.  NSA whistle blower Adrienne Kinne, when exposing NSA eavesdropping abuses, warned of what ABC News described as “the waste of time spent listening to innocent Americans, instead of looking for the terrorist needle in the haystack.”  As Kinne put it:

By casting the net so wide and continuing to collect on Americans and aid organizations, it’s almost like they’re making the haystack bigger and it’s harder to find that piece of information that might actually be useful to somebody.  You’re actually hurting our ability to effectively protect our national security.

The Government did not fail to detect the 9/11 attacks because it was unable to collect information relating to the plot.  It did collect exactly that, but because it surveilled so much information, it was incapable of recognizing what it possessed (“connecting the dots”).  Despite that, we have since then continuously expanded the Government’s surveillance powers.  Virtually every time the political class reveals some Scary New Event, it demands and obtains greater spying authorities (and, of course, more and more money).  And each time that happens, its ability to detect actually relevant threats diminishes.  As Priest and Arkin write:

The NSA sorts a fraction of those [1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of daily collected communications] into 70 separate databases. The same problem bedevils every other intelligence agency, none of which have enough analysts and translators for all this work.

The article details how ample information regarding alleged Ft. Hood shooter Nidal Hassan and attempted Christmas Day bomber Umar Abdulmutallab was collected but simply went unrecognized.  As a result, our vaunted Surveillance State failed to stop the former attack and it was only an alert airplane passenger who thwarted the latter.  So it isn’t that we keep sacrificing our privacy to an always-growing National Security State in exchange for greater security.  The opposite is true:  we keep sacrificing our privacy to the always-growing National Security State in exchange for less security.

* * * * *

This world is so vast, secretive and well-funded that it’s very difficult to imagine how it could ever be brought under control.  That’s particularly true given its inextricable intertwining with the private sector:  the billions upon billions of dollars funneled from the Government to its private-sector “partners,” which is the subject of the not-yet-published second installment of the Priest/Arkin article.  As I wrote when examining the revolving public/private shuttling of former DNI and Booz Allen executive Michael McConnell:

In every way that matters, the separation between government and corporations is nonexistent, especially (though not only) when it comes to the National Security and Surveillance State. Indeed, so extreme is this overlap that even McConnell, when he was nominated to be Bush’s DNI, told The New York Times that his ten years of working “outside the government,” for Booz Allen, would not impede his ability to run the nation’s intelligence functions. That’s because his Booz Allen work was indistinguishable from working for the Government, and therefore — as he put it — being at Booz Allen “has allowed me to stay focused on national security and intelligence communities as a strategist and as a consultant. Therefore, in many respects, I never left.”

As the NSA scandal revealed, private telecom giants and other corporations now occupy the central role in carrying out the government’s domestic surveillance and intelligence activities — almost always in the dark, beyond the reach of oversight or the law.

Long before the Priest/Arkin article, Tim Shorrock has been documenting this sprawling, secretive, merged public/private world that combines unchecked surveillance and national security powers with enormous corporate profits.  So long as the word Terrorism continues to be able to strike fear in the hearts of enough citizens and media stars — as Communism did before it — the political class, no matter who is elected, will be petrified to oppose any of this, even if they wanted to, and why would they want to?  They wouldn’t and they don’t.  And it thus grows and becomes more powerful, all justified by endless appeals to The Terrorists.

That’s why it is difficult to imagine — short of some severe citizen unrest — how any of this will be brought under control.  One of the few scenarios one can envision for such unrest involves growing wealth disparities and increasingly conspicuous elite corruption.  In The New York Times today, investment banker and former Clinton Treasury official Roger Altman announced that the alleged “tension between President Obama and the business community” can be solved only if the political class is willing to “fix Social Security” — i.e., to slash Americans’ retirement security.  Sooner or later (probably sooner), one way or another (probably this way), that’s going to happen.  It’s inevitable.  As George Carlin put it several years ago, in an amazingly succinct summary of so many things:

And now, they’re coming for your Social Security money – they want your fucking retirement money – they want it back – so they can give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street.  And you know something?  They’ll get it.  They’ll get it all from you sooner or later.  Because they own this fucking place.  It’s a Big Club: and you’re not in it.

That’s really the only relevant question:  how much longer will Americans sit by passively and watch as a tiny elite become more bloated, more powerful, greedier, more corrupt and more unaccountable — as the little economic security, privacy and freedom most citizens possess vanish further still?  How long can this be sustained, where more and more money is poured into Endless War, a military that almost spends more than the rest of the world combined, where close to 50% of all U.S. tax revenue goes to military and intelligence spending, where the rich-poor gap grows seemingly without end, and the very people who virtually destroyed the world economy wallow in greater rewards than ever, all while the public infrastructure (both figuratively and literally) crumbles and the ruling class is openly collaborating on a bipartisan, public-private basis even to cut Social Security benefits?

* * * * *

The answer, unfortunately, is probably this:  a lot longer.  And one primary reason is that our media-shaped political discourse is so alternatively distracted and distorted that even shining light on all of this matters little.  The New York Times‘ Peter Baker had a good article this weekend on how totally inconsequential squabbles dominate the news more or less continuously:  last week’s riveting drama was the bickering between the White House and Nancy Pelosi over Robert Gibbs’ warning that Democratic control of the House was endangered.  Baker quotes Democratic strategist Chris Lehane as follows:  “Politics in D.C. have become Seinfeldesque.  Fights about nothing.”

If you read and write about politics full-time and are thus forced to subject yourself to the political media — as I am — what’s most striking aren’t the outrages and corruptions, but the overwhelming, suffocating, numbing stream of stupidity and triviality that floods the brain.  One has to battle the temptation to just turn away and ignore it all.  Every day, day after day, is consumed by some totally irrelevant though distracting melodrama:  what Sarah Palin wrote on her Facebook page, some “outrageous” snippet of a comment made by John Boehner or Harry Reid, some “crazy,” attention-attracting statement from some fringe idiot-figure or TV blowhard that is exploited for superficial partisan gain or distraction value (hey, look over there:  I think Michelle Bachmann just said something outrageous!!!!).  I can’t recall an incident that better captures our political culture than this, from a Politico report on one of last week’s fascinating Royal Court dramas — the insult-trading between Palin and Mitt Romney:

Asked about the comments by POLITICO, a longtime Palin aide unloaded on Romney’s staff. . . . “For Washington consultants to sit around and personally disparage the governor anonymously to reporters is unfortunate and counterproductive and frankly immature,” said the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

A Palin aide, hiding behind Politico-granted anonymity, complaining that petty comments were made anonymously by a Romney aide:  a perfect expression of what our politics are.  The Drudge and Politico sewers still rule our world — “fights over nothing” — and happily distract us from Top Secret America, what it does and what it takes.

And whatever these petty distractions fail to achieve, active media distortion takes care of the rest.  This superb article by Mark Prendergast, the Ombudsman for Stars & Stripes, details the billions of dollars secretly (and probably illegally) spent by the Pentagon — much of it on private contractors — to subject not only foreign nationals but also American citizens to pure propaganda campaigns.  The Pentagon propaganda program exposed by David Barstow is but a representative sliver of the weapons used by the National Security State and its private partners to control media behavior and shape public opinion.  Billions upon billions of dollars are spent for this propagandistic purpose at exactly the time that real journalistic outlets are failing.  Television journalists think they’re covering war zones when they submit to Pentagon embedding and then broadcast what they’re allowed to see, while repeating government lies about war without challenge.  And when all else fails, we’re told to look over there at all those Bad, Evil things done by those Other Countries (hey, look at Pakistan, whose citizens are pumped full of myths and disinformation while their wealthy manipulate the law so as to not pay their fair share of taxes!! — and Iran detains people without charges and China tortures!! — can you believe them?).

Meanwhile, the Real U.S. Government — the network of secret public and private organizations which comprise the National Security and Surveillance State — expands and surveills and pilfers and destroys without much attention and with virtually no real oversight or accountability.  It sucks up the vast bulk of national resources and re-directs the rest to those who own and control it.  To their immense credit, Dana Priest and William Arkin will spend the week disclosing the details of what they learned over the past two years investigating all of this, but the core concepts have long been glaringly evident.  But Sarah Palin’s Twitter malapropism from yesterday will almost certainly receive far more attention than anything exposed by the Priest/Arkin investigation.  So we’ll continue to fixate on the trappings and theater of government while The Real Government churns blissfully in the dark — bombing and detaining and abducting and spying and even assassinating — without much bother from anyone.

Top Secret America; The spooks are running the assylum

Dana Priest and William M. Arkin have spent two years investigating what they call “an alternative geography of the United States, a Top Secret America hidden from public view and lacking in thorough oversight.”

Part one of their expose is below, after the video.

The video is a trailer for a companion piece that Frontline will be airing on PBS.  Please have a look at the trailer and then read the article.  Oh, and then spread the word far and wide.

Top Secret America
A Hidden World Growing Beyond Control

by Dana Priest and William M. Arkin

Washington Post, 7/19/2010

The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.

These are some of the findings of a two-year investigation by The Washington Post that discovered what amounts to an alternative geography of the United States, a Top Secret America hidden from public view and lacking in thorough oversight. After nine years of unprecedented spending and growth, the result is that the system put in place to keep the United States safe is so massive that its effectiveness is impossible to determine.

The investigation’s other findings include:

* Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States.

* An estimated 854,000 people, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances.

* In Washington and the surrounding area, 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001. Together they occupy the equivalent of almost three Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings – about 17 million square feet of space.

Much more here.

UPDATE:

Here’s Part 2

National Security Inc.

In June, a stone carver from Manassas chiseled another perfect star into a marble wall at CIA headquarters, one of 22 for agency workers killed in the global war initiated by the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The intent of the memorial is to publicly honor the courage of those who died in the line of duty, but it also conceals a deeper story about government in the post-9/11 era: Eight of the 22 were not CIA officers at all. They were private contractors.

To ensure that the country’s most sensitive duties are carried out only by people loyal above all to the nation’s interest, federal rules say contractors may not perform what are called “inherently government functions.” But they do, all the time and in every intelligence and counterterrorism agency, according to a two-year investigation by The Washington Post.

What started as a temporary fix in response to the terrorist attacks has turned into a dependency that calls into question whether the federal workforce includes too many people obligated to shareholders rather than the public interest — and whether the government is still in control of its most sensitive activities. In interviews last week, both Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and CIA Director Leon Panetta said they agreed with such concerns.

The Post investigation uncovered what amounts to an alternative geography of the United States, a Top Secret America created since 9/11 that is hidden from public view, lacking in thorough oversight and so unwieldy that its effectiveness is impossible to determine.

Much more here.

UPDATE:

Here’s Part 3

The Secrets Next Door
The brick warehouse is not just a warehouse. Drive through the gate and around back, and there, hidden away, is someone’s personal security detail: a fleet of black SUVs that have been armored up to withstand explosions and gunfire.

Along the main street, the signs in the median aren’t advertising homes for sale; they’re inviting employees with top-secret security clearances to a job fair at Cafe Joe, which is anything but a typical lunch spot.

The new gunmetal-colored office building is really a kind of hotel where businesses can rent eavesdrop-proof rooms.

Even the manhole cover between two low-slung buildings is not just a manhole cover. Surrounded by concrete cylinders, it is an access point to a government cable. “TS/SCI,” whispers an official, the abbreviations for “top secret” and “sensitive compartmented information” – and that means few people are allowed to know what information the cable transmits.

All of these places exist just outside Washington in what amounts to the capital of an alternative geography of the United States, one defined by the concentration of top-secret government organizations and the companies that do work for them. This Fort Meade cluster is the largest of a dozen such clusters across the United States that are the nerve centers of Top Secret America and its 854,000 workers.

Much more here.

Obama kicks progressives directly in the nuts – AGAIN

Gosh, this is just soooo shocking…

Obama Hires Fmr. Wellpoint Exec to Implement Health Care Law

by: David Sirota

Wed Jul 14, 2010 at 19:31

From the Department of You Just Can’t Make This Stuff Up, check out this little-noticed report from the Billings Gazette today:

Liz Fowler, a key staffer for U.S. Sen. Max Baucus who helped draft the federal health reform bill enacted in March, is joining the Obama administration to help implement the new law…Fowler headed up a team of 20-some Senate Finance Committee staffers who helped draft the bill in the Senate. She was Baucus’ top health care aide from 2001-2005 and left that job in 2006 to become an executive at WellPoint, the nation’s largest private insurer. She was vice president of public policy at WellPoint, helping develop public-policy positions for the company. In 2008, she rejoined Baucus to work on health reform legislation.

For some good background on Fowler and the insidious role she played in killing the public option, watch Bill Moyers’ recent segment here.

Clearly, this is a telling indictment of the health care law itself, strongly suggesting that it was constructed by the Obama administration – as some progressives argued – as a massive taxpayer-financed giveaway to private insurers like Wellpoint. And let’s be honest: In investment terms, Fowler has been a jackpot for the health industry. The industry maximized her public policy experience for their own uses when they plucked her out of the Senate. Then, having lined her pockets, they deposited her first into a key Senate committee to write the new health care law that they will operate under, and now into the administration that will implement said law. Any bets on how much Fowler will make when Wellpoint (or another health insurer) inevitably rehires her in a few years?

This story is also a telling indictment of the Washington media. You’ll notice that the Obama administration’s move was reported by the Billings Gazette, but (save for a blog entry on the Hill’s website, one context-free line at the bottom of the Washington Post’s gossip column, and a blurb in Congressional Quarterly’s HealthBeat newsletter) was almost completely ignored by national Washington-based publications. That’s not because D.C. reporters didn’t know it was happening – more likely, it is because the political press corps in the nation’s capital no longer sees this kind of revolving door corruption as even mildly problematic, much less newsworthy. That’s how pervasive corruption is these days – ubiquitous to the point of invisible in the eyes of most of the so-called watchdogs.

Yet another NY Times pro-Israel propoganda piece

I almost did a spit-take with my coffee while perusing the New York Times this morning.  For a split second, the following headline provided a glimmer of hope that perhaps the editors were asleep at the switch.

Trapped by Gaza Blockade, Locked in Despair

Wow!  That headline does look promising.  Did the New York Times actually call out Israel for its murderous apartheid policies?  Did they really allow a story to slip through the cracks that didn’t completely ignore the fact that Israel has been illegally occupying Palestinian land for over 60 years, committing war crimes, running over peaceful protesters with bulldozers and shooting them in the face with high velocity tear gas canisters, storming humanitarian aid ships with guns blazing in the dead of night, and all sorts of other jollity?

Really???

Nope.

As I said here:

“Poor Israel.  Nobody understands that they have no choice but to create a walled ghetto for the Palestinians, flatten their buildings, choke off their supplies, label them as “terrorists” when they fight back, and then attack civilian ships in international waters as they attempt to deliver humanitarian aid, killing as many as…   Oh, why even bother to count?  They’re just a bunch of antisemitic radical activists anyway.  They got what they deserved, right?”

See the most recent New York Times propaganda piece below in its entirety.   My comments are bracketed in red…

By MICHAEL SLACKMAN and ETHAN BRONNER
Published: July 13, 2010

GAZA CITY — The women were bleary-eyed, their voices weak, their hands red and calloused. How could they be expected to cook and clean without water or electricity? What could they do in homes that were dark and hot all day? How could they cope with husbands who had not worked for years and children who were angry and aimless?

[This is a good start.  At least we’re not being told that the Palestinian women were sewing razor blades into yarmulkes.]

Sitting with eight other women at a stress clinic, Jamalat Wadi, 28, tried to listen to the mental health worker. But she could not contain herself. She has eight children, and her unemployed husband spends his days on sedatives.

[Uh oh.  Eight kids and an unemployed husband?  So she’s basically a sex maniac, married to a dead beat.]

“Our husbands don’t work, my kids are not in school, I get nervous, I yell at them, I cry, I fight with my husband,” she blurted. “My husband starts fighting with us and then he cries: ‘What am I going to do? What can I do?’ ”

The others knew exactly what she meant.

The Palestinians of Gaza, most of them descended from refugees of the 1948 war that created Israel, [No details about this war.  It just, you know … happened, and Israel was just sort of created … like magic!] have lived through decades of conflict and confrontation. Their scars have accumulated like layers of sedimentary rock, each marking a different crisis — homelessness, occupation, war, dependency.

Today, however, two developments have conspired to turn a difficult life into a new torment: a three-year blockade by Israel and Egypt [Why the blockade?  Is it legal?] that has locked them in the small enclave [Ghetto] and crushed what there was of a formal local economy; and the bitter rivalry between Palestinian factions, which has undermined identity and purpose, divided families and caused a severe shortage of electricity in the middle of summer.  [The electricity shortage is THEIR fault, because the Arabs can’t even play nice with other Arabs, for Pete’s sake.]

There are plenty of things to buy in Gaza; goods are brought over the border or smuggled through the tunnels with Egypt. That is not the problem.  [See?  There’s PLENTY of stuff to buy.  Sure, Israel’s illegal blockade prevents lots of important stuff from reaching Gaza, but those shifty Arabs are just smuggling it in through tunnels anyway.  By the way, smugglers can’t be trusted.  Pretty soon they’ll be using those tunnels to smuggle weapons.  Because smugglers are bad people.   And don’t forget that they just want to kill lots of Israelis for no good reason whatsoever.]

In fact, talk about food and people here get angry because it implies that their struggle is over subsistence rather than quality of life. The issue is not hunger. It is idleness, uncertainty and despair.  [Call the Palestinians anything you want, but never call them late for dinner.  Food and water aren’t the problem, it’s the boredom brought on by their previously mentioned shiftlessness.  Smuggling does provide some much-needed excitement, but the prospect of getting caught is stressful, and it’s really more like temping than full-time work.]

Any discussion of Gaza’s travails is part of a charged political debate. No humanitarian crisis? That is an Israeli talking point, people here will say, aimed at making the world forget Israel’s misdeeds. Palestinians trapped with no future? They are worse off in Lebanon, others respond, where their “Arab brothers” bar them from buying property and working in most professions.  [Arabs treat Arabs even worse than the Israelis do.  Some unnamed persons apparently said so.  Leave Israel alone, you haters!]

But the situation is certainly dire. Scores of interviews and hours spent in people’s homes over a dozen consecutive days here produced a portrait of a fractured and despondent society unable to imagine a decent future for itself as it plunges into listless desperation and radicalization. [Radical = terrorist.]

It seems most unlikely that either a Palestinian state or any kind of Middle East peace can emerge without substantial change here. Gaza, on almost every level, is stuck.

Disunity

A main road was blocked off and a stage set up for a rally protesting the electricity shortage. Speakers shook nearby windows with the anthems of Hamas, the Islamist party that has held power [They were democratically ELECTED, but let’s not quibble] here for the past three years. Boys in military camouflage goose-stepped.  [You know, like Nazis!] Young men carried posters of a man with vampire teeth biting into a bloodied baby. 

The vampire was not Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister. It was Salam Fayyad, prime minister of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.  [If a Palestinian leader is a vampire, then by contrast, Netanyahu must be a good guy who’s simply protecting his people from terrorist heathens.  Haven’t you figured out how this works yet?]

“We stand today in this furious night to express our intense anger toward this damned policy by the illegitimate so-called Fayyad government,” Ismail Radwan, a Hamas official, shouted.

As if the Palestinian people did not have enough trouble, they have not one government but two, the Fatah-dominated one in the West Bank city of Ramallah and the Hamas one here. The antagonism between them offers a depth of rivalry and rage that shows no sign of abating.  [This division probably has nothing to do with the fact that they’ve been geographically separated by the state of Israel, which, as we noted earlier, just magically came into existence in 1948, to the detriment of absolutely nobody.]

Its latest victim is electricity for Gaza, part of which is supplied by Israel and paid for by the West Bank government, which is partly reimbursed by Hamas. But the West Bank says that Hamas is not paying enough so it has held off paying Israel, which has halted delivery.

“They are lining their pockets and they are part of the siege,” asserted Dr. Mahmoud Zahar, a Hamas leader and a surgeon, speaking of the West Bank government. “There will be no reconciliation.”  [Again, someone else is bad, so Israel is off the hook.  It’s just those damn self-hating Arabs again.]

John Ging, who heads the Gaza office of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, known as U.N.R.W.A., says the latest electricity problem “is a sad reflection of the divide on the Palestinian side.”

He added, “They have no credibility in demanding anything from anybody if they show such disregard for the plight of their own people.”  [Since the U.S. Senate just torpedoed the extension of unemployment benefits, I guess Americans have no credibility in demanding anything from anybody either.  So again, by logical extension, Israel must be awesome!]

Today Hamas has no rival here. It runs the schools, hospitals, courts, security services and — through smuggler tunnels from Egypt — the economy.  [It’s all the fault of Hamas.  They run EVERYTHING!  Did we mention that they’re smugglers?]

“We solved a lot of problems with the tunnels,” Dr. Zahar said with a satisfied smile.

Along with the leaders has come a new generation that has taken the reins of power. Momen al-Ghemri, 25, a nurse, and his wife, Iman, 24, an Arabic teacher, are members of it.

University educated, the grandchildren of refugees, still living in refugee camps, both of the Ghemris got their jobs when Hamas took over full control by force three years ago, a year after it won an election. Neither has ever left Gaza.

Mr. Ghemri works as a nurse for the security services, earning $500 a month, but is spending six months at the intensive care unit of Shifa Hospital.

Spare parts for equipment remain a problem because of the blockade. But on a recent shift, the I.C.U. was well staffed. In the office next door, there was a map on the wall of Palestine before Israel’s creation.  [Wait, you mean Israel used to be a place called Palestine, and real, live, actual people lived there before Israel was conjured into existence, creating oodles of dispossessed refugees?  Sheesh, I bet those people must have been a trifle bit upset about that.]

Mr. Ghemri’s grandparents’ village, Aqer, is up there, along with 400 other villages that no longer exist. A wall in another office offered instructions on the Muslim way to help a bedridden patient pray.

Mr. Ghemri’s wife greets visitors at home wearing the niqab, or face veil, only her eyes visible. She believes in Hamas and makes that clear to her pupils. But her husband sees the party more as a means toward an end.

“You can’t go on your own to apply for a job,” he said. “For me, Hamas is about employment.”

He does like the fact that, as he put it, Hamas “refuses to kneel down to the Jews,” but like most Gazans, he is worried about Palestinian disunity and blames both factions.

In fact, there is a paradox at work in Gaza: while Hamas has no competition for power, it also has a surprisingly small following.  [Similar to Barack Obama’s 40% approval rating, I suppose.]

Dozens of interviews with all sorts of people found few willing to praise their government or that of its competitor. [Dozens!  ALL SORTS!!!]

“They’re both liars,” Waleed Hassouna, a baker in Gaza City, said in a very common comment.  [They must be the same people who run Crooks and liars.com, and say the same thing about lots of people in the United States government.  Of course, this only strengthens the argument that Israel is in the right.]

People here seem increasingly unable to imagine a political solution to their ills. Ask Gazans how to solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict — two states? One state? — and the answer is mostly a reflexive call to drive Israel out.  [Which is just antisemitic, and has nothing at all to do with the highly questionable origin of Israel, or their previously mentioned war crimes and illegal blockade, etc…]

“Hamas and Fatah are two sides of the same coin,” Ramzi, a public school teacher from the city of Rafah, said in a widely expressed sentiment. “All the land is ours. We should turn the Jews into refugees and then let the international community take care of them.”  [But, but, but, they are G-d’s  chosen people.  The Palestinians are just a bunch of Arabs.  Are you really suggesting that G-d’s chosen people aren’t totally more important than Arabs?]

Dried-Up Fortunes

Hamza and Muhammad Ju’bas are brothers, ages 13 and 11. They sell chocolates and gum on the streets after school to add to their family income. Once they have pulled in 20 shekels, about $5, they go home and play.

On one steamy afternoon they were taking refuge in a cellphone service center. The center — where customers watch for their number on digital displays and smiling representatives wear ties, and the air-conditioning never quits — seems almost glamorous.

The boys were asked about their hopes.

“My dream is to be like these guys and work in a place that’s cool,” Muhammad said.

“My dream is to be a worker,” Hamza said. He hears stories about the “good times” in the 1990s, when his father worked in Israel, as a house painter, making $85 a day. Later, their father, Emad Ju’bas, 45, said, “My children don’t have much ambition.”

The family is typical. They live in Shujaiya, a packed eastern neighborhood of 70,000, a warren of narrow, winding alleys and main roads lined with small shops.

The air is heavy with dust and fumes from cars, scooters and horse-drawn carts. Every shop has a small generator chained down outside. Roaring generators and wailing children are the sounds of Shujaiya.

Families are big. From 1997 through 2007, the population increased almost 40 percent, to 1.5 million. Palestinians say that large families will help them cope as they age, and more children mean more fighters for their cause.  [As I said earlier, the Palestinians are obviously uncontrollable sex maniacs.  They’re more like Islamic bunnies than actual people.]

Mr. Ju’bas and his wife, Hiyam, have seven boys and three girls. Two of their children have cognitive disabilities. Since Israel’s three-week war 18 months ago here aimed at stopping Hamas rockets, their children frequently wet the bed. Their youngest, Taj, 4, is aggressive, randomly punching anyone around him.  [Really??  I was under the impression that Israel broke the cease fire and attacked Gaza unprovoked.  It’s so odd that the Times would leave out this tiny detail.]

For six years Mr. Ju’bas worked in Israel, and with the money he bought a house with six rooms and two bathrooms. In 2000, when the uprising called the second intifada broke out, Israel closed the gates.

After that, Mr. Ju’bas found small jobs around Gaza, but with the blockade that dried up. His only source of work is at the United Nations relief agency, where two months a year he is a security guard.

He admits that at times he lashes out at his family. Domestic violence is on the rise. The strain is acute for women. Men can go out and sit in parks, in chairs right on the sidewalk or visit friends. Women are expected to stay off the streets.  [I hope you weren’t feeling sorry for Mr. Ju’bas, as he is clearly a wife beater, living in a radical society that is anti-woman.  This means, of course, that Israel is not at fault.]

The women at the stress clinic gathered about 10 a.m. They entered silently, wearing the ubiquitous hijab head scarf and ankle-length button-down overcoat known as the jilbab. Two wore the niqab over their faces.  [See above comment.]

They spoke of sending their children to work just to get them out of the house and of husbands who grew morose and violent.

They blamed Hamas for their misery, for seizing the Israeli soldier, Staff Sgt. Gilad Shalit, which led to the blockade. But they also blamed Fatah for failing them.  [Israel turned Gaza into a ghetto in order to protect itself from savages who seize Israeli soldiers for no reason at all.  Even Palestinians understand this.  Israel is not to blame.]

“My own children tell me it is better to die,” Jamalat Wadi said to the group.  [Probably a future suicide bomber.]

Ms. Wadi’s home was next door and she ran over to check on the family. She found her eight children wandering aimlessly in an open paved area, a courtyard filled with piles of clothes and plastic containers. The house had one unfurnished room and her husband, Bahjat, 28, was on the floor, unconscious, his arm over his head, his mouth open.  [The children take after their lazy, shiftless father.  And you want to give these people their own sovereign state?]

“He sleeps all the time,” Ms. Wadi said, motioning as though throwing a pill in her mouth.

The Wadis are refugees, so they receive flour, rice, oil and sugar from U.N.R.W.A. Tens of thousands of others here receive salaries from the Ramallah government to stay away from their jobs in protest over Hamas rule. They wait, part of a literate society with nothing to do.

Ms. Wadi said that when she visited her mother, her two brothers fought bitterly because one backs Hamas and the other backs Fatah. Recently they threw bottles at each other. Her mother kicked them out.  [Not quite as romantic as the stories of American brother fighting American brother during the American civil war, but hey, they’re dirty Arabs, right?]

In another meeting, Mr. Ju’bas was unshaven and unwashed. The previous night he had hit his wife, one of his children said. The washing machine had broken and he had no money to fix it.  [Sounds a lot like Mel Gibson, doesn’t he?  REMINDER:  Israel is not at fault.]

He told his wife to use the neighbors’. But she was embarrassed. She stayed up all night cleaning clothes and crying.

“My only dream,” Mr. Ju’bas said, “is to have patience.”

Inside Looking Out

The waves were lapping the beach. It was night. Mahmoud Mesalem, 20, and a few of his friends were sitting at a restaurant.

University students or recent graduates, they were raised in a world circumscribed by narrow boundaries drawn hard by politics and geography. They all despaired from the lack of a horizon.

“We’re here, we’re going to die here, we’re going to be buried here,” lamented Waleed Matar, 22.

Mr. Mesalem pointed at an Israeli ship on the horizon, then made his hand into a gun, pointed it at his head. “If we try to leave, they will shoot us,” he said.

There are posters around town with a drawing of a boot on an Israeli soldier, who is facedown, and the silhouette of a man hanging by his neck.  [There is no reason at all for any of this Palestinian anger towards the Israeli occupying soldiers.  None.  The Palestinians should just eat their white phosphorous shit sandwiches and like it.] The goal is to get alleged collaborators to turn themselves in. The campaign has put fear in the air.

Israel is never far from people’s minds here. Its ships control the waters, its planes control the skies. Its whims, Gazans feel, control their fate.  [Which is exactly how it should be.  Haven’t you read a single word of this article???]

And while most here view Israel as the enemy, they want trade ties and to work there. In their lives the main source of income has been from and through Israel.  [Because the Palestinians are so lame that they’re incapable of establishing a robust economy inside of a walled ghetto with import/export restrictions from hell, but you just can’t help someone who won’t help himself.]

Economists here say what is most needed now is not more goods coming in [Bullshit], as the easing of the blockade has permitted, but people and exports getting out [This part is actually true.  Go figure.].  

That is not going to happen soon [This part is true too.].

“Our position against the movement of people is unchanged,” said Maj. Gen. Eitan Dangot, the Israeli in charge of policy to Gaza’s civilians. “As to exports, not now. Security is paramount, so that will have to wait.”

Direct contact between the peoples, common in the 1980s and ’90s when Palestinians worked daily in Israel, is nonexistent.  [This is exactly as it should be.  If the Palestinians can’t give up their land and surrender their most basic human rights without turning into “terrorists” and attempting to fight back, then I’m afraid the ghetto conditions must stand, even as the Israelis occupy, oops, I mean settle even more Palestinian land.  Speaking of terrorists, didn’t good old Bibi Netanyahu recently CELEBRATE the bombing of Jerusalem’s King David Hotel in 1946?  Ninety-six people died in that attack, but that’s ok, though.  The Irgun were fighting for the right of G-d’s chosen people to steal Arab land. Irgun were Freedom Fighters, not terrorists.  You say tomato…]

Jamil Mahsan, 62, is a member of a dying breed. He worked for 35 years in Israel and believes in two states.

“There are two peoples in Palestine, not just one, and each deserves its rights,” he said, sitting in his son’s house. He used to attend the weddings of his Israeli co-workers. He had friendships in Israel. Today nobody here does.

The young men sitting by the beach contemplating their lives were representative of the new Gaza. They have started a company to design advertisements, and they write and produce small plays.

Their first performance in front of several hundred people involved a recounting of the horrors of the last war with Israel, with children speaking about their own fears as video of the war played.

Their second play, which they are rehearsing, is a black comedy about the Palestinian plight. It assails the factions for fighting and the Arabs for selling out the Palestinians.  [Again, self-hating Arabs have no right to criticize anyone, especially Israel.]

“Our play does not mean we hate Israel,” said Abdel Qader Ismail, 24, a former employee of the military intelligence service, with no trace of irony. “We believe in Israel’s right to exist, but not on the land of Palestine. In France or in Russia, but not in Palestine. This is our home.”  [OMG!  Somebody call the Helen Thomas police!  Oh and yeah — Israel is totally awesome, and obviously NOT at fault in any way.]

Bageant: Waltzing at the doomsday ball

Joe Bageant’s at it again.  This guy hits more nails squarely on their heads than Norm freaking Abram ever did on his best day.  The entire article is worthy of being excerpted, but that kind of defeats the purpose of excerpting, so here’s a small sample to suck you in, followed by the entire piece.

It ain’t robbery, it’s a business cycle

Capitalism is about one thing: aggregating the surplus productive value of the public for private interests. As we have said, it is about creating state sanctioned “investments” for the workers who produce the real wealth. Things like home “ownership” and mortgages, or stock investments and funds to absorb their retirement savings. That crushing 30-year mortgage with two refis is an investment. So is that 401K melting like a snow cone the beach.

As the people’s wealth accumulates, it is steadily siphoned off by government and elite private forces. From time to time, it is openly plundered for their benefit by way of various bubbles, depressions or recessions and other forms of theft passed off as unavoidable acts of nature/god. These periodic raids and draw downs of the people’s wealth are attributed to “business cycles.” Past periodic raids and thefts are heralded as being proof of the rationale. “See folks, it comes and goes, so it’s a cycle!” Economic raids and busts become “market adjustments.” Public blackmail and plundering through bailouts become a “necessary rescue packages.” Giveaways to corporations under the guise of public works and creating employment become “stimulus.” The chief responsibility of economists is to name things in accordance with government and corporate interests. The function of the public is to acquire debt and maintain “consumer confidence.” When the public staggers to its feet again and manages to carry more debt, buy more poker chips on credit to play again, it’s called a recovery. They are back in the game.

Waltzing at the doomsday ball

Capitalism is dead, but we still dance with the corpse
By Joe Bageant

As an Anglo European white guy from a very long line of white guys, I want to thank all the brown, black, yellow and red people for a marvelous three-century joy ride. During the past 300 years of the industrial age, as Europeans, and later as Americans, we have managed to consume infinitely more than we ever produced, thanks to colonialism, crooked deals with despotic potentates and good old gunboats and grapeshot. Yes, we have lived, and still live, extravagant lifestyles far above the rest of you. And so, my sincere thanks to all of you folks around the world working in sweatshops, or living on two bucks a day, even though you sit on vast oil deposits. And to those outside my window here in Mexico this morning, the two guys pruning the retired gringo’s hedges with what look like pocket knives, I say, keep up the good work. It’s the world’s cheap labor guys like you — the black, brown and yellow folks who take it up the shorts — who make capitalism look like it actually works. So keep on humping. Remember: We’ve got predator drones.

After twelve generations of lavish living at the expense of the rest of the world, it is understandable that citizens of the so-called developed countries have come to consider it quite normal. In fact, Americans expect it to become plusher in the future, increasingly chocked with techno gadgetry, whiz bang processed foodstuffs, automobiles, entertainments, inordinately large living spaces — forever.

We’ve had plenty of encouragement, especially in recent times. Before our hyper monetized economy metastasized, things such as housing values went through the sky, and the cost of basics, food etc. went through the basement floor, compared to the rest of the world. The game got so cheap and fast that relative fundamental value went right out the window and hasn’t been seen since. For example, it would be very difficult to make Americans understand that a loaf of bread or a dozen eggs have more inherent value than an iPhone. Yet, at ground zero of human species economics, where the only currency is the calorie, that is still true.

Such is the triumph of the money economy that nothing can be valued by any other measure, despite that nobody knows what money is worth at all these days. This is due in part to the international finance jerk-off, in which the world’s governments print truckloads of worthless money, so they can loan it out. The idea here is that incoming repayment in some other, more valuable, currency will cover their own bad paper. In turn, the debtor nations print their own bogus money to repay the loans. So you have institutions loaning money they do not have to institutions unable to repay the loans. All this is based on the bullshit theory that tangible wealth is being created by the world’s financial institutions, through interest on the debt. Money making money.

As my friend, physicist and political activist George Salzman writes,

“Everyone in these ‘professional’ institutions dealing in money lives a fundamentally dishonest life. Never mind ‘regulating’ interest rates,” he says. “We must do away with interest, with the very idea of ‘money making money’. We must recognize that what is termed ‘Western Civilization’ is in fact an anti-civilization, a global social structure of death and destruction. However, the charade of ever-increasing debt can be kept up only as long as the public remains ignorant. Once ecological limits have been reached the capitalist political game is up.”

You can see why I love this guy.

Boomers and Doomers and XXL bloomers

Capitalism wouldn’t be around today, at least not in its current pathogenic form, if it had not caught a couple of lucky breaks. The first of course, was the expansion of bloodsucking colonialism to give it transfusions of unearned wealth, enabling “investors” to profit by artificial means (death, oppression and slavery). But the biggest break was being driven to stratospheric heights by inordinate quantities of available hydrocarbon energy. Inordinate, but never the less finite. Consequently, the 100-year-long oil suckdown that put industrial countries in the tall cotton, now threatens to take back from subsequent beneficiary generation everything it gave. The Hummers, the golf courses, the big box stores, cruising at 35,000 feet over the Atlantic — everything.

You’d never know that, to look around at Americans or Canadians, who have not the slightest qualms about living in that 3,500 square foot vinyl sided fuck box, if they can manage to make the mortgage nut, or unashamedly buying a quadruple X large Raiders Jersey because, hey, a guy’s gotta eat, right? Why don’t I deserve a nice ride, a swimming pool and a flat screen? I worked for it (sure you did buddy, your $12,000 Visa/MasterCard tab is proof of that).

The doomers and the peak oilers gag, and they call it American denial. Personally, I think it is somewhat unfair to say that most Americans and Canadians are in denial. They simply don’t have a fucking clue about what is really happening to them and their world. Everything they have been taught about working, money and “quality of life” constitutes the planet’s greatest problem — overshoot. Understanding this trashes our most basic assumptions, and requires a complete reversal in contemporary thought and practice about how we live in the world. When was the last time you saw any individual, much less an entire nation, do that?

Compounding our ignorance and naiveté are the officials and experts, politicians, media elites, and especially economists, who interpret the world for us and govern the course of things. The go-to guys. They don’t know either. But they’ve got the lingo down.

Somehow or other, it all has to do with the economy, which none of us understands, despite round the clock media jabbering on the subject. Somehow it has to do with this great big spring on Wall Street called “the market” that’s gotta be kept wound up, and interest rates at something called The Fed, which have got to be kept smunched down. The industry of crystal gazing and hairball rubbing surrounding these entities is called economics.

In heaven, there are no jobs

The following may be old news to some who studied economics in college. However, I did not. And, for me at least, this gets at the heart of our dilemma (if dilemma is the right word for economic, environmental and species collapse). Here goes:

The human economy is made up of three parts: nature, work and money. But since nobody would pay people like Allen Greenspan or Milton Friedman millions of dollars if they talked just like the rest of us, economists and academics refer to these three parts as the primary, secondary and tertiary economies.

Of these, nature — the world’s ecosystems and natural capital — is by far the most important. It comprises about three quarters of the total value of economic activity (Richard Costanza et al. 1997). To western world economists, nature — when it is even give nature a thought — is considered to be limitless.

The second part, work, is the labor required to produce goods and services from natural resources. Work creates real value through efficient use of both human and natural resource energy. A potato is just a potato until people sweating over belt lines and giant fryers turn it into Tater Tots.

The third economy, the tertiary economy, is the production and exchange of money. This includes anything that can be exchanged for money, whether it is gold, or mortgages bundled as securities, or derivatives. In short, any paperwork device that can be rigged up in such a fashion that money will stick to it. Feel free to take a wild-assed guess which of the three economies causes the most grief in this world.

To an economist, work — the stuff that eats up at least a third of our earthly lives, is merely a “factor” called labor. Work is considered an unfortunate cost in creating added value. Added value, along with nature’s resources, is the basis for all real world profits. Without labor, the money economy could not gin up on-paper wealth in its virtual economy. Somewhere, somebody’s gotta do some real-world work, before bankers and investment brokers can go into their offices and pretend to work at “creating and managing wealth.”

Paying the workers in society to produce real wealth costs money. Capitalists hate any sort of cost. It represents money that has somehow escaped their coffers. So when any behemoth corporation hands out thousands of pink slips on a Friday, Wall Street cheers and “the market” goes up. No ordinary mortal has ever seen “the market.” But traders on the floor of 11 Wall Street, people who’ve deemed themselves more than mortal by virtue of their $110 Vanitas silk undershorts, assure us the market does exist. No tours of the New York Stock exchange are permitted, so we have to take their word for it.

In any case, in the money economy, eliminating costs, even if those costs happen to be feeding human beings, citizens of the empire, is sublime. That is why economists in the tertiary economy can declare a “jobless recovery” with a straight face. By their lights, the perfect recovery would necessarily be 100% jobless. Human costs of generating profit would be entirely eliminated.

Say what you will about the tertiary “money economy,” but one thing is certain. It’s virulent. Right now finance makes up 42% of GDP, and is rising. Traditionally that figure has been around 9%. Fifty eight percent of the economy is “services.” When it comes to the service economy, most people think of fried chicken buckets and “customer service,” call centers harassing debtors or selling credit cards. However, much of the so-called service economy consists of “services” sub-corporations and entities owned and operated by monopolies in communications, electronic access and energy. They are designed for the sole purpose of robbing the people incrementally. Borrow a microscope and read the back side your cable and electric bill. Billing you is a “service” for which you pay. So is the guy who cuts off your lights if you don’t.

And manufacturing? Ten percent. Mostly big ticket items such as salad shooters, as near as I can tell.

What nature?

Still though, the foundation of the world, including our entire economic structure, is nature. This is clear to anyone who has ever, planted a garden, hiked in the woods, gone fishing or been gnawed on by chiggers. In vis est exordium quod terminus.

Yet, not one in a thousand economists takes nature into account. Nature has no place in contemporary economics, or the economic policy of today’s industrial nations. Again, like the general American public, these economists are not in denial. They simply don’t know it’s there. Historically, nature has never been considered even momentarily because economists, like the public, never figured they would run out of it. With the Gulf oil “spill” at full throttle, the terrible destruction of nature is becoming obvious. But no economist who values his or her career wants to start figuring the cost of ecocide into pricing analysis. For god sake man, it’s a cost!

With industrial society chewing the ass out of Mama Nature for three centuries, something had to give, and it has. Capitalists, however, remain unimpressed by global warming, or melting polar ice caps, or Southwestern desert armadillos showing up in Canada, or hurricanes getting bigger and more numerous every year. They are impressed by the potential dough in the so-called green economy. In fact, last night I watched an economist on CNN say that if the government had let the free market take care of the BP gulf catastrophe, it would not be the clusterfuck it is now. Now THAT might qualify as denial. In the mean time, anthropogenic ecocide and resource depletion, coupled with the pressures of six billion mouths and asses across the globe, have started to produce — surprise surprise, Sheriff Taylor! — very real effects on world economies. (How could they not?) So far though, in the simplistic see-spot-run American mind, it’s all about dead pelicans and oiled up hotel beaches.

Monkey with the paper

When the U.S., and then the world’s money economy started to crumble, the first thing capitalist economists could think of to do was to monkey with the paper. That’s all they knew how to do. It was unthinkable that the tertiary virtual economy, that great backroom fraud of debt manipulation and fiat money, might have finally reached the limits of the material earth to support. That the money economy’s gaming of workers and Mother Nature might itself might be the problem never occurred to the world’s economic movers and shakers. It still hasn’t. (Except for Chavez, Morales, Castro and Lula). Jobs disappeared, homes went to foreclosure, and personal debt was at staggering all time highs. America’s working folks were taking it square in the face. Not that economists or financial kingpins cared much one way or the other. In the capitalist financial world, everything is an opportunity. Cancer? Build cancer hospital chains. Pollution? Sell pollution credits. The country gone bankrupt?

“Nothing to do,” cried the mad hatters of finance, “but print more money, and give gobs of cash to the banks! Yes, yes, yes! Borrow astronomical amounts of the stuff and bribe every fat cat financial corporation up and down The Street!” All of which came down to creating more debt for the common people to work off. They seem willing enough to do it too — if only they had jobs.

Along with the EU, Japan and the rest of the industrial world, the US continues to flood the market with cheap credit. That would be hunky dory, if was actually wealth for anybody but a banker. The real problems are debt and fraud, and tripling the debt in order to cover up the fraud. And pretending there no natural costs of our actions, that we do not have to rob the natural world to crank up the money world through debt.

No matter what economists tell us abut getting the credit industry moving again, papering over debt with more debt will not pollinate our food crops when the last honeybee is dead. I suggest that we put the economists out there in the fields, hand-pollinating crops like they do in China. They seem to know all about the subject, and have placed a monetary value of $12 billion on the pollination accomplished by bees in the US. Can you imagine the fucking arrogance? All bees do is make our fruit and vegetable supply possible. Anyway, if we cannot use the economists for pollinators (odds are they are too damned whacked to do that job), we could also stuff them down the blowhole of the Deepwater Horizon spill. For the first time in history, economists would be visibly useful.

Speaking of China: Since there is no way to pick up the turd of American capitalism by the clean end, much less polish it, American economists have pointed east, and set up a yow-yow about China as “the emerging giant.” The “next global industrial superpower.” Many Chinese are willing to ride their bicycles 10 miles to work through poisonous yellow-green air, and others in the “emerging middle class” are willing to wade into debt up to their nipples; this is offered as evidence of the viability of industrial capitalism. All it proves is that governments and economists never learn. In the quest of getting something for nothing, China follows the previous fools right into the smog and off the cliff.

Sumthin’ fer nuthin’

The main feature of capitalism is the seductive assertion that you can get something for nothing in this world. That you can manufacture wealth through money manipulation, and that it is OK to steal and hold captive the people’s medium of exchange, then charge them out the ass for access. That you can do so with a clear conscience. Which you can, if you are the kind of sleazy prick who has inherited or stolen enough wealth to get into the game.

Even so, to keep a rigged game going, you must keep the suckers believing they can, and eventually will, benefit from the game. Also, that it is the only game in town. Legitimizing public theft means indoctrinating the public with all sorts of market mystique and hocus-pocus. They must be convinced there is is such a thing as an “investment” for the average schmuck drawing a paycheck (and there is, sort of, between the crashes and the bubbles). It requires a unified economic rationale for government and industry policies, and it is the economist’s job to pump out this rationale. Historically, they have seldom hesitated to get down on their knees and do so.

It ain’t robbery, it’s a business cycle

Capitalism is about one thing: aggregating the surplus productive value of the public for private interests. As we have said, it is about creating state sanctioned “investments” for the workers who produce the real wealth. Things like home “ownership” and mortgages, or stock investments and funds to absorb their retirement savings. That crushing 30-year mortgage with two refis is an investment. So is that 401K melting like a snow cone the beach.

As the people’s wealth accumulates, it is steadily siphoned off by government and elite private forces. From time to time, it is openly plundered for their benefit by way of various bubbles, depressions or recessions and other forms of theft passed off as unavoidable acts of nature/god. These periodic raids and draw downs of the people’s wealth are attributed to “business cycles.” Past periodic raids and thefts are heralded as being proof of the rationale. “See folks, it comes and goes, so it’s a cycle!” Economic raids and busts become “market adjustments.” Public blackmail and plundering through bailouts become a “necessary rescue packages.” Giveaways to corporations under the guise of public works and creating employment become “stimulus.” The chief responsibility of economists is to name things in accordance with government and corporate interests. The function of the public is to acquire debt and maintain “consumer confidence.” When the public staggers to its feet again and manages to carry more debt, buy more poker chips on credit to play again, it’s called a recovery. They are back in the game.

Dealer, hit me with two more cards,. I feel lucky.

Does it hurt yet?

To anyone who is paying attention, things look doomed. Fortunately for American capitalism, nobody is paying attention. They never have. Even given the unemployment numbers, foreclosures and bankruptcies, most Americans are still not feeling enough pain yet to demand change. Not that they will. Demand change, I mean. We haven’t the slightest idea of any other options, outside those provided by the corporate managed state. So in a chorus well-schooled by the media the public demands “reform,” of the present system, the systemic pathogenic system based on exploitation of the many by the few, the one presently eating our society from the inside out. How do you reform that?

We are clueless, and the state sees to it that we stay that way. Take the price of gas, about which Americans are obsessive. In one way or another, petroleum is the subject of much news coverage, nearly as much as pissing matches between egomaniacs in Hollywood or o Capitol Hill. So one might think that by now Americans would have a realistic grasp of the petroleum business and things like oil and gasoline prices.

Hah, think again! This is America, this is Strawberry Fields, where nothing is real and the skies are not cloudy all day. We’re stewed in a consumer hallucination called the American Dream and riding a digital virtual money economy nobody can even prove exists.

Is there an economy out there or not?

If we decide to believe the money economy still exists, and that debt is indeed wealth, then we damned sure know where to go looking for the wealth. Globally, forty percent of it is in the paws of the wealthiest one percent. Nearly all of that one percent are connected to the largest and richest corporations. Just before the economy blew out, these elites held slightly less than $80 trillion. After the blowout/bailout, their combined investment wealth was estimated at a little over $83 trillion. To give some idea, this is four years of the gross output of all the human beings on earth. It is only logical that these elites say the only way to revive the economy, which to them consists entirely of the money economy, is to continue to borrow money from them.

However, the unasked question still hangs in the air: Does the money economy even exist anymore? Is it still there? (was it ever?) Or are we all blindly going through the motions because:

A: we do not understand that, for all practical historical purposes, it’s over;

B: we do not know how to do anything else so we keep dancing with the corpse of the hyper-capitalist economy;

C: the right calamity has not come down the pike to knock us loose from the spell of the dance,

or D: we’re so friggin brain dead, commodities engorged and internally colonized by capitalist industrialism that nobody cares, and therefore it no longer matters.

This is multiple choice, and it counts ten points toward survival, come the collapse.

If there is no economy left, what the hell are we all participating in? A mirage? The zombie ball? The short answer is: Because the economy is a belief system, you are participating in whatever you believe you are. Personally, I believe we are participating in a modern extension of the feudal system, with bankers as the new feudal barons and credit demographics as their turf. But then, I drink and take drugs. Whatever it is, the money economy is the only game in town until the collapse, after which chickens and firewood may become the national currency. The Masai use cattle don’t they?

At the same time, even dumb people are starting to feel an undefined fear in their bones. When I was back in the States last month, an old high school chum, a sluggard who seldom has forward thought beyond the next beer and Lotto scratch ticket, confides in me:

“Joey, I can’t shake the feeling that something big and awful is going to happen. And by awful I mean awful.”

“Happen to what?”

“Money, work, our country. Shit, I dunno.”

“Probably all three,” I opined. “Plus the environment.”

“Cheerful fuck, ain’t ya?”

“That’s what they pay me for, Bubba.”

Some in the herd are starting to feel a big chill in the air, the first winds of the approaching storm. Yes, something is happening, and you don’t know what it is, dooooo yew, Mistah Jones?

However, the most adept economists and other court sorcerers are going along as if nothing too unusual is happening — calling it a recession, or more recently a double-dip recession (don’t you love these turd-balls, making it sound as harmless as an ice cream cone — gimme a double dip please!) or even a depression. But no matter what it is, they smugly assure us, there is nothing happening that the world has never seen before. Including the insider scams that ignited the catastrophe. It’s just a matter of size. Extent.

OK, it’s a matter of scale. Like the Gulf oil spill. We’ve seen spills before, just not this big. But over the next couple of years as the poison crud circulates the world’s oceans, the Deep Horizon spill will prove to be a global game changer, whether economists and court wizards acknowledge it or don’t. Anything of global scale, whether it is in finance, energy, foreign aid, world health or war contracting, is accompanied by unimaginable complexity. That makes it perfect cover for criminal activity. Particularly finance, where you are always close to the money.

Jim Kunstler, never at a loss to describe a ludicrous situation, sums up the paper economy’s engineering of our collapse nicely:

“Wall Street — in particular the biggest ‘banks’ — packaged up and sold enough swindles to unwind 2500 years of western civilization. You simply cannot imagine the amount of bad financial paper out there right now in every vault and portfolio on the planet … the people fabricating things like synthetic collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) had no idea what the fuck they were doing — besides deliberately creating documents that nobody would ever understand, that would never be unraveled by teams of law clerks … and were guaranteed to place in jeopardy every operation of the world economy above the barter level.”

Phew!

So, for $5,000 and an all expense paid trip to Rio: What does a good capitalist do after having stolen all there is to steal from the living, then stolen the nation’s future wealth from the unborn through debt both public and private?

Tick tock, tick tock. The wheel spins.

Blaaaaaamp!

“Your answer please.”

“A good capitalist would ‘invest’ his haul in some other racket, some other scam in the money economy.”

“Vanna, a pie in the kisser for this guy, please.”

The problem with the answer is that economy is now toxed out. Radioactive. Crawling with paper vermin and all manner of vermin, especially toxic derivatives — about $1.4 quadrillion worth (even as we are still trying to get used to hearing the term trillions), according to the Bank of National Settlements. That is 1,000 trillion, or $190,000 for every human being on the planet. There is not now, and never will be, enough wealth to cover that puppy — because there is not enough natural world under the puppy to create it. Not the way capitalism creates wealth.

Defenders of capitalism who say it can and must be saved must also admit that there is not enough money left to work with, to invest. There is only debt. Oh, yeah, we forgot; debt is wealth to a banker. Well then, all we gotta do is collect $190,000 per head from people in Sudan and Haiti and the rest of the planet.

Naw, that’s too hard. Elite capital’s best bet is a good old fashioned money raid on the serfs; create another bubble that will buy enough time before it pops to make the already rich a few billion richer. To that end, the G-8 is blowing one last bounder out there in the hyperspace where the economy s alleged to be surviving. Naturally, they are doing it in order to “save the world economy.” The tough part is figuring out what to base the next bubble on.

May I suggest Soylent Green?

Under God, with fees and compound interest for all

From the outset, capitalism was always about the theft of the people’s sustenance. It was bound to lead to the ultimate theft — the final looting of the source of their sustenance — nature. Now that capitalism has eaten its own seed corn, the show is just about over, with the nastiest scenes yet to play out around water, carbon energy (or anything that expends energy), soil and oxygen. For the near future however, it will continue to play out around money.

As the economy slowly implodes, money will become more volatile stuff than it already is. The value and availability of money is sure to fluctuate wildly. Most people don’t have the luxury of escaping the money economy, so they will be held hostage and milked hard again by the same people who just drained them in the bailouts. As usual, the government will be right there to see that everybody plays by the rules. Those who have always benefited by capitalism’s rules will benefit more. That cadre of “money professionals” which holds captive the nation’s money supply, and runs things according to the rules of money, can never lose money. It writes the rules. And rewrites them when it suits the money elite’s interests. Capitalism, the Christian god, democracy, the Constitution.

It’s all one ball of wax, one set of rules in the American national psyche. Thus, the money masters behind the curtain will write The New Rules, the new tablets of supreme law, and call them Reform. There will be rejoicing that “the will of the people” has once again moved upon the land, and that the democracy’s scripture has once again been delivered by the unseen hand of God.

—————

Joe Bageant is the author of Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War. His newest book, Rainbow Pie: A Redneck Memoir, deals with America’s permanent white underclass, and how it was intentionally created. To be released in September in Australia and October in the United Kingdom. Rainbow Pie is available for preorder from Amazon-UK and Amazon-Canada. In Australia, the book can be pre-ordered at Scribe Publications.

July 4th, or … I pledge allegiance to the aircraft carrier

“Wake up sucker! We’re thieves and we’re bad guys. That’s exactly what we are.”

~ Peter — Dawn of the Dead

I watched Dawn of the Dead (the original) on the evening of July 3rd. I’ve seen it a bunch of times, actually, but this was the first time I had watched it in a few years, and the line I quoted above hit me in a totally new way this time around. Instead of hearing it in the context of the movie, I heard it in the context of the ongoing militarized corporate takeover of the planet, and specifically, America’s role in that takeover.

Wake up sucker! We’re thieves and we’re bad guys. That’s exactly what we are.

Indeed.

I paused the movie and said it out loud to the cat sharing the sofa with me. He was unimpressed, and put his head back down on his pillow, which is exactly how most Americans would react to such a statement.

Shut up, dude, I’m trying to watch the glowing box over here. Don’t make me think too hard about anything, and whatever you do, never, ever make me think about America as anything other than the super duperist, melting pottingist, terror-fightingist, democracy-spreadingist, home of the bravest, shiniest beacon on the hill in the history of the known universe.

But, but, but … what about our toppling of the democratically elected Iranian government in 1953? What about our staging of the phony Gulf of Tonkin incident as an excuse for all-out war in Vietnam? And speaking of Vietnam, what about our carpet bombing of Cambodia? What about our unconditional backing of the apartheid state of Israel? What about our fire bombing of Dresden and Tokyo? What about our nuclear holocausts in Hiroshima and Nagasaki? What about our importation of Nazi scientists after WWII? What about our illegal invasion of Afghanistan? What about our illegal invasion of Iraq? What about our drone attacks in Pakistan?  What about our growing misadventures in Yemen? What about our role in the creation of Al Qaeda? What about the Patriot Act and all it’s attendant civil liberty erosions? What about our extra judicial White House assassination policy? What about our off-shore gulags and torture mills? What about our role in protecting Afghanistan’s international heroin trade? What about our destruction of our own working and middle class?  What about our 13 trillion-dollar debt? What about our…

Dude, shut up, I’m trying to watch Ultimate Lions Eating People American Gladiator Shop ’til You Drop Extreme Red Bull Wife Swap NASCAR Cage Fighting. Besides, didn’t you learn in American Exceptionalism 101 that our government only does bad stuff in self-defense against terrorists who hate us for our freedom to lie around watching Ultimate Lions Eating People, while we eviscerate their children’s sorry asses with missiles fired from flying robots? What are you, some kind of communist?

And so it goes here in the last empire standing. The myth is the truth and the truth is a myth, and this upside down version of reality has been fashioned into a corporate swagger stick that keeps us pulling on the rope of empire, just like the beasts of burden that we are.

But there’s always another day, right? For me, the next day was the 4th of July, and I decided to get my bike ride out-of-the-way early, before the ridiculous heat and humidity of New York City summer set in. My ride took me up the bike path along the Henry Hudson Highway, and again, I was seeing it through different eyes this time around. Instead of losing myself in my headphones, I thought about the fact that Henry Hudson wasn’t just some swashbuckling adventurer who happened to discover the area that would become New York City whilst water skiing and parasailing. He actually worked for a colonial corporation called the Dutch East India Company (which I’ll probably write about soon), and his arrival was just another in a long series of conquests by white Europeans that marked the beginning of the end for the native peoples who, in the coming centuries, would be mercilessly destroyed in the name of colonial corporate wealth, and twisted, Kiplingesque progress.

As I continued to ride north, I noticed that the NYPD was out in force, helping to prepare for the evening’s fireworks celebration along the Hudson river. It occurred to me that the police officers had a long hot day ahead of them in their dark navy blue uniforms. Then I remembered that it wasn’t too long ago that the NYPD wore light blue uniforms that were pleasing to the eye, and gave off an unspoken impression of helpfulness, as opposed to the current para-military styled uniforms that are much closer to black than to blue, and wouldn’t seem out of place on a Gestapo agent, which, of course, is the exact intended effect.

Check out Officer Friendly!

As I approached 42 street, I could see a long line of overweight people, clad in ill-fitting, corporate logo’d gear, clutching plastic bottles full of Coke and Pepsi products. Most of them were likely tourists, celebrating the 4th in the most American way possible; by standing in line to pledge allegiance to an aircraft carrier. The Intrepid is a floating museum dedicated to modern-day, jingoistic, chest thumping colonialism, and damned if these people didn’t bring me right back to Dawn of the Dead, aimlessly milling about like zombies, unwilling, or unable to think for even a second about the fact that they are worshiping tools of theft and destruction.

Wake up sucker! We’re thieves and …

Oh, never mind.

Happy fourth of July!