The Mideast has been opened wide to political and military chaos beyond the capacity of any player to control. Intrigue on steroids is the name of the game.
History is embarrassing, painful. Thinking about it will only make you tense. The crisis was merely a “mistake.” Everything is under control. Just go back to sleep.
If you lose your memory, how do you know who you are? If you do not know where you came from or how you got where you are, how are you to figure out where to go next? If you have forgotten the beauty and fears of childhood, how are you to become an adult? What does it mean to be an “adult,” if one has no understanding of a beauty to be sought or dangers to be avoided? Someone suffering from total amnesia would understandably reach out for guidance, but what if a whole society had amnesia?
What if a whole society forgot its history, its glories, its advantages, its mistakes, the free lunches it had eaten, the harm it had caused others on the way to its own successes? Could such a society make rational plans for the future? How would it learn the lessons necessary to avoid old, harmless-looking but fatal mistakes? How could it define success? How would it know to prepare for the chickens it had long ago sent aloft before they come home to roost? Such is the predicament of a society that substitutes myth for history, denial for responsibility. That is fast becoming the reality in U.S. society.
Memory of the key crises of recent domestic history, history that occurred during the lifetimes of a significant proportion of those living today, is fading so fast in the minds of a population distracted by economic duress and distorsions by the guilty desperate to avoid the possibility that they might be held responsible for their crimes that it has already become almost impossible for us, as a society, to draw accurate lessons from even the most prominent of our failures.
To most Americans, the Vietnam War is already ancient history, 9/11 nearly invisible in the haze of deep denial, and even memory of yesterday’s man-made recession energetically being twisted out of all recognition—while it still continues!—by a strident campaign by the perpetrators to transmogrify their guilt into innocence.
If the Vietnam War conjures up any reaction, it is unlikely to be much more profound than “avoid land wars in Asia.” But why should we avoid some particular type of war in some particular type of geographical setting? Such a simplistic warning is dangerously easy to derail, fairly begging conservative warmongers with visions of empire dancing in their heads to sneer that we “should not be weaklings and should free ourselves from fear.” How neatly the conversation can be hijacked and twisted into a debate over “whether or not we have the courage to defend ourselves!” The vital lost point had nothing to do with “Asia” or “land” but whether or not the U.S. democracy should interfere by force in a foreign civil war, whether or not U.S. leaders have the wisdom to recognize the “good guys” and select the proper strategy for facilitating their victory, and whether or not even a “correct” solution imposed from the outside will still be workable when handed to another culture on a silver platter gripped in a foreign military fist. If we forget our history, then how could we ever possibly see the degree to which Iraq was indeed “Arabic for Vietnam”? And if we can’t see that, then how will we avoid the analogous trap of regime change in Iran or heaven knows what other tempting foreign adventure?
As for 9/11, the layers of taboo covering up that sad day make it almost impossible to figure out where to even begin a rational discussion of causes and thus of ways to avoid reliving the nightmare. An almost impenetrable cloaking device has been deployed by mainstream talking heads and the elite figures of both major parties around public discussion of the impact on Muslim perceptions and behavior of either the official Washington bias in favor of right-wing Israeli preferences or of Washington’s long-standing cosy ties to a long string of repressive Arab dictatorships.
The 2008 Recession is so recent and its causes are so well known and so obvious to millions that the dynamics of mythmaking (about the degree to which it was man-made and the result not of “innocent mistakes” but of the careful planning (gone just slightly wrong) of a small group of willful millionaires) are slightly different, at least to the degree that those brave dissenters trying to expose the extent of the fraud that has been perpetrated are not openly being charged with being traitors or anti-Semites. Yet, A) the campaign to marginalize those who criticize the “masters of the universe;” B) the absolute denial in “polite society” that the hypothesis of a “class war by the rich” is even open to discussion, much less blindingly obvious; and C) the claim in “pro-business”—i.e., “anti-people”–circles that billionaires are the source of jobs rather than pirates trying with great success to impoverish society for their private gain constitute three impressive pieces of evidence that the process of myth-making for the purpose of protecting financial criminals via mass forgetfulness of history is well on the way to success.
Forgetting history ensures repeating it. Quick little foreign adventures will again become decade-long disasters that weaken both U.S. security and U.S. democracy. Placing our trust blindly in the hands of the elite will again tilt the playing field against the 99%, provoke the snowballing of greed, lead the panicking capitalist masters of the universe to beg for welfare, and impoverish the nation. We could, alternatively, face up to our mistakes and learn from the past. But we should hurry, because the guilty are working as hard as they can to make us go back to sleep…back to sleep…back to sleep.
Each trial of an official who abuses his power by murdering those who constrain his freedom of movement adds a brick to the foundations of a civilized world…even if the corrupt official escapes justice. Each effort by a private tribunal or a foreign country furthers the legal and moral conceptualization of a civilized, i.e., just, world.
The history of modern man is the war to the death between Power and human rights. All socio-political divisions based on nationality, party, ideology, culture are secondary. Power seeks the elimination of human rights even as a concept or vision for human rights represent the core obstacle to Power’s freedom of movement.
The history of the last two centuries, in a sentence, thus condenses to the tortured process of moving from the concept of elections to the elimination of slavery to decolonization to the Nuremburg Trials to the dissection of CPSU abuse of power by Solzhenitsyn and Sakharov to the indictment of Pinochet in Spain to the trial of Milosovic to the rejection of South African and Israeli apartheid to the war crimes tribunal in Malaysia that resulted in the conviction in abstentia of Bush and Cheney, living former leaders of a reigning superpower.
In that long bitterly contested process, where Power seems consistently to win from one day to the next but over time can be seen increasingly to be on the defensive, one major sub-process was the exposure of the use by Algeria’s military dictatorship, under the protection of the French ruling elite, of the strategy of massacres as their long-term method of retaining control. A key step in illuminating the crimes of the Algerian military dictatorship is the on-going court case, appropriately being conducted in France, to determine the responsibility for the slaughter in 1996 of a group of Tibhirine monks in Algeria. Having exterminated the democratic movement of the Algerian people in a vicious war lasting from the military coup d’etat in 1992 until recently, the Algerian military dictatorship continues today to demonstrate its “innocence” by vigorously opposing the French judicial investigation.
Les juges enquêtant sur la mort des sept moines de Tibéhirine ont demandé à l’Algérie d’identifier une vingtaine de témoins et à entendre Abderrazak El Para, mis en cause par des repentis du GIA dans le rapt des religieux, selon un document consulté mercredi par l’AFP.
Dans une commission rogatoire internationale (CRI) adressée aux autorités algériennes, les juges Marc Trévidic et Nathalie Poux précisent également les conditions dans lesquelles ils voudraient exhumer et autopsier les têtes des moines à Tibhirine avec deux médecins légistes, un expert en empreintes génétiques et un photographe de l’identité judiciaire. [Assassinat des moines de Tibhirine : Abderrazak El Para, un casse-tête algéro-français | DNA - Dernières nouvelles d'Algérie.]
As with the current trial of Guatemala’s Rios Montt on charges of running death squads, the trial of the Algerian dictatorship is important not just for achieving justice but as a key step in the historic process of creating a civilized world in which justice will be recognized as having precedence over the exercise of power by the elite. Stay tuned. Bringing old criminal rulers to justice is not a matter of wrapping up the loose ends of history; it sets the tone for the future of human society.
Managed Consensus — Seeking justice in Pinochet’s Chile and the USSR
Impunity or Purification — The dangers of granting impunity to political criminals
The First War on Terror — Forgetting the lessons of history
Impunity and the Building of Civilization — On making impunity illegal
Saving Democracy by Force – Algeria and crimes against humanity
Applying Insecticides Is not State Terror — The Soviet case
The evidence that the ruling elite has transformed American democracy into “inverted totalitarianism” is accumulating remorselessly. Continue reading
The most effective approach to catching private sector financial criminals is to start by holding Washington officials responsible for their patriotic duty to protect the public interest. Continue reading
When the proportion of a nation’s population that can’t afford food without welfare nearly doubles overnight, that country is in crisis. When that explosion of dependency plateaus and stays there for years, the system needs changing.
The Congressional Budget Office just issued a grim graphical picture of a declining nation that has just experienced not a “tough patch” but a social revolution that looks like a permanent step backwards. After 15 years of a steady 20-25 million Americans using food stamps, between 2008 and 2011, that number exploded to 40 million and continues to rise, with further rise projected to the 45 million-level, perhaps followed by a decline by 2020 to “only” 37 million – still 10-15 million more people than the pre-2008 norm!
Note that all the “good” news in this story is an estimate of a possible future tipping point. The actual data just keep getting worse, not continuing bad or improving slightly, but getting worse. If the data were stable and level, the real-life situation for American society would be worsening because having this huge percentage of the population continuing to be unable to feed itself a for years is far more serious than the same number needing emergency help: this is the picture of a permanently depressed and unproductive tenth of America. But reality is worse: as a measure of the health of U.S. society, the size of the food stamp group as well as its current and projected expansion show either a nation in decline or a nation dysfunctionally divided.
Need I point out the contrast between this and the simultaneous explosion in the stock market, the wealth of the super-rich, and corporate profits…or the other critical contextual issue–that the absolute number of Americans with full-time jobs is declining?
The healthy, economically secure portion of the U.S. population is shrinking, and the dependent group is expanding. The social foundation of national power and the reality of “the American way of life” are being gutted from both ends, with only a irresponsible and gluttonous 0.1% fringe group experiencing clear success even by some self-centered, short-term definition of the word. What will happen when one of their fancy limousines hits a pothole and loses a tire?
The super-rich do not appear to be thinking about the potholes they may encounter as they redefine themselves as the enemies of the American people, however. Instead, they remain committed to continuing the transfer of wealth from the public into their own hands. Once having discovered that it can take whatever it wants without risk, what elite has ever voluntarily handed the money back to the rightful owners? As long as Washington gives billionaires a blank check, they will happily grab all the money they can get. Wealth has a way of making a person bizarrely short-sighted. How many billionaires are worried about what will happen to national infrastructure as society is punished by austerity for everyone except those who can afford to pay? The “pothole” a billionaire encounters may be a leaking nuclear power plant…Perhaps they will all just fly to the Cayman Islands.
This attitude on the part of those who benefit most
from the American way of life that they have no responsibility for helping to preserve it is pushing the American system of governance away from the democratic center toward the extremist periphery by transforming a system that had been generating a rising middle into a dangerously bimodal, two-class structure of a ballooning mass of poor and a tiny elite of the unimaginably rich. Whatever the specific form of governance that results (e.g., monopoly capitalism, fascism, revolutionary dictatorship), mass disillusion and instability are predictable unless the trend away from egalitarianism is reversed. Stability, especially for a population that has experienced rising egalitarianism and democracy, rests not just on the rule of any law but the rule of law that is perceived as just. The rule of just law is visibly receding in the U.S. and the billionaires may not like the new world they are creating.
American society is getting squeezed from both ends: the rich are impoverishing society at large, while a new underclass of formerly successful and hard-working citizens is being manufactured at the bottom. As for the majority that remains in the middle, rising elite demands for austerity (for everyone but themselves), the end of reliable retirement packages, declines in job security, evaporating job benefits, and wages that have essentially been flat for 3-4 decades are taking their toll.
Whether the U.S. can survive like this or not may be debatable, but two things are clear: the recession is not over; it is getting worse…and so is the distortion of a society that had been getting more egalitarian for half a century and is now headed in the opposite direction.
If you want to destroy capitalism, you can’t do much better than applaud the behavior of our financial elite.
The real U.S. unemployment rate is 14%, manufacturing is not making a comeback, financial criminals have been given a “stay out of jail” card not just for crimes contributing to the Recession of 2008 but also for new financial crimes (e.g., LIBOR fixing)–thus ensuring that the wave of financial irresponsibility will continue, and the Cyprus settlement opens the door to outright government theft of private savings accounts in banks.
Do you think the Cyprus deal is something special that won’t happen again? Read the superb review by Michael Snyder on Blacklisted News [3/27/13] quoting one major global financial official after another stating clearly and publicly that in the future, when a bank fails, governments will steal the bank depositors’ funds to compensate the bank for its inability to…take proper care of the depositors’ money. Or as these members of the financial elite like to put it, governments will take money from bank depositors to support the banks. Now, who is the greatest supporter of a bank if not the person who hands his money to the bank? The logic is clear: put your money in your mattress or under the porch but never again put a penny in a bank!
Now it appears that “the Fed is willing to flood banks with cheap money to blow inflationary bubbles under real estate, stocks and bonds” [Chris Street in Testosterone Pit.com 4/3/13]. Ah, “real estate and stock bubble?” Now, why does that remind me of something…something related to the “collapse of our financial system”…wasn’t that how Paulson and friends put it only five years ago?
Meanwhile, thoughtful Europeans are considering the likelihood of a fascist coup, as democracy seems increasingly incapable of devising honest, effective economic policy [Atlantico 3/31/13].
Fund welfare for the rich by “balancing” the budget of the 99%. The logic of governance by the elite, for the elite, and of the elite has been put into practice to establish a pattern of fraud against society.
The Alice-in-Wonderland quality of the public policy debate in Washington is revealed by the studied misuse of English. The words do have meaning…just not their dictionary meaning. “Balanced budgets” means budgets that fund welfare for the rich and the war machine by depriving the population of social services, if not literally stealing from your bank account. “Capitalism” means welfare for the rich rather than free competition. “Crime” refers to stuff the lower classes do in the street, including demonstrating for civil liberties.
No individual banker has yet been found guilty of committing fraud in the LIBOR scandal despite hundreds of billions of dollars in fines. The Cyprus settlement established the precedent of governments stealing some arbitrary percentage of private bank accounts for their convenience – not, be it noted, for saving the country, rebuilding infrastructure, improving education or any other public purpose, but just for the convenience of politicians who wish to pay off rather than punish rich financial gamblers. Does anyone believe the Cyprus precedent will never again be used? Pandora’s box has been opened. Scandal follows scandal, each one leaving bankers richer and societies poorer.
Depuis février 2008, date à laquelle j’ai commencé à m’intéresser à la santé des banques, j’en ai vu des arnaques diverses et variées dans le monde de la finance, mais celle que j’ai pu observer de près à Chypre est digne du massacre des Templiers afin que le Roi de France n’ait pas à leur rembourser ses prêts. Certes, à l’époque, seuls les Templiers ont “payé” de leur vie, le peuple n’a pas été trop touché. Sept siècles plus tard, ce sont quand même les 600.000 habitants de l’Ile de Chypre, ancienne base arrière des Templiers (à Limassol, Richard Coeur de Lion épousa Bérengère de Navarre et la couronna Reine d’Angleterre) qui ont été dépouillés et jetés à la mer, pieds et poings attachés, mains derrière le dos, afin que les banques américaines et européennes puissent se servir tranquillement dans leurs coffres pour la gloire de l’UE.
Tout Chypriote qui avait plus de 100.000 euros d’économies, toute société chypriote qui avait plus de 100.000 euros de trésorerie à la Leiki Bank ou à la Bank of Cyprus n’aura plus que les yeux de leur comptable pour pleurer. Pour faire passer la pilule pro-européenne, les merdias français ont présenté le pays comme une île où les pirates russes déposaient leur butin mal acquis alors qu’en réalité Bruxelles a tout fait pour que Chypre rejoigne l’UE… Mieux: à l’époque Bruxelles se moquait totalement du fait que les Libanais, Algériens, Tunisiens, Marocains, Russes, Croates, Bulgares, Serbes, Tchèques, etc. aient fait de Chypre leur Luxembourg local. Le système bancaire chypriote était qualifié comme l’un des meilleurs, et il y a encore un an, les “stress-tests” européens menés sur les banques chypriotes les donnaient… en parfaite santé !!! [Read the rest at Jovanovic.com 2-5 April 2013.]
Is Cyprus the wave of the future? The head of the Eurozone finance ministers seems to think so.
Perhaps the greatest of all the frauds being committed by our leaders is that welfare for the rich program called “too big to fail” that subsidizes the massive borrowing costs of the major banks. This corporate socialism is so egregiously unfair to the whole rest of the economy that even the leaders of government, such as FDIC vice chairman Thomas Hoenig, are protesting. The FDIC vice chairman’s protest against this travesty was based solely on economic and legal grounds, but it is far worse when put in the political context of a campaign to shred the social safety net via a fraudulent call for a balanced Federal budget that takes from the people to fund the war budget…and the bottom lines of big gambling houses that also do some banking on the side. (The banking on the side legally qualifies them to borrow money at subsidized rates to fund their gambling. If you have a problem with that, then perhaps you need anger management class.)
In a review of how Obama is protecting large-scale financial fraudsters, Crooks and Liars’ Mike Lux offers a priceless list of examples from a new report by the Campaign for a Fair Settlement. It gets worse, with a whole new version of mortgage fraud now being perpetrated, even while the nation remains littered with foreclosed, empty, and rotting houses from the last one.
Perhaps you really don’t need to worry about the details, but you do need to grasp the big picture – a pattern of elite fraud to impoverish the 99% that amounts to a class war the rich, despite the little issue in 2008, continue to win. Let’s make it simple. For those of you who still have some cash, if you put it in a bank, the government may take it; if you put it in real estate, the banks may take it. So, exactly what are you going to do with it?**
**Psst!! Hey, buddy, I got this deal for ya: a derivative of a derivative that will pay 15% guaranteed for as long as we can keep selling them. Whadda ya say, buddy, whadda ya say?
The type of government a society gets depends greatly upon resources and elite control, which impinge directly upon the rule of law, leaving such issues as “capitalism vs. socialism” or “big vs. little government” far down in second place. This approach provides a more realistic way to assess the evidence that the U.S. is evolving away from democracy toward abusive monopoly capitalism.
The type of government to which a society submits has a certain logic: government is broadly a function of resource availability and the degree of control the government exerts over society. Democracy is expensive, requiring public effort to keep officials honest and greatly facilitated by advanced communications and widespread education. The theoretical payback on this investment rests on the assumption that the free marketplace of ideas will allow the best to rise to the top. The level of control imposed by the ruling elite is more arbitrary, given the roles of personality, ideology, and elite coordination. Elite control contains its own logic: the quality of government may be low in a democracy if the population is angry, fearful, lazy, alienated, or otherwise distracted, but in a tightly controlled government, corrective feedback is almost certain to be impaired, leading inevitably to internal rot (apologies to Plato, whose dream of a benevolent dictatorship of the wise remains just a vision). Whether financial, military, religious, ethnic, or ideological, elites oppress.
From this landscape of government types constrained primarily by resources and control emerges a loose pattern of governance: the rule of law is a function of the combination of plentiful resources plus egalitarianism. A democracy may of course descend into mob rule, and an elite may voluntarily submit to the rule of law, but the general tendency is the reverse. Political egalitarianism, i.e., the golden coin of governmental transparency on one side and citizen democratic activism on the other, is probably more significant than economic egalitarianism, assuming that a government can be designed that allows the poor the same access as the rich. Per capita resources probably matter more as the size of the society increases. Whatever the caveats relevant to particular circumstances, the general pattern imposes such fundamental constraints on all societies that it calls into question any facile assumptions about the “true nature” or “inevitability” or “durability” of any particular democracy or dictatorship. Look first at the combination of resources and control, not personality, ideology, or culture.
This general picture should immediately provoke the question, “How is my government evolving?” This question appropriately assumes that all governments are always moving in one direction or another through the theoretical political landscape as a function of variations in resource availability and the balance between elite determination to exert control vs. citizen determination to exercise oversight. As a default attitude, this equation should be considered more fundamental than other variables, e.g., constitutional guarantees or cultural norms, unless a very convincing case to the contrary can be made.
The crucial distinction to be made when assessing the current or likely quality of governance is the degree to which official behavior adheres to the rule of law (blue region in the Logic of Governance diagram) rather than the abusive principle of “might makes right (red region in the diagram). All considerations of whether, say, a social system is capitalist or socialist are secondary. No implication that law is always better than no law, that law should always be obeyed, are implied. The most vicious dictatorships are skilled at writing laws to legalize their abuse of power, the most flagrant being “it is illegal to insult the government.” The “rule of law” is a phrase that implies something much more important: the rule of accepted law, transparent law, law that has been publicly debated and defines reasonable routes for modification by public demand, law that has been designed to achieve justice.
What may be called “democratic capitalism” and “democratic socialism” both fit in the sweet spot defined by the rule of law. Politics and economics cannot be separated; they are always influencing each other. Neither the existence of private corporations or public ownership necessarily implies anything about freedom. Straying from the central arena governed by the rule of law, however, implies that power will be abused. The direction in which one strays defines the sectors of society likely to exercise such abuse, without saying anything about the suffering it will cause. For example, a rich society straying away from the rule of law (as defined above) may move toward a “small government” system imposing few controls, in which case power will flow to corporations, which will impose their own monopoly capitalist form of government, abusing power by tilting the economic playing field. Alternatively, the society may move toward a “big government” system imposing harsh controls, in which case power will flow to the governing elite, perhaps initially in the form of an “imperial presidency” and perhaps eventually transforming into full-blown fascism. Under conditions of severe resource constraints, a communist or “socialist dictatorship” form of government focused on mandatory resource accumulation (either making the current generation sacrifice for the future of the society or for the current enjoyment of the elite).
The “Logic of Governance” diagram offers a theoretical landscape on which the evolution of real governments can be plotted. The message of such a plot would lie less in the precise position assigned than in the direction of movement.The evolution of U.S. financial management since the Great Depression contains significant evidence of a shift toward monopoly capitalist rule at the expense of society. A few of the most prominent pieces of discrete evidence are listed in the diagram. Adding trends, such as the very rapid rise in the proportion of national wealth controlled by the extreme rich relative to everyone else in society over the last generation would make the point even stronger. This chart is a far more instructive view of the U.S. system of government than the simplistic and highly misleading characterization of the U.S. as a “democracy.”
If Iran gains security even as it becomes cut off from the Levant, wise diplomacy by Iran’s adversaries could promote Iran to shift course toward foreign policy moderation. The key lies in the ability of Washington policy-makers to adopt a low-keyed, non-confrontational perspective and play for the long term.