Monday, January 23, 2017
theatlantic | Protests are a tricky thing, and America isn’t Russia. Protests can bring change, like Black Lives Matter did, and they can topple governments, as they did in Egypt. But in the case of the former, the protests became a movement that reached off the streets and into the presidential race, in part because there was a White House and Justice Department willing to take their concerns seriously. In the case of the latter, there was a political movement—the Muslim Brotherhood—that had been preparing for the moment for decades. Even those cases have proved fleeting: The Muslim Brotherhood took its own authoritarian turn after gaining power in democratic elections, and along with the Tahrir Square movement has since been crushed by the revanche of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Black Lives Matter, vilified by the Republican Party and the Trump campaign, will now potentially face a Justice Department headed by an Alabaman who has been accused of going after black civil rights activists. Both may end up back where they started: on the streets and unheard.
Talking to the protesters in Washington today, it was hard not to hear the echoes of the weakness of the Moscow protests five years ago: a vague, unstructured cause; too much diversity of purpose; no real political path forward; and the real potential for the meaning of the day to melt into self-congratulatory complacency. A Los Angeles woman showing me photos of the march afterward wondered, “Where was everyone before? We didn’t do enough.” Rallying and making funny signs is easy; winning real power in American politics is not.
reddit | "Not ur bitch" - don't worry, nobody made the mistake of thinking that you were.
"I'm with HER" - oh, we couldn't tell, you're here virtue signalling and doing nothing of value, you fit right in.
"BUILD BRIDGES NOT WALLS" - well see we're physically connected to Canada and Mexico, so a bridge doesn't make much sense there.
"Feminism is the radical notion that" - I'll stop you right there, feminism is the radical notion that you're an idiotic c**t who doesn't even know that you have more rights than men in your home country and who literally doesn't care that women are having their genitals mutilated, are being forced into marriage, and raped/killed in the middle east by an actual oppressive ideology that feminists support yet our president has sworn to protect you and LGBT members from. But FUCK YEAH FEMINISM!
"Unity" - only we'll force you to cooperate with us, we're not budging. And we're the inclusive, diverse ones!
"Women use our Power for Good" - what power? This isn't a comic book where you have super powers. The only thing you did was waste a lot of your time protesting.. nothing, literally nothing, and then leave a mess on this sidewalk. I'm still waiting for those "powers" and for this "good" you speak of.
"PU$$Y POWER" - oh so you're 12? Cool, I was busy hacking computers when I was 12, it's why I have a job and you're stuck walking around carrying that retarded sign.
"CHOOSE LOVE" - what happened to hope? Did Trump manage to destroy your hope? Fucking A, what a president!
"DONT BACK DOWN" - wait what? Why would you tell me not to back down? I mean you don't have to because I won't, but that's weird.
I need to watch videos of this march. If this is just a small sampling of those signs, I'm sure there's so much entertainment to be had.
Edit: thanks for the gold, I'm going to use it to plate the inside of my apartment so I can feel more like Trump!
Sunday, January 22, 2017
thesaker | Just hours ago Donald Trump was finally sworn in as the President of the United States. Considering all the threats hanging over this event, this is good news because at least for the time being, the Neocons have lost their control over the Executive Branch and Trump is now finally in a position to take action. The other good news is Trump’s inauguration speech which included this historical promise “We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow”. Could that really mean that the USA has given up its role of World Hegemon? The mere fact of asking the question is already an immensely positive development as nobody would have asked it had Hillary Clinton been elected.
The other interesting feature of Trump’s speech is that it centered heavily on people power and on social justice. Again, the contrast with the ideological garbage from Clinton could not be greater. Still, this begs a much more puzzling question: how much can a multi-millionaire capitalist be trusted when he speaks of people power and social justice – not exactly what capitalists are known for, at least not amongst educated people. Furthermore, a Marxist reader would also remind us that “imperialism is the highest stage of capitalism” and that it makes no sense to expect a capitalist to suddenly renounce imperialism.
But what was generally true in 1916 is not necessarily true in 2017.
For one thing, let’s begin by stressing that the Trump Presidency was only made possible by the immense financial, economic, political, military and social crisis facing the USA today. Eight years of Clinton, followed by eight years of Bush Jr and eight years of Obama have seen a massive and full-spectrum decline in the strength of the United States which were sacrificed for the sake of the AngloZionist Empire. This crisis is as much internal as it is external and the election of Trump is a direct consequence of this crisis. In fact, Trump is the first one to admit that it is the terrible situation in which the USA find themselves today which brought him to power with a mandate of the regular American people (Hillary’s “deplorables”) to “drain the DC swamp” and “make America”, as opposed to the American plutocracy, “great again”. This might be somethhing crucial: I cannot imagine Trump trying to simply do “more of the same” like his predecessors did or trying to blindly double-down like the Neocons always try to.
I am willing to bet that Trump really and sincerely believes that the USA is in a deep crisis and that a new, different, sets of policies must be urgently implemented. If that assumption of mine proves to be correct, then this is by definition very good news for the entire planet because whatever Trump ends up doing (or not doing), he will at least not push his country into a nuclear confrontation with Russia. And yes, I think that it is possible that Trump has come to the conclusion that imperialism has stopped working for the USA, that far from being the solution to the contradictions of capitalism, imperialism might well have become its most self-defeating feature.
thesaker | The Trump era starts now – with geopolitics and geoeconomics set for a series of imminent, unpredictable cliffhangers.
I have argued that Trump’s foreign policy guru Henry Kissinger’s strategy to deal with the formidable Eurasia integration trio – Russia, China and Iran – is a remixed Divide and Rule; seduce Russia away from its strategic partnership with China, while keep harassing the weakest link, Iran.
In fact that’s how it’s already playing out – as in the outbursts of selected members of Trump’s cabinet during their US Senate hearings. Factions of US Think Tankland, referring to Nixon’s China policy, which was designed by Kissinger, are also excited with the possibilities of containment regarding at least one of those powers “potentially arrayed against America”.
Kissinger and Dr. Zbig “Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski are the two foremost, self-described Western dalangs – puppet masters – in the geopolitical arena. In opposition to Kissinger, Obama’s foreign policy mentor Brzezinski, true to his Russophobia, proposes a Divide and Rule centered on seducing China.
Yet an influential New York business source, very close to the real, discreet Masters of the Universe, who correctly predicted Trump’s victory weeks before the fact, after examining my argument offered not only a scathing appraisal of those cherished dalangs; he volunteered to detail how the new normal was laid out by the Masters directly to Trump. Let’s call him “X”.
Saturday, January 21, 2017
medium | The US intelligence infrastructure is not just huge, it is colossal, a parallel societyliving among us (yes, us, wherever you live). That has been amply illustrated by the investigative journalism project Top Secret America. According to their research, there are 1200 government agencies, more than 3,666 private companies, 17,000 locations, and 854,000 people in the US that have Top Secret security clearance. Top Secret. None of the cables released by Wikileaks this week are Top Secret. Can you even imagine the amount of data here? This is what the US calls “information dominance” and a “global surveillance system”. Almost all IT and communication companies in the US are a part of the network, and they reach across the globe.
In 2007, 70% of all intelligence budgets were spent on private contractors. That was 3 years ago, and we don’t know how that has changed because all intelligence budgets are classified, but the trend since then has been a definite shift towards more private contractors. Obama likes to use the terms “american intelligence” and “american military” to play games with the truth (see “american troops pull out of Iraq”). If they are private contractors, they aren’t american intelligence, right? And there are other much more important reasons for private contractors, they are allowed to make huge donations to political parties from their billion tax dollar contracts.
Like the military contractors, the private companies also are not bound by government procedure, their contracts are classified so most of the government has no idea what they are doing, and they are private companies who do not have to disclose information to the public. They also have a classified bid system that makes corruption between private companies and politicians particularly easy. Again, like military contractors, they are not being used in secondary roles, they are used in training and in developing and operating all the high tech industries. They are paid with huge amounts of tax money, and in turn, are in a position to drastically influence governmental policies.
“Not only were private contractors involved in the extreme interrogation techniques at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, they have taken over the training of military interrogators at the U.S. Army’s Intelligence Center in Fort Huachuca, Arizona. And in hotspots around the world, private contractors are taking the place of government operatives. In Pakistan, for example, three-quarters of the officers posted at the Islamabad CIA station since 9/11 have been private contractors. In the Baghdad CIA station, contractors have sometimes outnumbered government employees and have taken supervisory positions overseeing what CIA agents do every day.”
Friday, January 20, 2017
thearchdruidreport | Much of the pushback against Trump’s impending presidency, in turn, is heavily larded with that same sneering contempt and condescension—the unending claims, for example, that the only reason people could possibly have chosen to vote for Trump was because they were racist misogynistic morons, and the like. (These days, terms such as “racist” and “misogynistic,” in the mouths of the affluent, are as often as not class-based insults rather than objective descriptions of attitudes.) The question I’d like to raise at this point, though, is why the affluent don’t seem to be able to bring themselves to come right out and denounce Trump as the candidate of the filthy rabble. Why must they borrow the rhetoric of identity politics and twist it (and themselves) into pretzel shapes instead?
There, dear reader, hangs a tale.
In the aftermath of the social convulsions of the 1960s, the wealthy elite occupying the core positions of power in the United States offered a tacit bargain to a variety of movements for social change. Those individuals and groups who were willing to give up the struggle to change the system, and settled instead for a slightly improved place within it, suddenly started to receive corporate and government funding, and carefully vetted leaders from within the movements in question were brought into elite circles as junior partners. Those individuals and groups who refused these blandishments were marginalized, generally with the help of their more compliant peers.
If you ever wondered, for example, why environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth changed so quickly from scruffy fire-breathing activists to slickly groomed and well-funded corporate enablers, well, now you know. Equally, that’s why mainstream feminist organizations by and large stopped worrying about the concerns of the majority of women and fixated instead on “breaking the glass ceiling”—that is to say, giving women who already belong to the privileged classes access to more privilege than they have already. The core demand placed on former radicals who wanted to cash in on the offer, though, was that they drop their demands for economic justice—and American society being what it is, that meant that they had to stop talking about class issues. Fist tap Dale.
counterpunch | Neoliberal policies since the 1970s—“free trade”, outsourcing, immigration, busted unions, and stagnant wages; governmental austerity for the poor and lower taxes for the rich; Wall Street investment for the rich and debt for the rest—have combined to transfer a significant amount of yearly national income from the bottom 50% to the top 1%. A recently-published data set by respected economists Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, and Gabriel Zucman confirms the perceptions of those who feel that professional elites, whether Democrat or Republican, have had the “meritocratic” game rigged in their favor.
These methodologically-sound and compelling data show that from 1980 to 2014, the bottom 50% of individuals lost an aggregate 5% share of national post-tax disposable income, while the top 1% gained a similar amount. In terms of 2014 dollars, the combined effect of those policies mentioned above has been the transfer $573 billion of yearly income.
In individual terms, this means that in 2014, 117 million earners over age 18 were left with an average of nearly $5,000 less in disposable income than each would have had if her share of national income had remained constant since 1980. In effect, every 50 of these bottom 50 percenters was forced to collectively transfer $250,000 to one individual in the top 1 percent, a group comprised of 2.3 million adults over 18 (average age 56; 85% men).
The result of this transfer is an average of $17,700 in post-tax disposable 2014 income for the bottom 50%, $830,000 for the top 1%. Whereas the average one percenter made 26 times the average 50 percenter in 1980, that factor was 47 in 2014. The past two years signal no new trend, whatever the exaggerated claims of Obama apologists.
These data show that incomes of the one percent are increasingly comprised of capital income, return on investments. Half the incomes of the one percent, and 2/3 of the .1 percent, are comprised of such “earnings”. The bottom 50% has no financial wealth to speak of, and a relatively paltry amount of housing wealth that is matched by indebtedness of various kinds, exacerbated by marginalized employment and stagnant wages, healthcare-for-profit, and higher education for debt.
During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump violated some of the sacred tenets of neoliberalism, especially regarding “free trade”. Thus he was disowned by the political establishment of both parties. While his promises of decreased economic inequality will surely prove hollow, that was no reason for swing voters—including white women—to turn to Clinton, whose condescending attitude to the bottom 50% was rightfully perceived as authentic, unlike everything else about her except her warmongering.
Thursday, January 19, 2017
unz | Fundamentally solve the “intelligence problem,” and all other problems become trivial.
The problem is that this problem is a very hard one, and our native wit is unlikely to suffice. Moreover, because problems tend to get harder, not easier, as you advance up the technological ladder (Karlin, 2015), in a “business as usual” scenario with no substantial intelligence augmentation we will effectively only have a 100-200 year “window” to effect this breakthrough before global dysgenic fertility patterns rule it out entirely for a large part of the next millennium.
To avoid a period of prolonged technological and scientific stagnation, with its attendant risks of collapse, our global “hive mind” (or “noosphere”) will at a minimum have to sustain and preferably sustainably augment its own intelligence. The end goal is to create (or become) a machine, or network of machines, that recursively augment their own intelligence – “the last invention that man need ever make” (Good, 1965).
In light of this, there are five main distinct ways in which human (or posthuman) civilization could develop in the next millennium.
ibankcoin | And there it is, the unvarnished, raw, truth about how everything went wrong for middle class America.
Since the Vietnam war, more than 45 years ago, the US has embarked on a neocon strategy of war in an effort to build a global empire. The result of that strategy has left American infrastructure second rate, its school system in shambles, and its healthcare system a complete and utter joke.
Just imagine what America could’ve done with $14t of investable dollars, instead of waging wars.
Aside from the wars, America spends more than 50% of its discretionary budget on the military, per annum, 16% of its overall budget.
That’s the main issue, the sordid topic that is rarely discussed in American politics, for fears of crossing the military-industrial complex.
Jack Ma from Alibaba doesn’t share those same fears, being a Chinese national worth $27b of zero fucks.
In a very rare glimpse into what the Chinese really think about American imperialism and how it shaped the global economy, all the better for China might I add, Jack Ma spoke candidly today in an interview with CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin.
Wednesday, January 18, 2017
NYTimes | CIA ties to international drug trafficking date to the Korean War. In 1949, two of Chiang Kai-shek's defeated generals, Li Wen Huan and Tuan Shi Wen, marched their Third and Fifth Route armies, with families and livestock, across the mountains to northern Burma. Once installed, the peasant soldiers began cultivating the crop they knew best, the opium poppy.
When China entered the Korean War, the CIA had a desperate need for intelligence on that nation. The agency turned to the warlord generals, who agreed to slip some soldiers back into China. In return, the agency offered arms. Officially, the arms were intended to equip the warlords for a return to China. In fact, the Chinese wanted them to repel any attack by the Burmese.
Soon intelligence began to flow to Washington from the area, which became known as the Golden Triangle. So, too, did heroin, en route to Southeast Asia and often to the United States.
If the agency never condoned the traffic, it never tried to stop it, either. The CIA did, however, lobby the Eisenhower administration to prevent the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, the DEA's predecessor, from establishing monitoring posts in the area to study the traffic. Today, the Golden Triangle accounts for about half the heroin in circulation in the world.
During the Vietnam War, operations in Laos were largely a CIA responsibility. The agency's surrogate there was a Laotian general, Vang Pao, who commanded Military Region 2 in northern Laos. He enlisted 30,000 Hmong tribesmen in the service of the CIA.
These tribesmen continued to grow, as they had for generations, the opium poppy. Before long, someone - there were unproven allegations that it was a Mafia family from Florida - had established a heroin refining lab in Region Two. The lab's production was soon being ferried out on the planes of the CIA's front airline, Air America. A pair of BNDD agents tried to seize an Air America.
A pair of BNDD agents tried to seize an Air America DC-3 loaded with heroin packed into boxes of Tide soap powder. At the CIA's behest, they were ordered to release the plane and drop the inquiry.
The CIA was made officially aware of Manuel Antonio Noriega's involvement in the drug traffic in 1972, when Mr. Noriega was chief of intelligence of the Panama National Guard, and a promising CIA asset. The BNDD found evidence that Mr. Noriega was taking payoffs for allowing heroin to flow from Spain, through Panama City airport, and on to the United States. That information was part of a lengthy file on Mr. Noriega compiled by Jack Ingersoll, then chief of the BNDD.
Mr. Ingersoll was aware of Mr. Noriega's ties to the CIA, as was President Richard Nixon. When Mr. Nixon ordered Mr. Ingersoll to Panama to warn the country's military dictator, General Omar Torrijos, about the activities of Mr. Noriega and General Torrijos's brother Moises, Mr. Ingersoll hoped that law enforcement was finally "beginning to get the upper hand in its ongoing struggle with the CIA." He was wrong. The Watergate break-in occurred shortly after his visit. Mr. Nixon needed CIA support; his enthusiasm for the drug war evaporated. Mr. Ingersoll's successors at the newly formed DEA - Peter Bensinger, Francis Mullen and John Lawn - all told me they never saw his file, although they had asked to see everything the DEA had on Mr. Noriega. The material has disappeared.
Shortly after General Torrijos's death in a mysterious airplane crash, Mr. Noriega, with CIA assistance, took command of the Panama National Guard.
No one in the Reagan administration was prepared to do anything about the Noriega drug connection. As Norman Bailley, a National Security Council staff member at the time, told me, "The CIA and the Pentagon were resolutely opposed to acting on that knowledge, because they were a hell of a lot more worried about trying to keep Panama on our side with reference to Nicaragua than they were about drugs." Nowhere, however, was the CIA more closely tied to drug traffic than it was in Pakistan during the Afghan War. As its principal conduit for arms and money to the Afghan guerrillas, the agency chose the Pakistan military's Inter-Services Intelligence Bureau. The ISI in turn steered the CIA's support toward Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, an Islamic fundamentalist. Mr. Hekmatyar received almost half of the agency's financial support during the war, and his fighters were valiant and effective. But many of his commanders were also major heroin traffickers.
As it had in Laos, the heroin traffic blossomed in the shadows of a CIA-sustained guerrilla war. Soon the trucks that delivered arms to the guerrillas in Afghanistan were coming back down the Khyber Pass full of heroin.
The conflict and its aftermath have given the world another Golden Triangle: the Golden Crescent, sweeping through Afghanistan, Pakistan and parts of the former Soviet Union. Many of those involved in the drug traffic are men who were once armed, trained and financed by the CIA.
weforum | Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already removed 86% of his country's currency from circulation in an attempt to curb tax evasion, tackle corruption and shut down the shadow economy.
Should the US follow suit?
Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize-winning economist, thinks so. Phasing out currency and moving towards a digital economy would, over the long term, have “benefits that outweigh the cost,” the Columbia University professor said on day one of the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting in Davos.
Stiglitz was speaking in the session Ending Corruption alongside Mark Pieth from the Basel Institute of Governance and APCO Worldwide Founder and Executive Chairman Margery Kraus. Stiglitz and Pieth co-authored a report, Overcoming the Shadow Economy, in November last year.
Quantifying the scale of the problem, Stiglitz said: “You can put it into the context of one of the big issues being discussed in Davos this year – the backlash against globalization, the darker side of globalization ... The lack of transparency in global financial markets, the secrecy havens that the Panama Papers exposed, just reinforced what we already knew ... There is a global framework for both corruption and tax evasion and tax avoidance.
“The fact that you can hide ill-gotten gains so easily in these secrecy havens really provides incentives for people to engage in this activity as they can get the economic returns and then enjoy the benefits of those returns. If there were not these secrecy havens then the benefits from engaging in these kinds of illicit activity would be much diminished.”
Tuesday, January 17, 2017
WaPo | They are some of the biggest names in the Republican national security firmament, veterans of past GOP administrations who say, if called upon by President-elect Donald Trump, they stand ready to serve their country again.
But their phones aren’t ringing. Their entreaties to Trump Tower in New York have mostly gone unanswered. In Trump world, these establishment all-stars say they are “PNG” — personae non gratae.
Their transgression was signing one or both of two public “Never Trump” letters during the campaign, declaring they would not vote for Trump and calling his candidacy a danger to the nation.
One letter, with 122 names, was published by War on the Rocks, a website devoted to national security commentary, during the primary season in March. The other, with 50 names, including some repeat signatories, was published by the New York Times during the general-election campaign in August.
Now, just days before Trump is sworn in as the nation’s 45th president, the letter signers fear they have been added to another document, this one private — a purported blacklist compiled by Trump’s political advisers.
libertyblitzkrieg | I think a useful exercise for readers during this Davos circus laden week is to note whenever the word “populism” is used within mainstream media articles. From my experience, it’s almost always portrayed in an overwhelmingly negative manner. Here’s just one example from the first of the two Reuters articles mentioned above.
The global financial crisis of 2008/9 and the migrant crisis of 2015/16 exposed the impotence of politicians, deepening public disillusion and pushing people towards populists who offered simple explanations and solutions.
The key phrase in the above is, “populists who offered simple explanations and solutions.” This betrays an incredible sense of arrogance and contempt for regular citizens. Note that it didn’t offer a critique of a specific populist leader and his or her polices, but rather presented a sweeping dismissal of all popular movements as “simplistic.” In other words, despite the fact that the people mingling at Davos are the exact same people who set the world on fire, they somehow remain the only ones capable enough to fix the world. How utterly ridiculous.
The good news is that most people now plainly see the absurdity of such a worldview, and understand that the people at Davos represent a roadblock to progress, as opposed to any sort of solution. While I don’t endorse any particular populist movement at moment, I fully recognize the need for increased populism as a facet of American political life, particularly at this moment in time.
Populism can be dangerous, and it’s certainly messy, but it’s a crucial pressure release valve for any functioning free society. If you don’t allow populist movements to do their thing in the short-term, you’ll get far worse outcomes in the long-term.
In the timeless words of JFK:
Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.