Monday, October 10, 2016

Farcical Election or Terminal Postmodernity?  (Banks Are Bleeding Cash! Federal Funds Rate Scrapes Bottom)   Ex British Ambassador Makes Astonishing Speech About Tony Blair, George Bush, War and Profit

Are we okay with this?

With any of this?

Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell's Chief of Staff, says "Let these people go!"

(H/T to John Oliver)

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made.
-Paul Simon

Debate & Switch . . . Ad Infinitum:  Democracy is Dead. Short Live the Oligarchy.

As our two favorite despised plutocrats met for Round Two of their Neoliberal Death Match Sunday, you didn't really expect the show to be about anyone else but themselves, did you? Oh, sure, Hillary for the millionth time delved into that time 30 years ago when she liked children well enough to actually have taken a short-lived job devoted only to them. And between his own chronic sniffs and snuffles, Donald waxed fake concern for "The" African Americans in a sort of amplified dog-whistle that he totally doesn't relate to anybody outside his own race and class. And that was about it for the empathy.
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A Government Is Seizing Control of Our Election Process, and It Is Not the Russians

US-Backed Saudi Coalition Strikes Funeral in Yemen, Killing and Wounding Hundreds

GOP leaders want the TPP. The leader of the Democratic Party, President Barack Obama, wants the TPP. If they can ram it through Congress in the lame duck session after the election, then the next president’s hands are clean, and the leaders of the two major parties get to deliver a gift to those they really represent, corporate America

Leaked John Podesta Emails Show Bernie Was Right

Testing Obama's Transparency Pledge, Groups Send List of Drone Strikes to Investigate

The Age of Decline, Apple Pie, and America's Chosen Suicide Bomber And Truly, This Is Not About Donald Trump...

Has the path forward for the USA! USA! USA! been so perfectly predefined that we are just left with farce? This election seems to continually make that point in spades (or trumps). And illustrate the cold calculation behind every planned doofus move. From both directions. Tears begin to flow in torrents when memories of regrettable elections past begin to take charge of cerebral cortexes.

The Postmodern Election

Postmodernism is dead, long live postmodernism. During the 2004 election, journalist Ron Suskind famously reported in the October 17, 2004 issue of  The New York Times Magazine on the chasm between what an anonymous source linked to the Bush termed the "fact-based community" and the faith based, epistemically closed world of turn of the 21st century conservatives around the sitting president:
The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." ... "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."
One way of reading this statement is an assertion of raw Nietzschean reshaping of the truth to the dictates of power. It would not be out of place in any dictatorship, or, to be less strident, any real political power center anywhere.  
Another way to look at it is as postmodernism in its contemporary and diffuse, political form. We now live in a society in which multiple, conflicting "truths," which is to say subjective or discursively shaped impressions of reality, do not and cannot cancel each other out. Instead, much like postmodern stylistic antecedents of the late 1970s and early 1980s onwards, they sit side by side, often awkwardly and, unlike their literary and artistic predecessors, often antagonistically, rendering any possibility of a unifying, ideologically coherent master understanding or reading of reality not impossible, but difficult and often futile. Our politics now consist of contrasting regimes of truth, some as manufactured as any work of fiction on a library bookshelf, which hold sway and constitute "reality," or the kinds of "new realities" that Suskind's interlocutor was talking about, thereby allow agents of that reality - Congress, corporations, what have you - to reshape reality as they see fit.  
While it's easy to point the finger at Fox News as the main progenitor of this situation, critic Bob Somerby has shown on his Daily Howler site how, since the 1990s in particular, the legacy - supposedly "liberal" - media have been repeatedly at fault, nearly sinking Bill Clinton's presidency with the fake "Whitewater" and "Travelgate"s scandals, their embrace of "truthiness" and creating false equivalencies between candidates such as George W. Bush and Al Gore, while also penning damaging, untrue stories or inflating created narratives (those Gore "sighs") about the latter candidate, thereby helping to ruin his chances of victory in 2000; and vitally aiding in the push to send US troops into the debacle that we now know as a the Iraq War. These are only a few of the many examples from the last 20 years, but the process has been underway for quite some time.  
I hate to say because it represents real cynicism, but I think this situation is only going to get worse no matter who wins, and it will require a deep and thorough reckoning from people on all sides to think through how ideologically requisite critiques of the status quo and the political, social and economic spheres, which is to say, attempts to understand and challenge the dominant discourse and the systems that constitute it, can function without a complete dismissal of any baseline of factuality or, to put another way, any recourse to a foundation of empirical and coherent truths. As far as this election goes, it seems, it's a wash.  
Bernie Sanders was the candidate the Occupy Movement made possible; he was, to some extent, the one who, in political and economic, if not symbolic and social terms, they - or we - had been waiting for.  Given the deep vein of frustration about the slow and unequal recovery, wage stagnation for most workers and student loan debt for millennials, and the steadily widening post-Great Recession wealth gap, Sanders spoke to an enthusiastic constituency on the left. Indeed he went further than nearly any major candidate I've seen in recent years in offering a vision and proposing policies that would fundamentally reform and transform our economic system for the better. It was, to paraphrase, Noam Chomsky, a kind of New Deal 2.0., and badly needed. At the same time, however, Sanders sometimes came off as a one-note herald - important though that one-note was! - who did not seem to grasp how important and necessary it was to take a more intersectional approach to the country's pressing issues and challenges.  
So, instead of Sanders, we have Hillary Clinton. She is brilliant; she is accomplished; she has a long record of public and governmental service. . . . As New York's junior US Senator Clinton voted reliably along socially liberal lines, but  then as she has again and again during this campaign, she has shown that her initial instincts are usually primarily neoliberal in economic terms and neoconservative in global interventionist terms. (The recent Wikileaks document dump of emails to her campaign chief John Podesta suggest that her core beliefs are decidedly pro-market and "open borders," and that she views progressive positions as nothing more than a "public face" to gain political and electoral support.) One reason I absolutely could not support Clinton in 2008 was because of her vote for the Iraq War, against all better judgment and evidence, and the Patriot Act. Little in her campaign suggests to me that she has completely reoriented her thinking about the path she has helped to lead us down. And yet, other than voting for Jill Stein, who will not win, or not voting at all, what choice do we have but to vote for her, and for every possible progressive candidate running for Congress, and then demand that they not reprise the 1990s or early 2000s?  
Moreover, her history on race and racism leave a great deal to be desired. Beyond her role in the Clinton administration's triangulatory economic and social policies, which often had a racial - and racist - component. More than a few commentators have noted Clinton's adoption of conservative language pathologizing black adolescent criminals in the 1990s, and her support of the odious Welfare Reform legislation, Three Strikes laws, and so forth, and her failure to speak out initially about Stop and Frisk and Broken Windows policies. In fact, I can recall how her husband left his federal judicial court nominee Lani Guinier twisting in the wind because of conservative screeching about her eminently reasonable approach to the voting system, at which point Hillary Clinton cut her longtime friend loose as well, greeting her with the casual and dismissive "Hey Kiddo" when they ran into each other in the White House.

Read the entire essay here.

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. . . their banks are bleeding cash and screaming at them, and they have got to figure out some way to walk back what is becoming a very destructive program. When you look at what low rates have done to the Japanese economy and Japanese retirees, Kuroda-san’s coming to Jackson Hole and declaring that negative rates have been a success demonstrated a fair amount of chutzpah. But then he supplied only a small helping of the staggering amount of hubris displayed at Jackson Hole by central bankers from all over the world, who were celebrating the success of the most repressive monetary policy conditions in the history of mankind. The IMF, the BIS, and the World Bank are all revising their global growth predictions downward at a rapid clip. You get the feeling these guys could spin Napoleon’s invasion of Russia into a positive story and one they could take credit for. 


And me thinking the bleeding was debited to the public(s).

On the assumption that the ongoing events deciding the actual financial lives of the citizens of the U.S. (which somehow never make it into the national electoral "conversation") are more important than the ongoing clown shows (see tonight's debate and all the previous ones). . . . 

Here is the federal funds rate from 2007 to 2016. The shaded area is what we now call the Great Recession.

The Federal Open Market Committee entered 2007 with the rate target at 5.25%. They starting lowering it in August of that year – months before the economy went into recession. Why was that? Recession or not, many folks weren’t doing well. Even then there was talk of banks having difficulty, though the worst was yet to come.
Look how fast rates fell. In July 2007 savers could buy Treasury bills, certificates of deposit, or other principal-protected savings instruments and enjoy a 5% or better risk-free yield. Longer-term fixed-income products actually offered even higher yields. A year and a half later, the fed funds rate was bumping the zero bound, and savers could make nothing without taking on market risk, which few wanted to do at the time, because iconic brands were blowing up everywhere.
Here is the great irony and possibly the most iniquitous part of the Fed’s monetary policy initiative. They wanted investors to move out on the risk curve. But did they bother to look at the demographics of this country? We have a huge bulge of Boomers – retirees and near-retirees who do not need to be moving out the risk curve at this time in their lives. They need Steady-Eddie returns, and they need to be reducing their risk, not increasing it.
A sober look at the current economic environment reveals overvalued, overbought, and illiquid markets everywhere. The global central bank community’s ultra-low and negative interest rates have created an environment of risk that is looking more and more like a bubble in search of a pin. If and when it bursts, it will take the retirement dreams of millions of Americans with it.
From the Fed’s perspective, super-low interest rates were economic stimulus. With borrowing costs so low, we were all supposed to race out and buy stuff. Companies should have expanded and hired more workers. Homebuilders should have been incentivized to build more McMansions in the suburbs, knowing qualified buyers would appear like magic.
What was supposed to happen was a normal recovery. What we got was the weakest recovery on record. The Federal Reserve will offer the counterfactual that if they had not given us their stimulus, the recovery would have been even weaker. That, of course, is something that neither they nor we can prove, one way or the other. We can go back and look at a far worse recession in the early 1920s, when the government did nothing and the resulting recovery gave us the Roaring ’20s. Very few people remember what was called the Depression of 1920–21. Unemployment was close to 12%, and there was extreme deflation – the largest one-year percentage price decline in 140 years of data. Christina Romer estimates it was a 14.8% decline. Put that in your CPI pipe and smoke it. Industrial production dropped by 30%. And there was a horrendous bear market.
By the time President Harding and his Commerce Secretary, Herbert Hoover, got around to calling for a conference and organizing committees, the economy was already recovering. Notably, the administration did cut income taxes, which helped reinforce the Roaring ’20s.
A large part of the problem in the late ’10s was that the Fed was raising rates into the recession in an effort to protect the dollar and fight what they considered to be inflation. Central bankers of that era had a gold and hard-dollar fetish that led to massive policy errors. When they actually began to normalize their monetary policy, the economy took off. A normalized interest rate policy, what a concept…
In our own generation, we got stimulus for Wall Street in the form of QE, and it led to an inflation of asset prices. No one really minds if the value of their stocks, real estate, and other assets go up; and there was the assumption that a rise in the stock market and real estate would trickle down to Main Street. Clearly, it has not.

And speaking (or not) of the ever-present Don . . .

Will he stay or will he go? (Or will he trickle down?)


The councils of true  right-wingerism are meeting (and not secretly).

The usual suspects are fighting for the front position of  the line-up.

Who  will be the next to call for the white flag?

A short time ago, the Wall Street Journal reported that Reince Priebus told party officials today to start redirecting funds away from Trump and to down-ballot candidates.
The speed and breadth of the abandonment of Mr. Trump’s candidacy shocked some long-time party members and exposed a shattered party without a clear path forward.
“Our party is in its deepest crisis since Watergate in 1974,” said Ron Nehring, former chairman of the California Republican Party, referring to the mid-term election when the resignation of then-President Richard M. Nixon led to a Democratic landslide. “It’s compounded by the fact that it doesn’t matter whether Donald Trump were to bow out. It’s too late to change the candidate on the ballot."

The immediate consequence of the RNC’s decision on allocating resources is a halt to the party’s mail program so it can be redirected toward a new universe of voters, the official said. News of the mail program stopping was first reported by Politico. Mr. Priebus and top party strategist Sean Spicer didn’t respond to requests for comment.
...Trump’s latest imbroglio is also widening a chasm between the party’s old guard and the legions of voters drawn to his anti-establishment message.

Those divisions surfaced on Saturday when House Speaker Paul Ryan appeared at a rally in his Wisconsin district after disinviting Mr. Trump from that event and denouncing his crude comments. Mr. Ryan’s own welcome was mixed with boos and pro-Trump hecklers in the crowd.

And from the prior Debate Wars:

Well, that was depressing.
Not because Vice Presidential Candidate X beat Vice Presidential Candidate Y in Tuesday night’s debate. Or vice versa.

No, it was dispiriting because it so vividly displayed the problem with our current system of debates. This is no way to run a democracy.

If last week’s Donald Trump free-for-all, freefall debate performance was one extreme – out of control and fact-resistant – this week’s vice presidential event showed another, a demonstration of the perils of being overcoached and overprepared with stock, canned answers repeated ad nauseum and infinitum.

So there was Republican Mike Pence stolidly behaving like a real-life version of Sam the Eagle from the Muppets, shaking his head and bemoaning the fate of an America ruled by Hillary Clinton, and Tim Kaine as the overeager puppy eager to make his presence known, apparently told that the way to dispel the image some may have of him as too soft and nice is to keep interrupting; in effect, chewing the other guy’s new slippers.

Kaine may have started it, but in truth, the interruptions by each of the two were, as Rachel Maddow said on MSNBC, “maddening to the point of incomprehensibility.” The hectoring crosstalk did diminish some as the night wore on but it wasn’t conducive to any real dialogue or thoughtful discussion of the issues (the exchange on abortion at the end actually came somewhat close, thanks to Kaine).

And once again there was no talk of climate change or income inequality or education or infrastructure or health care, to name but a few of the topics that desperately need to be addressed. Instead, we got Pence running contrary to his running mate’s embrace of Vladimir Putin, calling the Russian leader “small and bullying” and Kaine repeatedly going after Pence for Donald Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns. No one would mistake Monday’s slapfest as a celebration of the Federalist Papers.

. . . Rating by onstage performance and the response of the pundit class, Pence’s icy calm may have won out over Kaine’s hyper champing at the bit, and the Republican governor certainly has deftly positioned himself for 2020. But as Mark Twain said of Richard Wagner’s operas, Kaine’s attacks may have been better than they sound.
We’ll see. What’s for sure is that the clear losers tonight were any Americans who hoped to hear something, anything, of real substance. Days to go: 33, and the republic is still adrift, with no sign of the lifeboats.

If you've reached your quota of stomach-turning political theory for the day, don't read the next essay. It won't help. The number will not decrease.

I grew up (in my 30's) reading Scott Adams' "Dilbert" cartoons religiously.

He's graduated. (Click on the image to enlarge.)

by Scott Adams, creator of "Dilbert"
"By now you know about the Access Hollywood recording in which Donald Trump said bad things eleven years ago. Many of my readers asked me to weigh in. One of the requests came from anti-Trump GOP elite person Erick Erickson. (Middle name Erick, I assume.) This was his polite request and my response. Read it from bottom to top.

Challenge accepted! I’ll give you my thoughts, in no particular order.
1. If this were anyone else, the election would be over. But keep in mind that Trump doesn’t need to outrun the bear. He only needs to outrun his camping buddy. There is still plenty of time for him to dismantle Clinton. If you think things are interesting now, just wait. There is lots more entertainment coming.

2. This was not a Trump leak. No one would invite this sort of problem into a marriage.

3. I assume that publication of this recording was okayed by the Clinton campaign. And if not, the public will assume so anyway. That opens the door for Trump to attack in a proportionate way. No more mister-nice-guy. Gloves are off. Nothing is out of bounds. It is fair to assume that Bill and Hillary are about to experience the worst weeks of their lives.

4. If nothing new happens between now and election day, Clinton wins. The odds of nothing new happening in that timeframe is exactly zero.

5. I assume that 75% of male heads of state, including our own past presidents, are total dogs in their private lives. Like it or not, Trump is normal in that world.

6. As fictional mob boss Tony Soprano once said in an argument with his wife, “You knew what you were getting when you married me!” Likewise, Trump’s third wife, Melania, knew what she was getting. It would be naive to assume Trump violated their understanding.

7. Another rich, famous, tall, handsome married guy once told me that he can literally make-out and get handsy with any woman he wants, whether she is married or not, and she will be happy about it. I doubted his ridiculous claims until I witnessed it three separate times. So don’t assume the women were unwilling. (Has anyone come forward to complain about Trump?)

8. If the LGBTQ community wants to be a bit more inclusive, I don’t see why “polyamorous alpha male serial kisser” can’t be on the list. If you want to label Trump’s sexual behavior “abnormal” you’re on shaky ground.

9. Most men don’t talk like Trump. Most women don’t either. But based on my experience, I’m guessing a solid 20% of both genders say and do shockingly offensive things in private. Keep in mind that Billy Bush wasn’t shocked by it.

10. Most male Hollywood actors support Clinton. Those acting skills will come in handy because starting today they have to play the roles of people who do not talk and act exactly like Trump in private.

11. I’m adding context to the discussion, not condoning it. Trump is on his own to explain his behavior. 

12. Clinton supporters hated Trump before this latest outrage. Trump supporters already assumed he was like this. Independents probably assumed it too. Before you make assumptions about how this changes the election, see if anyone you know changes their vote because of it. All I have seen so far is people laughing about it.

13. I hereby change my endorsement from Trump to Gary Johnson, just to get out of the blast zone. Others will be “parking” their vote with Johnson the same way. The “shy Trump supporter” demographic just tripled.

14. My prediction of a 98% chance of Trump winning stays the same. Clinton just took the fight to Trump’s home field. None of this was a case of clever strategy or persuasion on Trump’s part. But if the new battleground is spousal fidelity, you have to like Trump’s chances.

15. Trump wasn’t running for Pope. He never claimed moral authority. His proposition has been that he’s an assh**e (essentially), but we need an assh**e to fight ISIS, ignore lobbyists, and beat up Congress. Does it change anything to have confirmation that he is exactly what you thought he was?

My thoughts above have more to do with reason than persuasion. And that means you can ignore all of it because reason is not part of decision-making when it comes to politics. On the persuasion level, all that matters is whether this new development changes what you already assumed about Trump. Personally, it didn’t change what I assumed about Trump’s personal life. Your mileage may vary.

I hope this answers all of Erick Erick Erickson’s questions.”

What a bunch of hypocrites! I'm not defending what he said, it's outrageous, but how dare these other cheap, money-whore sleaze-bag politicians pretend they're so outraged, so morally better, so pure, so righteous? Really?! Remember, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." Gonna be a long, long time till any stones start flying.

And these two, of all people on planet Earth, have NOTHING to say about morality.

So, Billy Bush really has no apologies to make?

The hypocrites are enraged and calling for blood. He may be the first wheel candidate this century. (If you're not counting GITMO - and the Middle East/Afghanistan/Pakistan and Africa.)
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Large hat tip to cberrl!

No one can or should believe the following essay.

No one.

It's like the Good Fairy, the Easter Bunny (Jesus) and Santa Claus decided to come down the chimney (or appear magically under a pillow or during the Sunrise Service) bearing brand spanking new 12-speed bikes for the world.

Ex British Ambassador Makes Astonishing Speech About Tony Blair, George Bush, War and Profit

October 07, 2016


Set aside 2 minutes to read this and watch a 20 minute video. It will truly astonish you, no matter how cynical you may be when it comes to the so-called ‘war on terror,’ Iraq, Syria and many other conflicts around the world.

Craig Murray is an author, broadcaster and human rights activist. He was a British Ambassador. While Ambassador to Uzbekistan he accused the Karimov administration of human rights abuses, which he argued was a step against the wishes of the British government. Murray complained to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in November 2002, again in early 2003 and in June 2004 that intelligence linking the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan to al-Qaeda was unreliable, immoral and illegal, as it was thought to have been obtained through torture. He described this as “selling our souls for dross”. He was subsequently removed from his ambassadorial post on 14 October 2004 by Tony Blair’s government.

In this video, Murray talks about how the same people turn out to be behind the same wars in very different parts of the world. In part, he talks about how the USA was in collusion with some of the most dreadful dictatorships in the world whilst the CIA were using them for ‘extraordinary rendition’ or torture programmes. The reasons for these alliances were that U.S. companies were monopolising the natural resources of entire countries. But there’s more to it than that.

Murray exposes the plan to build a gas pipeline over Afghanistan when George W Bush signed the construction deal whilst his father George H Bush was a member of the board of the pipeline construction company.

Murray continues with his experience negotiating the peace talks in war-torn Sierra Leone which Britain subsequently invaded. He explains why ‘humanitarian’ military intervention is a lie and why diplomacy doesn’t work because of powerful individuals in the background with a different agenda.

What is startling about Murray’s revelations is that Tony Blair’s war in Sierra Leone was nothing to do with humanitarian intervention and everything to do with money, no matter what the consequences. This may not surprise you given what we now know about Blair. What might surprise you though is that Murray goes on to accuse individuals in senior government positions with the power to make decisions who were also board members of private companies set to benefit from those decisions. One individual in the U.S. State Dept who was supposedly negotiating a peace deal was also the chair of a resource company that had serious financial interests, where war benefited his company, whilst at the same time being the founding partner of another company that devised the extraordinary rendition or torture programme being conducted in that same country. Murray names the guilty.

There is another revelation in this short video that should utterly astound everyone about Tony Blair’s war in Sierra Leone. Murray makes the case that a senior member of Blair’s government, the Secretary of State for International Development at the time was also a member of the board of Sierra Leone’s only titanium mine.  Murray names and accuses this individual of refusing the resources (along with the American’s) to help make the Sierra Leone peace deal work, which culminated in Britain’s (what turned out to be a pre-planned) invasion and the subsequent deaths of countless thousands. Ironically, this person is today the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, is now a Life Peer, Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Council.

Murray finishes off with a few words about why peaceful resolution of conflicts around the world will not stop whilst western countries retain their current political and economic power structures. He suggests that a tiny number of evil people truly aspire to gain total domination of the world’s resources and are at the centre of much of the needless death and destruction across the planet.

Lee Camp at "Redacted Tonight" is on fire.

And no one escapes.

Happy Halloween from Max and Stacy!


TONY @oakroyd said...

Craig Murray. A great man. Glad you survived the Hurricane. :)

Cirze said...

Thanks! Just barely. Flooding abounds. No groceries yet.