There still is no honor among thieves.
Worst people on the planet.
Mass murderers doubling down.
Gravy train meal tickets du jour.
It's hard to go too negative.
ABC Shifts Blame from US Wars to Doctors Without Borders
Urban Militarized Police – No Real Security
Hillary and Colin: the War Criminal Charade
Why Did the Saudi Regime and Other Gulf Tyrannies Donate Millions to the Clinton Foundation?
As She Rakes in the Cash, Clinton Fundraisers Still Shrouded in Secrecy
And why wouldn't they as the next one rapidly advances?
Oh noes arise from the gathering crowd . . .
. . . from the world economy-going-downer news . . . .
by Don Quijones •
Out-of-money Abengoa, felled by debt and shady accounting.
By Don Quijones, Spain & Mexico, editor at WOLF STREET.
Few companies epitomize the failings, follies and foibles of today’s age of hyper-financialized, super-crony capitalism quite like Spain’s teetering green-energy giant Abengoa. The firm came within inches of becoming Spain’s biggest ever bankruptcy last year after embarking on a suicidal multi-year international expansion program fueled by exceedingly generous renewable energy subsidies and massive helpings of bank and corporate debt.
But the subsidies were abruptly taken away when the Spanish government changed. When it had trouble dealing with its debt, the company began hiding it through increasingly complex financial vehicles set up, of course, in the City of London. As Abengoa’s then-CEO Manuel Sánchez Ortega crowed at the time, when things get serious, you need to have your wits about you, and “Abengoa has always been at the leading edge of financialization.”
Last year Abengoa’s off-balance sheet debt load became so unwieldy that it could no longer be hidden. In August the company announced that it would need a new capital expansion, which triggered a massive shareholder exodus and the collapse of its share price. By November things were so bad that even Deloitte, its trusted auditor, refused to sign off on the firm’s accounts, leaving management with little choice but to announce that it was seeking preliminary protection from creditors.
By that time Sánchez Ortega was gone, having taken a new job with the world’s biggest investment fund, BlackRock, which took a massive short position against Abengoa just weeks after his appointment. Blackrock is also now the proud owner of 563,000 shares of Abengoa’s renamed, rebranded U.S subsidiary, Atlantic Yield.
In February this year, its US unit Abengoa Bioenergy US Holding filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in the US. In March, the parent company in Spain filed for chapter 15 bankruptcy in US to get access to protection in the US courts.
Back in Spain, Abengoa is apparently back on the mend after nine months of intense negotiations with its creditors and a massive divestment program. Last week the firm announced that it expects to win the approval of at least 75% of its creditors for a restructuring plan by Sept. 30. The banks and hedge funds that own most of its unpaid debt are already on board.
But not everyone’s convinced. They include rating agency Moody’s, whose senior analyst, Scott Phillips, warned that while the proposed restructuring, if completed, will probably provide a “more sustainable capital structure” and “significantly lighter debt interest burden,” the restructuring plan’s success is far from guaranteed.
The analyst cites three reasons for the prevailing uncertainty. The first is the firm’s liquidity situation, which could deteriorate sharply in the event of an economic downturn. If the group can’t reach the forecast cash flow through asset sales and cost cutting, its liquidity capacity will be reduced, Moody’s warns.
I was pretty sure that we were all going broke after I heard the astute Elizabeth Warren say the following:
By Pam Martens and Russ Martens
August 25, 2016
On July 25, during the opening night of the Democratic National Convention, Senator Elizabeth Warren made the following comments during her speech:
“Here’s the thing: America isn’t going broke. The stock market is breaking records. Corporate profits are at all-time highs.”
We noted at the time that Senator Warren is one of the smartest members of Congress; a former Harvard law professor who taught commercial contracts and bankruptcy law; a member of the Senate Banking Committee and its Economic Policy Subcommittee.
If Senator Warren was not aware that quarterly earnings on a year-over-year basis as measured by the largest companies in America – the Standard and Poor’s 500 – were on track to log in their fifth consecutive quarterly decline in earnings, how could the average American possibly know this?
Equally important, if the stock market was setting new highs based on a prevailing misconception among investors that corporate earnings were still climbing, shouldn’t responsible media be setting the record straight? Or is it the job of corporate media to keep investors ignorant of the economic realities in the U.S. because it might hurt their own publicly traded stock prices?
We decided to see if Senator Warren could have possibly been misled by the so-called “paper of record,” the New York Times. The Times has a nifty search tool that allows one to set a customized time period for searches. We set our time period to search between January 2, 2015 through August 25, 2016. We searched under profit recession. Next we tried corporate earnings. Then we tried S&P earnings. And, finally, we searched under Standard and Poor’s earnings.
We could find no article at the New York Times, much less a headline, that gave any clue to its readers that S&P 500 earnings have been in decline for the past five quarters.
We did find a very misleading headline that appeared in the New York Times’ print edition on the second page of the Business Section on July 21, 2016. The headline reads: “Wall Street Edges Into Record Territory as Earnings Cheer Traders.” This was a rerun of a July 20 article by the Associated Press which had originally titled it “Wall Street Gains as Earnings Cheer Traders.”
One might be forgiven for reading that New York Times headline and thinking that corporate earnings were going in the same direction as the stock market. It wasn’t until the fifth paragraph that there was a hint of a divergence: “Companies are in the middle of telling investors how much they earned in the spring, and analysts are forecasting yet another decline from levels at this time last year. The low expectations have made it easier for companies to come in above forecasts.”
Why is it excruciatingly important for investors in the stock market to keep tabs on the trend in S&P 500 earnings? As Bloomberg’s Lu Wang noted on March 30, 2015, “earnings contractions of three quarters or more have triggered bear markets 82 percent of the time over the past eight decades.”
An eighty-year record is not one investors should ignore – even if companies are gobbling up their own stocks in multi-billion-dollar buybacks financed with cheap debt and central banks around the world have made the deeply misguided decision to use taxpayer money and buy publicly traded stocks or Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs).
According to FactSet, with 95 percent of S&P 500 companies having reported earnings for the second quarter of 2016, the earnings decline for the S&P 500 for the second quarter of 2016 versus the second quarter of 2015 is -3.2 percent. FactSet doesn’t beat around the bush about it or bury the negative news deep down in its reporting. It gets right to it with this:
“The second quarter marks the first time the index has recorded five consecutive quarters of year-over-year declines in earnings since Q3 2008 through Q3 2009.”
The third quarter of 2008 through the third quarter of 2009 was the worst economic period since the Great Depression, one should carefully recall.
And that’s just the part of the iceberg one can readily see above the water. According to FactSet data, there is negative breadth in 6 of the 10 sectors measured as of June 30. While energy is the key villain with a stunning 83.8 percent year-over-year decline in the second quarter, the following additional sectors were also negative: Consumer Staples, Information Technology, Industrials,
Financials and Materials.
There’s an important lesson to take away from this. The New York Times may be the fattest paper in the U.S. but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s telling you what you need to know to survive financially. In fact, could we have the greatest wealth and income inequality since the 1920s if the New York Times had been hammering away on what Americans need to know?
Calling Paul Craig Roberts.
Calling Paul Craig Roberts!
(Because no one else is going to tell us the truth about what's turned the United States of America (originally a pretty good idea) upside down.)
August 26, 2016
Paul Craig Roberts
Here is an informative article by Dmitry Orlov: http://www.cluborlov.com
I use the writings of Orlov and The Saker as checks on my own conclusions.
In his article Orlov concludes that the United States is a dead nation, still walking, but no longer a uni-power. I agree with Orlov that US weapon systems are more focused on profits than on effectiveness and that Russia has superior weapons and a superior cause based on protection rather than dominance. However, in his assessment of the possibility of nuclear war, I think that Orlov under-appreciates the commitment of Washington’s Neoconservatives to US world hegemony and the recklessness of the Neoconservatives and Hillary Clinton. Washington is incensed that Russia (and China) dare to stand up to Washington, and this anger crowds out judgment._ _ _ _ _ _ _
Orlov, also, I think, under-estimates the weakness in the Russian government provided by the “Atlanticist Integrationists.” These are members of the Russian elite who believe that Russia’s future depends on being integrated with the West. To achieve this integration, they are willing to sacrifice some undetermined amount of Russian sovereignty.
It is my conclusion that Washington is aware of the constraint that the desire for Western acceptance puts on the Russian government and that this is why Washington, in a direct thrust at Russia, was comfortable orchestrating the coup that overthrew the elected Ukrainian government. I believe that this constraint also explains the mistakes the Russian government made by refusing the requests of the Donetsk and Luhansk republics to be reincorporated as parts of Russia, where the territories formerly resided, and by the premature withdrawal from Syria that allowed Washington to resupply the jihadists and to insert US forces into the conflict, thus complicating the situation for Russia and Syria.
Orlov sees Russian advantage in the ongoing conflict between Kiev and the breakaway republics as the conflict could be leading to the collapse of the US puppet government in Kiev. However, the disadvantage is that the ongoing conflict is blamed on Russia and feeds Western anti-Russian propaganda. It also makes Russia look weak and unsure of itself as if the Western criticism of Russia’s reincorporation of Crimea has struck home and Russia is afraid to repeat it by accepting the pleas of the break-away republics.
Moreover, if the Russian government had accepted the requests of Donetsk and Luhansk to return to Russia from which they were artificailly separated, not only would the conflict have been ended, but also the Ukrainian people would have realized the disaster caused by Washington’s coup against their government, and Europe would have realized from decisive Russian action that it was not in Europe’s interest to provoke Russia in behalf of Washington. The correct Russian response was prevented by the Atlanticist Integrationist desire to appease Washington.
In contrast to Orlov, The Saker underestimates Russian military strength, but he does understand the constraints placed on Russian decisiveness by the Atlanticist Integrationists, who seem to count in their ranks the economic establishment including the central bank and perhaps the prime minister himself. Putin does not seem to be overly concerned with what appears to me to be a fifth column of Washington’s agents as Putin himself has placed heavy bets on achieving accommodation with the West.
However, Putin has cracked down on the US-financed NGOs that have tried to destabilize Russia.
Western reporting and think tank and university reports on Russia are propaganda and are useless to understanding the situation. For example, in the current issue of "The National Interest," Thomas Graham, who had the Russian desk on the National Security Council during the George W. Bush regime, attributes the “destabilization of eastern Ukraine” to “Russia’s annexation of Crimea.” He avoids mentioning the US-orchestrated overthrow of an elected Ukrainian government and that Crimea voted overwhelmingly (97 percent) to rejoin Russia when faced with the Russophobic government Washington established in Kiev.
According to Graham, the foul deed of Russia’s acceptance of a democratic outcome upset all of Washington’s very friendly, supportive, and hopeful attitudes toward Russia. With all of Washington’s “assumptions that had guided America’s Russia policy” irreversibly dashed, it is no longer possible to maintain that Russia “is a suitable partner for addressing global issues.” Graham goes on to define Russia as a problem because Russia favors a multi-polar world to a uni-polar world run by Washington.
It is possible to read Graham’s repeat of the propaganda line as Graham genuflecting before the Neoconservatives before going on quietly in a low-key manner to attack their hegemonic attitude toward Russia. In his concluding paragraph Graham says that Washington must find a new approach to Russia, an approach of balance and limits that rejects “resort to force, which would be devastating given the destructive power of modern weaponry.”
All in all, it is an artful argument that begins by blaming Russia’s response to Washington’s provocations for a dangerous situation and concludes with the argument that Washington must adjust to Russia’s defense of her own national interests.
It is reassuring to see some realism creeping back into Washington attitudes toward Russia. However, realism is still a minority view, and it is highly unlikely that it would be the view of a Hillary regime.
In my opinion, the chance of nuclear war from Neoconservative intention, miscalculation or false launch warning remains high. The provocations of US/NATO military forces and missile bases on Russia’s borders are reckless as they build tensions between nuclear powers. It is in times of tension that false warnings are believed and miscalculations occur. In the interest of life on earth, Washington should be de-escalating tensions with Russia, not building them. So far there is no sign that the Neoconservatives are willing to give up their hegemonic agenda for the sake of life on earth.
And what's been happening since the good people (decent people, anyway) resigned from the new "Feel-good-about-your-personal-politics (while now taking billionaire's money)" Bernie-inspired vehicle (Love the Word Revolution.com)?
This week Bernie Sanders started moonlighting as a traveling used car salesman. A month ago, the neophyte salesman volunteered to handle the problematic Clinton account, featuring the Hillary model, which, like the Edsel of old, had previously gone unsold during its initial rollout in 2008.
Sanders, who has perfected his pitches to younger and blue-color buyers with questionable credit, is emphasizing the value and durability of the Hillary model, noting that despite the heavy mileage, the engine continues to fire consistently, with only occasional coughing from the tailpipes.
The car is something of a gas-guzzler and seems to run best on fuel refined from sweet crude extracted from the Libyan oil fields. For the environmentally conscious consumer, Sanders noted that the Hillary model can be modified to run on Ethanol, though the carburetor often proves to be a little finicky unless the Ethanol is made from a specific variety of corn genetically engineered by Monsanto.
At one showroom event in Sheboygan, Sanders boasted enthusiastically about the trans-Pacific trade-in value of the Hillary, which remains especially high against Korean and Chinese models.
Under questioning from a prospective buyer, Sanders did admit that, according to a report from a Ralph Nader-affiliated group, the Hillary model has developed a minor issue with the power steering, which causes the car to veer uncontrollably to the right.
As with all Clinton models, financing for the Hillary is available through Goldman Sachs.
Our Revolution, Incorporated
Back in Burlington, Vermont, the roll out of Our Revolution, Inc., got off to a sputtering start. Our Revolution, Inc. was meant to serve as the vanguard for the war on economic inequality and political corruption, which Sanders vowed to keep waging after his defeat in the Democratic primaries. But the organization has been crippled by internal power plays, purges and squabbling over money.
On Monday, more than half of the staff resigned en masse, only days before the organization’s prime time debut during a webcast on Wednesday night. Apparently, the final straw was the decision by Bernie and Jane Sanders to appoint Jeff Weaver, former manager of Bernie’s presidential campaign, to head Our Revolution, Inc. The animus of the Sandernistas toward Weaver and his buddy Tad Davine, another hired political hack who soaked the Sanders campaign for huge consulting fees, is visceral. And with good reason. While pocketing huge fees, Davine and Weaver made fatal tactical blunders during the campaign, such as refusing to contest the southern primaries, that effectively doomed Sanders’ remote chances from the very beginning.
Our Revolution, Inc. has other problems. Namely money. At this point the group has raised only $300,000 toward its mission of helping to get “progressive” (Democratic) candidates elected in November and beyond. That’s less than the Sanders campaign was raking on an average day of online fundraising in March. How much of that amount is being chewed up by staff salaries is unknown. Some of Bernie’s most ardent devotees have pointed the finger at Jane Sanders for the financial troubles at Our Revolution, Inc., which strikes me as petty given all the other vultures circling the carcass of the Sanders campaign. But the smaller the pot, the more intense the money-grubbing. (See: Erich Von Stroheim’s film of Frank Norris’ novel “Greed”.)
Welcome to revolution on the installment plan.
The Bang for Their Buck
Hillary Clinton is experiencing no such troubling issues with her fundraising. In fact, the money is pouring in from all quarters, left and right. In recent weeks, Clinton’s campaign coffers have been filled to the brim by a gusher of funds from defense contractors and weapons manufacturers. Indeed, Clinton has raised twice as much money from the defense sector as her non-interventionist rival Donald Trump.
Over the course of the summer months, executives from defense companies have showered Clinton with $93,000, compared to Trump’s meager pickings of only $46,000. Among the corporate bigwigs to show their faith in Hillary to advance their cause by waging new wars are top executives from Lockheed, General Atomics, Raytheon, United Technologies, Boeing, BAE Systems, General Dynamics and Booz Allen Hamilton, which has the mega-contract to act as the Pentagon’s comptroller. (Aside: an audit this week by the Inspector General for the Pentagon revealed that the US Army made accounting errors of $9.3 trillion in the last two years alone.)
The politics of war is a racket, as General Butler observed, and political contributions are an investment to insure that that racket continues in perpetuity.
Still Hasn’t Found What He’s Looking For
I don’t understand why the task of unearthing Hillary’s emails has fallen to the scrappy rightwing outfit Judicial Watch and not to the New York Times or the ACLU. Don’t liberals care about preserving the integrity of the Freedom of Information Act? Perhaps they’re numbed from listening to the “Joshua Tree” album on endless loop.
One of the most ludicrous emails to be excavated from the latest dump of missives involving fat cats donors to the Clinton Foundation seeking favors from Hillary and the State Department concerns the sad case of Bono, the puerile frontman for U2.
On May 27, 2009, just a few months after Hillary took office as Secretary of State, Ben Schwerin, a Bill Clinton aide, wrote an email to Huma Abedeen at the State Department on behalf of Bono, a donor to the Clinton Foundation. “Bono wants to do a linkup with the International Space Station on every show during the tour this year,” Schwerin wrote. “I’m trying to figure out who the best contact is to talk to at NASA or the congressional committee on science and technology. Any ideas? Thks.”
Abedeen responded quickly, “No clue.” But within a few weeks Bono had his “link up” from NASA for one of the most banal rock tours of the decade. NASA could have done the world a favor by simply launching Bono into deep space.
The Ghost of Tipper Haunts Hipsterville
Speaking of music, ever wonder what became of the censorious Tipper Gore, who was frightened that the children of America might get their sex and political education by listening to rap music and heavy metal? Apparently, Tipper is now secret advisor to the Portland (Oregon) Public Schools. How else can we explain the recent decision by the school executives in Hipsterville to ban the playing of rap music on school buses this fall?
While forbidding the playing of rap music as “inappropriate,” Teri Brady, senior director of transportation at Portland Public Schools, helpfully provided a list of radio stations that played the three permissible genres: pop, country and jazz.
Despite its progressive image, Portland may be the most racist city in the nation. It’s certainly the whitest. And its getting whiter every day as hipster hordes from Brooklyn and the Bay Area flood north Portland forcing out economically stressed blacks.
The school district could better service its students by banning the teaching of American history until it begins to tell a more accurate account of the origins of Oregon statehood, including the race exclusion laws enacted between 1847 and 1855, which banned blacks from settling in the state. Until that unlikely day, rap music may provide the only history that really matters.
Travel Advisory From the Highway to Hell….
Last week temperatures in the Pacific Northwest topped 100 degrees for three consecutive days. This week the once-soggy quadrant of the nation sizzles under temperatures in the mid-90s. Wildfire rage across Oregon, Washington, Idaho, northern California and Montana. Down in the Delta, Baton Rouge just got swamped by another 1000-year flood, which seems to happen once every decade now.
Thus it came as little surprise to learn that July 2016 was the hottest month ever recorded. In fact, the last 12 months have each broken temperature records. According to data from NASA, which combine sea surface temperature and air temperature on land, July 2016 was 0.84C hotter than the 1951 to 1980 average for July, and 0.11C hotter than the previous record set in July 2015. 2016 shows every sign of being the hottest year since record keeping began.
It’s all downhill from here. How do you want to go? By water or fire?
Going Once, Going Twice
The flaming planet and the Bayou floods did not deter the Interior Department from its mission to auction off 23.8 million acres of oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico, the largest such sale since the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe.
That’s not to say that the Interior Department hasn’t learned some valuable lessons from the environmental movement over the past few years. Anticipating angry protesters and perhaps undercover bidders who might choose, like Tim DeChristopher and Terry Tempest Williams, to buy the drilling rights yet not actually sink their drills into virgin ground, the Interior Department held their auction in an online livestream event, safe from pesky greens bent on disrupting one of the last sacred rituals of the fossil fuels industry.
This sums up Obama’s environmental policy for me.
Joe Arpaio is the bigoted buffoon who has been the sheriff for Maricopa County, Arizona since 1983. Arpaio, one of Donald Trump’s most trusted advisers, is a bully and thug who has overseen the most outrageous system of racial profiling in country in his insane quest to cleanse the greater Phoenix area of suspected undocumented immigrants. Arpaio has starved inmates at the county jail, denied them reading materials and refused to provide basic medical care. He has housed inmates in tent cities in the desert, made them wear pink uniforms and reconstituted the use of chain gang labor. Arpaio has also compelled all of the inmates in Maricopa’s jails to register for the selective service.
On August 20, federal Judge Murray Snow, who is overseeing the investigation into illegal racial profiling by Arpaio and his deputies, took the very rare step of asking that the Justice Department to file criminal contempt of court charges against the sheriff for continually violating court orders designed to keep the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office from racially profiling Latinos.
Just drop him off in the middle of the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge in a pair of sandals and pink jail clothes and let the sidewinders do the rest….
Dianne, Warren Hinkle Calling
Last week, the hacker known as Gufficer 2.0 dropped another bombshell on the Democratic Party elites by posting online the private cellphone numbers and email address of high-ranking members of congress. Nancy Pelosi was apparently irate that her attempt to shakedown money from Bay Area tycoons was repeatedly interrupted by dozens of angry calls from constituents whose past grievances had gone unaddressed.
But Nancy’s miserable night was nothing compared to the righteous havoc that descended on her San Francisco compatriot Dianne Feinstein (Net worth: $43 million) back in the early 1980s at the hands of Hunter S. Thompson and Warren Hinkle. When Feinstein was mayor, she authorized police raids on the O’Farrell Theater, a strip club in the Tenderloin owned by the Mitchel Brothers, producers of Beyond the Green Door and other porn films of the 1970s. It so happened that the O’Farrell Theater was a favorite hangout for Thompson and Hinkle, who peeved Feinstein’s assault on their First Amendment right to observe the artistic performances of some of the Bay Areas most accomplished strippers. Thompson, who claimed to the be the “night manager” of the O’Farrell, once called the club the “Carnegie Hall of public sex in America.” In retaliation for Feinstein’s vice raids, Thompson and Hinkle acquired the mayor’s home telephone number and had it posted on the billboard at the O’Farrell with the message: “For a good time, call Dianne at…”
Warren Hinkle died this week at the age of 77. He was one of the last of his breed, a wild man of American journalism, whose tenure as editor of Ramparts and Scanlan’s magazines helped define radical journalism in America. Among other things, Warren played midwife to the birth of gonzo journalism when he assigned Hunter S. Thompson and Ralph Steadman to cover the Kentucky Derby for Scanlan’s in 1971. (An episode which is now the subject an excellent short film, Gonzo @ the Derby, which features a brief interview with Hinkle.)
My friend Fred Gardner worked for Hinkle at Ramparts in the late 1960s. When I told Fred yesterday that Hinkle had died, Fred said: “He fired me twice, but hired me three times. Four, if you count ‘War News.’ He slandered me twice —not in writing, things he was telling people— and I never held it against him, for some reason. Neither time was it malicious, he was just playing up a plausible story. He had great taste in women.” Last week, we ran Fred’s vivid account of working for "Ramparts" during the raucous 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago.
Alexander Cockburn and I met Hinkle at a dark bar in Chinatown in the spring of 2001. Warren began ordering mysterious drinks of iridescent colors and names that seemed to derive from the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
“Look,” he said. “You should both come write for the Examiner.” This was once William Randolph Hearst’s flagship paper, which had fallen into the hands of a Chinese family called the Fangs for the princely sum of $100. The Fangs had hired Warren to run the editorial department. “Write about whatever you want. Just keep it under 700 words. As long as I get paid, you’ll get paid.” We agreed. Alex and I each wrote a column a week. The gig went on for a few enjoyable months before coming to a predictable end.
Hinkle drank us both under the table that day and, deal concluded, walked briskly away down Grant Street, as if he’d just spent the afternoon sipping cappuccino.
Love and War
Lee Ballinger, of Rock & Rap Confidential and CounterPunch fame, becomes the last living American to debut his own podcast: Love and War. Check it out here.
Oh Say Can You See the Slave Breeders?
Word comes from Ned and Constance Sublette, longtime friends of CounterPunch, that their magisterial book, The American Slave Coast: a History of the Slave Breeding Industry, has just won the American Book Award for nonfiction. Congratulations to the Sublettes on a project of deep history that was years in the making. This sprawling and unsparing history of the American slave-breeding industry may be the most important book of the last decade. It is a vividly written, painfully documented alternative history of the grim origins of the political economy of the American republic. As the Sublettes convincingly demonstrate, the heinous truth is that from the earliest days the American economy was driven by slavery and the most profitable business in that abominable enterprise derived from the manufacturing and sale of new slaves.
A Poker Up the Rear End of the Establishment
“It takes a lot of moola to fool around with national magazines, regardless of their politics. It takes even more if the paper is hell bent on shoving a hot poker up the rear end of the Establishment, as that editorial posture is not conducive to a massive influx of advertising dollars…a lot of people on the left still cherish the idea that Ramparts went under because I bought people drinks.” – Warren Hinkle
The death of Warren Hinckle, a journalist long forgotten outside San Francisco, brings back Ramparts magazine’s crowning moment, also one of crucial moments of postwar liberalism. At a stroke, in March, 1967, the presumptions of innocence by purportedly freedom-loving (albeit hawkish) prestigious intellectuals were stripped off. It turned out that the grand banquets and conferences with literary-and-other luminaries, the New York Times-reported cocktail parties, indeed the whole egghead-celebrity thing, was at base a CIA operation called, without irony, the Congress for Cultural Freedom. The list of collaborators was a long one, but Mary McCarthy, Irving Kristol, Leslie Fiedler, Dwight Macdonald, Sidney Hook and the Trillings, Diana and Lionel, among the most famous Americans, with European stars including Isaiah Berlin and Arthur Koestler at the top (Hannah Arendt in both categories). "The Partisan Review," "Encounter" and a considerable stream of literary or quasi-literary journals existed, as it turned out, with the help of intelligence-agency donations.
The operation had been established at the down of the 1950s with CIA executive Cord Meyer, and a youngish intellectual very much in the news, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., whose original, brainy scheme it may have been. Intellectuals and artists guilty of opposing fascism “too early” and supporting the Soviet Union in the present or past offered another considerable list including some of Hollywood’s most talented writers and directors, also a handful of its stars (Lucille Ball might be the best remembered today), also musicians, singers, painters, novelists and most mortifying to some critics, the day’s leading playwright, Arthur Miller. The CIA’s precursor body, full of leftwingers, had been ushered out of existence as the intelligence operation shifted from anti-fascist and slightly pro-communist to anti-communist and to the same degree, pro-fascist (or supportive of repressive anti-communist regimes). The guilty had to be finished off, in the ongoing Cold War, and McCarthyism had not finished the job.
The 1950s offered plenty of opportunities for intellectuals and artists to curse Russian misdeeds, but a rather large number of opportunities for criticism of US actions as the overthrow of the Guatemalan government and the near-genocidal civilian massacres shortly to follow. Americans were called upon to gird their loins. They were also selectively offered all expense-paid junkets with, four star hotels, five star restaurants, and plenty of associated glamor. Better than that, or at least more lasting, were the contacts useful for lucrative book contracts and warm reviews in the big publications.
It might have gone on for decades longer, if not for the Vietnam War, which most of leading intellectuals in the operation came to view as an unfortunate but understandable mistake in judgment. A handful, including Dwight Macdonald, actually rejoined the dissenters, and in his case, humiliated a small crowd around him attending a White House dinner by asking for petition signatures against the war. Ramparts’ revelations began with the National Student Association (NSA), a mostly reform-minded student group whose “witty” leaders carried out orders and cashed checks of origins unknown to members. As the scandal spread, CIA officials went public, confessing to deep ties not only to student groups but also to the AFL-CIO, whose leaders had heretofore denied any CIA funding for activities among leading unionists in the UK and across Europe, not to mention the rest of the world.
The ripples of the Ramparts revelations spread outward, with mostly hypocritical denials of knowledge by this or that participant. Some, like Arendt (whose totemic Origins of Totalitarianism had actually been funded by the Agency) made fun of the Congress members’ pomposity while enjoying the lavish accommodations in a palace on Lake Como, Italy. An American counterpart to the CCF, the Committee for Cultural Freedom, shut down in embarrassment, although Schlesinger managed a transfer of funds and the franchise of the CCF to the smaller International Association for Cultural Freedom, which finally shut its doors in 1979.
Is all this far in the past, a mere historical footnote? The widely-reported style of the Clinton Campaign, reporters kept at a distance with doors and windows shut while HRC addresses her donors, has a suspicious familiarity. So does the very character of the celebrity sheen, the carefully chosen famous important enough to be brought up to the stage, trusted enough not to object to…the newest versions of hawkish Cold War liberalism.
What lies ahead for these intellectuals and celebs is, first of all, White House photo-ops, and very possibly “Freedom” awards of assorted kinds. But there’s another future, around the corner, when the next Vietnam (or Guatemala) becomes the source of quiet State Department calls for declarations of loyalty. Another country to be bombed, invaded and occupied in the name of “Freedom,” perhaps this time the freedom of women, or a population to be saved from obliteration only by a massive military operation not likely to end in near time.
Secrecy and loyalty to the regime: as important to liberalism as to the Right, and perhaps more important. A world to be conquered, no matter how many victims, in the name of high ideals.
Recall the masterful essay by Robin Blackburn, How Monica Lewinsky Saved Social Security.
Robert Rubin and Larry Summers are the neoliberal economic policy gurus who have defined the New Democrats and their fiscal conservatism for three decades now. Both men are longtime proponents of the privatization of Social Security, and given their Wall Street connections, it is logical to assume that the next bubble meant to follow the dot-com one was going to be inflated by the influx of Social Security’s capital.
But then along came the intern in the blue dress.
Clinton’s pivot to the left and advocacy of “saving” Social Security rather than privatizing it was a defensive posture taken up to consolidate support within the Democratic base as he faced the inquiry of Ken Starr. But prior to the development of the Lewinski scandal, he had begun to make moves towards privatization at a moment when the public perception of the “magic of the market” was hegemonic among the white middle class, a period when 60 Minutes was featuring stories about stay-at-home day traders who, using recently-premiered world wide web and a proliferation of consumer-grade stock broker websites, were fashioning themselves into a veritable cottage industry of people who were so crazy they thought they would become millionaires with mouse clicks! Things were looking so dire that Dean Baker and Mark Weisbrot published an entire book, titled Social Security: The Phony Crisis, that began with this passage:
“We have a chance,” said President Clinton, to “fix the roof while the sun is still shining.” He was talking about dealing with Social Security immediately, while the economy is growing and the federal budget is balanced… The roof analogy is illuminating, but we can make it more accurate. Imagine that it’s not going to rain for more than 30 years. And the rain, when it does arrive (and it might not), will be pretty light. And imagine that the average household will have a lot more income for roof repair by the time that the rain approaches. Now add this: most of the people who say that they want to fix the roof actually want to knock holes in it.But because of Bubba’s pivot, he was unable to provide the soap to inflate the next bubble. As a result, when the dot-com bubble began to collapse, there was nothing to replace it and a recession, caused by Democratic policies, would have been what a Gore presidency would have inherited. Why not quit while you are ahead?
Clinton’s behavior here, combined with how his staff went to absurd lengths to vandalize the White House offices as the Republicans moved in for revenge over the impeachment proceedings, has become the modus operandi of the post-Cold War presidencies, leaving the country in as bad shape (or perhaps worse) then when you found it. We have seen nearly a quarter century of White House tenures, in economic terms, looking like waves on the high seas, peaks and valleys that correspond with entrances and exits. There has been no ethic of leaving things better than when you found it. When Eisenhower took office, the country was in the midst of a Red Scare that destroyed a generation of activists while, in domestic transit terms, the postwar population was effectively still living in the nineteenth century. When he gave the country to John Kennedy, he had spent massive amounts on the construction of an interstate highway system that revolutionized how Americans moved around the country and creation of civic infrastructure, such as schools and hospitals, that we still (rather embarrassingly) depend on daily and which is remembered as the golden era of American labor irregardless of the purging of the Communists.
So, with all this in mind, can we start blaming Gore for what he has done to America via his proxy George W. Bush? “Say it ain’t so Al!”
Is the death of Neoliberalism upcoming?
Don't miss Plucky's foresight about the bankster scams and upcoming negative interest rates.
And Chris Hedges' "On Contact" will turn your hair the rest of the way white.