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The Japanese Government Bond Market Freezes Up

by David Stockman

Testosterone Pit (April 17 2014)

This one matters a lot. Abenomics was predicated on a lunatic notion – namely, that the economic ills from Japan’s debt overhang could be cured by a central-bank bond-buying spree that was designed to be nearly three times larger relative to its GDP than that of the US Federal Reserve. Yet anyone with a modicum of common sense and market experience long ago recognized that such a massive, artificial bid from the central bank would drastically deform the world’s second largest government bond market – turning portfolio managers into compliant fellow travelers at first, and eventually driving them out of the market as the Bank of Japan swallowed up the supply of bonds.

Now it has happened. For nearly two days there was not a single cash bid for the eponymous ten-year Japan Government Bond in what is a $10 trillion market. That means at least for the moment, liquidity has dried-up and gone completely missing. As one trader put it:

 

Everybody thinks the market is not going to move for the time being because of the purchase by our dear customer, the BoJ …

 

Nothing could be more fraught with danger than to see the most indebted government on the planet destroy its own bond market in pursuit of the very Keynesian doctrine that every major central bank is today practicing. Yet that is exactly what the world-class fools running Japan Incorporated – at least for the moment – are on the way to accomplishing. Abenomics has turned what remained of the Japanese bond market into a cowering covey of survivors waiting for doomsday: “I know this could end badly. But if you are in this market, you will have no choice but to buy”, Daiwa SB’s Okuhara said.

But here’s the thing. Prime Minister Abe has not been laughed out of the G-7 for being the economic dunce that he actually is. Indeed, his fellow dimwit at the IMF, Christine Lagarde, has actually praised him for his perspicacity and courage. Given this kind of leadership in the global monetary system, it might be wondered how the VXX remains pinned down at nearly all-time lows. The answer apparently is that the tables at our monetary Jonestown are now getting packed end-to-end.

As the Gulf Times noted {1}:

 

Japan bond market liquidity dries up as BoJ holding crosses ¥200 trillion

The Bank of Japan’s massive purchases of government debt hit a milestone this week, sucking liquidity out of the market to such an extent that the benchmark ten-year bond went untraded for more than a day, the first time in thirteen years.

Data from the BoJ late on Monday showed its holding of Japanese government bonds topped ¥200 trillion ($1.96 trillion), or about twenty percent of outstanding issuance – up by more than half from ¥125 trillion about a year ago.

The fall in market liquidity looks set to intensify as the BoJ has vowed to continue its aggressive buying for at least another year, with market players expecting it to expand its easing some time later this year.

“Everybody thinks the market is not going to move for the time being because of the purchase by our dear customer, the BoJ”, said a trader at a major Japanese brokerage.

The BoJ stepped up its bond buying last April when Haruhiko Kuroda became its governor, vowing to take radical easing steps to end deflation once and for all.

The increasing dominance of the BoJ in the market, however, resulted in shortage of tradable bonds in the market, reducing trading flows between market players.

Brokers are reluctant to go short, fearing that they cannot buy back when they want. On the other hand, few investors are willing to chase prices higher, when the ten-year bonds yield about 0.6%

The upshot was that the average daily trading band of ten-year JGB futures price so far this month is 0.15, compared to about 0.50 in the ten-year US Treasury notes futures.

The current ten-year cash bonds saw its first trade of the week yesterday afternoon, having gone untraded for more than a day and a half.

Trade volume in the benchmark cash bonds so far this month dropped to less than one trillion yen, down about seventy percent from the same period last year.

In a sign that the BoJ is also worried about falling bond market liquidity, the central bank tweaked its JGB repo programme on Monday, saying it will offer to sell JGBs twice a day, compared to once a day now.

Yet traders shrugged off the measure as a drop in the ocean. And with the BoJ seen mopping up another sixty to seventy trillion yen of JGBs from the market, few investors are ready to pick up a fight.

“Everybody is holding off buying now only because they want to buy at a higher yield. But in the end, the only strategy you can take under an environment like this is buy more given the shortage of what you can buy”, said Takeo Okuhara, fund manager at Daiwa SB Investments.

One reason many investors are cautious about buying despite tight market conditions is the trauma of sharp reversal in the market rally after the BoJ adopted the current policy last April.

The ten-year JGB yield hit a record low of 0.315% on the following day after the BoJ’s easing, only to jump back to one percent about a month later – a scenario market players think can be repeated, given the fall in liquidity.

“I know this could end badly. But if you are in this market, you will have no choice but to buy”, Daiwa SB’s Okuhara said.

 

 

The always perceptive John Rubino of DollarCollapse.com comments further on this stunning development{2}. It is a canary in the yen shaft, indeed:

 

Here’s something you don’t see very often: For a day and a half this week, the Japanese government’s benchmark ten-year bonds attracted not a single successful private sector bid. At today’s artificially-depressed yields, no one wants this paper  -  except of course the Bank of Japan, which is buying up the bonds with newly-created yen.

What exactly does this mean? Well, it’s definitely weird. These are the most important fixed income instruments of the world’s third biggest economy, and the only entity willing to own them is the government that issues them. The rest of the world now refuses to lend money for ten years at 0.6% to a government whose debt is 200% of GDP and rising, which leaves Tokyo with only two choices: monetize virtually all its future borrowing or allow interest rates to rise and pay two or three times as much in interest going forward. The latter choice would hobble, if not cripple, an economy that can only function when borrowed money is nearly free.

Here’s a brief interview with prominent Japan bear Kyle Bass noting the country’s “terrible” bond predicament {3}.

In a world of markets rather than manipulations, this kind of imbalance would be an automatic short candidate. Actually, this kind of imbalance would never occur because it would be arbitraged out of existence long before it reached such an extreme. But today, when governments brazenly set prices for just about everything, there’s no reason why the Bank of Japan can’t simply decree a rate of zero or minus one percent or whatever it wants. As the trader notes at the end of the above article, this can’t end well. But exactly how and when it ends is anybody’s guess.

 

Links:

{1} http://www.gulf-times.com/eco.-bus.%20news/256/details/388487/japan-bond-market-liquidity-dries-up-as-boj-holding-crosses-%C2%A5200tn

{2} http://dollarcollapse.com/japan/amazing-story-from-japan/

{3} http://www.cnbc.com/id/101584588
_____

David Stockman was Budget Director under President Reagan and is author of the bestseller, The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America (2013). This article originally appeared at http://davidstockmanscontracorner.com/.

http://www.testosteronepit.com/home/2014/4/17/the-japanese-government-bond-market-freezes-up.html

Categories: Uncategorized

Japanese Nuclear Plants For Sale

Despite the seemingly unending catastrophe in Fukushima, the current Japanese government is eager in exporting its nuclear plants. A close examination of the history of the Japanese nuclear program raises serious concerns over its eagerness.

by Hiroyuki Hamada

OpEdNews (April 17 2014)

I don’t understand why people are not talking about this but here it goes.  Japan has been working hard to export nuclear plants.  That’s odd, right?  After what happened in Fukushima?  I mean who would want it?  And if you want it, would you get it from Japan?

Here is an interesting fact.  Japan has accumulated at least 4000 nuclear warheads’ worth of plutonium, and in fact, it used to export plutonium to England where it was used to make nuclear weapons {1}.  And that is actually an enormous feat for a nation with a peace constitution that bans wars as a means of conflict resolution, and for a nation with multiple regulations guarding against exporting weapons, which of course stipulate anything nuclear as a big no.  What I’m trying to say is that Japan has been very very dishonest about its nuclear policies. The numbers and the facts, which have become available after the accident, state that the nuclear energy has not been as efficient as what has been claimed, while the safety measures and potential risks have not been the primary concerns.  In fact some of us now believe that the primary reason why Japan acquired nuclear energy at the first place was to acquire bomb-making capability, along with the lucrative deals guaranteed by the western nuclear authorities {2}.

Last year, one of the Japanese parliament members demanded detailed information regarding the export of the nuclear plant to Vietnam.  Many of us were stunned to see the disclosed papers completely filled with black rectangles, the contents were pretty much all censored due to national-security concerns {3}.

Now, why would anyone want a nuclear plant from Japan?  One of the countries that desperately wants to get it, despite the overwhelming public opposition, is Turkey.  It’s the country where the US-backed Syrian rebels manufacture sarin gas {4}.  It’s the country where the leaders conspire to pull off a false-flag attack in order to attack Syria {5}.  It’s the country where thousands of peaceful demonstrators are being attacked, injuring 8000 and killing eleven of them last year.  According to what has happened in Japan, it’s certainly possible to deceive a population and the international community and develop a nuclear program that allows the nation to accumulate an enormous amount of plutonium and export it to other nations.  After all, what would be harder to deceive a population that endured two nuclear attacks on its soil, the population known to have a nuclear allergy from the unfortunate history?  Japan has managed to become an invisible nuclear giant.

I think I know why Turkey would want nuclear plants from Japan.  And I don’t like that at all.  Do you?

Moreover, Japan is also sending its officials to push its nuclear plant sales to such nations as Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, India, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bahrain, Quatar, Kuwait, Ukraine {6}.

And it also raises another question.  Why would the Western authorities allow a country like Turkey to have nuclear plants?  Because it can trap such a nation under secret deals of the colluding powers, expanding and stabilizing their profit-oriented status quo guaranteed by the magic words “national security”.  Considering the relentless destabilizing efforts against natural resource-rich nations or against nations defiant to neo-liberal restructuring {7}{8}, considering the relentless blackmailing of elected officials {9}{10}, fake terrorist-brewing sting operations {11}, or global surveillance to oppress journalists and whistleblowers along with the abundance of unjust laws and lawless elected officials colluding with the corporate criminals {12}{13}{14}, it is logical to conclude that joining such a gang will result in swallowing the rules of thugs.  If you live by the sword, you will die by the sword.   If the trapped nation does not obey the ways of the western financial institutions, corporate standards, corporate-restructuring efforts and so on, there will be consequences.  Having nuclear plants with a shady motive would be a perfect tool of a blackmail.

And as we can see in Japan today, a catastrophic accident can trigger a further neo-colonial restructuring along with the militarization and the enactment of unjust laws to make sure that the population will be put under the rule of fear according to the Western principles.  Turkey is a earthquake-prone nation like Japan.  And we need to keep in mind that the accident doesn’t have to be triggered by a natural disaster.

It’s truly painful to say this, but Japan has lost its beautiful backbone with the nuclear disaster.   It is a result of the irresponsible pursuits of profits over humanity.  And the proof of the fact is in the dehumanizing exploitations put upon the people of Fukushima and beyond following the accident.  I do not want that to happen to another beautiful country like Turkey.

Links:

{1} http://blog.livedoor.jp/home_make-toaru/archives/7461361.html

{2} http://saigaijyouhou.com/blog-entry-1750.html

{3} http://savekidsjapan.blogspot.com/2013/11/taro-yamamotos-first-questioning-at-diet.html

{4} http://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n08/seymour-m-hersh/the-red-line-and-the-rat-line

{5} http://www.globalresearch.ca/turkey-wages-war-on-syria-leaked-recording-confirms-turkish-false-flag-attack/5375807

{6} http://taro-file.net/archives/237045.html

{7} http://www.popularresistance.org/us-history-of-overthrowing-democratically-elected-leaders/

{8} http://pando.com/2014/04/08/the-murderous-history-of-usaid-the-us-government-agency-behind-cubas-fake-twitter-clone/

{9} http://www.monitor.net/monitor/9905a/jbcointelpro.html

{10} http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/275-42/16784-how-the-government-killed-martin-luther-king-jr

{11} http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/national-affairs/how-fbi-entrapment-is-inventing-terrorists-and-letting-bad-guys-off-the-hook-20120515

{12} https://firstlook.org/theintercept/article/2014/02/10/the-nsas-secret-role/

{13} http://www.japanfocus.org/-Peter_Dale-Scott/4104

{14} http://billmoyers.com/episode/the-deep-state-hiding-in-plain-sight/

_____

Hiroyuki Hamada is an artist. He has exhibited throughout the United States and in Europe and is represented by Lori Bookstein Fine Art. He has been awarded various residencies including those at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, the Edward F Albee Foundation/William Flanagan Memorial Creative Person’s Center, the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and the MacDowell Colony. In 1998 Hamada was the recipient of a Pollock Krasner Foundation grant, and in 2009 he was awarded a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship. He lives and works New York.

http://www.opednews.com/articles/Japanese-Nuclear-Plants-Fo-by-Hiroyuki-Hamada-Fukushima-Meltdown_Government-Industry-Collusion_Government-Transparency_National-Security-140417-354.html

Categories: Uncategorized

It’s Official

America is an Oligarchy and Not a Democracy

by WashingtonsBlog

http://www.washingtonsblog.com (April 16 2014)

Scientific Study Shows that the US Is an Oligarchy

We noted last year:

 

American democracy – once a glorious thing – has devolved into an oligarchy, according to two leading IMF officials, the former Vice President of the Dallas Federal Reserve,  the head of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Moody’s chief economist and many others.

 

But don’t take their word for it …

A new quantitative study by Princeton’s Martin Gilens and Northwestern’s Benjamin Page finds that America is not a democracy … but is an oligarchy.

Here’s a quick visual overview from the study:

In other words, when the fatcats want something, it will probably happen.  But when the little guys want something … not so much.

Highlights from the study:

 

A great deal of empirical research speaks to the policy influence of one or another set of actors, but until recently it has not been possible to test these contrasting theoretical predictions against each other within a single statistical model. This paper reports on an effort to do so, using a unique data set that includes measures of the key variables for 1,779 policy issues.

Economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence. Our results provide substantial support for theories of Economic Elite Domination and for theories of Biased Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism.

Very few studies have offered quantitative evidence concerning the impact of interest groups based on a number of different public policies.

Prior to the availability of the data set that we analyze here, no one we are aware of has succeeded at assessing interest group influence over a comprehensive set of issues, while taking into account the impact of either the public at large or economic elites – let alone analyzing all three types of potential influences simultaneously.

The chief predictions of pure theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy can be decisively rejected. Not only do ordinary citizens not have uniquely substantial power over policy decisions; they have little or no independent influence on policy at all.

By contrast, economic elites are estimated to have a quite substantial, highly significant, independent impact on policy.

These results suggest that reality is best captured by mixed theories in which both individual economic elites and organized interest groups (including corporations, largely owned and controlled by wealthy elites) play a substantial part in affecting public policy, but the general public has little or no independent influence.

When a majority – even a very large majority – of the public favors change, it is not likely to get what it wants.  In our 1,779 policy cases, narrow pro-change majorities of the public got the policy changes they wanted only about thirty percent of the time. More strikingly, even overwhelmingly large pro-change majorities, with eighty percent of the public favoring a policy change, got that change only about 43% of the time.

Our findings probably understate the political influence of elites.

What do our findings say about democracy in America? They certainly constitute troubling news for advocates of “populistic” democracy, who want governments to respond primarily or exclusively to the policy preferences of their citizens. In the United States, our findings indicate, the majority does not rule  -  at least not in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes. When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the US political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.

If policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.

 

No wonder the chairman of the Department of Economics at George Mason University said that politicians are not prostitutes, they are pimps … pimping out their services to the highest bidder.

The Supreme Court is not much better: their allowance of unlimited campaign spending allows the oligarchs to purchase politicians more directly than ever.

Moreover, there are two systems of justice in America … one for the big banks and other fatcats, and one for everyone else.

And not only do we not have democracy, but we also no longer have a free market economy.  Instead, we have fascism, communist style socialism, kleptocracy, banana republic style corruption, or – yes – “oligarchy”.

Links:

The original version of this article, at the URL below, contains several links to further information not included here.

http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2014/04/oligarchy.html

Categories: Uncategorized

The US Is Not a Democracy

It is an Oligarchy

by Eric Zuesse

Global Research (April 14 2014)

A study, to appear in the Fall 2014 issue of the academic journal Perspectives on Politics, finds that the US is no democracy, but instead an oligarchy, meaning profoundly corrupt, so that the answer to the study’s opening questions, “Who governs? Who really rules?” in this country, is:

 

Despite the seemingly strong empirical support in previous studies for theories of majoritarian democracy, our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts. Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association, and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But, ….

 

And then they go on to say, it’s not true, and that, “America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened” by the findings in this, the first-ever comprehensive scientific study of the subject, which shows that there is instead

 

… the nearly total failure of ‘median voter’ and other Majoritarian Electoral Democracy theories [of America]. When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.

 

To put it short: The United States is no democracy, but actually an oligarchy.

The authors of this historically important study are Martin Gilens and Benjamin I Page, and their article is titled “Testing Theories of American Politics” {1}. The authors clarify that the data available are probably under-representing the actual extent of control of the US by the super-rich:

 

Economic Elite Domination theories do rather well in our analysis, even though our findings probably understate the political influence of elites. Our measure of the preferences of wealthy or elite Americans – though useful, and the best we could generate for a large set of policy cases – is probably less consistent with the relevant preferences than are our measures of the views of ordinary citizens or the alignments of engaged interest groups. Yet we found substantial estimated effects even when using this imperfect measure. The real-world impact of elites upon public policy may be still greater.

 

Nonetheless, this is the first-ever scientific study of the question of whether the US is a democracy. “Until recently it has not been possible to test these contrasting theoretical predictions [that US policymaking operates as a democracy, versus as an oligarchy, versus as some mixture of the two] against each other within a single statistical model. This paper reports on an effort to do so, using a unique data set that includes measures of the key variables for 1,779 policy issues.” That’s an enormous number of policy-issues studied.

What the authors are able to find, despite the deficiencies of the data, is important: the first-ever scientific analysis of whether the US is a democracy, or is instead an oligarchy, or some combination of the two. The clear finding is that the US is an oligarchy, no democratic country, at all. American democracy is a sham, no matter how much it’s pumped by the oligarchs who run the country (and who control the nation’s “news” media). The US, in other words, is basically similar to Russia or most other dubious “electoral” “democratic” countries. We weren’t formerly, but we clearly are now. Today, after this exhaustive analysis of the data, “the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy”. That’s it, in a nutshell.

Link {1}:  http://www.princeton.edu/~mgilens/Gilens%20homepage%20materials/Gilens%20and%20Page/Gilens%20and%20Page%202014-Testing%20Theories%203-7-14.pdf

_____

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010 (2012), and of  Christ’s Ventriloquists: The Event that Created Christianity (2012).

Copyright (c) 2014 Global Research

http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-u-s-is-not-a-democracy-it-is-an-oligarchy/5377765

Categories: Uncategorized

Why technology doesn’t matter

Oh but it does!

by Dmitry Orlov

Club Orlov (April 15 2014)

[This week, Eerik is back, continuing the series which started with "the travesty of the anti-commons". His solar concentrator company is picking up steam (pun intended). If your ecovillage needs a communal kitchen/laundry plus internet cafe, all powered by a solar concentrator array, you need to talk to Eerik.]

In my last series published on this blog I dispensed with the notion of “the tragedy of the commons”, pointing out its inadequacies, and its absurdity, given that the institution of private property depends for its existence [on] the commons, which is both its origin and is instrumental to its preservation. Being the ultimate guarantor of private property, society has every right to assign duties to the private property holder, as well as to demand that private property be returned to the public realm should conditions warrant. Industry and finance often expropriate private land for some industrial purpose, so this principle is not in dispute. But it seems increasingly unusual to think that such expropriations should serve the public good.

My company has recently launched the web site GoSol.co, bringing our contribution to spreading solar energy to public attention. In this context, I would like to turn the readers’ attention to another concept in economics that is much abused: Jevons Paradox. Unlike “the tragedy of the commons”, which is entirely fictional, this one can be said to exist. However, it is rare to see it interpreted correctly, for there is little reason to insist on calling it a paradox – a term that connotes something unexpected and elusive – when it is, in fact, exactly what you’d expect. In this series of articles, I will argue that technology can help save us, and the rest of the living world, Jevons’ paradox be damned.

Unlike run-of-the-mill technophile articles that assume this unquestioningly, let’s deal with Jevons’ “paradox” straight up. Jevons’ observation is that an increase in the efficiency with which a given resource is used, which we might expect to reduce its use, since we now need less of it to accomplish the same tasks as before, actually increases its use – by making it cheaper. Better efficiency means lower cost, hence a wider scope of application. This paradox is also applies to many situations where we introduced an entirely new technology that promised to bypass the old resource all together. For example, computers increased the consumption of paper by making printing so much more efficient and easy, far outweighing the computer’s promise of eliminating paperwork.

We can tell a similar story for essentially every resource: the development of more efficient electronic devices has led to greater consumption of electricity and increased production of electronic devices. More efficient mining, smelting and casting of iron, aluminum and other metals has led to more consumption of those metals. More efficient use of fish through freezing has lead to more fishing. Jevons’ “paradox” appears to apply system-wide: where it is broken by one industry – that does succeed in reducing real consumption – that consumption is quickly absorbed, and then increased, by another industry.

In order for Jevons’ “paradox” to seem paradoxical, we must make an unrealistic assumption: that wants are fixed. But if we consider the nature of modern economy, infinitely increasing wants turn out to be an obvious consequence of its functioning. It continuously borrows to finance its expansion, the interest on that debt to be paid by future expansion, requiring an ever-larger resource base. Notably, it imposes no limits on the extraction of resources, other than what physics, nature and limitations of technology put in the way, and tends to crash whenever it encounters such a limit. It can be best understood as a machine that continuously optimizes itself for consuming as many resources as possible as quickly as possible. Thus, any technological improvement, in order to count as such, has to have a positive effect on the rate of resource consumption. Improved efficiency is a means by which the rate of consumption is improved, not an end in itself. And the ultimate goal, of course, is to improve the rate of economic growth – just ask any politician.

Along with everything else, Jevons’ paradox applies to renewable energy. One of the first major clients of solar energy was the oil industry, which needed off-grid electric systems for remote communication relay stations and cheap thermal energy for drying effluent (both solar trough systems and ones that just spray the effluent into the air to let it evaporate directly in the sunlight). By using solar energy, the oil industry reduced its energy costs. Displacing fossil fuels with solar energy in these niche applications allowed it to extract more oil.

And so, if our goal is to consume what’s left of the world’s resources down to the last tree (and swiftly going extinct after that) then improvements in technology will help. But if our goal is to stop the destruction and survive, then they won’t.

Or will they? What Jevons’ “paradox” doesn’t include is the concept of choice. Suppose we had cars that periodically run over pedestrians. If we spent our time tinkering with their design, to make them faster and more maneuverable, in the hopes of making it possible to swerve around some of the would-be victims, we would no doubt find that, although the number of kills per mile would go down, we would cover more than enough extra miles to effect a net increase total killings.

But we could also choose to stop driving and walk, killing no one. This radical course of action would take much more effort and may seem like an impossible task, especially if we are no longer accustomed to walking, nor even able to imagine it as useful. But it is only at this point that technology begins to matter. If we decide to stop driving the kill-o-matic, this does not imply that we must go without technology altogether and live as people did before the discovery of fire (now that the art of making fire by rubbing two sticks together has been all but lost).

Certain tools can be quite helpful in allowing us to choose a different way of living. As far as the kill-o-matics, it might seem like a moral imperative to simply stop driving them regardless of the consequences to ourselves. As far as the murderous economy, it is a bit more complicated, since the choice is not ours. Unless we change the nature of the machine, our individual actions to oppose it will simply redirect resources to those who want to consume even more. And if we blithely assume that we can change the nature of the machine, let’s keep in mind that the modern economy is really rather complicated – more complicated than any number of PhD economists can comprehend, which is why they choose to ignore it and instead spend their time playing with toy economic “models”. What might move the economy in a positive, non-Earth-destroying direction is exceedingly difficult to discern, and a simple formula based on superficial reasoning, dogma or code is unlikely to be of help here.

What is certain, however, is that any solution that results in a long-term public good is probably going to be based on the premise that the pursuit of long-term public good is a top priority. Fantastical assumptions that acting in other interests will somehow magically coincide with the long-term public good are unhelpful. This was the point of my previous series of essays on the tragedy of the anti-commons: that there is no justifiable reason for the public to maintain the rights of private property-holders at public expense for purposes that harm the public. There may be no simple solution, but rehabilitating the rationale of the public good (which used to be common sense) is the first step.

Now, assuming, rather optimistically, that this does happen, we are now in a position to understand the relevance of technology.

We cannot escape the need to choose to organize our economy differently. If not, then whatever technology we invent can be employed to track down and kill the remaining elephants (using high-tech camping gear, laser optics, off-grid photovoltaic-powered communications, and a streamlined online bribing system based on a virtual currency). If we invent a way to lower the cost of extracting all the mineral deposits we will be able to afford surveillance and crowd control technology that will stamp out even the faintest whimper of dissent. But just on the off-chance that we do choose otherwise and do succeed in putting in place some some other, non-murderous scheme, then we will need the tools to build this new arrangement. By developing these tools now we can accomplish two things: we accelerate the development of this new arrangement if and when it occurs, and we offer a strong argument in favour of implementing it by demonstrating its practical feasibility.

Stepping out of the realm of theory and into the realm of practice, there is one tool at our disposal that was not practically usable for our ancestors: using solar energy directly with solar concentrators. This is not so radical a change – just a different type of technology. Trees are solar concentrators – just very inefficient ones, slowly converting solar energy into a thermal energy source (firewood). They are also extremely efficient at maintaining a liveable environment for us oxygen-breathing life forms.

Solar concentrators are a simple technology that falls far short of our science-fiction expectations. But science-fiction should serve as a warning about our limits, not an inspiration for juvenile fantasies of technological omnipotence. Observe: nearly all our science-fiction stories rely on magical sources of energy to power these imaginary civilizations and their faster-than-light spaceships, teleporters, forcefields and deflector shields, baked-chicken materialisers and lavishly decorated hologram decks. True, plenty that was imagined in science fiction has come to pass, such as handheld communications, virtual reality, traveling under the sea, flying, going into space. However, all these science-fiction successes have a thing in common: there was no physical barrier to these quests. Only limitations of technology stood in their way.

Teleportation, faster-than light travel, faster than light communications, even the humble light-saber, have not been created in any satisfactory way. All of these hallmarks of our science-fiction have a thing in common: they all either break fundamental scientific laws or require infinite amounts of energy. Consider even the smallest item on this list – the light-saber: if a similar-looking device were ever invented (some sort of plasma field or what have you), it would be very surprising if the power source required to cut through metal and fight long battles without a recharge would fit a thirty centimeter-long handle (we all know how awkward it is to have to swap batteries mid-battle). So, science-fiction writers have correctly predicted physically possible technologies and achievements, but, just as we should have expected, physically impossible technologies have failed to materialize.

Solar concentrator technology was not heralded by our science-fiction writers but rather by geniuses: Archemedes, Leonardo de Vinci, Thomas Edison. All of them saw solar power as the obvious future source of energy. A worldwide deployment of solar concentrators could not only avoid Jevons’ “paradox” but would have far-reaching social implications – which I will explore in next week’s piece.

Previous posts by Eerik Wissenz:

http://cluborlov.blogspot.jp/2013/09/the-travesty-of-anti-commons.html

http://cluborlov.blogspot.jp/2013/09/the-travesty-of-anti-commonspart-ii.html

http://cluborlov.blogspot.jp/2013/10/the-travesty-of-anti-commonspart-iii.html

http://cluborlov.blogspot.jp/2013/10/the-travesty-of-anti-commonsconclusion.html

http://cluborlov.blogspot.jp/2013/10/communities-that-abide-finland.html

http://cluborlov.blogspot.jp/2014/04/why-technology-doesnt-matteroh-but-it.html

Categories: Uncategorized

Washington Drives the World to War

by Paul Craig Roberts

Institute for Political Economy (April 14 2014)

The CIA director was sent to Kiev to launch a military suppression of the Russian separatists in the eastern and southern portions of Ukraine, former Russian territories for the most part that were foolishly attached to the Ukraine in the early years of Soviet rule.

Washington’s plan to grab Ukraine overlooked that the Russian and Russian-speaking parts of Ukraine were not likely to go along with their insertion into the EU and NATO while submitting to the persecution of Russian speaking peoples.  Washington has lost Crimea, from which Washington intended to eject Russia from its Black Sea naval base. Instead of admitting that its plan for grabbing Ukraine has gone amiss, Washington is unable to admit a mistake and, therefore, is pushing the crisis to more dangerous levels.

If Ukraine dissolves into secession with the former Russian territories reverting to Russia, Washington will be embarrassed that the result of its coup in Kiev was to restore the Russian provinces of Ukraine to Russia.  To avoid this embarrassment, Washington is pushing the crisis toward war.

The CIA director instructed Washington’s hand-picked stooge government in Kiev to apply to the United Nations for help in repelling “terrorists” who with alleged Russian help are allegedly attacking Ukraine. In Washington’s vocabulary, self-determination is a sign of Russian interference. As the UN is essentially a Washington-financed organization, Washington will get what it wants.

The Russian government has already made it completely clear some weeks ago that the use of violence against protesters in eastern and southern Ukraine would compel the Russian government to send in the Russian army to protect Russians, just as Russia had to do in South Ossetia when Washington instructed its Georgian puppet ruler to attack Russian peacekeeping troops and Russian residents of South Ossetia.

Washington knows that the Russian government cannot stand aside while one of Washington’s puppet states attacks Russians.  Yet, Washington is pushing the crisis to war.

The danger for Russia is that the Russian government will rely on diplomacy, international organizations, international cooperation, and on the common sense and self-interest of German politicians and politicians in other of Washington’s European puppet states.

For Russia this could be a fatal mistake. There is no good will in Washington, only mendacity. Russian delay provides Washington with time to build up forces on Russia’s borders and in the Black Sea and to demonize Russia with propaganda and whip up the US population into a war frenzy.  The latter is already occurring.

Kerry has made it clear to Lavrov that Washington is not listening to Russia. As Washington pays well, Washington’s European puppets are also not listening to Russia. Money is more important to European politicians than humanity’s survival.

In my opinion, Washington does not want the Ukraine matters settled in a diplomatic and reasonable way. It might be the case that Russia’s best move is immediately to occupy the Russian territories of Ukraine and re-absorb the territories into Russia from whence they came. This should be done before the US and its NATO puppets are prepared for war. It is more difficult for Washington to start a war when the objects of the war have already been lost. Russia will be demonized with endless propaganda from Washington whether or not Russia re-absorbs its traditional territories. If Russia allows these territories to be suppressed by Washington, the prestige and authority of the Russian government will collapse. Perhaps that is what Washington is counting on.

If Putin’s government stands aside while Russian Ukraine is suppressed, Putin’s prestige will plummet, and Washington will finish off the Russian government by putting into action its many hundreds of Washington-financed NGOs that the Russian government has so foolishly tolerated.  Russia is riven with Washington’s Fifth columns.

In my opinion, the Russian and Chinese governments have made serious strategic mistakes by remaining within the US dollar-based international payments system. The BRICS and any others with a brain should instantly desert the dollar system, which is a mechanism for US imperialism. The countries of the BRICS should immediately create their own separate payments system and their own exclusive communications/Internet system.

Russia and China have stupidly made these strategic mistakes, because reeling from communist failures and oppressions, they naively assumed that Washington was pure, that Washington was committed to its propagandistic self-description as the upholder of law, justice, mercy, and  human rights.

In fact, Washington, the “exceptional, indispensable country”, is committed to its hegemony over the world. Russia, China, and Iran are in the way of Washington’s hegemony and are targeted for attack.

The attack on Russia is mounting.

Copyright (c) 2013 PaulCraigRoberts.org. All rights reserved.

http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2014/04/14/washington-drives-world-war-paul-craig-roberts/

Categories: Uncategorized

Is Putin Being Lured Into a Trap?

The Obama Game

by Mike Whitney

CounterPunch (April 15 2014)

 

Russia … is now recognized as the center of the global ‘mutiny’ against global dictatorship of the US and EU. Its generally peaceful … approach is in direct contrast to brutal and destabilizing methods used by the US and EU … The world is waking up to reality that there actually is, suddenly, some strong and determined resistance to Western imperialism. After decades of darkness, hope is emerging.

– Andre Vltchek, “Ukraine: Lies and Realities”, CounterPunch

 

Russia is not responsible for the crisis in Ukraine. The US State Department engineered the fascist-backed coup that toppled Ukraine’s democratically-elected president Viktor Yanukovych and replaced him with the American puppet Arseniy Yatsenyuk, a former banker. Hacked phone calls reveal the critical role that Washington played in orchestrating the putsch and selecting the coup’s leaders. Moscow was not involved in any of these activities. Vladimir Putin, whatever one may think of him, has not done anything to fuel the violence and chaos that has spread across the country.

Putin’s main interest in Ukraine is commercial. 66 percent of the natural gas that Russia exports to the EU transits Ukraine. The money that Russia makes from gas sales helps to strengthen the Russian economy and raise standards of living. It also helps to make Russian oligarchs richer, the same as it does in the West. The people in Europe like the arrangement because they are able to heat their homes and businesses [at] market-based prices. In other words, it is a good deal for both parties, buyer and seller. This is how the free market is supposed to work. The reason it doesn’t work that way presently is because the United States threw a spanner in the gears when it deposed Yanukovych. Now no one knows when things will return to normal.

Check out this chart at Business Insider and you’ll see why Ukraine matters to Russia: http://www.policymic.com/articles/84677/to-understand-what-s-really-happening-in-ukraine-follow-the-gas-lines-on-this-map

The overriding goal of US policy in Ukraine is to stop the further economic integration of Asia and Europe. That’s what the fracas is really all about. The United States wants to control the flow of energy from East to West, it wants to establish a de facto tollbooth between the continents, it wants to ensure that those deals are transacted in US dollars and recycled into US Treasuries, and it wants to situate itself between the two most prosperous markets of the next century. Anyone who has even the sketchiest knowledge of US foreign policy -  particularly as it relates to Washington’s “pivot to Asia” -  knows this is so. The US is determined to play a dominant role in Eurasia in the years ahead. Wreaking havoc in Ukraine is a central part of that plan.

Retired German Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Jochen Scholz summed up US policy in an open letter which appeared on the Neue Rheinilche Zeitung news-site last week. Scholz said the Washington’s objective was “to deny Ukraine a role as a bridge between Eurasian Union and European Union … They want to bring Ukraine under the NATO control” and sabotage the prospects for “a common economic zone from Lisbon to Vladivostok”.

Bingo. That’s US policy in a nutshell. It has nothing to do with democracy, sovereignty, or human rights. It’s about money and power. Who are the big players going to be in the world’s biggest growth center, that’s all that matters. Unfortunately for Obama and Company, the US has fallen behind Russia in acquiring the essential resources and pipeline infrastructure to succeed in such a competition. They’ve been beaten by Putin and Gazprom at every turn. While Putin has strengthened diplomatic and economic relations, expanded vital pipeline corridors and transit lines, and hurtled the many obstacles laid out for him by American-stooges in the EC; the US has dragged itself from one quagmire to the next laying entire countries to waste while achieving none of its economic objectives.

So now the US has jettisoned its business strategy altogether and moved on to Plan B, regime change. Washington couldn’t beat Putin in a fair fight, so now they’ve taken off the gloves. Isn’t that what’s really going on? Isn’t that why the US NGOs, and the Intel agencies, and the State Department were deployed to launch their sloppily-engineered Nazi-coup that’s left the country in chaos?

Once again, Putin played no part in any of this. All he did was honor the will of the people in Crimea who voted overwhelmingly (97%) to reunite with the Russian Federation. From a purely pragmatic point of view, what other choice did they have? After all, who in their right mind would want to align themselves with the most economically mismanaged confederation of all time (the EU) while facing the real possibility that their nation could be reduced to Iraq-type rubble and destitution in a matter of years? Who wouldn’t opt-out of such an arrangement?

As we noted earlier, Putin’s main objective is to make money. In contrast, the US wants to dominate the Eurasian landmass, break Russia up into smaller, non-threatening units, and control China’s growth. That’s the basic game plan. Also, the US does not want any competitors, which we can see from this statement by Paul Wolfowitz which evolved into the US National Defense Strategy:

 

Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union. This is a dominant consideration underlying the new regional defense strategy and requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power.

 

This is the prevailing doctrine that Washington lives by. No rivals. No competition. We’re the boss. What we say, goes. The US is Numero Uno, le grande fromage. Who doesn’t know this already? Here’s more from Wolfowitz:

 

The US must show the leadership necessary to establish and protect a new order that holds the promise of convincing potential competitors that they need not aspire to a greater role or pursue a more aggressive posture to protect their legitimate interests. In non-defense areas, we must account sufficiently for the interests of the advanced industrial nations to discourage them from challenging our leadership or seeking to overturn the established political and economic order. We must maintain the mechanism for deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role.

 

In other words, “don’t even think about getting more powerful or we’ll swat you like a fly”. That’s the message, isn’t it? The reason we draw attention to these quotes is not to pick on Wolfowitz, but to show how things haven’t changed under Obama, in fact, they’ve gotten worse. The so called Bush Doctrine is more in effect today than ever which is why we need to be reminded of its central tenets. The US military is the de facto enforcer of neoliberal capitalism or what Wolfowitz calls “the established political and economic order”. Right. The statement provides a blanket justification for the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and now Ukraine. The US can do whatever it deems necessary to protect the interests of its constituents, the multi-national corporations and big finance. The US owns the world and everyone else is just a visitor. So shut the hell up, and do what you’re told. That’s the message. Here’s Wolfowitz one more time:

 

We continue to recognize that collectively the conventional forces of the states formerly comprising the Soviet Union retain the most military potential in all of Eurasia; and we do not dismiss the risks to stability in Europe from a nationalist backlash in Russia or efforts to reincorporate into Russia the newly independent republics of Ukraine, Belarus, and possibly others.

 

Wolfowitz figured the moment would come when the US would have to square off with Moscow in order to pursue it’s imperial strategy in Asia. Putin doesn’t seem to grasp that yet. He still clings to the misguided notion that rational people will find rational solutions to end the crisis. But he’s mistaken. Washington does not want a peaceful solution. Washington wants a confrontation. Washington wants to draw Moscow into a long-term conflict in Ukraine that will recreate Afghanistan in the 1990s. That’s the goal, to lure Putin into a military quagmire that will discredit him in the eyes of the world, isolate Russia from its allies, put strains on new alliances, undermine the Russian economy, pit Russian troops against US-backed armed mercenaries and Special Ops, destroy Russian relations with business partners in the EU, and create a justification for NATO intervention followed by the deployment of nuclear weapons on Ukrainian territory. That’s the game plan. Why doesn’t Putin see that?

Putin has agreed to a meeting this week with foreign Ministers from The United States, the European Union, and Ukraine. This is another mistake. Originally, Putin refused to acknowledge the coup-government as legitimate. Now he’s changed his mind. Now he’s agreed to meet with their representatives. This is a victory for Washington and a defeat for Russia. The Obama team will see this as a sign of weakness, which it is.

According to Al Jazeera:

 

The meeting will involve US Secretary of State John Kerry, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsia, the EU said on Tuesday. A spokesman for Ashton said the talks were aimed at “de-escalating” the crisis in Ukraine.

 

The meeting has nothing to do with “de-escalating” the crisis”. It’s a public relations stunt. These talks have all the credibility of the Israel-Palestine peace talks, which is to say, none at all.

There’s no sense talking to people who don’t want peace. It just makes them look like they are being sincere, when they’re not. Obama and Company don’t want peace. They want regime change. They want to weaken and dismember Russia. They want to reduce Moscow’s influence over energy-dependent states in Europe by disrupting the flow of gas through Ukraine. And they want to create a justification for carrying out their imperial agenda, which means they need to make Putin look like a dangerous aggressor. The coup government’s crackdown on ethnic Russians in Donetsk and Kharkiv could lead to a Russian intervention which would provide the justification that Washington is looking for. However painful it is for Putin to watch Russian speaking Ukrainians get beaten and perhaps killed by Nazi thugs and foreign mercenaries dressed up as Ukrainian Security Forces, he should avoid sending in the troops. It’s a trap.

At present, Ukraine’s [is] currency plummeting, its debts and deficits are growing, and its economy is broken and near default. The IMF has promised to provide a $27 billion loan package that will be used to repay wealthy banks and bondholders in Berlin and Salzburg, but will do nothing to lift the economy out of the doldrums. None of the money from the IMF loans will be used to repay the $2.2 billion in unpaid gas bills to Gazprom or to compensate Russia for the more than $34.4 billion in subsidies Moscow has provided for its ailing neighbor in the last few years. Bondholders come first.

According to the World Socialist Web Site:

 

The “tough” measures required by the IMF in return for a $27 billion loan is already being spelt out by a 120 percent hike in gas and heating prices, the cutting of social benefits, including free medical assistance, and the closure of several hospitals.

 

Naturally, the IMF’s conditions will involve more privatizing of public assets and services, more pension and wage cuts, more easing (“flexibility”) of labor protections, and more cannibalizing of the economy. Ukraine’s economy will undoubtedly slip into the same severe depression experienced everywhere that these failed policies have been implemented. At the same time, voracious investment banks and private equity speculators will make out like bandits skimming billions of dollars in plunder off the distressed and vulnerable country.

The US media has made a big deal out of the fact that Putin “has threatened to turn off the gas to Ukraine”. While the allegation is certainly true, we’ve seen no similar headlines about energy producers in the US cutting off the fuel for American families who are too broke to pay their gas bill and who’ve been “left to freeze to death in the dark”. Nor have we seen similar coverage of the seven million Americans who were booted from their homes as part of a mortgage laundering scam that was concocted by crooked Wall Street bankers. Putin is actually looking for a way to avoid turning off the gas and has asked for help on the matter from leaders of the US and EU. Here’s what he said just last week:

 

Russia is prepared to participate in the effort to stabilize and restore Ukraine’s economy. However, not in a unilateral way, but on equal conditions with our European partners. It is also essential to take into account the actual investments, contributions and expenditures that Russia has shouldered by itself alone for such a long time in supporting Ukraine. As we see it, only such an approach would be fair and balanced, and only such an approach can lead to success.

 

Clearly, Putin doesn’t want to continue shouldering the burden by himself, which is why he made the statement to begin with. The new coup government has repeatedly missed deadlines for payment on its gas supplies. Some believe they have deliberately stopped paying so Putin will cut off the gas thus opening himself up to harsh criticism the western media. Whether it’s true or not is impossible to know, but so far, Washington has had little success selling the idea that Putin is “the new Hitler”. The US is still viewed as the country that poses the greatest threat to world peace, while the Russian president is widely admired as a sober and restrained leader. However, that could change quickly if Putin sends troops to defend protestors in Donetsk and Lugansk. Even so, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned US Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday that if the coup government uses force on the protestors who have seized government buildings then Russia will not participate in the upcoming four-party talks on the crisis. Lavrov added that “the acute political crisis in Ukraine in general and in its south-eastern regions in particular was caused by the present Kiev authorities’ failure to take into account the legitimate needs and interests of the Russian and Russian-speaking population”.

On Sunday, Ukrainian imposter-President Oleksandr Turchynov announced a plan to launch a “large-scale anti-terrorist operation” in Donetsk and Lugansk to avoid a “repeat the Crimean scenario in Ukraine’s east”. The operation will involve “military forces, anti-terrorist forces and law enforcement of Ukraine” and is scheduled to begin at 9 am yesterday morning.

It’s clear, that Turchynov is trying to lure Russia into a fight, just as it’s clear that the president would not have approved the crackdown without a green light from Washington.

Putin will not allow Russian-speaking people to be killed in Ukraine, that’s the red line the junta government must not cross if they want to avoid a confrontation with Russia. Unfortunately, Washington wants Russia to invade so it can put its “proxy war” plan into motion.

_____

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press, 2012). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/04/15/is-putin-being-lured-into-a-trap/

Categories: Uncategorized

American Democracy No Longer Works

by Thom Hartmann

The Smirking Chimp (April 15 2014)

Washington politicians don’t give a damn about you or me. They only answer to billionaires and giant corporations. Thanks to forty years of Supreme Court decisions, American politics is no longer about the “will of We The People” – it’s only about the money.

As a result, we longer have a functioning democracy in America.

Years of corporate-friendly Supreme Court decisions, like the decision in Citizens United, have rigged and corrupted American politics so badly that average hard-working Americans have little to no influence in Washington.

Instead, our “elected officials” are only answering to the wishes of the wealthy elite and private interest groups.

A study published in Perspectives on Politics by Martin Gilens of Princeton University and Benjamin Page of Northwestern University finds that when the wealthy elite or powerful interest groups want a policy passed or not passed, Washington listens {1}.

But, when We The People speak up and sound out about a particular policy or piece of legislation, Americans are right to be cynical.

In his dissent in Citizens United, Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens pointed out that the Court’s decision would lead to fewer and fewer people even bothering to show up to vote. He said from the bench:

 

When citizens turn on their televisions and radios before an election and hear only corporate electioneering, they may lose faith in their capacity, as citizens, to influence public policy. A Government captured by corporate interests, they may come to believe, will be neither responsive to their needs nor willing to give their views a fair hearing. The predictable result is cynicism and disenchantment: an increased perception that large spenders call the tune and a reduced willingness of voters to take part in democratic governance.

 

He added that unlimited corporate and fat cat money would also scare the hell out of politicians themselves, so they’d do what the rich guys want and to hell with the average voter:

 

To the extent that corporations are allowed to exert undue influence in electoral races, the speech of the eventual winners of those races may also be chilled. Politicians who fear that a certain corporation can make or break their reelection chances may be cowed into silence about that corporation.

 

And, four years later, we find that Stevens was totally right.

In their study, Gilens and Page write that, “Ordinary citizens … have little or no independent influence on policy at all.

They go on to say that the wealthy elite have, “a quite substantial, highly significant, independent impact on policy … more so than any other set of actors”, while powerful interest groups do pretty well too, with, “a large, positive, highly significant impact on public policy”.

Gilens and Page looked at a data set of over 1,700 policy issues over a twenty year period, and compared that data to public opinion surveys taken during the same time, that were broken down by income and support from interest groups.

In a functioning democracy, free from corruption and the money of private interest groups, you’d expect that as more and more average citizens approved of a policy or piece of legislation, lawmakers would be more and more likely to adopt that policy or piece of legislation.

But that’s not the case anymore here in America.

Instead, according to Gilens and Page {2}, as more and more average American citizens support a policy or piece of legislation, the probability of it being adopted by lawmakers in Washington stays the same. It doesn’t matter if ten percent of Americans support it, or ninety percent of Americans support it.

But the same can’t be said for the interests of the wealthy elite.

That’s because, as more and more members of the wealthy elite support a policy or piece of legislation, the likelihood that lawmakers in Washington adopt that policy or piece of legislation increases steadily.

And the same is true with well-funded special interest groups. The more special interest groups support a policy or piece of legislation, the greater the likelihood that lawmakers will adopt it.

You also see similar results when you break up Americans by income groups.

When more and more Americans in the bottom tenth percentile supported a particular policy or piece of legislation, the likelihood that it would be adopted by lawmakers stayed relatively the same.

But, as more and more Americans in the ninetieth income percentile or the even richer wealthy elite supported a policy or piece of legislation, the likelihood that it would be adopted by lawmakers increased dramatically.

When it comes to working class Americans, it doesn’t matter if they’re in the bottom tenth income percentile or the fiftieth income percentile: they’re ignored by our politicians for the preferences of the wealthy elite.

The bottom line here is that the elites are getting what they want, while the rest of us aren’t, because money has taken over our political process.

For the first time in American history, a majority of lawmakers in the House of Representatives are millionaires, and a startling number – at both the federal and state level – are being bankrolled by billionaires like the Koch brothers.

This isn’t what the founders had in mind when they founded our once-great nation.

Thomas Jefferson once said that,

 

Those seeking profits, were they given total freedom, would not be the ones to trust to keep government pure and our rights secure. Indeed, it has always been those seeking wealth who were the source of corruption in government …

 

The only other time in American history when the influences of money and corruption were as rampant as they are today was during the Gilded Age of the late nineteenth century, and that period of corruption directly led to the crash of 1896, the worst crash we have ever seen.

That crash brought on a massive populist revolt, which led to things like the direct election of senators, ballot initiatives in the states, and women gaining the right to vote.

If the current levels of corruption and greed in Washington remain unchecked, it’s almost certain that we’ll have another great crash, maybe as soon as 2016.

When that crash happens, let’s get ready to react to it with another progressive populist revolt, and, like with the last progressive populist era, let’s amend the Constitution, this time to say that money is not speech, and corporations aren’t people.

Only then will the majority of Americans regain our democracy and political process, and make America great again.
_____

Thom Hartmann is a Project Censored Award-winning best-selling author, and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk show carried on the Air America Radio network {3}, Sirius {4}, and http://www.thomhartmann.com {5}. His most recent book, just released, is Screwed: The Undeclared War on the Middle Class and What We Can Do About It {6}. Other books include: The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight {7}, Unequal Protection {8}, We The People {9}, and What Would Jefferson Do? {10}

Links:

{1} http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2014/04/12/3426152/wealthy-lobbyists-policy/

{2} http://www.princeton.edu/~mgilens/Gilens homepage materials/Gilens and Page/Gilens and Page 2014-Testing Theories 3-7-14.pdf

{3} http://www.airamericaradio.com/thomhartmannpage

{4} http://www.siriusxm.com/siriusxmprogress/CachedPage&c=Channel&cid=1104779630493

{5} http://www.thomhartmann.com

{6} http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1576754146/thesmirkingchimp/ref=nosim/

{7} http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1400051576/thesmirkingchimp/ref=nosim/

{8} http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1579549551/thesmirkingchimp/ref=nosim/

{9} http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1882109384/thesmirkingchimp/ref=nosim/

{10} http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1400052092/thesmirkingchimp/ref=nosim/

http://www.smirkingchimp.com/thread/thom-hartmann/55376/american-democracy-no-longer-works

Categories: Uncategorized

Zombie Democracy in the USA

The Implications of the McCutcheon Ruling

by Ajamu Baraka

CounterPunch Weekend Edition (April 11 to 13 2014)

I have always found discussions on democracy in the US curious and at times hilarious. While I have always been impressed by the skillful way elites construct a narrative of democratic values and practice in a country that is, in reality, the antithesis of a democracy, the fervor with which that fairytale is embraced, even by intellectuals, has always been a source of curiosity for me. But at other moments, like the one we are in now, I can’t help but find some of the arguments used to support the US Supreme Court’s recent McCutcheon decision – and even some of the comments lamenting how the decision will destroy democracy in the US – somewhat funny.

Of course, these are deadly serious times and the McCutcheon decision, which makes it easier for the corporate and financial elite to buy elections and candidates, is a serious ruling that conveys a devastatingly simple message: that the furtherance of the neoliberal project and the maintenance of the US Empire require the evisceration of democracy.

That message has always been clear to those of us on the margins who have never had the luxury of embracing illusion as a way of life. For us, democracy in the US has always been a “zombie democracy” – a rotten facsimile that looked a little like democracy, sounded like democracy and even had some democratic forms, but was never the real thing, never really alive.

The possibility of democracy was aborted by Thomas Jefferson and the white, male, property-owning, settler “revolutionaries” who declared their independence in 1776. It was aborted by the first American coup in Philadelphia in 1787, when men of property ignored the mandate from their state legislatures to strengthen the Articles of Confederation and instead met in secret to produce a document that would solidify their power.  The resulting Constitution consolidated a white, male, property-owning republic that reduced black people to 3/5th of a person, marked the indigenous for genocide and did not mention democracy anywhere in its text.

It was the people’s struggle over time that injected what little life there is in the walking corpse that is democracy in America.

Democratic reforms, limited as they have been, have nevertheless represented high marks in the people’s demands for democratic rights and dignity. Therefore, it should not be a surprise that during the current phase of right-wing reaction; liberal capitulation; leftist opportunism, confusion and demobilization; and the hegemony of an NGO culture of de-politicized issue fragmentation, that a political culture has been created that has given a reactionary clique on the Supreme Court the confidence to brazenly demonstrate its class bias with the series of decisions we have seen it make over the last few years.

The Citizens United case, the gutting of the Voting Rights Act last year, the rash of state-level laws passed to suppress democratic participation, felony disenfranchisement, and now the McCutcheon ruling – they all signal that the democratic zombie apocalypse is upon us now. And we all know from popular culture what you do when you encounter the walking dead.  So let’s put this zombie out of its misery.

_____

Ajamu Baraka is a long-time human rights activist, writer and veteran of the Black Liberation, anti-war, anti-apartheid and Central American solidarity Movements in the United States.  He can be reached through his website: www. Ajamubaraka.com

http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/04/11/zombie-democracy-in-the-usa/

Categories: Uncategorized

Washington Is Humanity’s Worst Enemy

by Paul Craig Roberts

Institute for Political Economy (April 13 2014)

How does Washington get away with the claim that the country it rules is a democracy and has freedom? This absurd claim ranks as one of the most unsubstantiated claims in history.

There is no democracy whatsoever. Voting is a mask for rule by a few powerful interest groups. In two 21st century rulings (Citizens United and McCutcheon), the US Supreme Court has ruled that the purchase of the US government by private interest groups is merely the exercise of free speech. These rulings allow powerful corporate and financial interests to use their money-power to elect a government that serves their interests at the expense of the general welfare.

The control private interests exercise over the government is so complete that private interests have immunity to prosecution for crimes. At his retirement party on March 27, Securities and Exchange Commission prosecutor James Kidney stated that his prosecutions of Goldman Sachs and other “banks too big to fail” were blocked by superiors who “were focused on getting high-paying jobs after their government service”. The SEC’s top brass, Kidney said, did not “believe in afflicting the comfortable and powerful”. In his report on Kidney’s retirement speech, Eric Zuesse points out that the Obama regime released false statistics in order to claim prosecutions that did not take place in order to convince a gullible public that Wall Street crooks were being punished. {1}

Democracy and freedom require an independent and aggressive media, an independent and aggressive judiciary, and an independent and aggressive Congress. The United States has none of the above.

The US media consistently lies for the government. Reuters continues to report, falsely, that Russia invaded and annexed Crimea. The Washington Post ran an obviously false story planted on the paper by the Obama regime that the massive protests in former Russian territories of Ukraine are “rent-a-mobs” instigated by the Russian government.

Not even Washington’s stooges in Kiev believe that. Officials of the Washington-imposed government in Kiev acknowledged the need for some autonomy for the Russian-speaking regions and for a law permitting referendums, but this realistic response to widespread concerns among Ukrainians has apparently been squelched by Washington and its presstitute media. US Secretary of State John Kerry continues to turn a deaf ear to the Russian Foreign Minister and continues to demand that “Russia must remove its people from the South-East”.

What is happening is very dangerous. Washington misjudged its ability to grab the Ukraine. Opposition to the US grab is almost total in the Russian-speaking areas.  Local police and security forces have gone over to the protesters. The corrupt Obama regime and the presstitute media lie through their teeth that the protests are insincere and mere orchestrations by “Putin who wants to restore the Soviet empire”. The Russian government keeps trying to end the conflict and unrest that Washington’s reckless coup in Kiev has caused short of having to reabsorb the former Russian territories as it was forced to do in Crimea. But Washington continues ignoring the Russian government and blaming the unrest on Russia’s not Washington’s, interference. {2, 3}

The Russian government knows that Washington does not believe what Washington is saying and that Washington is systematically provoking a continuation and worsening of the problem. The Russian government wonders what agenda Washington is pursuing. Is Washington in its arrogant stupidity and superpower hubris unable to acknowledge that its takeover of the Ukraine has come amiss and to back off? Does Washington not realize that the Russian government is no more able to accept the application of violence against Russian populations in Ukraine than it could accept violence against Russians in South Ossetia? If Washington doesn’t come to its senses, the Russian government will have to send in troops as it had to do in Georgia. {4}

As this is clear even to a fool, is it Washington’s goal to start a war? Is that why Washington is massing NATO forces on Russia’s borders and sending missile ships into the Black Sea? Washington is putting the entire world at risk. If Russia concludes that Washington intends to drive the Ukraine crisis to war rather than to resolve the crisis, will Russia sit and wait, or will Russia strike first?

One would think that the Chancellor of Germany, the British Prime Minister, and the President of France would see the danger in the situation. Perhaps they do. However, there is a large difference between the aid that Russia gives countries and the aid given by Washington. Russia provides financial support to governments; Washington gives bagfuls of money to individuals in the government with the knowledge that individuals are more likely to act in their own interest than in the interest of their country. Therefore, European politicians are silent as Washington pushes a crisis toward war. If we don’t get to war, the only reason will be that Putin comes up with a solution that Washington cannot refuse, as Putin did in Syria and Iran.

It is a paradox that Putin is portrayed as the heavy while Washington pretends to be the champion of “freedom and democracy”. In the 21st century Washington has established as its hallmarks every manifestation of tyranny: illegal and unconstitutional execution of citizens without due process of law, illegal and unconstitutional indefinite detention of citizens without due process of law, illegal and unconstitutional torture, illegal and unconstitutional rendition, illegal and unconstitutional surveillance, and illegal and unconstitutional wars. The executive branch has established that it is unaccountable to law or to the Constitution. An unaccountable government is a tyranny.

Tired of being spied upon and lied to, the Senate Intelligence Committee has produced a thorough investigation of the CIA’s torture programs. The investigation took four years to complete. The Committee found, unequivocally, that the CIA lied about the extent of the torture and kidnappings, that detainees did not undergo some mild form of “enhanced interrogation” but were subjected to brutal and inhumane torture, that the CIA, contrary to its claims, did not get even one piece of useful information from its grave crimes against humanity. The American presstitutes assisted the CIA in inaccurately portraying the effectiveness and mildness of the CIA’s Gestapo practices. During the entirety of the investigation, the CIA illegally spied on the Senate staff conducting the investigation.

Is the public ever to see this report beyond the parts that have been leaked? Not if the CIA and Obama can prevent it. President “change” Obama has decided that it is up to the CIA to decide how much of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation will be made public. In other words, unless someone leaks the entire report, the American public will never know. Yet, “we have freedom and democracy”.

The Senate Intelligence Committee itself has the power to vote to declassify the entire report and to release it. The committee should do so immediately before the members of the committee are browbeat, threatened, and propagandized into believing that they are endangering “national security” and providing those mistreated with grounds for a lawsuit.

The US government is the most corrupt government on earth. There is no independent judiciary or media, and Congress has acquiesced to executive branch encroachments on its powers. Consider the judiciary. Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights represented the father of the American citizen, who Obama said would be murdered by the US government on suspicion that he was associated with terrorism. When Ratner asked the federal courts to block an illegal and unconstitutional execution of an American citizen without due process, the federal judge who heard the case ruled that the father of a son about to be murdered did not have standing to bring a case in behalf of his son.

After several lives were snuffed out by President “I’m good at killing people” Obama, Ratner represented relatives of Obama’s murdered victims in a damage suit. Under US law it was clear as day that damages were due. But the federal judge ruled that “the government must be trusted”. {5}

Whether or not anyone has standing is entirely up to the government. The IRS takes a completely different position on the matter. Children have standing to have their tax refunds confiscated by the IRS if the IRS thinks the IRS may have overpaid the parents’ Social Security benefits. {6}

So in “freedom and democracy” Amerika, children are responsible if the IRS “thinks” – no proof required – that it wrote parents too large of a Social Security check, but a father has no legal standing to bring a lawsuit to prevent the US government from the extra-legal murder of his son.

Thanks to the Republican Federalist Society and to the Republican judges the Federalist Society has managed to have appointed to the federal bench, the federal judiciary functions as a protector of executive branch tyranny. Whatever the executive branch asserts and does is permissible, especially if the executive branch invokes “national security”.

In America today, the executive branch claims that “national security” is impaired unless the executive branch can operate illegally and unconstitutionally and unless citizens are willing to give up every constitutional right in order to be made safe in a total police state that spies on and documents every aspect of their lives.

Even the Government Accountability Office has been neutered. In 2013 the Government Accountability Office told the TSA to eliminate its behavior screening program as it is a waste of money and does not work. So what did the TSA do. Why, of course, it expanded the useless intrusion into the privacy of travelers.

This is Amerika today. Yet Washington prances around chanting “freedom and democracy” even as it displaces the greatest tyrannies in human history with its own.

Only gullible Americans expect leaders and elites or voting to do anything about the institutionalization of tyranny. Elites are only interested in money. As long as the system produces more income and wealth for elites, elites don’t give a hoot about tyranny or what happens to the rest of us.

http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2014/04/13/washington-humanitys-worst-enemy-paul-craig-roberts/

Links:

{1} http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/04/09/65578/

{2} http://rt.com/news/lavrov-kerry-ukraine-talks-200/

{3} http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article38196.htm

{4} http://rt.com/news/ukraine-russia-operation-criminal-288/

{5} http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article38202.htm

{6} http://www.cnbc.com/id/101576080

Copyright (c) 2013 PaulCraigRoberts.org. All rights reserved.

http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2014/04/13/washington-humanitys-worst-enemy-paul-craig-roberts/

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