The fight for independent, non-corporate radio flares up again

Here we go again. Listener democracy at the Pacifica radio network is in deep jeopardy again because the same people who violently shut down WBAI in 2019 and forced an expensive referendum that was soundly defeated in 2020 have forced a second bylaws referendum. Having lost last year’s referendum by a 2-to-1 margin — losing […]

The fight for independent, non-corporate radio flares up again

“Even Six Feet Isn’t Covid Safe. New CDC Guidelines to Reopen Schools Could be Dangerous” [Video]

Censorship by corporations has become so rampant, this video by Paul Jay may not be up long on youtube, which is owned by google, which is owned by alphabet…

This is more than just a touchy subject, but it has to be faced if we hope to ever get on the right path to reducing Covid’s spread. Because vaccines have begun to be administered, many people are happy to believe we can start “going back to normal.” Without effective safeguards, it seems clear that will not be possible. Even without the proper safeguards, considering the vaccine plan on its own merits does not pass the smell test. If I understand the goal correctly, the point is to essentially achieve herd immunity; but, according to surveys and polls, 30-40% of people say they will never get a vaccine, which makes herd immunity impossible. This is known as the “free rider problem, ” which will eventually become a commonly known phrase if we continue on our current path.

In the meantime, the virus continues to mutate into more dangerous, possibly vaccine resistant, forms. To say the least, it’s not a recipe for success. For brevity’s sake I will not discuss vaccine hoarding, or the fact that many countries have extremely low vaccination rates and continue to remain part of this planet, which means that greatly affects the life and spread of the virus in the good ol’ u.s. of a. Like capitalists, borders mean nothing to the virus – especially when capitalist’s business is always the priority.

So, the plan of our dear leaders seems to be, ignore what’s worked in other countries, continue to let people die, give massive amounts of money to pharmaceutical corporations, bribe states to force teachers and students back into schools, and bet more lives on a kind of hail mary pass that those 30-40% of the free riding population will eventually change their minds.

The further insanity is that there are entire counties who have all but eliminated infection rates. Every one of them did this without a vaccine. This alone should be enough evidence to prove our so-called leaders have been criminally negligent.

The people nominally in charge of our welfare never did what worked in other countries. That is an incontrovertible fact. Because all of our institutions have been corrupted by corporate capitalists, most decisions have been made by considering the corporation before and above anyone else, especially us lowly “workers.” Profit, and the continuation thereof, has been the preeminent concern of the people in power. This is what they mean when they refer to “The Economy.” If we ignore the half million plus deaths and the immiseration of millions, they have achieved their goal. The stock markets are at record highs, and billionaires are over a trillion dollars richer than they were about a year ago. Until we are able to face the reality of our situation and see it for what it really is, I’m afraid things aren’t “going back to normal” anytime soon.

Private sector is “efficient” only at extracting money from public

There is nothing that capitalists won’t grab if they see a possibility to grab a profit. Not even the most basic needs for human life, such as water, are exempt. A favorite tactic for grabbing what had once been in the public domain and converting it into private profit is the “public-private partnership.” A tactic […]

Private sector is “efficient” only at extracting money from public

Why Bitcoin is not a socialist’s ally – Reply to Ben Arc

On 15th July, Ben Arc published in Bitcoin Magazine an open letter addressed to me in a bid to convince me that I should re-assess my rejection of Bitcoin as a force for good; as a bulwark for democratising capitalism and paving the ground for socialism. Here is my reply: Dear Ben Arc, Thank you […]

Why Bitcoin is not a socialist’s ally – Reply to Ben Arc

Chomsky: “The rich are running wild”

This clip sums up our current state pretty well. It’s nothing new to anyone who has been paying attention, but ideology can blind people. Even people watching this clip who have “trump derangement” symptoms might miss what Chomsky is saying. This is corporate power stealing as much as they can and killing with impunity. Listen to every word and sentence. If you don’t truly understand, a word, concept, or expression of an idea, research it.

For example, Chomsky mentions Greg Palast. Greg has a new book out detailing how trump will steal the 2020 election. What most people don’t know is that Greg has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that trump stole the 2016 election. Is it new that a u.s. election has been stolen? No. But most people are unaware of that fact, and for the strangest of reasons, even most on the left have discussed the trump win as legitimate. Discussing voting and elections is fine, but assuming any aspect of the voting and elections process is not corrupt and at the bare minimum broken (which Chomsky does briefly mention of course) will get us nowhere. In fact, discussion untied to action will get us nowhere. The inextricably connected issue of corporate power run amok, using the state as its play toy and free money machine, killing and decimating the systems we need to live, was here before trump and it will be with us long after he is dead and gone, so it is far from simply an issue of voting the monster out so “everything can get back to normal.”

While the republicans are as dangerous and horrific as Chomsky states, just blaming the republican party for this is disingenuous, or misguided to say the least. Chomsky does mention that we De facto have one party rule: the business party, but then he singles out republicans. It is good and right to point out how unhinged they are, but the Dems should be mentioned in the same breath.

As some might know, Chomsky has angered some on the left for always advocating for the lesser of two evils vote when it comes to the presidential election. He has doubled down on this with biden. It’s hard to take issue with Chomsky personally because he has been consistent in this view his entire life. He holds this view because he doesn’t ascribe all politics to voting. He identifies as an anarchist after all. His assumption is that people who do more politically than just walk into a booth for a couple of minutes every two years will just vote and then get back to being actually politically active. A problem with this message is that people misinterpret it to mean voting is all they have to do. Another issue is that it assumes a “free and fair” voting and elections system and tacitly promotes that idea. Yet another and possibly most obvious flaw in this logic is that when you vote for the lesser of two evils, things keep getting worse.

While it’s true that trump is in unprecedented territory, it is also true that he could not have gotten there or done as well for himself and capitalists without the last 40 years of the Dems enthusiastically implementing the neoliberal project, which is essentially class war by the rich on almost everyone else on the planet. Just in the last four years, the Dems have given this administration essentially everything it wanted, from keeping children in concentration camps, to war, from packing the courts with the federalist society judges Chomsky mentions in the clip, to more money for the military – the list goes on and on…They have not simply acquiesced to republican power, they largely agree with them when it comes to the implementation of u.s. power and because they have largely been purchased and directed by corporate power, they serve the same master: capital.

It’s important to understand everything Chomsky mentions here and it’s important to understand that voting will not “save us.” We are too far gone for that. I address the “what is to be done” question in many posts here. Essentially, in the last 50 years, the left has crumbled from within while being crushed from without. Not only has it been unable to mount a challenge to capital, it has been unable to re-win the fights it won in the past that, for the most part, the bipartisan implementation of the neoliberal project has reversed.

There has been a weak resurgence of the left since around 2011 and it has gained some steam over the years as material circumstances have continued to worsen for the majority of people, but it hasn’t been enough and in many cases it has been on the wrong path. As moribund and weak as the left is, it is our only hope to survive long term. The left has been unable to (and often refused to) organize itself, unify, and internationalize. Without everyday people (as Cornel West calls us) getting involved on the left, joining and forming organizations, and then unifying those organizations (eventually internationally), the corporate assault on everything we hold dear, including the means for life itself, will continue. If people want to see the changes they say they believe in they will have to become radical. Radical just means change at the root. We have to uproot the system of capitalism. The good news is that it will take a relatively small portion of the population to do it. The bad news is that the left has to be turned in to something new and is resisting it in many ways. It’s bleak. It’s up to us no matter what. It’s almost a cliche at this point, but Gramsci said, “pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.” And as Chomsky just said again, time is running out.

Good luck to us all.

Jon Stewart asks Hillary how to fix america. Her answer might surprise you. [from the archives 2014]

Originally posted 7/30/2014

The show is linked here. You can watch and read the “play-by-play” below.

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Recently Hillary Rodham Clinton appeared on the The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to sell her new book. Watching politicians hock their products on TV is not my idea of a good time, but this particular appearance was so revealing on so many levels, I think it’s worthy of some review and explication.

From here on in, Hillary shall be referred to as “The HRC,” because she has made herself into oh so much more than a demure upper-class first name. She is an administrator of empire, one of The Power Elite, and she deserves a moniker befitting that role.

The first segment of the show was essentially a cringe-worthy comedy bit, a send up of the will-she-or-won’t-she-run game the corporate media constantly play Ad infinitum, Ad absurdum, Ad nauseam, but it really just served to continue the whole time-wasting, mind-numbing enterprise. Stewart could have had a number of justifications for using the majority of the first segment for this joke. For example: he was buttering her up, making her comfortable before lowering the boom, or, he’s just a comedian doing his job on a comedy show and he’s actually parodying the press spending so much time on the question by spending too much time on the question, etc… the list could run on for a long time. Suffice it to say, Stewart has been consistently politically ignorant, naïve, and has lobbed innumerable softballs at politicians for years, so this wasn’t shocking behavior. But to give credit where credit is due, he eventually managed to ask some substantive questions (though most of them were not aired. They only appeared on the the web extras).

After the first “bit,” he called out The HRC right away for “pivoting” to an income inequality talking point while she was supposed to be answering a question about her recent “dead broke” comment. First she tried to diminish the lie, and then tried to change the subject, essentially saying she cares about kids not believing in the american dream anymore. You know, the dream she has significantly helped to crush through the neoliberalism she and bill embraced and implemented. Admittedly, Jon scores a point here by using the will-she-or-won’t-she-run shtick to point out her slick attempt to not answer his question was truly presidential. She doubles down to make sure she doesn’t have to be confronted with her lie about formerly being dead broke by continuing with the inequality discussion, to which Stewart asked this reasonable question: “So, in your mind then, are you suggesting that that [a chance to succeed] no longer exists for people, or that there is something abjectly wrong with government – or the system – that we need to reform?”

She answers, “Both…and that we have to change our political and economic system to make that a reality again.” It’s significant that she admits it outright and admits our so-called representatives essentially only represent “special interests” and the people they deem to be their constituents, even if those constituents are not their actual voters… This has actually been said by other mainstream politicians, mostly as simply rhetoric, i.e., they would never do anything to actually challenge the status quo. I’ll leave it to you to decide who sees inequality as a great talking point and who would (and could) do anything about the actual problem. Do I think any mainstream politician would actually do anything significant? Hell no. You have to go back quite a ways to find people who actually did something. You can go back to FDR if you want – but The HRC sure isn’t.

If we take The HRC at face value here, her words sounds good, right? Facing the problem, saying we need change – oh wait a minute, actually, that’s beginning to sound familiar…I seem to remember someone saying something about change…and hope…but it’s still significant that an administrator of empire is admitting the level we have reached, especially in the context of running for president of the u.s. of a. It is establishing an official baseline of sorts that only someone with her power has the ability to do, and that baseline is: we are a nation corrupt to its core. The rich and powerful have purchased most of our politicians, and politicians like her have gotten rich unleashing class war against us and the rest of the world.

The HRC goes on to give a few details of our increasing inequality and Stewart asks a heartfelt but misguided question that is based on right-wing “small government” talking points that have been around for decades: “Has the bureaucracy of government become unmanageable to the point where it’s no longer able to effectively raise the opportunities for the people that it is trying to do so?”

Well, he appears to have had a little trouble phrase the question, but we know what he means. The thing is, it’s still a right-wing talking point that contains the old magic technique of misdirection: blame government bureaucracy. The inefficient bureaucracy is responsible for all of your problems. Don’t worry so much about corporations and big money, the free market will sort all of that out. Pay no attention to the fact that the takeover of much of the government by corporations has been undermining government programs, institutions, and regulatory agencies for decades. The irony (or one of many ironies) is that the entire political spectrum has shifted so much to the right – a shift that The HRC and slick willie played a huge role in – that a “moderate” talk show host can ask a right-wing talking point question to a far right-wing Democrat. And this is what most people call “The left.” Time to laugh, but only to keep from crying…

In a less confused, more honest world, Stewart’s question would have been, do you think the corporate neoliberal takeover of our country and government can be challenged and reversed? How? And why should we let you, a totally complicit paid-off lackey of those very corporations and full-fledged executive administrator of empire, say one word to us about it? Oh, and by the way, why did you vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq?

Click here to see The HRC vote to invade Iraq.

That is what toeing the party line looks like – and it wasn’t even her party. (Originally that is, because almost everyone in both parties voted to invade.)

Yes, I know, wishful thinking. You will never hear those questions asked to The HRC. You might hear something about the Iraq vote and invasion, but that is way down the u.s. memory hole and most people don’t even know what neoliberal means. Tellingly, it is a term rarely heard in mainstream media and I would be surprised if Stewart has ever uttered it. And, yes, his audience would be shocked, because up until very recently, neither Stewart nor the news clowns (thank Philip K. Dick for coining that phrase – in 1966!) ever confronted The HRC directly with the fact that she has been running from mega corp. to mega corp., collecting money like the most expensive, busiest call girl of all time. Just one example amongst many: $400,000 in one week at goldman sachs for two separate speaking gigs – to say nothing of the university money she’s been getting, which is fraught with problems all its own:

Click here for story about The HRC and her speaking fees

He could have pursued any of these major “conflicts of interest,” otherwise known as pay-offs, but no, he went the other way and offered the supposition that all of these attacks would fade away if she weren’t running for president. Unfortunately, his supposition is probably true, but here it just serves as a neat way to ignore her numerous crimes against humanity and let her move on without being confronted. So, that was just a freebie I guess.

On with the show!

More talk from The HRC. A bit of truth mixed with obfuscation, with a soupcon of weirdness. And here we see an interesting shift (not much of a shift needed of course) from HRC the politician to HRC the corporate CEO in a frankly weird context. She starts talking about how the Executive branch “…has not kept up with the times. We don’t have the kind of agility, flexibility, and technology…”

Wha? There is clearly agenda and ideology here without any explanation (and smart phones helping to spread “democracy and american values” ain’t it), but we will have to leave that aside for brevity’s sake.

Then, a quick statement, “So, we have a crisis in our democracy.” If anyone has been paying attention, this is not exactly a small statement. Take a moment. Think about it. Consider… Welcome to the new normal…

And then this gem: “…I learned how important it is that we function in the united states because people look to us.”

Really?!? Is that what you learned? We should function? I mean, what can you say to that? Well, the least you can say is that it shows where her priorities are – and you ain’t even on the list buddy, unless you happen to be a dictator to support, or a fracking oil executive, or a for-profit prison, bank, or hedge fund owner, etc…This is like a caricature  of a solipsistic corrupt leader being reminded there are people “out there,” but the only reason they thought about them at all was because they were reminded it might affect how they are seen by other corrupt leaders they “do business” with.

 

Stewart then begins to talk about technology democratizing power and The HRC agrees. Really? You mean in the same time that corporate power raped the american people (and the world for that matter), was rewarded for it, got richer and consolidated that wealth while people got poorer and lost opportunities – and the cost of living was increased? No, apparently that’s not what he was talking about. The more he goes on, the more he seems to be just talking about terrorists using technology. So he muddled his point and it wasn’t a good one to begin with.

Ok. It doesn’t look good for Stewart, he fumbled the ball again, but then, a recovery – from way out of left field:

“We are a large imperial power…what is our foreign policy anymore?”

Watch The HRC nod and nod and nod as he vaguely talks about terrorists somewhere out there, until he says, “Imperial power.” That stops the head nod right away.

Classic TV folks.

The HRC leaps over the imperial power topic like a world-class athlete and picks up Stewart’s nonsense and comes up with another doozy: “we can’t practice diplomacy and define our foreign policy as leaders talking to leaders anymore because that’s not the way the world works.” Wha-wa? (That’s a double-take.) Again, for brevity’s sake, unfortunately we will have to leave that alone as well.

Now, get ready. For no immediately discernible reason, The HRC starts walking us right toward the curtain: (I just realized she makes reference to “pulling the curtain back” in the beginning of the interview, but this was obviously not the curtain she meant to pull back.)

She says, people all over the world – especially young people – don’t know the history of ‘murca’s greatness, or our sacrifices, or our values. She gives examples: we won WWII, liberated Europe and Asia, fought nazis and won the cold war. Well, yes and no. Some of these facts are a little more complicated when the full history is examined (hint: they wouldn’t have been possible without the soviet union and they might have been nipped in the bud much earlier if we weren’t bent on world domination), but we keep moving, further, toward the curtain…

The HRC is quickly morphing into something resembling an executive pitching a campaign to revive a former industrial mega corporation who shit on its employees, poisoned the environment, and then shifted most of its work off-shore, leaving horror and desperation in its wake:

“We have not been telling our story very well. We do have a great story. We are not perfect, by any means, but we have a great story, about human freedom, human rights, human opportunity and let’s get back to telling it – to ourselves first and foremost – and believing it about ourselves, and then taking that around the world. That’s what we should be standing for.”

APPLAUSE BREAK

So, the sum of her acknowledgment that we have been a vicious force for death and destruction from the moment the first white man stepped onto these shores? “Look, we are not perfect, by any means.” You say that’s an unfair characterization? Ok, let’s move on and see exactly what she was referring to.

Jon then actually hits her with good stuff, outlining america’s hypocrisy and using “our” treatment of democratically elected hamas as an example. This question is actually worthy of a good journalist. Of course, she gives a standard answer filled with foreign policy phrases about “american interests” and “security.” If you are unclear about what american interests are, I highly recommend doing a bit of research. (Hint: american interests don’t usually have much to do with most actual americans.) Not only that, but she mentions we deal with “unsavory characters” and maybe occasionally support “autocratic” leaders too long. Hey, nobody’s perfect, right? You gotta admit, it’s a great story…
She really likes our story. Don’t worry, we’re getting closer to the big reveal.

The HRC then tries to use Egypt as an example. She’s off to a good start with the story about the election of the MB, saying we supported the process even though we weren’t thrilled with the MB. Then, it’s, “We were blamed by everybody,” you can’t please everyone, etc…and of course, she avoids acknowledging the u.s. supported the military coup by not intervening and continuing military aid. So before she even utters the word military, she says, then they [the MB] get “overturned,” (because she can’t officially acknowledge it was a “coup”) but, they wanted to help us broker a cease-fire, so that helps us with other interests (hmmm…what “interests” could those be…) so essentially, overall, in the big picture, we stand for the right things, our values are strong, but oftentimes we have to add-in and balance our security and keep in mind what we really stand for, etc., etc., blah, blah, blah…In other words, pure bullshit all around.

Jon lets all of that go without acknowledging that she just used okaying a military coup and supporting another dictatorship as an example of how we stay true to our “values.” What a great way to show what we really stand for…

Instead he comes up with another decent, humane, more general question: “Can we expect other countries to view us with such nuance, when we so clearly don’t view them with nuance and that kind of understanding?”

The HRC perks up and says what a great question it was. She doesn’t answer it, but it clearly makes her think of something, something that she has obviously put a lot of thought into, something that she actually sees as an answer to all of the problems we face as a nation. I think this is where the broadcast portion of the show ends because he makes a joke and says something like, that’s all the time we have, but will you stick around and tell us how you would fix all this? This is probably where the web only version starts, i.e., most people didn’t see this next part.

And now, we get down to the real nitty gritty. Though she alluded to it before, now she walks us straight up to the curtain and rips the whole thing down. When faced with the question of how to “fix all of this,” her mind goes straight to (you didn’t guess it) cold war propaganda:

The HRC: “We did a much better job telling people who we were back in the cold war. You know, it was a simpler job, to be fair. You know, we had the Soviet Union, we had the United States, we had a big information effort. We sent talent, we sent all kinds of poets and novelists and rock stars…american culture, american ideas, permeated the world. Well, fast forward. That ended and we kind of thought ok, fine, ‘end of history,’ ‘democracy won,’ you know that story, and in fact we withdrew from the information arena. And look at what happened initially with Ukraine: Russian media was much more effective in sort of telling a story – that wasn’t true – but they kept repeating it over and over again. So I think we have to get back to, you know, a consensus in our own country, about who we are, what we stand for – hopefully a bi-partisan consensus, like it used to be in foreign policy – and then get out there and you know, tell that story…”

Even for the cynical among us, doesn’t that set off a few alarm bells? Let’s break this down a bit:

She actually waxes rhapsodic about the simpler times when propagandizing the people in the u.s. and the world was easier and recommends we get back to platitudes about human rights and freedom. Big sellers dontcha know… How? Well, we have to “start believing it” and then we have to take that story around the world. You know, like the old days. Just click our heels together three times. What’s a good example of what we have to do? You know, like Russia lying to its people and the world. They have been effective promulgators of lies. Just flog a pack of lies and stick to it, and repeat, repeat, repeat. We just have to keep repeating it, over and over, to ourselves and others – and we have to “start believing it.” Just like old times. Don’t you get nostalgic over the Red Scare, nuclear brinkmanship, and McCarthyism too? C’mon people, where’s your can-do attitude? Where’s your patriotism?

The HRC’s short survey of american history continues: After the spread of feel good (Lou Reed?!?) ‘murcan culture all over the globe (which the CIA played a large role in and that just happened to coincide with the u.s. becoming the biggest imperial power in world history) and the glory days of the easily propagandized cold war, we “fast forward to” what was widely touted as the triumph of American Capitalism. Essentially, she is saying when the Soviet Union collapsed and the wall fell, we took our eye off the ball and stopped our massive propaganda machine – or as she puts it, “withdrew from the information arena.” That is euphemism, and that means it’s obscuring the truth. On purpose. Of course. This should be as obvious as being punched in the face multiple times, but the audience is eating it up. Or they’re eating up the idea of The HRC talking and saying american things that sound like something positive. Whatever is going on in their liberal brains, they’re eating it up. After this smorgasbord of lies and delusion and cynicism and sheer banality of evil, our delicate sensibilities should not be offended by yet another euphemism.

The irony is that “we” actually did no such thing. “Our” propaganda machine was retooled by Edward Bernays after the end of WWII and has been running 24/7 ever since. After the war, he thought propaganda might have a slightly negative connotation and renamed it Public Relations. He called his science of manipulating people, the “engineering of consent.”

Remarkable, non? The HRC ripped the curtain right down and behind it is just a corporate PR executive selling finely-honed and well-established bullshit manipulation techniques that “engineer consent” to the highest bidder. PR and old fashioned propaganda is now incorporated into the body of capitalism, and therefore, our life. PR is replacing policy or covering up laws made for the rich by the rich. It is the veil over this circus of entrenched venality and inequality we call a country. And if somehow a crime is found out and/or offense is committed, don’t worry, there is a PR agency out there that has a very expensive apology for that.

Of course, the cynics (or realists, depending on your perspective) amongst you say, what else is new? Well, aside from the increasing degree of corruption, wealth consolidation, and the inequality and increased oppression they breed, the new twist is that PR has gone beyond “spin,” it is part of the way “government” “works.” To people who know what’s going on, this is not news, but the remarkable thing in this instance is who just did the show and tell, and how – and to whom. Maybe she’s so used to giving speeches to goldman sachs, she just used the same one on the The Daily Show.

See how far this is from a New Deal? The new deal is this: corporations run the government and every aspect of our lives, bending the world back to feudalism, while politicians are now part of the PR machine to spread the lies that keep it all going – and then they swing through the revolving door to get rich – or richer – then back again, Ad nauseam, Ad absurdum – hopefully not Ad infinitum, but, at this point, it sure feels like it.

Finally, Jon revisits the “Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.” The HRC mischaracterizes and lies about the entire situation. She gives context that actually gives no context at all and puts the onus completely and totally on hamas. Ridiculous. Laughable, if it weren’t so deadly serious. In that exchange, Jon comes out looking decent, for what it’s worth.

To end, let’s just meditate on the very end of the “interview” or “conversation,” where The HRC segues from lying about Israel’s attempt to extinguish the last vestiges of Palestinians from Palestine to a quick slick last pitch for her book. Jon Stewart: “You did not just do that!” Oh, she did. Yes she did. This is a country founded on violence, extremism, hustling, and hucksterism. How is that not a perfect ending?

The thank you, the handshake, the audience cheers.

[from the archives] Jon Stewart asks Hillary how to fix america. Her answer might surprise you.

Originally posted 7/30/2014

The show is linked here. You can watch and read the “play-by-play” below.

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Recently Hillary Rodham Clinton appeared on the The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to sell her new book. Watching politicians hock their products on TV is not my idea of a good time, but this particular appearance was so revealing on so many levels, I think it’s worthy of some review and explication.

From here on in, Hillary shall be referred to as “The HRC,” because she has made herself into oh so much more than a demure upper-class first name. She is an administrator of empire, one of The Power Elite, and she deserves a moniker befitting that role.

The first segment of the show was essentially a cringe-worthy comedy bit, a send up of the will-she-or-won’t-she-run game the corporate media constantly play Ad infinitum, Ad absurdum, Ad nauseam, but it really just served to continue the whole time-wasting, mind-numbing enterprise. Stewart could have had a number of justifications for using the majority of the first segment for this joke. For example: he was buttering her up, making her comfortable before lowering the boom, or, he’s just a comedian doing his job on a comedy show and he’s actually parodying the press spending so much time on the question by spending too much time on the question, etc… the list could run on for a long time. Suffice it to say, Stewart has been consistently politically ignorant, naïve, and has lobbed innumerable softballs at politicians for years, so this wasn’t shocking behavior. But to give credit where credit is due, he eventually managed to ask some substantive questions (though most of them were not aired. They only appeared on the the web extras).

After the first “bit,” he called out The HRC right away for “pivoting” to an income inequality talking point while she was supposed to be answering a question about her recent “dead broke” comment. First she tried to diminish the lie, and then tried to change the subject, essentially saying she cares about kids not believing in the american dream anymore. You know, the dream she has significantly helped to crush through the neoliberalism she and bill embraced and implemented. Admittedly, Jon scores a point here by using the will-she-or-won’t-she-run shtick to point out her slick attempt to not answer his question was truly presidential. She doubles down to make sure she doesn’t have to be confronted with her lie about formerly being dead broke by continuing with the inequality discussion, to which Stewart asked this reasonable question: “So, in your mind then, are you suggesting that that [a chance to succeed] no longer exists for people, or that there is something abjectly wrong with government – or the system – that we need to reform?”

She answers, “Both…and that we have to change our political and economic system to make that a reality again.” It’s significant that she admits it outright and admits our so-called representatives essentially only represent “special interests” and the people they deem to be their constituents, even if those constituents are not their actual voters… This is of course taking a page from Elizabeth Warren, and even the tea party, hell, let’s throw in John Edwards for that matter. I’ll leave it to you to decide who sees inequality as a great talking point and who would (and could) do anything about the actual problem. Do I think any of the aforementioned people would actually do anything? Hell no. You have to go back quite a ways to find people who actually did something. You can go back to the progressives who fought the robber barons if you want (but The HRC sure isn’t).

If we take The HRC at face value here, her words sounds good, right? Facing the problem, saying we need change – oh wait a minute, actually, that’s beginning to sound familiar…I seem to remember someone saying something about change…and hope…but it’s still significant that an administrator of empire is admitting the level we have reached, especially in the context of running for president of the u.s. of a. It is establishing an official baseline of sorts that only someone with her power has the ability to do, and that baseline is: we are a nation corrupt to its core. The rich and powerful have purchased most of our politicians, and politicians like her have gotten rich unleashing class war against us and the rest of the world.

The HRC goes on to give a few details of our increasing inequality and Stewart asks a heartfelt but misguided question that is based on right-wing “small government” talking points that have been around for decades: “Has the bureaucracy of government become unmanageable to the point where it’s no longer able to effectively raise the opportunities for the people that it is trying to do so?”

Well, he appears to have had a little trouble formulating the question, but we know what he means. The thing is, it’s still a right-wing talking point that contains the old magic technique of misdirection: blame government bureaucracy. The inefficient bureaucracy is responsible for all of your problems. Don’t worry so much about corporations and big money, the free market will sort all of that out. Pay no attention to the fact that the takeover of much of the government by corporations has been undermining government programs, institutions, and regulatory agencies for decades. The irony (or one of many ironies) is that the entire political spectrum has shifted so much to the right – a shift that The HRC and slick willie played a huge role in – that a “moderate” talk show host can ask a right-wing talking point question to a far right-wing Democrat. And this is what most people call “The left.” Time to laugh, but only to keep from crying…

In a less confused, more honest world, Stewart’s question would have been, do you think the corporate neoliberal takeover of our country and government can be challenged and reversed? How? And why should we let you, a totally complicit paid-off lackey of those very corporations and full-fledged executive administrator of empire, say one word to us about it? Oh, and by the way, why did you vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq?

Click here to see The HRC vote to invade Iraq.

That is what toeing the party line looks like – and it wasn’t even her party. (Originally that is, because almost everyone in both parties voted to invade.)

Yes, I know, wishful thinking. You will never hear those questions asked to The HRC. You might hear something about the Iraq vote and invasion, but that is way down the u.s. memory hole and most people don’t even know what neoliberal means. Tellingly, it is a term rarely heard in mainstream media and I would be surprised if Stewart has ever uttered it. And, yes, his audience would be shocked, because up until very recently, neither Stewart nor the news clowns (thank Philip K. Dick for coining that phrase – in 1966!) ever confronted The HRC directly with the fact that she has been running from mega corp. to mega corp., collecting money like the most expensive, busiest call girl of all time. Just one example amongst many: $400,000 in one week at goldman sachs for two separate speaking gigs – to say nothing of the university money she’s been getting, which is fraught with problems all its own:

Click here for story about The HRC and her speaking fees

He could have pursued any of these major “conflicts of interest,” otherwise known as pay-offs, but no, he went the other way and offered the supposition that all of these attacks would fade away if she weren’t running for president. Unfortunately, his supposition is probably true, but here it just serves as a neat way to ignore her numerous crimes against humanity and let her move on without being confronted. So, that was just a freebie I guess.

On with the show!

More talk from The HRC. A bit of truth mixed with obfuscation, with a soupcon of weirdness. And here we see an interesting shift (not much of a shift needed of course) from HRC the politician to HRC the corporate CEO in a frankly weird context. She starts talking about how the Executive branch “…has not kept up with the times. We don’t have the kind of agility, flexibility, and technology…”

Wha? There is clearly agenda and ideology here without any explanation (and smart phones helping to spread “democracy and american values” ain’t it), but we will have to leave that aside for brevity’s sake.

Then, a quick statement, “So, we have a crisis in our democracy.” If anyone has been paying attention, this is not exactly a small statement. Take a moment. Think about it. Consider… Welcome to the new normal…

And then this gem: “…I learned how important it is that we function in the united states because people look to us.”

Really?!? Is that what you learned? We should function? I mean, what can you say to that? Well, the least you can say is that it shows where her priorities are – and you ain’t even on the list buddy, unless you happen to be a dictator to support, or a fracking oil executive, or a for-profit prison, bank, or hedge fund owner, etc…

Stewart then begins to talk about technology democratizing power and The HRC agrees.

Really? You mean in the same time that corporate power raped the american people (and the world for that matter), was rewarded for it, got richer and consolidated that wealth while people got poorer and lost opportunities – and the cost of living was increased? No, apparently that’s not what he was talking about. The more he goes on, the more he seems to be just talking about terrorists using technology. So he muddled his point and it wasn’t a good one to begin with.

Ok. It doesn’t look good for Stewart, he fumbled the ball again, but then, a recovery – from way out of left field:

“We are a large imperial power…what is our foreign policy anymore?”

Watch The HRC nod and nod and nod as he vaguely talks about terrorists somewhere out there, until he says, “Imperial power.” That stops the head nod right away.

Classic TV folks.

The HRC leaps over the imperial power topic like a world-class athlete and picks up Stewart’s nonsense and comes up with another doozy: “we can’t practice diplomacy and define our foreign policy as leaders talking to leaders anymore because that’s not the way the world works.” Wha-wa? (That’s a double-take.) Again, for brevity’s sake, unfortunately we will have to leave that alone as well.

Now, get ready. For no immediately discernible reason, The HRC starts walking us right toward the curtain: (I just realized she makes reference to “pulling the curtain back” in the beginning of the interview, but this was obviously not the curtain she meant to pull back.)

She says, people all over the world – especially young people – don’t know the history of ‘murca’s greatness, or our sacrifices, or our values. She gives examples: we won WWII, liberated Europe and Asia, fought nazis and won the cold war. Well, yes and no. Some of these facts are a little more complicated when the full history is examined (hint: they wouldn’t have been possible without the soviet union and they might have been nipped in the bud much earlier if we weren’t bent on world domination), but we keep moving, further, toward the curtain…

The HRC is quickly morphing into something resembling a PR executive pitching a campaign to revive a former industrial mega corporation who shit on its employees, poisoned the environment, and then shifted most of its work off-shore, leaving horror and desperation in its wake:

“We have not been telling our story very well. We do have a great story. We are not perfect, by any means, but we have a great story, about human freedom, human rights, human opportunity and let’s get back to telling it – to ourselves first and foremost – and believing it about ourselves, and then taking that around the world. That’s what we should be standing for.”

APPLAUSE BREAK

So, the sum of her acknowledgment that we have been a vicious force for death and destruction from the moment the first white man stepped onto these shores? “Look, we are not perfect, by any means.” You say that’s an unfair characterization? Ok, let’s move on and see exactly what she was referring to.

Jon then actually hits her with good stuff, outlining america’s hypocrisy and using “our” treatment of democratically elected hamas as an example. This question is actually worthy of a good journalist. Of course, she gives a standard answer filled with foreign policy phrases about “american interests” and “security.” If you are unclear about what american interests are, I highly recommend doing a bit of research. (Hint: american interests don’t usually have much to do with most actual americans.) Not only that, but she mentions we deal with “unsavory characters” and maybe occasionally support “autocratic” leaders too long. Hey, nobody’s perfect, right? You gotta admit, it’s a great story…
She really likes our story. Don’t worry, we’re getting closer to the big reveal.

The HRC then tries to use Egypt as an example. She’s off to a good start with the story about the election of the MB, saying we supported the process even though we weren’t thrilled with the MB. Then, it’s, “We were blamed by everybody,” you can’t please everyone, etc…and of course, she avoids acknowledging the u.s. supported the military coup by not intervening and continuing military aid. So before she even utters the word military, she says, then they [the MB] get “overturned,” (because she can’t officially acknowledge it was a “coup”) but, they wanted to help us broker a cease-fire, so that helps us with other interests (hmmm…what “interests” could those be…) so essentially, overall, in the big picture, we stand for the right things, our values are strong, but oftentimes we have to add-in and balance our security and keep in mind what we really stand for, etc., etc., blah, blah, blah…In other words, pure bullshit all around.

Jon lets all of that go without acknowledging that she just used okaying a military coup and supporting another dictatorship as an example of how we stay true to our “values.” What a great way to show what we really stand for…

Instead he comes up with another decent, humane, more general question: “Can we expect other countries to view us with such nuance, when we so clearly don’t view them with nuance and that kind of understanding?”

The HRC perks up and says what a great question it was. She doesn’t answer it, but it clearly makes her think of something, something that she has obviously put a lot of thought into, something that she actually sees as an answer to all of the problems we face as a nation. I think this is where the broadcast portion of the show ends because he makes a joke and says something like, that’s all the time we have, but will you stick around and tell us how you would fix all this? This is probably where the web only version starts, i.e., most people didn’t see this next part.

And now, we get down to the real nitty gritty. Though she alluded to it before, now she walks us straight up to the curtain and rips the whole thing down. When faced with the question of how to “fix all of this,” her mind goes straight to (you didn’t guess it) cold war propaganda:

The HRC: “We did a much better job telling people who we were back in the cold war. You know, it was a simpler job, to be fair. You know, we had the Soviet Union, we had the United States, we had a big information effort. We sent talent, we sent all kinds of poets and novelists and rock stars…american culture, american ideas, permeated the world. Well, fast forward. That ended and we kind of thought ok, fine, ‘end of history,’ ‘democracy won,’ you know that story, and in fact we withdrew from the information arena. And look at what happened initially with Ukraine: Russian media was much more effective in sort of telling a story – that wasn’t true – but they kept repeating it over and over again. So I think we have to get back to, you know, a consensus in our own country, about who we are, what we stand for – hopefully a bi-partisan consensus, like it used to be in foreign policy – and then get out there and you know, tell that story…”

Even for the cynical among us, doesn’t that set off a few alarm bells? Let’s break this down a bit:

She actually waxes rhapsodic about the simpler times when propagandizing the world was easier and recommends we get back to platitudes about human rights and freedom. Big sellers dontcha know… How? Well, we have to “start believing it” and then we have to take that story around the world. You know, like the old days. Just click our heels together three times. What’s a good example of what we have to do? You know, like Russia lying to its people and the world. They have been effective promulgators of lies. Just flog a pack of lies and stick to it, and repeat, repeat, repeat. We just have to keep repeating it, over and over, to ourselves and others – and we have to “start believing it.” Just like old times. Don’t you get nostalgic over the Red Scare, nuclear brinkmanship, and McCarthyism too? C’mon people, where’s your can-do attitude? Where’s your patriotism?

The HRC’s short survey of american history continues: After the spread of feel good (Lou Reed?!?) ‘murcan culture all over the globe (which the CIA played a large role in and that just happened to coincide with the u.s. becoming the biggest imperial power in world history) and the glory days of the easily propagandized cold war, we “fast forward to” what was widely touted as the triumph of American Capitalism. Essentially, she is saying when the Soviet Union collapsed and the wall fell, we took our eye off the ball and stopped our massive propaganda machine – or as she puts it, “withdrew from the information arena.” That is euphemism, and that means it’s obscuring the truth. On purpose. Of course. This should be as obvious as being punched in the face multiple times, but the audience is eating it up. Or they’re eating up the idea of The HRC talking and saying american things that sound like something positive. Whatever is going on in their liberal brains, they’re eating it up. After this smorgasbord of lies and delusion and cynicism and sheer banality of evil, our delicate sensibilities should not be offended by yet another euphemism.

The irony is that “we” actually did no such thing. “Our” propaganda machine was retooled by Edward Bernays after the end of WWII and has been running 24/7 ever since. After the war, he thought propaganda might have a slightly negative connotation and renamed it Public Relations. He called his science of manipulating people, the “engineering of consent.”

Remarkable, non? The HRC ripped the curtain right down and behind it is just a corporate PR executive selling finely-honed and well-established bullshit manipulation techniques that “engineer consent” to the highest bidder. PR and old fashioned propaganda is now incorporated into the body of capitalism, and therefore, our life. PR is replacing policy or covering up laws made for the rich by the rich. It is the veil over this circus of entrenched venality and inequality we call a country. And if somehow a crime is found out and/or offense is committed, don’t worry, there is a PR agency out there that has a very expensive apology for that.

Of course, the cynics (or realists, depending on your perspective) amongst you say, what else is new? Well, aside from the increasing degree of corruption, wealth consolidation, and the inequality and increased oppression they breed, the new twist is that PR has gone beyond “spin,” it is part of the way “government” “works.” To people who know what’s going on, this is not news, but the remarkable thing in this instance is who just did the show and tell, and how – and to whom. Maybe she’s so used to giving speeches to goldman sachs, she just used the same one on the The Daily Show.

See how far this is from a New Deal? The new deal is this: corporations run the government and every aspect of our lives, bending the world back to feudalism, while politicians are now part of the PR machine to spread the lies that keep it all going – and then they swing through the revolving door to get rich – or richer – then back again, Ad nauseam, Ad absurdum – hopefully not Ad infinitum, but, at this point, it sure feels like it.

Finally, Jon revisits the “Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.” The HRC mischaracterizes and lies about the entire situation. She gives context that actually gives no context at all and puts the onus completely and totally on hamas. Ridiculous. Laughable, if it weren’t so deadly serious. In that exchange, Jon comes out looking decent, for what it’s worth.

To end, let’s just meditate on the very end of the “interview” or “conversation,” where The HRC segues from lying about Israel’s attempt to extinguish the last vestiges of Palestinians from Palestine to a quick slick last pitch for her book. Jon Stewart: “You did not just do that!” Oh, she did. Yes she did. This is a country founded on violence, extremism, hustling, and hucksterism. How is that not a perfect ending?

The thank you, the handshake, the audience cheers.

Q&A Session with Arundhati Roy at SOAS

Disappearing World Forum Q&A Session with Arundhati Roy, held at the Brunei Gallery, SOAS, 2013

One could write a never-ending book about all that is contained in and around this event so it will be difficult to write anything short here. I could say something romantic about ugliness and beauty, about the drama of our existence, of exploiter and the exploited, of greed and resistance to that greed. Or about the possibility that we humans are flawed in our very DNA and evolution and may never be capable of collective peace and goodwill to all. I could say history is never in the past. I could say ideology is profound, especially when it has almost unlimited power driving it into plastic labile minds. I could say capitalism is a fundamental threat to the survival of almost all living things – especially humans. I could say corporate neoliberal rule is designed to exacerbate the logic of capitalism which is ceaseless accumulation and the commodification of all things. Or I could focus on the institution and histories and ideologies and power relations that brought those specific questioners there at that particular time. Or I could focus on Arundhati and all she is representing and all the superlatives that would flow from there. All of the strength, intelligence, elegance, beauty, all of the eloquence, patience, and fortitude. Or I could point out her seeming prescience about our current state of affairs, which was actually a clear-eyed left analysis that has been on the right (correct) side of history for generations, along with common sense ideas like fairness, justice, right and wrong…and feelings, like passion and empathy. Well, the never-ending book won’t start now, so here ends this bit of thought and feeling, digitized, and published for those few who will come across it.

Yanis Varoufakis: Is Capitalism Devouring Democracy? [Video] w/commentary

At this point the choice for liberals is clear, but it’s clear the liberals asking the questions still don’t get it – or they do get it, but are so steeped in the venality of capitalism and neoliberalism they are confused. Yanis is frequently called a radical and liberals have consistently dismissed him as unrealistic, though it’s clear they are willing to listen more now than they have been in the past. If liberals still think Yanis is a radical they are sadly mistaken. He is offering the moderate way forward. I don’t know how big his organization is at the moment and it’s yet to be seen if it will gain enough traction to become viable in Europe, but if self-proclaimed liberals can’t get behind someone like him…well, I’ll leave it to you to complete the thought.

The minuscule level of left gains since 2008 have not moved the needle much – and “The Resistance” is a sad joke. The next manufactured crisis the financial “industry” will bring down on us will make people more extreme in every direction. The currently comfortable might then wonder why they didn’t try to do more when they had a chance – or more likely, they will do what they have been doing: the ol’ see no evil routine and/or keep head in sand/up ass and/or continue to support the right wing (and yes, that means most Dems, or whatever party you want to substitute in your country). Simply pressing a button or filling out a form every two or so years has never been and will never be enough.

When confronted with any of this, the first thing I always hear from liberals is, “well what can I do?” You know what I never hear them say? “Instead of binge-watching tv and letting corporate news wash over me every night, I took a day to research who was already organizing and doing something and then I went out and met people and actually tried to do something.” Never hear that. I’m not saying that will change our current trajectory, because a lot of those people thought they were doing something by knitting pussy hats, but I am saying being a liberal was never a good thing and in the last forty years those liberals who thought voting was the be all and end all of politics, voted for right-wing neoliberals over and over. They voted for the lesser of two evils and eventually got the current u.s. president, or macron, or may or erdogan, or take your pick…

It’s too late to say time to wake up. That time has passed. Organize locally, find left organizations that are national and international, and if they aren’t, make them international. And don’t stop until it’s world-wide. A perfect test case would be teachers. You may have noticed teachers organized to strike in some of the poorest states in the u.s. They realized they could do something and then they realized they could talk to other teachers in other states. They called for a reduction in their health insurance costs, they called for raises for all state employees and for the major corporations sucking the wealth from their states to actually pay taxes.  The next step, though literally no one is saying this, is to talk to teachers in other countries. Form organizations and then join up with other organizations to form something massive and worldwide. Think about how many teachers there are in the world, think about how many nurses there are… If unions were democratic and had the ideals of the I.W.W., they’d be doing the same, or better yet, they’d be welcoming groups with open arms of solidarity and sharing resources. (To be fair, some are more democratic than others and some are doing better work than others, but no big union is working for real internationalism). If you’re in a union, democratize it, and then make it international.

Well, I could go on, but I don’t have the time or energy. About three to ten people will read this. It’s more venting than anything else, though it is not satisfying in any way, shape, or form. I’m writing this as a poor person in the richest country that ever existed in the history of the world. You know, the country where about half the people are poor and a paycheck away from the street – if they even have a paycheck. The one where millions have no health care, and the ones who do find out it’s inadequate when they actually need it because there is a massive corporation between them and well, living. The one where mass shootings happen every week. The one with a record number of people in prison. The country who went from a deporter-in-chief sending people to die in countries the u.s. helped turn into corrupt regimes with gangs and putting women and children into for-profit detention camps, to an avowed racist deporting people and putting them into for-profit detention camps – or let’s just be honest and call them what they are: prisons. Of course this is the land of for-profit prisons. What do you need for more profits? You guessed it, more prisoners… The land of poisoned earth, air, and water. The land of mass surveillance, mass homelessness, mass killings. The one bombing the world into oblivion, selling the most weapons of any country. Selling them to the dictators it props up and attempting to overthrow democratically elected politicians it calls dictators. The one at endless war in multiple countries. The one with the homeless drug addicted veterans with PTSD it denies services to. The one where people who literally want to kill regulatory agencies are in charge of them. The one with the militarized police who harass and kill with impunity and think they are an occupying force in their own country. The one whose federal courts are packed with hanging judges and where the supreme court rules corporations are people and reverses voting rights for people of color. The one with hungry kids, the one with all the wannabe fascists (sometimes on the street and often in churches and government). The one whose corporations don’t pay taxes while grinding austerity and privatization is loosed on everyday people by the politicians the corporations purchase. The one with the most effective propaganda since the third reich. The one with current and former students carrying almost 1.5 trillion dollars in student loans – that the government is making money on. The country where people who should be building a future are forced to spend 50-80% of their income on rent – if they have a place to rent, Again, if they even have income… Ok, time to stop, because this list could fill many volumes.

The u.s. didn’t invent death and destruction and making war on it’s own people, but it has exported its capitalist, neoliberal version of these things all over the world. That alone gives the people of the world a shared struggle, if they choose to come together and fight this insanity. Yanis is proposing and trying to work for a way forward. Is it “the” way? Impossible to say, but I can say that it is moderate. Increasingly, our collective options for change are being narrowed and will, more and more, be determined by extreme situations created by extreme people with extreme ideas. The only way forward is collective action on a worldwide scale. Liberals are afraid of radical change, so they turn away from the left, but guess what we’ve been living through instead? What liberals have, let’s be generous and say unwittingly, helped to bring about? Right wing extremism. Ironically, for liberals to get the peace and equality they say they want and believe in, they will have to become radicals. Radical change, just means change at the root.  Fundamental, systemic change, not tweaking a totally corrupt system around the edges while more and more people suffer every day. Yanis is proposing to start with moderate change that will stabilize global capitalism so we can then calmly implement some kind of collective ownership. Again, I won’t go into the arguments for and against, I am simply saying this seems like radicalism to liberals, but the political spectrum has been dragged to the right by right-wing extremists for forty years, which means liberals are on the right, fascists are to their right, and Yanis is simply proposing moderate old school social democratic changes. If you aren’t choosing to support that and you’re not doing anything that could be called organizing the left, you are choosing the right-wing extremism that is the status quo.

My Kanye “hot-take” – from four years ago…

I’m close to being done with most pop culture, but the reality is that it makes up a large part of culture these days, all over the world. So, anyone expecting to be heard in any way shape or form has a much better chance doing it using pop culture than almost any other subject. I’m also loathe to talk about DT for too many reasons to list. All of that being said, I remembered writing this comment about four years ago in response to this piece

https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/outer-space-something/

and thought it could add to the discussion – or more likely, be just another cry in the wilderness…Anyway, for the one person who may be interested, here is the comment:

Good piece Ismail. It sparks a lot of questions and associations. Makes me think of Kanye. He has been a great case study in the representation of the subject game. One could easily write a book on the contradictions, confusions, and historical events that led to “Yeezus,” as well as his recent series of appearances in the media making a case for why he should be a mogul, i.e., a capitalist. Aside from his admirable passion and talent, some of his ideas can be attributed to his lack of a deep analysis (which I think could be said of most americans) and his fundamental acceptance of the capitalist system. It’s more troubling if he is simply cynical and calculating, but that automatically brings up questions of what success means under capitalism and what is required to achieve it, to say nothing of his personal struggle. I don’t want to get locked down in a binary construction here or even a judgment, but “New Slaves” certainly points up many a contradiction and confusion, and though it may just be Hip Hop swagger, he makes himself pretty clear here:

You see there’s leaders and there’s followers
But I’d rather be a dick than a swallower

That may be the shortest distillation of the capitalist ethos there is – other than the golden rule: “he who has the gold, rules.” In any case, Kanye made clear in his I-wanna-be-a-mogul media barrage that his major frustration was with the gatekeepers of capital blocking his access to it; thereby, keeping him from being another steve jobs. He constantly couches his desire in terms that distract from the ugliness of capitalism roiling just below the surface. He speaks in corporate phrases about product and being a “creator,” and constantly of his love of design. Not coincidentally, in the past decade or so, design has been elevated and commodified in popular culture like never before. He presents his desire in his own particular bombastic, self-promoting brand of Hip Hop, boasting that usually ends in platitudes, but it cannot disguise the fact that he wants something more than simply to create and design, because he has more than enough money to start a little boutique any time he wants. And though he may just want to bring good affordable fashion to the masses, it cannot disguise the fact that the fashion world he wants to be a part of is a nexus of capitalism. It is based on the exploitation of “cheap” labor out of the consumer’s sight and the creation of both desire and self-hate in “the consumer,” otherwise known as “a person.” Capitalists he sees as role models like steven jobs also made their fortunes from little brown hands working in prison-like conditions, and that is more than germane here.

Along with saying we are all new slaves to consumerism and materialism, and rightly pointing out the New Jim Crow of the prison industrial complex, Kanye says he is just a rich slave now (I know…) because they (the big fashion houses) “let” him produce for them, but he is continually blocked by the big players in fashion (capitalists) from becoming one of them. The hegemony of the fashion industry (and tech, and spirits, and perfume, etc…) in popular culture is now intricately intertwined in Hip Hop (there were early associations as well, like “My adidas” but that looks quaint now). Not only does it present the problems sketched above, but it directly involves creating a need in black and brown kids that makes them feel like shopping (and owning) will accomplish something. Of course, billions of people of all colors are enmeshed and in the thrall of the fashion industry and consumerism, but the irony is especially strong when black and brown kids are constantly extolling the virtues and buying the products of modern day slave masters. And it is compounded many times over when someone like Kanye starts talking about new slaves and then starts a media campaign to be “let in” by vicious capitalists, so he can become an actual modern day slaver himself. In all of his appearances, he has never come close to acknowledging the logical end of winning his campaign to be “let in,” or the evils of the fashion industry, or the capitalists who fund and, needless to say, profit from it.

To broaden the critique, liberals and self-identified progressives who claim to champion equal rights and justice buy (literally and figuratively) into this system as well. Seemingly, without a second thought. No one ever calls martha stewart and ralph lauren and steve jobs and phil knight modern day slave masters, but I think it needs to be done and I think we all need to be involved in stopping it. Most americans now accept that most of what they buy is made by slave labor. In fact, it has been joked about by stewart, colbert, and every late night talk show host and comedian I can think of. It is a disgusting failure on every level that we can’t even respond with a boycott when de facto slaves are throwing themselves out of foxcon’s windows and buildings are collapsing on Bangladeshis. We are all implicated in capitalism and its crimes, and there is certainly no dyad – especially when there is no “outside” commodification.

Well, just a few quick thoughts. Thanks for the piece.

nb: capitalizations and lack thereof are intentional.

Corporate consolidation by brand

Corporate consolidation by brand

Click here for bigger image

This picture is but a drop in the ocean of corporate consolidation. When you read about an increase of M&A (mergers and acquisitions) it is usually an indication that rich people (using the corporations they own and the politicians they buy) have just stolen a great deal of money from you, legally (because the rich/corporations write the laws) and/or illegally (because they break the laws they don’t write). The past decade or so has been (yet another) one of these times.

The consolidation of money/power has surpassed that of the Gilded Age. Inequality has never been greater in human history. The rich have so much money they literally don’t know what to do with it. When you see things like stock buy-backs, art and property selling for record amounts, billions “invested” in silicon valley vaporware and apps that “innovate “by essentially enslaving working people, you see this in action.

The tendency to monopoly power is built into capitalism. Some apologists for capitalism will say that is why we need good regulation, but another tendency built into the logic of capitalism is profit at any (so-called “external”) cost. That means there will be a constant effort to destroy regulatory bodies or “capture” them. The u.s. government is now one big object lesson in that process. Because the rich/corporations make the laws, control money and the state, they also make “policy” or “laws” that funnel more to the top – and that means they are making us poorer and more vulnerable. International trade agreements work exactly the same way. Capitalism, in the form of corporate control, does the job of crafting regulatory bodies and agreements that make corporations richer and poison, immiserate, and kill the rest of us.

Another easily seen part of the corporate capture of government involves the rich buying politicians. They always came cheap and because of the just explicated processes, there are no constraints on campaign contributions either. Oh, and corporations have more rights than people – and corporations are legally people. But one of the most popular legal bribes comes in the form of the paid speech. Not coincidentally, it’s usually the first thing a president or any high government official does as soon as they leave office. They can’t wait to get to the payoff trough. Often it’s a speech to goldman sachs or an oil company, but only the high profile politicians get the $200,000/speech payoffs. The rest can usually be purchased with petty cash. Of course, a million here and million there is petty cash to corporations.

All of this contributes to the further consolidation of capital (which obviously increases inequality) and has led us to multiple crises coming together at once – and the creation of new crises as well. Voting will not get us out of it. Liberal tinkering around the edges will not save us. Getting radical (changing the system at the root) is the only way forward. We will have to do it by organizing ourselves, unifying, and creating another system that is not based on the exploitation of the earth and everything living on it. Socialism or barbarism was once offered as a pithy way to describe the choice. We can argue about what to label a new way of living and structuring life on planet earth, but it can’t be the neoliberal corporate capitalist system we have now, and we all have to be involved in organizing ourselves and unifying to become a force powerful enough to challenge the capitalists ruining the chance for continued human life on this planet.

Whatever group or organization you join (or start), work to make it as (small d) democratic as possible and work toward making connections with other groups. When groups can come together and unify internationally, we will have the beginning of a chance to challenge the power of the capitalist class. It sounds fantastical and crazy – and as things exist today, it seems impossible – but it is the only way to get off the path that leads directly to mass extinction. The choice seemed obvious when it was phrased as socialism or barbarism. That was another time. And because “we” chose barbarism (and capitalists made war against socialism), now the choice is socialism or the extinction of the human species. Again, if you don’t like the word socialism, call it something else, or think of something else. The point is that we all have to act, together, as one. We start by joining with others to help struggling people. Not as a charity, but in solidarity. That is the way forward. As you help others – with others – you will help yourself, in ways you can’t even imagine. If it is done in an organized, unified way – with a plan, strategies, and goals – it can change the course of the world.

@chunkymark made a movie: This is Not a Recession, It’s a Robbery [Repost from 3/10/14 (My & his analysis still stands)]

In the past few years, capitalists (corporations, the filthy rich, finance, insurance, oil, big pharma, big ag, and war mongers, to name a few) have significantly stepped-up their buying of governments worldwide. They have been busy putting the money they’ve stolen from us to use, purchasing politicians and imposing neoliberal policies on us all.

At the core of those policies is privatization. Privatization involves transferring the ownership of public wealth from the people to private for-profit corporations. That, along with the 2007-08 crisis, has resulted in a massive transfer and consolidation of wealth that literally kills, criminalizes, impoverishes, and controls, whilst making the rich, much, much richer.

Another tenet of neoliberal ideology (or tactic if you prefer) is the imposition of austerity. Essentially, austerity takes away critical resources from citizens – especially the most vulnerable. This goes hand in hand with a perennial corporate favorite: deregulation. Deregulation weakens regulatory agencies and gets rid of laws that protect citizens by either weakening them or replacing them wholesale.

The all-out assault on the UK by neoliberal corporate power has been extreme.  It has killed thousands and impoverished many more.  It is remaking the entire society before people’s eyes.   It is difficult to overstate the rapidity and viciousness with which this is taking place.  And if you are an average citizen outside of the British Isles, you probably have no idea it’s happening at all.

Mark McGowan, AKA The artist taxi driver, AKA Chunky Mark, is a working class bloke in London. He has been watching it all happen with shock, horror, and disbelief and is just trying to make sense of it all. He shoots videos in his cab before he starts work in the morning and posts them on youtube. Over the years, he has also managed to interview people from almost every walk of life. This movie is a collection of those commentaries and interviews.

From what I’ve been able to glean, Mark is a concerned citizen, father, artist, activist – and has a pretty good sense of humor to boot. He’s smart, sincere, frightened, concerned, and wants justice. What comes through again and again is his empathy, his humanity. He wonders aloud what many of us think every day: why are the people in power so sadistic and why aren’t the rest of us doing something about it?  He screams and rants and rages quite loudly, and a bit more than occasionally. I’ll leave out any discussion of how much might be performance because I think it is his genuine immediate reaction to what is happening – and because I think it’s appropriate. It seems a much more human response than what I see from most people. He may or may not realize it, but his pauses and sighs have an even bigger impact than the yelling. But I digress…

Though you may not be familiar with UK politics, much of what Mark is covering should sound very familiar. It should be obvious by now that this corporate neoliberal agenda is not unique to the UK. In fact, neoliberalism as we know it was born in the u.s.a. (at the University of Chicago to be exact). While the u.s. doesn’t have an NHS to dismantle, it’s healthcare was given over to corporations long ago.  Schools are another matter.  The neoliberals have been busy here demonizing teachers, attacking unions, and attempting to privatize public schools.  State pensions (which most americans don’t even possess) have been raided (through fees, budget cuts, legislation, and fraud) and everyone who has a pension is funding speculation. That money is at risk of being lost. (For those of you reading this in the future: Yes, the derivatives your pension fund helped inflate into a massive toxic bubble that burst are the reason they’re giving for cutting your pension.)  The corporate neoliberal model is being imposed all over the world: India, Turkey, Brazil – most of Europe…the list is long.  Just look for bought-off politicians selling off the state to corporate “interests” and media imitating the u.s. and the picture should become very clear.

Of course this film and Mark’s youtube videos aren’t the be all end all source for information, but I like Mark’s DIY spirit, his frustration, his sense of urgency, his passion and humanity.  Things sorely lacking from most people I see.

Caveats: For those with delicate sensibilities, there is a lot of swearing in this film. If you’re still living in another century it may be time to travel to the present. As I said in the beginning, Mark is just a guy trying to understand what’s going on. I think he has done a damn good job of zeroing in on root causes, but – as with most people – he is just as susceptible as the next guy to occasionally trodding down the wrong path. For example, Alex Jones makes a very brief appearance in the cab. He is an american “shock jock” who mixes wacky conspiracy theories with facts and dangerous ideas; so, in the end, it’s best to dismiss him totally. There are so many people with sane analyses, there is really no reason to pay him any attention except as comic relief.

Max Keiser also makes an appearance. While Max does offer some good analysis of financial criminal behavior, he is a capitalist and he shares the libertarian utopian idea that if we only had “true free markets” we could have good capitalism (but in the meantime, he is a regular old capitalist). If one knows enough to see through that and can suss out the useful bits of his analysis, have at it – but really, there are hundreds of other more reputable sources out there who aren’t selling their own bitcoins, etc…

So, with those caveats, watch the film to be entertained, see a slice of life, and hopefully get a sense of what’s happening, because whether you know it or not, some version of everything detailed in it is probably happening where you live.

~ Cheers