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US Democracy is a Façade: There Are No Effective Constraints on Elites’ Behavior

US Democracy is a Façade: There Are No Effective Constraints on Elites’ Behavior

“Do you remember ’36, we went our separate ways
You fought for Stalin, I fought for freedom

You believe in authority, I believe in myself
I’m a molotov cocktail, you’re Dom Perignon”

-Against Me

How did the cat get so fat?

When I was a public schoolboy, bright-eyed, we sang the anthem every day.

I believed there was some entity, some unseen guardian angel, that made the literal and figurative trains run on time. I really believed there was some incorruptible backstop to prevent the bottom from falling out.

It’s taken years of watching upper-crust decadence and depravity – in the vein of Caligula — to realize the truth: there is no bottom to the barrel. The elites just do what they want and if they decide they want to hurt you, either through malice or indifference or graft, they will.

This is when “defenders of democracy” – increasingly, from the ostensible, self-positioned “left” — will jump in with the well-trodden refrain: “We choose our leaders to represent us – we have a choice!”

You have no meaningful choice. As George Carlin, patron saint of calling out neoliberal bullshit, RIP, put it:

“Americans are led to feel free through the exercise of meaningless choices. There are only two political parties. There is a reduction of the number of media companies. Banking has been reduced to only a handful of banks. Oil companies. These are important, and you’re given very little choice…. You know what your freedom of choice in America is? Paper or plastic.”

High society is “a big club – and you ain’t in it.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Ben Bartee, the daily bell, democracy, ruling class, propaganda, lies, con, government, government policy,

In Defense Of Substack

In Defense Of Substack

UCLA professor Sarah T. Roberts mourns the good old days of gatekeeping and credential-worship

UCLA professor Sarah Roberts, co-leader of something called the UCLA Center for Critical Internet Inquiry — media critics whose stated goal is “strengthening democracy through culture-making” — went on a lengthy Twitter tirade against Substack last night, one that gained a lot of attention. I should probably respond since, as one prominent reporter put it to Glenn Greenwald and me this morning, “Shit, it’s like she wrote this for the two of you.”

The main thread:

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Rabobank: The Purge Could Contribute To A Widening Of The Cultural And Political Divide

Rabobank: The Purge Could Contribute To A Widening Of The Cultural And Political Divide

On Friday Twitter took the decision to permanently suspend President Trump from its platform due to the “risk of further incitement of violence”.  The day before Facebook had already blocked him.  Tech giants have also moved against right-wing social media platform Parler, with Apple and Google removing it from their app stores over the weekend and Amazon withdrawing the cloud service in which it stores its data.  In view of the events on Capitol Hill last week, the actions have brought relief for many.  However, this news has also sparked warnings that the actions of the tech giants cannot make dissenting opinion vanish and that the purge could contribute to a widening of the cultural and political divide in the US. 

For certain there are concerns that the Democrats’ efforts to impeach the President could underscore amongst his supports Trump’s unfounded allegations that the November election was ‘stolen’ from him.  Democrats are expected to introduce a motion to the House of Representatives today calling on Vice-President Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment in order to strip Trump of his office.  If Pence fails to do so, they plan to impeach Trump later in the week.  For Senate Republicans, however, this looks to be a step too far.  While several have publically criticised the President for his role in the last week’s violence in Washington which led to the death of five people, many have indicated that impeachment may not be the best way to hold Trump accountable.  Senator Toomey instead has called for the President to resign and “go away as soon as possible.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

The Threat of Authoritarianism in the U.S. is Very Real, and Has Nothing To Do With Trump

The Threat of Authoritarianism in the U.S. is Very Real, and Has Nothing To Do With Trump

The COVID-driven centralization of economic power and information control in the hands of a few corporate monopolies poses enduring threats to political freedom.

(L-R): Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Apple CEO Tim Cook and Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos (Photo by BERTRAND GUAY,TOBIAS SCHWARZ,ANGELA WEISS,MARK RALSTON/AFP via Getty Images)

Asserting that Donald Trump is a fascist-like dictator threatening the previously sturdy foundations of U.S. democracy has been a virtual requirement over the last four years to obtain entrance to cable news Green Rooms, sinecures as mainstream newspaper columnists, and popularity in faculty lounges. Yet it has proven to be a preposterous farce.

In 2020 alone, Trump had two perfectly crafted opportunities to seize authoritarian power — a global health pandemic and sprawling protests and sustained riots throughout American cities — and yet did virtually nothing to exploit those opportunities. Actual would-be despots such as Hungary’s Viktor Orbán quickly seized on the virus to declare martial law, while even prior U.S. presidents, to say nothing of foreign tyrants, have used the pretext of much less civil unrest than what we saw this summer to deploy the military in the streets to pacify their own citizenry.

But early in the pandemic, Trump was criticized, especially by Democrats, for failing to assert the draconian powers he had, such as commandeering the means of industrial production under the Defense Production Act of 1950, invoked by Truman to force industry to produce materials needed for the Korean War…

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Government Calling out Military Against the People

COMMENT: Hi Martin

Just thought you might be interested in this article in today’s Sunday Times in the UK – our military intelligence are going to be involved to ensure that we don’t get to hear the opposing points of view with respect to vaccine safety – they really are worried that many people will think for themselves and not take these vaccines!
Best wishes
HS
REPLY: France has withdrawn its troops from Iraq to use the military to fight COVID. In Canada, Trudeau is also calling in the military to help with COVID-19 vaccine distribution. This is not simply vaccines. They KNOW that there is rising resistance to this entire 2030 Agenda which the people have NEVER been allowed to vote to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that we no longer live in a democracy. Our computer has been projecting rising civil unrest and I think that there is nobody who could have been forecasting this trend years in advance other than a computer. We will exceed more than 100 times what we saw during the 1960s over race riots and protests against Vietnam.
Make NO MISTAKE about this! Governments are calling in the military to PRETEND to be assisting with vaccines. But they are really being positioned for civil unrest which will rise to the level of revolutions in 2021 in many places. Our computer has made these projections at the beginning of this current Economic Confidence Model wave in 1985.65.

Misinformation Was Always Dangerous. Social Media Has Turned It into a Viral Sickness

Misinformation Was Always Dangerous. Social Media Has Turned It into a Viral Sickness

Facebook’s reach is being used to create division, spread hate and harm democracy. And the corporation doesn’t care.

In 1486, a German priest named Heinrich Kramer published a manual called Malleus Maleficarum or the Hammer of Witches. Kramer wrote the book as an act of revenge following his expulsion from Innsbruck by the local bishop after he tried — and failed — to convict a woman he was sexually obsessed by of satanic practices.

Eventually reaching 30,000 copies, Kramer’s book detailed the theory and practice of witch persecution that catalyzed a frenzy of female torture throughout Europe and claimed at least 40,000 victims. History teaches us that indulging petty ignorance can be decidedly deadly, a lesson we ignore at our peril.

Dangerously dumb ideas of course continue today. Thousands recently took to the streets in Montreal and Vancouver to oppose mask mandates that could save thousands of lives. Many also proudly pledged their support for Donald Trump or QAnon conspiracies about a secretive cabal of Satan-worshiping elites who for some reason harvest the blood of children.

The world has always had whack jobs. However, the multiplier of social media has made spreading outlandish ideas ever more dangerous, especially at a time when there are plenty of other very real problems that demand our attention and action.

Cities on the West Coast choke in smoke from historic wildfires driven by accelerating climate change. Increasing human encroachment into the natural world propelled this pandemic, and others. Democracy in the world’s largest economy apparently hangs in the balance.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

At A Time Of Rapidly Creeping Authoritarianism, Assange’s Freedom Is More Crucial Than Ever

At A Time Of Rapidly Creeping Authoritarianism, Assange’s Freedom Is More Crucial Than Ever

My home state of Victoria has become the center of attention in the anti-lockdown movement for its authoritarian crackdown against not just people who are in violation of lockdown protocol, but people who merely post about staging future anti-lockdown protests on social media.

Police have been breaking into people’s homes and arresting them in front of their children under charges of “incitement” for posting about anti-lockdown protests on Facebook, drawing international headlines. This is obviously a major threat to human rights that sets a dangerous precedent and will have many undesirable knock-on effects, and it should be condemned unequivocally.

“This is awful. ‘Incitement’ is going to be used to crack down on all sorts of protests – including on issues we agree with and think are worth protesting,” explained Australian author and analyst Ketan Joshi of one such arrest. “Every time I post about this, I am stunned by the number of people who seem furiously unwilling to draw any connection between what’s happening above and the history of climate and anti-racist protest in Australia.”

“Those who claim Covid-19 is being exploited by governments to dismantle our diminishing freedoms have just been handed a chilling new piece of evidence to support their case,” tweeted journalist Jonathan Cook.

Indeed this ham-fisted approach seems to be a lot more popular among residents of Melbourne and the state of Victoria who are subjected to it than to a large portion of the outside world. Part of this discrepancy is due to Australia having an entire culture built around the phrase “No worries, whatever you reckon’s a fair thing,” but another part is the fact that people in other self-proclaimed democracies are accustomed to having a bill of rights to protect them against such intrusive overreach.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

A Lesser Evil: Notes From The Edge Of The Narrative Matrix

A Lesser Evil: Notes From The Edge Of The Narrative Matrix

I really don’t mean to be a pest about this but we are still trapped on a planet where people without functioning empathy centers are waving literal armageddon weapons around in the name of a made-up concept called unipolarism. We should probably put a stop to that.

~

If you see two separate mainstream political parties, it looks like one is the lesser evil. If you see two oligarchic sock puppets held by the same oligarchy, it looks like they’re both being used to bully you into consenting to an entire system which isn’t designed to serve you.

If you see the latter, what is the correct response? What is the correct response to someone saying you must beg them to punch you with their left hand or they’ll punch you a bit harder with their right? Is it to beg for the left fist? Or is it to knock your abuser the fuck out?

When the oligarchy tells you “Vote for my left party or my right party will take away your civil rights”, the correct response is not bowing to its demands, nor voting right-wing out of spite, nor even merely voting third party. The only correct response is to tear down the oligarchy.

~

Democrats: Here’s a half-dead piece of beltway flotsam held together by nothing but Aricept and crazy glue who’s been pushing for wars, austerity and the erosion of civil liberties since before most of you were born.

Progressives: I bet we can move him to the left.

~

Q: What is the Republican Party?

A: An organization which assures Americans of conservative sensibilities that the status quo is working fine.

Q: What is the Democratic Party?

A: An organization which assures Americans of liberal sensibilities that the status quo is working fine.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Democracy and the Illusion of Choice

Democracy and the Illusion of Choice

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

The neoliberal logic of everything for the rich is now so deeply embedded in American political economy that its base assumptions appear untouchable, except in rare and extraordinary circumstances. With the Covid pandemic exacerbating the current crisis of capitalism, political and economic defense mechanisms make restoring the people and institutions that created the crisis appear to be the only alternative (once again) to solving it. And from the potential victory of a social democratic program five months ago, electoral choice is now between a right-wing demagogue and the chief architect of the carceral state, militarization of the police and liberal obeisance to capital.

There is a connection between the Democrats three-plus years spent pushing the un / disproven Russiagate story and Joe Biden’s miraculous ascent as the establishment candidate in 2020. The Russiagate allegations shifted attention away from rejection of the Democrat’s political program in 2016 so that they could run the same program again in 2020. Amongst the political variables open for ‘discussion,’ the choice of candidate is all there is. The political program is determined at the intersection of campaign contributions, the needs and desires of capital, and the ids of oligarchs freed from public accountability. Democracy has nothing to do with it.

Graph: the ‘racist backlash’ theory of Donald Trump’s election effectively divided the victims of neoliberal economic policies by race. The actual number of white racist and neo-Nazi groups has been declining since 2012. And before rococo explanations for this decline are sought, the rise and fall of hate groups tracks unemployment quite closely (graph below). Whatever the nature of Mr. Trump’s appeals, when Black Separatist groups are excluded from the ‘hate group’ data, the number of white racist and neo-Nazi hate groups followed the unemployment rate lower. Source: SPLC.

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As Long As Mass Media Propaganda Exists, Democracy Is A Sham

As Long As Mass Media Propaganda Exists, Democracy Is A Sham

A new Reuters/Ipsos poll has reportedly found that a majority of Americans believe the completely discredited narrative that the Russian government paid Taliban-linked fighters to kill the occupying forces of the US and its allies in Afghanistan.

“A majority of Americans believe that Russia paid the Taliban to kill U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan last year amid negotiations to end the war, and more than half want to respond with new economic sanctions against Moscow, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Wednesday,” Reuters reports.

“Overall, 60% of Americans said they found reports of Russian bounties on American soldiers to be ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ believable, while 21% said they were not credible and the rest were unsure,” says Reuters.

Those 21 percent are objectively correct: the story is not credible, and it’s not even close. Gareth Porter shows in The Grayzone how the “Bountygate” narrative is so utterly baseless that even US intelligence agencies have dismissed it, Joe Lauria of Consortium News explains how it doesn’t make any sense on its face, and FAIR’s Alan MacLeod breaks down the appalling journalistic malpractice that went into circulating this incredibly thinly sourced story to the mainstream public.

The story advances no solid facts or verified information. What it does advance is pre-existing imperialist agendas like remaining in Afghanistan, killing the last of the remaining nuclear deals with Moscow, and manufacturing public support for new Russia sanctions.

And yet a majority of people believed it, and still believe it. The narrative that Russia paid Taliban fighters to kill occupying forces is now regarded as an established fact in many key circles, despite being backed by literally zero facts.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Notes From Underground #4: Emergency Democracy

Notes From Underground #4: Emergency Democracy

It’s late in 1940, six months since the fall of France. Still a year to go before America joins the war. Meanwhile, Britain soldiers on alone – or so it likes to tell itself, the vastness of Empire folded conveniently into the background. Through the crackling of the wireless, the prime minister’s voice is unmistakable.

‘Every endeavour must be made to use the time available to produce the greatest volume of food of which this fertile island is capable. We shall all have to make changes to the way in which we eat and each household must now play its part in the way in which that food is grown. We have to look a long way ahead in this sphere of the war. We have to think of the years 1970 and 1971 and of the tonnage programmes which we shall be able to move and which we shall have to move across the oceans then.’

The mistake is glaring, absurd – yet this was the voice I heard in my head as I read the summary of the EAT–Lancet report on climate change and food, published in January, with its conclusions about the changes called for in our diets. In North America, an 84% cut in the average intake of red meat; for Europeans, a fifteen-fold increase in the amount of nuts and seeds we eat. All of this is to be achieved by 2050: a timeline based on reasonable assumptions and ambitious behaviour-change goals, for sure, but it doesn’t sound like a response to an existential threat.

The speech which Churchill actually gave that autumn, part of which was printed on the leaflets that launched the Dig For Victory campaign, urged Britain to ‘think of the years 1943 and 1944’.

* * *

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We’re Asking One Question In Assange’s Case: Should Journalists Be Punished For Exposing War Crimes?

We’re Asking One Question In Assange’s Case: Should Journalists Be Punished For Exposing War Crimes?

This is a speech I gave yesterday at a demonstration for Assange with the Socialist Equality Party Australia.

Tomorrow in the UK a judge will start the process of answering a very important question. It’s a question that many of us knew was the heart of this debate back in 2010, ten years ago, when this all started. It’s a question that they have been obfuscating, bloviating, huffily denying, smearing, gaslighting, and distracting from–basically doing anything they can to hide it from view.

It’s a question that they don’t want the public to know that we are answering. A question that goes to the heart of democracy, and to the heart of the role of the fourth estate, journalism. And that question is this:

Should journalists and publishers be punished for exposing US war crimes?

And, ancillary to that question: should we allow them to be punished by the very people who committed those war crimes?

Is that something that we want for our world, ongoing? Because our answer to this question is going to shape our society, our civilization, for generations to come.

There is no coming back from this for a very long time should the answer be, “Yes! Yes, it’s fine, war criminals should go ahead and punish journalists for publishing true facts about their war crimes.”

If we allow the answer to be yes, then we’re stuck with the endless stupid wars that everyone wants done with, from Melbourne to Kabul, from Sydney to Syria–right across the world people are done with these stupid wars for profit.

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Poetic Justice Coming For The 1%

Poetic Justice Coming For The 1%

To understand just how grim the coming decade is likely to be for the world’s super-rich, let’s start with three premises:

1) Capitalist democracy — defined as free individuals managing their own property and periodically electing new leaders — is the only system of social organization that’s consistent with human nature and is, therefore, sustainable. 

2) Capitalism inevitably produces inequality as a few participants — through energy, creativity, and (frequently) luck — do extremely well while the vast majority do okay and a few do very badly. 

3) Since the big winners — now commonly known as the 1% — are vastly outnumbered by the rest of society, they can only keep their exulted position if they convince the 99% to let them be. If the rich fail to make their case, everyone else will simply vote to expropriate the most visible fortunes. 

If you accept these assertions, it follows that enlightened elites would be all about fostering upward mobility, because when people on the lower rungs of the economic ladder know that by working hard and following the rules they can move their families to the next higher rung in a reasonable amount of time, they focus on their on improving prospects and don’t much care if a few billionaires live like princes and kings. 

But that’s emphatically not the case these days. The current generation of corporate and political winners have blatantly and systematically exploited nearly everyone else. Amazon, for instance, staffs its hellscape warehouses with RV caravans of migrant senior citizens working long, hard days for subsistence wages. Apple makes its high-margin phones in Chinese sweatshop factories where suicide is the biggest occupational health hazard.

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Dissatisfaction with democracy reaches all-time high

Dissatisfaction with democracy reaches all-time high

Dissatisfaction with democracy reaches all-time high

A new report by the recently established Centre for the Future of Democracy at the University of Cambridge has found that dissatisfaction with democracy has reached an all-time global high. Westminster-style democracies (the UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US) typically fare particularly badly in terms of democratic faith, with the proportion of citizens dissatisfied with the performance of their democracy doubling since the 1990s. In the UK, this proportion increased by around a fifth since then.

The global financial and economic crisis and growing within-country regional inequality are of course important factors behind decreasing satisfaction with democracy. But the Centre’s report also suggests that ‘satisfaction with democracy is lower in majoritarian “winner-takes-all” systems than in consensus-based, proportionally representative democracies’. The antagonistic and adversarial mentality inherent in the outdated First Past the Post voting system found in majoritarian, Westminster-style democracies contributes to polarisation and tribalism, making citizens less willing to compromise and to accept the mandate of rival political parties or viewpoints. By contrast, New Zealand is the only Westminster-style democracy to have avoided the trend of ever-increasing public discontent, likely as a result of having introduced a fairer voting system in the 1990s.

These findings highlight the perilous state of our democracy, with ever-deepening citizen dissatisfaction and disengagement

These findings highlight the perilous state of our democracy, with ever-deepening citizen dissatisfaction and disengagement, but sadly they do not come as a surprise. Edelman’s annual trust barometer found that trust in institutions is the lowest it’s ever been in the UK – we’re penultimate in their league table of trust, just one spot ahead of Russia. Similarly, a BMG poll for the ERS in December 2019 found that 85 per cent of people thought democracy could be improved ‘quite a lot’ or ‘a great deal’, with 80 per cent of people feeling they have ‘not very much’ or ‘no influence’ over decision-making.

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40 Privacy Groups Warn That Facial Recognition is Threatening Democracy

40 Privacy Groups Warn That Facial Recognition is Threatening Democracy

We must take action and guard what little privacy remains before it’s too late. 

(TMU) — On Monday, forty organizations signed a letter calling on an independent government watchdog to recommend a ban on U.S. government use of facial recognition technology.

The letter was drafted by the digital privacy advocacy group Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and signed by organizations including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Color of Change, Fight for the Future, Popular Resistance, and the Consumer Federation of America. The letter calls on the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) to “recommend to the President and the Secretary of Homeland Security the suspension of facial recognition systems, pending further review.

The PCLOB was originally created in 2004, as an independent agency that advises the administration on privacy issues. “The Congress specifically found that new surveillance powers ‘calls for an enhanced system of checks and balances to protect the precious liberties that are vital to our way of life and to ensure that the Government uses its powers for the purposes for which the powers were given’,” the letter states.

The organizations challenge the PCLOB to “examine the more significant public concerns about the use of facial recognition in public spaces.” They also call on the board to address concerns that facial recognition software can be used by “authoritarian governments to control minority populations and limit dissent could spread quickly to democratic societies.

The letter from EPIC mentions a recent New York Times investigation of a facial recognition service used by more than 600 law enforcement agencies across the country.  As the Mind Unleashed recently reported, Manhattan-based Clearview AI is collecting data from unsuspecting social media users and the Chicago Police Department (CPD) is using the controversial facial recognition tool to pinpoint the identity of unknown suspects.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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