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Politics, Democracy and Environmental Rebellion

Politics, Democracy and Environmental Rebellion

Pulp Mill, Longview, Washington. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

A question worth asking is: what conceivable national electoral outcome would resolve the political dysfunction that currently prevents much-needed programs such as solving climate change and mass extinction, national health care, and an end to militarism from being enacted? While setting aside for a moment the national / international divide that facilitated post-War liberalism, class struggle has reemerged to redraw political alignments that lack formal institutions from ‘below’ to move them forward. Would a Democratic sweep in 2020 really change this political landscape?

Focus on elected officials rather than the systemic levers of class control support the carefully crafted posture of great difference between the governing Parties. Political marketing posits the locus of power within personal traits that suborn the class relations the candidates support to a passive role. In the realm of diversions, the passion of anti-Trumpism has been temperedsomewhat since the 2018 mid-term elections by actual Democrats regaining control of the House. As enthusiastically despised as Mr. Trump is, all it takes is a gander at the ‘opposition’ to illuminate the political role that manufactured constraints play.

The near-term political success of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is likely attributable to the distance she has kept from the much-despised political establishment. She said so herself. To paraphrase, her constituents are the people who elected her, not her colleagues in congress. This return to politics, to taking one’s case to the people, 1) is the only way forward for left politics and 2) illustrates how institutional constraints are political in the sense that they preclude only those acts and policies that are inconvenient to official interests. Radical policies that benefit the rich are normalized as necessary— e.g. the U.S. war against Iraq and the Wall Street bailouts.

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

Name the State

Name the State

The number one problem of all public debate about politics and economics is the failure to name the state. If this would change, so would public opinion. 

There is no shortage of examples. People talk about health care for all, solving climate change, providing security in old age, universal educational access, boosting wages, ending discrimination, and you can add to the list without end. 

That’s one side. 

The other speaks of national identity, protecting jobs, making us more moral, forming cultural cohesion, providing security against the foreign enemy, and so on. 

Obfuscation

All of this, no matter how fancy the language, is obfuscation. What all of this really means is: put the state in charge. What’s strange is the unwillingness to say it outright. This is for a reason. The plans the politicians have for our lives would come across as far less compelling if they admitted the following brutal truth. 

There really are only two ways to allocate goods and services in society: the markets (which rely on individual choice) and the state (which runs on compulsion). No one has ever found a third way. You can mix the two — some markets and some state-run operations — but there always is and always will be a toggling between the two. If you replace markets, the result will be more force via the state, which means bureaucratic administration and rule by force. If you reduce the role of the state, you rely more on markets. This is the logic of political choice, and there is no escaping it. 

Diversity in Markets 

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8 Historic Cases That Show the FBI and CIA Were Out of Control Long Before Russiagate

8 Historic Cases That Show the FBI and CIA Were Out of Control Long Before Russiagate

The survival of liberty depends on skepticism of government power—and make no mistake, that includes President Trump.

Conservatives tend to have two bad habits. First, they’re prone to viewing the past through a nostalgic lens. Second, they tend to instinctively give law enforcement the benefit of the doubt.

These tendencies help explain why conservatives for decades have been able to overlook the many abuses—constitutional, legal, and moral—of US intelligence agencies.

Government bureaucrats were out of control long before the 2016 presidential election.

Unlike some more seasoned media, conservatives have appeared genuinely shocked by revelations of the Trump-Russia saga: abuse of FISA warrants, classified leaksfrom top FBI brass,corruption, campaign moles, and an apparent plot to remove an elected president through undemocratic (and likely extra-constitutional) means.

These revelations are unique in that they have become highly public and involve a sitting president. However, an examination of the history of US intelligence agencies reveals government bureaucrats were out of control long before the 2016 presidential election.

1. That Time the CIA Considered Bombing Miami and Blaming It on Castro

It’s no secret that the US government sought to assassinate Fidel Castro for years. Less well known, however, was that part of their regime-change plot included a plan to blow up Miami and sinking a boat-full of innocent Cubans.

The plan, which was revealed in 2017 when the National Archives declassified 2,800 documents from the JFK era, was a collaborative effort that included the CIA, the State Department, the Department of Defense, and other federal agencies that sought to brainstorm strategies to topple Castro and sow unrest within Cuba. One of those plans included Operation Northwoods, submitted to the CIA by General Lyman Lemnitzer on behalf of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

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Bruno Latour on Politics in the New Climatic Regime

Bruno Latour on Politics in the New Climatic Regime

Why are so many zones of the world descending into chaos and confusion? There is no single reason, of course, but the French scholar of modernity, Bruno Latour, has a compelling overarching theory. In his new book, Down to Earth: Politics in the New Climatic Regime (Polity), Latour argues that climate change, by calling into question the once-universal dream of “development” and globalization, is leaving a huge void in our consciousness. 

This has resulted in an “epistemological delirium.” As the ordering principle of “the modern” dissolves into thin air, we don’t know which way is up or how to proceed. Hence the title of the original French version of the book, Où atterir? Comment s’orienter en politique – “Where to land? How to orient yourself in politics?” 

Humanity no longer has a shared framework of “becoming modern,” says Latour. It is hard for everyone to believe that globalized markets, “development,” and consumerism will yield a steady march toward civilization and progress. Corporations have proven themselves to be consummate externalizers of cost and risk. And climate change among other eco-crises suggests that relentless economic growth is simply preposterous — and grossly mal-distributed in any case. 

Hence our profound disorientation. It’s hard to deal with the slow-motion collapse of a once-universal story of human aspiration. 

The rich nations, or at least the US, remain mostly in denial about climate change, if only because acknowledging the truth would upend so much. The remaining nation-states of the world, meanwhile, have no clear path in a fractured, divided world for constructing a shared vision. 

Without the unifying normative framework of “development” and its claims of infinite growth and progress, how can we figure out a new consensus narrative for humanity, one that acknowledges the existential reality that we live on the same, finite planet? How can we find a way to share and co-manage our only habitable space?

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

Which Nations Will Crumble and Which Few Will Prosper in the Next 25 Years?

Which Nations Will Crumble and Which Few Will Prosper in the Next 25 Years?

Adaptability and flexibility will be the core survival traits going forward.

What will separate the many nations that will crumble in the next 25 years and those few that will survive and even prosper while the status quo dissolves around them? As I explain in my recent book Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic, the factors that will matter are not necessarily cultural or financial; being hard-working and wealthy won’t be enough to save nations from coming apart at the seams.

Here are the factors that will matter in the next 25 years:

1. The ability to engage and survive non-linear change, which is rapid, unpredictable and systemic, as opposed to linear change which is gradual, predictable and limited in nature.

None of the current political systems are decentralized enough and adaptable enough to survive the non-linear era we’re entering. As I explained in What If Politics Can’t Fix What’s Broken?, the politics of centralized compromise and incremental, top-down adjustments are wholly inadequate to dealing with non-linear disruptions.

2. The nations that cannot jettison their parasitic elites will fall; the few that find the political will to jettison their parasitic elites will have the wherewithal to survive and possibly even prosper as the global status quo collapses around them.

The problem, as we all know, is the parasitic elites rule the centralized hierarchies of wealth and political power, and they will cling to power even as the nation they rule crumbles around them. The hubris, complacency and greed of the ruling parasitic elites is near-infinite; the idea that the political and financial structures that they dominate will not survive simply doesn’t exist in the parasitic elites, with the exception of a few outliers who are constructing remote bugout compounds with landing strips etc.

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Debts and Deficits are Out of Control

Debts and Deficits are Out of Control


Understandably, the problems and politics of the moment dominate the news and attract the attention of most policy commentators and much of the public. Will there be another government shutdown, will House Democrats attempt to impeach the president, will interest rates remain low, and will there be a trade war with China? But there are longer-term problems as well, and one of them is the rising U.S. national debt due to annual government budget deficits as far into the future as the eye can see.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently issued its latest “Budget and Economic Outlook”projection, covering the next decade, 2019-29. And it is not a pretty picture. As of the beginning of February 2019, the cumulative federal government debt is approaching $22 trillion. This comes out to a per capita burden of nearly $67,000 for all those residing in the United States, and about $179,500 per U.S. taxpayer.

The CBO predicts that between 2019 and 2029, the government’s gross national debt will increase to almost $33.7 trillion because of annual budget deficits that beginning in the years immediately ahead will be over $1 trillion a year all the way to 2029 and will continue that way for every year after that to 2049 in the CBO’s much longer-term forecast. 

Not that the Congressional Budget Office’s projections will be right on target. The report admits that the agency has been wrong in its past forecasts. But virtually always its error has been to underestimate the growth in the federal government’s deficits and debt. So, if its track record follows form, when 2029 rolls around and the coming 10 years are looked back on, the national-debt problem may very well be noticeably worse than the CBO is currently anticipating.

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

The Most Interesting Man in the World: Two Faces on the Same Coin

The Most Interesting Man in the World: Two Faces on the Same Coin

Presidential elections are planned distractions

To divert attention from the action behind the scenes

Like a game of chess when the house is a mess

Or a petty money squabble when your marriage is in trouble

Or a football game when there’s rioting in the streets

It’s just another movie, another song and dance

Another poor sucker who never had a chance

– Timbuk3. “Just Another Movie”, Greetings From Timbuk3 (1986), Mamdadaddi Music/I.R.S. Music, Inc. admin. by Atlantic Music

Before the big game there’s a coin toss and by the luck of the draw, decisions are made even before the teams take the field. It is the same for politics with, perhaps, the exception of luck having anything to do with the outcomes.  Regardless, the games play on our screens and we passively watch; anxiously waiting to see what happens.

It’s an all-or-nothing blitz to score big and winners take all.  In the interim, there are the commercial breaks revealing ads refined by the fires of focus groups and in boardrooms.

Edward Bernays, the influential pioneer of public relations and the nephew of iconic psychologist Sigmund Freud, wrote in his 1928 book “Propaganda” (page 37) regarding an “unseen mechanism of society” that constituted “an invisible government” that was, assuredly,  “the true ruling power of our country”. Bernays added:  “We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.”

Bernays was quite proud of his uncle’s work and he accepted Freud’s foundational premises towards the use of emotional manipulation of the masses through advertising. It was Bernays, in fact, who changed the term “propaganda” to “public relations”.

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

The Real Problem Is the Politicization of Everything

The Real Problem Is the Politicization of Everything

The Covington Catholic High School fiasco that has developed over the last weeks has shown more than ever why many are skeptical about the media these days. Facts and context — the reality on the ground — were put in the background in favor of a fable that confirmed a political allegory.

What is most shocking is that in today’s world, this is not an exception anymore. Much blame may be shifted to social media as a phenomenon that makes people feel safe in the anonymity of the online world and thus less inhibited than they would otherwise be. Still, the Covington Catholic saga is simply a symptom of a much bigger problem: the politicization of society — or, indeed, everything in life.

Needless to say, politicization is not new. But it feels as though, in today’s dramatically polarized climate, it is more extreme than in decades before. The Gillette ad, perhaps the only other “news story” that has garnered as much attention as Covington Catholic this year, is a prime example: regardless of what one thinks of it in the end, the question needs to be put forward why Gillette even thought it necessary to make a political statement in a commercial for razors. One needs to ask, to mention another example, why Ben & Jerry’s ever felt the need to launch a new ice creamnamed for “the Resistance.”

Consumed and Blinded

These days, it seems almost an impossibility to meet family and loved ones and not discuss Trump, Brexit, or the European elections. It seems unavoidable to be quickly judged by other humans not by your character but your political views. Everyone who is generally a Trump supporter has to be a fascist with whom one cannot interact anymore. Everyone who is generally a Democrat has to be a socialist or member of the elite with whom one cannot interact anymore.

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

The Decline and Fall of the European Union

The Decline and Fall of the European Union

This exhaustion of the neocolonial-neofeudal model was inevitable, and as a result, so too is the decline and fall of the European integration/exploitation project.

That a single currency, the euro, would fracture rather than unite Europe was understood long before the euro’s introduction as legal tender on January 1, 2002. The euro, the currency of 19 of the 28 member states of the European Union, is only one of the various institutions tying the member nations of the European union together, but it is the linchpin of the financial integration touted as one of the primary benefits of EU membership.

Skepticism of the benefits of EU membership is rising, as citizens of the member nations are questioning the surrender of national sovereignty with renewed intensity.

The technocrat elite that holds power in the EU is attempting to marginalize critics as populists, nationalists or fascists, overlooking the untidy reality that the actual source of tyranny is arguably the unelected bureaucrats of the EU who have taken on extraordinary powers to strip the citizenry of member states of civil liberties (i.e. the right to dissent) and of meaningful political enfranchisement.

As I have patiently explained since 2012, the underlying structure of the EU is neocolonialism, specifically, neocolonial-financialization. Stripped of artifice, the financial institutions of the EU core have colonized the EU periphery via the euro and the EU and imposed a modernized system of extractive serfdom on the citizenry of the core and periphery alike.

To understand the neocolonial-financialization model, we must revisit the classic model of colonialism. In the old model of Colonialism, the colonizing power conquered or co-opted the Power Elites of the region, and proceeded to exploit the new colony’s resources and labor to enrich the core or center, i.e. the Imperial nation and its ruling elites.

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Is the Historical Subject Returning, Wearing a Yellow Vest?

Is the Historical Subject Returning, Wearing a Yellow Vest?

If someone were to ask me the meaning of politics, I would say that it is concerned with the contestation of power; that it is agonistic, even antagonistic. And that it has to be, because what it contests is the balance of power wielded by different class interests. As Marx recognised, the underlying purpose of the social, political, economic and even legal institutions of capitalist society is to preserve the monopoly of power enjoyed by the capital-owning class. And, consequently, any attempt to challenge that monopoly, in whatever sphere, is going to be countered, as the yellow-vested protesters are currently experiencing on the streets of Paris.

I point this out because the nature of politics seems to have radically changed over the last couple of decades. Dare I say it, it has become rather apolitical. – concerned more with ameliorating the excesses of capitalism than with challenging the system itself. The dramatic protests against global capitalism that marked the end of the 20thcentury have now settled into a not uneasy truce, as new ‘transnational’ actors have emerged to fill and ‘depoliticise’ the radical space previously occupied by the working class. These new players comprise a panoply of ‘Global Social Justice Movements’, (‘GSJMs’) and ‘Non-Governmental Organisations’, (‘NGOs’) which impose themselves on inchoate civil society all over the globe. Whilst the range of their particularistic interests is vast, they are generally united in the denigration of working class politics. These movements, which tend to be managed by western, middle class personnel,[1] and are very often funded, directly or indirectly by western corporate interests and unelected bodies,[2] eschew the representational demands of the ‘old’ class politics, insisting instead that their ‘individualistic’ agenda wields a higher moral authority.

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The Politics of Post-Growth

THE POLITICS OF POST-GROWTH

The Post-Growth 2018 conference at the European Parliament marked a milestone in the history of the post-growth debate, which has predominately been contained within academic circles. In the first part of a two-part interview, Riccardo Mastini discusses the possibilities and challenges for imagining a world beyond growth with two key post-growth thinkers at the conference.

Riccardo Mastini: We are here in the European Parliament talking about post-growth with academics such as yourselves, but more surprisingly with officials from the European Commission and MEPs. As longstanding thinkers of a world beyond growth where does the battle to imagine a world without growth stand today?

Tim Jackson: It’s still a difficult debate, but not as difficult as it has been. It’s interesting to think of it in historical terms, kicking off with Robert Kennedy’s speech at the University of Kansas in 1968. In that speech, Robert Kennedy wasn’t just questioning GDP as an indicator, he also talked about what makes life worthwhile and what we mean by social progress. That speech is significant in its philosophical and social content and its vision of a different kind of society. In the 50 years between that speech and today much has changed, including in the measurements sphere. The Stiglitz Commission published its report on measurement of social progress in 2009, coinciding almost exactly with the financial crisis. Around the same time, the degrowth movement was beginning to emerge. Over the last 10 years, the conversation has been richer, deeper, and has increasingly involved civil society and resonated with the public.

Yet the debate still doesn’t quite reach political ears in a comfortable way and that’s what is slowly beginning to change. When I wrote Prosperity Without Growth 10 years ago, I was reporting to the British Prime Minister. But as a whole the government wanted it to go away.

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The religion of American Politics

image: Apostle St. Simon the Zelot

When are we willing to fight for our views?  Simon the Zelot was a disciple of Jesus.  He advocated aggression with the Romans.  He literally fought for his views.  I find it odd that Simon was one of the twelve disciples because Jesus seemed very much against violence (unless one considers the story of the  money changers in the temple!)  Politically I consider myself a moderate independent and normally I do not view political views something to fight over…disagree certainly, but this does not include violence!

My political views fall somewhere between a conservative Democrat and a liberal Republican, but since these political positions no longer exist I find my views falling more and more into a vacuum.  I stopped affiliating with the Democratic Party in my late 20’s, but I never switched to the Republican Party.  I have increasingly felt dismayed by the inability of politicians to compromise, to understand the value of the middle ground.  Today political partisanship has brought us to new levels of government dysfunction.  Frankly, it’s getting difficult to relate to my fellow Americans.

I was moved by the speeches made at Senator John McCain’s memorial service as well as those given for President George Bush.  We heard much about their civility and we owe a great deal to the leadership of these two men who served our country with distinction in and out of politics.  Strangely enough when George Bush was elected president I believed the opposite was true.  During Reagan’s term in office I felt our country’s political body was becoming ever more divided.  But after two years of Trump in office I look back with fondness at all Republican presidents before him.

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Courage Before Hope: A Proposal to Weave Emotional and Economic Microsolidarity

Or: What To Do in the Last Decade of the Anthropocene

Anatomical heart drawing

I’ve spent most of the past 2 years travelling with my partner Nati, trying to discover what is the most strategic & wise action to take in a world that seems to be accelerating towards collapse. After an enormous amount of consideration, I have a strategy that feels good enough to engage my will and commitment. This document is a statement of intention. All going well, it’s where I want to invest my productive energy for the next 7 years or so.

I’m developing this plan in three phases:

  • Phase 1 is a lot of conversation and contemplation.
  • Phase 2 is this writing and re-writing process. Writing in public forces me to fill in the gaps in the argument, and to make my assumptions explicit.
  • Phase 3 is where you come in as a reader and collaborator. If you feel struck by this proposal, I’d love for you to improve my thinking with your feedback. The best possible response will be for other people to run related experiments in parallel.

The proposal is very simple. But this is, I hope, the simplicity on the far side of complexity. The design elements come from 7 years of thinking & doing in the Loomio Cooperative and Enspiral Network.

I intend to start a new community as a sibling or cousin of Enspiral: about 30 to 200 people supporting each other to do more meaningful work. Our method will focus on getting people into “crews”, small groups of 3-8 people that start with emotional intimacy and get to economic intimacy. There’s a sequence from psychological safety to shared ownership of productive assets. The larger community functions mostly as a dating pool for people to find their crew-mates.

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

The Demise of the Official Future

Americans are more likely to think the US is heading in the right direction since Donald Trump’s election. Why?

The poll results are extraordinary: the proportion of Americans who thought the country was ‘heading in the right direction’ rose sharply when Donald Trump became president of the US, while the proportion who thought it was ‘off on the wrong track’ dropped. The numbers were even at about 50%.

Negative perceptions have increased again since, but remain lower than during the Obama presidency. In September 2010, the earliest US data in the recent Ipsos report, ‘What worries the world’, about 70% thought the US was on the wrong track, 30% that it was heading in the right direction. In September 2018, the ratio was about 60% ‘wrong track’ to 40% ‘the right direction’ – about the same as the world average.

The US findings are at odds with so much of the media commentary about Trump, especially in the liberal media: his loss of the popular vote, the gerrymandering, the Russian interference, his low approval rating, the sustained criticism of him in the mainstream media. What can explain the trends? I want to offer one explanation, based on a social, not political, analysis; there may be others.

The answers we get in survey questions depend critically on their wording. In this case the question was not asking anything about the presidency, Trump and his actions and utterances. It asked Americans, ‘Generally speaking, would you say things in this country are heading in the right direction, or are they off on the wrong track?’

I have long argued that people’s concerns about modern life and the future have been poorly reflected in politics, and it is this that lies behind the unease and disenchantment in the electorate, not just the conduct of politicians and the merits of specific policies.

Assorted Thoughts On Politics, Humanity, And The World

Assorted Thoughts On Politics, Humanity, And The World

The problem isn’t just that we are ruled by tyrants, it’s that our minds are full of propaganda and cultural mind viruses which cause us to consent to it.

Russophobia and an uncritical emphasis on Trump has been used to scaremonger an annoyingly large percentage of American progressives from focusing on wanting change to focusing on wanting things to go back to how they used to be. Wanting things to go back to how they used to be is wanting the conditions which created Trump.

Patriotism is like the blue pill in The Matrix. You take it and you get to feel good about your country, but you don’t get to know the truth about it.

If everyone suddenly deeply understood on a gut level exactly how horrific war is, all military actions the US and its allies are currently engaged in would be forced to end due to popular revolt.

Under-discussed: secretive government agencies provide support to Silicon Valley corporations, support which they could easily have threatened to give to those corporations’ competitors instead if certain agreements weren’t made.

Anyone who says Russia is about to invade Ukraine or the Baltic states is either lying or ignorant. A nation with an economy the size of Spain which has been gutting its military budget is not gearing up for World War Three.

Russia’s military personality is a lot like the personality of the stereotypical Russian military veteran: stoic and reserved when left unprovoked, but willing and able to put you in a wheelchair if you invade his personal space. It should be treated accordingly.

People who don’t believe that these idiotic escalations against Russia can lead to nuclear war have simply compartmentalized away from fully considering all the possibilities. They have done this out of intellectual cowardice.

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
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