Friday, December 12, 2014

American Feudalism - 11

Walled City: One-percentville
Over the years Dredd Blog posts have stopped from time to time to consider Detroit.

This is the city of the GM bailout, the city with a walled castle inside, and at the same time a city of ruins outside those walls.

If you want something to cry about, a place to be empathetic about, a place where you can look deep into the economic culture of America, a place to see our
Outsiders: Ninety-Nine-percentville
American Feudalism posing as the American Dream, then check out Detroit.

I have mentioned Detroit in some previous posts in this and other Dredd Blog series (e.g. The Common Good - 8).

Posts within several series of posts that point out the stark inequality there in Detroit and elsewhere (The Graphs of the Age of Plunder - 3, The Homeland: Big Brother Plutonomy - 9, A Tale of Coup Cities - 11, American Feudalism - 10).

The Detroit Chapter Nine Bankruptcy shows how the laws have been constructed to extract plunder from the working class; where pensions of workers are taken, then given as plunder to the plutocrats via a cultural circuitry, a neofeudal structure reminiscent of a plutonomy.

A type of structure which is always rife with negative feedback loops that perpetuate or increase the feudal state's inequality until that state collapses.

As a result of this cultural cannibalism the U.S. is no longer the greatest economy, having very recently dropped to number 2:
Hang on to your hats, America.

And throw away that big, fat styrofoam finger while you’re about it.

There’s no easy way to say this, so I’ll just say it: We’re no longer No. 1. Today, we’re No. 2. Yes, it’s official. The Chinese economy just overtook the United States economy to become the largest in the world. For the first time since Ulysses S. Grant was president, America is not the leading economic power on the planet.

It just happened — and almost nobody noticed.

The International Monetary Fund recently released the latest numbers for the world economy. And when you measure national economic output in “real” terms of goods and services, China will this year produce $17.6 trillion — compared with $17.4 trillion for the U.S.A.

As recently as 2000, we produced nearly three times as much as the Chinese.

To put the numbers slightly differently, China now accounts for 16.5% of the global economy when measured in real purchasing-power terms, compared with 16.3% for the U.S.

This latest economic earthquake follows the development last year when China surpassed the U.S. for the first time in terms of global trade.
(Economic War Of The Pacific - 4).  Don't take my word alone for it, consider another way of describing it:
"Detroit is struggling with the largest municipal bankruptcy in the nation's history, which was brought on in part by the flight of both residents and businesses in recent decades. But Detroit's downtown area is enjoying rapid growth. The busy, 7.2-square-mile area stands in sharp contrast to the stretches of abandoned homes, closed factories and urban decay that dominate most of the city.”
(CNN: Hottest Downtown, emphasis added). Those who are within the castle walls, built with a bubble of plunder, will not have to continue to worry (e.g. Feudal Immunity, Follow The Immunity, 2, 3).

But their serfs and peasants outside the walls in the ruins will have to continue to worry:
If all goes as planned ... the pension system that the settlement leaves behind has some of the same problems that plunged the city into crisis in the first place — fundamental problems that could also trip up other local governments in the coming years. Like many other public systems, it relies on a funding formula that lags the true cost of the pensions, and is predicated on a forecast investment return that the judge, Steven W. Rhodes, himself sharply
"Mmmm ... we taste good"
questioned during the trial on Detroit’s bankruptcy plan.

Moreover, if Detroit finds itself confronting another fiscal crisis in the near future, it can no longer tap the museum’s art collection, which many saw as its top asset.

These risks might not matter if Detroit’s pension obligations were just a marginal part of the city’s finances. But they are not. Even after the benefit cuts, the city’s 32,000 current and future retirees are entitled to pensions worth more than $500 million a year — more than twice the city’s annual municipal income-tax receipts in recent years. Contributions to the system will not be nearly enough to cover these payouts, so success depends on strong, consistent investment returns, averaging at least 6.75 percent a year for the next 10 years. Any shortfall will have to ultimately be covered by the taxpayers.
(Detroit ... Bankruptcy ... Pension Risks Linger, emphasis added). The pensioners who (all of their working lives) paid premiums taken from each pay-check were stabbed in the back by their overlords.

Greedy overlords who plundered the middle class pensions and broke their word (Banker Jekyll Will Hyde Your Money, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11).

This type of cultural cannibalism takes place when one part of a society "wilfully forgets" what it is, then feeds on its own kind exceptionally thinking that only they, the overlords, are the true Americans (Ayn Rand: Patron Saint of The Plutocracy, Phases Of An Empire Freezing To Death - 2).

It is the Judas Kiss trance we are observing (The Judas Number - 30 - Pieces of Silver, Choose Your Trances Carefully).

The previous post in this series is here.

Chomsky interviewed by Laura Flanders:

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Oil-Qaeda Wins Big - 3

A while back in a couple of posts (Oil-Qaeda Wins Big, 2) I pondered the apparent mismatch between a state's favorite music compared to a state's newly elected senators.

This I did with data from only a few states (Arkansas, Kansas, Iowa) nevertheless, the results are very interesting.

The results from one of those states is shown below:

State: Arkansas
Music: Wiz Khalifa

Senator: Tom Cotton (R)

See Senator Tom's photo below the following text:
Cotton, you see, is the golden child of the Republican party's hawkish establishment. He still calls the 2003 Iraq invasion a "just and noble" war. He's young — just 37 — and fervently backed by some of the most influential conservative figures in the nation.

Like much of the GOP class of 2014, Cotton is extremely conservative on domestic policy. He scored a 92 on the influential Club for Growth's House scorecard last year, a rough approximation of a member's conservatism measured by their votes on economic legislation. That 92 puts him in the top 5 percent of most conservative House members.

But it's foreign policy where Cotton really distinguishes himself from the pack. As the Atlantic's Molly Ball breaks down in a fascinating profile, the Senator-elect's career began in 2006 with his criticism of the New York Times for revealing a clandestine US spying program targeting terrorist finances. "By the time we return home," he wrote to the Times reporters, "maybe you will be in your rightful place: not at the Pulitzer announcements, but behind bars."

At the time, Cotton was a lieutenant serving in Baghdad. When his letter was published on the conservative blog Powerline, it went the 2006 equivalent of viral and Cotton became a conservative media darling. He began corresponding with Bill Kristol, the editor of the flagship neoconservative publication, the Weekly Standard. According to Ball, Kristol and Cotton developed what the former calls "a bond beyond pure policy" over their shared foreign policy views.

Conclusion: Since Tom Cotton is not one of "We Dem Boyz" I would have to say that there is a cultural disconnect between the electorate and politicians.

That disconnect is probably because the young people who listen to Arkansas' favorite musician (Wiz Khalifa) are not voting.

At least not voting for senators.

Or, if not that, then the election system may be defective seeing as how we are at number 23 (or thereabouts)  in the nations of the world --when it comes to fair elections (as shown in the second post of this series).

The previous post in this series is here.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Evolution From Left To Right - 6

The south has risen again ... at least as regards the U.S. Senate.

The map to the left shows the trend.

Any challenges to the trend will be handled in the First Interstate Starchamber of Amurka, previously designated as the FISA court.

One thing that the new right-wing star chamber will not do is the required prosecution for torture, even though it is in our law so clearly that once upon a time even police officers were indicted and prosecuted for doing water boarding (President Reagan Puts Cheney In Jail).

But now, we have devolved from that kinder and gentler place to the far right, where now the police can murder in open public and not even be charged by state officials.

A place where international treaties and US laws against torture are systematically ignored:
Readers don't have to go far into the Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report before their stomachs start to turn. Detainees pushed to the edge of death, threatened with sexual assault, made to wear diapers and force-fed by way of a rectal tube -- and that’s just in the first few pages.

But despite the gruesome details, nobody at the CIA or in the military has been prosecuted for any wrongdoing related to the brutal interrogations. And it doesn't appear that's about to change.

It's up to the Justice Department to decide if legal charges should be brought. Beginning in 2009, John Durham, a special prosecutor appointed by Attorney General Eric Holder, looked into allegations of people being mistreated while in the custody of the U.S. government after the 9/11 attacks and ended up conducting two criminal investigations. But the Justice Department declined to prosecute in either case on the grounds that the admissible evidence wasn't sufficient "to obtain and sustain convictions beyond a reasonable doubt," according to a department spokesman.
(No Torture Prosecutions, cf. Torture is a Crime). Officials in the agencies that did the torture lie about it in public, on camera, without accountability.

Public figures such as Cheney and Bush II are in denial about there being anything wrong with them torturing people.

Meanwhile, drones that are piloted and navigated from Nevada kill innocent people (and perhaps some guilty people too) even as the current Obama administration sees nothing wrong with that (we don't know if those victims are innocent or guilty because they are not charged and tried as our constitution requires, rather, they are blown to bits).

All this is a stain upon the reputation of the U.S. and its people, which makes foreign policy much more difficult.

The loss of reputation comes at a time when we are clearly in decline in other areas (Phases Of An Empire Freezing To Death - 2, Economic War Of The Pacific - 4, Another Sign of Another Layer in the Oil Wars? - 2).

The elephant in the room is that the Senate Torture Report is written history posing as oversight, yet we know that true oversight must be at least done in real time, but it's even better when there is foresight in the oversight.

Otherwise, it is as if the ship of state is being steered by looking in the rear view mirror to see where we have been, instead of steering by looking out the front wind-shield to see where we are headed (Titanic Mistakes Using The W Compass).

This kind of psychotic official thinking is what destroys the fabric of once-healthy societies, because good governing requires vision and good morals.

The world is quite aware of the situation and has spoken out in public demanding a prosecution of those who did torture or aided and abetted it:
The summary of the Feinstein report which was released this afternoon confirms what the international community has long believed – that there was a clear policy orchestrated at a high level within the Bush administration, which allowed to commit systematic crimes and gross violations of international human rights law.

The identities of the perpetrators, and many other details, have been redacted in the published summary report but are known to the Select Committee and to those who provided the Committee with information on the programme.
It is now time to take action. The individuals responsible for the criminal conspiracy revealed in today’s report must be brought to justice, and must face criminal penalties commensurate with the gravity of their crimes.

The fact that the policies revealed in this report were authorised at a high level within the US Government provides no excuse whatsoever. Indeed, it reinforces the need for criminal accountability.
It is no defence for a public official to claim that they were acting on superior orders. CIA officers who physically committed acts of torture therefore bear individual criminal responsibility for their conduct, and cannot hide behind the authorisation they were given by their superiors.

However, the heaviest penalties should be reserved for those most seriously implicated in the planning and purported authorisation of these crimes. Former Bush Administration officials who have admitted their involvement in the programme should also face criminal prosecution for their acts.

President Obama made it clear more than five years ago that the US Government recognises the use of waterboarding as torture. There is therefore no excuse for shielding the perpetrators from justice any longer. The US Attorney General is under a legal duty to bring criminal charges against those responsible.

Torture is a crime of universal jurisdiction. The perpetrators may be prosecuted by any other country they may travel to. However, the primary responsibility for bringing them to justice rests with the US Department of Justice and the Attorney General.
(UN Official: Prosecute “Systematic Crimes and Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law”, emphasis added). Some Americans who have followed the situation are more harsh than the U.N. official:
From now on, the US is a human rights violator of the first order under international law, a rogue state that has explicitly tortured innocent people and never held anyone legally responsible. I know that sounds terribly harsh. But how is it untrue? And to refuse to prosecute war crimes is to condone war crimes. Not burglary or robbery – but the gravest crimes against humanity that we can imagine. The perpetrators walk among us, many still in the CIA, and some holding presidential Medals of Freedom. Whatever absurd self-congratulations about this report, we should be in no doubt that this makes us no better in this respect than some South American junta before the transition to democracy.
(How Obama Backed Impunity For War Crimes, emphasis added). Has the U.S. now evolved so far to the right that it is now a refuge for war criminals and the MOMCOM of ISIS (Isis: the inside story, How Neocons led US to war in Iraq)?

The previous post in this series is here.

"Revolution", The Beatles (lyrics)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Ministry of Truth

"Are you ready for some truth?"
Unlike the current species of The Ministry of Truth (MOT), which covers up its real nature with a fabricated public patina, the original MOT was not so inclined.

On the outside wall of the original MOT, described in the book 1984, are three of the slogans of the Tea of Truth Party (TOTP): "WAR IS PEACE," "FREEDOM IS SLAVERY," "IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH."

When the Authoritarian Type B members of the Tea of Truth Party get together for tea, they talk about supporting Authoritarian Type A members absolutely, unequivocally, and resolutely.

It is a matter of honor for TOTP, who love the "good side" of the Type A member, but who fear the "bad side" of the Type A member, thus, their favorite brain food is ignorance, which they call "the strength of the party" (Agnotology: The Surge).

You may be surprised to learn that the authoritarian TOTP is a two-headed entity:
You never would have heard of my research if [John Dean] had not recently plowed through my studies, trying to understand, first, various people he knew in the Nixon White House, and then some leading figures of the Republican
Party of 2004. [p. 4]
Authoritarianism is something authoritarian followers and authoritarian leaders cook up between themselves. It happens when the followers submit too much to the leaders, trust them too much, and give them too much leeway to do whatever they want -- which often is something undemocratic, tyrannical and brutal. In my day, authoritarian fascist and authoritarian communist dictatorships posed the biggest threats to democracies, and eventually lost to them in wars both hot and cold. But authoritarianism itself has not disappeared, and I'm going to present the case in this book that the greatest threat to American democracy today arises from a militant authoritarianism that has become a cancer upon the nation. [p. 8]
(The Authoritarians, by professor Bob Altemeyer, emphasis added). It may help to think of type B as enablers, and type A as bullies.

The interactions between bullies and enablers has led to an evolution from left to right, which includes torture, as the torture report being released today (information that we already knew) confirms.

President Ronald Reagan would be considered a RINO by today's evolved republicans, and would be considered left of center by the evolved democrats (President Reagan Puts Cheney In Jail).

Some art of 9/11 ...

Monday, December 8, 2014

Economic War Of The Pacific - 4

China is Now Number One
I began this series in October of 2009, wondering how seriously "it" would be taken.

Economists are considered by many to be aliens from way out there somewhere (Economists - Aliens From Cygnus?).

So, not many people in the U.S. considered China (as we once did Japan) seriously, even as the nation of China was taking "it" seriously, but now that "it" has happened years earlier than had been expected, "it" may now be considered serious business:
Hang on to your hats, America.

And throw away that big, fat styrofoam finger while you’re about it.

There’s no easy way to say this, so I’ll just say it: We’re no longer No. 1. Today, we’re No. 2. Yes, it’s official. The Chinese economy just overtook the United States economy to become the largest in the world. For the first time since Ulysses S. Grant was president, America is not the leading economic power on the planet.

It just happened — and almost nobody noticed.

The International Monetary Fund recently released the latest numbers for the world economy. And when you measure national economic output in “real” terms of goods and services, China will this year produce $17.6 trillion — compared with $17.4 trillion for the U.S.A.

As recently as 2000, we produced nearly three times as much as the Chinese.

To put the numbers slightly differently, China now accounts for 16.5% of the global economy when measured in real purchasing-power terms, compared with 16.3% for the U.S.

This latest economic earthquake follows the development last year when China surpassed the U.S. for the first time in terms of global trade.
(It’s Official: America is Now No. 2, emphasis added). In 2009, five years ago, when the U.S. was well ahead, I wrote:
[Lee Yew] predicted that the U.S. is on its way to losing dominance in the Pacific, where according to Yew, the economic game of the future will take place:
“The 21st century will be a contest for supremacy in the Pacific because that’s where the growth will be,” Lee said. U.S. President Barack Obama, he said, must understand this.

“If you do not hold your ground in the Pacific you cannot be a world leader,” Lee said, “That’s number one.”

“Number two, to hold ground in the Pacific, you must not let your fiscal deficits and dollar come to grief,” he said.
(Bloomberg). He indicated a great concern, which we have mentioned time and again on this blog, which is the war against the use of the U.S. currency as the world's business currency.

He fully expects India and China to become economically dominant through cold, calculating, economic pragmatism as the United States diminishes to third-rate, then less.
(Economic War Of The Pacific). One thing that Lee Yew surely did not expect to happen was how suddenly it took place, because he also said:
“In 30 years they’ll have an economy, not per capita but in total terms, bigger than the U.S.A.,” and China is now building political and strategic influence to protect its economic growth, Lee said.
(ibid, at quote). He expected this "China is number one" to take place circa 2039, but it happened 25 years sooner than that in 2014.

Incredibly, it happened in only a mere 5 years, not in the expected 30 years.

In the previous post of this series I followed up on this issue, reading economists who saw "it" happening sooner than Lee Yew had:
Almost exactly five years later, I followed up with The Government Catastrophe Has Already Happened, pointing out that while officials in the U.S. government squabble and waste our wealth and time, our reputation in the world plummets (Decline of U.S. Reputation - Why?, She's Come Undone).

During that time other Dredd Blog Series added details (First Shots Fired In The Currency Wars, Phase Five Of The Currency Wars? - 3, Clash of the Titans of Export, Clash of the Titans of Export - 2, and the like.

Regular readers know that Dredd Blog had the direction things were going clearly in sight:
The US is on the brink of losing its status as the world’s largest economy, and is likely to slip behind China this year, sooner than widely anticipated, according to the world’s leading statistical agencies.

The US has been the global leader since overtaking the UK in 1872. Most economists previously thought China would pull ahead in 2019.
(Financial Times; or Voice of America). This new estimation written about in a report by the International Comparison Program, which is part of the United Nations, puts the date about five years earlier than previously expected.
(Economic War Of The Pacific - 3). No one would have said it would happen in five years, in 2014, but it has.

Wars are bringing the 1% to their thrones of wealth (American Feudalism - 10) even as those wars are bringing the 99% to more poverty and inequality (The Greatest Source Of Power Toxins?, War is the Highway 61 of the 1%).

The next post in this series is here, the previous post in this series is here.

"Telegraph Road", by Dire Straits (lyrics)

Another Sign of Another Layer in the Oil Wars? - 2

"The OPEC" oil cartel is acting up like "the innertubes" electronic cartel where "the Google" thrives.

Neither OPEC nor the Internet want to be governed by the outside dynamics that have lately been orchestrated by outsiders.

The "U.S. frackers" pushed at OPEC and now OPEC is holding a steady course of crude oil pumping, which is pushing back at the U.S. frackers.

In the previous post of this series we wondered about the intentions and motivations of OPEC for not cutting its oil production in the face of an oil glut.

(What we did know when we asked that question is that their tactics and strategies have nothing to do with solving the problems that form the pillars of the global warming paradox which their crude oil drug peddling is causing.)

But we do know more about OPEC's intentions, led by Saudi Arabia, based on their own statements made at the recent OPEC gathering.

A gathering that had some observers expecting a drop in crude oil production, along with some OPEC members urging a drop in production as a tactic to increase oil prices.

The cause of the problem of dropping prices is an oil glut ostensibly caused by the U.S.
Oilah Akbar! or a Judas Kiss?
"fracking boom" which now faces the potential of becoming a U.S. "fracking bust" in this ongoing, now out-in-the-open kerfuffle:
Saudi Arabia's oil minister told fellow OPEC members they must combat the U.S. shale oil boom, arguing against cutting crude output in order to depress prices and undermine the profitability of North American producers.
(Naimi Declares Price War on U.S. Shale Oil). How far this will go is anybody's guess, but those who follow the money say the price is too tight for a lot of the "tight oil plays" out there.

Others note that there is also some "domino business" (a.k.a. unintended consequence) taking place:
Oil prices that reached a five-year low on Friday are starting to take a bite out of profits at TD Bank and are raising concerns for the rest of the country's top lenders.

Canada's biggest banks earn up to 20 per cent of their revenues through providing investment and corporate banking services, with oil and gas companies an important part of that client base.
(Oil Price Drop Threatens Bank Revenues). How long the "steady as she goes" OPEC production strategy continues will determine most of the outcome.

That is, it will determine the damages to the U.S. fracking business, and perhaps whether the citizens will be required to bail the frackers out (or their banksters).

Stay tuned.

The previous post in this series is here.