Written by Chris Floyd
Tuesday, 23 November 2010 21:10
A few quick takes, as we dig out from the latest hack.
Money for Old Rope
This is what $70 billion a year in whiz-bang, top-shelf "intelligence" buys you: Taliban Leader in Secret Talks Was an Impostor.
The United States of Insouciance
his return from a self-imposed hiatus, Paul Craig Roberts has been a
man on fire, penning a series of riveting, ravaging articles that speak
hard truth to the imperial state -- and to a society seemingly content
to countenance, if not cheer, that state's worst malefactions. Roberts
has done it again with his latest piece: "Insouciant Americans." Get thee hence, and read.
hard to understand why all our serious commentators are writing that
Barack Obama's presidency is in trouble, and offering sage advice, from
right, left, and center, on what he needs to do to "get back on track."
The truth, of course, is that Barack Obama's presidency is a smashing
success -- indeed, a record-breaking success -- and that he is accomplishing exactly what he was put into office to do, as the New York Times reports today: Corporate Profits Were the Highest on Record Last Quarter.
Chronicles of Corruption
My old Moscow Times comrade Matt Taibbi adds another chapter
to his on-going -- and jaw-dropping -- series of stories on the
deliberate evisceration of ordinary Americans by their monied and
minatory betters. Taibbi has few equals when it comes to explaining the
true depth and extent of American corruption -- and almost no equal when
it comes to actually reporting on it from the front lines. He is
creating a record of the reality of our times that future historians
(yes, yes, if there are any) will find invaluable.
The Dissident Path
Hedges is another incendiary voice, burning through the threadbare
curtain of liberal piety and exceptionalist myth to expose the corroded
heart of a nation sliding into barbarity. His latest piece at Truthdig is an excellent example, so we'll finish here with a few choice quotes:
is no hope left for achieving significant reform or restoring our
democracy through established mechanisms of power. The electoral process
has been hijacked by corporations. The judiciary has been corrupted and
bought. The press shuts out the most important voices in the country
and feeds us the banal and the absurd. Universities prostitute
themselves for corporate dollars. Labor unions are marginal and
ineffectual forces. The economy is in the hands of corporate swindlers
and speculators. And the public, enchanted by electronic hallucinations,
remains passive and supine. We have no tools left within the power
structure in our fight to halt unchecked corporate pillage.
liberal class, which Barack Obama represents, was never endowed with
much vision or courage, but it did occasionally respond when pressured
by popular democratic movements. This was how we got the New Deal, civil
rights legislation and the array of consumer legislation pushed through
by Ralph Nader and his allies in the Democratic Party. The complete
surrendering of power, however, to corporate interests means that those
of us who seek nonviolent yet profound change have no one within the
power elite we can trust for support. The corporate coup has ossified
the structures of power. It has obliterated all checks on corporate
malfeasance. It has left us stripped of the tools of mass organization
that once nudged the system forward toward justice. ....
worst premonitions are becoming reality. Our intuition has proved
correct. We are reaching the breaking point. An explosion, unless we
halt the increased pressure, seems inevitable. And what is left for
those of us who cannot embrace the contaminants of violence? If the
system shuts us out how can we influence it through nonviolent
mechanisms of popular protest? How can we restore a civil society? How
can we battle back against those who will mobilize hatred to cement into
place an American fascism?
I do not
know if we can win this battle. I suspect we cannot. But I do know that
if we stop resisting, if we stop rebelling, something fundamental will
die within us. As the corporate vise tightens, as the vast corporate
system begins to break down with fossil fuel decline, extreme climate
change and the expansion of global poverty, even mundane and ordinary
acts to assert our common humanity and justice will be condemned as
It is time to think of
resistance in a new way, something that is no longer carried out to
reform a system but as an end in itself. African-Americans understood
this during the long night of slavery. German opposition leaders
understood it under the Nazis. Dissidents in the former Soviet Union
knew this during the nightmare of communism. Resistance in these closed
systems was local and often solitary. It was done with the understanding
that evil must always be defied. The tiny acts of rebellion—day after
day, month after month, year after year and decade after decade—exposed
to everyone who witnessed them the heartlessness, cruelty and inhumanity
of the oppressor. They were acts of truth and beauty. We must take to
the street. We must jam as many wrenches into the corporate system as we
can. We must not make it easy for them. But we also must no longer live
in self-delusion. This is a battle that will outlive us. And if we
fight, even with this tragic vision, we will lead lives worth living and
keep alive another way of being.
Written by Chris Floyd
Sunday, 21 November 2010 01:13
I had intended to write a piece about the Washington Post story on the American deployment of battle tanks to Afghanistan for the first time, and how this development is part of the "harder edge" that David Petraeus and Barack Obama are now applying to the people of Afghanistan -- increasing air strikes and night raids on villages, razing houses, and "blowing up stuff and killing people who need to be killed." Together, Obama and Petraeus are driving a savage "uptick" in violence, death and destruction in the occupied land -- a bloodthirsty process which has been almost universally ignored in the mainstream media, until the Post story by Rajiv Chandrasekaran.
But now I see that Arthur Silber is already on the case, with an extraordinary post that hits much harder, deeper and wider than the one I had planned to write. So nothing remains for me to do except to point you toward Silber's remarkable essay. I'm not even going to excerpt it, because that would slow you down; just get over there now and read it without delay.
Written by Chris Floyd
Monday, 22 November 2010 23:32
We are under hack attack again. Just wanted to remind you that if you ever find this site in some difficulty, you can always check the original site, Empire Burlesque 1.0, where any new posts will be published, until the storm blows over.
Written by Chris Floyd
Thursday, 18 November 2010 23:29
There are a number of basic facts that are largely ignored in today's world, at a great cost to a great many people. Here's one: Military forces are designed to carry out military operations. You cannot use them for nation-building or constructing a civic society; if you do, you will fail. This fact is so evident, so banal, that one is almost embarrassed to point it out. Yet apparently it remains a wonderment, an unfathomable conception, to the makers of state policy -- even those reportedly intelligent enough to play 11-dimensional chess.
Now here is another blatantly obvious, common-as-dirt fact: The market is designed to make money. If you rely on the market to achieve social goals -- such as the allieviation of poverty, or the provision of public services necessary for the common good -- then you will fail. And these failures, as with the military, will generally be catastrophic, exacerbating the problems they are intended (or purporting) to address.
A recent story in the New York Times about the crisis in the Indian microfinance industry is a case in point. Microcredit -- giving small loans to those in dire poverty to help them establish businesses, build homes, sustain farms, etc. -- has been much touted in recent years as a win-win situation: the poor get much-needed cash, while investors in micofinance reap socially acceptable profits. As the Times puts it:
In recent years, foundations, venture capitalists and the World Bank have used India as a petri dish for similar for-profit “social enterprises” that seek to make money while filling a social need. Like-minded industries have sprung up in Africa, Latin America and other parts of Asia.
But the flaw in this noble scheme is readily apparent: seeking to "make money while filling a social need." These are two entirely separate endeavors, with two entirely separate goals. Once a market is created, with whatever benign intentions, it is inevitable that it will be used, and eventually dominated, by those seeking to maximize their profits, regardless of social needs. There is no great scandal in this fact; that's what markets are for. And this inevitable heedless maximization is now happening in India, as the Times reports:
But microfinance in pursuit of profits has led some microcredit companies around the world to extend loans to poor villagers at exorbitant interest rates and without enough regard for their ability to repay. Some companies have more than doubled their revenues annually.
“These institutions are using quite coercive methods to collect,” said V. Vasant Kumar, the state’s minister for rural development. “They aren’t looking at sustainability or ensuring the money is going to income-generating activities. They are just making money.”
Reddy Subrahmanyam, a senior official who helped write the Andhra Pradesh legislation, accuses microfinance companies of making “hyperprofits off the poor,” and said the industry had become no better than the widely despised village loan sharks it was intended to replace.
“The money lender lives in the community,” he said. “At least you can burn down his house. With these companies, it is loot and scoot.”
...Vijay Mahajan, the chairman of Basix, an organization that provides loans and other services to the poor, acknowledged that many lenders grew too fast and lent too aggressively. Investments by private equity firms and the prospect of a stock market listing drove firms to increase lending as fast as they could, he said.
“In their quest to grow,” he said, “they kept piling on more loans in the same geographies.” He added, “That led to more indebtedness, and in some cases it led to suicides.”
You cannot fruitfully address social problems with a mechanism designed to create private profit -- just as you cannot build a peaceful, stable society with an organization designed to kill people and blow things up. Yet multitudes are suffering and dying all over the world from these delusions. And because they augment the wealth and dominance of the powerful, these corrosive myths will continue to be propagated with evangelical fervor by those same elites and their sycophants -- to the detriment of social needs, of national security, of the common good and the daily lives of countless individuals.