Made For Each Other

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By James Howard Kunstler

Source: Kunstler.com

Don’t be fooled by the idiotic exertions of the Red team and the Blue team. They’re just playing a game of “Capture the Flag” on the deck of the Titanic. The ship is the techno-industrial economy. It’s going down because it has taken on too much water (debt), and the bilge pump (the oil industry) is losing its mojo.

Neither faction understands what is happening, though they each have an elaborate delusional narrative to spin in the absence of any credible plan for adapting the life of our nation to the precipitating realities. The Blues and Reds are mirrors of each other’s illusions, and rage follows when illusions die, so watch out. Both factions are ready to blow up the country before they come to terms with what is coming down.

What’s coming down is the fruit of the gross mismanagement of our society since it became clear in the 1970s that we couldn’t keep living the way we do indefinitely — that is, in a 24/7 blue-light-special demolition derby. It’s amazing what you can accomplish with accounting fraud, but in the end it is an affront to reality, and reality has a way of dealing with punks like us. Reality has a magic trick of its own: it can make the mirage of false prosperity evaporate.

That’s exactly what’s going to happen and it will happen because finance is the least grounded, most abstract, of the many systems we depend on. It runs on the sheer faith that parties can trust each other to meet obligations. When that conceit crumbles, and banks can’t trust other banks, credit relations seize up, money vanishes, and stuff stops working. You can’t get any cash out of the ATM. The trucker with a load of avocados won’t make delivery to the supermarket because he knows he won’t be paid. The avocado grower will have to watch the rest of his crop rot. The supermarket shelves empty out. And you won’t have any guacamole.

There are too many fault lines in the mighty edifice of our accounting fraud for the global banking system to keep limping along, to keep pretending it can meet its obligations. These fault lines run through the bond markets, the stock markets, the banks themselves at all levels, the government offices that pretend to regulate spending, the offices that affect to report economic data, the offices that neglect to regulate criminal misconduct, the corporate boards and C-suites, the insurance companies, the pension funds, the guarantors of mortgages, car loans, and college loans, and the ratings agencies. The pervasive accounting fraud bleeds a criminal ethic into formerly legitimate enterprises like medicine and higher education, which become mere rackets, extracting maximum profits while skimping on delivery of the goods.

All this is going to overwhelm Trump soon, and he will flounder trying to deal with a gargantuan mess. It will surely derail his wish to make America great again — a la 1962, with factories humming, and highways yet to build, and adventures in outer space, and a comforting sense of superiority over all the sad old battered empires abroad. I maintain it could get so bad so fast that Trump will be removed by a cadre of generals and intelligence officers who can’t stand to watch someone acting like Captain Queeg in the pilot house.

That itself might be salutary, since only some kind of extreme shock is likely to roust the Blue and Red factions from their trenches of dumb narrative. If the Democratic Party had put one-fiftieth of the effort it squanders on transgender bathroom privileges into policy for mitigating our tragic misinvestments in suburban sprawl, we might have gotten a head-start toward a plausible future. Instead, the Democratic Party has turned into a brats-only nursery school, with the kiddies fighting over who gets to play with the Legos. The Republican Party is Norma Desmond’s house in Sunset Boulevard, starring Donald Trump as Max the Butler, working extra-hard to keep the illusions of yesteryear going.

All of this nonsense is a distraction from the task at hand: figuring out how to live in the post techno-industrial world. That world is not going to operate the ways we’re used to. It will crush our assumptions and expectations. Lying about everything won’t be an option. We won’t have the extra resources to cover up our dishonesty. Our money better be sound or it will be laughed at, and then you’ll starve or freeze to death. You’d better hope the rule of law endures and work on keeping it alive where you live. And nobody will get special brownie points for the glory of sexual confusion.

I look for the financial fireworks to start around March – April, as the irresolvable debt ceiling debate in congress grinds into a bitter stalemate, and it becomes obvious that there will be no voucher for the great infrastructure spending orgy that Trump’s MAGA is based on. Elections in France and the Netherlands have the potential to shake apart the European Union, and with that the footing of European banks. Pretty soon, everybody in all parties and factions will be asking: “Where did the glittering promises of Modernity go…?” As we slip-side into the first stages of a world made by hand.

Posted in Corporate Crime, Corruption, culture, Dirty Politics, divide and conquer, Dystopia, Economics, Financial Crisis, propaganda, Social Control, Social Engineering, society, Sociology, State Crime | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The “White Helmets” Go To Hollywood

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By Rick Sterling

Source: TruePublica

The netflix movie “The White Helmets” may win an Oscar in the “short documentary” category at the Academy Awards on Sunday February 26.  It will not be a surprise, despite the fact that the group is a fraud and the movie is a contrived infomercial.

The White Helmets are a “feel good” story like a Disney hero movie: 90% myth and fabrication. Most of what is claimed about the Syrian rescue group is untrue. They are not primarily Syrian; the group was initiated by British military contractor James LeMesurier and has been heavily funded (about $100 million) by the USA, UK and other governments. They are not volunteers; they are paid. This is confirmed in the Al Jazeera video which shows some White Helmet “volunteers’ talking about going on strike if they don’t get paid soon. Most of the heavy funding goes to the marketing which is run by “The Syria Campaign” based in New York. The manager is an Irish America woman Anna Nolan who has never been to Syria. As an example of its deception, “The Syria Campaign” website features video showing children dancing and playing soccer implying they are part of the opposition demand for a “free and peaceful” Syria . But the video images are taken from a 2010 BBC documentary about education in Syria under the Baath government.

When eastern Aleppo was finally freed from the armed militants, it was discovered that the White Helmets headquarters were alongside the headquarters of the Al Qaeda Syrian militant group. Civilians from east Aleppo reported that the White Helmets primarily responded when the militants were attacked. Soon after departing Aleppo in government supplied buses (!) the White Helmets showed up in the mountains above Damascus where they allied with terrorist groups in poisoning then shutting off the water source for five million people in Damascus.

The White Helmets’ claim to be neutral and independent is another lie. They only work in areas controlled by the rebel groups, primarily Nusra/ Al Qaeda.  Their leaders actively call for US and NATO intervention in Syria. Video shows White Helmet workers picking up the corpse of a civilian after execution and celebrating Nusra / Al Qaeda terrorist battle wins.

The movie is as fraudulent as the group it tries to heroize. The film-makers never set foot in Syria. Their video footage takes place in southern Turkey where they show White Helmet trainees in a hotel and talking on cell phones. Thrilling. There is some footage from inside Syria but it looks contrived.  The opening scene depicts a White Helmet “volunteer” going to work and beseeching his son not to give mommy a hard time. Real or scripted?

The message is simple: here are people we can support; they are under attack by the brutal “regime”…shouldn’t we “do something” to stop it??!

Khaled Khatib is said to be the person who filmed the footage from inside Syria. He has reportedly received a US visa and will attend the Oscars. This will likely garner special media attention. Ironically, some of those who have exploited the refugee issue for their own fund-raising campaigns, like Human Rights Watch, are groups which promote the war which created the refugee crisis.

Khatib has tweeted the first video he took showing the White Helmets. It looks remarkably unrealistic, with a girl who was totally buried being removed without injuries or wounds or even much dirt. Is it really possible to rescue people that quickly? In the real world, rescue workers are told to work slowly so as to not damage or exacerbate body injuries. The original video has the logo of Aleppo Media Center (AMC) which was created by the Syrian Expatriates Organization.  Their address on K Street in Washington DC suggests this is yet another Western funded media campaign driven by political objectives.

In the past few days, with perfect timing for the upcoming Oscars, there is yet another “miracle” rescue …. another girl totally buried but then removed and whisked away in record breaking time – perfect for social media.  Is it real or is it contrived?

This raises a question regarding the integrity of the Oscar Academy Awards. Are awards given for actual quality, authenticity, skill and passion?  Or are Oscar awards sometimes given under political and financial influence?  There is political motivation to promote the White Helmets as part of the effort to prevent the collapse of the Western/Israeli/regional campaign to overthrow the Syrian government.  These same governments have given boatloads of money to fuel the propaganda campaign. Last week Syria Solidarity Movement reached out to three marketing firms in the LA area to request help challenging the White Helmets nomination.  Two of the firms declined and the third said they were already being paid to promote the nomination!

The true source and purpose of the White Helmets was exposed almost two years ago. More recently Vanessa Beeley has documented the fact there is a REAL Syrian Civil Defence which was begun in the 1950’s and is a member of the International Civil Defense Organizations. This organization is opposite to the group created in Turkey in 2013. According to on-the-ground interviews in Aleppo, terrorists began by killing real Syrian rescue workers and stealing their equipment.  Since then the White Helmets have been supplied, by the West through Turkey, with brand new ambulances and related rescue equipment.

Max Blumenthal has written a two part detailed examination of the “shadowy PR firm” behind the “White Helmets”. And Jan Oberg has written an overview survey of the “pro” and “con” examinations in his work “Just How Gray are the White Helmets”.

Yet mainstream media, and some ‘alternative’ media, continue to uncritically promote the myth of the “White Helmets”. The promoters of the group absolutely deserve an award for marketing and advertising.  This is a field where truth and reality is irrelevant; it’s all about sales and manipulation. On that basis, the “White Helmets” has been an incredible success. The group was started as “Syria Civil Defense”  in Turkey in 2013.  It was re-branded as the “White Helmets” in 2014. It was heavily used in 2014 and 2015 by Nicholas Kristof, Avaaz and others to campaign for all out aggression against Syria.  In 2016 the group received the Rights Livelihood Award and was seriously considered for a Nobel Peace Prize.  These facts show how corrupt and politically and financially influenced the Rights Livelihood Award and Nobel Peace Prize can be.

The White Helmets movie is a tactic in the ongoing campaign of distortion and deception around Syria.  It’s a fraud, just like the fake kidnapping of NBC reporter Richard Engel. The Oscars will be a demonstration of the integrity of the Academy Awards.  The reporting on the story will be a test of the integrity and accuracy of media outlets. Ironically, the Israeli mainstream TV program I24 presented both sides and titled the segment “White Helmets: Heroes or Hoax?”.  In contrast, the highly popular and widely respected DemocracyNow has  only broadcast a puff piece promoting the “White Helmet” disinformation.  The coming days will reveal more about the ongoing information war against Syria.  Meanwhile on online petition continues to gather signatures to NOT give the Oscar to the White Helmets deception.

Posted in black ops, Conspiracy, corporate news, culture, Empire, Film, Geopolitics, History, media, news, propaganda, Psy-ops, society, State Crime, war, war on terror | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Saturday Matinee: Metropolis

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From Open Culture:

Today we bring you one of the most influential films of all time: Fritz Lang’s 1927 fable of good and evil fighting it out in a futuristic urban dystopia, Metropolis.

The melodrama is set in the year 2026. Metropolis is a beautiful high-tech city, but beneath the dazzling surface toil masses of enslaved workers. To keep the machinery running efficiently, the workers have been forced to become virtual machines themselves. The city is ruled by a heartless mastermind named Johann Fredersen, whose idealistic son, Freder, discovers the cruel conditions imposed on the workers and rebels against his father.

Freder falls in love with Maria, a messianic figure preaching love and reconciliation, but his father hatches an evil plot to turn the workers against Maria. He hires the mad scientist Rotwang to make a robotic counterfeit of Maria to wreak havoc among the workers, discrediting her and discouraging rebellion. An epic struggle ensues.

Lang actually detested the story, which was written mostly by his wife Thea Von Harbou. He told Peter Bogdanovich that Metropolis was “silly and stupid.” But from a visual standpoint the film is one of the great works of 20th century art. Lang said he got the idea of making a movie about a futuristic city while visiting New York in 1924. Standing at night on the deck of his ship in New York Harbor, the filmmaker looked up and was amazed:

I saw a street lit as if in full daylight by neon lights and, topping them, oversized luminous advertisements moving, turning, flashing on and off, spiraling…something that was completely new and nearly fairy tale-like for a European in those days….The buildings seemed to be a vertical veil, shimmering, almost weightless, a luxurious cloth hung from the sky to dazzle, distract, and hypnotize. At night the city did not give the impression of being alive; it lived as illusions lived. I knew then that I had to make a film about all of these sensations.

The iconic poster image above is reproduced from an extremely rare program printed for the March 21, 1927 London premiere of Metropolis. You can look through the entire 32-page program at the Web site of bookseller Peter Harrington. The page will open in a new window, so you can look at the program and stay here and watch the film.

There’s also a 2010 restoration of the film, supervised by the F.W. Murnau Foundation, which incorporates footage from an early print discovered in Buenos Aires, bringing the film closer to Lang’s original vision.

Posted in Art, culture, Dystopia, Film, Saturday Matinee, Video | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Do “Progressives” Like War?

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By Philip Giraldi

Source: Unz Review

Liberals are supposed to be antiwar, right? I went to college in the 1960s, when students nationwide were rising up in opposition to the Vietnam War. I was a Young Republican back then and supported the war through sheer ignorance and dislike of the sanctimoniousness of the protesters, some of whom were surely making their way to Canada to live in exile on daddy’s money while I was on a bus going to Fort Leonard Wood for basic combat training. I can’t even claim that I had some grudging respect for the antiwar crowd because I didn’t, but I did believe that at least some of them who were not being motivated by being personally afraid of getting hurt were actually sincere in their opposition to the awful things that were happening in Southeast Asia.

As I look around now, however, I see something quite different. The lefties I knew in college are now part of the Establishment and generally speaking are retired limousine liberals. And they now call themselves progressives, of course, because it sounds more educated and sends a better message, implying as it does that troglodytic conservatives are anti-progress. But they also have done a flip on the issue of war and peace. In its most recent incarnation some of this might be attributed to a desperate desire to relate to the Hillary Clinton campaign with its bellicosity towards Russia, Syria and Iran, but I suspect that the inclination to identify enemies goes much deeper than that, back as far as the Bill Clinton Administration with its sanctions on Iraq and the Balkan adventure, which resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths and the creation of a terror-narco state in the heart of Europe. And more recently we have seen the Obama meddling in Libya, Yemen and Syria in so called humanitarian interventions which have turned out to be largely fraudulent. Yes, under the Obama Dems it was “responsibility to protect time” (r2p) and all the world trembled as the drones were let loose.

Last Friday I started to read an op-ed in The Washington Post by David Ignatius that blew me away. It began “President Trump confronts complicated problems as the investigation widens into Russia’s attack on our political system.” It then proceeded to lay out the case for an “aggressive Russia” in the terms that have been repeated ad nauseam in the mainstream media. And it was, of course, lacking in any evidence, as if the opinions of coopted journalists and the highly politicized senior officials in the intelligence community should be regarded as sacrosanct. These are, not coincidentally, the same people who have reportedly recently been working together to undercut the White House by leaking and then reporting highly sensitive transcripts of phone calls with Russian officials.

Ignatius is well plugged into the national security community and inclined to be hawkish but he is also a typical Post politically correct progressive on most issues. So here was your typical liberal asserting something in a dangerous fashion that has not been demonstrated and might be completely untrue. Russia is attacking “our political system!” And The Post is not alone in accepting that Russia is trying to subvert and ultimately overthrow our republic. Reporting from The New York Times and on television news makes the same assumption whenever they discuss Russia, leading to what some critics have described as mounting American ‘hysteria’ relating to anything coming out of Moscow.

Rachel Maddow is another favorite of mine when it comes to talking real humanitarian feel good stuff out one side of her mouth while beating the drum for war from the other side. In a bravura performance on January 26th she roundly chastised Russia and its president Vladimir Putin. Rachel, who freaked out completely when Donald Trump was elected, is now keen to demonstrate that Trump has been corrupted by Russia and is now controlled out of the Kremlin. She described Trump’s lord and master Putin as an “intense little man” who murders his opponents before going into the whole “Trump stole the election with the aid of Moscow” saga, supporting sanctions on Russia and multiple investigations to get to the bottom of “Putin’s attacks on our democracy.” Per Maddow, Russia is the heart of darkness and, by way of Trump, has succeeded in exercising control over key elements in the new administration.

Unfortunately, people in the media like Ignatius and Maddow are not alone. Their willingness to sell a specific political line that carries with it a risk of nuclear war as fact, even when they know it is not, has been part of the fear-mongering engaged in by Democratic Party loyalists and many others on the left. Their intention is to “get Trump” whatever it takes, which opens the door to some truly dangerous maneuvering that could have awful consequences if the drumbeat and military buildup against Russia continues, leading Putin to decide that his country is being threatened and backed into a corner. Moscow has indicated that it would not hesitate use nuclear weapons if it is being confronted militarily and facing defeat.

The current wave of Russophobia is much more dangerous than the random depiction of foreigners in negative terms that has long bedeviled a certain type of American know-nothing politics. Apart from the progressive antipathy towards Putin personally, there is a virulent strain of anti-Russian sentiment among some self-styled conservatives in congress, best exemplified by Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham. Graham has recently said “2017 is going to be a year of kicking Russia in the ass in Congress.”

It is my belief that many in the National Security State have convinced themselves that Russia is indeed a major threat against the United States and not because it is a nuclear armed power that can strike the U.S. That appreciation, should, if anything constitute a good reason to work hard to maintain cordial relations rather than not, but it is seemingly ignored by everyone but Donald Trump.

No, the new brand of Russophobia derives from the belief that Moscow is “interfering” in places like Syria and Ukraine. Plus, it is a friend of Iran. That perception derives from the consensus view among liberals and conservatives alike that the U.S. sphere of influence encompasses the entire globe as well as the particularly progressive conceit that Washington should serve to “protect” anyone threatened at any time by anyone else, which provides a convenient pretext for military interventions that are euphemistically described as “peace missions.”

There might be a certain cynicism in many who hate Russia as having a powerful enemy also keeps the cash flowing from the treasuring into the pockets of the beneficiaries of the military industrial congressional complex, but my real fear is that, having been brainwashed for the past ten years, many government officials are actually sincere in their loathing of Moscow and all its works. Recent opinion polls suggest that that kind of thinking is popular among Americans, but it actually makes no sense. Though involvement by Moscow in the Middle East and Eastern Europe is undeniable, calling it a threat against U.S. vital interests is more than a bit of a stretch as Russia’s actual ability to make trouble is limited. It has exactly one overseas military facility, in Syria, while the U.S. has more than 800, and its economy and military budget are tiny compared to that of the United States. In fact, it is Washington that is most guilty of intervening globally and destabilizing entire regions, not Moscow, and when Donald Trump said in an interview that when it came to killing the U.S. was not so innocent it was a gross understatement.

Ironically, pursuing a reset with Russia is one of the things that Trump actually gets right but the new left won’t give him a break because they reflexively hate him for not embracing the usual progressive bromides that they believe are supposed to go with being antiwar. Other Moscow trashing comes from the John McCain camp which demonizes Russia because warmongers always need an enemy and McCain has never found a war he couldn’t support. It would be a tragedy for the United States if both the left and enough of the right were to join forces to limit Trump’s options on dealing with Moscow, thereby enabling an escalating conflict that could have tragic consequences for all parties.

Posted in anti-war, culture, Deep State, Empire, Geopolitics, History, Militarization, Neocons, news, propaganda, Psy-ops, Social Control, Social Engineering, society, State Crime, war | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Goose-stepping Our Way Toward Pink Revolution

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By CJ Hopkins

Source: CounterPunch

So the global capitalist ruling classes’ neutralization of the Trumpian uprising seems to be off to a pretty good start. It’s barely been a month since his inauguration, and the corporate media, liberal celebrities, and their millions of faithful fans and followers are already shrieking for his summary impeachment, or his removal by … well, whatever means necessary, including some sort of “deep state” coup. Words like “treason” are being bandied about, treason being grounds for impeachment (not to mention being punishable by death), which appears to be where we’re headed at this point.

In any event, the nation is now officially in a state of “crisis.” The editors of The New York Times are demanding congressional investigations to root out the Russian infiltrators who have assumed control of the executive branch. According to prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, “a foreign dictator intervened on behalf of a US presidential candidate” … “we are being governed by people who take their cues from Moscow,” or some such nonsense. The Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC, The Guardian, The New Yorker, Politico, Mother Jones, et al. (in other words virtually every organ of the Western neoliberal media) are robotically repeating this propaganda like the Project Mayhem cultists in Fight Club.

The fact that there is not one shred of actual evidence to support these claims makes absolutely no difference whatsoever. As I wrote about in these pages previously, such official propaganda is not designed to be credible; it is designed to bludgeon people into submission through sheer relentless repetition and fear of social ostracization … which, once again, is working perfectly. Like the “Iraq has WMDs” narrative before it, the “Putin Hacked the Election” narrative has now become official “reality,” an unchallengeable axiomatic “fact” that can be cited as background to pretend to bolster additional ridiculous propaganda.

This “Russia Hacked the Election” narrative, let’s remember, was generated by a series of stories that it turned out were either completely fabricated or based on “anonymous intelligence sources” that could provide no evidence “for reasons of security.” Who could forget The Washington Post‘s “Russian Propagandist Blacklist” story (which was based on the claims of some anonymous’ blog and a third rate neo-McCarthyite think tank), or their “Russians Hacked the Vermont Power Grid” story (which, it turned out later, was totally made up), or CNN’s “Golden Showers Dossier” story (which was the work of some ex-MI6 spook-for-hire the Never Trump folks had on their payroll), or Slate‘s “Trump’s Russian Server” story (a half-assed smear piece by Franklin Foer, who is now pretending to have been vindicated by the hysteria over the Flynn resignation), or (and this is my personal favorite) The Washington Post‘s “Clinton Poisoned by Putin” story? Who could possibly forget these examples of courageous journalists speaking truth to power?

Well, OK, a lot of people, apparently, because there’s been a new twist in the official narrative. It seems the capitalist ruling classes now need us to defend the corporate media from the tyrannical criticism of Donald Trump, or else, well, you know, end of democracy. Which millions of people are actually doing. Seriously, absurd as it obviously is, millions of Americans are now rushing to defend the most fearsome propaganda machine in the history of fearsome propaganda machines from one inarticulate, populist boogeyman who can’t maintain his train of thought for more than fifteen or twenty seconds.

All joking aside, the prevailing mindset of the ruling classes, and those aspiring thereto, is more frightening than at any time I can remember. “The Resistance” is exhibiting precisely the type of mindlessly fascistic, herd-like behavior it purports to be trying to save us from. Yes, the mood in Resistance quarters has turned quite openly authoritarian. William Kristol captured it succinctly: “Obviously strongly prefer normal democratic and constitutional politics. But if it comes to it, [I] prefer the deep state to the Trump state.” Neoliberal Rob Reiner put it this way: “The incompetent lying narcissistic fool is going down. Intelligence community will not let DT destroy democracy.” Subcommandante Micheal Moore went to the caps lock to drive the point home: “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what was going on: TRUMP COLLUDING WITH THE RUSSIANS TO THROW THE ELECTION TO HIM,” and demanded that Trump be immediately detained and renditioned to a secure facility: “Let’s be VERY clear: Flynn DID NOT make that Russian call on his own. He was INSTRUCTED to do so. He was TOLD to reassure them. Arrest Trump.”

These a just a few of the more sickening examples. The point is, millions of American citizens (as well as citizens of other countries) are prepared to support a deep state coup to remove the elected president from office … and it doesn’t get much more fascistic than that.

Now I want to be clear about this “deep state” thing, as the mainstream media is already labeling anyone who uses the term a hopelessly paranoid conspiracy theorist. The deep state, of course, is not a conspiracy. It is simply the interdependent network of structures where actual power resides (i.e., the military-industrial complex, multinational corporations, Wall Street, the corporate media, and so on). Its purpose is to maintain the stability of the system regardless of which party controls the government. These are the folks, when a president takes office, who show up and brief him on what is and isn’t “possible” given economic and political “realities.” Despite what Alex Jones may tell you, it is not George Soros and roomful of Jews. It is a collection of military and intelligence officers, CEOs, corporate lobbyists, lawyers, bankers, politicians, power brokers, aides, advisers, and assorted other permanent members of the government and the corporate and financial classes. Just as presidents come and go, so do the individuals comprising the deep state, albeit on a longer rotation schedule. And, thus, it is not a monolithic entity. Like any other decentralized network, it contains contradictions, conflicts of interest. However, what remains a constant is the deep state’s commitment to preserving the system … which, in our case, that system is global Capitalism.

I’m going to repeat and italicize that to hopefully avoid any misunderstanding. The system the deep state primarily serves is not the United States of America, i.e., the country most Americans believe they live in; the system it serves is globalized Capitalism. The United States, the nation state itself, while obviously a crucial element of the system, is not the deep state’s primary concern. If it were, Americans would all have healthcare, affordable education, and a right to basic housing, like more or less every other developed nation.

And this is the essence of the present conflict. The Trump regime (whether they’re sincere or not) has capitalized on people’s discontent with globalized neoliberal Capitalism, which is doing away with outmoded concepts like the nation state and national sovereignty and restructuring the world into one big marketplace where “Chinese” investors own “American” companies that manufacture goods for “European” markets by paying “Thai” workers three dollars a day to enrich “American” hedge fund crooks whose “British” bankers stash their loot in numbered accounts in the Cayman Islands while “American” workers pay their taxes so that the “United States” can give billions of dollars to “Israelis” and assorted terrorist outfits that are destabilizing the Middle East to open up markets for the capitalist ruling classes, who have no allegiance to any country, and who couldn’t possibly care any less about the common people who have to live there. Trump supporters, rubes that they are, don’t quite follow the logic of all that, or see how it benefits them or their families.

But whatever … they’re all just fascists, right? And we’re in a state of crisis, aren’t we? This is not the time to sit around and analyze political and historical dynamics. No, this is a time for all loyal Americans to set aside their critical thinking and support democracy, the corporate media, and the NSA, and CIA, and the rest of the deep state (which doesn’t exist) as they take whatever measures are necessary to defend us from Putin’s diabolical plot to Nazify the United States and reenact the Holocaust for no discernible reason. The way things are going, it’s just a matter of time until they either impeach his puppet, Trump, or, you know, remove him by other means. I imagine, once we get to that point, Official State Satirist Stephen Colbert will cover the proceedings live on the “Late Show,” whipping his studio audience up into a frenzy of mindless patriotic merriment, as he did in the wake of the Flynn fiasco (accusing the ruling classes’ enemies of treason being the essence of satire, of course). After he’s convicted and dying in jail, triumphant Americans will pour out onto the lawn of Lafayette Square again, waving huge flags and hooting vuvuzelas, like they did when Obama killed Osama bin Laden. I hope you’ll forgive me if I don’t attend. Flying home may be a little complicated, as according to The Washington Post, I’m some kind of Russian propagandist now. And, also, I have this problem with authority, which I don’t imagine will go over very well with whatever provisional government is installed to oversee the Restoration of Normality, and Love, of course, throughout the nation.

Posted in Conspiracy, corporate news, Corruption, culture, Deep State, Dirty Politics, Dystopia, Empire, media, Neoliberalism, news, propaganda, Psy-ops, Revolution, Social Control, Social Engineering, society, State Crime | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Acquisitive Self, Minus the Self

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By Natasha Vargas-Cooper

Source: The Baffler

Los Angeles isn’t exactly the place that comes to mind when you think of decorous restraint in the display of wealth, even in the dregs of the Great Recession. Here in my hometown, possibly more than in any other outpost of faux-meritocratic privilege in our republic of getting and spending, untrammeled acquisition is understood as an expression of individual will—and more than that, a matter of taste.

Yet for all the studio money sloshing around our bright, stucco world, most of us have never encountered the miniscule stratum of humans that hovers above the rich: the pure, gilt-edged, entrenched, multigenerational wealthy. Movie star money is food stamps compared to oil money, hedge fund money, and even some of that dank old money that still floats around the haciendas of Pasadena. We might have stood kegside next to Kirsten Dunst once, but we don’t know the kinds of rich people that F. Scott Fitzgerald had in mind when he wrote that the rich “are different from you and me”: the Vanderbilts, Rothschilds, and Astors. Hell, our L.A. doesn’t even boast a new-money Midwestern poultry heiress.

We don’t see these types—let alone interact with them—because they’ve largely seceded from public view. This is the guilt-prone social formation that Paul Fussell dubbed the “top out-of-sight class,” because you typically can’t see their houses/compounds unless you have access to a helicopter. Prior to the mid-twentieth century, the top out-of-sight class had been very much in sight; Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue and Philadelphia’s Main Line mansions are still monuments to their Caligulan self-regard. But ever since the Great Depression, and its attendant booms in Social Realist art and Popular Front politics, they staged a quiet but striking mass retreat. So spooked out were the über-rich that they became almost discreet. “The situation now is very different from the one in the 1890s satirized by Thorstein Veblen in The Theory of the Leisure Class,” Fussell wrote in 1983. “In [Veblen’s] day the rich delighted to exhibit themselves conspicuously. . . . Now they hide.”

Thirty years later, this is still mostly true, but thanks to the exhibition-friendly canons of social media, the scions of excess are back and flaunting it, baby—and it’s an entirely underwhelming display. These aren’t the out-of-sight rich but their twentysomething children, flouting their parents’ wealth-whispers code of silence. With acres of unproductive time on their hands, bored rich kids are using their gold-plated iPhones to post images of their baubles of privilege, their chemical stimulants of preference, and their outlandish bar tabs on Instagram, the photo-sharing service of the moment. It’s a bit as though a Bret Easton Ellis novel has come blandly to life, without the benefit of any irony.

Predictably enough, a Tumblr photo-blog has stirred vacantly into being, to compile all these outpourings of opulence in one convenient place. Launched in 2012 by a founder who remains anonymous, Rich Kids of Instagram (RKOI for short) curates and tags photos posted on Instagram by the likes of Barron Hilton, Tiffany Trump, and other “funemployed” trust-funders. The Tumblr, which slaps a whimsical, intricately scrolled frame around each photo but adds little else, doesn’t come with a explanation or an editorial policy, other than that it purports to show you the lifestyles that the unseen rich had previously shared only with their similarly rich friends. “They have more money than you do and this is what they do,” goes the tagline.

Why should we look? The payoffs for the nonrich civilian viewer are oddly perfunctory. After all of the social mythologies we’ve lovingly constructed to envelop the delusions of the 1 percent, this is the lurid end-of-the-rainbow payoff they’ve decided to lord over the rest of us—a fistful of watches, car interiors, and European spa photos? The content of Rich Kids of Instagram is less the aftermath of an imperial Roman bacchanal than the shamefaced hangover of an especially inane and oversexed (though well-appointed!) frat party. Around about the dozenth selfie featuring a buff and/or emaciated scion nestled into a private jet with a bottle of Cristal and a $10,000 clip of cash (“Always make sure to tip your pilot and co-pilot 10k. #rulesofflyingprivate”), you can’t help but wonder, “Is that all there is?”

The Duller Image

Indeed, in strictly visual terms, the site is hard to distinguish from a luxe Sharper Image catalog—merchandised out, to be sure, but disappointingly clichéd. The rich boys of Instagram—the son of fashion mogul Roberto Cavalli, for example, and a weak-chinned fellow with the handle Lord_Steinberg—post pictures of their IWC Grande Complication Perpetual watches, multiple Lamborghinis, and six-figure bar tabs. Here, all the shiny expensive crap seems to cry out, is what I’ve done with my life in lieu of becoming an adult. The young rich ladies, such as Alexa Dell (of, you know, the Dell computers fortune), mainly document how all this pelf looks from the other side of the gender divide: they snap pics of themselves surrounded by tangerine Hermès shopping bags, eating sushi sprinkled with 24K gold flakes, and holding their American Express Centurion card minimum payment notifications (typically $40,000).

There’s not even much in the way of the makings of righteous socialist outrage. (Swazi Leaks this most definitely is not; that project, by contrast, pairs leaked photographs of Swaziland’s high-rolling absolute monarch with pictures of $1-a-day sub-subsistence conditions in the slums.) Yes, the rich kids seem determined to remind us that they have stuff the rest of us will never have. The captions they post with their photos are, at times, slyly aware of their part in inequality (cf. a picture of a private jet and a luxury car with the caption “The struggle is real”). But for all that, the kids don’t seem especially power-hungry so much as aimless and languid. Behind these faux-provocative posts lurks a desperate clamor for attention that almost verges on a cry for help—something that makes you feel a certain involuntary (and certainly undeserved) pity for these manically self-documented upper-crusters.

Nevertheless, the rich kids keep on multiplying their blandified self-inventories, and some among the rest of us, presumably, keep looking. In the beginning, few of the kids knew their Instagram feeds were being monitored by RKOI; the security detail for Alexa Dell, for one, wasn’t prepared to see some of her pictures, with recognizable details that could give away her whereabouts (usually closely guarded by her family), show up on the site. Her social media presence was quickly scrubbed. But now, many of the kids featured know they’re getting Tumblr’d, and some court the attention by submitting photos for consideration, tagged with #rkoi. Rich Kids of Instagram has earned its subjects thousands of followers for their individual feeds, and even momentarily catapulted some of the sort-of rich, perhaps splashing out on a once-a-year chartered yacht to Saint Tropez, into better company than they could ordinarily afford.

American media culture has done its part by spinning off these social-media maunderings into a full complement of incoherent dreck. Last winter, the E! cable network debuted #RichKids of Beverly Hills, a reality TV series loosely organized around the premise (if we can call it that) of the Tumblr account. (The show even features—wink, wink—an “Instagram-obsessed” cast member named Morgan Stewart, who delivers such walk-on anathemas to viewer interest as “I’ve taken so many selfies on my cell phone today it’s, like, embarrassing.” No, son, what’s embarrassing is that you’re saying this shit out loud, in front of a television camera.)

The PG-13 Class War

If an E! show wasn’t enough, this summer saw the release of a book-like object, also called The Rich Kids of Instagram, credited to the site’s anonymous founder together with a ghostwriter/collaborator named Maya Sloan. Like its “inspiration,” the book—billed for some reason as a novel—is unrelentingly dumb, though it does supply an important clue to the weird demographic marketing strategy behind the Rich Kids franchise. It’s clearly written for kids or, um, young adults, suggesting that the notion of “aspirational” reading and viewing—the grand media euphemism for the lifestyle-voyeurism genre—is ripe for retirement. Instead, this plotless, and nearly character-less, flight of fancy is something far more inert, and less interesting: an empty vessel of careless adolescent fantasy.

The book’s careful observance of PG-13 canons of teen rebellion is so pronounced as to be obtrusive. There’s little in the way of appalling or casual sex; the cussing and chronic drug use (nothing too hard, mind you: pills, weed, blow) is there mainly for box-checking shock value. In this, as well, the book is true to the real-life Tumblr; nowhere do you see anything truly threatening or transgressive, like Jordan Belfort snorting coke out of a hooker’s ass in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. No, all you encounter, in the book as on the Tumblr feed, is the sort of teen spliff smoking you’d find at an average Dave Matthews show—but in a jet, bro!!

In the same way that such scenes beg to be seen as transgressive, the Rich Kids oeuvre begs to be seen as a populist-baiting vindication of privilege for privilege’s sake: Take that, plebes! But there’s a telling sleight of hand here. The book’s main gimmick is identical to the Tumblr’s MO: the outrage is all imputed to you, the reader, in advance, by its ostensible targets or by the medium itself. This means, in turn, that the proceedings float serenely above any semblance of real-world criticism. So, not surprisingly, the book suffers from the same thing the actual rich kids of Instagram kids do, only at far more tedious length: a depressing lack of imagination. Here, for example, is one of the novel’s rich kids fuming about her maid while also clumsily name-checking her 1,200-thread-count sateen sheet set: “Woven in Italy. For what I paid, I could buy your illegal Guatemalan cousins. That is, if you weren’t from Jersey.”

There’s no pulse-pounding social tension or class resentment on offer here—unless you’re especially aroused by inarticulate dialogue. The novel doesn’t proceed in a mood of detached anthropological inquiry, the way that, say, Louis Auchincloss or John Marquand’s old-money fictions did. There’s no anger, no weight, no insight. All you have in the way of a rich-kid call-to-arms is the empty bravado of the anonymous site creator’s acknowledgements at the front of the book: “To all the RKOI kids, who are unapologetically themselves; in a world where so few people will live out loud, you guys have guts, and for that you deserve admiration.” (And yes, Rich Kid self-awareness once again stops well short of the obvious irony involved in an anonymous social media impresario’s celebration of the overclass’s bold capacity “to live out loud.”)

For “gutsy” exemplars of individual lifestyle, the kids are distressingly uniform in their motivation, behavior, and dramatic purpose. Far from emblazoning their excellent individuality upon our collective prole brainpan, the novel’s cast of characters merges into an interchangeable ensemble of predictable, privileged reflexes and half-copped attitude. Each member of this brat pack is outfitted with a suffocatingly oversignifying name and a ponderous chapter rendered in his or her voice. To save time, here’s a rundown of the main players in the book (think of it as the literary equivalent of a bar-tab selfie):

• Annalise Hoff, a high-strung media heiress who dotes on her Murdoch/Hearst mashup Daddy: “I know: Freud would have a field day with me. I don’t take the short bus, after all. I have a Bentley waiting.”

• Christian Rixen, a Denmark Royal and jewelry designer, who employs an oddly clinical diction suggesting that this is what Southern Californian rich assholes hear when Europeans speak to them: “The countess may have birthed me, but she was far from maternal.”

• Miller Crawford, a Mayflower legacy, rifle heir, and aspiring record producer—and what passes for a self-starting entrepreneur in these circles: “I made a promise long ago: I won’t be that guy. The kind who orders staff to do petty bullshit. Sure, there are emergencies. Scoring coke for an after-hours, buying last-minute condoms. As for the rest? I can get my own double latte, thanks.”

• Todd Evergreen, a Mark Zuckerberg stand-in with a suitably generic name—an upper-middle-class kid who became an overnight billionaire by captaining an overcapitalized software startup. We don’t hear from Evergreen, who is eventually driven into paranoia and Howard Hughes–like seclusion until the novel’s crashingly unpersuasive, life-affirming coda. “I liked their things,” Evergreen says of the rich kids, “don’t get me wrong. Not for the things themselves, but how excited they got about them. How their faces lit up when they talked about them. But I liked the people for other reasons. Better reasons.”

• Desdemona Goldberg, a bipolar singer/actress: “Wow, I think, that coke was awesomeness.

You don’t say. This novelization rounds out the Rich Kids trifecta: Tumblr, TV show, and book. The net effect is, fittingly enough, akin to that of another notorious plutocratic foray into cultural exhibitionism—a Damien Hirst installation. In both, we see our culture lords courting outrage in the most safely inert and vanity-fed forms of display. Both aim to provoke an aesthetic response that is little more than a fleeting revulsion, compounded by the inevitable gawking at the price tag attached to the finished product. And both make a huge deal of curating predators, whether it be champagne-squirting twentysomethings captured in photo-blog form (RKOI) or a really big shark lifelessly preserved in a bath of acid (Hirst).

Binge and Purge

For that matter, the Rich Kids franchise outdoes even Hirst, and achieves a further refinement of this recursive aesthetic of total consumption: it’s a monument to the acquisitive self minus the actual self. Sometimes the kids don’t even bother to take pictures of items they buy. Instead, they share photos of the shopping bags from whatever luxury store they just blew through. Other times, they display pictures of receipts, personal check stubs, or their names embossed on credit cards.

Capital is always on the verge of dematerializing our common world; as Marx and Engels famously warned back in the day, under the height of bourgeois domination, “all that is solid melts into the air.” Here, however, is a gloss on that crippling dynamic that the founders of socialism never could have anticipated: the children of capital are rendering their innermost selves—their critics-be-damned determination to live out loud—as a random agglomeration of nonsignifying digits. The beauty they transmit back, what they see, is nothing more than a place-holding string of credit limits where a human self, or at least a measure of use value, might once have been.

Still, there are evidently some young self-starters who are gleaning a different aspirational message from the whole enterprise. When frequent RKOI contributor Aleem Iqbal, a nineteen-year-old whose dad owns a luxury car leasing service in England, went on a recent binge of selfie-taking, some unintended consequences ensued. The younger Iqbal saturated his Instagram feed with shots of himself driving really expensive cars with the vanity plate “LORD.” On June 6 the teenager leased a $560,000 Lamborghini Aventador Roadster, and a few hours later someone set it on fire. A week after that, three more of his luxury cars, two Audi R8 Spyder supercars and a Bentley Flying Spur, were torched. This was not his understanding of the new social contract at all. Instead of a reality TV or book deal, all his self-infatuated Instagram entries had earned him was the smoldering hulks of four plute-mobiles. On his Facebook page, the aggrieved teen called the campaign of high-end vandalism “a vile act of jealously towards my business.”

Maybe so; it could be like George Orwell said, and there really are only two classes, the rich and the haters. On the other hand, a follower of some RKOI property might have thought it was high time to perform a salutary act of simple math: subtracting some small amount of indecent luxury from the torrent of inert and unproductive excess that we all, inexplicably, must endure. Vileness, after all, is in the eye of the beholder.

Posted in Activism, Art, Consumerism, culture, Economics, Humor, media, Philosophy, society, Sociology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Two for Tuesday

The Bug

Donnie Trumpet

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Noseblind to Odors in Your Empire?

quigley_us_empire_cartoon

By John Rohn Hall

Source: Axis of Logic

Using metaphor or analogy as a creative aid is especially useful when venturing journalistically into uncomfortable, foreign territory, and Trump’s new version of Amerika is indeed uncomfortable and foreign territory. Gotta admit to a serious case of writer’s block for the last couple weeks since The Donald’s coronation fiasco. Where to begin? All my go-to sources came up cold as January days in Jackson Hole…dried up like puddles after a Mohave Desert rainstorm. The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, and The Matrix all seemed irrelevant.  George Carlin, Kurt Vonnegut, or Mark Twain quotes weren’t caustic enough to cut through the slime, nor offer adequate support for a conversation on the subject. But then the Heavens opened up and, through the miracles of Madison Avenue, there was a vehicle available to begin writing anew. A Febreze commercial on HGTV threw a left jab that hit me right between the eyes. Right there on my 46′ Magnavox, a kitchen island in a typical Amerikan home morphed into a back-alley dumpster, complete with roaches, flies, rats, alley cats, garbage, and stench. “Have you gone noseblind to the odors in your home?” the announcer asked. Perhaps, but more importantly, I’d guess that most Amerikans have gone noseblind to odors in their Empire.

And now Donald Trump’s in charge, and he leaves me longing for the pleasant sight of Obama’s smile, that soothing voice, and comforting demeanor. The familiar, believable, lovable, family man. A guy who never lost his cool. When Barack Obama stepped up to the microphone, the sweet, fresh scent of familiarity filled the air. Like the caustic but lively chemical fragrance of Febreze, Obama casually and effortlessly lulled Amerika into dumb insouciance. When Trump takes charge of the same microphone, the resulting clamor smells like a rat-infested dumpster. But then, beauty is in the olfactory receptors of the beholder. In truth, my nose is no more talented than those which decorate the faces of the sea of deplorables, sporting “Make America Great Again!” caps. We’ve all gone noseblind to the stench of Empire. If the truth be told, Amerika stinks under Trump’s watch, it stank during Obama’s eight year reign, it certainly reeked under the orchestration of Bush/Cheney, and the offensive smell lingers in the air just about as far back into the last 500 years of European occupation of The Western Hemisphere as you’d care to go.

Seriously, which odor is more offensive? Trump’s seemingly racist, xenophobic Muslim ban, or Obama’s record of bombing most of the same countries into oblivion? Trump’s signature on a document or Obama’s deadly drone assassination program? All seven Muslim-intensive countries on Trump’s justice-offensive Keep Out List have been subject to invasion or economic sanctions under Obama’s reign. Seems that Obama created the flow of refugees who fear for the lives of their children, and Trump has put out the No Trespassing sign, leaving a sea of desperate people with nowhere to go. The whole thing stinks, and has always stunk. Death and destruction never smell good.

The foul stench emanating from Trump’s Mexican Border Wall Plan is about enough to bring on a case of reverse peristalsis. Taking advantage of Mexico’s weakened condition following three centuries of Spanish occupation, the U.S.A. swooped in and confiscated the entire northern half of that country during The Mexican War. Since then, poor Mexicans have always come in our back door, doing the jobs U.S. Citizens find beneath their dignity, and doing so for slave wages. Obama threw the “illegals” a few bones during his tenure, but managed to deport a record-breaking 2 & 1/2 million of them while he was at it. Trump promises to lock the border and throw away the key. Smells like they’ve both been playing the same nasty game. The stench which filled the air while Obama sat on the throne has neither intensified nor diminished. If you haven’t noticed, you just might be noseblind to the odors of Empire.

We U.S. Citizens shoulder much of the blame for the stinking shenanigans of Empire. We believe the incessant lies of politicians over and over again. Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us 45 times, shame on us. We basked in the foul stench of Obama’s promises to end the wars in the Mideast, only to watch as he authorized the invasions of even more helpless, hapless populations. We cheered when he said he’d shut down Guantanamo. It’s a good thing we didn’t hold our breath. More recently, Trump seemed to be making peace with Russia, announced that the U.S.A. should stop attacking other countries, and seemed to be a good option over Hillary NevermetawarIdidntlike Clinton. In his next breath he beat the war drums, promised even more “defense” spending, and pointed a finger of blame and doom at China and Iran. While he was at it, he reaffirmed that along with maintaining a strong presence at Guantanamo, he’d reopen Black Sites abroad, and ramp up our lagging enhanced interrogation program. Ya gotta love torture. Only time will tell when or where our current loose cannon will fire his next stinking verbal barrage.

As a U.S. Citizen, I know a few things (almost) for sure about the Empire I call home. It is on the march, has been on the march since the penning of The Constitution, and will continue its foul, rancid march until somebody breaks both of its legs, and it can march no more. Empire devours everything in its path, then defecates broken countries and peoples into reeking mounds of destruction and death. The path of Empire’s march does not depend upon who holds its highest office and appears to be making all of the important decisions. While such apparent opposites as Obama and Trump appear to be at odds, they both play the game as they’re instructed. ‘Tis a grand illusion. Voting is an act of complete futility, and American Democracy is a lie. Our leaders are selected and assigned from above. As U.S. Citizens, we are no more than resources to be harvested, then cast aside as our utility diminishes and evaporates, our broken, decaying bodies becoming just another layer in the stench of death permeating the skies over the land of the free and home of the brave.

Posted in Authoritarianism, consciousness, Corruption, culture, Deep State, Dystopia, Economics, Empire, Geopolitics, History, Militarization, Neocons, patriotism, society, State Crime, war, war on terror | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments