The Alt-Media Has Way More Fun than the Mainstream Media

By Charles Hugh Smith

Source: Of Two Minds

The corporate-state media lives in terror that the truth will somehow leak out of the corporate-Imperial fortress, imperiling their jobs and perks.

It’s not exactly news that the Alternative Media is under assault: skeptical inquiry and dissenting narratives are smeared as “fake news,” and new suspiciously corporate entities (NewsGuard et al.) claim to be “protecting” consumers from “fake news” as cover for their real agenda, which is limiting public exposure to skeptical, dissenting independent analysis.

Social Media and Search corporations are also censoring non-corporate, non-state media, again under the purported guise of stripping out “fake news.”

Despite this semi-official censorship, we in the Alt-Media are having way more fun that the anxiety-ridden serfs in the Mainstream Media. There are many hard-working, honest journalists slaving away in the Mainstream (more accurately, the corporate-state) Media, but there’s the neofeudal reality of their employment: If what they report undermines the ruling elites, they’re not allowed to do their job.

MSM journalists have no agency: they report what they’re told to report. They also have no control over what gets by their employers’ editorial / corporate filters: question a big advertiser and your report will quietly be buried. Question the approved narrative and conclusion, and you’ll be shunned, blacklisted, etc. If you make a fuss, you’ll be let go in the next round of lay-offs.

Everyone who labors in the corporate-state media lives in fear of the truth getting out: hence the full-spectrum freak-out whenever an insider turns leaker / whistleblower: oops, the happy-story cover is blown and the ugly truth is now revealed, including the collusion of the corporate-state media. (In the U.S. PBS / NPR is the quasi-state media, analogous to Japan’s NHK, Britain’s BBC or France’s France24.)

The corporate-state media lives in terror that the truth will somehow leak out of the corporate-Imperial fortress, imperiling their jobs and perks. Their job isn’t to report any truth that lays waste to the self-serving interests of the ruling elites; their job is to protect the ruling elites by “reporting” politically-correct narratives and playing up culturally divisive incidents to distract the masses from any awareness of their political invisibility and lack of financial independence or agency.

The MSM’s other job is to scrub any mass dissent from their “news.” So for example, U.S. corporate-state media coverage of the yellow vest movement in France is near zero. This is not random; it is all part of skewing the “news” to meaningless controversies and fawning politically correct / approved narratives stories.

A working-class rebellion against political and financial invisibility is anathema to America’s ruling elites and their corporate allies in the MSM and hence the minimal coverage. You basically have to understand French to follow on-the-ground Alt-Media coverage in France of the yellow vest protesters.

The American MSM dutifully regurgitates the bogus narrative being pushed by France’s elitist corporate-state media, that the yellow vest protesters are violent and thus need to be crushed by overwhelming paramilitary force. That the protesters are being beaten and provoked to respond to state-ordered violence is left unreported.

We in Alt-Media are confident the truth will eventually come out despite the efforts of the ruling elites and their MSM / social media corporate minions. It’s a lot more fun being on the side of skeptical inquiry and dissent than being behind the leaky dike, anxiously trying to stop the actual facts of the matter from entering the public awareness.

It’s more fun being on the side of free inquiry and meaningful analysis than being on the side of censorship, fear-mongering, propagandistic sowing of discord and the promotion of the corporate-state party line.

You won’t find any MSM reporting on the neofeudal structure of America’s economy and society:

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Posted in Authoritarianism, censorship, civil liberties, Corporate Crime, corporate news, culture, elites, freedom of speech, internet freedom, media, Media Literacy, news, propaganda, Psy-ops, Social Control, Social Engineering, society, State Crime, surveillance state | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Two for Tuesday

A Tribe Called Red

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Capitalism, Empire, and the Infernal Gloom Machine

By Jason Holland

Source: Dissident Voice

Depression is built into this machine and the evidence is plastered on the morose faces of people caught in the clutches of its business as usual activities. Depression is found in the insurmountable debts we owe for spending a lifetime of preparation and labor to serve the machine. In addition to debt, the machine awards us for our servitude with trinkets, gadgets, doodads and gizmos that provide a moment of hollow amusement and then sit on shelves in garages and decay. They represent the planned obsolescence of the human heart. The sacrifice paid for our fetish with materialism is the actual quality of our lives.

The gloom machine tells us the quality of our lives is defined by the machine in the driveway, and the machine that flushes away our excrement, and the machine that chills the tortured slaughtered animal flesh for later consumption, and the machine that flashes pornographic images and supplies numbers detailing how much we are liked by our so called friends. But to us humans it seems that quality of life is more appropriately measured in the amount of disposable time we have to pursue that which we want, and the quality of the community around us, and living without being chronically stressed with threats of being displaced from the land upon which we live for not working hard enough for the machine.

Depression is waking up at 6 in the morning in darkness to sit in traffic for an hour to arrive at a job that we don’t want to be at, only to serve the machinations of people with nothing but greed in their overstuffed bellies. And we go to these jobs so that we can pay rents that are unaffordable, and to service debt we’ll never escape, and we go home in darkness to our lonely lives in places where community is absent with a view of an equally lonely tree or a man-made retention pond which is an upgrade over the view of staring directly at your neighbor’s domicile. Depression is the realization there is no vacation on the horizon, no respite, just more of the same. Depression is knowing that such a life is better than many others have it.

Depression is recognizing the cynics were right about this society, that Cohen spoke truth when he sullenly moaned:

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows

Depression is watching art die. The surrealist, the bohemian, the rock ’n roll, and the anti-authoritarian soul has lain down and pledged fealty to the dollar. For money, they’re now all willing to become ready made predictable cubes to be packaged and sold in plastic wrap placed in cleverly designed boxes which deliver to the depressed public what they want, more of something that’s pretty on the outside and vacant within. We are left with monthly subscriptions of more tales of self aggrandizement for the throngs of temporarily embarrassed millionaires.

Depression is watching the worst of us rise to legitimacy and awarded iniquitous riches for it. The popular is depressive, musical hack Cardi B sings about her money money money and she is loved. Jordan Peterson sells cheap self help stolen from better written material decades ago amalgamated with misogyny and dictates of hierarchal subjugation and becomes wildly popular. Trump purveys hatred of people of color and a love of authoritarianism and the depressive people, oh do they eat it up. This is sickness, depressive sickness.

Depression is acceptance of the violent now. The grossly unhappy men with their armaments spread their gloom and horror across the planet and claim righteousness for doing so. Depression is watching society applaud murderous hearts for their crimes who don badges and camouflage and have holidays to celebrate their violent history, while villains are made of those who simply don’t want to stand up for songs of oppression. Thank you for your service to the machine.

Depression is watching notions of resistance and revolution take form in slightly altered subservience. The great reformation desired now is for a “green new deal” that doesn’t come close to mitigating the impending culling of humanity from soon to be ecological catastrophes. Their plans offer only more endless work at the behest of the gloom machine while promising healthcare that will never happen, less debt it will also never deliver, and affordable housing that still won’t solve homelessness. They don’t want to break the machine, just tweak it, and they lack the ability to do that even. Never have I borne witness to such eager slaves and such depressive aspirations. The people seem to adore their cubicle lives, their environmental destruction, their corporations, their debts, their corrupt leaders, their prisons, their banks, and their taxes.

They want to continue to be put to work under the thumb of the status quo western civilization authoritarian mind and this is all the depressed mentally dominated masses can think of as a possible improvement. Instead of wanting to taste real liberty and be actual equals, their dreams are limited to being better treated servants. The gloom machine chugs along fueled with dimwitted ideas sold by boxed-in thinkers without any possibility of escaping the darkness, rather simply offering a more cushy seat for viewing the end of everything.

The machine bellows out demanding more, more, you owe me more, and somehow those wearing red, white, and blue agree and celebrate the demands of the machine. These debts we owe are servitude. The numbers held in digital machines are immoral which demand one must wake up to a dreary existence to do more of what is killing our souls along with the flora and fauna around us.

Depression is the downtrodden plebs who celebrate their corrupt democracy, which is in reality a thinly veiled oligarchy that should be obvious to all. They prop up a system of voting that allows the election of the presidency, a position that shouldn’t exist in the first place in an egalitarian society, to be awarded to candidates who don’t capture the most votes. What little democracy there is in a representative system is lost in totality when the winner of elections need not win the majority of votes. The gloom machine is straight up tyranny.

A non-depressed society would reject being served faux democracy. They’d reject a system absent of reason or compassion and disdain would be for ideas of continuing to support such a destructive way of being. But instead, within the gloom machine shame is reserved for those who don’t want to take part in the busted system, and it venerates those who cast votes for imperialist conquerers and planet destroyers, and those voters are lauded as doing their civic duty for taking part in open public corruption.

Depression is the insincere know it all crowd who are incapable of honest debate and have rarely endeavored to open a book of substance or engage in critical thought, but they know trivialities which they mistake as facts and wisdom. They know arrogance well and emanate it with aplomb. They know how to believe all they see in the corporatized media, but thinking without boundaries or limitations is beyond their capacity. This is not even depression, this is tragedy.

Depression is watching the trees be plowed down for more tract housing, a portion of which will sit empty for years because no one can afford to move there, and even if they could it’s a heinous boring life that awaits which is only significantly better compared to being homeless. Depression is knowing this is the reason why we are rapidly destroying our habitable environment and commencing a 6th mass extinction event which is now accelerating.

Depression is to know there is nothing we can do to stop the country we live in from mercilessly killing innocent people all over the world for no reason other than more economic expansion and our sadistic ideas of exceptionalism that entail spreading pain and hardship so a few elites can have more of what they already have more than enough of.

Depression is the powerlessness to change anything of significance. There is no other way they say other than the desolate gloom machine, they say this is how it must be. And so we remain here waiting for the horror that is soon to approach us all as the gloom descends in ever quickening waves.

A zombified indoctrinated populace can see no other way than capitalism and beating each other over the heads to satiate egos in needless competition that is unnecessary for survival and deleterious to the common good. Capitalism is the primary tool of empire, and a word that should be synonymous with depression. It’s the accumulation of resources in an effort to gain more power in man-made markets to leverage that power over other people and get them to do what the person with the most power desires. Capitalism’s depressing ideology is defined by the lecherous desire for more for the sake of it so the winner can pound their simian chest in victorious celebration of the devastation they’ve created.

Capitalism is inherently unsustainable due the way it allows power to coalesce via the leveraging abilities given to money to buy land, the means of production, elections, and advertising. It allows the whims of the few to overrun the needs of the many where those with the worst intentions aspire to gain more than others because they will attempt to fill the void in their hearts with self importance expressed via power over others. This is why it cannot be used.

If there is no central currency or advantage to collecting huge amounts of resources then the motivation to hoard would evaporate, as those resources would simply rot or become a burden to maintain. There’s no fun in that kind of hoarding. The “fun” comes to the simpleton power seeker when they acquire power to make others do what they want and thus gain the ephemeral validation they so desperately seek.

If one runs the math on players competing for money at different rates of gain over a certain amount of time, there will be a doubling effect which becomes exponential. And this effect will accelerate as it plunders along due to gains in leverage which allows for ever greater amounts of money to be made at faster rates. Eventually it always ends the way a game of monopoly ends, someone has all the power and everyone else is subservient to that entity/person.

These dour thoughts manifest from the recognition of the stranglehold empire has over our lives. The depression is the result of the myriad of expectations I can’t let go of that wants to see a kinder more egalitarian and sustainable world emerge while knowing how unlikely it is. Our collective depression is rooted in the foundations of social hierarchy and its economic tools of control, and understanding what a perfect trap it is, and so it goes, and everyone doesn’t know, but they feel it, though.

Posted in Authoritarianism, Corporate Crime, corporate news, culture, Deep State, Economics, elites, Empire, Environment, Geopolitics, Housing Crisis, imperialism, Inequality, media, police state, propaganda, Social Control, Social Engineering, society, Sociology, State Crime, surveillance state | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why only fools trust America’s mainstream ‘news’

By Eric Zuesse

Source: CounterCurrents.org

Here will be yet another current example to demonstrate that all U.S. mainstream ’news’ media hide from their respective public that the U.S. government is lying, when the U.S. government lies—i.e., that all of the mainstream ’news’ media in America hide the truth, when the government itself is lying. In other words: the U.S. mainstream ’news’ media are propaganda organs for the U.S. government.

While some American news media are Democratic Party propagandists, and others are Republican Party propagandists, and therefore all of them eagerly expose lies that are of only a partisan nature, none of them will expose lies that both parties share—such as, in 2002 and 2003, the central fact at that time. They hid that George W. Bush and his administration were outright lying to the public in each and every instance in which they said they possessed conclusive evidence that, as Bush himself put it on 7 September 2002 (and no mainstream and only one alt-news medium exposed as being a lie): “a report came out of the Atomic—the IAEA that they [Iraq] were six months away from developing a [nuclear] weapon. I don’t know what more evidence we need [before invading].” That was his answer when he was asked at a press conference on 7 September 2002, “Mr. President, can you tell us what conclusive evidence of any nuclear—new evidence you have of nuclear weapons capabilities of Saddam Hussein?” Immediately, the IAEA said then that there was no such “new report,” and that the last they were able to find, there was nothing at all left of WMD, nor of an ability to make any, in Iraq. The American news media simply ignored the IAEA’s denial that they had issued any new report at all such as Bush had alleged they had issued. Republican ‘news’ media hid that Bush’s allegation was a lie, and Democratic ‘news’ media likewise hid it. And, so, the American people trusted Bush, and destroyed Iraq. (Anyone who says that America’s invasion didn’t vastly harm the Iraqi people is either a liar or else ignorant of the realities, such as the last two links document.)

The example this time will be taken from The Week magazine, which is a compendium of summaries of the week’s ’news’ from America’s major ‘news’-media. The 1 March 2019 issue had this, on its page 8:

“Aid for Venezuela: U.S. military planes delivered more than 180 tons of humanitarian aid for Venezuela to the Colombian border city of Cucuta this week, setting up a showdown with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who has vowed to block the supplies. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) made a surprise visit to Cucuta and told Venezuelan troops stationed at the border that it was their patriotic duty to let aid through. ‘Will you prevent the food and medicine from reaching your own people?’”

The presumption there is that readers are simply too stupid to wonder, “Why should I trust that this military plane doesn’t also carry weapons for supporters of a coup to overthrow Venezuela’s president and to replace him with Trump’s choice, Juan Guaido—trust that weapons aren’t included in the cargo of ‘food and medicine’? Is Trump really so kind a person as to care about the Venezuelan people? Or is this instead yet another U.S. set-up for a brutal coup, such as the U.S. did in 1953 to Iran, and in 1954 to Guatemala, and in 1973 to Chile, and, more recently, in 2014, to Ukraine?”

That ‘news’ report, since it’s from The Week, is about what other U.S. propaganda agencies are saying, and it’s true about that (they actually are saying this), but it’s summarizing from two very untrustworthy ‘news’ media, one being a tweet from Senator Rubio on 18 February 2019 that was immediately posted at sites such as ABC News, and the other being a ‘news’ report from the Miami Herald, which added that this shipment came from USAID—and yet they ignored that USAID is a major part of almost every U.S. coup.

Here’s more context about this incident of ‘aid’ shipments: On 6 February 2019, Britain’s Daily Mail, which is less dishonest about the U.S. government than U.S. ‘news’ media are, headlined “Venezuelan officials accuse the US of sending a cache of high-powered rifles on a commercial cargo flight from Miami so they would get into the hands of ‘extreme right fascist’ groups looking to undermine Maduro’s regime”, and reported that:

Officials in Venezuela have accused the US of sending a cache of high-powered rifles and ammunition on a commercial cargo flight from Miami so they would get into the hands of President Nicolás Maduro’s opponents.

Members with the Venezuelan National Guard [GNB] and the National Integrated Service of Customs and Tax Administration [SENIAT] made the shocking discovery just two days after the plane arrived at Arturo Michelena International Airport in Valencia.

Inspectors found 19 rifles, 118 magazines and 90 wireless radios while investigating the flight which they said arrived Sunday afternoon.

Monday’s bust also netted four rifle stands, three rifle scopes and six iPhones.

And here’s yet more context: the independent American journalist Aaron Mate, tweeted on 18 February 2019:

Aaron Mate

Page 136 [near end of Ch. 4] of [Andrew G.] McCabe’s new [and only] book [THE THREAT, which was published on 19 February 2019], recounting a [July] 2017 Oval Office meeting: “Then the president talked about Venezuela. That’s the country we should be going to war with, he said. They have all that oil and they’re right on our back door.” [Stated there by the authoritarian McCabe, in order to prove how crude Trump is, and McCabe was not condemnatory of such international thefts of Venezuela’s natural resources, but only of Trump’s crudity.]

12:59 PM – 18 Feb 2019

Furthermore, yet another independent journalist, Ben Norton, at “The GrayZone Project,” headlined on 29 January 2019, “Corporate Interests—Militarist John Bolton Spills the Beans”, and he provided a complete transcript of a brief interview that John Bolton had done with Fox Business Channel five days before, on January 24. That interview wasn’t publicized by Fox, and its headline was as dull as possible, “Venezuela regime change big business opportunity: John Bolton”, and the ‘news’ report posted below it was empty of anything important, but Ben Norton captured the entire interview, and on January 29 he posted it to YouTube and to The GrayZone Project as a news report, with the full interview-segment also being transcribed there by Norton. In it, Bolton had said, on January 24:

We’re looking at the oil assets. That’s the single most important income stream to the government of Venezuela. We’re looking at what to do to that. … We’re in conversation with major American companies now that are either in Venezuela, or in the case of Citgo here in the United States. … It will make a big difference to the United States economically if we could have American oil companies really invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela.

Of course, that’s an attempt at theft of the property of another sovereign nation—theft of natural resources assets of Venezuela, from the people who live in Venezuela—it’s a huge theft attempt, which is being bragged about by the U.S. regime. Though they’ve done this type of heist in many instances during the past few decades (including in Iraq, where U.S. oil companies now extract), Bolton’s outright bragging about it is certainly extraordinary, and thus is major news. This was major news that however hasn’t been focused upon except in the few honest sites, all of which are non-mainstream (most non-mainstream sites are just as dishonest as America’s mainstream ones are—they’re fake ‘alt-news’ instead of authentically against false ‘news’, but all mainstream national news sites routinely report lies stenographically, as if what the government says is always true, and so they’re propaganda). The GrayZone Project is one of the few honest sites, and Norton luckily discovered this huge news-break from the blunder by Fox Business Channel to have aired it—that revelation having been a freak event by America’s major media, a rare slip-up.

And, finally, the great investigative journalist Wayne Madsen headlined sarcastically but truthfully on 4 March 2019, “Military Intervention and Mercenaries, Inc. (MIAMI)”, and he (a journalist whose trustworthiness I have checked and verified for many years—he’s really one of the best) opened with:

The city of Miami, Florida may have started out as a retirement mecca for winter-worn pensioners from northern climes. However, after the beginning of the Cold War and US military and Central Intelligence Agency intervention in Guatemala, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Chile, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Guyana, the Bahamas, and other Western Hemisphere nations, Miami became a refuge for exiled wealthy businessmen escaping populist revolutions and elections in South and Central America and spies. The retirement and vacation capital of the United States quickly became the “Tropical Casablanca.”

Now home to thousands of limited liability corporations linked to the CIA, as well as private military contractors, sketchy airlines flying from remote Florida airports, the interventionist US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), and exiled oligarchs running destabilization operations in their native countries, Miami—or MIAMI, “Military Intervention and Mercenaries, Inc.”—serves as the nexus for current Trump administration “regime change” efforts. …

Earlier, on February 18, President Trump had delivered a lengthy speech in Miami, titled “Remarks by President Trump to the Venezuelan American Community”, and this was obviously aimed at passionate enemies of Venezuela’s government. Here is a typical passage, with accompanying documentations of the actual truth regarding his lies as stated there. Trump’s allegations are in boldface italics, and my commentaries are in regular type within brackets, and linked there to my sources:

Not long ago, Venezuela was the wealthiest nation, by far, in South America. [The allegation that Venezuela’s economy has done less well since Hugo Chavez became President on 2 February 1999 is disconfirmed by World Bank data showing that Venezuela reached its all-time-high economic-growth rate in 2004, 5 years after Hugo Chavez became democratically elected and took office as the country’s President. The economy rapidly declined as soon as the U.S. started its coup-attempts. Furthermore, a scientific study of the data showed in 2017 that: “Mexico’s and Venezuela’s numbers on this question [[of ‘Where would you place our country ten years ago?’”]] with a 1 to 10 scale, from absolutely democratic, to not democratic, throughout the period of 2013-2017, compared to those of other countries in the region, clearly show Venezuela as the country where the highest percentage of people believed that democracy had increased during the 2003-2013 decade. Mexico ranked in twelfth place, out of eighteen surveyed countries. “This comparison helps to dimension the solid sense that Venezuelans had about the strength of their democracy during the Chávez administration, and the weak one that Mexicans had.”] But years of socialist rule have brought this once-thriving nation to the brink of ruin. [That too is false—socialism wasn’t the cause of Venezuela’s economic come-down. Venezuela’s boom-time was the period of massive public-debt buildup prior to the exceptionally high oil prices in 1973-1985, as shown in “Figure 4: Venezuela Real GDP per Capita”. Moreover, as the CIA-edited and written Wikipedia says about Venezuela: ”The election in 1973 of Carlos Andrés Pérez coincided with an oil crisis [[the OPEC oil-embargo]], in which Venezuela’s income exploded as oil prices soared; oil industries were nationalized in 1976. This [oil-nationalization and oil-production investment all at the worst possible time] led to massive increases in public spending, but also increases in external debts, which continued into the 1980s when the collapse of oil prices during the 1980s crippled the Venezuelan economy.“ That “oil crisis” was actually the period of exceptionally high oil prices resulting from Israel’s 1973 invasions and OPEC embargoes, but it was actually hell for Venezuela because Venezuela was losing money on each barrel of oil sold because only the Arabic countries and Iran were able to sell profitably their oil after the period of OPEC”s oil-embargo. Venezuela, seller of the world’ dirtiest oil, after 1976 was losing money on each barrel, when they had to repay all those foreign loans amassed during the boom-period.]  That’s where it is today.

The tyrannical socialist government nationalized private industries and took over private businesses.  They engaged in massive wealth confiscation, shut down free markets, suppressed free speech, and set up a relentless propaganda machine, rigged elections, used the government to persecute their political opponents, and destroyed the impartial rule of law.

In other words, the socialists have done in Venezuela all of the same things that socialists, communists, totalitarians have done everywhere that they’ve had a chance to rule.  The results have been catastrophic.

In conclusion, then, no country in the world has a press that’s more dishonest than the United States of America does. “More dishonest” than this press would even be a ludicrous concept. Though the particular lies that are being promoted elsewhere might happen to be different, they can’t be worse. America’s having destroyed Iran and Libya, etc., is proof of this.

Consequently: Only people who possess a thoroughly scientific orientation toward confirming and disconfirming allegations, are capable of extracting from such ‘news’ a realistic understanding of what’s actually happening. The vast majority of people can be fooled, and they can be fooled constantly and even for (as in the instance of America, since at least 2003) decades, and yet still trust the institutions that have deceived them so mercilessly through all of those decades. This is the major reason why the United States is a dictatorship, not a democracy—and why any ‘news’ site which calls the U.S. a ‘democracy’ is thereby clearly demonstrating its untrustworthiness. But, of course, only honest news reporting organizations are publishing this report. And there will probably be very few that will do that, though all are receiving it for publication.

Posted in Authoritarianism, black ops, censorship, CIA, consciousness, corporate news, culture, Deep State, elites, Empire, Geopolitics, imperialism, media, Media Literacy, news, propaganda, Psy-ops, Social Control, Social Engineering, society, State Crime, war | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

GIVE AMERICA’S ‘HELICOPTER PARENTS’ A BREAK

Hovering parents don’t need lectures. They need a more equal nation.

By Sam Pizzigati

Source: OtherWords

A good many of us aging baby boomers are having trouble relating to the “helicopter parents” of our modern age — those moms and pops constantly hovering over their kids, filling their schedules with enrichment activities of every sort, worrying nonstop about their futures.

Back in the middle of the 20th century, baby boomers didn’t grow up like that. We lived much more “free-range” childhoods. We pedaled our bikes far from hearth and home. We organized our own pick-up games. We spent — wasted! — entire summers doing little bits of nothing.

We survived. So did our parents. So why do parents today have to hover so much?

The standard explanation: Times have changed. Yes, today’s parents take a more intense approach to parenting. But they have no choice. The pressures of modernity make them do it.

Economists Matthias Doepke of Northwestern University and Fabrizio Zilibotti of Yale have followed all the debate over helicopter parenting, and they’re not jumping on this blame-modernity bandwagon. If the pace and pressures of our dangerous digital times are driving parents to hover, the pair points out, then we ought to see parents helicoptering across the developed world.

We’re not.

In fact, researchers have found significant differences in parenting styles from one modern industrial nation to another. Parents in some nations today have parenting styles as relaxed as anything aging baby boomers experienced back in the 1950s. In other nations, by contrast, parents seem as intense as today’s helicoptering norm in the United States.

How can we account for these differences?

Doepke and Zilibotti have a compelling explanation. Levels of helicopter parenting, they note, track with levels of economic inequality. The wider a society’s income gaps, the more parents hover.

The two countries most notorious for their helicopter parenting, China and the United States, just happen to sport two of the world’s deepest economic divides. And those more relaxed parenting days of mid-20th century America? They came at a time when the United States shared income and wealth much more equally than the United States does today.

What’s going on here? Why should economic inequality have any impact on parenting styles?

In severely unequal nations, the evidence suggests, childhoods have become high-stakes competitions. Only the “winners” go on to enjoy comfortable lives when they grow up. You either make it into the ranks of your nation’s elite or you risk struggling on a treadmill that never ends.

In more equal societies, you don’t have to matriculate at the “best” schools or score a high-status internship to live a dignified life. In societies with income and wealth more evenly distributed, broad swatches of people — not just elites — live comfortably. That leaves parents, as Doepke puts it, “more room to relax and let the kids just enjoy themselves.”

Parents in highly unequal nations can’t afford to relax. They have too much to do. They have to shape their kids into winners. But the competition their children face will always be rigged, because the already affluent in deeply unequal societies have more time and money to invest in that shaping.

Researchers Doepke and Zilibotti call for greater public investments in social services — like quality child care — to narrow the competitive advantage that wealth bestows upon affluent American families.

The investments they recommend would certainly help ease the pressure on working households. Would they be enough to get our parents more relaxed? Not likely, not so long as rewards keep concentrating in the pockets of the few at the expense of the many.

Our helicopter parents, in short, don’t need fixing. Our economic system does.

Posted in culture, Economics, education, Financial Crisis, Inequality, Social Control, Social Engineering, society, Sociology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Saturday Matinee: Sacco and Vanzetti (2006)

SACCO AND VANZETTI brings to life the story of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, two Italian immigrant anarchists who were accused of a murder in 1920, and executed in Boston in 1927 after a notoriously prejudiced trial. The ordeal of Sacco and Vanzetti came to symbolize the bigotry and intolerance directed at immigrants and dissenters in America. Millions of people around the world protested on their behalf, and now, 80 years later, their story continues to have great resonance, as civil liberties and the rights of immigrants are again under attack. Powerful prison writings (given voice by John Turturro and Tony Shalhoub) and passionate interviews with Howard Zinn, Arlo Guthrie and Studs Terkel are interwoven with artwork, music and film clips. Through the story of Sacco and Vanzetti, audiences will experience a universal, and very timely, tale of official injustice and human resilience.

Watch the full film here: https://christiebooks.co.uk/anarchist_films/sacco-and-vanzetti-2006-peter-miller/

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

Survival of the Richest

All Are Equal, Except Those Who Aren’t

By Nomi Prins

Source: TomDispatch.com

Like a gilded coating that makes the dullest things glitter, today’s thin veneer of political populism covers a grotesque underbelly of growing inequality that’s hiding in plain sight. And this phenomenon of ever more concentrated wealth and power has both Newtonian and Darwinian components to it.

In terms of Newton’s first law of motion: those in power will remain in power unless acted upon by an external force. Those who are wealthy will only gain in wealth as long as nothing deflects them from their present course. As for Darwin, in the world of financial evolution, those with wealth or power will do what’s in their best interest to protect that wealth, even if it’s in no one else’s interest at all.

In George Orwell’s iconic 1945 novel, Animal Farm, the pigs who gain control in a rebellion against a human farmer eventually impose a dictatorship on the other animals on the basis of a single commandment: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” In terms of the American republic, the modern equivalent would be: “All citizens are equal, but the wealthy are so much more equal than anyone else (and plan to remain that way).”

Certainly, inequality is the economic great wall between those with power and those without it.

As the animals of Orwell’s farm grew ever less equal, so in the present moment in a country that still claims equal opportunity for its citizens, one in which three Americans now have as much wealth as the bottom half of society (160 million people), you could certainly say that we live in an increasingly Orwellian society. Or perhaps an increasingly Twainian one.

After all, Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner wrote a classic 1873 novel that put an unforgettable label on their moment and could do the same for ours. The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today depicted the greed and political corruption of post-Civil War America. Its title caught the spirit of what proved to be a long moment when the uber-rich came to dominate Washington and the rest of America. It was a period saturated with robber barons, professional grifters, and incomprehensibly wealthy banking magnates. (Anything sound familiar?) The main difference between that last century’s gilded moment and this one was that those robber barons built tangible things like railroads. Today’s equivalent crew of the mega-wealthy build remarkably intangible things like tech and electronic platforms, while a grifter of a president opts for the only new infrastructure in sight, a great wall to nowhere.

In Twain’s epoch, the U.S. was emerging from the Civil War. Opportunists were rising from the ashes of the nation’s battered soul. Land speculation, government lobbying, and shady deals soon converged to create an unequal society of the first order (at least until now). Soon after their novel came out, a series of recessions ravaged the country, followed by a 1907 financial panic in New York City caused by a speculator-led copper-market scam.

From the late 1890s on, the most powerful banker on the planet, J.P. Morgan, was called upon multiple times to bail out a country on the economic edge. In 1907, Treasury Secretary George Cortelyou provided him with $25 million in bailout money at the request of President Theodore Roosevelt to stabilize Wall Street and calm frantic citizens trying to withdraw their deposits from banks around the country. And this Morgan did — by helping his friends and their companies, while skimming money off the top himself. As for the most troubled banks holding the savings of ordinary people? Well, they folded. (Shades of the 2007-2008 meltdown and bailout anyone?)

The leading bankers who had received that bounty from the government went on to cause the Crash of 1929. Not surprisingly, much speculation and fraud preceded it. In those years, the novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald caught the era’s spirit of grotesque inequality in The Great Gatsby when one of his characters comments: “Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me.” The same could certainly be said of today when it comes to the gaping maw between the have-nots and have-a-lots.

Income vs. Wealth

To fully grasp the nature of inequality in our twenty-first-century gilded age, it’s important to understand the difference between wealth and income and what kinds of inequality stem from each. Simply put, income is how much money you make in terms of paid work or any return on investments or assets (or other things you own that have the potential to change in value). Wealth is simply the gross accumulation of those very assets and any return or appreciation on them. The more wealth you have, the easier it is to have a higher annual income.

Let’s break that down. If you earn $31,000 a year, the median salary for an individual in the United States today, your income would be that amount minus associated taxes (including federal, state, social security, and Medicare ones). On average, that means you would be left with about $26,000 before other expenses kicked in.

If your wealth is $1,000,000, however, and you put that into a savings account paying 2.25% interest, you could receive about $22,500 and, after taxes, be left with about $19,000, for doing nothing whatsoever.

To put all this in perspective, the top 1% of Americans now take home, on average, more than 40 times the incomes of the bottom 90%. And if you head for the top 0.1%, those figures only radically worsen. That tiny crew takes home more than 198 times the income of the bottom 90% percent. They also possess as much wealth as the nation’s bottom 90%. “Wealth,” as Adam Smith so classically noted almost two-and-a-half-centuries ago in The Wealth of Nations, “is power,” an adage that seldom, sadly, seems outdated.

A Case Study: Wealth, Inequality, and the Federal Reserve

Obviously, if you inherit wealth in this country, you’re instantly ahead of the game. In America, a third to nearly a half of all wealth is inherited rather than self-made. According to a New York Times investigation, for instance, President Donald Trump, from birth, received an estimated $413 million (in today’s dollars, that is) from his dear old dad and another $140 million (in today’s dollars) in loans. Not a bad way for a “businessman” to begin building the empire (of bankruptcies) that became the platform for a presidential campaign that oozed into actually running the country. Trump did it, in other words, the old-fashioned way — through inheritance.

In his megalomaniacal zeal to declare a national emergency at the southern border, that gilded millionaire-turned-billionaire-turned-president provides but one of many examples of a long record of abusing power. Unfortunately, in this country, few people consider record inequality (which is still growing) as another kind of abuse of power, another kind of great wall, in this case keeping not Central Americans but most U.S. citizens out.

The Federal Reserve, the country’s central bank that dictates the cost of money and that sustained Wall Street in the wake of the financial crisis of 2007-2008 (and since), has finally pointed out that such extreme levels of inequality are bad news for the rest of the country. As Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said at a town hall in Washington in early February, “We want prosperity to be widely shared. We need policies to make that happen.” Sadly, the Fed has largely contributed to increasing the systemic inequality now engrained in the financial and, by extension, political system. In a recent research paper, the Fed did, at least, underscore the consequences of inequality to the economy, showing that “income inequality can generate low aggregate demand, deflation pressure, excessive credit growth, and financial instability.”

In the wake of the global economic meltdown, however, the Fed took it upon itself to reduce the cost of money for big banks by chopping interest rates to zero (before eventually raising them to 2.5%) and buying $4.5 trillion in Treasury and mortgage bonds to lower it further. All this so that banks could ostensibly lend money more easily to Main Street and stimulate the economy. As Senator Bernie Sanders noted though, “The Federal Reserve provided more than $16 trillion in total financial assistance to some of the largest financial institutions and corporations in the United States and throughout the world… a clear case of socialism for the rich and rugged, you’re-on-your-own individualism for everyone else.”

The economy has been treading water ever since (especially compared to the stock market). Annual gross domestic product growth has not surpassed 3%in any year since the financial crisis, even as the level of the stock market tripled, grotesquely increasing the country’s inequality gap. None of this should have been surprising, since much of the excess money went straight to big banks, rich investors, and speculators.  They then used it to invest in the stock and bond markets, but not in things that would matter to all the Americans outside that great wall of wealth.

The question is: Why are inequality and a flawed economic system mutually reinforcing? As a starting point, those able to invest in a stock market buoyed by the Fed’s policies only increased their wealth exponentially. In contrast, those relying on the economy to sustain them via wages and other income got shafted. Most people aren’t, of course, invested in the stock market, or really in anything. They can’t afford to be. It’s important to remember that nearly 80% of the population lives paycheck to paycheck.

The net result: an acute post-financial-crisis increase in wealth inequality — on top of the income inequality that was global but especially true in the United States. The crew in the top 1% that doesn’t rely on salaries to increase their wealth prospered fabulously. They, after all, now own more than half of all national wealth invested in stocks and mutual funds, so a soaring stock market disproportionately helps them. It’s also why the Federal Reserve subsidy policies to Wall Street banks have only added to the extreme wealth of those extreme few.

The Ramifications of Inequality

The list of negatives resulting from such inequality is long indeed. As a start, the only thing the majority of Americans possess a greater proportion of than that top 1% is a mountain of debt.

The bottom 90% are the lucky owners of about three-quarters of the country’s household debt. Mortgages, auto loans, student loans, and credit-card debt are cumulatively at a record-high $13.5 trillion.

And that’s just to start down a slippery slope. As Inequality.org reports, wealth and income inequality impact “everything from life expectancy to infant mortality and obesity.” High economic inequality and poor health, for instance, go hand and hand, or put another way, inequality compromises the overall health of the country. According to academic findings, income inequality is, in the most literal sense, making Americans sick. As one study put it, “Diseased and impoverished economic infrastructures [help] lead to diseased or impoverished or unbalanced bodies or minds.”

Then there’s Social Security, established in 1935 as a federal supplement for those in need who have also paid into the system through a tax on their wages. Today, all workers contribute 6.2% of their annual earnings and employers pay the other 6.2% (up to a cap of $132,900) into the Social Security system. Those making far more than that, specifically millionaires and billionaires, don’t have to pay a dime more on a proportional basis. In practice, that means about 94% of American workers and their employers paid the full 12.4% of their annual earnings toward Social Security, while the other 6% paid an often significantly smaller fraction of their earnings.

According to his own claims about his 2016 income, for instance, President Trump “contributed a mere 0.002 percent of his income to Social Security in 2016.” That means it would take nearly 22,000 additional workers earning the median U.S. salary to make up for what he doesn’t have to pay. And the greater the income inequality in this country, the more money those who make less have to put into the Social Security system on a proportional basis. In recent years, a staggering $1.4 trillion could have gone into that system, if there were no arbitrary payroll cap favoring the wealthy.

Inequality: A Dilemma With Global Implications

America is great at minting millionaires. It has the highest concentration of them, globally speaking, at 41%. (Another 24% of that millionaires’ club can be found in Europe.) And the top 1% of U.S. citizens earn 40 times the national average and own about 38.6% of the country’s total wealth. The highest figure in any other developed country is “only” 28%.

However, while the U.S. boasts of epic levels of inequality, it’s also a global trend. Consider this: the world’s richest 1% own 45% of total wealth on this planet. In contrast, 64% of the population (with an average of $10,000 in wealth to their name) holds less than 2%. And to widen the inequality picture a bit more, the world’s richest 10%, those having at least $100,000 in assets, own 84% of total global wealth.

The billionaires’ club is where it’s really at, though. According to Oxfam, the richest 42 billionaires have a combined wealth equal to that of the poorest 50% of humanity. Rest assured, however, that in this gilded century there’s inequality even among billionaires. After all, the 10 richest among them possess $745 billion in total global wealth. The next 10 down the list possess a mere $451.5 billion, and why even bother tallying the next 10 when you get the picture?

Oxfam also recently reported that “the number of billionaires has almost doubled, with a new billionaire created every two days between 2017 and 2018. They have now more wealth than ever before while almost half of humanity have barely escaped extreme poverty, living on less than $5.50 a day.”

How Does It End?

In sum, the rich are only getting richer and it’s happening at a historic rate. Worse yet, over the past decade, there was an extra perk for the truly wealthy. They could bulk up on assets that had been devalued due to the financial crisis, while so many of their peers on the other side of that great wall of wealth were economically decimated by the 2007-2008 meltdown and have yet to fully recover.

What we’ve seen ever since is how money just keeps flowing upward through banks and massive speculation, while the economic lives of those not at the top of the financial food chain have largely remained stagnant or worse. The result is, of course, sweeping inequality of a kind that, in much of the last century, might have seemed inconceivable.

Eventually, we will all have to face the black cloud this throws over the entire economy. Real people in the real world, those not at the top, have experienced a decade of ever greater instability, while the inequality gap of this beyond-gilded age is sure to shape a truly messy world ahead. In other words, this can’t end well.

 

Nomi Prins, a former Wall Street executive, is a TomDispatch regular. Her latest book is Collusion: How Central Bankers Rigged the World (Nation Books). She is also the author of All the Presidents’ Bankers: The Hidden Alliances That Drive American Power and five other books. Special thanks go to researcher Craig Wilson for his superb work on this piece.

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US Regime Change Blueprint Proposed Venezuelan Electricity Blackouts as ‘Watershed Event’ for ‘Galvanizing Public Unrest’

The US-funded CANVAS organization that trained Juan Guaido and his allies produced a 2010 memo on exploiting electricity outages and urged the opposition “to take advantage of the situation…towards their needs”

By Max Blumenthal

Source: Grayzone

A September 2010 memo by a US-funded soft power organization that helped train Venezuelan coup leader Juan Guaido and his allies identifies the potential collapse of the country’s electrical sector as “a watershed event” that “would likely have the impact of galvanizing public unrest in a way that no opposition group could ever hope to generate.”

The memo has special relevance today as Guaido moves to exploit nationwide blackouts caused by a major failure at the Simon Bolivar Hydroelectric Plant at Guri dam – a crisis that Venezuela’s government blames on US sabotage.

It was authored by Srdja Popovic of the Center for Applied Non-Violent Action and Strategies (CANVAS), a Belgrade-based “democracy promotion” organization funded by the US government that has trained thousands of US-aligned youth activists in countries where the West seeks regime change.

This group reportedly hosted Guaido and the key leaders of his Popular Will party for a series of training sessions, fashioning them into a “Generation 2007” determined to foment resistance to then-President Hugo Chavez and sabotage his plans to implement “21st century socialism” in Venezuela.

In the 2010 memo, CANVAS’s Popovic declared, “A key to Chavez’s current weakness is the decline in the electricity sector.” Popovic explicitly identified the Simon Bolivar Hydroelectric Plant as a friction point, emphasizing that “water levels at the Guri dam are dropping, and Chavez has been unable to reduce consumption sufficiently to compensate for the deteriorating industry.”

Speculating on a “grave possibility that some 70 percent of the country’s electricity grid could go dark as soon as April 2010,” the CANVAS leader stated that “an opposition group would be best served to take advantage of the situation and spin it against Chavez and towards their needs.”

Flash forward to March 2019, and the scenario outlined by Popovic is playing out almost exactly as he had imagined.

On March 7, just days after Guaido’s return from Colombia, where he participated in the failed and demonstrably violent February 23 attempt to ram a shipment of US aid across the Venezuelan border, the Simon Bolivar Hydroelectric Plant experienced a major and still unexplained collapse.

Days later, electricity remains sporadic across the country. Meanwhile, Guaido has done everything he can “to take advantage of the situation and spin it” against President Nicolas Maduro – just as his allies were urged to do over eight years before by CANVAS.

Rubio vows “a period of suffering” for Venezuela hours before the blackout

The Venezuelan government has placed the blame squarely on Washington, accusing it of sabotage through a cyber-attack on its electrical infrastructure. Key players in the US-directed coup attempt have done little to dispel the accusation.

In a tweet on March 8, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo framed the electricity outage as a pivotal stage in US plans for regime change:

At noon on March 7, during a hearing on Venezuela at the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee, Sen. Marco Rubio explicitly called for the US to stir “widespread unrest,” declaring that it “needs to happen” in order to achieve regime change.

“Venezuela is going to enter a period of suffering no nation in our hemisphere has confronted in modern history,” Rubio proclaimed.

Around 5 PM, the Simon Bolivar Hydroelectric Plant experienced a total and still unexplained collapse. Residents of Caracas and throughout Venezuela were immediately plunged into darkness.

At 5:18 PM, a clearly excited Rubio took to Twitter to announce the blackout and claim that “backup generators have failed.” It was unclear how Rubio had obtained such specific information so soon after the outage occurred. According to Jorge Rodriguez, the communications minister of Venezuela, local authorities did not know if backup generators had failed at the time of Rubio’s tweet.

Back in Caracas, Guaido immediately set out to exploit the situation, just as his CANVAS trainers had advised over eight years before. Taking to Twitter just over an hour after Rubio, Guaido declared, “the light will return when the usurpation [of Maduro] ends.” Like Pompeo, the self-declared president framed the blackouts as part of a regime change strategy, not an accident or error.

Two days later, Guaido was at the center of opposition rally he convened in affluent eastern Caracas, bellowing into a megaphone: “Article 187 when the time comes. We need to be in the streets, mobilized. It depends on us, not on anybody else.”

Article 187 establishes the right of the National Assembly “to authorize the use of Venezuelan military missions abroad or foreign in the country.”

Upon his mention of the constitutional article, Guaido’s supporters responded, “Intervention! Intervention!”

Exploiting crisis to “get back into a position of power”

As Dan Cohen and I reported here at the Grayzone, Guaido’s rise to prominence – and the coup plot that he has been appointed to oversee – is the product of a decade-long project overseen by the Belgrade-based CANVAS outfit.

CANVAS is a spinoff of Otpor, a Serbian protest group founded by Srdja Popovic in 1998 at the University of Belgrade. Otpor, which means “resistance” in Serbian, was the student group that worked alongside US soft power organizations to mobilize the protests that eventually toppled the late Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic.

CANVAS has been funded largely through the National Endowment for Democracy, a CIA cut-out that functions as the US government’s main arm of promoting regime change.  According to leaked internal emails from Stratfor, an intelligence firm known as the “shadow CIA,” CANVAS “may have also received CIA funding and training during the 1999/2000 anti-Milosevic struggle.”

A leaked email from a Stratfor staffer noted that after they ousted Milosevic, “the kids who ran OTPOR grew up, got suits and designed CANVAS… or in other words a ‘export-a-revolution’ group that sowed the seeds for a NUMBER of color revolutions. They are still hooked into U.S. funding and basically go around the world trying to topple dictators and autocratic governments (ones that U.S. does not like ;).”

Stratfor subsequently revealed that CANVAS “turned its attention to Venezuela” in 2005, after training opposition movements that led pro-NATO regime change operations across Eastern Europe.

In September 2010, as Venezuela headed for a parliamentary election, CANVAS produced a series of memos outlining the plans they had hatched with “non-formal actors” like Guaido and his cadre of student activists to bring down Chavez. “This is the first opportunity for the opposition to get back into a position of power,” Popovic wrote at the time.

In his memo on electricity outages, Popovic highlighted the importance of the Venezuelan military in achieving regime change. “Alliances with the military could be critical because in such a situation of massive public unrest and rejection of the presidency,” the CANVAS founder wrote, “malcontent sectors of the military will likely decide to intervene, but only if they believe they have sufficient support.”

While the scenario Popovic envisioned failed to materialize in 2010, it perfectly describes the situation gripping Venezuela today as an opposition leader cultivated by CANVAS seeks to spin the crisis against Maduro while calling on the military to break ranks.

Since the Grayzone exposed the deep ties between CANVAS and Guaido’s Popular Will party, Popovic has attempted to publicly distance himself from his record of training Venezuela’s opposition.

Today, however, Popovic’s 2010 memo on exploiting electricity outages reads like a blueprint for the strategy that Guaido and his patrons in Washington have actively implemented. Whether or not the blackout is the result of external sabotage, it represents the “watershed event” that CANVAS has prepared its Venezuelan cadres for.

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