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Casino Capitalism: Neoliberalism in Western countries

"When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done" ~ John Maynard Keynes

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Financialization is a process whereby financial markets, financial institutions, and financial elites gain greater influence over economic policy and economic outcomes. Financialization transforms the functioning of economic systems at both the macro and micro levels.

Its principal impacts are to (1) elevate the significance of the financial sector relative to the real sector, (2) transfer income from the real sector to the financial sector, and (3) increase income inequality and contribute to wage stagnation. Additionally, there are reasons to believe that financialization may put the economy at risk of debt deflation and prolonged recession.

Financialization operates through three different conduits: changes in the structure and operation of financial markets, changes in the behavior of nonfinancial corporations, and changes in economic policy.

Countering financialization calls for a multifaceted agenda that (1) restores policy control over financial markets, (2) challenges the neoliberal economic policy paradigm encouraged by financialization, (3) makes corporations responsive to interests of stakeholders other than just financial markets, and (4) reforms the political process so as to diminish the influence of corporations and wealthy elites.

Thomas Palley, See http://www.levyinstitute.org/pubs/wp_525.pdf

Speculation and gambling were always a part of Wall Street but since the 1930’s they were just a side-show, now they are the show.

Comment to Matt Taibbi article Fannie, Freddie, and the New Red and Blue t


Introduction

“The sense of responsibility in the financial community
for the community as a whole is not small. It is nearly nil.”

-- John Kenneth Galbraith, The Great Crash of 1929

The term Casino Capitalism generally is symonim of neoliberalism (also called economic liberalism), but it also point out to a specific phase of neoliberal transformation of capitalism. Politically it was slow motion corporate coup d'état, which started in 70th and is now accomplished in the USA and other Western countries which buries social-democratic (New Deal style) model of capitalism. 

It hypertrophied police functions of state (in the form of national-security state)  while completely avoiding economic sphere in ways other then enforcement of laws (with a notable exclusion from this top 1% -- "Masters of the Universe"). Like bolshevism it uses the state for the enforcement of the social system.  On top level this is crony capitalism for major corporation. On low level of medium and small business owners it presupposed a deregulated economy (in a sense of the "law of jungle" as a business environment).

Casino capitalism presupposes strong militarized state, suppressing all the attempts to challenge the new "nomenklatura" (much like was the case in the USSR).  It is quite different from traditional liberalism:

“Liberalism” can refer to political, economic, or even religious ideas. In the U.S. political liberalism has been a strategy to prevent social conflict. It is presented to poor and working people as progressive compared to conservative or Right wing. Economic liberalism is different. Conservative politicians who say they hate “liberals” — meaning the political type — have no real problem with economic liberalism, including neoliberalism.

In other words this is neoliberal model of corporatism during the period of "cheap hydrocarbons".  The period that is probably near the end and which by some estimate can last only another 50 years or so (less than 100 years).  The major crisis of casino capitalism in 2008 was connected both with financial excesses (caused by moving to semi-criminal ways of extracting return on capital, typical for casino capitalism),  but also with the rise of the price of oil and decrease of  Energy returned on energy invested (EROEI)In this sense the last low oil price period which started in late 2014 and ended in spring 2018 can be viewed as the "last hurrah" of the casino capitalism.

In understanding neoliberal transformation of the society since early 80th it is important to understanding of the key role of financialization in this process. When major services are privatized (education, healthcare, pension plans) financial institution insert themselves as intermediaries in this arrangement and make it the main source of their profits.  Also contrary to neoliberal propaganda this process is aided and abetted by state. State is used by neoliberalism as a tool of enforcing market relations even where they are not useless or even harmful (education). All this talk about irresolvable controversy between market and state is for gullible fools. In reality, being Trotskyism for rich, neoliberalism uses power of the state to enforce market relations  by force on reluctant population even in areas where this can do no good. That make really it close to Soviet social experiment, which lasted from 1917 to 1991 or almost 75 years. As Marx noted "History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce."

A very good discussion of the role of Financialisation in entrenchment of neoliberalism in modern societies can be found in the book by Costas Lapavitsas. Some highlights are provided in his Guardian article Finance's hold on our everyday life must be broken

This extraordinary public largesse towards private banks was matched by austerity and wage reductions for workers and households. As for restructuring finance, nothing fundamental has taken place. The behemoths that continue to dominate the global financial system operate in the knowledge that they enjoy an unspoken public guarantee. The unpalatable reality is that financialisation will persist, despite its costs for society.

Financialisation represents a historic and deep-seated transformation of mature capitalism. Big businesses have become "financialised" as they have ample profits to finance investment, rely less on banks for loans and play financial games with available funds. Big banks, in turn, have become more distant from big businesses, turning to profits from trading in open financial markets and from lending to households. Households have become "financialised" too, as public provision in housing, education, health, pensions and other vital areas has been partly replaced by private provision, access to which is mediated by the financial system. Not surprisingly, households have accumulated a tremendous volume of financial assets and liabilities over the past four decades.

The penetration of finance into the everyday life of households has not only created a range of dependencies on financial services, but also changed the outlook, mentality and even morality of daily life. Financial calculation evaluates everything in pennies and pounds, transforming the most basic goods – above all, housing – into "investments". Its logic has affected even the young, who have traditionally been idealistic and scornful of pecuniary calculation. Fertile ground has been created for neoliberal ideology to preach the putative merits of the market.

Financialisation has also created new forms of profit associated with financial markets and transactions. Financial profit can be made out of any income, or any sum of money that comes into contact with the financial sphere. Households, for example, generate profits for finance as debtors (mostly by paying interest on mortgages) but also as creditors (mostly by paying fees and charges on pension funds and insurance). Finance is not particular about how and where it makes its profits, and certainly does not limit itself to the sphere of production. It ranges far and wide, transforming every aspect of social life into a profit-making opportunity.

The traditional image of the person earning financial profits is the "rentier", the individual who invests funds in secure financial assets. In the contemporary financialised universe, however, those who earn vast returns are very different. They are often located within a financial institution, presumably work to provide financial services, and receive vast sums in the form of wages, or more often bonuses. Modern financial elites are prominent at the top of the income distribution, set trends in conspicuous consumption, shape the expensive end of the housing market, and transform the core of urban centres according to their own tastes.

Financialised capitalism is, thus, a deeply unequal system, prone to bubbles and crises – none greater than that of 2007-09. What can be done about it? The most important point in this respect is that financialisation does not represent an advance for humanity, and very little of it ought to be preserved. Financial markets are, for instance, able to mobilise advanced technology employing some of the best-trained physicists in the world to rebalance prices across the globe in milliseconds. This "progress" allows financiers to earn vast profits; but where is the commensurate benefit to society from committing such expensive resources to these tasks?

The term "casino capitalism" was coined by Susan Strange who used it as a title of her book Casino Capitalism published in 1986. She was one of the first who realized that

  1. "The roots of the world's economic disorder are monetary and financial";
  2. "The disorder has not come about by accident, but has in fact been nurtured and encouraged by a series of government decisions." (p. 60). In other words its was a counter-revolution of the part of ruling elite (financial oligarchy) which lost its influence in 30th (dismantling New Deal from above in the USA (Reaganomics) or Thatcherism in the GB).

According to Susan Strange transformation of industrial capitalism into neoliberal capitalism ("casino capitalism") involved five trends. All of them increased the systemic instability of the system and the level of political corruption:

  1. Innovations in the way in which financial markets work due to introduction of computers;
  2. The sheer size of markets; (with the introduction of 401K the size of stock market multiplied, etc)
  3. Commercial banks turned into investment banks;
  4. The emergence of Asian nations as large players;
  5. The shift to self-regulation by banks (pp.9-10).

Now it is pretty much established fact that the conversion from "industrial capitalism" to neoliberal, completely financialialized "casino capitalism" is the natural logic of development of capitalism. In early and incomplete matter this trend was noticed at early 1990th by many thinkers. This is just the second iteration of the same trend which was interrupted by the Great Depression and subsequent WWII. So, in a way, replacement of industrial capitalism with financial capitalism in a natural tendency within the capitalism itself and corruption was contributing, but not decisive factor.  The same is true about globalization, especially about globalization of financial flows, typical for casino capitalism, which is a form of colonialism (neocolonialism).

Also this conversion did not happen due to lack of oversight or as a folly. It was a couscous choice made by the US and GB elite, both of which faced deterioration of rates of return on capital. Also unlike "industrial capitalism" which was more-or-less stable system, able to outcompete the neo-theocratic system of the USSR, the financial capitalism is unstable in the same sense as radioactive elements are unstable.  And this instability tend to increase with time. So there is probably natural half-life period for neoliberalism as a social system. It might be already reached in 2008.  In we assume that global victory of neoliberalism happened in 1990. It is just 18 years.  If we think that it happened in late 60th, then it is closer to 50 years.

The global crisis of neoliberal capitalism which started from bursting the USA subprime housing bubble in 2008 undermined ideological legitimacy of its central claim that "free markets" lead to faster and more uniform economic development of all countries. While the peak of its "ideological" power might be over (much like the peak of attractiveness of "command socialism" was over after WWII), it will exist in a zombie state for a long time due to economic and military power of the USA and G7.  And as we know from Hollywood films, zombies can be especially bloodthirsty. It probably will remain the dominant force for at least the next two decades pursuing the same policy of "forceful" opening of energy rich  and resource countries for western multinationals intact using color revolutions and local wars.  But as Napoleon quipped "You can do anything with bayonets, you just can't sit on them".

Conversion to neoliberal capitalism was a reaction on stagnation of industrial production and as such it was nurtured and encouraged by a series of government decisions for the last 50 years. Stagnation of industrial production made expansion of financial sector of paramount importance for the ruling elite and by extension for Congress which represents this elite. House vote 377:4 for Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 is pretty telling in this respect.

There were also at least two important parallel developments.

Most respectable authors like Henry Giroux in his article in Counterpunch generally consider the term "casino capitalism" to be an equivalent to the term Neoliberalism. Here is a relevant quote from Henry Giroux's Authoritarian Politics in the Age of Casino Capitalism :

There is more at work here than simply a ramped up version of social Darwinism with its savagely cruel ethic of “reward the rich, penalize the poor, [and] let everyone fend for themselves,” [ii] there is also a full scale attack on the social contract, the welfare state, economic equality, and any viable vestige of moral and social responsibility. The Romney-Ryan appropriation of Ayn Rand’s ode to selfishness and self-interest is of particular importance because it offers a glimpse of a ruthless form of extreme capitalism in which the poor are considered “moochers,” viewed with contempt, and singled out to be punished. But this theocratic economic fundamentalist ideology does more. It destroys any viable notion of the and civic virtue in which the social contract and common good provide the basis for creating meaningful social bonds and instilling in citizens a sense of social and civic responsibility. The idea of public service is viewed with disdain just as the work of individuals, social groups, and institutions that benefit the citizenry at large are held in contempt.

As George Lakoff and Glenn W. Smith point out, casino capitalism creates a culture of cruelty: “its horrific effects on individuals-death, illness, suffering, greater poverty, and loss of opportunity, productive lives, and money.”[iii]

But it does more by crushing any viable notion of the common good and public life by destroying “the bonds that hold us together.”[iv] Under casino capitalism, the spaces, institutions, and values that constitute the public are now surrendered to powerful financial forces and viewed simply as another market to be commodified, privatized and surrendered to the demands of capital. With religious and market-driven zealots in charge, politics becomes an extension of war; greed and self-interest trump any concern for the well-being of others; reason is trumped by emotions rooted in absolutist certainty and militaristic aggression; and skepticism and dissent are viewed as the work of Satan.

If the Republican candidacy race of 2012 is any indication, then political discourse in the United States has not only moved to the right—it has been introducing totalitarian values and ideals into the mainstream of public life. Religious fanaticism, consumer culture, and the warfare state work in tandem with neoliberal economic forces to encourage privatization, corporate tax breaks, growing income and wealth inequality, and the further merging of the financial and military spheres in ways that diminish the authority and power of democratic governance.[v] Neoliberal interests in freeing markets from social constraints, fueling competitiveness, destroying education systems, producing atomized subjects, and loosening individuals from any sense of social responsibility prepare the populace for a slow embrace of social Darwinism, state terrorism, and the mentality of war — not least of all by destroying communal bonds, dehumanizing the other, and pitting individuals against the communities they inhabit.

Totalitarian temptations now saturate the media and larger culture in the language of austerity as political and economic orthodoxy. What we are witnessing in the United States is the normalization of a politics that exterminates not only the welfare state, and the truth, but all those others who bear the sins of the Enlightenment — that is, those who refuse a life free from doubt. Reason and freedom have become enemies not merely to be mocked, but to be destroyed. And this is a war whose totalitarian tendencies are evident in the assault on science, immigrants, women, the elderly, the poor, people of color, and youth.

What too often goes unsaid, particularly with the media’s focus on inflammatory rhetoric, is that those who dominate politics and policymaking, whether Democrats or Republicans, do so largely because of their disproportionate control of the nation’s income and wealth. Increasingly, it appears these political elite choose to act in ways that sustain their dominance through the systemic reproduction of an iniquitous social order. In other words, big money and corporate power rule while electoral politics are rigged. The secrecy of the voting booth becomes the ultimate expression of democracy, reducing politics to an individualized purchase—a crude form of economic action. Any form of politics willing to invest in such ritualistic pageantry only adds to the current dysfunctional nature of our social order, while reinforcing a profound failure of political imagination. The issue should no longer be how to work within the current electoral system, but how to dismantle it and construct a new political landscape that is capable of making a claim on equity, justice, and democracy for all of its inhabitants. Obama’s once inspiring call for hope has degenerated into a flight from responsibility.

The Obama administration has worked to extend the policies of the George W. Bush administration by legitimating a range of foreign and domestic policies that have shredded civil liberties, expanded the permanent warfare state, and increased the domestic reach of the punitive surveillance state. And if Romney and his ideological cohorts, now viewed as the most extremists faction of the Republican Party, come to power, surely the existing totalitarian and anti-democratic tendencies at work in the United States will be dangerously intensified.

History

Alternatively, we could have spent more time studying the work of Hyman Minsky. We could also have considered the possibility that, just as Keynes’s ideas were tested to destruction in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, Milton Friedman’s ideas might suffer a similar fate in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. All gods fail, if one believes too much. Keynes said, of course, that "practical men … are usually the slaves of some defunct economist". So, of course, are economists, even if the defunct economists are sometimes still alive.

Martin Wolf

 


 

 

Casino capitalism  is a nickname for nailibelism. Probably more properly nickname would be  financial corporatism. While the key idea of corporatism: that political actors are not individual people, but some associations and first of all corporations (which are officially considered to be "persons" and have rights as well as trade unions and some other associations) remains intact, financial corporatism is different from classic corporatism in several major ways:

Historically corporatism in various modifications became dominant social system after WWII and defeated "command socialism" as was implemented in the USSR. Here is an instructive review of corporatism history (The Economic System of Corporatism):

In the last half of the 19th century people of the working class in Europe were beginning to show interest in the ideas of socialism and syndicalism. Some members of the intelligentsia, particularly the Catholic intelligentsia, decided to formulate an alternative to socialism which would emphasize social justice without the radical solution of the abolition of private property. The result was called Corporatism. The name had nothing to do with the notion of a business corporation except that both words are derived from the Latin word for body, corpus.

The basic idea of corporatism is that the society and economy of a country should be organized into major interest groups (sometimes called corporations) and representatives of those interest groups settle any problems through negotiation and joint agreement. In contrast to a market economy which operates through competition a corporate economic works through collective bargaining. The American president Lyndon Johnson had a favorite phrase that reflected the spirit of corporatism. He would gather the parties to some dispute and say, "Let us reason together."

Under corporatism the labor force and management in an industry belong to an industrial organization. The representatives of labor and management settle wage issues through collective negotiation. While this was the theory in practice the corporatist states were largely ruled according to the dictates of the supreme leader.

One early and important theorist of corporatism was Adam Müller, an advisor to Prince Metternich in what is now eastern Germany and Austria. Müller propounded his views as an antidote to the twin dangers of the egalitarianism of the French Revolution and the laissez faire economics of Adam Smith. In Germany and elsewhere there was a distinct aversion among rulers to allow markets to function without direction or control by the state. The general culture heritage of Europe from the medieval era was opposed to individual self-interest and the free operation of markets. Markets and private property were acceptable only as long as social regulation took precedence over such sinful motivations as greed.

Coupled with the anti-market sentiments of the medieval culture there was the notion that the rulers of the state had a vital role in promoting social justice. Thus corporatism was formulated as a system that emphasized the positive role of the state in guaranteeing social justice and suppressing the moral and social chaos of the population pursuing their own individual self-interests. And above all else, as a political economic philosophy corporatism was flexible. It could tolerate private enterprise within limits and justify major projects of the state. Corporatism has sometimes been labeled as a Third Way or a mixed economy, a synthesis of capitalism and socialism, but it is in fact a separate, distinctive political economic system.

Although rulers have probably operated according to the principles of corporatism from time immemorial it was only in the early twentieth century that regimes began to identify themselves as corporatist. The table below gives some of those explicitly corporatist regimes.

Corporatist Regimes of the Early Twentieth Century
System Name Country Period Leader
National Corporatism Italy 1922-1945 Benito Mussolini
Country, Religion, Monarchy Spain 1923-1930 Miguel Primo de Rivera
National Socialism Germany 1933-1945 Adolph Hitler
National Syndicalism Spain 1936-1973 Francisco Franco
New State Portugal 1932-1968 Antonio Salazar
New State Brazil 1933-1945 Getulio Vargas
New Deal United States 1933-1945 Franklin Roosevelt
Third Hellenic Civilization Greece 1936-1941 Ioannis Metaxas
Justice Party Argentina 1943-1955 Juan Peron

In the above table several of the regimes were brutal, totalitarian dictatorships, usually labeled fascist, but not all the regimes that had a corporatist foundation were fascist. In particular, the Roosevelt New Deal despite its many faults could not be described as fascist. But definitely the New Deal was corporatist. The architect for the initial New Deal program was General Hugh Johnson. Johnson had been the administrator of the military mobilization program for the U.S. under Woodrow Wilson during World War I. It was felt that he did a good job of managing the economy during that period and that is why he was given major responsibility for formulating an economic program to deal with the severe problems of the Depression. But between the end of World War I and 1933 Hugh Johnson had become an admirer of Mussolini's National Corporatist system in Italy and he drew upon the Italian experience in formulating the New Deal.

It should be noted that many elements of the early New Deal were later declared unconstitutional and abandoned, but some elements such as the National Labor Relations Act which promoted unionization of the American labor force are still in effect. One part of the New Deal was the development of the Tennessee River Valley under the public corporation called the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). Some of the New Dealer saw TVA as more than a public power enterprise. They hoped to make TVA a model for the creation of regional political units which would replace state governments. Their goal was not realized. The model for TVA was the river development schemes carried out in Spain in the 1920's under the government of Miguel Primo de Rivera. Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera, the son of Miguel Primo de Rivera, was the founder of Franco's National Syndicalism.

Corporatist regime typically promote large governmental projects such as TVA on the basis that they are too large to be funded by private enterprise. In Brazil the Vargas regime created many public enterprises such as in iron and steel production which it felt were needed but private enterprise declined to create. It also created an organized labor movement that came to control those public enterprises and turned them into overstaffed, inefficient drains on the public budget.

Although the above locates the origin of corporatism in 19th century France it roots can be traced much further back in time. Sylvia Ann Hewlett in her book, The Cruel Dilemmas of Development: Twentieth Century Brazil, says,

Corporatism is based on a body of ideas that can be traced through Aristotle, Roman law, medieval social and legal structures, and into contemporary Catholic social philosophy. These ideas are based on the premise that man's nature can only be fulfilled within a political community.
..........
The central core of the corporatist vision is thus not the individual but the political community whose perfection allows the individual members to fulfill themselves and find happiness.
...............
The state in the corporatist tradition is thus clearly interventionist and powerful.

Corporatism is collectivist; it is a different version of collectivism than socialism but it is definitely collectivist. It places some importance on the fact that private property is not nationalized, but the control through regulation is just as real. It is de facto nationalization without being de jure nationalization.

Although Corporatism is not a familiar concept to the general public, most of the economies of the world are corporatist in nature. The categories of socialist and pure market economy are virtually empty. There are only corporatist economies of various flavors.

These flavors of corporatism include the social democratic regimes of Europe and the Americas, but also the East Asian and Islamic fundamentalist regimes such as Taiwan, Singapore and Iran. The Islamic socialist states such as Syria, Libya and Algeria are more corporatist than socialist, as was Iraq under Saddam Hussain. The formerly communist regimes such as Russia and China are now clearly corporatist in economic philosophy although not in name.

The concept of Quite Coup

Sine ira et studio

Tacitus, see Wikipedia

The term "Quiet coup" which means the hijacking of the political power in the USA by financial oligarchy was introduced by Simon H. Johnson, a British-American economist, who currently is the Ronald A. Kurtz Professor of Entrepreneurship at the MIT Sloan School of Management and a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. From March 2007 through the end of August 2008, he was Chief Economist of the International Monetary Fund. The term was introduced in his article in Atlantic magazine, published in May 2009(The Quiet Coup - Simon Johnson - The Atlantic). Which opens with a revealing paragraph:

The crash has laid bare many unpleasant truths about the United States. One of the most alarming, says a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, is that the finance industry has effectively captured our government

The wealth of financial sector gave it unprecedented opportunities of simply buying the political power iether directly or indirectly (via revolving door mechanism):

Becoming a Banana Republic

In its depth and suddenness, the U.S. economic and financial crisis is shockingly reminiscent of moments we have recently seen in emerging markets (and only in emerging markets): South Korea (1997), Malaysia (1998), Russia and Argentina (time and again). In each of those cases, global investors, afraid that the country or its financial sector wouldn’t be able to pay off mountainous debt, suddenly stopped lending. And in each case, that fear became self-fulfilling, as banks that couldn’t roll over their debt did, in fact, become unable to pay. This is precisely what drove Lehman Brothers into bankruptcy on September 15, causing all sources of funding to the U.S. financial sector to dry up overnight. Just as in emerging-market crises, the weakness in the banking system has quickly rippled out into the rest of the economy, causing a severe economic contraction and hardship for millions of people.

But there’s a deeper and more disturbing similarity: elite business interests—financiers, in the case of the U.S.—played a central role in creating the crisis, making ever-larger gambles, with the implicit backing of the government, until the inevitable collapse. More alarming, they are now using their influence to prevent precisely the sorts of reforms that are needed, and fast, to pull the economy out of its nosedive. The government seems helpless, or unwilling, to act against them.

Top investment bankers and government officials like to lay the blame for the current crisis on the lowering of U.S. interest rates after the dotcom bust or, even better—in a “buck stops somewhere else” sort of way—on the flow of savings out of China. Some on the right like to complain about Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, or even about longer-standing efforts to promote broader homeownership. And, of course, it is axiomatic to everyone that the regulators responsible for “safety and soundness” were fast asleep at the wheel.

But these various policies — lightweight regulation, cheap money, the unwritten Chinese-American economic alliance, the promotion of homeownership—had something in common. Even though some are traditionally associated with Democrats and some with Republicans, they all benefited the financial sector. Policy changes that might have forestalled the crisis but would have limited the financial sector’s profits — such as Brooksley Born’s now-famous attempts to regulate credit-default swaps at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, in 1998—were ignored or swept aside.

The financial industry has not always enjoyed such favored treatment. But for the past 25 years or so, finance has boomed, becoming ever more powerful. The boom began with the Reagan years, and it only gained strength with the deregulatory policies of the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. Several other factors helped fuel the financial industry’s ascent. Paul Volcker’s monetary policy in the 1980s, and the increased volatility in interest rates that accompanied it, made bond trading much more lucrative. The invention of securitization, interest-rate swaps, and credit-default swaps greatly increased the volume of transactions that bankers could make money on. And an aging and increasingly wealthy population invested more and more money in securities, helped by the invention of the IRA and the 401(k) plan. Together, these developments vastly increased the profit opportunities in financial services.

Not surprisingly, Wall Street ran with these opportunities. From 1973 to 1985, the financial sector never earned more than 16 percent of domestic corporate profits. In 1986, that figure reached 19 percent. In the 1990s, it oscillated between 21 percent and 30 percent, higher than it had ever been in the postwar period. This decade, it reached 41 percent. Pay rose just as dramatically. From 1948 to 1982, average compensation in the financial sector ranged between 99 percent and 108 percent of the average for all domestic private industries. From 1983, it shot upward, reaching 181 percent in 2007.

The great wealth that the financial sector created and concentrated gave bankers enormous political weight — a weight not seen in the U.S. since the era of J.P. Morgan (the man). In that period, the banking panic of 1907 could be stopped only by coordination among private-sector bankers: no government entity was able to offer an effective response. But that first age of banking oligarchs came to an end with the passage of significant banking regulation in response to the Great Depression; the reemergence of an American financial oligarchy is quite recent.

He further researched this theme in his book 2010 book 13 Bankers The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown  (ISBN 978-0307379054), coauthored with James Kwak. They also founded and regularly contributes to the economics blog The Baseline Scenario. See also History of Casino Capitalism

The net effect of the ideological counter-revolution based on market fundamentalism ideology was that it restored the power of financial oligarchy typical for Gilded Age. As Simon Johnson argues that was partially done by subverting regulators and that oversize institutions always disproportionately influence public policy:

The second problem the U.S. faces—the power of the oligarchy—is just as important as the immediate crisis of lending. And the advice from the IMF on this front would again be simple: break the oligarchy.

Oversize institutions disproportionately influence public policy; the major banks we have today draw much of their power from being too big to fail. Nationalization and re-privatization would not change that; while the replacement of the bank executives who got us into this crisis would be just and sensible, ultimately, the swapping-out of one set of powerful managers for another would change only the names of the oligarchs.

Ideally, big banks should be sold in medium-size pieces, divided regionally or by type of business. Where this proves impractical—since we’ll want to sell the banks quickly—they could be sold whole, but with the requirement of being broken up within a short time. Banks that remain in private hands should also be subject to size limitations.

This may seem like a crude and arbitrary step, but it is the best way to limit the power of individual institutions in a sector that is essential to the economy as a whole. Of course, some people will complain about the "efficiency costs" of a more fragmented banking system, and these costs are real. But so are the costs when a bank that is too big to fail—a financial weapon of mass self-destruction—explodes. Anything that is too big to fail is too big to exist.

To ensure systematic bank breakup, and to prevent the eventual reemergence of dangerous behemoths, we also need to overhaul our antitrust legislation. Laws put in place more than 100years ago to combat industrial monopolies were not designed to address the problem we now face. The problem in the financial sector today is not that a given firm might have enough market share to influence prices; it is that one firm or a small set of interconnected firms, by failing, can bring down the economy. The Obama administration’s fiscal stimulus evokes FDR, but what we need to imitate here is Teddy Roosevelt’s trust-busting.

Caps on executive compensation, while redolent of populism, might help restore the political balance of power and deter the emergence of a new oligarchy. Wall Street’s main attraction—to the people who work there and to the government officials who were only too happy to bask in its reflected glory—has been the astounding amount of money that could be made. Limiting that money would reduce the allure of the financial sector and make it more like any other industry.

Still, outright pay caps are clumsy, especially in the long run. And most money is now made in largely unregulated private hedge funds and private-equity firms, so lowering pay would be complicated. Regulation and taxation should be part of the solution. Over time, though, the largest part may involve more transparency and competition, which would bring financial-industry fees down. To those who say this would drive financial activities to other countries, we can now safely say: fine.

Two Paths

To paraphrase Joseph Schumpeter, the early-20th-century economist, everyone has elites; the important thing is to change them from time to time. If the U.S. were just another country, coming to the IMF with hat in hand, I might be fairly optimistic about its future. Most of the emerging-market crises that I’ve mentioned ended relatively quickly, and gave way, for the most part, to relatively strong recoveries. But this, alas, brings us to the limit of the analogy between the U.S. and emerging markets.

Emerging-market countries have only a precarious hold on wealth, and are weaklings globally. When they get into trouble, they quite literally run out of money—or at least out of foreign currency, without which they cannot survive. They must make difficult decisions; ultimately, aggressive action is baked into the cake. But the U.S., of course, is the world’s most powerful nation, rich beyond measure, and blessed with the exorbitant privilege of paying its foreign debts in its own currency, which it can print. As a result, it could very well stumble along for years—as Japan did during its lost decade—never summoning the courage to do what it needs to do, and never really recovering. A clean break with the past—involving the takeover and cleanup of major banks—hardly looks like a sure thing right now. Certainly no one at the IMF can force it.

In my view, the U.S. faces two plausible scenarios. The first involves complicated bank-by-bank deals and a continual drumbeat of (repeated) bailouts, like the ones we saw in February with Citigroup and AIG. The administration will try to muddle through, and confusion will reign.

Boris Fyodorov, the late finance minister of Russia, struggled for much of the past 20 years against oligarchs, corruption, and abuse of authority in all its forms. He liked to say that confusion and chaos were very much in the interests of the powerful—letting them take things, legally and illegally, with impunity. When inflation is high, who can say what a piece of property is really worth? When the credit system is supported by byzantine government arrangements and backroom deals, how do you know that you aren’t being fleeced?

Our future could be one in which continued tumult feeds the looting of the financial system, and we talk more and more about exactly how our oligarchs became bandits and how the economy just can’t seem to get into gear.

The second scenario begins more bleakly, and might end that way too. But it does provide at least some hope that we’ll be shaken out of our torpor. It goes like this: the global economy continues to deteriorate, the banking system in east-central Europe collapses, and—because eastern Europe’s banks are mostly owned by western European banks—justifiable fears of government insolvency spread throughout the Continent. Creditors take further hits and confidence falls further. The Asian economies that export manufactured goods are devastated, and the commodity producers in Latin America and Africa are not much better off. A dramatic worsening of the global environment forces the U.S. economy, already staggering, down onto both knees. The baseline growth rates used in the administration’s current budget are increasingly seen as unrealistic, and the rosy "stress scenario" that the U.S. Treasury is currently using to evaluate banks’ balance sheets becomes a source of great embarrassment.

Under this kind of pressure, and faced with the prospect of a national and global collapse, minds may become more concentrated.

The conventional wisdom among the elite is still that the current slump "cannot be as bad as the Great Depression." This view is wrong. What we face now could, in fact, be worse than the Great Depression—because the world is now so much more interconnected and because the banking sector is now so big. We face a synchronized downturn in almost all countries, a weakening of confidence among individuals and firms, and major problems for government finances. If our leadership wakes up to the potential consequences, we may yet see dramatic action on the banking system and a breaking of the old elite. Let us hope it is not then too late.

It is pretty interesting to see how financial oligarchy filters information provided to the population to fit their biases. For example, the key facts about repeal of Glass-Steagall law  (BTW Joe Biden voted for it) mostly hidden from the public: 

Commodity Futures Trading Commission — under the leadership of Mr. Gramm’s wife, Wendy — had approved rules in 1989 and 1993 exempting some swaps and derivatives from regulation. In December 2000, the Commodity Futures Modernization Act was passed as part of a larger bill by unanimous consent after Senator Gramm dominated the Senate debate...

"He was the architect, advocate and the most knowledgeable person in Congress on these topics," Mr. Donovan said. "To me, Phil Gramm is the single most important reason for the current financial crisis."

"The virtually unregulated over-the-counter market in credit-default swaps has played a significant role in the credit crisis, including the now $167 billion taxpayer rescue of A.I.G.," Christopher Cox, the chairman of the S.E.C. and a former congressman, said Friday.

But you will never find discussion of flaws and adverse consequences Phil Gram (or Greenspan for a change) initiatives in Heritage Foundation and other right-wing think tanks publications.

Stages of transformation

So what we are experiencing is a the completion of the transformation of one phase of capitalism to another. It happened in stages:

  1. Manufacturing stagnated and can't provide the "decent" rate of growth. Competition from re-built Europe and Asian markets severely stressed the US manufacturing. due to competition return of capital dropped and in several industries became negative.

  2. Computers brought innovations into financial markets. They make possible real time trading of induces like S&P500, complex financial instruments like derivatives, etc. Later they enables superfast trading (HFT). All those instruments dramatically increased the possibilities of extracting the rent by financial institutions from the society.

  3. Globalization kicked in due to new opportunities offered by high speed global communications (Internet). And that is not limited to outsourcing. Due to globalization the sheer size of the financial markets increased to the extent that they started to represent a different, new transnational phenomena allowing new types of redistribution of wealth to be practiced. Integration of Russian elite (oligarchs) is just one example of this process. In case of pro-western oligarchs (fifth column) West went to significant length to protect them and their racket (Mikhail Khodorkovsky - Wikipedia,)

  4. Commercial banks turned into investment banks to exploit this opportunity.

  5. Financial sector completely corrupted academic science converting most economists to pay prostitutes which serve their interests.

  6. Collapse of the USSR provided the financial sector major shoot in the arm and a golden, once in century opportunity to finance new half-billion consumers and stole for a penny on a dollar huge industrial assets and natural resources as well as put most of those countries in the debt (Latin-Americanization of xUSSR space). Harvard Mafia (with some support from London) did the bidding of western banks in xUSSR space. As more becomes known about the laundering of Russian money in Western banks, many in the United States will likely try to hide behind stories of faraway organized crime. But U.S. policy toward Russia has contributed to that country's sorry conditions--with the Harvard Institute for International Development's Russia project (HIID) playing a major role (Harvard's 'Best and Brightest' Aided Russia's Economic Ruin ). Professor Jeffery Sacks provided a bogus idea of "shock therapy" to achieve spectacular for Western banks result. As a result all xUSSR space became new Latin America with typical for Latin America problems like huge level of inequality, prostitution, child poverty, and prominent role of organized crime.

  7. Banks became dominant political force on western societies with no real counterbalance from other parts of the elite. The first president completely subservient to banking elite was elected in the USA in 1992. Bill Clinton regime lasted eight years and along with economic rape of xUSSR space in best colonial powers tradition, it removed what was left of financial regulations after the flurry of deregulation of the early 1980s. And they behaved as an occupying force not only in xUSSR space but in the USA as well. They deprived workers out of their jobs, they abolished the US pension system as it impede playing with population money and replaced in with widely inadequate 401K plans. They deprived municipalities out of their revenues and assets, while municipalities became just a den of bond traders looking for then next mark which give them the ability to put municipalities deeper in debt.

  8. Newly acquired political power of financial elite speeded the shift to bank "self-regulation" created huge shadow banking system which dwarf "official" under the smoke screen of "free-market" propaganda and PR from a coterie of corrupts academics (Chicago Scholl, Harvard Mafia, etc) . It engaged in pursuit of short term profits and self-enrichment of top brass which became new elite by-and-large displacing not only the old one, but also the newly minted IT elite of dot-com boom. Using newly acquired power financial elite remove all regulations that hamper their interests. Glass-Steagall was repealed at the last days of Clinton presidency, financial derivatives became unregulated.

  9. Deindustrialization kicked in. As financial speculation proved to be much more profitable to other activities deindustrialization kicked in the USA as the financial center of the world. Outsourcing which first was limited to manufacturing jobs now extent its reach on IT and decimate previously profitable sector and its export potential.

  10. Externalities can no longer be suppressed and economics became unstable. Growth of inequality, job insecurity, as well as frequency of financial crises were natural consequences of financialization of the economy. They create huge imbalances, like bubble in residential real estate which was blown with the help and full support of the USA government as a way to overcome dot-com crisis consequences.

  11. Debt crisis strikes. Growth of debt became unsustainable and produces the financial crisis of enormous proportions. By their reckless policies and greed financial sector caused huge financial crisis of 2008 and now they are forcing national governments to auction off their cultural heritage to the highest bidder. Everything must go in fire sales at prices rigged by twenty-something largest banks, the most corrupt institutions the world has ever known.

  12. Devastating "local" wars became "new normal". Due to financial crisis, the overconsumption in western economies came under threat. Debt expansion which led to overconsumption within the western economies affected (or infected) by financialization. To sustain the current standard of living financial expansion became the necessity. It took the form of a competition for spheres of influence in the area of energy supplies, which we see in post USSR space, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere. And central banks play critical role in financing wars. After all Banks of England was created with this exact purpose.

I think by 2008 when the second major financial crisis hit the USA, the transformation on the USA economy into casino capitalism, which is essentially implementation of neoliberal doctrine (or more correctly the US brand of corporatism) was by-and-large complete.

In short we are living in a new politico-economic system in which financial capital won victory over both labor and industrial capital. We might not like what we got, but financial elite is now a new ruling class and this fact is difficult to dispute. As a result. instead of the robber barons of the early 20th century (some of whom actually created/consolidated new industries), we have the top executives from investment banks, insurers and mortgage industry who represent a new Rentier class, much like old aristocracy.

They are living off parasitic monopolization of access to any (physical, financial, intellectual, etc.) kind of property and gaining significant amount of profit without contribution to society (see Rentier capitalism which is a very fuzzy term for neoliberal model of capitalism).

Casino Capitalism as a result of stagnation of industrial manufacturing

Stagnation of industrial manufacturing droved up financial speculation as the method to compensate for falling rate on return on capital. This stagnation became prominent during Reagan administration (which started the major shift toward neoliberalism), although signs of it were present from early 60th.

For example Chicago which was a manufacturing center since 1969 lost approximately 400K manufacturing jobs which were replaced mainly by FIRE-related jobs, In 1995 over 22% of those employed by FIRE industries (66K people) were working in executive and managerial positions. Another 17% are in marketing, sales and processional specialty occupations (computer system analysts, PR specialists, writer and editors).

Those changes in the structure of employment had several consequences:

  1. The stagnation of the underlying economy meant that capitalists were increasingly dependent on the growth of finance to preserve and enlarge their money capital.
  2. The financial superstructure of the capitalist economy could not expand independently of its base -- underlying productive economy — hence the bursting of speculative bubbles became a recurrent and growing problem.
  3. Financialization could never overcome stagnation of industrial production. It is just an opium for rich, not a structural adjustment of the stagnation-prone economy. But like addition to narcotics does to human body it does tremendous damage to real economy.
  4. Rapid increase in inequality is necessary to sustain the appetites of the elite in the system with fixed size of the pie. Politico-economic conditions might became even more unfavorable for labor. Stagnation of industrial production mean shrinking pie, which necessitates redistribution of wealth in favor of a new, all-powerful financial Rentier class. This redistribution resulted in partial wipe-out of large swats of middle class. For the past three decades, America has steadily converted itself into a nation of haves (as Bush II quipped "This is an impressive crowd -- the haves and the have mores! Some people call you the elite -- I call you my base". ) and have-nots. The cost of a college education rises rapidly at a time when wages for skilled labor stagnate, so access to college became against discriminated in favor of upper class of the society. Repressive apparatus and ideological brainwashing are too strong to mount effective resistance.

The key to understanding of Casino Capitalism is that it was a series of government decisions (or rather non-decisions) that converted the state into neoliberal model. In other words casino capitalism has distinct "Government property" mark. It was the USA elite, which refused to act responsibly in the face of changing economic conditions resulting from its own actions, and instead chose to try to perpetuate, by whatever means it had at its disposal, the institutional advantages of dollar as a reserve currency which it had vis-à-vis its main economic rivals and grab as large part of the world economic pie as it can. And this power grab was supported first of all by the role of dollar as currency in which oil is traded.

There might be some geo-strategically motives as well as the US elite in late 80th perceived that competitiveness is slipping out of the USA and the danger of deindustrialization is real. Many accuse Reagan with the desire to ride dollar status as a world reserve currency (exorbitant privilege) until the horse is dead. That's what real cowboys do in Hollywood movies... But the collapse of the main rival, the USSR vindicated this strategy and give a strong short in the arm to financialization of the economy. Actually for the next ten years can be called a triumphal ascend of financialization in the USA.

Dominance of FIRE industries clustered up and in recent years reached in the USA quite dramatic proportions. The old Bolsheviks saying "When we say Lenin we mean the Party and when we say the Party we mean Lenin" now can be reworded: "Now it we say US banks, we mean the US government and vise versa if we say US government we mean US banks".

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the FIRE sector was and is the biggest contributor to federal candidates in Washington. Companies cannot give directly, so they leave it to bundlers to solicit maximum contributions from employees and families. They might have been brought down to earth this year, but they’ve given like Gods: Goldman Sachs, $4.8 million; Citigroup, $3.7 million; J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., $3.6 million; Merrill Lynch, $2.3 million; Lehman Brothers, $2.1 million; Bank of America, $2.1 million. Some think the long-term effect of such contributions to individual candidates was clear in the roll-call votes for the bailout.

Take the controversial first House vote on bailout of major banks on Sept. 29, 2008. According to CRP, the "ayes" had received 53 percent more contributions from FIRE since 1989 than those who voted against the bill, which ultimately failed 228 to 205. The 140 House Democrats who voted for the bill got an average of $188,572 in this election cycle, while the 65 Republicans backing it got an average of $185,461 from FIRE—about 23 percent more than the bill’s opponents received. A tinkered bill was passed four days later, 263 to 171.

According to the article Fire Sale (The American Conservative) half of Obama’s top ten contributors, together giving him nearly $2.2 million, are FIREmen. The $13 million contributed by FIRE executives to Obama campaign is probably an undercount. Democratic committee leaders are also dependent of FIRE contributions. The list includes Sen. Dodd ( please look at Senator Dodd's top donors for 2007-8 on openSecrets.org ) and Sen. Chuck Schumer ($12 million from FIRE since 1989), Rep. Barney Frank ($2.5 million), and Rep. Charlie Rangel ($4 million, the top recipient in the House). All of them have been accused of taking truckloads of contributions while failing to act on the looming mortgage crisis. Dodd finally pushed mortgage reform last year but by then as his hometown paper, The Hartford Courant stated, "the damage was done."

Casino Capitalism and Financial Instability

At the same time rise of financial capital dramatically increased instability. An oversized financial sector produces instability due to multiple positive feedback loops. In this sense we can talk about Financial Sector Induced Systemic Instability of Economy. The whole society became "House of cards", "Giant Enron" and "extension of Las Vegas". Reckless management, greed and out-right stupidity in playing derivatives games was natural consequence of the oversized financial sector, not just a human folly. In a way it was dramatic manifestation of the oversized financial sector negative influence of the economy. And in 2008 it did brought out economy to the brink of destruction. Peak oil added to suffocating effect on the economy of reckless gambling (and related debts) of financial sector producing the economic calamity that rivals Great Depression. Also, like Socialism, Casino Capitalism demands too much of its elite. And in reality, the financial elite much like Bolsheviks elite, is having its own interests above the interests of the society.

As Kevin Phillips noted "In the United States, political correctness, religious fundamentalism, and other inhibitions sometimes dumb down national debate". And the same statement is true for financial elite that became the center of power under the Casino Capitalism. Due to avalanche of greed the society became one giant Enron as money that are made from value addition in the form of manufacturing fade in significance to the volume of the money that is made from shuffling money around. In other was the Wall Street's locked USA in the situation from which there is no easy exit.

Self-reinforcing ‘positive’ feedback loops prevalent in Casino Capitalism trigger an accelerating creation of various debt instruments, interest of which at some point overwhelm the system carrying capacity. Ability to lend against good collateral is quickly exhausted. At some point apparently there is no good collateral against which lending freely was possible, even at high rates. This means that each new stage of financial innovation involves scam and fraud, on increasing scale. In other words Ponzi economy of "saving and loans" is replaced with Madoff economy.

Whether you shift the resulting huge private debt to public to increase confidence or not, the net result is of this development of events is a crisis and a huge debt that society needs to take. Actually the debt bubble in 2008 can only be compared to the debt bubble of 1933. The liquidation of Bear Sterns and Lehman was only a start of consolidation of finances and we need to find something that replace financial sector dominance in the national economy. It would be nice is some technological breakthrough happened which would lift the country out of this deep hole.

See Financial Sector Induced Systemic Instability of Economy for more details.

Neoliberalism as the Ideology of Casino Capitalism

Like Bolshevism was marked by deification of teaching of Marx and Lenin, converting them into pseudo-religious doctrine, the Casino Capitalism has its own deified ideological doctrine. It is the ideology of Neoliberalism. The latter as an ideology and an agenda seeks to topple democratic capitalism and replace it with a de facto unaccountable autocratic government which serves as channel of a wealth transfer from the public to a rentier elite. In a way it is a spectacular example of a successful (in a very negative sense) pseudo-religious doctrine.

Addiction of the societies to disastrous politico-economical doctrines are similar to addictions to alcohol and drugs in individuals. It is not easy to recover and it takes a long, long time and a lot of misery. As dissolution of the USSR aptly demonstrated not all societies can make it. In this case the USSR elite (nomenklatura) simply shed the old ideology as it understood that it will be better off adopting ideology of neoliberal capitalism; so it was revolution from above.  this abrupt switch created chaos in economics (which was applauded by Washington which under Clinton administration adopted the stance the Carnage needs to be destroyed and facilitated the process), criminal privatization of major industries, and pushed into object poverty the 99% of population of those countries. For some period under "drunk Yeltsyn" Russia sees to exist as an independent country and became a vassal of Washington.

This also means that "society at large" did not had effective brakes to the assent of financial plutocracy (aka financial oligarchy).  I would add to this the computer revolution and internet that made many financial transaction qualitatively different and often dramatically cheaper that in previous history. Computers also enabled creation of new financial players like mutual funds (which created a shadow banking system with their bond funds) , hedge funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), as well as high-frequency trading and derivatives.

From the historical view Reaganomics also can be considered to be the US flavor of Lysenkoism with economics instead of genetics as a target. Here is how Reaganomics is defined in Wikipedia

Reaganomics (a portmanteau of "Reagan" and "economics") refers to the economic policies promoted by United States President Ronald Reagan. The four pillars of Reagan's economic policy were to:[1]
  1. reduce the growth of government spending,
  2. reduce marginal tax rates on income from labor and capital,
  3. reduce government regulation of the economy,
  4. control the money supply to reduce inflation.

In attempting to cut back on domestic spending while lowering taxes, Reagan's approach was a departure from his immediate predecessors.

Reagan became president during a period of high inflation and unemployment (commonly referred to as stagflation), which had largely abated by the time he left office.

Please not that the Number 1 idea ("reduce government spending") was essentially a scam, a smoke screen designed to attract Rednecks as a powerful voting block. In a way this was a trick similar to one played by Bolsheviks in Russia with its "worker and peasants rule" smokescreen which covered brutal dictatorship. In reality all administrations which preached Reagonomics (including Clinton's) expanded the role of state and government spending. The number two was applied by-and-large to top 1%. The number three means deregulation in the interests of financial oligarchy and dismantling all social program that hamper profit of the latter (including privatizing of Social Security). The number fours is a scam, in the same sense as number one. As soon as financial institutions get in trouble, money are printed as if there is no tomorrow.

While the essence of Reagonomics was financial deregulation, the other important element was restoring the Gilded Age level of power of financial oligarchy which influence was diminished by FDR reforms. In this sense we can say that Reagan revolution was essentially a counter-revolution: an attempt to reverse the New Deal restrictions on financial sector and restore its dominance in the society.

Like it was the case in Bolshevism the ideology was developed and forced upon the society by a very small group of players. The key ideas of Casino Capitalism were formulated and implemented by Reagan administration with some contribution by Nixon (the role of rednecks aka "moral majority", "silent majority" as an important part of republican political base, which can be attracted to detrimental to its economic position policies by the smoke screen of false "moral" promises).

It was supported by each president after Reagan (paradoxically with Clinton having the most accomplished record -- he was the best Republican President in a very perverted way). Like in case of Lysenkoism opponents were purged and economic departments of the country were captured by principless careerists ready to tow the party line for personal enrichment. Like in case of Bolshevism, many of those special breed of careerists rotated from Republican Party into Fed and other government structures. A classic example of compulsive careerists that were used by finance sector to promote its interests was Alan Greenspan.

One of the key ideas of Reaganomics was the rejection of the sound approach that there should be a balance between too much government regulation and too little and that government role is important for smooth functioning of the market. In this area Reagan and its followers can be called Anarchists and their idea of 'free market" is a misnomer that masks the idea of "anarchic market" (corporate welfare to be exact -- as it was implemented). Emergence of corporate welfare Queens such as GS, Citi, AIG, are quite natural consequence of Reaganomics.

Reaganomics was a the US flavor of Lysenkoism with economics instead of generics as a target... It can and should be called Economic Lysenkoism.

The most interesting part of Reaganomics was that the power of this ideology made it possible to conditioned "working class" and middle class to act against their own economic interests. It helped to ensure the stagnation of wages during the whole 25 years period, which is close to what Soviets managed to achieve with working class of the USSR, but with much more resentment. This makes it in many ways very similar to Bolshevism as a whole, not just Lysenkoism (extremes meet or in less flattering way: "history repeats, first as a tragedy, then as farce).

Along with the term Reaganimics which implicitly stresses the deregulation, the other close term "market fundamentalism" is often used. Here is how market fundamentalism is defined (Longview Institute):

Market Fundamentalism is the exaggerated faith that when markets are left to operate on their own, they can solve all economic and social problems. Market Fundamentalism has dominated public policy debates in the United States since the 1980's, serving to justify huge Federal tax cuts, dramatic reductions in government regulatory activity, and continued efforts to downsize the government’s civilian programs.

Some level of government coercion (explicit or implicit ) is necessary for proper labeling of any pseudo-scientific theory with the term Lysenkoism. This holds true for both Market Fundamentalism (after all Reagan revolution was "revolution from above" by financial oligarchy and for financial oligarchy and hired guns from academia just do what powers that be expected) and, especially, Supply side economic. The political genius of those ideas is evident. Supply-side economics transformed Republicans from a minority party into a majority party. It allowed them to promise lower taxes, lower deficits and, in effect, unchanged spending. Why should people not like this combination? Who does not like a free lunch?

In this sense the Republican Party played the role very similar to the Communist Party of the USSR.

For example supply side economics was too bizarre and would never survive without explicit government support. This notion is supported by many influential observers. For example, in the following comment for Krugman article (Was the Great Depression a monetary phenomenon):

Market fundamentalism (neoclassical counter-revolution — to be more academic) was more of a political construct than based on sound economic theory. However, it would take a while before its toxic legacy is purged from the economics departments. Indeed, in some universities this might never happen.

Extreme deregulation and extreme regulation (Brezhnev socialism) logically meets and both represent a variant of extremely corrupt society that cannot be sustained for long (using bayonets as in the case of USSR or using reserve currency and increasing leverage as is the case of the USA). In both cases the societies were economically and ideologically bankrupt at the end.

Actually, elements of market fundamentalism looks more like religious doctrine than political philosophy — and that bonds its even closer to Lysenkoism. In both cases critics were silenced with the help of the state. It is interesting to note that Reaganomics was wiped into frenzy after the dissolution of the USSR, the country which gave birth to the term of Lysenkoism. In a way the last act of the USSR was to stick a knife in the back of the USA. As a side note I would like to stress that contrary to critics the USSR was more of a neo-feudal society with elements of slavery under Stalin. Gulag population were essentially state slaves; paradoxically a somewhat similar status is typical for illegal immigrants in industrialized countries. From this point of view this category of "state slaves" is generally more numerous that gulag inmates. Prison population also can be counted along those lines.

It look like either implicitly or explicitly Reagan's bet was on restoration of gilded Age with its dominance of financial oligarchy, an attempt to convert the USA into new Switzerland on the "exorbitant privilege" of dollar status as the global fiat currency.

Casino Capitalism is characterized by political dominance of FIRE industries (finance, insurance, and real estate) and diminished role of other and first of all manufacturing industries. It was also accompanied by the drastic growth of inequality (New Gilded Age). Its defining feature is "the triumph of the trader in assets over the long-term producer" in Martin Wolf's words.

Voodoo economic theories

Attempts of theoretical justification of Economic Lysenkoism fall into several major categories:

Those can be called pillars, cornerstones of Economic Lysenkoism. Each of the deserves as separate article (see links above).

Historically especially important was Chicago school of market fundamentalism promoted pseudo-scientific theories of Milton Freedman (Chicago School) as well as supply side economics.

Collapse of the USSR as ideological justification of Casino Capitalism superiority

The huge boost of Casino Capitalism was given by the collapse of the USSR in 1991. That gave a second life to Reagan era. Collapse of the USSR was used as a vindication of market fundamentalism. After it New Deal regulations were systematically destroyed. Dumped down variants of Nietzsche philosophy like bastardatized variant promoted by Russian emigrant became fashionable with an individual "creative" entrepreneur as a new Übermensch, which stands above morality.

"The word Übermensch [designates] a type of supreme achievement, as opposed to 'modern' men, 'good' men, Christians, and other nihilists ... When I whispered into the ears of some people that they were better off looking for a Cesare Borgia than a Parsifal, they did not believe their ears."[9] Safranski argues that the combination of ruthless warrior pride and artistic brilliance that defined the Italian Renaissance embodied the sense of the Übermensch for Nietzsche. According to Safranski, Nietzsche intended the ultra-aristocratic figure of the Übermensch to serve as a Machiavellian bogeyman of the modern Western middle class and its pseudo-Christian egalitarian value system.[10]

Brainwashing

The instability and volatility of active markets can devalue the economic base of real lives, or in more macro-scenarios can lead to the collapse of national and regional economies. In a very interesting and grotesque way it also incorporates the key element of Brezhnev Socialism in everyday life: huge manipulation of reality by mass media to the extend that Pravda and the USSR First TV Channel look pretty objective in comparison with Fox news and Fox controlled newspapers. Complete poisoning of public discourse and relying on the most ignorant part of the population as the political base (pretty much reminiscent of how Bolsheviks played "Working Class Dictatorship" anti-intellectualism card; it can be called "Rednecks Dictatorship").

The "heroes" or transformation of US economy to casino capitalism model

While transformation to casino capitalism was an objective development, there were specific individuals who were instrumental in killing New Deal regulations. We would single out the following twelve figures:

  1. Ronald Reagan (although first steps toward casino capitalism were made under Carter).
  2. Milton Friedman
  3. Alan Greenspan
  4. Phil Gramm
  5. Robert Rubin
  6. Larry Summers
  7. Helicopter Ben
  8. Bush II
  9. Bill Clinton
  10. Sandy Weill
  11. Jeffrey Sachs with his "shock therapy" racket
  12. Martin Feldstein

There is no question that Reagan and most of his followers (Greenspan, Rubin, Phil Gramm, etc) were rabid radicals blinded by ideology. But they were radicals of quite different color then FDR with disastrous consequences for society. Here again the analogy with Bolsheviks looms strong. In a way, they can be called financial terrorists inflicting huge damage on the nation and I wonder if RICO can be use to prosecute at least some of them.

In Bailout Nation (Chapter 19) Barry Ritholtz tried to rank major players that led country into the current abyss:

1. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan
2. The Federal Reserve (in its role of setting monetary policy)
3. Senator Phil Gramm
4-6. Moody’s Investors Service, Standard & Poor’s, and Fitch Ratings (rating agencies)
7. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
8-9. Mortgage originators and lending banks
10. Congress
11. The Federal Reserve again (in its role as bank regulator)
12. Borrowers and home buyers
13-17. The five biggest Wall Street firms (Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch,Morgan Stanley, and Goldman Sachs) and their CEOs
18. President George W. Bush
19. President Bill Clinton
20. President Ronald Reagan
21-22. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson
23-24. Treasury Secretaries Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers
25. FOMC Chief Ben Bernanke
26. Mortgage brokers
27. Appraisers (the dishonest ones)
28. Collateralized debt obligation (CDO) managers (who produced the junk)
29. Institutional investors (pensions, insurance firms, banks, etc.) for
buying the junk
30-31. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC); Office of Thrift
Supervision (OTS)
32. State regulatory agencies
33. Structured investment vehicles (SIVs)/hedge funds for buying the junk

Early Researchers of Casino Capitalism

Hyman Minsky

Hyman Minsky argued that a key mechanism that pushes an economy towards a crisis is the accumulation of debt and the fact the financial system represents a positive feedback loop that tend to destabilize the system, creating ossilations in the form of boom and bust cycles. . He identified 3 types of borrowers that contribute to the accumulation of insolvent debt: Hedge Borrowers; Speculative Borrowers; and Ponzi Borrowers. That corresponds to three stages of Casino Capitalism of increasing fragility:

Growth of debt and increased levarate at some point create predocition of the crash. The stage of business cycle at which those preconditions are met is called "Minsky moment":

A Minsky moment is the point in a credit cycle or business cycle when investors are starting to have cash flow problems due to spiraling debt they have incurred in order to finance speculative or Ponzy investments.

At this point, a major selloff begins due to the fact that no counterparty can be found to bid at the high asking prices previously quoted, leading to a sudden and precipitous collapse in market clearing asset prices and a sharp drop in market liquidity.[1]

After the collapse of the USSR there were a lot of chest thumping of the status of America as a hyper power (American exceptionalism) and the "end of history" where neoliberalism that displaced Brazhvev socialism (and wiped out the socialist camp) was supposed to reign supreme forever.

But this triumphal march of neoliberalism was short lived. The system proved to be self-destructive due to strong positive feedback look from the unregulated financial sector.

But in 2000 the first moment to pay the piper arrives. It was postponed by Iraq war and housing bubble, but reappeared in much more menacing form in 2008. In 2009 the USA experienced a classic Minsky moment with high unemployment rate and economy suppressed by (and taken hostage) by Ponzi finance institutions which threaten the very survival of the capitalist system and way of life. Huge injection freom the state halped to save the economy from disintration, but the price was very high. And  after 2009 the US economy entered the period prologed stagnation, called  the perios of "secular stagnation".

In events preceding 2008 the shift from speculative toward Ponzi finance was speed up by increased corruption of major players.  The drive to redistribute wealth up destroyed any remnants of the rule of the law in the USA. It became a neo-feudal two casts society with "Masters of the Universe" as the upper cast (top 1% ) and "despicables" (lower 80%) as the lower cast. With some comprador strata of professional in between (top 20% or so), who generally support the upper cast.

Loweer cast experienced deterioration of the standard of living, loss of well paying jobs to outsourcing and offshoring and in 2016 revolted electing Trump, who defeated Hillary Clinton, who became a real symbol of the corruption of neoliberal system. 

"As Minsky observed, capitalism is inherently unstable. As each crisis is successfully contained, it encourages greater speculation and risk taking in borrowing and lending. Financial innovation makes it easier to finance various schemes. To a large extent, borrowers and lenders operate on the basis of trial and error. If a behavior is rewarded, it will be repeated. Thus stable periods naturally lead to optimism, to booms, and to increasing fragility.

A financial crisis can lead to asset price deflation and repudiation of debt. A debt deflation, once started, is very difficult to stop. It may not end until balance sheets are largely purged of bad debts, at great loss in financial wealth to the creditors as well as the economy at large."

For more information see

Susan Strange

For Strange the speed at which computerized financial markets work combined with their much larger size and  near-universal pervasiveness is an important qualitative change, that changes the social system into what he called "casino capitalism".  She actually popularized the term "Casino Capitalism" with her important book Casino Capitalism  published in 1997.

One of the side effects of this change is that volatility extends globally. Approximately $1.5 trillion dollars are invested daily as foreign transactions. It is estimated that 98% of these transactions are speculative. In comparison with this casino Las Vegas looks like a aborigine village in comparison with Manhattan.

Notes:

Susan Strange (June 9, 1923 - October 25, 1998) was a British academic who was influential in the field of international political economy. Her most important publications include

For a quarter of a century, Susan Strange was the most influential figure in British international studies. She held a number of key academic posts in Britain, Italy and Japan. From 1978 to 1988, she was Montague Burton Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), the first woman to hold this chair and a professorial position in international relations at the LSE. She was a major figure in the professional associations of both Britain and the US: she was an instrumental founding member and first Treasurer of the British International Studies Association (BISA) [1] and the first female President of the International Studies Association (ISA) in 1995.

It was predominantly as a creative scholar and a forceful personality that she exercised her influence. She was almost single-handedly responsible for creating ‘international political economy’ and turning it into one of the two or three central fields within international studies in Britain, and she defended her creation with such robustness, and made such strong claims on its behalf, that her influence was felt—albeit not always welcomed—in most other areas of the discipline. She was one of the earliest and most influential campaigners for the closer integration of the study of international politics and international economics in the English language scholarship.

In the later period of her career, alongside the financial analyses offered in Casino Capitalism (the analysis in which she felt was vindicated by the South-East Asian financial crisis) and Mad Money, Strange's contributions to the field include her characterisation of the four different areas (production, security, finance and knowledge) through which power might be exercised in International Relations. This understanding of what she termed "structural power", formed the basis of her argument against the theory of American Hegemonic Decline in the early eighties.

Her analysis particularly in States and Markets focused on what she called the ‘market-authority nexus’, the see-saw of power between the market and political authority. The overall argument of her work suggested that the global market had gained significant power relative to states since the 1970s.

This led her to dub the Westphalia system Westfailure. She argued that a ‘dangerous gap’ was emerging between territorially-bound nation states and weak or partial intergovernmental cooperation in which markets had a free hand which could be constructive or destructive.

John K. Galbraith

Among important early critiques of casino capitalism was John K. Galbraith. He promoted a pretty novel idea that the major economic function of Governments is to strengthen countervailing powers to achieve some kind of balance between capital and labor.

While unions are far from being perfect and tend to slide into corruption due to "iron law of oligarchy" when thier management stop representing interests of thwe worksers and start to reprreesnt interest of thier own narry strate of fat cats,  there were the only sizable countewailing power that made the New Seal possible.

His prediction proved to be wrong as government actually represent the capitalist class and is not that interested in creating this balance, which was convincingly demonstrated by Thatcher and Reagan.  Both Britain and the USA start sliding into a new form of corporations, called neoliberalism which actually does not allocate any space for uniot at the negotiation table and strive for their complete elimination and "atomization" of work force, when each invididual is up to himself to find employment and group solidarity is suppressed by instilling neoliberal ideology in schools and universitites as well as via MSM (which in the USA surprisingly never were allowed to use the work neoliberlaism, as if it represents some secret Masonic cult)

And it does not look like there is any renewed support of unions right  (including important right to organize) at the  post subprime/derivatives/shadow_banking crisis stage of neoliberalism, when neoliberal ideology became sufficiently discredited to allow rise of populist politicians such as Trump. 

Still John K. Galbraith critique of primitive market fundamentalism of Milton Freedman and the whole pseudoscience of neoclassical economics which like Marxist political economy is one of there pillars of neoliberalism (along with Randism as philosophy and Neoconservatism or "Trotskyism for the rich" in politics), still has its value today. As Joseph Stiglitz noted (CSMonitor, Dec 28, 2006):

...In many ways, Galbraith was a more critical observer of economic reality.

Driven to understand market realities

Galbraith's vivid depictions of the good, bad, and ugly of American capitalism remain a sorely needed reminder that all is not quite as perfect as the perfect market models – with their perfect competition, perfect information, and perfectly rational consumers – upon which so much of Friedman's analysis depended.

Galbraith, who cut his teeth studying agricultural economics, strove to understand the world as it was, with all the problems of unemployment and market power that simplistic models of competitive markets ignore. In those models, unemployment didn't exist. Galbraith knew that made them fatally flawed

... ... ...

In his early research, Galbraith attempted to explain what had brought on the Great Crash of 1929 – including the role of the stock market's speculative greed fed by (what would today be called) irrational exuberance. Friedman ignored speculation and the failure of the labor market as he focused on the failures of the Federal Reserve. To Friedman, government was the problem, not the solution.

What Galbraith understood, and what later researchers (including this author) have proved, is that Adam Smith's "invisible hand" – the notion that the individual pursuit of maximum profit guides capitalist markets to efficiency – is so invisible because, quite often, it's just not there. Unfettered markets often produce too much of some things, such as pollution, and too little of other things, such as basic research. As Bruce Greenwald and I have shown, whenever information is imperfect – that is, always – markets are inefficient; hence the need for government action.

Galbraith reminded us that what made the economy work so well was not an invisible hand but countervailing powers. He had the misfortune of articulating these ideas before the mathematical models of game theory were sufficiently developed to give them expression. The good news is that today, more attention is being devoted to developing models of these bargaining relationships, and to complex, dynamic models of economic fluctuations in which speculation may play a central role.

Government's role

While Friedman never really appreciated the limitations of the market, he was a forceful critic of government. Yet history shows that in every successful country, the government had played an important role. Yes, governments sometimes fail, but unfettered markets are a certain prescription for failure. Galbraith made this case better than most.

Galbraith knew, too, that people aren't just rational economic actors, but consumers, contending with advertising, political persuasion, and social pressures. It was because of his close touch with reality that he had such influence on economic policymaking, especially during the Kennedy-Johnson years.

Galbraith's penetrating insights into the nature of capitalism – as it is lived, not as it is theorized in simplistic models – has enhanced our understanding of the market economy. He has left an intellectual legacy for generations to come. And he has left a gap in our intellectual life: Who will stand up against the economics establishment to articulate an economic vision that is both in touch with reality and comprehensible to ordinary citizens?

Galbraith was vindicated in his belief that the only economics possible is political economics and that government is always an agent of dominant class. As such it always pursue poklitics favorable to this class, just making marginal efforts to prevent the open revolt of lower classes.

In 2008 neoliberal economist such as Krugman and (to a lesse extent) Stiglitz both have eaten humble pie, because according to neoclassical economics the crises should not have happened. Both should now reread Galbraith's The Great Crash: 1929 (see also extracts).  Krugman also need to shred his previous writings with this mathiness execises of using differential equations to justify the dominance of financial oligarchy,  and eat them with borsch ;-)

BTW it is interesting that in 1996 neoliberal stooge Paul Krugman criticized limitations of Galbright vision in the following way:

To be both a liberal and a good economist you must have a certain sense of the tragic--that is, you must understand that not all goals can be attained, that life is a matter of painful tradeoffs. You must want to help the poor, but understand that welfare can encourage dependency. You must want to protect those who lose their jobs, but admit that generous unemployment benefits can raise the long-term rate of unemployment. You must be willing to tax the affluent to help those in need, but accept that too high a rate of taxation can discourage investment and innovation.

To the free-market conservative, these are all arguments for government to do nothing, to accept whatever level of poverty and insecurity the market happens to produce. A serious liberal does not reply to such conservatives by denying that there are any trade-offs at all; he insists, rather, that some trade-offs are worth making, that helping the poor and protecting the unlucky may have costs but will ultimately make for a better society.

The revelation one gets from reading John Kenneth Galbraith's The Good Society is that Galbraith--who is one of the world's most celebrated intellectuals, and whom one would expect to have a deeper appreciation of the complexity of the human condition than a mere technical economist would -- lacks this tragic sense. Galbraith's vision of the economy is one without shadows, in which what is good for social justice always turns out to have no unfavorable side effects. If this vision is typical of liberal intellectuals, the ineffectuality of the tribe is not an accident: It stems from a deep-seated unwillingness to face up to uncomfortable reality.

Similar limited understanding of Galbright is demonstrated in London Times (cited from comment to Economist's View blog) :

Some motifs of Galbraith’s work have entered popular consciousness. Galbraith wrote of private opulence amid public squalor, illustrating it with a memorable metaphor of a family that travels by extravagant private car to picnic by a polluted river.

Yet while arguing for increased public expenditure on welfare, Galbraith gave scant attention to the limits of that approach. His writings perpetuate a debilitating weakness of modern liberalism: a reluctance to acknowledge that resources are scarce.

In Galbraith’s scheme, said Herbert Stein, the former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers: “The American people were only asked whether they wanted cleaner air and water . . . The answers to such questions seemed obvious — but they were not the right questions.”

Soros contribution to the understanding of growth of financial sector as source of new, global economic instability

This idea of "casino capitalism" as a driver of financial instability was developed further in the book The Crisis of Global Capitalism by prominent financial speculator and staunch neoliberal George Soros (1998), who after Minsky highlights the potential for disequilibrium in the financial system, and the inability of non-market sectors to regulate markets.

the latter is a prominant feature of Casino Capitalism, which can be defined as economic system were financial barons run amok.

Although the insights of the Soros critique of global capitalism are scarcely new, they were articulated with such candor and accuracy that the book made a significant impact. The following is a sampling of Soros' insights.
  1. Unregulated financial markets are inherently unstable. There is nothing new in this statement. It is just a repetition of what Keynes and Minsky said much more eloquently. But Soros made in important observation about the source of constant disequilibrium of markets under neoliberalism, the observation which permitted for him to achieve spectacular success as a financial speculator.  Soros observes that, contrary to conventional economic theory, financial markets are not driven toward a relatively stable and rational price by the objective value assessment of such things as the soundness of a company's management, products, or record of profitability. Rather they are constantly driven away from equilibrium by the momentum of self-fulfilling expectations -- a rising stock price attracts buyers who further raise the price-to the point of collapse. The recent massive inflation and subsequent collapse in the price of the shares of unprofitable dot-com companies illustrates Soros' point.

    Bank lending also contributes to the instability, because the price of real and financial assets is set in part by their collateral value. The higher their market price rises the larger the loans banks are willing to make to their buyers to bid up prices. When the bubble bursts, the value of the assets plummets below the amount of the money borrowed against them. This forces banks to call their loans and cut back on the lending, which depresses asset prices and dries up the money supply. The economy then tanks-until credit worthiness is restored and a new boom phase begins.

  2. Financial markets are amoral by definition. Following Napoleon Bonaparte ("Money has no motherland; financiers are without patriotism and without decency; their sole object is gain. "), Soros stressed that there is no meaningful place for individual moral behavior of financial oligarchy in the context of financial markets, because such behavior has no consequences for them other than to reduce the financial return of  a more  ethical actor.  In other words modern finance is breeding ground for ruthless sociopath, which we really observed during 2008.

    When I bought shares in Lockheed and Northrop after the managements were indicted for bribery, I helped sustain the price of their stocks. When I sold sterling short in 1992, the Bank of England was on the other side of my transactions, and I was in effect taking money out of the pockets of British taxpayers. But if I had tried to take social consequences into account, it would have thrown off my risk-reward calculation, and my profits would have been reduced.

    Soros argues that if he had not bought Lockheed and Northrop, then somebody else would have, and Britain would have devalued sterling no matter what he did. "Bringing my social conscience into the decision-making process would make no difference in the real world; but it may adversely affect my own results." One can challenge the Soros claim that such behavior is amoral rather than immoral, but his basic argument is accurate. His understanding that it is futile to look to individual morality as the solution to the excesses of financial markets is all too accurate.

  3. Corporate employees are duty-bound to serve only corporate financial interests. As such financial institution are closely related to organized crime and top layers of managers are essentially institualized criminals. Soros writes:

    Publicly owned companies are single-purpose organizations-their purpose is to make money. The tougher the competition, the less they can afford to deviate. Those in charge may be well-intentioned and upright citizens, but their room for maneuver is strictly circumscribed by the position they occupy.

     They are duty-bound to uphold the interests of the company. If they think that cigarettes are unhealthy or that fostering civil war to obtain mining concessions is unconscionable, they ought to quit their jobs. Their place will be taken by people who are willing to carry on.

    Though not specifically mentioned by Soros, this is why corporations were in the past (at least partially) excluded from the political processes (although it was never complete and it is well known fact that Crusades and Siege of Constantinople (1204) were financed by Genoese bankers upset by lack of access to the Byzantium markets). But at least formally other parts of the society can define their goals and the rules of the marketplace and suppress excessive appetities of banker, if nessesary by brute force.  Financial oligarchy is incapable of distinguishing between private corporate interests and broader public interests. And that situation became even worse with the the global dominance of corporatism in the form of neoliberalism.

  4. Financial markets are oblivious to externalities and are infected by "short-termism". Specifically the fact that a strategy or policy produces economic returns in the short-term does not mean the long-term results will be beneficial. The focus of financial markets is on short-term individual gain to the exclusion of both social and longer-term consequences. The fact that particular policies and strategies are effective in producing short-term financial returns does not mean they are more generally beneficial or desirable. Soros offers the example that running up a budget or trade deficit "feels good while it lasts, but there can be hell to pay later."

  5. The relationship between the center and the periphery of the capitalist system is profoundly unequal. The powerful countries at the center of the capitalist system are both wealthier and more stable than countries at the periphery because control of the financial system and ownership of productive assets allows them to shape economic and political affairs to their benefit.

    "Foreign ownership of capital deprives peripheral countries of autonomy and often hinders the development of democratic institutions. The international flow of capital is subject to catastrophic interruptions."

    In times of uncertainty financial capital tends to return to its country of origin, thus depriving countries at the periphery of the financial liquidity necessary to the function of monetized economies. "The center's most important feature is that it controls its own economic policies and holds in its hands the economic destinies of periphery countries."

  6. In the capitalist system greed (aka "monetary values") tend to displace social values in sectors where this is destructive to important public interests. Soros writes:

    Monetary values [under neoliberalism] have usurped the role of intrinsic values, and markets have come to dominate spheres of existence where they do not properly belong.

    Law and medicine, politics, education, science, the arts, even personal relations-achievements or qualities that ought to be valued for their own sake are converted into monetary terms; they are judged by the money they fetch rather than their intrinsic value."

    Because financial "capital is free to go where most rewarded, countries vie to attract and retain capital, and if they are to succeed they must give precedence to the requirements of international capital over other social objectives.

Ha-Joon Chang

One notable later researcher of casino capitalism, especially "free market" fundamentalism propaganda Cambridge University researcher Ha-Joon Chang. In 2011 he published a fascinating book 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism. Here is a Youtube lecture at LSE (23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism  ). We will reproduce  two Amazon reviews that shed some light at the key ideas of the book:

William Podmore

Ha-Joon Chang, Reader in the Political Economy of Development at Cambridge University, has written a fascinating book on capitalism's failings. He also wrote the brilliant Bad Samaritans. Martin Wolf of the Financial Times says he is `probably the world's most effective critic of globalization'.

Chang takes on the free-marketers' dogmas and proposes ideas like

He notes that the USA does not have the world's highest living standard. Norway, Luxemburg, Switzerland, Denmark, Iceland, Ireland, Sweden and the USA, in that order, had the highest incomes per head. On income per hours worked, the USA comes eighth, after Luxemburg, Norway, France, Ireland, Belgium, Austria and the Netherlands. Japan, Switzerland, Singapore, Finland and Sweden have the highest industrial output per person.

Free-market politicians, economists and media have pushed policies of de-regulation and pursuit of short-term profits, causing less growth, more inequality, more job insecurity and more frequent crises. Britain's growth rate in income per person per year was 2.4 per cent in the 1960s-70s and 1.7 per cent 1990-2009. Rich countries grew by 3 per cent in the 1960s-70s and 1.4 per cent 1980-2009. Developing countries grew by 3 per cent in the 1960s-70s and 2.6 per cent 1980-2009. Latin America grew by 3.1 per cent in the 1960s-70s and 1.1 per cent 1980-2009, and Sub-Saharan Africa by 1.6 per cent in the 1960s-70s and 0.2 per cent 1990-2009. The world economy grew by 3.2 per cent in the 1960s-70s and 1.4 per cent 1990-2009.

So, across the world, countries did far better before Thatcher and Reagan's `free-market revolution'. Making the rich richer made the rest of us poorer, cutting economies' growth rates, and investment as a share of national output, in all the G7 countries.

Chang shows how free trade is not the way to grow and points out that the USA was the world's most protectionist country during its phase of ascendancy, from the 1830s to the 1940s, and that Britain was one of world's the most protectionist countries during its rise, from the 1720s to the 1850s.

He shows how immigration controls keep First World wages up; they determine wages more than any other factor. Weakening those controls, as the EU demands, lowers wages.

He challenges the conventional wisdom that we must cut spending to cut the deficit. Instead, we need controls capital, on mergers and acquisitions, and on financial products. We need the welfare state, industrial policy, and huge investment in industry, infrastructure, worker training and R&D.

As Chang points out, "Even though financial investments can drive growth for a while, such growth cannot be sustained, as those investments have to be ultimately backed up by viable long-term investments in real sector activities, as so vividly shown by the 2008 financial crisis."

This book is a commonsense, evidence-based approach to economic life, which we should urge all our friends and colleagues to read.

Loyd E. Eskildson

The 2008 'Great Recession' demands re-examination of prevailing economic thought - the dominant paradigm (post 1970's conservative free-market capitalism) not only failed to predict the crisis, but also said it couldn't occur in today's free markets, thanks to Adam Smith's 'invisible hand.' Ha-Joon Chang provides that re-examination in his "23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism." Turns out that the reason Adam Smith's hand was not visible is that it wasn't there. Chang, economics professor at the University of Cambridge, is no enemy of capitalism, though he contends its current conservative version should be made better. Conventional wisdom tells us that left alone, markets produce the most efficient and just outcomes - 'efficient' because businesses and individuals know best how to utilize their resources, and 'just' because they are rewarded according to their productivity. Following this advice, countries have deregulated businesses, reduced taxes and welfare, and adopted free trade. The results, per Chang, has been the opposite of what was promised - slower growth and rising inequality, often masked by rising credit expansion and increased working hours. Alternatively, developing Asian countries that grew fast did so following a different version of capitalism, though to be fair China's version to-date has also produced much greater inequality. The following summarizes some of Chang's points:

  1. "There is no such thing as a free market" - we already have hygiene standards in restaurants, ban child labor, pollution, narcotics, bribery, and dangerous workplaces, require licenses for professions such as doctors, lawyers, and brokers, and limit immigration. In 2008, the U.S. used at least $700 billion of taxpayers' money to buy up toxic assets, justified by President Bush on the grounds that it was a necessary state intervention consistent with free-market capitalism. Chang's conclusion - free-marketers contending that a certain regulation should not be introduced because it would restrict market freedom are simply expressing political opinions, not economic facts or laws.
  2. "Companies should not be run in the interest of their owners." Shareholders are the most mobile of corporate stakeholders, often holding ownership for but a fraction of a second (high-frequency trading represents 70% of today's trading). Shareholders prefer corporate strategies that maximize short-term profits and dividends, usually at the cost of long-term investments. (This often also includes added leverage and risk, and reliance on socializing risk via 'too big to fail' status, and relying on 'the Greenspan put.') Chang adds that corporate limited liability, while a boon to capital accumulation and technological progress, when combined with professional managers instead of entrepreneurs owning a large chunk (e.g.. Ford, Edison, Carnegie) and public shares with smaller voting rights (typically limited to 10%), allows professional managers to maximize their own prestige via sales growth and prestige projects instead of maximizing profits. Another negative long-term outcome driven by shareholders is increased share buybacks (less than 5% of profits until the early 1980s, 90% in 2007, and 280% in 2008) - one economist estimates that had GM not spent $20.4 billion on buybacks between 1986 and 2002 it could have prevented its 2009 bankruptcy. Short-term stockholder perspectives have also brought large-scale layoffs from off-shoring. Governments of other countries encourage longer-term thinking by holding large shares in key enterprises (China Mobile, Renault, Volkswagen), providing greater worker representation (Germany's supervisory boards), and cross-shareholding among friendly companies (Japan's Toyota and its suppliers).
  3. "Free-market policies rarely make poor countries rich." With a few exceptions, all of today's rich countries, including Britain and the U.S., reached that status through protectionism, subsidies, and other policies that they and their IMF, WTO, and World Bank now advise developing nations not to adopt. Free-market economists usually respond that the U.S. succeeded despite, not because of, protectionism. The problem with that explanation is the number of other nations paralleling the early growth strategy of the U.S. and Britain (Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Sweden, Taiwan), and the fact that apparent exceptions (Hong Kong, Switzerland, The Netherlands) did so by ignoring foreign patents (a free-market 'no-no'). Chang believes the 'official historians' of capitalism have been very successful re-writing its history, akin to someone trying to 'kick away the ladder' with which they had climbed to the top. He also points out that developing nations that stick to their Ricardian 'comparative advantage,' per the conservatives prescription, condemn themselves to their economic status quo.
  4. "We do not live in a post-industrial age." Most of the fall in manufacturing's share of total output is not due to a fall in the quantity of manufactured goods, but due to the fall in their prices relative to those for services, caused by their faster productivity growth. A small part of deindustrialization is due to outsourcing of some 'manufacturing' activities that used to be provided in-house - e.g.. catering and cleaning. Those advising the newly developing nations to skip manufacturing and go directly to providing services forget that many services mainly serve manufacturing firms (finance, R&D, design), and that since services are harder to export, such an approach will create balance-of-payment problems. (Chang's preceding points directly contradict David Ricardo's law of comparative advantage - a fundamental free market precept. Chang's example of how Korea built Pohang Steel into a strong economic producer, despite lacking experienced managers and natural resources, is another.)
  5. "The U.S. does not have the highest living standard in the world." True, the average U.S. citizen has greater command over goods and services than his counterpart in almost any other country, but this is due to higher immigration, poorer employment conditions, and working longer hours for many vs. their foreign counterparts. The U.S. also has poorer health indicators and worse crime statistics. We do have the world's second highest income per capita - Luxemburg's higher, but measured in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP) the U.S. ranks eighth. (The U.S. doesn't have the fastest growing economy either - China is predicted to pass the U.S. in PPP this coming decade.) Chang's point here is that we should stop assuming the U.S. provides the best economic model. (This is already occurring - the World Bank's chief economist, Justin Lin, comes from China.)
  6. "Governments can pick winners." Chang cites examples of how the Korean government built world-class producers of steel (POSCO), shipbuilding (Hyundai), and electronics (LG), despite lacking raw materials or experience for those sectors. True, major government failures have occurred - Europe's Concorde, Indonesia's aircraft industry, Korea's promotion of aluminum smelting, and Japan's effort to have Nissan take over Honda; industry, however, has also failed - e.g.. the AOL-Time Warner merger, and the Daimler-Chrysler merger. Austria, China, Finland, France, Japan, Norway, Singapore (in numerous other areas), and Taiwan have also done quite well with government-picked winners. Another problem is that business and national interests sometimes clash - e.g.. American firms' massive outsourcing has undermined the national interest of maintaining full employment. (However, greater unbiased U.S. government involvement would be difficult due to the 10,000+ corporate lobbyists and billions in corporate campaign donations - $500 million alone from big oil in 2009-10.) Also interesting to Chang is how conservative free marketing bankers in the U.S. lined up for mammoth low-cost loans from the Federal Reserve at the beginning of the Great Recession. Government planning allows minimizing excess capacity, maximizing learning-curve economies and economies of scale and scope; operational performance is enhanced by also forcing government-owned or supported firms into international competition. Government intervention (loans, tariffs, subsidies, prohibiting exports of needed raw materials, building infrastructure) are necessary for emerging economies to move into more sophisticated sectors.
  7. "Making rich people richer doesn't make the rest of us richer." 'Trickle-down' economics is based on the belief that the poor maximize current consumption, while the rich, left to themselves, mostly invest. However, the years 1950-1973 saw the highest-ever growth rates in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, despite increased taxation of the rich. Before the 'Golden Age,' per capita income grew at 1-1.5%/year; during the Golden Age it grew at 2-3% in the U.S. Since then, tax cuts for the rich and financial deregulation have allowed greater paychecks for top managers and financiers, and between 1979 and 2006 the top 0.1% increased their share of national income from 3.5% to 11.6%. The result - investment as a ratio of national output has fallen in all rich economies and the pace at which the total economic pie grew decreased.
  8. "U.S. managers are over-priced." First, relative to their predecessors (about 10X those in the 1960s; now 300-400X the average worker), despite the latter having run companies more successfully, in relative terms. Second, compared to counterparts in other rich countries - up to 20X. (Third, compared to counterparts in developing nations - e.g.. JPMorgan Chase, world's 4th largest bank, paid its CEO $19.6 million in 2008, vs. the CEO of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the world's largest, being paid $234,700. Read more ›

Willem Buiter and the idea of long term stagnation

Willem Buiter in his FT article After the Crisis Macro Imbalance, Credibility and Reserve-Currency suggested that after financial crisis of 2008 there might be very long a painful deleveraging period aka secular stagnation.  He was right.

In short each financial crisis make recovery longer and longer. That's why the US will most likely face a long period of stagnation: the digestion of huge excessive debt of the private sector might well take a decade:

Since the excess of debt is relative to income and GDP, the lower the rate of growth, the longer the required period of digestion. This explains for the paradox of trying to stimulate consumption when the economy faces a monumental crisis provoked exactly by excessive debt and excessive consumption. A cartoon line best captured the spirit of it: "country addicted to speculative bubbles desperately searches a new bubble to invest in. "

... ... ...

The roots of the crisis are major international macroeconomic imbalances. Despite the fact that the excesses of the financial system were instrumental to lead these imbalances further than otherwise possible, insufficient regulation should not be viewed as the main factor behind the crisis. The expenditure of central countries, spinned by all sort of financial innovations created by a globalized financial system, was the engine of world growth. When debt became clearly excessive in central countries and the debt-financed expenditure cycle came to an end, the ensuing crisis paralyzed the world economy. With the lesson of 1929 well assimilated, American monetary policy became aggressively expansionist. The Fed inundated the economy with money and credit, in the attempt to avoid a deep depression. Even if successful, the economies of the US and the other central countries, given the burden of excessive debt, are likely to remain stagnant under the threat of deflation for the coming years. The assumption of troubled assets by the public sector, in order to avoid the collapse of the financial system, might succeed, but at the cost of a major increase in public debt. Fiscal policy is not efficient to restart the economy when the private sector remains paralyzed by excessive debt. Even if a coordinated effort to increase public expenditure is successful, the central economies will remain stagnant for as long as the excessive indebtedness of the private sector persists. The period of digestion of excess debt will be longer than the usual recessive cycle. Since imports represent a drain in the effort to reanimate domestic demand through public expenditure, while exports, on the contrary, contribute to the recovery of internal demand, the temptation to central economies to also adopt a protectionist stance will be strong.

Willem Buiter also defined ‘cognitive regulatory capture’ which existed during the Greenspan years and when the Fed were just an arm of Wall Street.

This regulatory capture has resulted in an excess sensitivity of the Fed to financial market and financial sector concerns and fears and in an overestimation of the strength of the link between financial market turmoil and financial sector deleveraging and capital losses on the one hand, and the stability and prosperity of the wider economy on the other hand. The paper gives five examples of recent behavior by the Fed that are most readily rationalized with the assumption of regulatory capture. The abstract of the paper follows next. The latest version of the entire enchilada can be found here. Future revisions will also be found there.

Joseph Stiglitz on 5 steps to Casino Capitalism

Stiglitz is very unene and early Striglist was actually defender of neoliberalism (aka casino capitalism). Later he became a critic. In his 2008 Vanity Fair article Capitalist Fools Stiglitz identifies five key steps in transformation of American capitalism to Casino Capitalism (moments of failure as he called them):

No. 1: Reagan Fires Fed Chairman Volcker and Replaces Him With Greenspan in 1987:

Volcker also understood that financial markets need to be regulated. Reagan wanted someone who did not believe any such thing, and he found him in a devotee of the objectivist philosopher and free-market zealot Ayn Rand.

snip

If you appoint an anti-regulator as your enforcer, you know what kind of enforcement you’ll get. A flood of liquidity combined with the failed levees of regulation proved disastrous.

Greenspan presided over not one but two financial bubbles.

  1. Congress repealed the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999 under Bill Clinton (Glass-Steagall was a depression-era reform that separated commercial and investment banks)

I had opposed repeal of Glass-Steagall. The proponents said, in effect, Trust us: we will create Chinese walls to make sure that the problems of the past do not recur. As an economist, I certainly possessed a healthy degree of trust, trust in the power of economic incentives to bend human behavior toward self-interest—toward short-term self-interest, at any rate, rather than Tocqueville’s "self interest rightly understood."

Stiglitz also refers to a 2004 decision by the SEC "to allow big investment banks to increase their debt-to-capital ratio (from 12:1 to 30:1, or higher) so that they could buy more mortgage-backed securities, inflating the housing bubble in the process."

Once more, it was deregulation run amuck, and few even noticed.

  1. The Bush tax cuts, both on income and capital gains

The Bush administration was providing an open invitation to excessive borrowing and lending—not that American consumers needed any more encouragement.

  1. Faking the Numbers

Here he refers to bad accounting, the failure to address problems with stock options, and the incentive structures of ratings agencies like Moodys that led them to give high ratings to toxic assets.

  1. Paulson and the Flawed Bailout

Valuable time was wasted as Paulson pushed his own plan, "cash for trash," buying up the bad assets and putting the risk onto American taxpayers. When he finally abandoned it, providing banks with money they needed, he did it in a way that not only cheated America’s taxpayers but failed to ensure that the banks would use the money to re-start lending. He even allowed the banks to pour out money to their shareholders as taxpayers were pouring money into the banks.

Stiglitz concludes:

The truth is most of the individual mistakes boil down to just one: a belief that markets are self-adjusting and that the role of government should be minimal. Looking back at that belief during hearings this fall on Capitol Hill, Alan Greenspan said out loud, "I have found a flaw." Congressman Henry Waxman pushed him, responding, "In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right; it was not working." "Absolutely, precisely," Greenspan said. The embrace by America—and much of the rest of the world—of this flawed economic philosophy made it inevitable that we would eventually arrive at the place we are today.

The flawed economic philosophy brought by Reagan, and embraced by so many, brought us to this day. Ideas have consequences, especially when we stop empirically testing them. Republican economics have created great pain to America and harmed our national interest.

The flaw that Greenspan found was always there: self-regulation does not work. As Stiglitz said:

As an economist, I certainly possessed a healthy degree of trust, trust in the power of economic incentives to bend human behavior toward self-interest — toward short-term self-interest

Yes, for all their claims to science, the premise conflicts with tendencies of people.

This is the real legacy of Ronald Reagan and Alan Greenspan:

The whole scheme was kick-started under Ronald Reagan. Between his tax cuts for the rich and the Greenspan Commission’s orchestrated Social Security heist, working Americans lost out in a generational wealth transfer shift now exceeding $1 trillion annually from 90 million working class households to for-profit corporations and the richest 1% of the population. It created an unprecedented wealth disparity that continues to grow, shames the nation and is destroying the bedrock middle class without which democracy can’t survive.

Greenspan helped orchestrate it with economist Ravi Batra calling his economics "Greenomics" in his 2005 book "Greenspan’s Fraud." It "turns out to be Greedomics" advocating anti-trust laws, regulations and social services be ended so "nothing....interfere(s) with business greed and the pursuit of profits."

 Conclusions: From Animal Farm To Animal House

Instead of conclusion I will reproduce the post from Sudden Debt (March 17, 2008):

In Orwell's Animal Farm all animals are equal - except that some are more equal than others. All in the spirit of law, order and the proper functioning of society, of course. Fittingly, the animals that have chosen this role by themselves and for themselves, are the pigs.

Cut to US financial markets today. After years of swinish behavior more reminiscent of Animal House than anything else, the pigs are threatening to destroy the entire farm. As if it wasn't enough that they devoured all the "free market" food available and inundated the world with their excreta, they now wish to be put on the public trough. Truly, some businessmen believe they are more equal than others.

But do not blame the pigs; they are expected to act as swine nature dictates. The fault lies entirely with the farmers, those authorities entrusted by the people to oversee the farm because they supposedly knew better. While the pigs were rampaging and tearing the place apart, they were assuring us all that farms function best when animals are free to do as they please, guided solely by invisible hooves. No regulation, no oversight, no common sense. Oh yes, and pigs fly..

So what is to be done now? Two things:

In other words, the focus from now on should be on adding value by means of work and savings (capital formation), instead of inflating assets and borrowing.

Furthermore, we should realize that in a world already inhabited by close to 7 billion people and beset by resource depletion and environmental degradation, defending growth for growth's sake is a losing proposition. The wheels are already wobbling on the Permagrowth model; pumping harder on the accelerator is not going to make it go any faster and will likely result in a fatal crash.

Debt, and finance in general, should be left to re-size downwards to a level that better reflects the carrying capacity of our world. The Fed's current actions are shortsighted and "conservative" in the worst interpretation of the words: they are designed to artificially maintain debt at levels that myopically projects growth as far as the eye can see.

What level of resizing may be necessary? I hope not as much as at Bear Stearns, which got itself bought by Morgan at buzz-saw prices: $2 per share represents a 98% discount from its $84 book value. What scares me, though, is the statement by Morgan's CFO, who said the price reflected the risk the firm was taking, even though he was comfortable with the valuation of assets in Bear's books. It "...gives us the flexibility and margin of error that's appropriate given the speed at which the transaction came together", he said.

If it takes a 98% discount and the explicit guarantee of the Fed for a large portion of assets to buy one of the largest investment banks in the world, where should all other financial firms be trading at? ....Hello? Anyone? Is that a great big silence I hear, or the sound of credit imploding into a vacuum?


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[Apr 22, 2019] Is Intellectual Property the Root of All Evil? Patents, Copyrights, and Inequality

Apr 22, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

anne -> anne... , April 21, 2019 at 05:26 PM

http://cepr.net/images/stories/reports/ip-2018-10.pdf

October, 2018

Is Intellectual Property the Root of All Evil? Patents, Copyrights, and Inequality
By Dean Baker

Introduction

This paper raises three issues on the relationship between intellectual property and inequality. The first is a simple logical point. Patents, copyrights, and other forms of intellectual property are public policy. They are not facts given to us by the world or the structure of technology somehow. While this point should be self-evident, it is rarely noted in discussions of inequality or ways to address it.

The second issue is that there is an enormous amount of money at stake with intellectual property rules. Many items that sell at high prices as a result of patent or copyright protection would be free or nearly free in the absence of these government granted monopolies. Perhaps the most notable example is prescription drugs where we will spend over $420 billion in 2018 in the United States for drugs that would almost certainly cost less than $105 billion in a free market. The difference is $315 billion annually or 1.6 percent of GDP. If we add in software, medical equipment, pesticides, fertilizer, and other areas where these protections account for a large percentage of the cost, the gap between protected prices and free market prices likely approaches $1 trillion annually, a sum that is more than 60 percent of after-tax corporate profits.

The third issue is that the effect of these protections is to redistribute income upward. This can be seen most easily in looking at the origins of the fortunes of some of the country's richest people, starting with Bill Gates. It also is apparent from looking at the leading companies in terms of market capitalization and profits, starting with Apple.

In addition, the demand for people with advanced skills in computer science, biotechnology, and other technical areas is highly dependent on the patent and copyright monopolies which ultimately pay for their work. With a different set of rules for promoting innovation and creative work, there could be far less demand for their work. While it can be debated whether or not that situation is desirable, the point is that this is a policy decision, not anything that is determined by technology or the natural development of the economy.

Instead of being a sidebar pursued by a small clique of economists and people concerned about access to medicines, rules on intellectual property should play a central role in debates on inequality. There is a huge amount at stake in setting these rules and those concerned about inequality should be paying attention.

[Apr 22, 2019] World Economic Outlook: Growth Slowdown, Precarious Recovery

Apr 22, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

anne -> anne... , April 19, 2019 at 03:48 PM

https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/WEO/Issues/2019/03/28/world-economic-outlook-april-2019

April, 2019

World Economic Outlook: Growth Slowdown, Precarious Recovery

After strong growth in 2017 and early 2018, global economic activity slowed notably in the second half of last year, reflecting a confluence of factors affecting major economies. China's growth declined following a combination of needed regulatory tightening to rein in shadow banking and an increase in trade tensions with the United States. The euro area economy lost more momentum than expected as consumer and business confidence weakened and car production in Germany was disrupted by the introduction of new emission standards; investment dropped in Italy as sovereign spreads widened; and external demand, especially from emerging Asia, softened. Elsewhere, natural disasters hurt activity in Japan. Trade tensions increasingly took a toll on business confidence and, so, financial market sentiment worsened, with financial conditions tightening for vulnerable emerging markets in the spring of 2018 and then in advanced economies later in the year, weighing on global demand. Conditions have eased in 2019 as the US Federal Reserve signaled a more accommodative monetary policy stance and markets became more optimistic about a US–China trade deal, but they remain slightly more restrictive than in the fall.

[Apr 22, 2019] Private Equity Pillage: Grocery Stores and Workers At Risk

Apr 22, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

anne , April 20, 2019 at 03:03 PM

https://cepr.shorthandstories.com/private-equity-pillage/index.html

April, 2019

Private Equity Pillage: Grocery Stores and Workers At Risk
By Eileen Appelbaum & Rosemary Batt

The private equity business model is to strip assets from companies that they acquire. The latest victims: retail grocery chains.

Since 2015 seven major grocery chains, employing more than 125,000 workers, have filed for bankruptcy. The media has blamed "disruptors" -- low-cost competitors like Walmart and high-end markets like Whole Foods, now owned by Amazon. But the real disruptors in this industry are the private equity (PE) owners who were behind all seven bankruptcies. They have extracted millions from grocery stores in the last five years -- funds that could have been used to upgrade stores, enhance products and services, and invest in employee training and higher wages. As with the bankruptcies of common household names like Toys "R" Us, PE owners throw companies they own into unsustainable debt in order to capture high returns for themselves and their investors. If the company they have starved of resources goes broke, they've already made their bundle.

This is all perfectly legal. It should not be.

The media has blamed "disruptors" like Walmart, Whole Foods, and Amazon for grocery store bankruptcies. But the real disruptors in this industry are the private equity owners.

The bankrupted PE-owned grocery chains include East Coast chains A&P/Pathmark, Fairway, and Tops; West Coast chains Fresh & Easy and Haggen; the Southeastern Grocers chains (BI-LO, Bruno's, Winn-Dixie, Fresco y Más, and Harveys); and in the Midwest, Marsh Supermarkets. We could find no comparable publicly traded grocery chains that went bankrupt during this period....

[ This report is excellent, important but complex and long. A careful reading is warranted for those interested. ]

anne -> anne... , April 20, 2019 at 03:08 PM
https://twitter.com/EileenAppelbaum/status/1119307516792512512

Eileen Appelbaum‏ @EileenAppelbaum

THREAD: The retail apocalypse in full swing: Gymboree closes 800 stores, Shopko 105, Payless 2300, Charlotte Russe 400. What's behind it? Some blame Amazon or changing taste, but the real culprit is private equity. We'll explain how PE makes money as these businesses fail. 1/12

11:31 AM - 19 Apr 2019

point -> anne... , April 21, 2019 at 04:23 AM
While grocery is outside my area, the story sure sounds like strategic use of the bankruptcy code for profit:

http://pages.stern.nyu.edu/~promer/Looting.pdf

George A. Akerlof and Pauil M. Romer

anne -> point... , April 21, 2019 at 04:48 AM
http://pages.stern.nyu.edu/~promer/Looting.pdf

April, 1994

Looting: The Economic Underworld of Bankruptcy for Profit
By George A. Akerlof and Paul M. Romer

DURING THE 1980s, a number of unusual financial crises occurred. In Chile, for example, the financial sector collapsed, leaving the government with responsibility for extensive foreign debts. In the United States, large numbers of government-insured savings and loans became insolvent-and the government picked up the tab. In Dallas, Texas, real estate prices and construction continued to boom even after vacancies had skyrocketed, and then suffered a dramatic collapse. Also in the United States, the junk bond market, which fueled the takeover wave, had a similar boom and bust.

In this paper, we use simple theory and direct evidence to highlight a common thread that runs through these four episodes. The theory suggests that this common thread may be relevant to other cases in which countries took on excessive foreign debt, governments had to bail out insolvent financial institutions, real estate prices increased dramatically and then fell, or new financial markets experienced a boom and bust. We describe the evidence, however, only for the cases of financial crisis in Chile, the thrift crisis in the United States, Dallas real estate and thrifts, and junk bonds.

Our theoretical analysis shows that an economic underground can come to life if firms have an incentive to go broke for profit at society's expense (to loot) instead of to go for broke (to gamble on success). Bankruptcy for profit will occur if poor accounting, lax regulation, or low penalties for abuse give owners an incentive to pay themselves more than their firms are worth and then default on their debt obligations....

Plp -> anne... , April 21, 2019 at 11:38 AM
Once again akerloff is part
of a paradigm exploration

A great thinker

Plp -> Plp... , April 21, 2019 at 11:39 AM
Not enough follow up

Looting fraud etc
Firm failure

anne -> Plp... , April 21, 2019 at 12:20 PM
Here is the follow-up:

https://twitter.com/EileenAppelbaum/status/1119307516792512512

Eileen Appelbaum‏ @EileenAppelbaum

THREAD: The retail apocalypse in full swing: Gymboree closes 800 stores, Shopko 105, Payless 2300, Charlotte Russe 400. What's behind it? Some blame Amazon or changing taste, but the real culprit is private equity. We'll explain how PE makes money as these businesses fail. 1/12

11:31 AM - 19 Apr 2019

Private Equity Pillage details the business model that allows private equity firms to bankrupt chains, throw workers out of jobs, stiff vendors and still make a profit, in the context of grocery stores. 2/12

https://cepr.shorthandstories.com/private-equity-pillage/index.html

Here's an overview of the business model. Private equity firms have rigged the process so they can extract profits not only from their investors (often public pension funds) but also from the companies that it "invests" in. Here's how: 3/12

Investors, using money from public employees' pensions for example, put their $$$ in a particular private equity fund. Right off the bat, the private equity firm makes a profit because they collect management fees for just accepting the money. 4/12

The traditional story is that private equity firms invest in already distressed companies. Yet more and more they are healthy, proven companies that the PE firm then forces to take on debt (which the company now pays interest on). This erodes its ability to stay competitive. 5/12

On top of the new financial pressures a company faces from this debt, it *also* pays monitoring fees to the PE firm. It may need to sell assets too, like real estate, and then pay rent to occupy the buildings it once owned. Where do the proceeds go? Usually, the PE firm. 6/12

With all this money being siphoned off from the company, it is in a much more difficult position to compete. 7/12

Case in point: Albertsons, the 2nd largest grocer, struggles to compete, unlike Kroger's (the largest). The difference? Albertsons is owned by PE firm Cerberus and lacks $$$ to invest in multi-modal retailing. Kroger's can do all that Amazon-owned Whole Foods does & more. 8/12

Now in a precarious situation, the company might liquidate, restructure, or be sold. None might be the PE firm's most desirable outcome, but financial engineering usually ensures that it comes out on top (and it might be first in line to divvy up assets). 9/12

Even if the PE firm doesn't make money from the bankruptcy, it has made money throughout the entire process via fees on its investors and the company it acquired, as well as from the assets the company sold off. The losers? Workers, investors like pension funds, vendors. 10/12

But common sense reforms can help. These could be limiting the debt an acquired company can take on, being transparent about fees, limiting payments to PE firms in the aftermath of a buyout, making PE firms joint employers, and protecting workers if a company goes bust. 11/12

Private equity gets away with all of this because of loopholes in current law. But that doesn't mean what they are doing makes sense for either workers or the economy. We need reforms that center workers and others taken advantage of in the current PE model. 12/12

anne -> Plp... , April 21, 2019 at 12:22 PM
An easier to read follow-up:

http://cepr.net/publications/op-eds-columns/private-equity-pillage-grocery-stores-and-workers-at-risk

October 26, 2018

Private Equity Pillage: Grocery Stores and Workers At Risk
By Rosemary Batt and Eileen Appelbaum

anne -> Plp... , April 21, 2019 at 12:30 PM
The work by Rosemary Batt and Eileen Appelbaum is thorough and important, explaining an institutionally provoked struggle of traditional retailers to survive that is misunderstood by economics reporters and seldom understood by economists. That Amazon is not a treat to traditional retailers needs to be realized. Traditional retailers in China by contrast are faring well, with Alibaba.

[Apr 22, 2019] the United States has the highest level of inequality among the advanced countries and one of the lowest levels of opportunity -- with the fortunes of young Americans more dependent on the income and education of their parents than elsewhere.

Apr 22, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

Fred C. Dobbs , April 20, 2019 at 04:20 AM

Progressive Capitalism Is Not an Oxymoron
https://nyti.ms/2GpsQoQ
NYT - Joseph E. Stiglitz - April 19, 2019

We can save our broken economic system from itself.


Fred C. Dobbs said in reply to Fred C. Dobbs... , April 20, 2019 at 04:23 AM
Despite the lowest unemployment rates since the late 1960s, the American economy is failing its citizens. Some 90 percent have seen their incomes stagnate or decline in the past 30 years. This is not surprising, given that the United States has the highest level of inequality among the advanced countries and one of the lowest levels of opportunity -- with the fortunes of young Americans more dependent on the income and education of their parents than elsewhere.

But things don't have to be that way. There is an alternative: progressive capitalism. Progressive capitalism is not an oxymoron; we can indeed channel the power of the market to serve society.

In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan's regulatory "reforms," which reduced the ability of government to curb the excesses of the market, were sold as great energizers of the economy. But just the opposite happened: Growth slowed, and weirder still, this happened in the innovation capital of the world.

The sugar rush produced by President Trump's largess to corporations in the 2017 tax law didn't deal with any of these long-run problems, and is already fading. Growth is expected to be a little under 2 percent next year.

This is where we've descended to, but not where we have to stay. A progressive capitalism based on an understanding of what gives rise to growth and societal well-being gives us a way out of this quagmire and a way up for our living standards.

Standards of living began to improve in the late 18th century for two reasons: the development of science (we learned how to learn about nature and used that knowledge to increase productivity and longevity) and developments in social organization (as a society, we learned how to work together, through institutions like the rule of law, and democracies with checks and balances).

Key to both were systems of assessing and verifying the truth. The real and long-lasting danger of the Trump presidency is the risk it poses to these pillars of our economy and society, its attack on the very idea of knowledge and expertise, and its hostility to institutions that help us discover and assess the truth.

There is a broader social compact that allows a society to work and prosper together, and that, too, has been fraying. America created the first truly middle-class society; now, a middle-class life is increasingly out of reach for its citizens.

America arrived at this sorry state of affairs because we forgot that the true source of the wealth of a nation is the creativity and innovation of its people. One can get rich either by adding to the nation's economic pie or by grabbing a larger share of the pie by exploiting others -- abusing, for instance, market power or informational advantages. We confused the hard work of wealth creation with wealth-grabbing (or, as economists call it, rent-seeking), and too many of our talented young people followed the siren call of getting rich quickly.

Beginning with the Reagan era, economic policy played a key role in this dystopia: Just as forces of globalization and technological change were contributing to growing inequality, we adopted policies that worsened societal inequities. Even as economic theories like information economics (dealing with the ever-present situation where information is imperfect), behavioral economics and game theory arose to explain why markets on their own are often not efficient, fair, stable or seemingly rational, we relied more on markets and scaled back social protections.

The result is an economy with more exploitation -- whether it's abusive practices in the financial sector or the technology sector using our own data to take advantage of us at the cost of our privacy. The weakening of antitrust enforcement, and the failure of regulation to keep up with changes in our economy and the innovations in creating and leveraging market power, meant that markets became more concentrated and less competitive.

Politics has played a big role in the increase in corporate rent-seeking and the accompanying inequality. Markets don't exist in a vacuum; they have to be structured by rules and regulations, and those rules and regulations must be enforced. Deregulation of the financial sector allowed bankers to engage in both excessively risky activities and more exploitive ones. Many economists understood that trade with developing countries would drive down American wages, especially for those with limited skills, and destroy jobs. We could and should have provided more assistance to affected workers (just as we should provide assistance to workers who lose their jobs as a result of technological change), but corporate interests opposed it. A weaker labor market conveniently meant lower labor costs at home to complement the cheap labor businesses employed abroad.

We are now in a vicious cycle: Greater economic inequality is leading, in our money-driven political system, to more political inequality, with weaker rules and deregulation causing still more economic inequality.

If we don't change course matters will likely grow worse, as machines (artificial intelligence and robots) replace an increasing fraction of routine labor, including many of the jobs of the several million Americans making their living by driving.

The prescription follows from the diagnosis: It begins by recognizing the vital role that the state plays in making markets serve society. We need regulations that ensure strong competition without abusive exploitation, realigning the relationship between corporations and the workers they employ and the customers they are supposed to serve. We must be as resolute in combating market power as the corporate sector is in increasing it.

If we had curbed exploitation in all of its forms and encouraged wealth creation, we would have had a more dynamic economy with less inequality. We might have curbed the opioid crisis and avoided the 2008 financial crisis. If we had done more to blunt the power of oligopolies and strengthen the power of workers, and if we had held our banks accountable, the sense of powerlessness might not be so pervasive and Americans might have greater trust in our institutions.

There are many other areas in which government action is required. Markets on their own won't provide insurance against some of the most important risks we face, such as unemployment and disability. They won't efficiently provide pensions with low administrative costs and insurance against inflation. And they won't provide an adequate infrastructure or a decent education for everyone or engage in sufficient basic research.

Progressive capitalism is based on a new social contract between voters and elected officials, between workers and corporations, between rich and poor, and between those with jobs and those who are un- or underemployed.

Part of this new social contract is an expanded public option for many programs now provided by private entities or not at all. It was a mistake not to include the public option in Obamacare: It would have enriched choice and enhanced competition, lowering prices. But one can design public options in other arenas as well, for instance for retirement and mortgages. This new social contract will enable most Americans to once again have a middle-class life.

As an economist, I am always asked: Can we afford to provide this middle-class life for most, let alone all, Americans? Somehow, we did when we were a much poorer country in the years after World War II. In our politics, in our labor-market participation, and in our health we are already paying the price for our failures.

The neoliberal fantasy that unfettered markets will deliver prosperity to everyone should be put to rest. It is as fatally flawed as the notion after the fall of the Iron Curtain that we were seeing "the end of history" and that we would all soon be liberal democracies with capitalist economies.

Most important, our exploitive capitalism has shaped who we are as individuals and as a society. The rampant dishonesty we've seen from Wells Fargo and Volkswagen or from members of the Sackler family as they promoted drugs they knew were addictive -- this is what is to be expected in a society that lauds the pursuit of profits as leading, to quote Adam Smith, "as if by an invisible hand," to the well-being of society, with no regard to whether those profits derive from exploitation or wealth creation.

ken melvin -> Fred C. Dobbs... , April 20, 2019 at 06:07 AM
https://www.cbpp.org/research/poverty-and-inequality/a-guide-to-statistics-on-historical-trends-in-income-inequality

Check out the inequality curves about half way thru the article

anne -> Fred C. Dobbs... , April 20, 2019 at 06:19 AM
In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan's regulatory "reforms," which reduced the ability of government to curb the excesses of the market, were sold as great energizers of the economy. But just the opposite happened: Growth slowed, and weirder still, this happened in the innovation capital of the world....

-- Joseph Stiglitz

[ Really important. ]

anne -> Fred C. Dobbs... , April 20, 2019 at 06:41 AM
Part of this new social contract is an expanded public option for many programs now provided by private entities or not at all. It was a mistake not to include the public option in Obamacare: It would have enriched choice and enhanced competition, lowering prices. But one can design public options in other arenas as well, for instance for retirement and mortgages. This new social contract will enable most Americans to once again have a middle-class life....

-- Joseph Stiglitz

[ What a splendid essay. ]

anne -> Fred C. Dobbs... , April 20, 2019 at 07:21 AM
https://twitter.com/paulkrugman/status/1119592496173129728

Paul Krugman‏ @paulkrugman

Very good and smart from one of our greatest economists. (I don't think laypeople fully appreciate Joe Stiglitz's greatness as a theorist) "Progressive capitalism" is a good phrase, in part because it does involve reviving a lot of the original progressive agenda

6:23 AM - 20 Apr 2019

RC (Ron) Weakley said in reply to Fred C. Dobbs... , April 20, 2019 at 08:28 AM
Good choice. THANKS!
Fred C. Dobbs said in reply to Fred C. Dobbs... , April 20, 2019 at 04:28 AM
Socialist! Capitalist! Economic Systems as Weapons
in a War of Words https://nyti.ms/2ZncMwz
NYT - Andrew Ross Sorkin - April 19, 2019

The economist Joseph Stiglitz discusses Bernie Sanders, social policy and how we define ourselves -- and one another.

Joseph Stiglitz settled into a booth at his favorite diner on the Upper West Side last week with a curious, almost satisfied smile on his face.

He won a Nobel Prize nearly two decades ago for identifying the inequities and imperfections in market economies and has spent a career warning of the perils of wealth concentration, railing against monopoly power and championing higher taxes.

At last, a lot of people seem to be listening.

"It's been a long fight," he said.

The cause has been taken up by the new stars of the left, like Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and can trace much of its current momentum to the rumpled rabble-rousing of Senator Bernie Sanders. The policy points Mr. Stiglitz talks about -- a higher minimum wage, a public option for health insurance and more -- could just as easily come from the mouths of any of those seeking to unseat President Trump in 2020.

And yet they demonstrate how the words we choose to talk about our economic priorities are almost as important as the priorities themselves.

Last year, for the first time in a decade, a Gallup poll showed that Democrats had a more positive view of socialism than they did of capitalism. Those two words may play a pivotal role in our next election: Some Democrats have embraced the label of socialist, one long attacked by Republicans. And even some of those who have profited most from American-style free markets have worried about their sustainability, with the billionaire investor Ray Dalio going so far as to say that "capitalism is broken."

Mr. Stiglitz, stabbing his fork into his salad, said he believed there had been a critical misunderstanding of the terms themselves -- and the economic theories behind them -- that had allowed for their weaponization.

"The meanings of the words have changed over time," said Mr. Stiglitz, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Bill Clinton and a former chief economist of the World Bank. And the words have become the subject of a branding battle crossing political and generational divides.

The professor in Mr. Stiglitz shared a history lesson that reached back to the early 20th century, about how socialism and communism became linked. And he made the case that Mr. Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, wasn't actually a socialist -- at least as the identity has long been defined.

Mr. Sanders's agenda -- which drew a fair share of cheers during a Fox News town-hall-style meeting this week -- is not focused on "ownership of the means of production" or a statist system, Mr. Stiglitz said. "He's really concerned about the social contract of health, education," he added.

It is not surprising that Mr. Sanders's supporters trend young, a group for which the word "socialism" holds no fears of conflict with the Soviets or baggage associated with the Berlin Wall.

"Some people are trying to attach more emotions to the historical legacy of socialism
, which was never the same as communism, but in the United States those distinctions have gotten blurred," Mr. Stiglitz said.

The attacks from the right have been anything but subtle. Just this month, Mr. Trump declared, "We're going into the war with some socialists." And Republicans have posited that Venezuela's challenged economy is the inevitable result of any movement in the policy directions embraced by the left.

The word leaves a bad taste even in the mouths of many on the left, including Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, who lived through the height of the Cold War. "I do reject socialism as an economic system," she said on "60 Minutes" last weekend. "If people have that view, that's their view. That is not the view of the Democratic Party."

(In Europe, Mr. Stiglitz said, similarly minded politicians might rightly be called social democrats. A simple switch in word order emphasizes the "social" instead of "socialist.")

It all comes back to semantics, Mr. Stiglitz said. And perception was on his mind when titling his new book, "People, Power and Profits: Progressive Capitalism for an Age of Discontent," which is to be published next week.

In it, he maps out a plan that he calls a "social contract" to improve jobs, health, education, housing and retirement. In fact, it wouldn't be surprising if it turned into the economic platform for a presidential candidate.

Mr. Stiglitz proposes using a combination of market forces and government nudges -- a higher minimum wage and an expanded earned-income tax credit, for example -- to help the poorest among us. He also supports a "public option" to improve competition in the private sector in areas like health care and even retirement savings.

That's not to say he views government as a panacea. For example, he wants to see the mortgage industry privatized. "In a private-sector economy, to have this huge piece of the economy that's not run by the private sector is odd," he said. Still, he also recommends a public option so that the government could support the mortgage market in certain cases.

Mr. Stiglitz said he had chosen "progressive capitalism" for his book's title because he worried about triggering a visceral reaction to the word "socialism."

"I'm trying to avoid some of the emotions that are still attached," he said. "I try in my title to use progressive capitalism to try to say I believe in a market economy, but I also believe in government regulation."

Even as popular figures on the left have embraced the label of socialist -- Ms. Ocasio-Cortez is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America -- others have sought, like Mr. Stiglitz, to underscore their capitalist views. Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., who formally announced his candidacy for president this week, calls himself a proponent of "democratic capitalism."

If the evolving meaning of socialism strikes you as an inventive bit of rebranding, Mr. Stiglitz believes the conservative idea of American capitalism as an unfettered free-market system is itself a myth.

"There is no Darwinian capitalism," he said. "Everybody would say you need some degree of regulation of banks. I mean, no one is talking about real laissez-faire banking."

Even the word "capitalist" has evolved, Mr. Stiglitz said. It is only since the late 20th century and the rise of the economist Milton Friedman, he contends, that "capitalist" stopped being a dirty word. It was once used in what he called "a pejorative way."

Capitalists were "people who were exploiting workers," he said.

That is an opinion, of course. And it is a view that is not hard to come by in some circles now, either.

Language changes, and as convenient as it can be to use linguistic shorthand, it's important to remember that beneath the words are ideas -- the things we should be talking about.

Fred C. Dobbs said in reply to Fred C. Dobbs... , April 20, 2019 at 04:34 AM
Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz on "People,
Power and Profits: Progressive Capitalism
for an Age of Discontent"
https://www.moaf.org/events/general/2019-04-24-nobel-laureate-joseph-stiglitz-on-people-power-and-profits-progressive-capitalism-for-an-age-of-discontent

Evening Lecture Series

Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz

Wednesday, April 24, 2019 | 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM

Event Location:
Fordham University – Lincoln Center Campus
140 West 62 Street, McNally Amphitheatre | Ground Floor

... Stiglitz has long sounded the alarm about growing economic inequality in the United States. As chief economist of the World Bank and Chairman of Clinton's Council of Economic Advisors, he saw first-hand the toll that financial deregulation, globalization and government inaction can take on a community. This has played out over and over again in cities and towns across the United States, feeding into the resentment that fueled Donald Trump's election in 2016. The question we should ask ourselves today, Stiglitz says, is "What can we do about it?"

In his new book, People, Power and Profits: Progressive Capitalism for an Age of Discontent, Stiglitz answers that question by laying out a 21st Century Social Contract to rebuild the American middle class and reinvigorate the American economy. Many candidates will likely use Stiglitz's timely advice in their 2020 presidential campaigns.

Prof. Stiglitz will be interviewed by Bruce Greenwald, the Robert Heilbrunn Professor of Finance and Asset Management at Columbia Business School and the academic co-director of the Heilbrunn Center for Graham & Dodd Investing. Described by The New York Times as "a guru to Wall Street's gurus," Greenwald is an authority on value investing with additional expertise in productivity and the economics of information.

[Apr 22, 2019] Interior Secty Bernhardt is corrupt...he's gotta go and right now

Apr 22, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

im1dc , April 21, 2019 at 12:26 PM

Interior Secty Bernhardt is corrupt...he's gotta go and right now

He corrupted the Interior Dept by violating his Ethics Agreement banning his participation with his former Lobbyist clients until 8/18

https://www.politico.com/story/2019/04/21/david-bernhardt-water-law-interior-department-1370107

"Interior's Bernhardt worked closely on matters he promised to avoid"

'New disclosures of the secretary's schedule add to questions surrounding his ties to past lobbying clients, including a California water district'

By ANNIE SNIDER...04/21/2019...06:57 AM EDT

"Interior Secretary David Bernhardt began working on policies that would aid one of his former lobbying clients within weeks of joining the Trump administration, according to a POLITICO analysis of agency documents -- a revelation that adds to the ethics questions dogging his leadership of the agency.

Bernhardt's efforts, beginning in at least October 2017, included shaping the department's response to a key portion of a water infrastructure law he had helped pass as a lobbyist for California farmers, recently released calendars show. The department offered scant details at the time about meetings that Bernhardt, then the deputy secretary, held with Interior officials overseeing water deliveries to the farmers, leading many observers to believe he was steering clear of the issues he had previously lobbied on.

But newly disclosed schedule "cards" prepared by Interior officials for Bernhardt show more than three dozen meetings with key players on California water issues, including multiple lengthy meetings on specific endangered species protections at the heart of his previous work. Those appointments were only vaguely identified on his official calendars.

Interior's inspector general is probing whether Bernhardt violated ethics rules by working on policies he had pushed as a lobbyist for the Westlands Water District, a job that earned his former firm more than $1.3 million in the five years before he returned to government service.

Bernhardt's ethics agreement barred him from participating in any "particular matters" involving Westlands until August 2018, one year after he arrived at the agency, and it was only after that recusal period ended that then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke publicly tasked him with working on California water issues. But the newly released information shows that Bernhardt had weighed in on discussions around Westlands' policy priorities for nearly a year by that point."...

[Apr 22, 2019] C>urrent Neo-McCarthyism hysteria as a smoke screen of the UK and the USA intent to dominate European geopolitics and weaken Russia and Germany

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... North Stream is a problem as the goal is to economically weaken Russia, tie the EU to the USA via energy supplies and support our new client state -- Ukraine. ..."
"... But this is also related to attempts to prevent/weaken the alliance of Russia and China. As geopolitical consequences of this alliance for the USA-led neoliberal empire are very bad ..."
Jul 24, 2018 | angrybearblog.com

likbez , July 24, 2018 12:23 am

@run75441 July 23, 2018 2:02 pm

Best bet is for Russia to want to trade with the US and Europe. The gas pipeline will not be enough leverage on Germany as it provides 9% of their needs.

Yes. And that's against the USA interests (or more correctly the US-led neoliberal empire interests). North Stream is a problem as the goal is to economically weaken Russia, tie the EU to the USA via energy supplies and support our new client state -- Ukraine.

As you know, nothing was proven yet in Russiagate (and DNC hacks looks more and more like a false flag operation, especially this Guccifer 2.0 personality ), but sanctions were already imposed. And when the US government speaks "Russia" in most cases they mean "China+Russia" ;-). Russia is just a weaker link in this alliance and, as such, it is attacked first. Russiagate is just yet another pretext after MH17, Magnitsky and such.

To me the current Anti-Russian hysteria is mainly a smokescreen to hide attempt to cement cracks in the façade of the USA neoliberal society that Trump election revealed (including apparent legitimization of ruling neoliberal elite represented by Hillary).

And a desperate attempt to unite the society using (false) war propaganda which requires demonization of the "enemy of the people" and neo-McCarthyism.

But this is also related to attempts to prevent/weaken the alliance of Russia and China. As geopolitical consequences of this alliance for the USA-led neoliberal empire are very bad (for example, military alliance means the end of the USA global military domination; energy alliance means that is now impossible to impose a blockade on China energy supplies from Middle East even if Iran is occupied)

In this sense the recent descent into a prolonged fit of vintage Cold War jingoistic paranoia is quite understandable. While, at the same time, totally abhorrent. My feeling is that unless Russia folds, which is unlikely, the side effects/externalities of this posture can be very bad for the USA. In any case, the alliance of Russia and China which Obama administration policies forged spells troubles to the global neoliberal empire dominated by the USA.

Trump rejection of existing forms of neoliberal globalization is one sign that this process already started and some politicians already are trying to catch the wind and adapt to a "new brave world" by using preemptive adjustments.

Which is why all this Trump-Putin summit hysteria is about.

Neither hard, nor soft neoliberals want any adjustments. They are ready to fight for the US-led neoliberal empire till the last American (excluding, of course, themselves and their families)

[Apr 22, 2019] Personally, I was especially shocked when Prince Charles casually compared Putin to Hitler. Oh, and he is not supposed to succumb to his own propaganda

Apr 22, 2019 | kunstler.com

EvelynV April 21, 2019 at 12:29 pm #

Prior to the war Bolshevism was so reviled the West refused Russia's pleas to form an alliance to oppose Hitler, in particular to ward off what they knew would be Hitler's assault on Czechoslovakia. Stalin rebuffed at every attempt, finally to buy time for Russia to prepare for what he knew would be Hitler coming for them, formed the non-aggression pact.

The Russians with the material aid from Churchill did a merciless amount of the heavy lifting that kept Hitler from focusing on crossing the Channel. Churchill was willing to float supply ships in British blood to aid the Russians any way possible knowing full well if Russia collapsed to the German onslaught Britain would be next.

Russia even today should be our best friend in the world. The reason I hated Hillary Clinton.

FincaInTheMountains April 21, 2019 at 11:31 am #

Personally, I was especially shocked when Prince Charles casually compared Putin to Hitler. Oh, and he is not supposed to succumb to his own propaganda.

The fact is that the British, unlike the Americans, really suffered greatly from the Nazis and fought with them in an almost hopeless situation. Moreover, we all should be grateful to them for the fact that in the 40s they had already declared Hitler's Germany an infernal force, and a war with it a Christian, that is, Holy War.

But after the war, something happened, and in all countries of the anti-Hitler coalition there were pro-Nazi coups. And this wave rolled exactly from England, and not from Trumen's America.

Personally, I think that the British, being completely devastated by the war, feeling the iron fingers of American business at their throats, made a deal with the devil and allowed Bormann's money, which is so well depicted in "17 Moments of Spring", to be legalized in transnational corporations.

No, of course the role of Truman, Harriman, Thyssen, Dulles and Prescott Bush was very great and they did at some point make state policy their conviction that the United States fought on the wrong side during WWII.

But they were opposed by the American army, which fought against the Nazis in Western Europe and saw Dachau concentration camp with their own eyes. And in 1952, the Truman Doctrine went into oblivion.

Especially American soldiers did not like the fact that Truman and Dulles created an army of German soldiers in Denmark, which they wanted to throw against the Soviet Army in Germany. They were completely confident about the outcome of this battle, given the combat experience of the Soviet Army, and after the instant defeat of the Kwantung Army and the Korean War, it became clear to the American military that, despite a certain number of atomic bombs, the American army would not even be able to stop the Alaskan invasion army of General Oleshev.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/14th_Army_(Soviet_Union)

And Truman withdrew his candidacy, and General Eisenhower, becoming President of the United States, for a while stopped the part of the Democratic Party that supported Democratic President Truman and Republican Senator McCarthy, a great friend of the Kennedy family. And it was here that Great Britain entered the game, scared to death by Truman, who during this time quite clearly showed how he appreciates the "English world".

For several years, a wave of reprisals against the people who played the most prominent role in the defeat of Hitler's Germany swept the world.

First they dealt with Turing, whose value is difficult to overestimate, then General Bradley, holder of the orders of Suvorov and Kutuzov, was dismissed from the post of chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff and soon resigned, soon someone surrendered Burgess, coordinator of the Cambridge Five, in Israel, they drowned Altalena and dealt with Irgun, which consists entirely of former prisoners of concentration camps, and in Poland begins the reprisal of the Stalinist Marshal of the Soviet Union Konstantin Rokossovsky.

So the English monarchy has its skeletons in the closet, in which it is afraid to admit even to itself, and over time it turned into a cognitive dissonance (if not psychosis) between the memory of its participation in the "Holy War", sincere hatred for Hitler's Germany and the need to cooperate with Adenauer and his "economic miracle", clearly financed not only by the Marshall Plan, but also by Bormann's money.

[Apr 22, 2019] The traditional parties are obsolete now. There really is only one party and it maintains power no matter who is in office.

Apr 22, 2019 | kunstler.com

SoftStarLight April 20, 2019 at 11:53 am #

The traditional parties are obsolete now. There really is only one party and it maintains power no matter who is in office. The political theater is all just a show. Corporations and lobbyists have all the power.

[Apr 22, 2019] In Search for Leverage, Trump May Be Undercutting His Own Trade Deals

Apr 22, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

anne -> anne... , April 19, 2019 at 06:32 AM

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/15/us/politics/trump-trade-deals.html

April 15, 2019

In Search for Leverage, Trump May Be Undercutting His Own Trade Deals
By Ana Swanson

President Trump has argued that this aggressive and unpredictable negotiating style brings countries to the table and allows him to extract concessions.

But his approach is causing concern among businesses and foreign officials, who say the uncertainty could undermine the United States's global role.

anne -> anne... , April 19, 2019 at 09:47 AM
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/18/business/economy/trump-nafta-trade.html

April 18, 2019

Trump's Nafta Revisions Offer Modest Economic Benefits, Report Finds
By Ana Swanson

WASHINGTON -- A government report has concluded that the Trump administration's revised North American trade agreement would offer modest benefits to the economy, challenging the president's claims that the accord would make far-reaching changes.

Mr. Trump has reviled the quarter-century-old North American Free Trade Agreement as the worst trade pact in existence and blamed it for pushing up the trade deficit, or the gap between what the country imports and what it exports. Over the past year and a half, he gave his administration a mandate to improve the pact. In November, Canada, Mexico and the United States signed an updated accord, which the president rebranded as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, and the new deal is awaiting ratification from legislators in all three countries.

On Thursday, the United States International Trade Commission, a government body, released an independent analysis of the accord's potential effects on the country's economy, a report required by law before Congress votes on the deal.

The report found that the agreement would increase gross domestic product by 0.35 percent after inflation, or $68.2 billion, and create 175,700 jobs -- fewer than the economy has recently produced in a single month, on average. It would increase United States trade with Canada and Mexico by about 5 percent, as well as provide a modest lift to agriculture, services and manufacturing activity.

"In light of the size of the U.S. economy relative to the size of the Mexican and Canadian economies, as well as the reduction in tariff and nontariff barriers that has already taken place among the three countries under Nafta, the impact of the agreement on the U.S. economy is likely to be moderate," the commission .

[Apr 22, 2019] Trump's tone on Mueller report changes after initial upbeat view

Apr 22, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

Fred C. Dobbs , April 20, 2019 at 09:11 AM

Trump's tone on Mueller report changes after initial upbeat view
https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/politics/2019/04/20/trump-tone-mueller-report-changes-after-initial-upbeat-view/s77V84hJjYGdc4WTS6F5kJ/story.html?event=event25 via @BostonGlobe

JILL COLVIN - Associated Press - April 20, 2019

WASHINGTON ( -- President Donald Trump is lashing out at current and former aides who cooperated with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, insisting the deeply unflattering picture they painted of him and the White House was ''total bullshit.''

In a series of angry tweets from Palm Beach, Florida, Trump laced into those who, under oath, had shared with Mueller their accounts of how Trump tried numerous times to squash or influence the investigation and portrayed the White House as infected by a culture of lies, deceit and deception.

''Statements are made about me by certain people in the Crazy Mueller Report, in itself written by 18 Angry Democrat Trump Haters, which are fabricated & totally untrue,'' Trump wrote Friday, adding that some were ''total bullshit & only given to make the other person look good (or me to look bad).''

The attacks were a dramatic departure from the upbeat public face the White House had put on it just 24 hours earlier, when Trump celebrated the report's findings as full exoneration and his counselor Kellyanne Conway called it ''the best day'' for Trump's team since his election. While the president, according to people close to him, did feel vindicated by the report, he also felt betrayed by those who had painted him in an unflattering light -- even though they were speaking under oath and had been directed by the White House to cooperate fully with Mueller's team.

The reaction was not entirely surprising and had been something staffers feared in the days ahead of the report's release as they wondered how Mueller might portray their testimony and whether the report might damage their relationships with Trump.
... ... ...

In one particularly vivid passage, Mueller recounts how Trump called McGahn twice at home and directed him to set in motion Mueller's firing. McGahn recoiled, packed up his office and threatened to resign, fearing the move would trigger a potential crisis akin to the Saturday Night Massacre of firings during the Watergate era.

In another section, Mueller details how Trump questioned McGahn's note-taking, telling the White House counsel that, ''Lawyers don 't take notes'' and that he'd ''never had a lawyer who took notes.''

''Watch out for people that take so-called ''notes,'' when the notes never existed until needed,'' Trump said in one of his tweets Friday. Others whose contemporaneous notes were referenced in the report include former staff secretary Rob Porter and Reince Priebus, Trump's first chief of staff.

Trump ended his tweet with the word, ''a...'' suggesting more was coming. More than eight hours later, he finally completed his thought, calling the probe a ''big, fat, waste of time, energy and money'' and threatening investigators by saying, ''It is now finally time to turn the tables and bring justice to some very sick and dangerous people who have committed very serious crimes, perhaps even Spying or Treason.'' There is no evidence of either.

... ... ...

[Apr 22, 2019] Bernie Sanders and the Myth of the 1 Percent. The very rich are richer than people imagine.

Apr 22, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

anne , April 18, 2019 at 04:22 PM

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/18/opinion/bernie-sanders-tax.html

April 18, 2019

Bernie Sanders and the Myth of the 1 Percent
The very rich are richer than people imagine.
By Paul Krugman

A peculiar chapter in the 2020 presidential race ended Monday, when Bernie Sanders, after months of foot-dragging, finally released his tax returns. The odd thing was that the returns appear to be perfectly innocuous. So what was all that about?

The answer seems to be that Sanders got a lot of book royalties after the 2016 campaign, and was afraid that revealing this fact would produce headlines mocking him for now being part of the 1 Percent. Indeed, some journalists did try to make his income an issue.

This line of attack is, however, deeply stupid. Politicians who support policies that would raise their own taxes and strengthen a social safety net they're unlikely to need aren't being hypocrites; if anything, they're demonstrating their civic virtue.

But failure to understand what hypocrisy means isn't the only way our discourse about politics and inequality goes off the rails. The catchphrase "the 1 Percent" has also become a problem, obscuring the nature of class in 21st-century America.

Focusing on the top percentile of the income distribution was originally intended as a corrective to the comforting but false notion that growing inequality was mainly about a rising payoff to education. The reality is that over the past few decades the typical college graduate has seen only modest gains, with the big money going to a small group at the top. Talking about "the 1 Percent" was shorthand for acknowledging this reality, and tying that reality to readily available data.

But putting Bernie Sanders and the Koch brothers in the same class is obviously getting things wrong in a different way.

True, there's a huge difference between being affluent enough that you don't have to worry much about money and living with the financial insecurity that afflicts many Americans who consider themselves middle class. According to the Federal Reserve, 40 percent of U.S. adults don't have enough cash to meet a $400 emergency expense; a much larger number of Americans would be severely strained by the kinds of costs that routinely arise when, say, illness strikes, even for those who have health insurance.

So if you have an income high enough that you can easily afford health care and good housing, have plenty of liquid assets and find it hard to imagine ever needing food stamps, you're part of a privileged minority.

But there's also a big difference between being affluent, even very affluent, and having the kind of wealth that puts you in a completely separate social universe. It's a difference summed up three decades ago in the movie "Wall Street," when Gordon Gekko mocks the limited ambitions of someone who just wants to be "a $400,000-a-year working Wall Street stiff flying first class and being comfortable."

Even now, most Americans don't seem to realize just how rich today's rich are. At a recent event, my CUNY colleague Janet Gornick was greeted with disbelief when she mentioned in passing that the top 25 hedge fund managers make an average of $850 million a year. But her number was correct.

One survey found that Americans, on average, think that corporate C.E.O.s are paid about 30 times as much as ordinary workers, which hasn't been true since the 1970s. These days the ratio is more like 300 to 1.

Why should we care about the very rich? It's not about envy, it's about oligarchy.

With great wealth comes both great power and a separation from the concerns of ordinary citizens. What the very rich want, they often get; but what they want is often harmful to the rest of the nation. There are some public-spirited billionaires, some very wealthy liberals. But they aren't typical of their class.

The very rich don't need Medicare or Social Security; they don't use public education or public transit; they may not even be that reliant on public roads (there are helicopters, after all). Meanwhile, they don't want to pay taxes.

Sure enough, and contrary to popular belief, billionaires mostly (although often stealthily) wield their political power on behalf of tax cuts at the top, a weaker safety net and deregulation. And financial support from the very rich is the most important force sustaining the extremist right-wing politics that now dominates the Republican Party.

That's why it's important to understand who we mean when we talk about the very rich. It's not doctors, lawyers or, yes, authors, some of whom make it into "the 1 Percent." It's a much more rarefied social stratum.

None of this means that the merely affluent should be exempt from the burden of creating a more decent society. The Affordable Care Act was paid for in part by taxes on incomes in excess of $200,000, so 400K-a-year working stiffs did pay some of the cost. That's O.K.: They (we) can afford it. And whining that $200,000 a year isn't really rich is unseemly.

But we should be able to understand both that the affluent in general should be paying more in taxes, and that the very rich are different from you and me ­ -- and Bernie Sanders. The class divide that lies at the root of our political polarization is much starker, much more extreme than most people seem to realize.

anne -> anne... , April 18, 2019 at 04:35 PM
https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=nEQS

January 30, 2018

Real Disposable Personal Income and Real Median Weekly Earnings, 1980-2018

(Indexed to 1980)


https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=nEQX

January 30, 2018

Real Disposable Personal Income and Real Median Weekly Earnings, 1988-2018

(Indexed to 1988)

JohnH -> anne... , April 18, 2019 at 06:13 PM
The usual media suspects, the Trump-Putin conspiracy crowd, ignored this: Bernie was a smashing success on FoxNews Bethlehem, Pa townhall.
veryone agrees: Bernie Sanders' Fox News appearance was a major success.

"Sanders takes on Fox -- and emerges triumphant," proclaimed Politico. Vice judged Bernie's appearance "victorious." The Washington Post opined that Bernie's stellar performance "suggest[s] that [Trump] can, indeed, be beaten." The Atlantic, usually eager to declare that Bernie has blundered, conceded that "it paid off."

But most coverage restricts its analysis to Sanders' 2020 election prospects, overlooking the true significance of the event. It's not just that he's willing to make a pitch to Fox's viewership and thus stands a better chance at winning the presidency -- it's that the Right could lose some of the working-class support it doesn't deserve, a process that could easily snowball out of their control."
https://jacobinmag.com/2019/04/berni-sanders-town-hall-fox-news

And when Bernie asked the crowd if they would exchange their company health care plan for M4A, the crowd went nuts.

Of course, Krugman, Pelosi, and the corrupt, centrist Democratic establishment will continue to assure us that 'people are happy with their corporate coverage." BS!!!

The 'no, we can't' crowd here will undoubtedly assure us that 'sure, they'd love universal coverage, but it's not politically feasible.' They need to watch the Fox Town Hall. If it's not feasible, then it's because Democrats don't want it (in deference to insurance companies,) not because it's not feasible.

JohnH -> ken melvin... , April 18, 2019 at 10:14 PM
No surprise there. In geopolitics, one bad deed deserves another...US constantly interfering in others' politics, too. Sadly, Democrats will seize on this to push for confrontation with Russia. Question is, what do they want, nuclear war?

What's sickly ironic to me is that Democrats could care less about the security of the voting system, even after the stolen elections of 2000 and 2004.. Why is it OK for billionaires and corporation to rig electronic voting machines against Democrats? Where was a Mueller Commission back then?

Personally, I think that billionaires' election theft is much more effective and consequenctial than any Russian meddling, which was probably not that effective anyway.

JohnH -> ken melvin... , April 18, 2019 at 10:34 PM
Sanders has clearly demonstrated what resonates with progressive voters...and even with many Fox viewers.

But Pelosi and the corrupt Democratic establishment ignore that...and can't even come up with any coherent message or an appealing agenda at all. Instead, they insist on continuously replaying Hillary's sour grapes. What is the point? How many votes will Hillary's bitterness get for Democrats?

[Apr 22, 2019] Senator Elizabeth Warren on Friday called for lawmakers to start impeachment proceedings against President Trump, saying he obstructed Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election

That's a third Warren blunder after reparations blunder and Indian heritage blunder. She might be out of the race soon...
Does not she understand that impeachment of Trump means President Pence? What is idiotic statement. She is definitely no diplomat and as such does not belong to WH.
Apr 22, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

Fred C. Dobbs said in reply to Fred C. Dobbs... , April 20, 2019 at 09:23 AM

Elizabeth Warren calls for impeachment
proceedings against President Trump
https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2019/04/19/elizabeth-warren-calls-for-impeachment-proceedings-against-president-trump/yWVMo0TSkBeuYDSSeBuP5L/story.html?event=event25 via @BostonGlobe

Danny McDonald - April 19, 2019

Senator Elizabeth Warren on Friday called for lawmakers to start impeachment proceedings against President Trump, saying he obstructed Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Warren became the first of the Democratic presidential candidates to unambiguously call for impeachment proceedings. Most senior Democrats in Congress have stopped far short of it following the delivery of Mueller's 448-page report.

"The severity of this misconduct demands that elected officials in both parties set aside political considerations and do their constitutional duty,'' the Massachusetts Democrat said on Twitter. "That means the House should initiate impeachment proceedings against the President of the United States."

Also Friday, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena for an unredacted version of Mueller's report as Congress escalates its investigation. Trump and other Republicans dismissed the report's findings.

The redacted version of Mueller's report details multiple efforts Trump made to curtail a Russia probe he feared would cripple his administration. While Mueller declined to recommend that Trump be prosecuted for obstruction of justice, he did not exonerate the president, all but leaving the question to Congress.

The report stated, "If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she doesn't support impeachment without bipartisan backing because it would be too divisive for the nation She signaled she wanted the House to continue to fulfill its constitutional oversight role.

''We believe that the first article -- Article 1, the legislative branch -- has the responsibility of oversight of our democracy, and we will exercise that,'' she said in Belfast on Friday.

Representative Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat who chairs the Judiciary Committee, said, ''It now falls to Congress to determine the full scope of that alleged misconduct and to decide what steps we must take going forward.'' He expects the Justice Department to comply by May 1.

On Twitter Friday, Warren said the report "lays out facts showing that a hostile foreign government attacked our 2016 election to help Donald Trump and Donald Trump welcomed that help. Once elected, Donald Trump obstructed the investigation into that attack."

She said Mueller "put the next step in the hands of Congress," adding in another tweet that "[t]o ignore a President's repeated efforts to obstruct an investigation into his own disloyal behavior would inflict great and lasting damage on this country, and it would suggest that both the current and future Presidents would be free to abuse their power in similar ways."

According to a Warren aide, the senator started to read the Mueller report Thursday during a plane ride back to Boston following campaign stops in Colorado and Utah.

Warren, according to the aide, felt it was her duty to say what she thought after reading the report but does not plan to emphasize impeachment on the campaign trail.

Mary Anne Marsh, a Boston-based Democratic strategist who is not connected to any presidential campaign, said Warren has been the first Democratic candidate to stake out numerous policy stances during the campaign. Her impeachment statement will force everyone else running for president to take a position, Marsh said.

"More often than not the field is reacting to her positions," she said.

Warren's call for impeachment proceedings, Marsh said, "shows she's willing to lead."

"She's willing to make the hard calls," Marsh said.

After the Mueller report's release, Trump pronounced it ''a good day'' and tweeted ''Game Over.'' Top Republicans in Congress saw vindication in the report as well. On Friday, Trump was even more blunt, referring to some statements about him in the report as "total bullshit."

House minority leader Kevin McCarthy said it was time to move on and said Democrats were attempting to ''vilify a political opponent.'' The California lawmaker said the report failed to deliver the ''imaginary evidence'' incriminating Trump that Democrats had sought. ...

Now, liberals are pressing the House to begin impeachment hearings, and the issue is cropping up on the presidential campaign trail.

South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a Democrat who is running for president, was asked Friday if Trump should be impeached as he made an appearance at a Stop & Shop union picket line in Malden .

"I think that Congress needs to make that decision," he said. "I think he may well deserve it, but my focus, since I'm not part of Congress, but I am part of 2020, is to give him a decisive defeat at the ballot box, if he is the Republican nominee in 2020."

On Friday, Julián Castro, a former housing secretary running for the Democratic nomination, said he thought "it would be perfectly reasonable'' for Congress to open impeachment proceedings.

Senator Kamala Harris, a California Democrat who is running for president, told MSNBC on Thursday that she also thinks Mueller should testify. When asked about impeachment proceedings, she told that outlet, "I think that there's definitely a conversation to be had on that subject, but first I want to hear from Bob Mueller."

Cory Booker, the New Jersey senator running for president, was asked about impeachment during a campaign trip to Nevada. Specifically in regard to impeachment, he said, ''There's a lot more investigation that should go on before Congress comes to any conclusions like that.''

In the House, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York is now signed on to an impeachment resolution from fellow Democratic Representative Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.

But senior leaders remain cool to the idea.

Representative Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the number two in the House Democratic leadership, told CNN on Thursday, "Based on what we have seen to date, going forward on impeachment is not worthwhile at this point." However, Hoyer quickly revised his comments, saying "all options are on the table."

ilsm -> Fred C. Dobbs... , April 20, 2019 at 11:11 AM
Let the impeachment circus begin.

We need to get to the bottom of a special counsel calling the president a "criminal" having gotten no indictments!

Let each topic be examined and witnesses deposed in the house live on C-SPAN! With questions from both sides.

There will be only take one vote in the senate to fail, but we need to get to the bottom of Mueller's untoward remarks in the report.

From the little I read it seems the report, in tone at least, despises fact and is politically motivated.

[Apr 22, 2019] Trump has been placed in office for purposes of churn for markets because of the deflationary pressures brought about from uncertainty on the finance side of America's balance sheets finance ledgers.

Apr 22, 2019 | kunstler.com

Robert White April 20, 2019 at 12:42 pm #

Trump is the chosen representative of the Oligopoly & elite top ten per cent of the wealth transferring opportunist class that make their financial gains from participation within the cartel & concomitant rigged system.

If P.T. Barnum II cannot manage to drum up the requisite market volatility in an across-the-board Secular Stagnation global market the United States of America will fall prey to competition from the alternative superpowers that are currently poised to interlope on previously controlled territories that the USA has traditionally held as their own. T

he GFC ushered in an about face for USD hegemony & USA exceptionalism [read manifest destiny] that needs to be reassessed in light of dwindling market share & trade deficits.

The Duck has been placed in office for purposes of churn for markets because of the deflationary pressures brought about from uncertainty on the finance side of America's balance sheets & finance ledgers.

P.T. Barnum II would only be turfed from office if Wall Street started to implode the dark pool derivatives universe again as they did in 08 when Obama was ushered into office as an apologist for the incompetency of his peers on Wall Street & the Republican Party. The banking sector knew full well that the default government of Obama was guaranteed in light of the market crash that ended the Bush era totalitarianism.

RW

volodya April 20, 2019 at 3:17 pm #

RW I agree with a lot of what you say. But I would say that Hillary was the chosen rep, the problem being that she lost the election. So, while Trump may not have been the number one pick, the opportunist class, as you call them, will make do. So far, and especially with the corporate tax cut, I think he's been ok for them and as a further example I point to his arguing for lower interest rates to keep the Wall Street party going.

As to deflationary pressures, I presume you're talking about downward pressure on asset prices.

I can't imagine that the banking sector was disappointed by Obama's policies w.r.t. QE, suppression of interest rates, and especially his policy of "too-big-to-jail". And his appointment of Mary Jo White. In my view appointing Mary Jo was as laughable as appointing a mafia lawyer or consigliere as a big city police commissioner.

ozone April 20, 2019 at 6:14 pm #

volodya, Your reply to Robert White reinforces his point: They *all* work for the same masters/grifters/skimmers/legal criminals/extractors.

(Your posts often reflect this. I'm puzzled as to why you seem to think his viewpoint is somehow "partisan" here.)

ozone April 20, 2019 at 6:52 pm #

And, yes, we knew Obama was just another slick operator, installed as "cover". The average voter never took the time to wonder, "Where TF did *he* come from?", or bothered to check who was stuffing his war chest with filthy lucre.
Hornswoggled again!

The fine trick is never to give the voters anyone to vote for; this way the status quo is maintained and the public is kept at each others throats.

We should probably be concerned that the end of Empathy Road crumbles into a vast, cold waste that stretches endlessly away. Those who tread there are no longer human. At the rate we're approaching that waste, there will be no need for plunging off of any cliff.

Robert White April 20, 2019 at 7:42 pm #

HRC was the chosenite before she slipped & fell helplessly in front of cameras owned by publishers intent on getting a scoop presidential race ending snapshot of the Democratic frontrunner ending her whole career in one fell swoop on international news networks all over the world.

When the networks ran the newsreels on Hillary falling into the arms of campaign personnel that was a game over moment in history. Hillary just did not have the health to be a presidential candidate and The Duck was still waddling on duck's feet at that juncture on the clock.

Heck, even the bookies knew that HRC was too lame to run after she was conspicuously hospitalized with an infection that was immediately treated by her physician. Americans don't want presidential candidates that are not healthy enough to run the gauntlet of elections. She lost on the basis of her poor health and national news reels that showed her incapable of even walking to a parked waiting van. 'Mericans don't vote for raggedy Ann or Andy. To be presidential is to be able to stand on one's own two feet at all times. Hillary could not pass the standing on her own two feet clause in the tacit agreement that she was attempting to make with the American voter at that time in history.

RW

JohnAZ April 20, 2019 at 12:44 pm #

The irony of all these arguments is so obvious to those of us who have been around long enough to witness or be involved in the Cold War. Russia was an archenemy because they were a socialist state opposed to private ownership capitalism. We had just fought a war against two totalitarian states.

JohnAZ April 20, 2019 at 1:00 pm #

The irony is that the Russian Federation has become privatized over the last two decades and the US more socialized. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren et al are very close to converting this country to a Communist State. That will be the end result if the Left's coup is successful in 2020.

The reaction of the Red States to the control by the Deep State will be interesting.

On this big picture, Trump is unimportant. Try to picture a post Trump America after a coup, Pence will be the next target, think Buttigieg, until the capitalist basis of the country is destroyed.

The real problem is that the Liberals will just keep coming, being financed by the globalists, and coming and coming until they have their way. We are currently witnessing it. What can be done to stop them, permanently.

The irony again is that the Left has convinced a large part of America that Trump and the Deplorables are responsible for the Russian "takeover", yet the real source of the takeover is the result of the Leftist campaigns.

The last attempted overthrow of the US basic tenets created the civil war and history shows what it took to stop the Confederacy.

beantownbill. April 20, 2019 at 1:54 pm #

The American public's stupidity cannot be overestimated. I know this, but still find it hard to believe that it would elect the likes of Bernie, Liz and Buttplug (BLB).

Keep in mind, the only elected Massachusetts politician in the past 100 years was JFK, but he was a phenomenon and might have lost in 1964. Coolidge never ran, Dukakis lost and so did Kerry. We've never elected a self-described socialist, either. Buttplug is too weird for the typical American. AOC is too young.

No, we'll probably have a mainstream, same old-same old president.

The Great and Infernal Truthiness of Lil Debbie Snack Packaging April 20, 2019 at 2:19 pm #

I can't agree with this theory of candidate change .

Obama, and then Trump is all the evidence you need that the carbon dioxide expelled by American voters is reaching toxic levels. The old Milankovitch cycles of American political economy are long gone.

A fellow related today that he thought Boot-edge-edge would be rejected for being too gay. Sentiments like this have front-run historical campaigns for the last 12 years.

At some point even the morbidly obese have to push away from the buffet table. Expect the candidate change.

Candidate change is real.

BackRowHeckler April 20, 2019 at 2:28 pm #

Coolidge did run and win, 1924.

BackRowHeckler April 20, 2019 at 2:30 pm #

'Keep cool with Coolidge", was the campaign slogan.

Pretty good slogan.

malthuss April 20, 2019 at 2:42 pm #

The American public's stupidity cannot be overestimated.
Who owns the media?
who engineered this?

Janos Skorenzy April 20, 2019 at 3:36 pm #

I asked the Captain the same thing. He doesn't know or doesn't want to know. Or he knows and doesn't know at the same time, depending on which helps him stay the same and in denial. Double think as Orwell put it.

Exscotticus April 20, 2019 at 2:30 pm #

>>> The end of the the Mueller probe doesn't in the least mean that it's over.

Oh we never expected collusionist Dems to go gentle into that good night. I mean did the birthers ever accede to reality?

But all Dems can do now is spin while the rest of the nation moves on. And you better hope they move on. The alternative is that Team Trump starts going after the conspirators of this soft coup.

[Apr 22, 2019] Ken Starr's effort cost 120 million and was just as stupid as this one

Apr 22, 2019 | kunstler.com

James Hansen April 19, 2019 at 1:01 pm #

Ken Starr's effort cost 120 million and was just as stupid as this one. So the Republicans got a taste of their own medicine, the really bad thing to come out of this is the possibility of nuclear war with Russia.

FincaInTheMountains April 19, 2019 at 1:11 pm #

Another adept of the Hanlon's Razor who is forgetting that the Republicans started all kinds of investigations against the Clintons not because Bill screwed somebody in the Oval Office, but because Hillary cheated in 1992 presidential elections by using a spoiler Ross Perot, which violated all gentlemen's agreements of the American elite.

James Hansen April 19, 2019 at 1:31 pm #

They appointed Ken Starr to be the most powerful prosecutor in the U.S. with unlimited money, manpower and time based on not even speculation. They had nothing, if it were not for Linda Tripp's backstabbing of her friend Monica Lewinsky the whole thing would of ended much earlier.

Ken Starr threatened Monica and everyone within 100 miles of her with long prison sentences if she did not reveal every detail, which he leaked to the press on a daily basis. It was dirty politics at its finest.

100th Avatar April 19, 2019 at 3:35 pm #

Of course. Because a serial philanderer, womanizer, and/or rapist getting oral sex from a very young intern in a government office and then lying about is is not serious. A me-too moment. Now imagine if Trump did that.

100th Avatar April 21, 2019 at 12:19 pm #

There are people that are willfully ignorant. You are willfully stupid, but you're intensely partisan, which perhaps explains your conundrum.

There are severe grounds for punishment in the federal workplace for having sex with your subordinate. In your office. On government time.

Even more severe if found lying about it during the course of an investigation/review.

You can blame a vast rightwing conspiracy, a witch-hunt, or your melodramatic claim of "coup", but it is a settled conclusion that Bill Clinton is a womanizer, serial philander, and accused rapist.

But he is a D, which is all that matters for the useful voting idiots.

[Apr 22, 2019] What is "collosion" ?

Notable quotes:
"... Federal law also prohibits candidates from cooperating or consulting with a foreign national who is spending money to influence a U.S. election. These "coordinated expenditures" are treated as contributions under campaign finance law and thus run afoul of the law's ban on contributions from foreign nationals in U.S. elections. ..."
"... There are laws against specific actions Obama employees used to get the "evidence" on the Trump campaign. We need the Impeachment on C-SPAN to get to the bottom of Obama targeting the Trump campaign and how it was politically motivated with no more to do with protecting national security than Hillary's abuses of sensitive information, and losing e-mails. ..."
"... If Trump were to be impeached by the House, then either he would be convicted by a Republican majority Senate or he would be exonerated or he would resign instead. Which of those possible outcomes would fix US politics or even make a difference? The Democratic Party cannot become a winner with the policies of loser liberalism. This they have proven for fifty years. It is an immutable reality that laughs in the face of supposed evidence-based policy making. ..."
"... US President Trump says he is completely exonerated after Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report concluded he "did not conspire" with Russia during the 2016 election campaign. ... ..."
Apr 22, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

RC (Ron) Weakley said in reply to Fred C. Dobbs... , April 20, 2019 at 01:47 PM

https://www.commoncause.org/democracy-wire/what-is-collusion/

Defining Democracy: Collusion

07.24.2017 / By Lauran Pauley

Defining Democracy: Collusion

What is collusion? Is collusion a crime?

Part of an occasional series looking at language dominating the news and influencing how Americans learn about the way our government works.

The media are filled with speculation about whether each twist and turn of the Russia-Trump investigation will "prove collusion." A recent Vanity Fair headline read "Does Trump's Tangled Russia Web Constitute Collusion?" and a Vox headline asserted that "Trump administration: There's no evidence of collusion."

What is collusion? Is collusion a crime?

The dictionary definition of "collusion" is a "secret agreement or cooperation, especially for an illegal or deceitful purpose." But when it comes to the unfolding story of possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, the word is being used as a catch-all term for illegal acts such as conspiracy, espionage, campaign finance violations, bribery, or fraud. There is no federal law making collusion a crime.

While "collusion" has proven to be a useful word for journalists and the general public, it also serves as a useful straw man for defenders of President Trump; they argue that collusion is not a crime and that the Trump campaign's activities did not constitute collusion, so there's no reason for further investigation.

However, the fact that there's no law prohibiting "collusion" doesn't mean there's no statute prohibiting some of the specific activities that the Trump campaign engaged in, or may have engaged in.

For example, federal law bars the solicitation or receipt of a contribution from a foreign national. Last week, Common Cause filed complaints with the Federal Election Commission and Department of Justice alleging that the Trump campaign violated this prohibition when Donald Trump Jr. asked for a meeting with a Russian to receive what he believed would be valuable opposition research on Hillary Clinton.

Federal law also prohibits candidates from cooperating or consulting with a foreign national who is spending money to influence a U.S. election. These "coordinated expenditures" are treated as contributions under campaign finance law and thus run afoul of the law's ban on contributions from foreign nationals in U.S. elections.

Finally, federal law prohibits two or more persons from conspiring to commit a crime -- an offense known as "criminal conspiracy."

As evidence of Trump campaign interactions with Russian nationals connected to Putin's government continues to mount, investigation by the Department of Justice, the Federal Election Commission and Congressional Committees is necessary. And though "collusion" is a convenient word for describing these potential violations, our justice system rightly demands precision when it comes to defining violations of the law. In the coming weeks and months, we'll explain the legal meaning of important terms like "coordination" and "conspiracy." So stay tuned!

ilsm -> RC (Ron) Weakley... , April 20, 2019 at 07:14 PM
I am with MCs Tlaib and AOC! I like the impeachment gig!

There are laws against specific actions Obama employees used to get the "evidence" on the Trump campaign. We need the Impeachment on C-SPAN to get to the bottom of Obama targeting the Trump campaign and how it was politically motivated with no more to do with protecting national security than Hillary's abuses of sensitive information, and losing e-mails.

RC (Ron) Weakley said in reply to ilsm... , April 21, 2019 at 06:34 AM
In a world where words have fallen prey to misuse then the tree of truth cannot be seen in the forest of gibberish. It is not like the zealots are engaging in discussion and seeking clarity, but rather they just choose their language like bludgeons and pitchforks with little attention to usage and meaning.
RC (Ron) Weakley said in reply to ilsm... , April 21, 2019 at 06:53 AM
If Trump were to be impeached by the House, then either he would be convicted by a Republican majority Senate or he would be exonerated or he would resign instead. Which of those possible outcomes would fix US politics or even make a difference? The Democratic Party cannot become a winner with the policies of loser liberalism. This they have proven for fifty years. It is an immutable reality that laughs in the face of supposed evidence-based policy making.
Fred C. Dobbs said in reply to RC (Ron) Weakley... , April 21, 2019 at 06:51 AM
I understand that 'collusion' is a crime only under the Federal RICO laws. That must be where Trump heard about it.

It is arguably only a 'happy coincidence' that both the Russians and Trump did not want Hillary to be prez.

Also, that they were willing to do something about it, and who was Trump to interfere?

RC (Ron) Weakley said in reply to Fred C. Dobbs... , April 21, 2019 at 07:02 AM
Prosecuting the occasional thief caught stealing iPhones from unlocked cars solves nothing. Either lock your car or don't leave your iPhone in it.

Beating professional con-men at their own game is always a long shot and a lot of time and energy is wasted in the attempt.

US politics has a long history of abuse. Most voting age citizens have divorced themselves from the reality of it rather than seek counseling.

As long as things are good enough then the electorate will just go along with the system and not organize itself to demand constitutional reform. So, then the only solution is for things to get bad enough. It is good to be too old to live to see that day.

Fred C. Dobbs said in reply to RC (Ron) Weakley... , April 21, 2019 at 07:46 AM
'who was Trump to interfere?'

Of course (?), it is illegal to accept assistance in a political campaign from foreign parties, I understand, but what if Trump did not know this? Is he to be persecuted for such ignorance?

RC (Ron) Weakley said in reply to Fred C. Dobbs... , April 21, 2019 at 08:05 AM
Legal definitions almost always have technical requirements for some positive action. In Trump's case being a passive actor probably was not a crime. The term "accept" is like "collusion" vague in colloquial use perhaps, but much more confined in law. I don't know the details and don't care enough to read the report for myself along with then reading the law to make sure that I understand it all. It is easy to see that Trump's ignorance was not a singular occurrence.
RC (Ron) Weakley said in reply to Fred C. Dobbs... , April 21, 2019 at 07:07 AM
Thanks for the "collusion" explained under RICO.
Fred C. Dobbs said in reply to RC (Ron) Weakley... , April 21, 2019 at 11:13 AM
RICO sounds so much nicer than 'Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act'
Fred C. Dobbs said in reply to Fred C. Dobbs... , April 21, 2019 at 10:47 AM
"There's nothing wrong with taking information from Russians," said Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump's lawyer.

https://nyti.ms/2veNrXw

NYT - Emily Cochrane and Catie Edmondson - April 21

PALM BEACH, Fla. -- President Trump's personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, insisted on Sunday that it was acceptable for a political campaign to use hacked information about its opponent obtained from a foreign adversary -- though he personally would have advised against it.

"There's nothing wrong with taking information from Russians," Mr. Giuliani said on CNN's "State of the Union," adding that he would have argued against using it, "out of excess of caution."

"It depends on where it came from," he said, adding on NBC's "Meet the Press" that a political campaign's decision to use stolen information from foreign adversaries "depends on the stolen material."

Mr. Giuliani's assertion, which built on similar previous remarks that he had later backed away from, was offered partly as a rebuttal to questioning about a meeting at Trump Tower in 2016 in which Trump campaign aides met with Russians offering dirt on Hillary Clinton. It also underscored another aspect of the special counsel's report, released last week by the Justice Department, that the president has largely avoided addressing: that Russia secretly influenced the 2016 presidential election.

"They shouldn't have stolen it, but the American people were just given more information," Mr. Giuliani said on "Meet the Press."

The interviews by Mr. Giuliani were part of the parallel interpretations of the report by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, that played out on national television on Sunday, as Trump allies and Democrats battled for control over the narrative of the report's conclusions. Mr. Giuliani and other Trump aides claimed vindication and offered a vociferous defense of the president, even as senior congressional Democrats vowed further investigation.

Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said on "Meet the Press" that he would call Donald F. McGahn II, the former White House counsel and one of the administration aides who cooperated extensively with the investigation, to testify.

Mr. Nadler said some of the president's actions detailed in the Mueller report, if proved, might warrant impeachment. But asked about beginning an impeachment inquiry, he said that "we may get to that, we may not," adding that his committee's task at hand was "to go through all the evidence, all the information and to go where the evidence leads us."

His conditional response showed how House Democrats as a whole were grappling with how to answer the impeachment question. ...

And even as the president and his allies trumpeted their vindication -- "I have never been happier or more content," Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter on Sunday morning -- they also lashed out at their perceived enemies.

"The Trump Haters and Angry Democrats who wrote the Mueller Report were devastated by the No Collusion finding!" Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter, less than two hours after wishing the country a happy Easter. "Nothing but a total 'hit job' which should never have been allowed to start in the first place!"

They also singled out the testimony of certain aides who testified before Mr. Mueller's team and conservative lawmakers who criticized Mr. Trump's behavior as outlined in the report.

Late Saturday night, Mr. Trump, ostensibly in response to a scathing statement from Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, shared a video mocking Mr. Romney's unsuccessful presidential run in 2012.

Mr. Giuliani added to the criticism of the Utah senator, calling Mr. Romney a "hypocrite" for his statement. Mr. Romney had said he was "sickened at the extent and pervasiveness of dishonesty and misdirection" from administration officials, "including the president."

Fred C. Dobbs said in reply to Fred C. Dobbs... , April 21, 2019 at 11:10 AM
"There's nothing wrong with taking information from Russians," said Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump's lawyer.

Depends on the meaning of 'taking'.

If they (or someone else) 'stole' that information, which of course the Trump Team would totally *not* do, and then conveyed it to the campaign, would
that be So Wrong? Fuhgeddaboudit!

RG probably meant to say that information was 'accepted'.

Fred C. Dobbs said in reply to Fred C. Dobbs... , April 20, 2019 at 09:21 PM
(Previously...)

Mueller report a 'complete exoneration' - Donald Trump

US President Trump says he is completely exonerated after Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report concluded he "did not conspire" with Russia during the 2016 election campaign. ...

https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-us-canada-47687956/mueller-report-a-complete-exoneration-donald-trump

BBC News - March 24

[Apr 22, 2019] Who said anything anti-Semitic?

Apr 22, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

RC (Ron) Weakley said in reply to JohnH... , April 21, 2019 at 09:42 AM

"Who said anything anti-Semitic?..."


[There is an assumption among the financialized left that any mention of George Soros or the Rothschild family is based in anti-Semitism regardless of the facts of any such statement. In part it is because so much anti-Semitism exists and is gratuitously directed at the rich in general, but particularly the rich that are well known for their ruthless securities trading techniques, principally market moving short-sales. The other part of course is that there is so much loyalty gratuitously directed towards rich patrons of mainstream liberalism that it needs to self-justify behind accusations of reactionary bias. Perhaps liberals learned guilty until proven innocent from Jim Crow. In any case, accusations of anti-Semitism or racism are a powerful antidote to criticism wherever that they can be applied.

My solution to this conundrum is just to give up. I am doing fine on my own and the rest of these people are just not worth the effort, particularly given that any attempt to open and honest discussion is just so much pissing into the wind.

I got weeds to pull and bulbs to plant. Happy Easter.]

RC (Ron) Weakley said in reply to RC (Ron) Weakley... , April 21, 2019 at 09:44 AM
OTOH, I guess that the Rockefeller family patrons of both neoconservatism and neoliberalism are fair game.
RC (Ron) Weakley said in reply to RC (Ron) Weakley... , April 21, 2019 at 09:46 AM
...unless that would be considered anti-Semitism by association since the Rockefeller family and Rothschild family are now business partners in global finance.
JohnH -> RC (Ron) Weakley... , April 21, 2019 at 09:46 AM
Should any criticism of Bernie Sanders be taken as anti-semitic? What about criticism of anyone groomed or promoted by Bernie?

[Apr 22, 2019] Hitler has grasped the falsity of the hedonistic attitude to life

Apr 22, 2019 | kunstler.com

Janos Skorenzy April 20, 2019 at 3:28 pm #

"[Hitler] has grasped the falsity of the hedonistic attitude to life. Nearly all western thought since the last war, certainly all "progressive" thought, has assumed tacitly that human beings desire nothing beyond ease, security, and avoidance of pain. In such a view of life there is no room, for instance, for patriotism and the military virtues.

Hitler, because in his own joyless mind he feels it with exceptional strength, knows that human beings don't only want comfort, safety, short working-hours, hygiene, birth-control and, in general, common sense; they also, at least intermittently, want struggle and self-sacrifice, not to mention drums, flag and loyalty-parades Whereas Socialism, and even capitalism in a grudging way, have said to people "I offer you a good time," Hitler has said to them "I offer you struggle, danger and death," and as a result a whole nation flings itself at his feet"

? George Orwell

BRH, in his perversity, supports Capitalism/Communism and the growth of the Gay Disco Global State. He should be with us but that would mean discarding this Holy of Holies, World War Two American military triumphalism. He jus can't, the Truth be damned.

FincaInTheMountains April 20, 2019 at 9:37 pm #

Americans really do not understand who Hitler was, and that is EVRYONE I know. And they never understood, even in the 50s. But the British understand, but made a deal with the devil.

But let's start everything in order.

For the dualistic consciousness of Americans, the natural desire is to belittle the role of the USSR in the defeat of Hitler's Germany, since this does not fit their concept of "good guys vs bad guys " – if the Russians are the bad guys, then why did they fight along with the good guys against the bad guy Hitler?

In addition, in the process of changing generations, they are more and more inclined to the view that Hitler was not so bad, and their fathers and grandfathers put a lot of accusations against him, just as America puts many accusations on those she desire to bomb today.

Of course, this should not apply to American intelligentsia, but, as I understand it, it is difficult to live in a society that professes these or other errors en masse, and not to allow these errors to penetrate your brain and soul, even if you absolutely know that these errors are invented by you propaganda.

Especially if these errors are invented by your own propaganda.

Ol' Scratch April 21, 2019 at 8:40 am #

Hitler was vilified publicly but glorified privately by the elite (Allen Dulles in particular). He provided a valuable service by providing the test bed for theories and practices (eugenics, wholesale population controls and disruptions, sophisticated propaganda techniques, and perpetual full-spectrum wars) which have since been perfected and are being implemented much more discreetly and effectively now.

benr April 21, 2019 at 4:17 pm #

The Fords loved Hitler and IBM helped the NAZIS as well.

[Apr 22, 2019] Another face of austerity

Apr 22, 2019 | kunstler.com

Pucker April 20, 2019 at 11:46 pm #

King Sihanouk had over 500 wives. Why is American society so austere as to begrudge a humble bloke even a second wife?

[Apr 22, 2019] This human dreck, this charlatan should be removed, in hand-cuffs, at bayonet point, by whatever means, because the future of the republic demands it.

Apr 22, 2019 | kunstler.com

volodya April 20, 2019 at 12:11 pm #

The end of the the Mueller probe doesn't in the least mean that it's over. All over the msm you see claims that Russia hacked the election, that Putin swung the election in Trump's favor, that is was the Russians to blame for Trump's win.

Like you, I was born yesterday, and I believe that when entrenched interests tell me something, that it's the truth, as pure as the driven snow, purer even.

Besides, this story squares with logic, doesn't it? Trump's voters are uneducated, they are sub-normal intellectually, they are toothless cretins that don't want to work, that don't want to study, that can't reason, that can barely read, that chase their sisters, that fear progress, that hate those dad-gum im-grunts that steal jobs and inflict un-American ways and godless religions.

So it would be such an easy thing, with some well-placed fake-news, to put Putin's man over the top. How many hundreds of millions of American voters did Russian-sourced propaganda reach? I remember Judy Woodruff looking into my eyes, via the medium of the TV screen mind you, and saying that it could be 126 million.

One Hundred And Twenty Six Million. One-third of the US population sez NBC News. This you can take to the bank.

And so surely that proves the case, that the Russians connived and contrived to get their chosen man, that Donald J Trump is the illegitimate president, that he should not be stinking up the Oval office, that his gold-digging wife should be nowhere near the exalted title of First Lady, that his money-grubbing daughter and her shifty husband should be banished from the corridors of power, that this whole thing is at best one of those black-swan pranks that this prankish cosmos inflicts on us.

Surely Evelyn is right, that the ends justify the means, that this human dreck, this charlatan should be removed, in hand-cuffs, at bayonet point, by whatever means, because the future of the republic demands it.

[Apr 22, 2019] The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive

Apr 22, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

RC (Ron) Weakley said in reply to RC (Ron) Weakley... , April 20, 2019 at 10:11 AM

https://deanbaker.net/books/the-end-of-loser-liberalism.htm

The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive

By Dean Baker

Most people define the central point of dispute between liberals and conservatives as being that liberals want the government to intervene to bring about outcomes that they consider fair, while conservatives want to leave things to the market. This is not true. Conservatives actually rely on the government all the time, but most importantly in structuring the market in ways that ensure that income will flow upwards. The framing that "conservatives like the market while liberals like the government," puts liberals in the position of seeming to want to tax the winners to help the losers.

This "loser liberalism" is bad policy and horrible politics. The efforts of liberals would be much better spent on battles over the structure of markets so that they don't redistribute income upward. This book describes some of the key areas in which progressives can focus their efforts to restructure markets so that more income flows to the bulk of the working population rather than just a small elite.

By releasing The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive under a Creative Commons license and as a free download, Baker walks the walk of one of his key arguments -- that copyrights are a form of government intervention in markets that leads to enormous inefficiency, in addition to redistributing income upward. (Hard copies are available for purchase, at cost.) Distributing the book for free not only enables it to reach a wider audience, but Baker hopes to drive home one of the book's main points via his own example. While the e-book is free, donations to the Center for Economic and Policy Research are welcomed.

[I love Dean Baker (almost all of the time at least).]

[Apr 22, 2019] For the first time in decades, U.S. politicians and members of the business elite are debating whether American-style capitalism has a future

Since 1970th American-style capitalism means neoliberalism
Apr 22, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

im1dc , April 21, 2019 at 01:21 PM

After reading this I think Bernie has an excellent shot at winning in 2020

...people are angry and if they vote...

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/capitalism-in-crisis-us-billionaires-worry-about-the-survival-of-the-system-that-made-them-rich/2019/04/20/3e06ef90-5ed8-11e9-bfad-36a7eb36cb60_story.html

"U.S. billionaires worry about the survival of capitalism"

'For the first time in decades, U.S. politicians and members of the business elite are debating whether American-style capitalism has a future'

By Greg Jaffe...April 20, 2019

[Apr 22, 2019] Data Tells: China's BRI promotes global trade

Apr 22, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

anne , April 19, 2019 at 04:12 PM

https://news.cgtn.com/news/3d3d774e7949544d34457a6333566d54/index.html

April 19, 2019

Data Tells: China's BRI promotes global trade
By Zhang Xinyuan

As a development strategy proposed by China that focuses on connectivity and cooperation on a trans‐continental scale, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has significantly boosted global trade and investment in recent years.

With a wave of trade protectionism sweeping across the world in recent years, causing global economic turmoil, China still adheres to economic openness, actively pushing toward economic globalization, and striving to build a more convenient and liberal environment for international trade and investment.

BRI is one of the most important tools for China to achieve that goal. About 125 countries and 29 international organizations have signed cooperation agreements with China on jointly building the Belt and Road, according to data published in March on China's official Belt and Road website.

The total trade volume of goods between China and countries along the Belt and Road exceeded six trillion U.S. dollars from 2013 to 2018, according to a Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) statement on Thursday.

The average annual growth rate of trade between China and countries along the Belt and Road hit four percent during the 2013-2018 period, higher than the growth rate of China's foreign trade during the same period, accounting for 27.4 percent of China's total trade in goods, according to MOFCOM.

According to the Belt and Road Big Data Annual Report of 2018 from the State Information Center, BRI in 2017 connected 71 countries around the world, spanning across Asia, Europe, and Eastern Africa, and in total the BRI countries' foreign trade reached 9.3 trillion U.S. dollars in 2017, 27.8 percent of the total world trade volume.

Among the BRI countries, South Korea ranks first in terms of foreign trade volume, reaching over one trillion U.S. dollars in 2017, Singapore and India follows with 697 billion U.S. dollars and 617 billion U.S. dollars, respectively, the report showed.

In terms of trade commodities, the top import and export commodities among BRI economies fall in the same categories, including electronic machinery, sound recorder and reproducers, and televisions, followed by nuclear reactors, boilers, and other heavy machinery, based on the report.

Private enterprises in China have played a major role in trade with BRI economies. In 2017, China's private enterprises trade with BRI countries reached 619 billion U.S. dollars, representing 43 percent of the total trade volume between China and BRI countries. Foreign companies grabbed 36.6 percent of the trade pie, while state-owned enterprises got 19.4 percent of the market share.

BRI has greatly prompted the development of private economies in China and further opened its market to foreign companies.

ilsm -> anne... , April 19, 2019 at 04:33 PM
As Jimmy Carter observed....the US spread death and destruction investing in war and spending on war to the tune of trillions, China is investing in the future.
anne -> ilsm... , April 19, 2019 at 05:58 PM
https://twitter.com/christineahn/status/1118125703008940034

Christine Ahn‏ @christineahn

Carter to Trump: While China has some 18k miles of high-speed rail, the US has wasted $3 trillion on military spending. "It's more than you can imagine. China has not wasted a single penny on war, and that's why they're ahead of us. In almost every way."

5:15 AM - 16 Apr 2019 from Honolulu, HI

Fred C. Dobbs said in reply to anne... , April 20, 2019 at 05:58 AM
(That may depend on how one defines 'waste'.)

China Defense Spending
Set to Rise 7.5% as Xi Builds Up Military
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-03-05/china-s-military-spending-slows-as-economy-cools via @Bloomberg - March 4

China set a defense budget growth target of 7.5 percent in 2019, slower than last year but still enough to fulfill President Xi Jinping's plans to build a world-class military.

Authorities made the announcement on Tuesday in a statement released ahead of the National People's Congress, the annual gathering of China's legislature in Beijing. In 2018, before the trade war started to affect China's economy, officials predicted an increase of 8.1 percent to 1.11 trillion yuan ($164 billion). ...


[Apr 22, 2019] The starting point is a collapse in US China trade, which falls by 25 30 percent in the short term and somewhere between 30 percent and 70 percent over the long term, depending on the model and the direction of trade.

Apr 22, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

anne , April 19, 2019 at 12:38 PM

https://conversableeconomist.blogspot.com/2019/04/when-us-market-access-is-no-longer.html

April 18, 2019

When US Market Access is No Longer a Trump Card

When the US economy was a larger share of the world economy, then access to the US market meant more. For example, World Bank statistics say that the US economy was 40% of the entire world economy in 1960, but is now about 24%. The main source of growth in the world economy for the foreseeable future will be in emerging markets.

For a sense of the shift, consider this figure from the most recent World Economic Outlook report, published by the IMF (April 2019). The lines in the figure show the trade flows between countries that are at least 1% of total world GDP. The size of the dots for each country is proportionate to the country's GDP.

In 1995, you can see international trade revolving around the United States, with another hub of trade happening in Europe and a third hub focused around Japan. Trade between the US and China shows up on the figure, but China did not have trade flows greater than 1% of world GDP with any country other than the US.

The picture is rather different in 2015. The US remains an international hub for trade. Germany remains a hub as well, although fewer of its trade flows now exceed 1% of world GDP. And China has clearly become a hub of central importance in Asia.

[Graph]

The patterns of trade have also shifted toward greater use of global value chains--that is, intermediate products that are shipped across national borders at least once, and often multiple times, before they become final products. Here's the overall pattern since 1995 of falling tariffs and rising participation in global value chains for the world economy as a whole.

[Graph]

Several decades ago, emerging markets around the world worried about having access to selling in US and European markets, and this market access could be used by the US and European nations as a bargaining chip in economic treaties and more broadly in international relations. Looking ahead, US production is now more tied into global value chains, and the long-term growth of US manufacturing is going to rely more heavily on sales to markets outside the United States.

For example, if one is concerned about the future of the US car industry, the US now produces about 7% of the world's cars in 2015, and about 22% of the world's trucks. The future growth of car consumption is going to be primarily outside the US economy. For the health and long-term growth of the US car business, the possibility of unfair imports into the US economy matters a lot less than the access of US car producers to selling in the rest of the world economy.

The interconnectedness of global value chains means that General Motors already produces more cars in China than it does in the United States. In fact, sales of US multinationals now producing in China are already twice as high as exports from the US to China. Again, the long-term health of many US manufacturers is going to be based on their ability to participate in international value chains and in overseas production.

Although what caught my eye in this World Economic Outlook report was the shifting patterns of world trade, the main emphases of the chapter are on other themes that will come as no surprise to faithful readers of this blog. One main theme is that shifts in bilateral and overall trade deficits are the result of macroeconomic factors, not the outcome of trade negotiations, a theme I've harped on here.

The IMF report also offers calculations that higher tariffs between the US and China will cause economic losses for both sides. From the IMF report:

"The starting point is a collapse in US–China trade, which falls by 25–30 percent in the short term and somewhere between 30 percent and 70 percent over the long term, depending on the model and the direction of trade. The decrease in external demand leads to a decline in total exports and in GDP in both countries. Annual real GDP losses range from –0.3 percent to –0.6 percent for the United States and from –0.5 percent to –1.5 percent for China ... Finally, although the US–China bilateral trade deficit is reduced, there is no economically significant change in each country's multilateral trade balance."

Some advocates of higher tariffs take comfort in noting that the estimated losses to China's economy are bigger than the losses to the US economy. Yes, but it's losses all around! As the 21st century economy evolves, the most important issues for US producers are going to involve their ability to compete in unfettered ways in the increasingly important markets outside the US.

-- Timothy Taylor

[Apr 22, 2019] Claims of Shoddy Production Draw Scrutiny to a Second Boeing Jet

Apr 22, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

anne , April 21, 2019 at 01:21 AM

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/20/business/boeing-dreamliner-production-problems.html

April 20, 2019

Claims of Shoddy Production Draw Scrutiny to a Second Boeing Jet
By Natalie Kitroeff and David Gelles

Workers at a 787 Dreamliner plant in South Carolina have complained of safety lapses, echoing broader concerns about the company.

Boeing is facing questions about rushed production on another jet, the 737 Max, which was involved in two deadly crashes.

ilsm -> anne... , April 21, 2019 at 04:02 AM
The Air Force has delayed delivery of new KC 46's, a B767 rigged to refuel other airplanes for "quality" issues.

[Apr 21, 2019] The FBI Informant Who Monitored the Trump Campaign, Stefan Halper, Oversaw a CIA Spying Operation in the 1980 Presidential Elections by Glenn Greenwald

Notable quotes:
"... So as it turns out, the informant used by the FBI in 2016 to gather information on the Trump campaign was not some previously unknown, top-secret asset whose exposure as an operative could jeopardize lives. Quite the contrary: his decades of work for the CIA -- including his role in an obviously unethical if not criminal spying operation during the 1980 presidential campaign -- is quite publicly known. ..."
"... In any event, publication of those articles by the NYT and Post last night made it completely obvious who the FBI informant was, because the Daily Caller's investigative reporter Chuck Ross on Thursday had published an article reporting that a long-time CIA operative who is now a professor at Cambridge repeatedly met with Papadopoulos and Page. The article, in its opening paragraph, named the professor, Stefan Halper, and described him as "a University of Cambridge professor with CIA and MI6 contacts." ..."
"... Ross' article, using public information, recounted at length Halper's long-standing ties to the CIA, including the fact that his father-in-law, Ray Cline, was a top CIA official during the Cold War, and that Halper himself had long worked with both the CIA and its British counterpart, the MI6. As Ross wrote: "at Cambridge, Halper has worked closely with Dearlove, the former chief of MI6. In recent years they have directed the Cambridge Security Initiative , a non-profit intelligence consulting group that lists 'UK and US government agencies' among its clients." ..."
"... The professor who met with both Page and Papadopoulos is Stefan Halper, a former official in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations who has been a paid consultant to an internal Pentagon think tank known as the Office of Net Assessment, consulting on Russia and China issues, according to public records. ..."
"... Then there are questions about what appear to be some fairly substantial government payments to Halper throughout 2016. Halper continues to be listed as a "vendor" by websites that track payments by the federal government to private contractors. ..."
"... Whatever else is true, the CIA operative and FBI informant used to gather information on the Trump campaign in the 2016 campaign has, for weeks, been falsely depicted as a sensitive intelligence asset rather than what he actually is: a long-time CIA operative with extensive links to the Bush family who was responsible for a dirty and likely illegal spying operation in the 1980 presidential election. For that reason, it's easy to understand why many people in Washington were so desperate to conceal his identity, but that desperation had nothing to do with the lofty and noble concerns for national security they claimed were motivating them. ..."
May 19, 2018 | theintercept.com

The FBI Informant Who Monitored the Trump Campaign, Stefan Halper, Oversaw a CIA Spying Operation in the 1980 Presidential Election Glenn Greenwald
May 19 2018, 10:27 a.m. An extremely strange episode that has engulfed official Washington over the last two weeks came to a truly bizarre conclusion on Friday night. And it revolves around a long-time, highly sketchy CIA operative, Stefan Halper.

Four decades ago, Halper was responsible for a long-forgotten spying scandal involving the 1980 election , in which the Reagan campaign -- using CIA officials managed by Halper, reportedly under the direction of former CIA Director and then-Vice-Presidential candidate George H.W. Bush -- got caught running a spying operation from inside the Carter administration. The plot involved CIA operatives passing classified information about Carter's foreign policy to Reagan campaign officials in order to ensure the Reagan campaign knew of any foreign policy decisions that Carter was considering.

Over the past several weeks, House Republicans have been claiming that the FBI during the 2016 election used an operative to spy on the Trump campaign, and they triggered outrage within the FBI by trying to learn his identity. The controversy escalated when President Trump joined the fray on Friday morning. "Reports are there was indeed at least one FBI representative implanted, for political purposes, into my campaign for president," Trump tweeted , adding: "It took place very early on, and long before the phony Russia Hoax became a "hot" Fake News story. If true -- all time biggest political scandal!"

In response, the DOJ and the FBI's various media spokespeople did not deny the core accusation, but quibbled with the language (the FBI used an "informant," not a "spy"), and then began using increasingly strident language to warn that exposing his name would jeopardize his life and those of others, and also put American national security at grave risk. On May 8, the Washington Post described the informant as "a top-secret intelligence source" and cited DOJ officials as arguing that disclosure of his name "could risk lives by potentially exposing the source, a U.S. citizen who has provided intelligence to the CIA and FBI."

The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark Warner, who spent much of last week working to ensure confirmation of Trump's choice to lead the CIA, Gina Haspel, actually threatened his own colleagues in Congress with criminal prosecution if they tried to obtain the identity of the informant. "Anyone who is entrusted with our nation's highest secrets should act with the gravity and seriousness of purpose that knowledge deserves," Warner said.

But now, as a result of some very odd choices by the nation's largest media outlets, everyone knows the name of the FBI's informant: Stefan Halper. And Halper's history is quite troubling, particularly his central role in the scandal in the 1980 election. Equally troubling are the DOJ and FBI's highly inflammatory and, at best, misleading claims that they made to try to prevent Halper's identity from being reported.

To begin with, it's obviously notable that the person the FBI used to monitor the Trump campaign is the same person who worked as a CIA operative running that 1980 Presidential election spying campaign.

It was not until several years after Reagan's victory over Carter did this scandal emerge. It was leaked by right-wing officials inside the Reagan administration who wanted to undermine officials they regarded as too moderate, including then White House Chief of Staff James Baker, who was a Bush loyalist.

The NYT in 1983 said the Reagan campaign spying operation "involved a number of retired Central Intelligence Agency officials and was highly secretive." The article, by then-NYT reporter Leslie Gelb, added that its "sources identified Stefan A. Halper, a campaign aide involved in providing 24-hour news updates and policy ideas to the traveling Reagan party, as the person in charge." Halper, now 73, had also worked with Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and Alexander Haig as part of the Nixon administration.

When the scandal first broke in 1983, the UPI suggested that Halper's handler for this operation was Reagan's Vice Presidential candidate, George H.W. Bush, who had been the CIA Director and worked there with Halper's father-in-law, former CIA Deputy Director Ray Cline, who worked on Bush's 1980 presidential campaign before Bush ultimately became Reagan's Vice President. It quoted a former Reagan campaign official as blaming the leak on "conservatives [who] are trying to manipulate the Jimmy Carter papers controversy to force the ouster of White House Chief of Staff James Baker."

Halper, through his CIA work, has extensive ties to the Bush family. Few remember that the CIA's perceived meddling in the 1980 election -- its open support for its former Director, George H.W. Bush to become President -- was a somewhat serious political controversy. And Halper was in that middle of that, too.

In 1980, the Washington Post published an article reporting on the extremely unusual and quite aggressive involvement of the CIA in the 1980 presidential campaign. "Simply put, no presidential campaign in recent memory -- perhaps ever -- has attracted as much support from the intelligence community as the campaign of former CIA director Bush," the article said.

Though there was nothing illegal about ex-CIA officials uniting to put a former CIA Director in the Oval Office, the paper said "there are some rumblings of uneasiness in the intelligence network." It specifically identified Cline as one of the most prominent CIA official working openly for Bush, noting that he "recommended his son-in-law, Stefan A. Halper, a former Nixon White House aide, be hired as Bush's director of policy development and research."

In 2016, top officials from the intelligence community similarly rallied around Hillary Clinton. As The Intercept has previously documented :

Former acting CIA Director Michael Morell not only endorsed Clinton in the New York Times but claimed that "Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation." George W. Bush's CIA and NSA director, Gen. Michael Hayden, pronounced Trump a "clear and present danger" to U.S. national security and then, less than a week before the election, went to the Washington Post to warn that "Donald Trump really does sound a lot like Vladimir Putin" and said Trump is "the useful fool, some naif, manipulated by Moscow, secretly held in contempt, but whose blind support is happily accepted and exploited."

So as it turns out, the informant used by the FBI in 2016 to gather information on the Trump campaign was not some previously unknown, top-secret asset whose exposure as an operative could jeopardize lives. Quite the contrary: his decades of work for the CIA -- including his role in an obviously unethical if not criminal spying operation during the 1980 presidential campaign -- is quite publicly known.

And now, as a result of some baffling choices by the nation's largest news organizations as well as their anonymous sources inside the U.S. Government, Stefan Halper's work for the FBI during the 2016 is also publicly known

Last night, both the Washington Post and New York Times -- whose reporters, like pretty much everyone in Washington, knew exactly who the FBI informant is -- published articles that, while deferring to the FBI's demands by not naming him, provided so many details about him that it made it extremely easy to know exactly who it is. The NYT described the FBI informant as "an American academic who teaches in Britain" and who "made contact late that summer with" George Papadopoulos and "also met repeatedly in the ensuing months with the other aide, Carter Page." The Post similarly called him "a retired American professor" who met with Page "at a symposium about the White House race held at a British university."

In contrast to the picture purposely painted by the DOJ and its allies that this informant was some of sort super-secret, high-level, covert intelligence asset, the NYT described him as what he actually is: "the informant is well known in Washington circles, having served in previous Republican administrations and as a source of information for the C.I.A. in past years."

Despite how "well known" he is in Washington, and despite publishing so many details about him that anyone with Google would be able to instantly know his name, the Post and the NYT nonetheless bizarrely refused to identity him, with the Post justifying its decision that it "is not reporting his name following warnings from U.S. intelligence officials that exposing him could endanger him or his contacts." The NYT was less melodramatic about it, citing a general policy: the NYT "has learned the source's identity but typically does not name informants to preserve their safety," it said.

In other words, both the NYT and the Post chose to provide so many details about the FBI informant that everyone would know exactly who it was, while coyly pretending that they were obeying FBI demands not to name him. How does that make sense? Either these newspapers believe the FBI's grave warnings that national security and lives would be endangered if it were known who they used as their informant (in which case those papers should not publish any details that would make his exposure likely), or they believe that the FBI (as usual) was just invoking false national security justifications to hide information it unjustly wants to keep from the public (in which case the newspapers should name him).

In any event, publication of those articles by the NYT and Post last night made it completely obvious who the FBI informant was, because the Daily Caller's investigative reporter Chuck Ross on Thursday had published an article reporting that a long-time CIA operative who is now a professor at Cambridge repeatedly met with Papadopoulos and Page. The article, in its opening paragraph, named the professor, Stefan Halper, and described him as "a University of Cambridge professor with CIA and MI6 contacts."

Ross' article, using public information, recounted at length Halper's long-standing ties to the CIA, including the fact that his father-in-law, Ray Cline, was a top CIA official during the Cold War, and that Halper himself had long worked with both the CIA and its British counterpart, the MI6. As Ross wrote: "at Cambridge, Halper has worked closely with Dearlove, the former chief of MI6. In recent years they have directed the Cambridge Security Initiative , a non-profit intelligence consulting group that lists 'UK and US government agencies' among its clients."

Both the NYT and Washington Post reporters boasted , with seeming pride, about the fact that they did not name the informant even as they published all the details which made it simple to identify him. But NBC News -- citing Ross' report and other public information -- decided to name him , while stressing that it has not confirmed that he actually worked as an FBI informant:

The professor who met with both Page and Papadopoulos is Stefan Halper, a former official in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations who has been a paid consultant to an internal Pentagon think tank known as the Office of Net Assessment, consulting on Russia and China issues, according to public records.

There is nothing inherently untoward, or even unusual, about the FBI using informants in an investigation. One would expect them to do so. But the use of Halper in this case, and the bizarre claims made to conceal his identity, do raise some questions that merit further inquiry.

To begin with, the New York Times reported in December of last year that the FBI investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia began when George Papadopoulos drunkenly boasted to an Australian diplomat about Russian dirt on Hillary Clinton. It was the disclosure of this episode by the Australians that "led the F.B.I. to open an investigation in July 2016 into Russia's attempts to disrupt the election and whether any of President Trump's associates conspired," the NYT claimed.

But it now seems clear that Halper's attempts to gather information for the FBI began before that. "The professor's interactions with Trump advisers began a few weeks before the opening of the investigation, when Page met the professor at the British symposium," the Post reported. While it's not rare for the FBI to gather information before formally opening an investigation, Halper's earlier snooping does call into question the accuracy of the NYT's claim that it was the drunken Papadopoulos ramblings that first prompted the FBI's interest in these possible connections. And it suggests that CIA operatives, apparently working with at least some factions within the FBI, were trying to gather information about the Trump campaign earlier than had been previously reported.

Then there are questions about what appear to be some fairly substantial government payments to Halper throughout 2016. Halper continues to be listed as a "vendor" by websites that track payments by the federal government to private contractors.

Earlier this week, records of payments were found that were made during 2016 to Halper by the Department of Defense's Office of Net Assessment, though it not possible from these records to know the exact work for which these payments were made. The Pentagon office that paid Halper in 2016, according to a 2015 Washington Post story on its new duties , "reports directly to Secretary of Defense and focuses heavily on future threats, has a $10 million budget."

It is difficult to understand how identifying someone whose connections to the CIA is a matter of such public record, and who has a long and well-known history of working on spying programs involving presidential elections on behalf of the intelligence community, could possibly endanger lives or lead to grave national security harm. It isn't as though Halper has been some sort of covert, stealth undercover asset for the CIA who just got exposed. Quite the contrary: that he's a spy embedded in the U.S. intelligence community would be known to anyone with internet access.

Equally strange are the semantic games which journalists are playing in order to claim that this revelation disproves, rather than proves, Trump's allegation that the FBI "spied" on his campaign. This bizarre exchange between CNN's Andrew Kaczynski and the New York Times' Trip Gabriel vividly illustrates the strange machinations used by journalists to justify how all of this is being characterized:

Despite what Halper actually is, the FBI and its dutiful mouthpieces have spent weeks using the most desperate language to try to hide Halper's identity and the work he performed as part of the 2016 election. Here was the deeply emotional reaction to last night's story from Brookings' Benjamin Wittes, who has become a social media star by parlaying his status as Jim Comey's best friend and long-time loyalist to security state agencies into a leading role in pushing the Trump/Russia story:

Wittes' claim that all of this resulted in the "outing" of some sort of sensitive "intelligence source" is preposterous given how publicly known Halper's role as a CIA operative has been for decades. But this is the scam that the FBI and people like Mark Warner have been running for two weeks: deceiving people into believing that exposing Halper's identity would create grave national security harm by revealing some previously unknown intelligence asset.

Wittes also implies that it was Trump and Devin Nunes who are responsible for Halper's exposure but he almost certainly has no idea of who the sources are for the NYT or the Washington Post. And note that Wittes is too cowardly to blame the institutions that actually made it easy to identify Halper -- the New York Times and Washington Post -- preferring instead to exploit the opportunity to depict the enemies of his friend Jim Comey as traitors.

Whatever else is true, the CIA operative and FBI informant used to gather information on the Trump campaign in the 2016 campaign has, for weeks, been falsely depicted as a sensitive intelligence asset rather than what he actually is: a long-time CIA operative with extensive links to the Bush family who was responsible for a dirty and likely illegal spying operation in the 1980 presidential election. For that reason, it's easy to understand why many people in Washington were so desperate to conceal his identity, but that desperation had nothing to do with the lofty and noble concerns for national security they claimed were motivating them.

[Apr 21, 2019] Has Elizabeth Warren pushed the anti Russian crap? That would bother me as we have been the aggressor with Russia and that is really dangerous.

Apr 21, 2019 | angrybearblog.com

FincaInTheMountains April 20, 2019 at 10:17 am #

Elizabeth Warren is beginning the calls impeachment. Time to clean the Augean stables

Elizabeth Warren managed to fail a DNA test, for crying out loud. How one could possibly do that?

James Hansen April 20, 2019 at 10:47 am #

She did not fail a DNA test, she was told that she was part American Indian by her family which turned out to be not true. Big fucking deal!

She created the Consumer Protection Agency which is a great accomplishment for the American people.

Can you name one thing the Republicans have done for the middle class that comes close to what she did?

elysianfield April 20, 2019 at 11:17 am #

"Can you name one thing the Republicans have done for the middle class that comes close to what she did?"

James,
Uhhhh, War on Drugs comes to mind. Might have kept the barbarians from the gates for a few decades and provided for a lot of living wage jobs.

malthuss April 20, 2019 at 11:41 am #

Big fucking deal! yes it is a big deal, dummy.

a real big deal.

The horrors of AA (Affirmative Action) compounded by cheating.

James Hansen April 20, 2019 at 1:51 pm #

I think the ancestry scandal is about as important as wearing white pants after Labor day.

You are far too partisan, you ignore the creation of the CPA and all the benefits it give the public when Republicans at this very moment are looking to loosen the Pay Day Loan lending rules.

I guess a 1400% interest rate is just not enough, do you support the loan sharks and rip off banks? Yes or No.

What does Alcoholics Anonymous have to do with Elizabeth Warren?

hmuller April 21, 2019 at 11:39 am #

By AA he meant Affirmative Action, not Alcoholics Anonymous. Although people with lots of Native American DNA often have drinking problems. prudence would dictate "don't sell whiskey and guns to Elizabeth Warren."

benr April 20, 2019 at 12:24 pm #

Look at the spin machine in action. She used the benefits of lying about her American Indian ancestry to further her career and derive perks. We all know it. AA is a joke and utter reverse racism in action.

Janos Skorenzy April 20, 2019 at 12:39 pm #

No, she kept pushing it even to the point of claiming that her genetic result of 1/1024 Indian proved her claim. The lack of judgement -- both technical and political -- is simply astounding. Then she apologized to the Cherokee for pretending to be one of them since she doesn't meet the tribal criterion. To my knowledge she has never back off her claim beyond that -- and never apologized to Whites for trying to get out of OUR Tribe, the one she was born into.

James Hansen April 20, 2019 at 2:08 pm #

I always try to look at the big picture, the whole episode was foolish but she harmed no one and gained nothing.

Has she pushed the anti Russian crap? That would bother me as we have been the aggressor with Russia and that is really dangerous.

As we speak nuclear armed bombers are flying daily close the the Russian borders and Russia has to scramble jets to ward them off. One pissed off Russian fighter pilot and there goes the world!

Janos Skorenzy April 20, 2019 at 2:16 pm #

She is pushing for criminalizing White Nationalism -- as if We aren't persecuted enough already. Foolishness to the nth degree. Whites have been amazing passive as their Nation has been stolen from them. And those who make peaceful change impossible ..

Dude, she's a monster. Another Hillary Clinton.

James Hansen April 20, 2019 at 5:40 pm #

Now you are exaggerating, nobody is as disgusting as Hillary.

hmuller April 21, 2019 at 11:42 am #

James Hansen, at last you said something I can fully agree with:

"nobody is as disgusting as Hillary."

[Apr 21, 2019] An Empire of Bullshit - Kunstler

Notable quotes:
"... The political reality is that Dems don't have nearly enough votes for impeachment, and they don't have a collusion conspiracy to garner more votes. All they have is the detritus of a failed soft coup -- a stink of fecklessness, mendacity, and vulnerability heading into the 2020 election season. ..."
"... "Expectation that Mueller was going to deliver any sort of impeachment evidence was non-existent. We all knew that the Deep State was going to deliver resounding support for the second term candidacy of the sitting incumbent buffoon even if he embarrasses whole nations including that of the USA." ..."
"... The evidence is overwhelming that Trump is a disgusting con-artist and bully who was inserted into office by the Koch brothers and similar moneyed nitwits to transfer yet more wealth and advance their schoolboy Randian agenda. Elizabeth Warren is beginning the calls impeachment. Time to clean the Augean stables. ..."
Apr 21, 2019 | kunstler.com

FincaInTheMountains April 19, 2019 at 10:09 am #

That was far from stupid, that was a formidable attempt of toppling the constitutionally elected US Government.

And it almost succeeded.

P.S. Are Americans so used to attributing ANYTHING to common stupidity?! Hanlon's razor again!!

Ol' Scratch April 19, 2019 at 10:28 am #

That said, one shouldn't discount stupidity either. It seems to be uncommonly common in the empire these days.

TiredOfTheTreadmill April 19, 2019 at 10:49 am #

I like the use of the words "constitutionally elected" to add serious power to the whole affair. In our current world of voter antics by both parties, heavily gerrymandered districts, corporations being considered people, corporate owned politicians who's main concern is their corporate buddies, electronic voting machines with proprietary code nobody can see, Israel's influence completely overlooked as people focus on Russia, etc it seems that stupid covers a lot of ground these days.

But please, take this political moment super seriously until the next political theater grabs everyone's attention. It's sure to make as much of an impact on the average person's life as Reagan's pre-election antics, Clinton's blowjob, etc On to the next thing in ADD nation is the most likely outcome. We will see, I may be wrong.

venuspluto67 April 19, 2019 at 10:26 am #

Oh yes, absolutely. The Russians never would have succeeded in their endeavor had it not been for the DNC's ham-fisted attempt to force the terminally unpopular Clintons down the country's throat for a non-contiguous third term. It was such an epic bungle that of course they're going to want to cast all the blame on the Russians so that they don't look like the freaking idiots they are.

Exscotticus April 19, 2019 at 12:03 pm #

>>> their only beef with him has to be his mannerisms and pedigree

That's easily 50%.

Recall that Obama was the "deporter in chief" long before Trump. Obama was the progenitor of the kids-in-cages deterrent. And nary a peep from his base or the MSM at that time. What little coverage existed was graciously overlooked and forgotten, beguiled as the Dems were by Obama's double-dealing dulcet promises of DACA and amnesty.

Obama was very good at telling people what they wanted to hear, and shielding them from the harsh realities of life. To paraphrase Colbert, "We Americans didn't want to know, and you had the courtesy not to tell us. Those were good times, as far as we knew." Obama was the perfect leader for a nation of adult children obsessed with their mental issues and genitalia.

venuspluto67 April 20, 2019 at 7:18 am #

Obama was a very smooth and genteel agent of empire, where Trump is as a rule very rude and coarse, which is what I believe turned mainstream voters in suburbs and medium-sized cities against him in the last election. But both never hesitated to give the one-percenters most of what these elites wanted, and in the final analysis, that's the only thing that really matters.

Walter B April 19, 2019 at 10:18 am #

"Understand that the Mueller Report itself was the mendacious conclusion to a deceitful investigation, the purpose of which was to conceal the criminal conduct of US government officials meddling in the 2016 election, in collusion with the Hillary Clinton campaign, to derail Mr. Trump's campaign, and then disable him when he managed to win the election. Mr. Mueller was theoretically trying to save the FBI's reputation, but he may have only succeeded in injuring it more gravely."

Yes indeed James, you know this, I know this, and many who post here know this. You always present it all so well, thank you. We will, however, never cease to be plagued by those rabid few that will not and cannot accept it and move on. They will continue to deny and fabricate their own demented unrealities. Facts no longer exist for them for they have been replaced by those delusions that are created by their own, tiny minds. Or planted there by those manipulators that take full advantage of their lack of ability to think for themselves.

The loonies of today do not need facts, nor do they care to do mathematics, work with budgets, or allow themselves to be forced to face any reality that bites them in the ass due to their denial of consequences for their bad choices. Make it up as you go along is the rule of the day and yes Jim, an Empire of Bullshit! Thank you.

montsegur April 20, 2019 at 4:31 am #

The loonies of today do not need facts, -- Walter B

It is (again) that cult-like belief, Walter. When, in early 1945, captured German soldiers brayed their confidence in the ultimate victory of the Third Reich (to howls of GI laughter, I might add) those Germans were displaying a similar cult-like belief. It all fell apart the moment their chosen demigod blew his brains out in preference to being taken prisoner by the Soviet Union.

I wonder at what point will be the "moment it all falls apart" for the radical Left. I don't think they ever considered that the arc of the moral universe might bend around far enough to deal them a profound blow.

Cheers

K-Dog April 19, 2019 at 11:03 am #

The state does not like to be embarrassed so the state now assaults democracy. An Empire of Bullshit is a nice title and this empire is certainly No Place for a Cat .

That is my title.

K-Dog April 19, 2019 at 11:12 am #

The second link is to my webpage but the first is an interview with John Pilger about JA. I have never tried 'record UEL at current time before but lets try it out. It should start out with Lets go to Vault 7

Because what they can do with phones is amazing.

K-Dog April 19, 2019 at 11:18 am #

It worked but I screwed up.. Only this part should have been green Lets go to Vault 7

Because truth be told, if you get on their radar they do a lot more than blow smoke up your ass. They will try and fuck you up.

Janos Skorenzy April 19, 2019 at 9:40 pm #

Using humor to avoid Truth is an American specialty, but common to all dying cultures it would seem. So carry on until you are carried by six and ferried across the Styx. A silver coin should be left in your mouth to pay the boatman, Charon.

Exscotticus April 19, 2019 at 11:18 am #

CNN is desperately trying to be the tail that wags the dog. The political reality is that Dems don't have nearly enough votes for impeachment, and they don't have a collusion conspiracy to garner more votes. All they have is the detritus of a failed soft coup -- a stink of fecklessness, mendacity, and vulnerability heading into the 2020 election season.

benr April 19, 2019 at 11:26 am #

In short after years of telling white people how evil and entitled we are they have suddenly realized they are going down like the Titanic if they don't change course or their narrative and plank platform.

The DNC is the party of old crotchety people pretending to care about the unwashed masses but they are every bit the 1% they disparage so much. Could they finally be understanding they needed the white middle class or will they double down on class warfare and screams of everyone is racists but the DNC supporters?

This deplorable has a huge tub of popcorn and will enjoy watching the DEMS speed up the cycle of eating their own. They discounted the Trumpster and he has been two steps ahead the entire time. It will be funny if he manages to destroy the DNC and they become the next wig or bull moose party in other words a foot note in history. If so good riddance.

venuspluto67 April 19, 2019 at 11:32 am #

The long-and-short of it is that they don't have enough votes in the Senate to impeach Trump, so it's just not going to happen. The Democrats need to focus their efforts on trying not to force another turkey sandwich down the country's throat in 2020. {/cue Joe "Boundary Issues" Biden sniffing and fondling everybody within arm's reach}

Farmer McGregor April 19, 2019 at 11:24 am #

Reading today's post again: " demonstrating what a grievous injury was done to this republic by its own vested authorities." brought something to mind.

Recently watched the first episode of Netflix's "Roman Empire" about how Marcus Aurelius' wife Faustina, when she thought he had died, scampered off to Egypt to schtupp his next-in-charge general in an effort to consolidate her power and keep the empire in family hands. This inspired the general to raise his legions to take Rome. When hubby Marcus turns out to be alive and well she off-ed herself, and Marcus had the general shanked.

Nothing new under the sun.

Ludwig Beck April 19, 2019 at 11:28 am #

The only question I have is who Jim is going to vote for in 2020.

Is Trump really screwing things up worse than say all the previous Presidents going back to Eisenhower? So what if half the country thinks he's a clown.

Walter B April 21, 2019 at 10:07 am #

Yes indeed he did come out and say that and I believe that he also told us who he voted for in 2016 as well. It takes a real man to admit that you voted for an incompetent, though I am certain that we have all done it in our time.

Janos Skorenzy April 20, 2019 at 12:46 pm #

Obviously I should stop saying obviously. Just like all Cretans are liars when they say "I am lying".

Soloview April 19, 2019 at 11:50 am #

I love your petards, Jim Kunstler, but I am not in any way convinced of a grand Trump counter-offensive following the release of the Inspector General's report. Nothing of substance will happen. You are dreaming in Technicolor. The dirty tricks, the brazen scheming to undermine the electoral process, the swindles and collusion between Obamite (as in "termite") WH and the Clintonchiks (as in "apparatchik") will be drowned in the howls and hysterics of the non-Fox media and the justice machinery's grasp of long-term self-interest, that is, past MAGA, which it knows is plain ol' OTBR (Orange Toupee Bullshit Revolution).

If anyone gets indicted, rest assured, it will be second-rate bit players, whose names the public will not even recognize (perhaps with the exception of Andy McCabe or Peter Strzok). In other words, it will not be carnage, and it will not reach the heights of Loretta Lynch, or Allah forbid, Barack Obama. That level political rot will be protected by the standard teflon: "acted legally, and in good faith, on the information available". And that will be that. The Republic will continue to be dismantled at the speed of God's windmills.

100th Avatar April 19, 2019 at 12:05 pm #

"Let congress put on a carnival of its own now. It will be greeted like a TV commercial for a hemorrhoid remedy while the real national psychodrama plays out in grand juries and courtrooms, demonstrating what a grievous injury was done to this republic by its own vested authorities."

Just another banana republic, but instead of military juntas and generals and police forces we have parties and lawyers and media. Same sad spectacle. Different actors. Exceptionalism indeed.

venuspluto67 April 19, 2019 at 1:12 pm #

John Michael Greer does as decent job of discussing the hyper-subjectivity fueling, among other things, the Russia hysteria among urban establishment-liberals in his blog-post this week .

EvelynV April 19, 2019 at 1:15 pm #

I guess I'm kind of an ends justifies the means kind of person. Whatever it takes to dampen the effects of or rid ourselves of the human wreckage occupying the white house and all the other places he has installed his corrupt and incompetent stooges is the lesser evil.

If you don't think Trump's initial response to learning he was going to be investigated was glaring evidence he knew he'd been guilty of more than we'll ever know then you are devoid of any perspicacity whatsoever.

James Hansen April 19, 2019 at 2:31 pm #

Six terms of massively incompetent presidents will sink the U.S. Trump is increasing the national debt more than Obama and when we default because the interest is too high, bad things will happen.

China will come over here and buy everything it wants like it is a yard sale. We will turn into Greece where everything of value was sold off to the highest bidder.

James Hansen April 19, 2019 at 4:18 pm #

I am not talking about the small stuff, I am talking about buying Central Park or the electric grid for the whole East Coast. Or a few National Parks, thats what happened in Greece and it could happen here also.

The caliber of our politicians gives me confidence this will come about.

EvelynV April 19, 2019 at 2:33 pm #

You shouldn't get your hopes up about Trump winning in 2020. Only half the eligible-to-vote millennials voted in 2016. My guess is a substantial percentage of the ones who didn't were disgusted rightfully disgusted by Hillary. They will be older and wiser now and something tells me the mid-terms were a foreshadowing of what's to come. Of the millennials who did vote 2/3 voted for Hillary.

Meanwhile I'm guessing a fair number of white fat asses who voted for trump are or will be taking their dirt naps next time around. Thx for the compliment.

James Hansen April 19, 2019 at 11:42 pm #

Contrary to what you might think I have a very low opinion of Obama. He put the future of this country in great danger by increasing the national debt by a staggering 10 Trillion dollars. He passed and expanded the Patriot Act , he signed the NDAA and Felony Riot right before he left office.

He condoned all the war crimes and black torture sites of the Bush administration and he gave a pass to all the corruption that lead to that banking and housing collapse.

He is also a war criminal by expanding and continuing the wars and adding several more to the list.

Since 2000 the U.S. has been going downhill because of the shitty Neo Conservative and Neo Liberal administrations. I do not see it getting better and if you think Trump will leave us better off than when he started you are kidding yourself.

RB April 19, 2019 at 3:45 pm #

As long as we have a federal judiciary that has power far beyond its role in government, then Trump is not safe nor any conservative in particular. When a federal judge in HI can make a ruling that affects the entire body politic, then we are ruled by unelected men and women who respond to their own moods and philosophies and political bent.

There must be a new special counsel now who will pursue the lawless who in fact attempted a soft coup. However, with the various judges who fit the bill above, nothing will come of it. I cannot imagine Trump running for a second term and if he does, it will be a fiasco counting the votes around the nation.

benr April 20, 2019 at 12:18 pm #

Yes actually I have.
How you can say it does not affect people in a negative manner is why you are SO out of touch with reality.

BuckP April 19, 2019 at 4:44 pm #

Rome burns while Nero fiddles!
America disintegrates while Trump tweets!

While we are constantly bombardeded, 24-hours a day, with Russigate hysteria like a long-running boring, TV soap opera that has gotten stale, predictable and uninteresting, the world teeters on a precipice.The world's fiat dollar standard monetary system and the corresponding petrodollar are on borrowed time. This system no longer works for the rest of the world and they have grown weary of us, the USA, claiming to be the world's richest and most prosperous nation due to our ability to endlessly print currency without corresponding hyperinflation.

The new international monetary standard will include gold along with other commodities. Whether all this can be done peacefully is anyone's guess. With the world's largest most expensive,military, I doubt, we the USA, will cede our top perch without a fight. Soon,the rich little kiddies won't have to cheat to get into elite colleges because all the youg'ns will be drafted into the military.

"Be the first one on your block to have your boy (girl) come home in a box " -- - Country Joe and the Fish. Fighting for oligarchs and their ill-begotten dollars is such a noble cause. Sure???$700 insulin?? Because they care about you! What a laugh!

"War is a racket." -- General Smedly Butler. BTW, Trump vetoed the Congressional withdrawl of support for Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen because they have us by the balls due to the petrodollar. Ouch!

tucsonspur April 19, 2019 at 5:27 pm #

"Let congress put on a carnival of its own now. It will be greeted like a TV commercial for a hemorrhoid remedy while the real national psychodrama plays out in grand juries and courtrooms, demonstrating what a grievous injury was done to this republic by its own vested authorities."

The question is how many of the almost 66 million Hillary voters will see it that way. And they are still after Trump, like dissolute children deprived of a wills' fortune, seeking vengeance on the rightful recipients.

We need convictions of those involved in the attempted coup. The daily disclosure of the subterfuge used by these perpetraitors may just drive home the point to enough of the former Hillary voters that the Democratic party is one of deceit and delusion, making them defect. Timing is essential.

Slick jig Obama must also pay for his collusion. That Harvard slickster, that Hillary tripster, that hoopin' hipster.

Trump currently peaks on the durometer. Tough guy. Dishes it out but also takes it.

MAGA (jail the perpetraitors) not MAKA

No, don't remember ever seeing it. A spur original? Or did some other genius already think of it?

Farmer Joe April 19, 2019 at 6:32 pm #

I just had a thought I'd like to get feedback on. What if the Russia collusion hysteria is symptomatic of peak oil. A thesis of JHKs Long Emergency is that things organized at the mass scale will fail. Are we first seeing the failure of dysfunctional mass scales endeavors? Are these the last desperate gasps of an ideology which has failed to survive the hardships of life? The dysfunctional policies emanating from it are certainly losing support here in Washington, or at least that's the vibe I get. I wonder how others are experiencing this. In summary, is the failure of the Trump-Russia conspiracy theory and the obvious failure of policy regarding homelessness and economics the flushing out of detritus made necessary by a lowered EROI?

montsegur April 20, 2019 at 4:19 am #

Hello Farmer Joe,

Good thought. I'm not sure if is "symptomatic of peak oil", but my take is that it is a form of mass delusion brought on by a profound disconnection from reality.

You've probably heard of the KISS Principle. Could it be that the dysfunction we're witnessing is the going-off-the-rails of the overly complex, too large ( mass scale ) systems that have been built up since the mid-20th century or so? KISS was not adhered to, thus we now get to experience what the "Stupid" in that acronym implied. Murphy's Law could also be invoked, especially as increasing the complexity of anything is a great way of seeing Murphy in action.

I can well imagine that people in rural environments will be the first to recognize the dysfunction and adapt their behavior in order to survive. Particularly as a talent for agitated fantasizing does not get one far in conditions of rough terrain or inclement weather conditions familiar to rural dwellers.

Cheers

Robert White April 19, 2019 at 7:34 pm #

Praetorian guards like Mueller, Comey, et al. always conveniently screw up any & all investigations into White House executive so that the purpose of the executive branches of government is always to serve the office of the president even if the actual president is a first class boor & confidence man at face value.

Jerome Powell knows enough to stop talking about interest rate rises whilst the conman in office wants to keep inflating assets for the wealthy as he goes into election for the second term. Rarely do we ever evidence an incumbent president lose to an opposition upstart. Republican Party voters would riot in the streets if their incumbent president was ever indicted on any sort of evidence that the majority voter would not accept as fact or truth/common knowledge. Praetorian guards are not paid to undermine the administrative side of the legislative branch as they are merely footmen for the government de jour.

Expectation that Mueller was going to deliver any sort of impeachment evidence was non-existent. We all knew that the Deep State was going to deliver resounding support for the second term candidacy of the sitting incumbent buffoon even if he embarrasses whole nations including that of the USA.

Orange Jesus is and always will be a complete bonehead no matter what endorsements he receives from the prosecutorial branches of governance. Will equally dumb ass Americans vote him in for a second round of international lunacy -- we don't know quite yet but I, for one, am expecting that the Democrats will knuckle under and run with another candidate or two that cannot seem to get traction with a potential second majority Republican win for 2020. Bernie Sanders is the frontrunner and AOC is the running antagonist that will be played off of The Duck for the vote drain.

Republicans have their work cut out for them this upcoming election, methinks. It's not quite the cakewalk that everyone thinks it's going to be, eh. The Democrats have to come out swinging violently for this election. They will be in a kick ass mood for sure. The Duck will not paddle smoothly across the pond to election this time round as the Democrats will look pretty lame if they don't throw up roadblocks of some sort aside from that which the even lamer Praetorian guard throws up.

Mueller knows how to cash a government paycheque too, eh. Comey did not care about his government paycheque as much as Mueller cares about his.

RW

tucsonspur April 19, 2019 at 8:18 pm #

"Expectation that Mueller was going to deliver any sort of impeachment evidence was non-existent. We all knew that the Deep State was going to deliver resounding support for the second term candidacy of the sitting incumbent buffoon even if he embarrasses whole nations including that of the USA."

I think I get it. The Deep State all along wanted Trump in, while just pretending to want him out while staging a phony two year investigation. Jeez, they sure fooled me.

venuspluto67 April 20, 2019 at 5:21 am #

I think this is mostly accurate. "The Duck" is giving the One-Percenters whatever they want, and that's the only thing that really matters in the final analysis. I think the Democrats will lose 2020 because they will insist yet again on putting up the guy least likely to win (in this case, Joe "Mr. Handsy" Biden), and even though the superdelegate system has been changed so that the DNC poobahs aren't guaranteed to get the candidate they want, they can still rig primaries the way they did for Madame Hillary.

JohnAZ April 20, 2019 at 10:47 am #

The Dems will lose because they are totally based on a lie and are the most corrupt political entity that this country has had to endure. Liberalism is a methodology for the 1%to exert control over the rest of us. "We are smarter and better than you and you need us to make your decisions for you in a socialistic basis. The DNC is the most un-American organization that this country has ever experienced. The fact that they do not even let their own folks compete fairly for nomination shows how manipulative their entire agenda is.

The idea that Trump is an agent of the Deep State is ludicrous, as stupid as that he is an agent of Russia. My God, people, a group of 18 Democrats could not find an indication of collusion by him. Trump wants to destroy the Deep State to free up the nation from the imprisonment of this growing web of corruption and financial manipulation. It kills me to see these nickel and dime Democrats state that two years of investigation by an anti-Trump coalition is bogus and that the DOJ doesn't know what it is talking about. The fact that this is getting press coverage as being true points to how stupidified this country has become. Listening to Elizabeth Warren, a proven liar and fraud agent can dictate that the Mueller report is wrong, shows how horrendous the political problem has become.

The entire agenda of the Left is built on falsehoods and lies. As more and more of it comes to light, and the last two years has been one example after another of lies by the party and the press. Compared to the DNC, Trump is an Honest Abe.

montsegur April 20, 2019 at 4:01 am #

What a circus of perfidious freakery!

Jim,

Good wrap-up of this odious waste of time, focus, and millions of dollars.

I have become rather amazed by the notion of the "media" as some sort of watchdog the fabled "Fourth Estate".

A fable it is, and a dangerous one in which to believe.

The media: a group of corporations which are politically invested in various directions, although the biggest of these corporations seem overwhelmingly affiliated with the political left at the moment.

Now -- we don't expect much in the way of socially responsible behavior from other corporations, do we? So why the Hell is there this notion that the corporate media is going to somehow, magically, be socially responsible, when that has nothing to do with the driving force of corporate actions -- their bottom line ?

Just like the old fables that banks, hospitals, and universities were somehow above the money-grubbing fray they were special somehow, not really like those nasty corporations. Except they weren't above the fray. We gave them, in older days, unwonted trust because we were nudged by authorities to think of them as deserving of said trust. Executive summary: they weren't.

Is it really any wonder that so many people are skeptics and cynics these days? Too much of The Establishment has proven to be a con, or, if once reputable, has been corrupted.

In conscious echo of the title you gave this blog, Jim our weary nation casts its eyes about, but we see only shit, bullshit, and more shit, in an apparently vain hope that something of value may yet be seen.

Cheers

RIB April 20, 2019 at 4:46 am #

Meanwhile Rachel Maddow had the balls to confab in prime time with disgraced former FBI mandarin Andy McCabe, officially identified as a liar by his own colleagues at the agency.

Correction: Rachel Maddow has balls: TWO OF THEM.

DEFCON1 April 20, 2019 at 6:46 am #

Hard to believe this is the same Jim Kunstler I first became aware of in Curtis White's book 'The Middle Mind' He has become a sad shill and champion gas-lighter for this horrendous mistake of a president. Worse yet, he surrounds himself with this sad echo chamber of a forum – God only knows where all these Trump apologists come from.

The evidence is overwhelming that Trump is a disgusting con-artist and bully who was inserted into office by the Koch brothers and similar moneyed nitwits to transfer yet more wealth and advance their schoolboy Randian agenda. Elizabeth Warren is beginning the calls impeachment. Time to clean the Augean stables.

Ol' Scratch April 20, 2019 at 8:47 am #

Doubly sad, because although all that might be true, the alternative at the time was even worse . No telling what we'll get next. Impeachment might feel good, but it ain't going to heal what ails us.

VCS April 21, 2019 at 11:28 am #

Defcon and Scratch comments – taken together – summarize it all accurately.

MrMangoOnMyShoulder April 20, 2019 at 10:57 am #

What a colossal waste of time. Talk about obstruction. The game has gotten so bad that they're now making it official party policy to unendingly investigate on the grounds that they "may find something impeachable", all the while proclaiming it to be an undeniable surety. Incredibly sad and annoying.

That said, the beleagured Repubs would have done the same (and most definitely will again when it's their turn). Certainly can't just let government operate for a while. Must block, accuse and speculate at every turn.

Naturally, at the federal level they're all self-serving, hypocritical crooks anyway just saying this clown show is the new normal and it pisses me off.

SoftStarLight April 20, 2019 at 12:17 pm #

But it isn't surprising really. The hypocritical crooks will be able to do their dirty work without much interference. And they are very open about it. They know that tattletales and whistleblowers will be buried under jails so they do what they want.

BackRowHeckler April 20, 2019 at 1:25 pm #

Let them vote for impeachment, I hope they do. While the Dems are flubbing around with impeachment for the rest of the year they won't be passing laws designed to F-k over white people. And good luck for those dissemblers to get more than 1 or 2 Republican Senators to vote their way, which will be cancelled out by a few Dems who vote no.

Brh

BackRowHeckler April 20, 2019 at 1:36 pm #

Senators Joe Manchin and John Tester 2 Dems who most likely will vote against impeachment.

Impeachment will ba a colossal waste of time and a big CNN-MSNBC-DNC-US Congress circle jerk.

Brh

MrMangoOnMyShoulder April 20, 2019 at 3:13 pm #

Love it. They should just rename Congress the Houses of Circle Jerk.

volodya April 20, 2019 at 11:10 am #

It could be that the media will be whipped like dogs.

Yet Judy Woodruff and company seem not to have gotten the memo. On PBS Newshour, it was all gleeful breathlessness at the "roadmap" that Mueller provided congress for action of its own, impeachment I suppose, though I don't know how that's gonna come about given that the senate is Republican controlled. It's not only PBS, other msm were talking the same talk.

How does congress make any headway given that Mueller's 2 year campaign of investigation and intimidation came up goose-eggs? The whole intent was to unseat Trump. They failed.

The 2016 campaign was useful in that it catapulted the Republican Party and its agenda onto the garbage heap of failed arrangements. The question now is what takes its place. After Trump's departure, it could happen that the Jeff Flakes and the Mitt Romneys and Paul Ryans try to make a comeback. I mean, there's work to do, a lot of it, there's pension funds to plunder, social security to privatize or, better still, eliminate. You know what they'll say, they need to slay the deficit. And they need to eliminate growth killing taxes. They'll say that companies and the wealthy are too highly taxed, and they'll have the usual shills from the academic world to mouth the right words. You might hope that the Republican Party's dying gasp was their massive corporate tax cut. We can only pray.

Democrats have a shot in 2020 to do what Republican voters already did. The question is will they grab the bull by the horns. If they focus on the material interests of the American worker with a credible agenda they have got a chance but early indications are not encouraging, it looks like a lot more screaming and shouting about Trump, and more tedium of trannies, gays and migrants. So if 2020 is a do-over with a lot of deploring the Deplorables, identity politics shout-outs, while catering to elite business interests, then Democrats just dig the grave deeper.

MrMangoOnMyShoulder April 20, 2019 at 3:23 pm #

Yes, but no one was indicted on charges related to the subject of the investigation. They were either unrelated/tangential financial crimes or lying to the FBI during said investigation (which would not be hard for any of us to eventually do over an investigation of years+ duration. They have their ways. Have you ever spent hours in a room with a lawyer grilling you?).

They weren't indicted for the crimes that the investigation was commissioned to search for. Still indictments, yes. And they have to take their punishment accordingly. But it makes a difference to me.

Mueller Indictments

volodya April 20, 2019 at 12:34 pm #

That's my view also, that a few dozen outlandishly wealthy men (the Donor Class or the Davos Class, take your pick) call the shots and it's all in service of their own fortunes.

The degradation of not only the US but of much of the Western world didn't come about by accident, nor in secret. It all unfolded in public, right under our noses.

As a result French Yellow Vests are still out in the streets, Ford Nation not only won an election in Ontario (population 14.5 million), but now also in Alberta (population 4.3 million) with the land-slide win by Jason Kenney, the Brits voted Brexit, the Italians did what they weren't supposed to and voted in the populist Northern League or Lega Nord or whatever it is they call themselves nowadays.

I would urge – cough – "progressives" to smell the coffee but I know they won't. They'll insist it's racism and stupidity behind it all. That's the stock answer and they won't change.

Misdiagnosis can be as calamitous in the political realm as it is in the medical realm. But if they insist on misdiagnosis, then so be it.

[Apr 21, 2019] Mueller went out of his way to leave the obstruction sword hanging over Trump`s head so the political infighting does not end.

Apr 21, 2019 | turcopolier.typepad.com

Alves , 21 April 2019 at 04:00 AM

The most farcical thing in the Mueller report is that he did not fill obstruction charges or even recommend that it should be filled, but yet he did not "exonerate" Trump.

In other words, Mueller did not think that he had enough to make an obstruction case in the courts of justice, and keep in mind that an indictment requires only "probable cause", not the "beyond a reasonable doubt" required for a criminal conviction, but nevertheless he went out of his way to leave the obstruction sword hanging over Trump`s head so the political infighting does not end.

IMO, that is the biggest evidence that the whole thing was an attempt at facilitating a political power grab instead of a serious criminal investigation.

[Apr 21, 2019] Rome burns while Nero fiddles! America disintegrates while Trump tweets!

Apr 21, 2019 | kunstler.com

BuckP April 19, 2019 at 4:44 pm #

Rome burns while Nero fiddles! America disintegrates while Trump tweets!

While we are constantly bombardeded, 24-hours a day, with Russigate hysteria like a long-running boring, TV soap opera that has gotten stale, predictable and uninteresting

From An Empire of Bullshit - Kunstler

[Apr 21, 2019] the current situation is "USSR reversed", in that the US now feels the need to "mute" Russia but Russia does not feel the need to "mute" the US.

Apr 21, 2019 | turcopolier.typepad.com
JamesT , 21 April 2019 at 11:14 AM
The most intelligent discussion of Russiagate that I have seen is Chris Hedges interviewing Aaron Mate on RT:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=odEnNBlOJdk

The fact that one has to go to RT for such professional journalism is telling. A pundit on Vesti is arguing that the current situation is "USSR reversed", in that the US now feels the need to "mute" Russia but Russia does not feel the need to "mute" the US. Because Russia is the country whose leadership is being more truthful, this results in Russia being more open to foreign media and dissident opinion. He says "openness is beneficial for us", "openness makes us the winning side", and "there is nothing they can tell us about us that we don't already know". I have been thinking along the same lines. From the 3:00 mark onwards here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6JkAKYLklYI

[Apr 21, 2019] Mueller--Disingenuous and Dishonest by Larry C Johnson

Apr 21, 2019 | turcopolier.typepad.com

turcopolier , 20 April 2019 at 10:44 PM

IMO the FBI leadership, Clapper, Brennan and his flunkies were working with the Brits at some senior level of their IO apparat to screw Trump. Mueller's testimony before the Congress should be revalatory of his true position.
falcemartello , 20 April 2019 at 11:28 PM
Don't hold your breath .The so called deep state which in reality are our plutocratic oligarchical class that win. Look at the new boss same as the old boss.
It was obvious from way back in June 2016 when most of the fabricated /novella known as the Steele Dossier was floating around and the role Fusion GPS played in the Clinton POTUS machine. There is a lot out there but as per usual smokey mirrors and deception.

I live you with this one thought.

Look at all the hair triggers that have been laid out with the TRUMP regime since he bacame POTUS with regards to the ME and the Russian Federation . THe IRGC being labelled a terrorist organization and further more both Dems and Repub are trying to introduce a bill that labels the Russian Federation as a sponsor of terrorism.
You just can't make this stuff up. Least we forget replacing the meme of ASSAD HAS TO GO TO MADURRO HAS TO GO.

War is a racket and as per usual we the sheeple just fall for it.

Ret. Col Wilkerson lays all out at last years Israeli influence conference.

Mahmood Saadi said in reply to falcemartello ... , 21 April 2019 at 07:53 AM
Indeed, dishonesty seems somewhat institutionalized at this height..

https://twitter.com/JonathanLalon12/status/1119251603716894720

Trump is not free from illegal use of US institutions against political "opponents", see the last by Wayne Madsen.

https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2019/04/21/trump-attempt-weaponize-nsa-against-his-enemies.html

Rick Merlotti , 20 April 2019 at 11:51 PM
The Special Relationship is hopefully entering the divorce stage. None too soon. Great work, Mr. Johnson.
English Outsider -> Rick Merlotti ... , 21 April 2019 at 09:32 AM
Special Relationship? All it's possible for the outsider to see in that are questions.

The UK stands shoulder to shoulder with the US in repelling the Russian threat. Also, along with France, helps with any R2P that needs doing. That's a consistent if by now bedraggled story.

But Europe, including the UK, is now going hell for leather at the "European Army" project. How long will it be before that becomes a respectable independent force? A decade?

https://www.dw.com/en/limited-number-of-weapons-in-german-military-ready-for-action-report/a-42752070

In the meantime all recognise that the US is the only significant European defence force. It's not just the money. The US ties the European components of NATO together and provides the big reserves of men and equipment. Even Mr Blair accepts that reality. I've been listening to his talk at the Munich Security Conference.

So the US is to hold the fort in Europe while the Europeans prepare to supplant NATO? Do the Europeans plan to be a military superpower themselves eventually?

And where does Trump fit in? Trumpphobia is as strong as Russophobia in the UK and stronger than Russophobia in continental Europe. So Trump is supposed to sit there placidly defending Europe until the Europeans are strong enough to dispense with the American alliance, and that while the Europeans, including the UK, throw mud at him?

Neither in neocon terms nor in terms of sensible defence are these various stories compatible. Is there any sort of coherent defence policy in this respect on either side of the Atlantic? Or are they all just winging it and ignoring the inconsistencies?

likbez , 21 April 2019 at 12:24 AM
Bravo ! One word "Bravo!!!"

This is a very good, probably the best so far in depth analysis of Mueller's final report.

And your phase "disingenuous and dishonest" is like a stamp on Mueller's hatchet job:

A careful reading of the report reveals that Mueller has issued findings that are both disingenuous and dishonest. The report is a failed hatchet job.

Part of the failure can be attributed to the amount of material that Attorney General Barr allowed to be released.

It appears that Bill Barr's light editing may have been intended to expose the bias and sloppiness of Mueller and his team.


JohnH , 21 April 2019 at 12:38 AM
Makes me wonder if this started out as a standard operation by the FBI to gain leverage over a presidential contender. That would explain Sater's early attempts at apparent entrapment. Since that didn't work, a different strategy had to be devised to deny the presidency to someone over whom the intelligence services lacked sufficient leverage.

Hillary gladly cooperated and raised the specter of collusion with Russia, which she trumpeted in the debates, downplaying other issues that could have resonated more with voters. Since she thought she was a slam dunk, she thought she could afford to cooperate. It could only help ingratiate her with the borg.

On the other hand, Brennan and others in the borg used their allies in the media to promote and propagate the story, which mushroomed when Trump defied the odds and won. Hillary was eager to play the victim as a way to excuse her failure. And the borg began hyping the story to cripple Trump unless he heeled. Initially Trump resisted, firing Comey. But with Bolton now ensconced as the National Security Advisor, it is clear that the borg has won, and the lack of any conspiracy could now be revealed.

Such a scenario would explain why Sater, Mufid, Steele and apparent attempts at entrapment got buried. And, with obstruction still hanging over Trump's head, the borg's leverage is still there if needed.

Alves , 21 April 2019 at 04:00 AM
The most farcical thing in the Mueller report is that he did not fill obstruction charges or even recommend that it should be filled, but yet he did not "exonerate" Trump.

In other words, Mueller did not think that he had enough to make an obstruction case in the courts of justice, and keep in mind that an indictment requires only "probable cause", not the "beyond a reasonable doubt" required for a criminal conviction, but nevertheless he went out of his way to leave the obstruction sword hanging over Trump`s head so the political infighting does not end.

IMO, that is the biggest evidence that the whole thing was an attempt at facilitating a political power grab instead of a serious criminal investigation.

turcopolier , 21 April 2019 at 09:22 AM
Mahmoud Saadi

I will allow you to post this kind of thing one time because you appear to be new here and unfamiliar with our standards, but in the future if you do not provide your own argumentation and merely provide links I will disapprove your offerings.

turcopolier , 21 April 2019 at 09:28 AM
falce, etc. So, who is your candidate for 2020?

[Apr 21, 2019] John Brennan's Police State USA

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... Sadly, Brennan's propaganda coup only works on what the Bell Curve crowd up there would call the dumbest and most technologically helpless 1.2σ. Here is how people with half a brain interpret the latest CIA whoppers. ..."
"... Convincing Americans in Russia's influence or Russia collusion with Trump was only a tool that would create pressure on Trump that together with the fear of paralysis of his administration and impeachment would push Trump into the corner from which the only thing he could do was to worsen relations with Russia. What American people believe or not is really secondary. With firing of Gen. Flynn Trump acted exactly as they wanted him to act. This was the beginning of downward slope. ..."
"... Anyway, the mission was accomplished and the relations with Russia are worse now than during Obama administration. Trump can concentrate on Iran in which he will be supported by all sides and factions including the media. Even Larry David will approve not only the zionist harpies like Pam Geller, Rita Katz and Ilana Mercer. ..."
"... The only part that is absurd is that Russia posed a bona fide threat to the US. I'm fine with the idea that he ruined Brennen's plans in Syria. But thats just ego we shouldn't have been there anyway. ..."
"... No one really cares about Ukraine. And the European/Russian trade zone? No one cares. The Eurozone has its hands full with Greece and the rest of the old EU. I have a feeling they have already gone way too far and are more likely to shrink than expand in any meaningful way ..."
"... " ..factions within the state whose interests do not coincide with those of the American people." ..."
"... All the more powerfully put because of its recognisably comical. understatement. Thank you Mr Whitney. Brilliant article that would be all over the mainstream media were the US MSM an instrument of American rather than globalist interests. ..."
"... A sad story, how the USA always was a police state, where the two percent rich manipulated the 98% poor, to stay rich. When there were insurrections federal troops restored order. Also FDR put down strikes with troops. ..."
"... The elephant in the room is Israel and the neocons , this is the force that controls America and Americas foreign policy , Brennan and the 17 intel agencies are puppets of the mossad and Israel, that is the brutal fact of the matter. ..."
"... "The absence of evidence suggests that Russia hacking narrative is a sloppy and unprofessional disinformation campaign that was hastily slapped together by over confident Intelligence officials who believed that saturating the public airwaves with one absurd story after another would achieve the desired result " ..."
"... But it DID achieve the desired result! Trump folded under the pressure, and went full out neoliberal. Starting with his missile attack on Syria, he is now OK with spending trillions fighting pointless endless foreign wars on the other side of the world. ..."
"... I think maybe half the US population does believe the Russian hacking thing, but that's not really the issue. I think that the pre-Syrian attack media blitz was more a statement of brute power to Trump: WE are in charge here, and WE can take you down and impeach you, and facts don't matter! ..."
"... Sometimes propaganda is about persuading people. And sometimes, I think, it is about intimidating them. ..."
"... The Brit secret service, in effect, created and trained not merely the CIA but also the Mossad and Saudi Arabia's General Intelligence Presidency. All four are defined by endless lies, endless acts of utterly amoral savagery. All 4 are at least as bad as the KGB ever was, and that means as bad as Hell itself. ..."
"... Traditional triumphalist American narrative history, as taught in schools up through the 60s or so, portrayed America as "wart-free." Since then, with Zinn's book playing a major role, it has increasingly been portrayed as "warts-only," which is of course at least equally flawed. I would say more so. ..."
"... Anyway, the mission was accomplished and the relations with Russia are worse now than during Obama administration. ..."
"... That pre-9/11 "cooperation" nearly destroyed Russia. Nobody in Russia (except, perhaps, for Pussy Riot) wants a return to the Yeltsin era. ..."
"... The CIA is the world largest criminal and terrorist organization. With Brennan the worst has come to the worst. The whole Russian meddling affair was initiated by the Obama/Clinton gang in cooperation with 95 percent of the media. Nothing will come out of it. ..."
"... [The key figures who had primary influence on both Trump's and Bush's Iran policies held views close to those of Israel's right-wing Likud Party. The main conduit for the Likudist line in the Trump White House is Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, primary foreign policy advisor, and longtime friend and supporter of Netanyahu. Kushner's parents are also long-time supporters of Israeli settlements on the occupied West Bank. ..."
"... Another figure to whom the Trump White House has turned is John Bolton, undersecretary of state and a key policymaker on Iran in the Bush administration. Although Bolton was not appointed Trump's secretary of state, as he'd hoped, he suddenly reemerged as a player on Iran policy thanks to his relationship with Kushner. Politico reports that Bolton met with Kushner a few days before the final policy statement was released and urged a complete withdrawal from the deal in favor of his own plan for containing Iran. ..."
"... Putin's dream of Greater Europe is the death knell for the unipolar world order. It means the economic center of the world will shift to Central Asia where abundant resources and cheap labor of the east will be linked to the technological advances and the Capital the of the west eliminating the need to trade in dollars or recycle profits into US debt. The US economy will slip into irreversible decline, and the global hegemon will steadily lose its grip on power. That's why it is imperative for the US prevail in Ukraine– a critical land bridge connecting the two continents– and to topple Assad in Syria in order to control vital resources and pipeline corridors. Washington must be in a position where it can continue to force its trading partners to denominate their resources in dollars and recycle the proceeds into US Treasuries if it is to maintain its global primacy. The main problem is that Russia is blocking Uncle Sam's path to success which is roiling the political establishment in Washington. ..."
"... Second, Zakharova confirms that the western media is not an independent news gathering organization, but a propaganda organ for the foreign policy establishment who dictates what they can and can't say. ..."
"... Such a truthful portrait of reality ! The ruling elite is indeed massively corrupt, compromised, and controlled by dark forces. And the police state is already here. For most people, so far, in the form of massive collection of personal data and increasing number of mandatory regulations. But just one or two big false-flags away from progressing into something much worse. ..."
"... Clearly the CIA was making war on Syria. Is secret coercive covert action against sovereign nations Ok? Is it legal? When was the CIA designated a war making entity – what part of the constitution OK's that? Isn't the congress obliged by constitutional law to declare war? (These are NOT six month actions – they go on and on.) ..."
"... Syria is only one of many nations that the CIA is attacking – how many countries are we attacking with drones? Where is congress? ..."
"... Close the CIA – give the spying to the 16 other agencies. ..."
Oct 22, 2017 | www.unz.com

Fran Macadam , October 20, 2017 at 3:08 pm GMT

A credible reading of the diverse facts, Mike.
Kirk Elarbee , October 20, 2017 at 8:27 pm GMT
Sadly, Brennan's propaganda coup only works on what the Bell Curve crowd up there would call the dumbest and most technologically helpless 1.2σ. Here is how people with half a brain interpret the latest CIA whoppers.

http://www.moonofalabama.org/2017/10/everyone-hacked-everyone-hacked-everyone-spy-spin-fuels-anti-kaspersky-campaign.html

utu , Next New Comment October 21, 2017 at 5:18 am GMT
Again Mike Whitney does not get it. Though in the first part of the article I thought he would. He was almost getting there. The objective was to push new administration into the corner from which it could not improve relations with Russia as Trump indicated that he wanted to during the campaign.

Convincing Americans in Russia's influence or Russia collusion with Trump was only a tool that would create pressure on Trump that together with the fear of paralysis of his administration and impeachment would push Trump into the corner from which the only thing he could do was to worsen relations with Russia. What American people believe or not is really secondary. With firing of Gen. Flynn Trump acted exactly as they wanted him to act. This was the beginning of downward slope.

Anyway, the mission was accomplished and the relations with Russia are worse now than during Obama administration. Trump can concentrate on Iran in which he will be supported by all sides and factions including the media. Even Larry David will approve not only the zionist harpies like Pam Geller, Rita Katz and Ilana Mercer.

Pamela Geller: Thank You, Larry David

http://www.breitbart.com/big-hollywood/2017/10/19/pamela-geller-thank-larry-david/

anon , Disclaimer Next New Comment October 21, 2017 at 5:54 am GMT
OK.

The only part that is absurd is that Russia posed a bona fide threat to the US. I'm fine with the idea that he ruined Brennen's plans in Syria. But thats just ego we shouldn't have been there anyway.

No one really cares about Ukraine. And the European/Russian trade zone? No one cares. The Eurozone has its hands full with Greece and the rest of the old EU. I have a feeling they have already gone way too far and are more likely to shrink than expand in any meaningful way

The one thing I am not positive about. If the elite really believe that Russia is a threat, then Americans have done psych ops on themselves.

The US was only interested in Ukraine because it was there. Next in line on a map. The rather shocking disinterest in investing money -- on both sides -- is inexplicable if it was really important. Most of it would be a waste -- but still. The US stupidly spent $5 billion on something -- getting duped by politicians and got theoretical regime change, but it was hell to pry even $1 billion for real economic aid.

ThereisaGod , Next New Comment October 21, 2017 at 6:37 am GMT
" ..factions within the state whose interests do not coincide with those of the American people."

All the more powerfully put because of its recognisably comical. understatement. Thank you Mr Whitney. Brilliant article that would be all over the mainstream media were the US MSM an instrument of American rather than globalist interests.

jilles dykstra , Next New Comment October 21, 2017 at 6:46 am GMT
I am reading Howard Zinn, A Peoples History of the USA, 1492 to the Present. A sad story, how the USA always was a police state, where the two percent rich manipulated the 98% poor, to stay rich. When there were insurrections federal troops restored order. Also FDR put down strikes with troops.
Logan , Next New Comment October 21, 2017 at 11:16 am GMT
@jilles dykstra

You should be aware that Zinn's book is not, IMO, an honest attempt at writing history. It is conscious propaganda intended to make Americans believe exactly what you are taking from it.

DESERT FOX , Next New Comment October 21, 2017 at 1:30 pm GMT
The elephant in the room is Israel and the neocons , this is the force that controls America and Americas foreign policy , Brennan and the 17 intel agencies are puppets of the mossad and Israel, that is the brutal fact of the matter.

Until that fact changes Americans will continue to fight and die for Israel.

TG , Next New Comment October 21, 2017 at 2:03 pm GMT
"The absence of evidence suggests that Russia hacking narrative is a sloppy and unprofessional disinformation campaign that was hastily slapped together by over confident Intelligence officials who believed that saturating the public airwaves with one absurd story after another would achieve the desired result "

But it DID achieve the desired result! Trump folded under the pressure, and went full out neoliberal. Starting with his missile attack on Syria, he is now OK with spending trillions fighting pointless endless foreign wars on the other side of the world.

I think maybe half the US population does believe the Russian hacking thing, but that's not really the issue. I think that the pre-Syrian attack media blitz was more a statement of brute power to Trump: WE are in charge here, and WE can take you down and impeach you, and facts don't matter!

Sometimes propaganda is about persuading people. And sometimes, I think, it is about intimidating them.

Anonymous , Disclaimer Next New Comment October 21, 2017 at 2:05 pm GMT
Whitney is another author who declares the "Russians did it" narrative a psyop. He then devotes entire columns to the psyop, "naww Russia didn't do it". There could be plenty to write about – recent laws that do undercut liberty, but no, the Washington Post needs fake opposition to its fake news so you have guys like Whitney in the less-mainstream fake news media.

So Brennan wanted revenge? Well that's simple enough to understand, without being too stupid. But Whitney's whopper of a lie is what you're supposed to unquestionably believe. The US has "rival political parties". Did you miss it?

Jake , Next New Comment October 21, 2017 at 2:32 pm GMT
The US is doing nothing more than acting as the British Empire 2.0. WASP culture was born of a Judaizing heresy: Anglo-Saxon Puritanism. That meant that the WASP Elites of every are pro-Jewish, especially in order to wage war, physical and/or cultural, against the vast majority of white Christians they rule.

By the early 19th century, The Brit Empire's Elites also had a strong, and growing, dose of pro-Arabic/pro-Islamic philoSemitism. Most of that group became ardently pro-Sunni, and most of the pro-Sunni ones eventually coalescing around promotion of the House of Saud, which means being pro-Wahhabi and permanently desirous of killing or enslaving virtually all Shiite Mohammedans.

So, by the time of Victoria's high reign, the Brit WASP Elites were a strange brew of hardcoree pro-Jewish and hardcore pro-Arabic/islamic. The US foreign policy of today is an attempt to put those two together and force it on everyone and make it work.

The Brit secret service, in effect, created and trained not merely the CIA but also the Mossad and Saudi Arabia's General Intelligence Presidency. All four are defined by endless lies, endless acts of utterly amoral savagery. All 4 are at least as bad as the KGB ever was, and that means as bad as Hell itself.

Logan , Next New Comment October 21, 2017 at 3:04 pm GMT
@Grandpa Charlie

Fair enough. I didn't know that about the foreword. If accurate, that's a reasonable approach for a book.

Here's the problem.

Back when O. Cromwell was the dictator of England, he retained an artist to paint him. The custom of the time was for artists to "clean up" their subjects, in a primitive form of photoshopping.

OC being a religious fanatic, he informed the artist he wished to be portrayed as God had made him, "warts and all." (Ollie had a bunch of unattractive facial warts.) Or the artist wouldn't be paid.

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/nov/08/cromwell-portraitist-samuel-cooper-exhibition

Traditional triumphalist American narrative history, as taught in schools up through the 60s or so, portrayed America as "wart-free." Since then, with Zinn's book playing a major role, it has increasingly been portrayed as "warts-only," which is of course at least equally flawed. I would say more so.

All I am asking is that American (and other) history be written "warts and all." The triumphalist version is true, largely, and so is the Zinn version. Gone With the Wind and Roots both portray certain aspects of the pre-war south fairly accurately..

America has been, and is, both evil and good. As is/was true of every human institution and government in history. Personally, I believe America, net/net, has been one of the greatest forces for human good ever. But nobody will realize that if only the negative side of American history is taught.

Wally , Next New Comment October 21, 2017 at 3:16 pm GMT
@Michael Kenny

Hasbarist 'Kenny', you said:

"There must be something really dirty in Russigate that hasn't yet come out to generate this level of panic."

You continue to claim what you cannot prove.

But then you are a Jews First Zionist.

Russia-Gate Jumps the Shark
Russia-gate has jumped the shark with laughable new claims about a tiny number of "Russia-linked" social media ads, but the US mainstream media is determined to keep a straight face

https://www.lewrockwell.com/2017/10/robert-parry/jumping-the-shark/

Yet Another Major Russia Story Falls Apart. Is Skepticism Permissible Yet?

https://theintercept.com/2017/09/28/yet-another-major-russia-story-falls-apart-is-skepticism-permissible-yet/

+ review of other frauds

Logan , Next New Comment October 21, 2017 at 3:20 pm GMT
@Jake

Most of that group became ardently pro-Sunni, and most of the pro-Sunni ones eventually coalescing around promotion of the House of Saud, which means being pro-Wahhabi and permanently desirous of killing or enslaving virtually all Shiite Mohammedans.

Thanks for the laugh. During the 19th century, the Sauds were toothless, dirt-poor hicks from the deep desert of zero importance on the world stage.

The Brits were not Saudi proponents, in fact promoting the Husseins of Hejaz, the guys Lawrence of Arabia worked with. The Husseins, the Sharifs of Mecca and rulers of Hejaz, were the hereditary enemies of the Sauds of Nejd.

After WWI, the Brits installed Husseins as rulers of both Transjordan and Iraq, which with the Hejaz meant the Sauds were pretty much surrounded. The Sauds conquered the Hejaz in 1924, despite lukewarm British support for the Hejaz.

Nobody in the world cared much about the Saudis one way or another until massive oil fields were discovered, by Americans not Brits, starting in 1938. There was no reason they should. Prior to that Saudi prominence in world affairs was about equal to that of Chad today, and for much the same reason. Chad (and Saudi Arabia) had nothing anybody else wanted.

Grandpa Charlie , Next New Comment October 21, 2017 at 3:25 pm GMT
@Michael Kenny

'Putin stopped talking about the "Lisbon to Vladivostok" free trade area long ago" -- Michael Kenney

Putin was simply trying to sell Russia's application for EU membership with the catch-phrase "Lisbon to Vladivostok". He continued that until the issue was triply mooted (1) by implosion of EU growth and boosterism, (2) by NATO's aggressive stance, in effect taken by NATO in Ukraine events and in the Baltics, and, (3) Russia's alliance with China.

It is surely still true that Russians think of themselves, categorically, as Europeans. OTOH, we can easily imagine that Russians in Vladivostok look at things differently than do Russians in St. Petersburg. Then again, Vladivostok only goes back about a century and a half.

Seamus Padraig , Next New Comment October 21, 2017 at 3:39 pm GMT
@utu

Anyway, the mission was accomplished and the relations with Russia are worse now than during Obama administration.

I generally agree with your comment, but that part strikes me as a bit of an exaggeration. While relations with Russia certainly haven't improved, how have they really worsened? The second round of sanctions that Trump reluctantly approved have yet to be implemented by Europe, which was the goal. And apart from that, what of substance has changed?

Seamus Padraig , Next New Comment October 21, 2017 at 3:45 pm GMT
@Grandpa Charlie

That pre-9/11 "cooperation" nearly destroyed Russia. Nobody in Russia (except, perhaps, for Pussy Riot) wants a return to the Yeltsin era.

Ludwig Watzal , Website Next New Comment October 21, 2017 at 3:46 pm GMT
It's not surprising that 57 percent of the American people believe in Russian meddling. Didn't two-thirds of the same crowd believe that Saddam was behind 9/11, too? The American public is being brainwashed 24 hours a day all year long.

The CIA is the world largest criminal and terrorist organization. With Brennan the worst has come to the worst. The whole Russian meddling affair was initiated by the Obama/Clinton gang in cooperation with 95 percent of the media. Nothing will come out of it.

This disinformation campaign might be the prelude to an upcoming war.
Right now, the US is run by jerks and idiots. Watch the video.

anonymous , Disclaimer Next New Comment October 21, 2017 at 3:50 pm GMT
Only dumb people does not know that TRUMP IS NETANYAHU'S PUPPET.

The fifth column zionist jews are running the albino stooge and foreign policy in the Middle East to expand Israel's interest against American interest that is TREASON. One of these FIFTH COLUMNISTS is Jared Kushner. He should be arrested.

https://www.globalresearch.ca/donald-trumps-likudist-campaign-against-iran/5614264

[The key figures who had primary influence on both Trump's and Bush's Iran policies held views close to those of Israel's right-wing Likud Party. The main conduit for the Likudist line in the Trump White House is Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, primary foreign policy advisor, and longtime friend and supporter of Netanyahu. Kushner's parents are also long-time supporters of Israeli settlements on the occupied West Bank.

Another figure to whom the Trump White House has turned is John Bolton, undersecretary of state and a key policymaker on Iran in the Bush administration. Although Bolton was not appointed Trump's secretary of state, as he'd hoped, he suddenly reemerged as a player on Iran policy thanks to his relationship with Kushner. Politico reports that Bolton met with Kushner a few days before the final policy statement was released and urged a complete withdrawal from the deal in favor of his own plan for containing Iran.

Bolton spoke with Trump by phone on Thursday about the paragraph in the deal that vowed it would be "terminated" if there was any renegotiation, according to Politico. He was calling Trump from Las Vegas, where he'd been meeting with casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, the third major figure behind Trump's shift towards Israeli issues. Adelson is a Likud supporter who has long been a close friend of Netanyahu's and has used his Israeli tabloid newspaper Israel Hayomto support Netanyahu's campaigns. He was Trump's main campaign contributor in 2016, donating $100 million. Adelson's real interest has been in supporting Israel's interests in Washington -- especially with regard to Iran.]

Miro23 , Next New Comment October 21, 2017 at 4:56 pm GMT
A great article with some excellent points:

Putin's dream of Greater Europe is the death knell for the unipolar world order. It means the economic center of the world will shift to Central Asia where abundant resources and cheap labor of the east will be linked to the technological advances and the Capital the of the west eliminating the need to trade in dollars or recycle profits into US debt. The US economy will slip into irreversible decline, and the global hegemon will steadily lose its grip on power. That's why it is imperative for the US prevail in Ukraine– a critical land bridge connecting the two continents– and to topple Assad in Syria in order to control vital resources and pipeline corridors. Washington must be in a position where it can continue to force its trading partners to denominate their resources in dollars and recycle the proceeds into US Treasuries if it is to maintain its global primacy. The main problem is that Russia is blocking Uncle Sam's path to success which is roiling the political establishment in Washington.

American dominance is very much tied to the dollar's role as the world's reserve currency, and the rest of the world no longer want to fund this bankrupt, warlike state – particularly the Chinese.

First, it confirms that the US did not want to see the jihadist extremists defeated by Russia. These mainly-Sunni militias served as Washington's proxy-army conducting an ambitious regime change operation which coincided with US strategic ambitions.

The CIA run US/Israeli/ISIS alliance.

Second, Zakharova confirms that the western media is not an independent news gathering organization, but a propaganda organ for the foreign policy establishment who dictates what they can and can't say.

They are given the political line and they broadcast it.

The loosening of rules governing the dissemination of domestic propaganda coupled with the extraordinary advances in surveillance technology, create the perfect conditions for the full implementation of an American police state. But what is more concerning, is that the primary levers of state power are no longer controlled by elected officials but by factions within the state whose interests do not coincide with those of the American people. That can only lead to trouble.

At some point Americans are going to get a "War on Domestic Terror" cheered along by the media. More or less the arrest and incarceration of any opposition following the Soviet Bolshevik model.

CanSpeccy , Website Next New Comment October 21, 2017 at 5:11 pm GMT
@utu

On the plus side, everyone now knows that the Anglo-US media from the NY Times to the Economist, from WaPo to the Gruniard, and from the BBC to CNN, the CBC and Weinstein's Hollywood are a worthless bunch of depraved lying bastards.

Thales the Milesian , Next New Comment October 21, 2017 at 5:53 pm GMT
Brennan did this, CIA did that .

So what are you going to do about all this?

Continue to whine?

Continue to keep your head stuck in your ass?

So then continue with your blah, blah, blah, and eat sh*t.

You, disgusting self-elected democratic people/institutions!!!

AB_Anonymous , Next New Comment October 21, 2017 at 5:59 pm GMT
Such a truthful portrait of reality ! The ruling elite is indeed massively corrupt, compromised, and controlled by dark forces. And the police state is already here. For most people, so far, in the form of massive collection of personal data and increasing number of mandatory regulations. But just one or two big false-flags away from progressing into something much worse.

The thing is, no matter how thick the mental cages are, and how carefully they are maintained by the daily massive injections of "certified" truth (via MSM), along with neutralizing or compromising of "troublemakers", the presence of multiple alternative sources in the age of Internet makes people to slip out of these cages one by one, and as the last events show – with acceleration.

It means that there's a fast approaching tipping point after which it'd be impossible for those in power both to keep a nice "civilized" face and to control the "cage-free" population. So, no matter how the next war will be called, it will be the war against the free Internet and free people. That's probably why N. Korean leader has no fear to start one.

Art , Next New Comment October 21, 2017 at 6:18 pm GMT
An aside:

All government secrecy is a curse on mankind. Trump is releasing the JFK murder files to the public. Kudos! Let us hope he will follow up with a full 9/11 investigation.

Think Peace -- Art

Mr. Anon , Next New Comment October 21, 2017 at 7:07 pm GMT
@utu

The objective was to push new administration into the corner from which it could not improve relations with Russia as Trump indicated that he wanted to during the campaign.

Good point. That was probably one of the objectives (and from the point of view of the deep-state, perhaps the most important objective) of the "Russia hacked our democracy" narrative, in addition to the general deligitimization of the Trump administration.

Art , Next New Comment October 21, 2017 at 7:11 pm GMT
And, keep in mind, Washington's Sunni proxies were not a division of the Pentagon; they were entirely a CIA confection: CIA recruited, CIA-armed, CIA-funded and CIA-trained.

Clearly the CIA was making war on Syria. Is secret coercive covert action against sovereign nations Ok? Is it legal? When was the CIA designated a war making entity – what part of the constitution OK's that? Isn't the congress obliged by constitutional law to declare war? (These are NOT six month actions – they go on and on.)

Are committees of six congressman and six senators, who meet in secret, just avoiding the grave constitutional questions of war? We the People cannot even interrogate these politicians. (These politicians make big money in the secrecy swamp when they leave office.)

Syria is only one of many nations that the CIA is attacking – how many countries are we attacking with drones? Where is congress?

Spying is one thing – covert action is another – covert is wrong – it goes against world order. Every year after 9/11 they say things are worse – give them more money more power and they will make things safe. That is BS!

9/11 has opened the flood gates to the US government attacking at will, the various peoples of this Earth. That is NOT our prerogative.

We are being exceptionally arrogant.

Close the CIA – give the spying to the 16 other agencies.

Think Peace -- Art

Rurik , Next New Comment October 21, 2017 at 7:12 pm GMT
@Ben10

right at 1:47

when he says 'we can't move on as a country'

his butt hurt is so ruefully obvious, that I couldn't help notice a wry smile on my face

that bitch spent millions on the war sow, and now all that mullah won't even wipe his butt hurt

when I see ((guys)) like this raging their inner crybaby angst, I feel really, really good about President Trump

MAGA bitches!

Mr. Anon , Next New Comment October 21, 2017 at 7:15 pm GMT
@jilles dykstra

I am reading Howard Zinn, A Peoples History of the USA

A Peoples History of the USA? Which Peoples?

Tradecraft46 , Next New Comment October 21, 2017 at 8:04 pm GMT
I am SAIS 70 so know the drill and the article is on point.

Here is the dealio. Most reporters are dim and have no experience, and it is real easy to lead them by the nose with promises of better in the future.

[Apr 20, 2019] Caitlin Johnstone Debunks All The Assange Smears

Assange actually undermined the key pre-condition of the Deep state existence -- secrecy.
Notable quotes:
"... Have you ever noticed how whenever someone inconveniences the dominant western power structure, the entire political/media class rapidly becomes very, very interested in letting us know how evil and disgusting that person is? It's true of the leader of every nation which refuses to allow itself to be absorbed into the blob of the US-centralized power alliance, it's true of anti-establishment political candidates, and it's true of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. ..."
"... Those of us who value truth and light need to fight this smear campaign in order to keep our fellow man from signing off on a major leap in the direction of Orwellian dystopia, and a big part of that means being able to argue against those smears and disinformation wherever they appear. ..."
"... I  --  Familiarize yourself with common logical fallacies. ..."
"... As an additional point, it cannot be denied that governments around the world have an extensive and well-documented history of using sex to advance strategic agendas in various ways, and there's no valid reason to rule this out as a possibility on any level. ..."
"... The only way to make it feel true for oneself that Assange stands a chance at receiving a fair trial in America is to believe that the US is a just nation with a fair judicial system, especially in the Eastern District of Virginia when trying the cases of people who expose incriminating information about the US war machine. Anyone who believes this has packing foam for brains ..."
"... "No national security defendant has ever won a case in the EDVA [Eastern District of Virginia]," Kiriakou told RT upon Assange's arrest. "In my case, I asked Judge Brinkema to declassify 70 documents that I needed to defend myself. She denied all 70 documents. And so I had literally no defense for myself and was forced to take a plea." ..."
"... HItchen's Razor: "what can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence." ..."
Apr 20, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

Authored by Caitlin Johnstone via Medium.com

Have you ever noticed how whenever someone inconveniences the dominant western power structure, the entire political/media class rapidly becomes very, very interested in letting us know how evil and disgusting that person is? It's true of the leader of every nation which refuses to allow itself to be absorbed into the blob of the US-centralized power alliance, it's true of anti-establishment political candidates, and it's true of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Corrupt and unaccountable power uses its political and media influence to smear Assange because, as far as the interests of corrupt and unaccountable power are concerned, killing his reputation is as good as killing him. If everyone can be paced into viewing him with hatred and revulsion, they'll be far less likely to take WikiLeaks publications seriously, and they'll be far more likely to consent to Assange's imprisonment, thereby establishing a precedent for the future prosecution of leak-publishing journalists around the world. Someone can be speaking 100 percent truth to you, but if you're suspicious of him you won't believe anything he's saying. If they can manufacture that suspicion with total or near-total credence, then as far as our rulers are concerned it's as good as putting a bullet in his head.

Those of us who value truth and light need to fight this smear campaign in order to keep our fellow man from signing off on a major leap in the direction of Orwellian dystopia, and a big part of that means being able to argue against those smears and disinformation wherever they appear. Unfortunately I haven't been able to find any kind of centralized source of information which comprehensively debunks all the smears in a thorough and engaging way, so with the help of hundreds of tips from my readers and social media followers I'm going to attempt to make one here. What follows is my attempt at creating a tool kit people can use to fight against Assange smears wherever they encounter them, by refuting the disinformation with truth and solid argumentation.

This article is an ongoing project which will be updated regularly where it appears on Medium and caitlinjohnstone.com as new information comes in and new smears spring up in need of refutation.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/1efOs0BsE0g

Here's a numbered list of each subject I'll be covering in this article for ease of reference:

How to argue against Assange smears.

  1. "He's not a journalist."
  2. "He's a rapist."
  3. "He was hiding from rape charges in the embassy."
  4. "He's a Russian agent."
  5. "He's being prosecuted for hacking crimes, not journalism."
  6. "He should just go to America and face the music. If he's innocent he's got nothing to fear."
  7. "Well he jumped bail! Of course the UK had to arrest him."
  8. "He's a narcissist/megalomaniac/jerk."
  9. "He's a horrible awful monster for reasons X, Y and Z but I don't think he should be extradited."
  10. "Trump is going to rescue him and they'll work together to end the Deep State. Relax and wait and see."
  11. "He put poop on the walls. Poop poop poopie."
  12. "He's stinky."
  13. "He was a bad houseguest."
  14. "He conspired with Don Jr."
  15. "He only publishes leaks about America."
  16. "He's an antisemite."
  17. "He's a fascist."
  18. "He was a Trump supporter."
  19. "I used to like him until he ruined the 2016 election" / "I used to hate him until he saved the 2016 election."
  20. "He's got blood on his hands."
  21. "He published the details of millions of Turkish women voters."
  22. "He supported right-wing political parties in Australia."
  23. "He endangered the lives of gay Saudis."
  24. "He's a CIA agent/limited hangout."
  25. "He mistreated his cat."
  26. "He's a pedophile."
  27. "He lied about Seth Rich."

Wow! That's a lot! Looking at that list you can only see two possibilities:

  1. Julian Assange, who published many inconvenient facts about the powerful and provoked the wrath of opaque and unaccountable government agencies, is literally the worst person in the whole entire world, OR
  2. Julian Assange, who published many inconvenient facts about the powerful and provoked the wrath of opaque and unaccountable government agencies, is the target of a massive, deliberate disinformation campaign designed to kill the public's trust in him.

As it happens, historian Vijay Prashad noted in a recent interview with Chris Hedges that in 2008 a branch of the US Defense Department did indeed set out to "build a campaign to eradicate 'the feeling of trust of WikiLeaks and their center of gravity' and to destroy Assange's reputation."

Let's begin.

How to argue against Assange smears

Before we get into refuting the specific points of disinformation, I'd like to share a few tips which I've found useful in my own experience with engaging people online who are circulating smears against Julian Assange.

A  --  Be clear that your goal is to fight against a disinformation campaign, not to "win" or to change the mind of the person you're arguing with.

If our interest is in advancing the cause of truth, we're not trying to get into arguments with people for egoic gratification, nor are we trying to change the mind of the smearer. Our first and foremost goal is to spread the truth to the people who are witnessing the interaction, who are always the target audience for the smear. Doesn't matter if it's an argument at the Thanksgiving dinner table or a Twitter thread witnessed by thousands: your goal is to disinfect the smear with truth and solid argumentation so everyone witnessing is inoculated from infection.

So perform for that audience like a lawyer for the jury. When the smearer refuses to respond to your challenges, when they share false information, when they use a logical fallacy, when they are intellectually dishonest, call it out and draw attention to what they're doing. When it comes to other subjects there are a wide range of opinions that may be considered right or wrong depending on how you look at them, but when it comes to the whether or not it's acceptable for Assange to be imprisoned for his publishing activities you can feel confident that you'll always have truth on your side. So use facts and good argumentation to make the smearer look worse than they're trying to make Assange look, thereby letting everyone know that this person isn't an honest and trustworthy source of information.

B  --  Remember that whoever you're debating probably doesn't really know much about the claim they're making.

Last night I had a guy confidently assuring me that Assange and Chelsea Manning had teamed up to get Donald Trump elected in 2016. Most people just bleat whatever they think they've heard people they trust and people around them saying; when they make a claim about Assange, it's not usually because they've done a ton of research on the subject and examined possible counter-arguments, it's because it's an unquestioned doctrine within their echo chamber, and it may never have even occurred to them that someone might question it.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/jS-sxJFn6O0

For a perfect example of this, check out the New York Times ' Bari Weiss experiencing an existential meltdown on The Joe Rogan Experience when the host simply asked her to substantiate her claim that Tulsi Gabbard is an "Assad toadie". Weiss only ever operates within a tight establishment echo chamber, so when challenged on a claim she'd clearly only picked up secondhand from other people she turned into a sputtering mess.

Most people you'll encounter who smear Assange online are pulling a Bari Weiss to some extent, so point out the obvious gaps in their knowledge for the audience when they make nonsensical claims, and make it clear to everyone that they have no idea what they're talking about.

C  --  Remember that they're only ever running from their own cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance is the psychological discomfort we experience when we try to hold two strongly contradictory ideas as true at the same time, like the idea that we live in a free liberal democracy and the idea that a journalist is being imprisoned for publishing facts about the US government right in front of us.

Rank-and-file citizens generally help the mass media propagandists smear Assange not to help protect the world from the influence of a dangerous individual, but to protect themselves from cognitive dissonance. People find themselves eager to believe smears about Assange because the raw facts revealed by WikiLeaks publications punch giant holes in the stories about the kind of world, nation and society that most people have been taught to believe they live in since school age. These kinds of beliefs are interwoven with people's entire egoic structures, with their sense of self and who they are as a person, so narratives which threaten to tear them apart can feel the same as a personal attack. This is why you'll hear ordinary citizens talking about Assange with extreme emotion as though he'd attacked them personally; all he did was publish facts about the powerful , but since those facts conflict with tightly held identity constructs, the cognitive dissonance he caused them to experience can be interpreted as feeling like he'd slapped them in the face.

Ordinary citizens often find themselves eager to believe the smear campaigns against Assange because it's easier than believing that their government would participate in the deliberate silencing and imprisoning of a journalist for publishing facts. The fact that Assange's persecution is now exposing the ugly face of imperial tyranny presents them with even more to defend.

It might look like they're playing offense, but they're playing defense. They're attacking Assange because they feel the need to defend themselves from cognitive dissonance.

If people are acting strangely emotional and triggered when it comes to the issue of imprisoning Assange, it's got very little to do with facts and everything to do with the dynamics of psychological identity structures. There's not necessarily any benefit in pointing this out during a debate, but it helps to understand where people are coming from and why they're acting that way. Keep pointing out that people's feelings have no bearing on the threats that are posed to all of us by Assange's prosecution.

D  --  Remember that the burden of proof is on the one making the claim.

"Prove your claim." Use this phrase early and often. It's amazing how frequently I see people blurting out assertions about Assange that I know for a fact they have no way of proving: that he's a Russian agent, that he's a rapist, that he's a CIA asset, etc, which ties in with Point B above. The burden of proof is always on the party making the claim , so if they refuse to do this you can publicly dismiss their argument. If someone comes in making a specific claim about Assange, make them present the specific information they're basing their claim on so that you can refute it. If they refuse, call them out on it publicly. Never let them get away with the fallacious tactic of shifting the burden of proof onto you, and remember that anything which has been asserted without evidence may be dismissed without evidence .

E  --  Never let them trick you into expending more energy than they're expending.

This one's important. The internet is full of genuinely trollish individuals who spend their time acting out their inner pain by trying to suck the life out of other people, and political discussion is certainly no exception to this. A common tactic is to use short phrases, half-thoughts, or word salads which contain few facts and no actual arguments, but contain just enough of a jab to suck you into wasting energy making thorough, well-sourced arguments while they just lean back and continue making weak, low-energy responses to keep you going. This enables them to waste your time and frustrate you while expending little energy themselves, while also not having to reveal the fact that they don't know much about the subject at hand and don't really have an argument.

Don't let them lean back. Force them to lean in. If someone makes an unsubstantiated assertion, a brief quip, or a vague insinuation, tell them "Make an actual argument using complete thoughts or go away." If they throw an unintelligible word salad at you (a tactic that is also common in abusers with narcissistic personality disorder because it tricks the abusee into falling all over themselves guessing how to respond appropriately, thereby giving the abuser power), tell them "That's gibberish. Articulate yourself using clear arguments or go away."

This often enrages them, partly because they've generally been getting away with this tactic their entire lives so they feel entitled to demand compliance with it from you, and partly because you're forcing a very unconscious and unattractive part of themselves into attention and consciousness. But if they're interested in having a real and intellectually honest debate they'll do it; if they're not they won't. If they refuse to provide you with lucid, complete arguments that meet their burden of proof, make a show of dismissing them for their refusal to do so, and say you're doing it because they're too dishonest to have a real debate.

Never chase them. Make them chase you. Never let them lead the dance chasing them around trying to correct their straw man reframing of your actual words or guessing what their word salads are trying to articulate. Make them do the work they're trying to make you do. Force them to either extend themselves into the light where their arguments can be properly scrutinized, or to disqualify themselves by refusing to.

F  --  When attacking disinformation on Twitter, use this tactic:

If you see a high-profile Twitter account sharing disinformation about Assange, debunk their disinfo as clearly and concisely as possible, then retweet your response to your followers. Your followers will like and retweet your response, sending it further up the thread so that casual viewers of the disinfo tweet will often also see your response debunking it. If your response is text-only, include a screenshot or the URL of the tweet you're responding to before retweeting your response so that your followers can see the awful post you're responding to. It comes out looking like this:

This serves the dual function of offsetting the damage done by their smear and alerting your followers to come and help fight the disinfo.

G  --  Point out at every opportunity that they are advancing a smear.

Never miss an opportunity to point out to everyone witnessing the exchange that the other party is advancing a smear that is being promulgated by the mass media to manufacture consent for the imprisonment of a journalist who exposed US war crimes. Keep the conversation in context for everyone: this isn't just two people having a difference of opinion, this is one person circulating disinformation which facilitates the agendas of the most powerful people in the world (including the Trump administration, which you should always point out repeatedly if you know they hate Trump), and the other person trying to stop the flow of disinfo. Every time you expose a hole in one of their arguments, add in the fact that this is a dishonest smear designed to benefit the powerful, and that they are helping to advance it.

H  --  Make it about Assange's imprisonment and extradition.

One of the very few advantages to Assange being behind bars in the UK's version of Guantanamo Bay instead of holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy is that the arguments are so much clearer and more honest now. You can no longer get away with claiming that Assange is just a coward hiding from justice who can "leave whenever he wants" and present yourself as merely a casual observer who just happens to want to share his opinion that the WikiLeaks founder is a fascist Russian spy rapist who smells bad and mistreats his cat, because you will always be entering a discussion involving the fact that Assange is in prison awaiting extradition to the United States. You are therefore always necessarily either supporting the extradition or distracting from the conversation about it.

So make that clear to everyone watching. Make them own it. They either support the imprisonment and extradition of Assange for his role in the Manning leaks, or they're interrupting grown-ups who are trying to have an adult conversation about it. If they support Assange's imprisonment and extradition to the United States, that clarifies your line of argumentation, and it makes them look like the bootlicking empire sycophants they are. Keep the fact that they support the extradition and imprisonment of a journalist for publishing facts on the front burner of the conversation, and keep making them own it.

I  --  Familiarize yourself with common logical fallacies.

It's fascinating how often people resort to fallacious debate tactics when arguing about Assange. One of the most interesting things to me right now is how the unconscious behaviors of our civilization is mirrored in the unconsciousness of the individuals who support those behaviors. Those who support Assange's persecution are generally very averse to an intellectually honest relationship with their own position, and with the arguments against their position that they encounter.

So get familiar with basic fallacious debate tactics like straw man arguments (claiming that you have a position that is different from the one you've actually put forth and then attacking that fake position they invented, e.g. "You're defending Assange because you worship him and think he's perfect"), ad hominems (using personal attacks instead of an argument, e.g. "Assange is stinky and smeared poo on the embassy walls"), and appeals to emotion (using emotionally charged statements as a substitute for facts and reason, e.g. "You're defending Assange because you're a rape apologist"). These will give you a conceptual framework for those situations where it feels like the person you're arguing with is being squirmy and disingenuous, but you can't really put your finger on how.

J  --  Rely as much on fact and as little on opinion as possible.

Don't get sucked into emotional exchanges about opinions. Facts are what matter here, and, as you will see throughout the rest of this article, the facts are on your side. Make sure you're familiar with them.

And now for the smears:

Smear 1: "He is not a journalist."

Yes he is . Publishing relevant information so the public can inform themselves about what's going on in their world is the thing that journalism is. Which is why Assange was just awarded the GUE/NGL Award for "Journalists, Whistleblowers and Defenders of the Right to Information" the other day, why the WikiLeaks team has racked up many prestigious awards for journalism, and why Assange is a member of Australia's media union . Only when people started seriously stressing about the very real threats that his arrest poses to press freedoms did it become fashionable to go around bleating "Assange is not a journalist."

The argument, if you can call it that, is that since Assange doesn't practice journalism in a conventional way, there's no way his bogus prosecution for his role in the Manning leaks could possibly constitute a threat to other journalists around the world who might want to publish leaked documents exposing US government malfeasance. This argument is a reprisal of a statement made by Trump's then-CIA director Mike Pompeo, who proclaimed that WikiLeaks is not a journalistic outlet at all but a "hostile non-state intelligence service", a designation he made up out of thin air the same way the Trump administration designated Juan Guaido the president of Venezuela, the Golan Heights a part of Israel, and Iran's military a terrorist organization. Pompeo argued that since WikiLeaks was now this label he made up, it enjoys no free press protections and shall therefore be eliminated.

So they're already regurgitating propaganda narratives straight from the lips of the Trump administration, but more importantly, their argument is nonsense. As I discuss in the essay hyperlinked here , once the Assange precedent has been set by the US government, the US government isn't going to be relying on your personal definition of what journalism is; they're going to be using their own, based on their own interests. The next time they want to prosecute someone for doing anything similar to what Assange did, they're just going to do it, regardless of whether you believe that next person to have been a journalist or not. It's like these people imagine that the US government is going to show up at their doorstep saying "Yes, hello, we wanted to imprison this journalist based on the precedent we set with the prosecution of Julian Assange, but before doing so we wanted to find out how you feel about whether or not they're a journalist."

Pure arrogance and myopia.

Smear 2: "He's a rapist."

... ... ...

"Sources in Swedish intelligence told me at the time that they believed the U.S. had encouraged Sweden to pursue the case," The Intercept 's Charles Glass reported .

Sometimes smearers will try to falsely claim that Assange or his lawyers admitted that Assange committed rape or pushed its boundaries during the legal proceedings, citing mass media reports on a strategy employed by Assange's legal team of arguing that what Assange was accused of wouldn't constitute rape even if true . This conventional legal strategy was employed as a means of avoiding extradition and in no way constituted an admission that events happened in the way alleged, yet mass media reports like this one deliberately twisted it to appear that way. Neither Assange nor his lawyers have ever made any such admission.

For more information on the details of the rape accusation, check out this 2012 4 Corners segment titled "Sex, Lies, and Julian Assange", this 2016 Observer article titled "Exclusive New Docs Throw Doubt on Julian Assange Rape Charges in Stockholm", this John Pilger article titled "Getting Julian Assange: The Untold Story", this Justice Integrity Report article titled "Assange Rape Defense Underscores Shameful Swedish, U.S. Tactics", and the aforementioned ten minute Youtube video .

So there's a lot fishy going on there. From the sounds of it, Wilen privately complained to Ardin that she'd had some unpleasant sexual experiences with Assange, then Ardin and her associates twisted those complaints in the most severe way possible, and when Wilen refused to accuse Assange Ardin began claiming that she had also been criminally violated using an assertion about a condom which DNA evidence contradicts.

I see a lot of well-meaning Assange defenders using some very weak and unhelpful arguments against this smear, suggesting for example that having unprotected sex without the woman's permission shouldn't qualify as sexual assault or that if Ardin had been assaulted she would necessarily have conducted herself differently afterward. Any line of argumentation like that is going to look very cringey to people like myself who believe rape culture is a ubiquitous societal illness that needs to be rolled back far beyond the conventional understanding of rape as a stranger in a dark alley forcibly penetrating some man's wife or daughter at knifepoint. Don't try to justify what Assange is accused of having done, just point out that there's no actual evidence that he is guilty of rape and that very powerful people have clearly been pulling some strings behind the scenes of this narrative.

As an additional point, it cannot be denied that governments around the world have an extensive and well-documented history of using sex to advance strategic agendas in various ways, and there's no valid reason to rule this out as a possibility on any level.

Finally, the fact remains that even if Assange were somehow to be proven guilty of rape, the argument "he's a rapist" is not a legitimate reason to support a US extradition and prosecution which would set a precedent that poses a threat to press freedoms everywhere. "He's a rapist" and "It's okay that the western legal system is funneling him into the Eastern District of Virginia for his publishing activities" are two completely different thoughts that have nothing whatsoever to do with each other, so anyone attempting to associate the two in any way has made a bad argument and should feel bad.

Smear 3: "He was hiding from rape charges in the embassy."

No he wasn't, he was hiding from US extradition. And his arrest this month under a US extradition warrant proved that he was right to do so.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/KU2gDGY43Zg

People who claim Assange was "hiding from rape charges" are necessarily implicitly making two transparently absurd claims: one, that Assange had no reason to fear US extradition, and two, that Ecuador was lying about its official reasons for granting him asylum  --  that in fact the Correa government was just in the business of protecting people from rape charges for some weird reason.

For its part, the Ecuadorian government was crystal clear in its official statement about the reasons it was providing Assange asylum, saying that "there are serious indications of retaliation by the country or countries that produced the information disclosed by Mr. Assange, retaliation that can put at risk his safety, integrity and even his life," and that "the judicial evidence shows clearly that, given an extradition to the United States, Mr. Assange would not have a fair trial, he could be judged by a special or military court, and it is not unlikely that he would receive a cruel and demeaning treatment and he would be condemned to a life sentence or the death penalty, which would not respect his human rights."

... ... ...

Smear 4: "He's a Russian agent."

Not even the US government alleges that WikiLeaks knowingly coordinated with the Kremlin in the 2016 publication of Democratic Party emails; the Robert Mueller Special Counsel alleged only that Guccifer 2.0 was the source of those emails and that Guccifer 2.0 was a persona covertly operated by Russian conspirators. The narrative that Assange worked for or knowingly conspired with the Russian government is a hallucination of the demented Russia hysteria which has infected all corners of mainstream political discourse. There is no evidence for it whatsoever, and anyone making this claim should be corrected and dismissed.

But we don't even need to concede that much. To this day we have been presented with exactly zero hard evidence of the US government's narrative about Russian hackers, and in a post-Iraq invasion world there's no good reason to accept that. We've seen assertions from opaque government agencies and their allied firms within the US-centralized power alliance, but assertions are not evidence. We've seen indictments from Mueller, but indictments are assertions and assertions are not evidence. We've seen claims in the Mueller report, but the timeline is riddled with plot holes , and even if it wasn't, claims in the Mueller report are not evidence. This doesn't mean that Russia would never use hackers to interfere in world political affairs or that Vladimir Putin is some sort of virtuous girl scout, it just means that in a post-Iraq invasion world, only herd-minded human livestock believe the unsubstantiated assertions of opaque and unaccountable government agencies about governments who are oppositional to those same agencies.

If the public can't see the evidence, then as far as the public is concerned there is no evidence. Invisible evidence is not evidence, no matter how many government officials assure us it exists.

The only reason the majority believes that Russia is known to have interfered in America's 2016 election is because news outlets have been repeatedly referring to this narrative as an established and proven fact, over and over and over again, day after day, for years. People take this repetition as a substitute for proof due to a glitch in human psychology known as the illusory truth effect , a phenomenon which causes our brains to tend to interpret things we've heard before as known truths. But repetitive assertions are not the same as known truths.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/uyCOy25GdjQ

For his part, Julian Assange has stated unequivocally that he knows for a fact that the Russian government was not WikiLeaks' source for the emails, telling Fox News in January 2017 that "our source is not the Russian government or any state party." You may be as skeptical or as trusting of his claim as you like, but the fact of the matter is that no evidence has ever been made public which contradicts him. Any claim that he's lying is therefore unsubstantiated.

This is the best argument there is. A lot of people like to bring up the fact that there are many experts who dispute the Russian hacking narrative, saying there's evidence that the DNC download happened via local thumb drive and not remote exfiltration, but in my opinion that's generally poor argumentation when you're disputing the narrative about WikiLeaks' source. It's a poor tactic because it shifts the burden of proof onto you, making yourself into the claimant and then forcing you to defend complicated claims about data transfer rates and so on which most people viewing the argument won't understand, even if you do. There's no reason to self-own like that and put yourself in a position of playing defense when you can just go on the offense with anyone claiming to know that Russia was WikiLeaks' source and just say "Prove your claim," then poke holes in their arguments.

There is no evidence that Assange ever provided any assistance to the Russian government, knowingly or unknowingly. In fact, WikiLeaks has published hundreds of thousands of documents pertaining to Russia, has made critical comments about the Russian government and defended dissident Russian activists, and in 2017 published an entire trove called the Spy Files Russia exposing Russian surveillance practices.

Of course, the only reason this smear is coming up lately is because people want to believe that the recent imprisonment of Julian Assange has anything to do with the 2016 WikiLeaks email publications. It isn't just the propagandized rank-and-file who are making this false claim all over the internet, but Democratic Party leaders like House Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Center for American Progress president Neera Tanden . As we should all be aware by now, Assange's completely illegitimate arrest in fact had nothing whatsoever to do with 2016 or Russia, but with the 2010 Manning leaks exposing US war crimes. Anyone claiming otherwise is simply informing you that they are brainwashed by Russia conspiracy theories and have no interest in changing that character flaw.

The smearer may claim "Well, he toes the Kremlin line!" When you ask them to explain what that means, they'll tell you it means that WikiLeaks speaks out against western interventionist and war propaganda narratives like Trump's bombing of Syria, or their criticism of the establishment Russia narrative which tries to incriminate WikiLeaks itself. That's not "toeing the Kremlin line," that's being anti-interventionist and defending yourself from evidence-free smears. Nobody who's viewed their 2010 video Collateral Murder will doubt that criticism of the US war machine is built into the DNA of WikiLeaks, and is central to its need to exist in the first place.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/5rXPrfnU3G0

In reality, anyone who opposes western interventionism will see themselves tarred as Russian agents if they achieve a high enough profile, and right-wing empire sycophants were fond of doing so years before the brainwashed Maddow Muppets joined them. Russia, like many sovereign nations, opposes western interventionism for its own reasons, so anyone sufficiently dedicated to their own mental contortions can point at a critic of western imperialism and say "Look! They oppose this subject, and so does Russia! They're the same thing!" In reality a westerner opposing western interventionism is highly unlikely to have any particular loyalty to Russia, and opposes western interventionism not to protect their own geostrategic agendas as Moscow does, but because western interventionism is consistently evil, deceitful and disastrous.

The smearer may claim, "Well he had a show on RT in 2012!" So? What other network would air a TV program hosted by Julian Assange? Name one. I'll wait. If you can't name one, consider the possibility that Assange's appearances on RT were due to the fact that western mass media have completely deplatformed all antiwar voices and all criticism of the political status quo, a fact they could choose to change any time and steal RT's entire audience and all their talent. The fact that they choose not to shows that they're not worried about RT, they're worried about dissident thinkers like Assange.

In reality, Assange's 2012 show "The World Tomorrow" was produced separately from RT and only picked up for airing by that network, in exactly the same way as Larry King's show has been picked up and aired by RT. Nobody who isn't wearing a tinfoil pussyhat believes that Larry King is a Russian agent, and indeed King is adamant and vocal about the fact that he doesn't work for RT and takes no instruction from them.

The only people claiming that Assange is a Russian agent are those who are unhappy with the things that WikiLeaks publications have exposed, whether that be US war crimes or the corrupt manipulations of Democratic Party leaders. It's a completely unfounded smear and should be treated as such.

Smear 5: "He's being prosecuted for hacking crimes, not journalism."

No, he's being prosecuted for journalism. Assange is being prosecuted based on the exact same evidence that the Obama administration had access to when it was investigated him to see if he could be prosecuted for his role in the Manning leaks, but the Obama administration ruled it was impossible to prosecute him based on that evidence because it would endanger press freedoms. This is because, as explained by The Intercept 's Micah Lee and Glenn Greenwald, the things Assange is accused of doing are things journalists do all the time: attempting to help a source avoid detection, taking steps to try to hide their communications, and encouraging Manning to provide more material. This is all Assange is accused of; there is no "hacking" alleged in the indictment itself.

Joe Emersberger of Fair.org notes the following :

Now Assange could be punished even more brutally if the UK extradites him to the US, where he is charged with a "conspiracy" to help Manning crack a password that "would have" allowed her to cover her tracks more effectively. In other words, the alleged help with password-cracking didn't work, and is not what resulted in the information being disclosed. It has also not been shown that it was Assange who offered the help, according to Kevin Gosztola ( Shadowproof , 4/11/19 ). The government's lack of proof of its charges might explain why Manning is in jail again.
The indictment goes even further, criminalizing the use of an electronic "drop box" and other tactics that investigative journalists routinely use in the computer age to work with a confidential source "for the purpose of publicly disclosing" information.

The only thing that changed between the Obama administration and the Trump administration is an increased willingness to attack journalism. Assange is being prosecuted for journalism.

Furthermore, there's every reason to believe that this new charge which the Trump administration pulled out of thin air is only a ploy to get Assange onto US soil, where he can be smashed with far more serious charges including espionage . Pentagon Papers lawyer James Goodale writes the following :

Under the U.S.-U.K. extradition treaty, one cannot be extradited from the United Kingdom if the extradition is for "political purposes." This explains why the indictment does not contain any charges alleging that Assange conspired with the Russians to impact the 2016 presidential election. It may also explain why the indictment focuses on hacking government computers rather than on leaking stolen government information, in as much as leaking could be characterized as being done for political purposes.
When Assange arrives in the United States through extradition, as many expect he will, the government will then be able to indict him for his participation in that election. It is not out of the question that the government will come up with additional charges against Assange.

If that happens, Assange will not be spending the five years behind bars for computer offenses that his current charge allows, he'll be spending decades.

"I don't think Julian is looking at five years in prison, I think he's probably looking at 50 years in prison," said CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou, who was the first person tried in the US for leaking classified materials to a journalist under Obama's crackdown on whistleblowers.

"I think that there are many more charges to be considered for Julian," Kiriakou added. "I would expect a superseding indictment, possibly to include espionage charges."

There is no legitimate reason to feel confident that this won't happen, and there are many reasons to believe that it will. All for publishing truthful documents about the powerful. Assange is being prosecuted for journalism.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/d46FKzTmfNg

It's also worth noting here that President Executive Order 13526, section 1.7 explicitly forbids the classification of material in order to hide government malfeasance, meaning it's perfectly reasonable to argue that Manning did not in fact break a legitimate law, and that those prosecuting her did.

"In no case shall information be classified, continue to be maintained as classified, or fail to be declassified in order to: (1) conceal violations of law, inefficiency, or administrative error; (2) prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency," the section reads, while Manning's lawyer has argued the following :

"The information released by PFC Manning, while certainly greater in scope than most leaks, did not contain any Top Secret or compartmentalized information. The leaked information also did not discuss any current or ongoing military missions. Instead, the Significant Activity Reports (SIGACTs, Guantanamo detainee assessments, Apache Aircrew video, diplomatic cables, and other released documents dealt with events that were either publicly known or certainly no longer sensitive at the time of release."

There was no legitimate reason for what Manning leaked to have been classified; it was only kept so to avoid US government embarrassment. Which was illegal. To quote Assange : "The overwhelming majority of information is classified to protect political security, not national security."

Smear 6: "He should just go to America and face the music. If he's innocent he's got nothing to fear."

This is the new "He can leave the embassy whenever he wants." Except this one's also being bleated by Trump supporters.

The only way to make it feel true for oneself that Assange stands a chance at receiving a fair trial in America is to believe that the US is a just nation with a fair judicial system, especially in the Eastern District of Virginia when trying the cases of people who expose incriminating information about the US war machine. Anyone who believes this has packing foam for brains.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/oU9_P9ufKpE

"No national security defendant has ever won a case in the EDVA [Eastern District of Virginia]," Kiriakou told RT upon Assange's arrest. "In my case, I asked Judge Brinkema to declassify 70 documents that I needed to defend myself. She denied all 70 documents. And so I had literally no defense for myself and was forced to take a plea."

"He will not, he cannot get a fair trial," Kiriakou said on a Unity4J vigil when Assange was still at the embassy. "It's impossible, because the deck is stacked. And everybody knows what's gonna happen if he comes back to the Eastern District of Virginia. This is the same advice I gave Ed Snowden: don't come home, because you can't get a fair trial here. Julian doesn't have the choice, and that's what frightens me even more."

Assange is indeed being extradited to face trial in the Eastern District of Virginia . Manning herself did not get a fair trial according to her lawyer . Anyone who thinks Assange can expect anything resembling justice upon arrival on US soil has their head in something. Power doesn't work that way. Grow up.

Smear 7: "Well he jumped bail! Of course the UK had to arrest him."

Never in my life have I seen so many people so deeply, deeply concerned about the proper adherence to the subtle technicalities of bail protocol as when Sweden dropped its rape investigation, leaving only a bail violation warrant standing between Assange and freedom. All of a sudden I had establishment loyalists telling me how very, very important it is that Assange answer for his horrible, horrible crime of taking political asylum from persecution at the hands of the most violent government on the planet to the mild inconvenience of whoever had to fill out the paperwork.

This smear is soundly refuted in this lucid article by Simon Floth, which was endorsed by the Defend Assange Campaign. Froth explains that under British law bail is only breached if there's a failure to meet bail "without reasonable cause", which the human right to seek asylum certainly is. The UK was so deeply concerned about this bail technicality that it waited a full nine days before issuing an arrest warrant.

After the Swedish government decided to drop its sexual assault investigation without issuing any charges, Assange's legal team attempted last year to get the warrant dropped. The judge in that case, Emma Arbuthnot, just happens to be married to former Tory junior Defence Minister and government whip James Arbuthnot, who served as director of Security Intelligence Consultancy SC Strategy Ltd with a former head of MI6. Lady Arbuthnot denied Assange's request with extreme vitriol, despite his argument that British law does have provisions which allow for the time he'd already served under house arrest to count toward far more time than would be served for violating bail. The British government kept police stationed outside the embassy at taxpayers' expense with orders to arrest Assange on sight.

This, like America's tweaking the law in such a way that allows it to prosecute him for journalism and Ecuador's tweaking its asylum laws in such a way that allowed it to justify revoking Assange's asylum, was another way a government tweaked the law in such a way that allowed it to facilitate Assange's capture and imprisonment. These three governments all tweaked the law in unison in such a way that when looked at individually don't look totalitarian, but when taken together just so happen to look exactly the same as imprisoning a journalist for publishing inconvenient truths.

Smear 8: "He's a narcissist/megalomaniac/jerk."

Assange has been enduring hardships far worse than most people ever have to go through in their lifetime because of his dedication to the lost art of using journalism to hold power to account. If that's what a narcissist/megalomaniac/jerk looks like to you, then whatever I guess.

But really the primary response to this smear is a simple, so what? So what if the guy's got a personality you don't like? What the hell does that have to do with anything? What bearing does that have on the fact that a journalist is being prosecuted in a legal agenda which threatens to set a precedent which is destructive to press freedoms around the world?

So many of the most common Assange smears boil down to simple ad hominem fallacy , in which the person is attacked because the smearer has no real argument. Pointing out the absence of an actual argument is a more effective weapon against this smear than trying to argue that Assange is a nice person or whatever. Plenty of people say Assange has a pleasant personality, but that's ultimately got nothing to do with anything. It's no more material to meaningful discourse than arguing over his physical appearance.

Smear 9: "He's a horrible awful monster for reasons X, Y and Z but I don't think he should be extradited."

I always mentally translate this one into "I'm going to keep advancing the same propaganda narratives which manufactured public consent for Assange's current predicament but I don't want people to see my name on the end result."

Even if you hate Assange as a man and as a public figure with every fiber of your being, there is no legitimate reason to turn yourself into a pro bono propagandist for the CIA and the US State Department. If you actually do sincerely oppose his extradition, then you should be responsible with the narratives you choose to circulate about him, because smears kill public support and public demand is what can prevent his extradition. If you're just pretending to truly oppose his extradition in order to maintain your public wokeness cred and you really just wanted to throw in a few more smears, then you're a twat.

When looked at in its proper context, what we are witnessing is the slow-motion assassination of Assange via narrative/lawfare, so by couching your support in smears it's just like you're helping put a few bullets in the gun but loudly letting everyone know that you hope they shoot the blank.

Smear 10: "Trump is going to rescue him and they'll work together to end the Deep State. Relax and wait and see."

Make no mistake, this is a smear, and it's just as pernicious as any of the others. People who circulate this hogwash are hurting Assange just as much as the MSNBC mainliners who hate him overtly, even if they claim to support him. At a time when we should all be shaking the earth and demanding freedom for Assange, a certain strain of Trump supporter is going around telling everyone, "Relax, Trump has a plan. Wait and see."

I've been told to calm down and "wait and see" many times since Assange's arrest. What "wait and see" really means is "do nothing." Don't do anything. Trust that this same Trump administration which issued an arrest warrant for Assange in December 2017 , whose CIA director labeled WikiLeaks a "hostile non-state intelligence service" and pledged to destroy it, trust them to do the right thing instead of the wrong thing. Do absolutely nothing in the meantime, and especially don't help put political pressure on Trump to end Assange's persecution.

This strategy benefits someone, and that someone ain't Assange.

Please stop doing this. If you support Assange, stop doing this. Even if you're still chugging the Q-laid and still believe the reality TV star who hired John Bolton as his National Security Advisor is actually a brilliant strategist making incomprehensibly complex 8-D chess moves to thwart the Deep State, even if you believe all that, surely you'll concede that there's no harm in people pressuring Trump to do the right thing and end the persecution of Assange? If he really is a beneficent wizard, there'd surely be no harm in making a lot of noise telling him he'd better pardon Assange, right? Then why spend your energy running around telling everyone to relax and stop protesting?

One argument I keep encountering is that Trump is bringing Assange to America for trial because he can only pardon him after he's been convicted. This is false. A US president can pardon anyone at any time of any crime against the United States, without their having been convicted and without their even having been charged. After leaving office Richard Nixon was issued a full presidential pardon by Gerald Ford for "all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in during the period from January 20, 1969 through August 9,1974." Nixon had never been charged with anything. If Trump were going to pardon Assange he could have done it at any time since taking office, instead of issuing a warrant for his arrest in December 2017 and executing it on Thursday after a series of international legal manipulations . A pardon is not in the plans.

Another common belief I keep encountering is that Trump is bringing Assange to America to get him to testify about his source for the 2016 Democratic Party emails in exchange for a pardon, thereby revealing the truth about Russiagate's origins and bringing down Clinton and Obama. This is false. Everyone who knows anything about Assange (including the Trump administration) knows that he will never, ever reveal a source under any circumstances whatsoever. It would be a cardinal journalistic sin, a violation of every promise WikiLeaks has ever made, and a betrayal of his entire life's work. More importantly, imprisoning a journalist and threatening him with a heavy sentence to coerce him into giving up information against his will is evil.

But that isn't what Trump is doing. Trump is pursuing the imprisonment of a journalist for exposing US war crimes, so that he can scare off future leak publishers and set a legal precedent for their prosecution.

Smear 11: "He put poop on the walls. Poop poop poopie."

Of all the Assange smears I've encountered, I think this one best epitomizes the entire overarching establishment narrative churn on the subject. Like the rest of the smear campaign, it's a completely unsubstantiated claim designed not to advance a logical argument about the current facts of Assange's situation but to provoke disgust and revulsion towards him, so that when you think of Julian Assange you don't think about press freedoms and government transparency, you think about poo. In a way it's actually more honest than some of the other smears, just because it's so obvious about what it is and what it's trying to do.

People who advance this smear are literally always acting in very bad faith. As of this writing I've never even bothered trying to engage anyone in debate on the matter, because they're too gross and too internally tormented to make interacting with them anything but unpleasant, so I have no advice to give on how to argue with such creatures. Personally I just block them.

There is no reason to believe that this smear is true (his lawyer flatly denies it ), and the Ecuadorian government would have had every incentive to lie in order to try and justify its revocation of asylum which WikiLeaks says is "in violation of international law." However, it's worth taking a minute to consider the fact that if this smear were true, the people running around mocking Assange and making poop jokes about him on social media today would be even more depraved. Because what would it mean if Assange really were spreading feces on the wall? It would mean that he'd cracked under the pressure of his embassy imprisonment and lost his mind. Which would mean that these people are running around mocking a man who's been driven to psychosis by his abusive circumstances. Which would be despicable.

Smear 12: "He's stinky."

It's amazing how many mainstream media publications have thought it newsworthy to write articles about Assange's body odor. Try advocating for him on any public forum, however, and you'll immediately understand the intention behind this smear. Try to argue against the extradition of a journalist for publishing inconvenient facts about the powerful, and you'll be swarmed by people making scoffing comments about how stinky and disgusting he is. As though that has anything to do with anything whatsoever.

For the record, people who visit Assange commonly report that he's clean and smells normal, but that's really beside the point. Trying to turn a discussion about a journalist who is being prosecuted by the US empire for publishing truth into a discussion about personal hygiene is despicable, and anyone who does it should feel bad.

Smear 13: "He was a bad houseguest."

What he actually was was a target of the US war machine. The "bad houseguest" narrative serves only to distract from Ecuador's role in turning Assange over to the Metropolitan police instead of holding to the reasons it granted Assange asylum in the first place, and to seed disgust as in Smear 11 and Smear 12.

What actually happened was that Ecuador's new president Lenin Moreno quickly found himself being courted by the US government after taking office, meeting with Vice President Mike Pence and reportedly discussing Assange after US Democratic senators petitioned Pence to push for Moreno to revoke political asylum. The New York Times reported last year that in 2017 Trump's sleazy goon Paul Manafort met with Moreno and offered to broker a deal where Ecuador could receive debt relief aid in exchange for handing Assange over, and just last month Ecuador ended up receiving a 4.2 billion dollar loan from the Washington-based IMF. And then, lo and behold, we just so happen to see Ecuador justifying the revocation of political asylum under the absurd claim that Assange had violated conditions that were only recently invented , using narratives that were based on wild distortions and outright lies .

Smear 14: "He conspired with Don Jr."

No he didn't. The email exchanges between Donald Trump Jr and the WikiLeaks Twitter account reveal nothing other than two parties trying to extract favors from each other, unsuccessfully. Here's what the WikiLeaks account sent:

The password to the website is getting a lot of attention as of this writing since the release of the Mueller report, with Slate going so far as to argue that Don Jr may be guilty of violating "the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which makes it illegal to access a computer using a stolen password without authorization" since he did use the password. This is nonsense. WikiLeaks didn't send Trump a password which enabled him to "access a computer", or do anything other than preview a website that was actively being publicized and viewed by many people using the same password.

The password WikiLeaks gave him was a press pass to preview a Russiagate website which was about to launch. Here's a hyperlink to an archive of a ( now missing ) article which discussed the website's launch at the time. The article shares an email that was being passed around clearly showing that many people were being invited to look at the site in the hopes that they'd write articles promoting it. The picture that's being painted of WikiLeaks hacking into the back end of a website is completely inaccurate; there was a password to preview a website whose owners wanted people to look at it, lots of people had that password, and one of them reportedly gave it to WikiLeaks.

Beyond that, what is there? WikiLeaks trying unsuccessfully to get Don Jr to advance its agendas like giving them Trump's tax return (i.e. soliciting a potential source for leaks), challenging America's broken electoral system , trying to get more eyes on their material, and a Hail Mary suggestion that the Trump administration shake things up by making Assange the Australian ambassador with a full acknowledgement that this will never happen. None of these things occurred, and WikiLeaks never responded to Don Jr's request for information about an upcoming leak drop.

Assange has agendas. Whoop dee doo. I have agendas too, otherwise I wouldn't be doing this. All journalists have agendas, it just happens that most of them have the agenda to become rich and famous by any means necessary, which generally means cozying up to the rulers of the establishment and manufacturing consent for the status quo. Assange's agenda is infinitely more noble and infinitely more reviled by the servants of power: to upset the status quo that demands war, corruption and oppression in order to exist. His communications with Don Jr are geared toward this end, as is the rest of his life's work.

Smear 15: "He only publishes leaks about America."

This is just wrong and stupid. Do thirty seconds of research for God's sake.

Smear 16: "He's an antisemite."

Yes, yes, we all know by now that everyone who opposes the imperial war machine in any way is both a Russian agent and an antisemite. Jeremy Corbyn knows it , Ilhan Omar knows it , we all know it.

This one's been around a while, ever since headlines blared in 2011 that Assange had complained of a "Jewish conspiracy" against him after an account of a conversation by Private Eye editor Ian Hislop. Assange responded to this claim as follows:

"Hislop has distorted, invented or misremembered almost every significant claim and phrase. In particular, 'Jewish conspiracy' is completely false, in spirit and in word. It is serious and upsetting. Rather than correct a smear, Mr. Hislop has attempted, perhaps not surprisingly, to justify one smear with another in the same direction. That he has a reputation for this, and is famed to have received more libel suits in the UK than any other journalist as a result, does not mean that it is right. WikiLeaks promotes the ideal of 'scientific journalism'  --  where the underlaying evidence of all articles is available to the reader precisely in order to avoid these type of distortions. We treasure our strong Jewish support and staff, just as we treasure the support from pan-Arab democracy activists and others who share our hope for a just world."

"We treasure our strong Jewish support and staff." Man, what a Nazi.

But that wasn't what cemented this smear into public consciousness. Two related events punched that ticket, and bear with me here:

The first event was the WikiLeaks account tweeting and then quickly deleting the following in July 2016: "Tribalist symbol for establishment climbers? Most of our critics have 3 (((brackets around their names))) & have black-rim glasses. Bizarre." The triple brackets are what's known as echoes , which are a symbol that antisemites often put around words and names to hatefully indicate Jewishness in online discourse. In 2016 some Jewish people began putting the triple brackets around their own names on social media as a way of pushing back against this behavior, so if you really want to it's possible for you to interpret the tweet as saying 'All our critics are Jewish. Bizarre.'

But does that make sense? Does it make sense for the guy who announced "We treasure our strong Jewish support and staff" to then go making openly antisemitic comments? And if he really did suddenly decide to let the world know that he believes there's a Jewish conspiracy against WikiLeaks, why would he delete it? What's the theory there? That he was like "Oh, I just wanted to let everyone know about my Jewish conspiracy theory, but it turns out people get offended when an account with millions of followers says things like that"? That makes no sense.

If you look at the account's other tweets at the time, it becomes clear that its operator was actually just trying to communicate an obscure, subtle point that was completely unsuitable for a massive international audience and 140 characters. When a user responded to the tweet before it was deleted explaining that some Jewish people now put triple brackets around their names to push back against antisemitism, the account responded , "Yes, but it seems to have been repurposed for something else entirely  --  a wanna be establishment in-group designator." When accused of antisemitism by another account, WikiLeaks responded , "The opposite. We criticised the misappropriation of anti-Nazi critiques by social climbers. Like Ice Bucket Challenge & ALS."

It looks clear to me that whoever was running the WikiLeaks Twitter account that day was clumsily trying to communicate an overly complicated idea about "social climbers" and establishment loyalism, then deleted the tweet when they realized they'd screwed up and stumbled into a social media land mine.

Now, I say "whoever was running the WikiLeaks Twitter account that day" because it's been public knowledge for years that @WikiLeaks is a staff account shared by multiple people. Here's a tweet of the account saying "this is a staff account, not Assange." Here's a tweet of the account saying "@WikiLeaks is a shared staff account." This became self-evidently true for all to see when Assange's internet access was cut off by the Ecuadorian embassy for the first time in October 2016, but the WikiLeaks Twitter account kept making posts during that time without interruption. This takes us to the second event which helped cement the antisemitism smear.

The second event occurred in February 2018 when The Intercept 's Micah Lee, who has had a personal beef with WikiLeaks and Assange for years, published a ghastly article which made the following assertion :

"Throughout this article, The Intercept assumes that the WikiLeaks account is controlled by Julian Assange himself, as is widely understood, and that he is the author of the messages, referring to himself in the third person majestic plural, as he often does."

There is absolutely no reason for Lee to have made this assumption, and the fact that this remains uncorrected in his original article is journalistic malpractice.

The article reveals Twitter DMs from a group chat of which the WikiLeaks account was a member. One of the other accounts in the group chat shared a tweet by journalist Raphael Satter, who was posting a smear piece he'd written about WikiLeaks. The WikiLeaks account responded as follows:

"He's always ben [sic] a rat."
"But he's jewish and engaged with the ((())) issue."

When I first read about this exchange as written down by Micah Lee, I read it as "He's always been a rat, but then, he is Jewish, and engaged with the ((())) issue." Which would of course be gross. Calling someone a rat because they're Jewish would obviously be antisemitic. But if you read the DMs , whoever was running the account didn't do that; they said "He's always ben a rat," followed by a full stop, then beginning a new thought.

Now if you look at the date on that exchange and compare it to the date on the deleted ((())) tweet , you'll see that this was one month after the infamous ((())) tweet that had caused such a tizzy. It appears likely to me that the operator of the account (who again could have been any of the WikiLeaks staff who had access to it) was saying that Satter was mad about "the ((())) issue", meaning the tweet so many people were so recently enraged about and were still discussing, hence his attacking them with a smear piece.

There are also claims about an association between Assange and the controversial Israel Shamir, which WikiLeaks denies unequivocally , saying in a statement:

Israel Shamir has never worked or volunteered for WikiLeaks, in any manner, whatsoever. He has never written for WikiLeaks or any associated organization, under any name and we have no plan that he do so. He is not an 'agent' of WikiLeaks. He has never been an employee of WikiLeaks and has never received monies from WikiLeaks or given monies to WikiLeaks or any related organization or individual. However, he has worked for the BBC, Haaretz, and many other reputable organizations.
It is false that Shamir is 'an Assange intimate'. He interviewed Assange (on behalf of Russian media), as have many journalists. He took a photo at that time and has only met with WikiLeaks staff (including Asssange) twice. It is false that 'he was trusted with selecting the 250,000 US State Department cables for the Russian media' or that he has had access to such at any time.
Shamir was able to search through a limited portion of the cables with a view to writing articles for a range of Russian media. The media that subsequently employed him did so of their own accord and with no intervention or instruction by WikiLeaks.

Now, we're on Smear #16. There's still a ways to go. If you've been reading this article straight through it should be obvious to you by now that there's a campaign to paint Assange as literally the worst person in the world by calling him all the worst things you can possibly call someone. Is it possible that he's some kind of secret Jew hater? Sure, theoretically, but there's certainly no good argument to be made for that based on the facts at hand, and given the extent the narrative shapers are going to to paint him in a negative light, it's a mighty big stretch in my opinion.

Smear 17: "He's a fascist."

Unlike most Assange smears this one is more common on the political left than the center, and it totally baffles me. Demanding that governments be transparent and powerful people held to account is not at all compatible with fascism. In fact, it's the exact opposite.

Italian investigative journalist and longtime WikiLeaks collaborator Stephania Maurizi told Micah Lee the following on Twitter last year:

"I've worked as a media partner since 2009, I can bring my experience: I've NEVER EVER seen misoginy or fascism, rape apology, anti-semitism. I've anti-fascism deep in my DNA, due to the consequences for my family during Fascism."

I really don't know how people make this one work in their minds. "You guys know who the real fascist is? It's the guy who's locked behind bars by the most violent and oppressive government on the planet for standing up against the war crimes of that government." I mean, come on.

When I question what's behind this belief I get variations on Smear 18 and Smear 22, and the occasional reference to one odd tweet about birth rates and changing demographics that could look like a white nationalist talking point if you squint at it just right and ignore the fact that it appears on its own surrounded by a total absence of anything resembling a white nationalist worldview, and ignore the tweet immediately following it criticizing "emotional imperialism" and the theft of caregivers from less powerful nations. You have to connect a whole lot of dots with a whole lot of imaginary red yarn and ignore a huge mountain of evidence to the contrary in order to believe that Assange is a fascist.

Smear 18: "He was a Trump supporter."

No he wasn't. He hated Hillary " Can't we just drone this guy? " Clinton for her horrible record and her efforts as Secretary of State to shut down WikiLeaks, but that's not the same as supporting Trump. His hatred of Clinton was personal, responding to a complaint by a lead Clinton staffer about his role in her defeat with the words "Next time, don't imprison and kill my friends, deprive my children of their father, corrupt judicial processes, bully allies into doing the same, and run a seven year unconstitutional grand jury against me and my staff."

And he wanted her to lose. Desiring the loss of the woman who campaigned on a promise to create a no-fly zone in the same region that Russian military planes were conducting operations is perfectly reasonable for someone with Assange's worldview, and it doesn't mean he wanted Trump to be president or believed he'd make a good one. Preferring to be stabbed over shot doesn't mean you want to be stabbed.

In July 2016 Assange compared the choice between Clinton and Trump to a choice between cholera and gonorrhea , saying, "Personally, I would prefer neither." When a Twitter user suggested to Assange in 2017 that he start sucking up to Trump in order to secure a pardon, Assange replied , "I'd rather eat my own intestines." Could not possibly be more unequivocal.

Assange saw Trump as clearly as anyone at the time, and now he's behind bars at the behest of that depraved administration. Clinton voters still haven't found a way to make this work in their minds; they need to hate Assange because he helped Hillary lose, but when they cheerlead for his arrest they're cheering for a Trump administration agenda. These same people who claim to oppose Trump and support the free press are cheerleading for a Trump administration agenda which constitutes the greatest threat to the free press we've seen in our lifetimes. When I encounter them online I've taken to photoshopping a MAGA hat onto their profile pics.

Assange has never been a Trump supporter. But, in a very real way, those who support his imprisonment are.

Smear 19: "I used to like him until he ruined the 2016 election" / "I used to hate him until he saved the 2016 election."

That's just you admitting that you have no values beyond blind partisan loyalty. Only liking truth when it serves you is the same as hating truth.

Smear 20: "He's got blood on his hands."

No he doesn't. There's no evidence anywhere that WikiLeaks helped cause anyone's death anywhere in the world. This smear has been enjoying renewed popularity since it became public knowledge that he's being prosecuted for the Manning leaks, the argument being that the leaks got US troops killed.

This argument is stupid. In 2013 the Pentagon, who had every incentive to dig up evidence that WikiLeaks had gotten people killed, ruled that no such instances have been discovered.

Smear 21: "He published the details of millions of Turkish women voters."

No he didn't. The WikiLeaks website reports the following:

"Reports that WikiLeaks published data on Turkish women are false. WikiLeaks didn't publish the database. Someone else did. What WikiLeaks released were emails from Turkey's ruling party, the Justice & Development Party or AKP, which is the political force behind the country's president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is currently purging Turkey's judiciary, educational sector and press."

That "someone else" was Emma Best, then known as Michael Best, who also happens to be the one who published the controversial Twitter DMs used in Micah Lee's aforementioned Assange smear piece. Best wrote an article clarifying that the information about Turkish women was published not by WikiLeaks, but by her.

Smear 22: "He supported right-wing political parties in Australia."

No he didn't. In 2013 Australia's WikiLeaks Party ended up inadvertently giving preferential votes to right-wing parties in New South Wales as a result of an administrative error.

In 2012, WikiLeaks announced on Twitter that Assange was running for the Australian senate, and in 2013 the WikiLeaks Party was formally registered with the Australian Electoral Commission and fielded candidates in the states of Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia. The other candidates in the party included a human rights lawyer, an ethicist, a former Greens candidate, a former diplomat, a law professor and a former president of the Ethnic Communities council in WA. It was a very left-wing offering with unusual political ads .

https://www.youtube.com/embed/w0oI_8r5nXk

In Australia we have preferential voting, which is also known in the US as ranked-choice voting. You are given two ballots, a small one for the house of representatives and an arm's-length one for the senate, which you number the candidates in order of your preference, number one being your first preference. Voting for the senate is an epic task so you are given the ability to number every single candidate in order of preference (which is called "voting below the line"), or back in 2013 you could simply nominate the party who you want to win "above the line" and if they were knocked out in the first round, their preferences were applied to your vote.

These preferences make up what's called a "How To Vote" card. Have a look at an example here . It's a pamphlet given to voters on the day that suggests how to number your preferences to support your party, but it's also submitted to the electoral commission so that they can assign your chosen flow of preferences in the senate vote.

Every election there is a shit-storm over the How To Vote cards as parties bargain with each other and play each other off to try and get the flow of preferences to go their way. To make things even more complex, you have to create these cards for every state and seat you are putting up candidates for. The WikiLeaks Party preferences statement in one of the states, New South Wales, somehow wound up having two right wing parties preferenced before the three major parties. The WikiLeaks Party said it was an administrative error and issued this statement in August 2013:

Preferences Statement: The WikiLeaks Party isn't aligned with any other political group. We'd rather not allocate preferences at all but allocating preferences is compulsory if your name is to go above the line.

In allocating preferences between 53 other parties or groups in NSW some administrative errors occurred, as has been the case with some other parties. The overall decision as to preferences was a democratically made decision of the full National Council of the party. According to the National Council decision The Shooters & Fishers and the Australia First Party should have been below Greens, Labor, Liberal. As we said, we aren't aligned with anyone and the only policies we promote are our own. We will support and oppose the policies of other parties or groups according to our stated principles.

So, in short, the entirety of the WikiLeaks Party gathered and voted to put those right wing parties down the ballot below Greens, Labor and Liberal parties but someone fucked up the form. All How To Vote cards are public and heavily scrutinized so there was never any suggestion that the WL Party had tried to get away with something on the sly, just that they had made a monumental fuckup. The WikiLeaks Party ended up getting 0.66 percent of the vote and in NSW those preferences went to those right wing parties who also failed to get the numbers required to win a seat. Was there mismanagement? Yes. Was it deliberate? There's no reason to believe that it was.

This was all happening at the same time Chelsea Manning's case was wrapping up and Assange was busy helping Edward Snowden.

"I made a decision two months ago to spend a lot of my time on dealing with the Edward Snowden asylum situation, and trying to save the life of a young man," Assange told Australian TV at the time. "The result is over-delegation. I admit and I accept full responsibility for over-delegating functions to the Australian party while I try to take care of that situation."

Smear 23: "He endangered the lives of gay Saudis."

No he didn't. The Saudi Cables were KSA government documents, i.e. information the government already had, so there was no danger of legal retaliation based on Saudi Arabia's laws against homosexuality. There is no evidence that anyone was ever endangered by the Saudi cables.

... ... ...

Smear 24: "He's a CIA agent/limited hangout."

I'm probably going to have to revisit this one because it's so all over the place that it's hard for me to even say exactly what it is. It only exists in fringey conspiracy circles, so there's no organized thought around it and when I ask people why they're so sure Assange is a CIA/Mossad agent/asset I get a bunch of different answers, many of them contradictory and none of them comprised of linear, complete thoughts. Mostly I just get an answer that goes something like "Well he spent some time in Egypt and he criticized 9/11 truthers, and he's a few degrees of separation from this one shady person, so, you know, you connect the dots."

No, you connect the dots. You're the one making the claim.

None of them ever do.

You'd think this smear would have subsided since Assange was imprisoned at the behest of the US government, but I'm actually encountering it way more often now. Every day I'm getting conspiracy types telling me Assange isn't what I think he is, right at the time when the MSM has converged to smear him with more aggression than ever before and right when he needs support more than ever.

I've never encountered anyone who can present a convincing (or even coherent) argument that Assange is working for any intelligence agency, so I generally just declare the burden of proof unmet and move on. If there's anyone out there who believes this and would like to take a stab at proving their claim, I have a few questions for you:

Why is a CIA/Mossad agent/asset/limited hangout/whatever being rewarded for his loyal service with a stay in Belmarsh Prison awaiting US extradition? How does that work, specifically? Are you claiming that he was an asset that got "burned"? If so, when did this happen? Was he still an asset while he was languishing in the embassy in failing health and chronic pain? Or was it before then? His persecution began in 2010 and the US government was working on sabotaging him back in 2008 , so are you claiming he hasn't been on their side since then? And if you're claiming that he used to be an asset but got burned, why are you spending your energy running around telling people on the internet he's an asset when he isn't one anymore, and now his prosecution threatens press freedoms everywhere? If you oppose his extradition, why are you engaged in this behavior? Are you just interrupting an adult conversation that grownups are trying to have about an urgent matter, or is it something else? Did you run around telling everyone that Saddam used to be a CIA asset instead of protesting the Iraq invasion? Or do you believe this whole US prosecution is fake? If so, what is Assange getting out of it? What's incentivizing him to comply at this point? What specifically is your claim about what's happening?

My past experiences when engaging these types tells me not to expect any solid and thorough answers to my questions.

I've been at this commentary gig for about two and a half years, and during that time I've had people show up in my inbox and social media notifications warning me that everyone in anti-establishment circles is a CIA limited hangout. Literally everyone; you name a high-profile anti-establishment figure, and at one time or another I've received warnings from people that they are actually controlled opposition for a government agency.

This happens because for some people, paranoia is their only compass. They wind up in the same circles as WikiLeaks supporters because the lens of paranoia through which they perceive the world causes them to distrust the same power establishment and mass media that WikiLeaks supporters distrust, but beyond that the two groups are actually quite different. That same paranoia which causes them to view all the wrongdoers with suspicion causes them to view everyone else with suspicion as well.

Paranoia happens for a number of reasons, one of them being that people who aren't clear on the reasons our society acts so crazy will start making up reasons, like the belief that everyone with a high profile is a covert CIA agent. If you can't see clearly what's going on you start making things up, which can cause paranoia to become your only guidance system.

Smear 25: "He mistreated his cat."

There's just no limit to the garbage these smear merchants will cook up. Concern for the embassy cat picked up when the Moreno government began cooking up excuses to oust Assange from the embassy, the most highly publicized of them being a demand that he clean up after his cat. From that point on the narrative became that not only is Assange a stinky Nazi rapist Russian spy who smears poo on the walls he also mistreats his cat. Ridiculous.

A bunch of "Where is Assange's cat??" news stories emerged after his arrest, because that's where people's minds go when a civilization-threatening lawfare agenda is being carried out. The Guardian 's James Ball, who last year authored an article humiliatingly arguing that the US will never try to extradite Assange titled "The only barrier to Julian Assange leaving Ecuador's embassy is pride", told his Twitter followers , "For the record: Julian Assange's cat was reportedly given to a shelter by the Ecuadorian embassy ages ago, so don't expect a feline extradition in the next few hours. (I genuinely offered to adopt it)."

Assange's cat is fine. It wasn't given to a "shelter"; the WikiLeaks Twitter account posted a video of the cat watching Assange's arrest on TV with the caption, "We can confirm that Assange's cat is safe. Assange asked his lawyers to rescue him from embassy threats in mid-October. They will be reunited in freedom."

Smear 26: "He's a pedophile."

https://www.youtube.com/embed/0FVpcaaa1X4

Yes, of course they tried this one too, and I still run into people online from time to time who regurgitate it. CNN has had on guests who asserted that Assange is a pedophile, not once but twice. In January 2017 former CIA official Phil Mudd said live on air that Assange is "a pedophile who lives in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London," and instead of correcting him on the spot CNN did nothing and shared the video on Twitter , leaving the tweet up until WikiLeaks threatened to sue . On what appears to have been right around the same day, Congressman Mike Rogers claimed on CNN that Assange "is wanted for rape of a minor."

These claims are of course false, designed to paint Assange as literally the worst person in the world with all the very worst qualities you can imagine in a human being.

These claims came months after an alarming narrative control operation working behind the bogus dating website toddandclare.com persuaded a UN body called the Global Compact to grant it status as a participant, then used its platform to publicly accuse Assange, with whom it was communicating, of "pedophile crimes". McClatchy reports the following :

"Whoever is behind the dating site has marshaled significant resources to target Assange, enough to gain entry into a United Nations body, operate in countries in Europe, North America and the Caribbean, conduct surveillance on Assange's lawyer in London, obtain the fax number of Canada's prime minister and seek to prod a police inquiry in the Bahamas."

So that's a thing.

Smear 27: "He lied about Seth Rich."

I'm just going to toss this one here at the end because I'm seeing it go around a lot in the wake of the Mueller report.

Robert Mueller, who helped the Bush administration deceive the world about WMD in Iraq, has claimed that the GRU was the source of WikiLeaks' 2016 drops, and claimed in his report that WikiLeaks deceived its audience by implying that its source was the murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich. This claim is unsubstantiated because, as we discussed in Smear 4, the public has not seen a shred of evidence proving who was or was not WikiLeaks' source, so there's no way to know there was any deception happening there. We've never seen any hard proof, nor indeed anything besides official narrative, connecting the Russian government to Guccifer 2.0 and Guccifer 2.0 to WikiLeaks, and Daniel Lazare for Consortium News documents that there are in fact some major plot holes in Mueller's timeline. Longtime Assange friend and WikiLeaks ally Craig Murray maintains that he knows the source of the DNC Leaks and Podesta Emails were two different Americans, not Russians, and hints that one of them was a DNC insider. There is exactly as much publicly available evidence for Murray's claim as there is for Mueller's.

Mainstream media has been blaring day after day for years that it is an absolute known fact that the Russian government was WikiLeaks' source, and the only reason people scoff and roll their eyes at anyone who makes the indisputably factual claim that we've seen no evidence for this is because the illusory truth effect causes the human brain to mistake repetition for fact.

The smear is that Assange knew his source was actually the Russian government, and he implied it was Seth Rich to throw people off the scent. Mueller asserted that something happened, and it's interpreted as hard fact instead of assertion. There's no evidence for any of this, and there's no reason to go believing the WMD guy on faith about a narrative which incriminates yet another government which refuses to obey the dictates of the US empire.

And I guess that's it for now. Again, this article is an ongoing project, so I'll be updating it and adding to it regularly as new information comes in and new smears need refutation. If I missed something or got something wrong, or even if you spotted a typo, please email me at admin@caitlinjohnstone.com and let me know. I'm trying to create the best possible tool for people to refute Assange smears, so I'll keep sharpening this baby to make sure it cuts like a razor. Thanks for reading, and thanks to everyone who helped! Phew! That was long.

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Everyone has my unconditional permission to republish or use any part of this work (or anything else I've written) in any way they like free of charge. My work is entirely reader-supported , so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, liking me on Facebook , following my antics on Twitter , throwing some money into my hat on Patreon or Paypal , purchasing some of my sweet merchandise , buying my new book Rogue Nation: Psychonautical Adventures With Caitlin Johnstone , or my previous book Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers . The best way to get around the internet censors and make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for my website , which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I'm trying to do with this platform, click here .

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motherjones , 52 minutes ago link

We don't have to like Julian Assange, but the release of the "Collateral Damage" video alone is enough to justify defending Assange and the freedom of the press.

Ozymandiasssss , 1 hour ago link

She really didn't