Sunday, September 28, 2008

Congratulations! We Just Spent $700B On Toxic Waste

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Winter Patriot
Congressional leaders and the Bush administration reached a tentative agreement early Sunday on what may become the largest financial bailout in American history, authorizing the Treasury to purchase $700 billion in troubled debt from ailing firms in an extraordinary intervention to prevent widespread economic collapse.
Thus reports the New York Times, along with a photo (reproduced here) of Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Henry Paulson delivering the news to the world. The NYT continues:
Officials said that Congressional staff members would work through the night to finalize the language of the agreement and draft a bill, and that the bill would be brought to the House floor for a vote on Monday.
Presumably the Congressional leaders now believe they have the votes to pass it.

Well, congratulations, America. We are now the proud owners of $700 billion worth of toxic waste, none of which we need and none of which we can afford to pay for.

If you read the mainstream media, you will learn that the bipartisan bailout effort was hampered by political bickering. This is politically acceptable code for the fact that the swindle was opposed by people taking firm, principled stands, on both left and right.

From the right, the bailout is seen as a case of government interference in a private sector issue. From the left it is seen as another instance of the government robbing from the poor to give to the rich. Both points of view are valid, and the combination tells a tale: the bailout is in fact a case of government interfering in the private sector to rob from the poor to give to the rich.

And that's why, to the extent that it was supported at all, the support for the bailout has been generated through the manipulation of fear, and fear, and more fear, and the dissemination of lies, and lies, and more lies.

Speaking of lies, how much does it matter that the firms about to be bailed out are under investigation by the FBI for securities fraud? None at all, apparently; and this is reality reversal at its finest. In normal cases of securities fraud, the government confiscates the ill-gotten gains from the criminals. But this time the criminals have been holding the entire country for ransom.


On a related point: I think I can clear up some of the confusion occasioned by Larisa Alexandrovna's article at Huffington Post, "Welcome to the final stages of the coup..." (which you should read, if you haven't already). In response to her plea to keep the government out of the market, she's been called a communist, a socialist, and a Russian, among other things. Larisa thinks these name-calling attacks have shown the ignorance of the people attacking her, since (as she says) she is not from Russia but from the Ukraine, she's not communist but pointedly anti-communist, and the position she espouses is not socialism or communism, but classic capitalism. Or at least it used to be.

On the other hand, these descriptions of Larisa could very well indicate that her critics know exactly what they're talking about.

Prior to 9/11 -- during the Cold War, for instance -- we were taught that communism was a system in which the government controlled the markets, and for this reason we strongly opposed not only communism but its close relative, socialism. And we were taught to despise and fear the Russians, whose major crime was having been forced to live under such a system.

Meanwhile, half a world away, Russians were taught that capitalism was a system in which the markets control the government. And since we could never deny that, we simply ignored it. We were taught (by example, if nothing else) not to mention capitalism; we call it "democracy" instead. And we were taught that in a democracy, the market was "free", meaning "free of government interference". That was never true, but it's what we were taught --back in the day.

But that was then, this is now, and the lines have been blurred by decades of propaganda. Now George Bush is America, his policies are American, and anyone who dares to oppose them (from whatever viewpoint, for whatever reason) is anti-American.

And, thanks to our rich Cold War experiences, we have a number of synonyms for "anti-American". These include "communist", "socialist" and "Russian", as well as "liberal" and "leftist".

Not to put too fine a point on it, but: Reality is lost. Words no longer have any meaning.

As Bush so famously stated: "If you're not with us, you're with the terrorists."

So in the post-9/11 world there are only two possible political positions. If you're not "with Bush" then you're "with the terrorists", and that makes you "Russian", "communist", "socialist", "liberal", "leftist" and many other derogatory terms too -- all of which now mean exactly the same thing.

But there's no longer any need to be so divisive. Now, with this forced national purchase of "toxic waste", we can unite around a common bond once again.

Left or right; communist or capitalist; liberal or conservative; donkey or elephant or maybe even sentient being; if you look under the thick layer of toxic waste, you can see that we're all Americans again -- all proud owners of a national disaster.

Congratulations, America! We are now well and truly screwed.



Split Indecision: Canada Surges In Multiple Directions Simultaneously

Sunday, September 28, 2008

There's a federal election coming in Canada, and the anti-war "third parties" (New Democrats [NDP] and Greens) are gaining ground fast on the pro-war "major parties" (Liberals and Conservatives), according to a recent survey quoted in the Toronto Star's "NDP surge in cities as Liberals languish: Poll".

The Star spins it in a different way, of course, never mentioning that the Conservatives are languishing too, remaining silent on the obvious point that the war in Afghanistan is the major difference between the parties that are surging and the others, and casting the surge of support for the anti-war parties as a threat to the Liberals and a boon to the Conservatives.

To read it in the Star, it's as if too much support for the Greens and the NDP would necessarily lead to a Conservative victory, rather than a Conservative defeat (or, what's more likely, a heavily fragmented minority government).

That's almost the same way they spin it in the US, although in this case it comes with a northern accent.

But the anti-war surge, led by outspoken NDP leader Jack Layton [photo], comes against the backdrop of a long-term American-inflected surge in government militarization, somewhat similar to the English version which was recently described by John Pilger and highlighted by Chris Floyd.

The transformation of Canada has been almost American in style, complete with transparent propaganda from a minority government openly in contempt of the press, the other parties, and the rule of law, presenting a huge increase in military spending as urgently needed for national defense -- against the will and contrary to the needs of the people, who must be propagandized as thoroughly as possible, of course -- and in true American military style, the whole thing is done with the backroom collaboration of the "opposition".

Most recently, the Canadian government announced plans to rent and purchase attack helicopters and drones -- weapons which the government says are necessary for the defense of the country. The drones will defend Canada by flying around Afghanistan. The helicopters will defend Canada by moving Canadian troops around inside Afghanistan.

Never mind that Afghanistan poses no threat to Canada. Never mind that Canada requires no defense against Afghanistan.

And never mind, especially, that the war in Afghanistan would be entirely unjustified, even if the official story of 9/11 were true, which it obviously isn't.

Forget all that. This is the post-9/11 world, which means when our governments say "defense", they really mean "attack". Telling the truth, calling a spade a spade: that's September 10th thinking. We're past that now.

The purchase and rental agreements are part of a massive new spending package sneakily announced in June. Details of the package were made public by virtue of being posted on the government's website late one Thursday night.

The spending package budgets $490 billion to be spent over the next 20 years -- and it was put together by a government that wasn't destined to last three more months in power.

In February, it was announced that the helicopters and drones were essential to the continuation of the Canadian "mission" in Afghanistan.

In true American style, this imperial mission had been criticized "from the left" as being done "on the cheap", so the inevitable commission was set up and it reached the most predictable conclusion: Canada must either spend a lot more money to do it "right" or else abandon the war crime they call a "mission" altogether.

So the Canadian Prime Minister, neocon Bushist Stephen Harper, announced that he would no longer approve an Afghan mission being run "on the cheap", and the "opposition" forced a "compromise" by which the war crime would be continued, but at a much greater burden to the taxpayers.

This was reminiscent of the means by which the most recent bill funding the war crime in Iraq was passed by a supposedly opposition US congress. Bush threatened to veto an increase in funding for medical care for veterans, but the Democrats insisted, and eventually the "two sides" reached a "compromise" under which the war crime would be continued indefinitely with no restrictions on the president but at a greater cost to the taxpayers than previously.

Just as in the USA, there's a level beyond which Canadian national politics is (worse than) a farce, made especially tragic when it's left to "the two party system". So, in many ways, the Canadian election is not about the Conservatives against the Liberals with the third parties in the background. It's about the Conservatives and the Liberals against the third parties.

But the major media are all Conservative with Faux Liberals in pocket, so they will never present an analysis of national politics that runs this way, even though the fault lines are clearly visible. So the voters have to figure it out for themselves.

And therefore, from a foreign policy point of view (and in many other ways) this election will boil down to whether the Canadian people are smart enough to reject the Bush-Harper, Conservative-Liberal, Star-Globe-National Post propaganda surge with sufficient force.

Which surge will win? The stakes are huge and I'm not optimistic.


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