I heard Phil Valentine, a local radio neocon shill say yesterday that the Greeks were selfish for not going along with the banker imposed measures to ‘save their country.’ Evoking the JFK message of “what you can do for your country,” he and others like him are setting the stage for an austere future where ‘we the people’ are to be the ones who will not only pay but take the blame for not doing our part. Save the bankers, the politicians, the elite and maybe you will save yourselves will be continuing propaganda ploy.
Just as in Greece, many around the world will not fall for it. It will not be pretty.
art: Vladimir Kush
Written by Chris Floyd
|Wednesday, 17 September 2008|
| “There is great disorder under heaven, and the situation is excellent.” — Chairman Mao
Fed’s $85 Billion Loan Rescues Insurer (NY Times) The bailout [of American International Group]… effectively puts taxpayer money at risk while protecting bad investments made by A.I.G. and other institutions it does business with.
And with all the talk of a “new Cold War,” who knew that it would be Washington and Wall Street, not the Kremlin, who resurrected socialism in the 21st century, in what the Times called “the most radical intervention in private business in the central bank’s history”? Socialism for the rich only, to be sure. Ole Joe “Bankruptcy Bill” Biden and his bipartisan cohorts in Congress have long made sure that any ordinary citizen — especially the old, the sick, the poor, the most desperate — will be squeezed to the last drop to pay off their debts, even if these were incurred through illness or misfortune. But for our boardroom Bolsheviki, the state is always there, to cushion and to coddle.
And who knew there was so much money in the federal coffers? Endless, roaring torrents of money available for the ever-expanding operations of the global Terror War (up to $3 trillion for the rape of Iraq alone), and all of this on top of an ever-expanding “regular” military budget that tops half-a-trillion dollars each and every year. And now tens of billions for Bear-Sterns, Fannie Mae, Fannie Mac, A.I.G. and the next fat-cattery to go under. Gosh, you mean all that cash was just lying around under the federal mattress all along?
You mean we could have used some of it for, say, building schools and hospitals, or national health insurance, or rebuilding our globalization-gutted cities, or drug rehab programs, or caring for our elderly, or helping people start businesses, or repairing our rotted infrastructure, or supporting the arts and sciences, or building parks and other “common pleasures, to walk abroad and recreate yourselves”? You mean there has been enough money there all along to help create a more just, equitable, enjoyable and civilized society? Don’t that beat all?
Well, there will be none of that now, thank god. Even if a party that was actually committed to the well-being and security of ordinary citizens (a description that of course excludes the ticket of “Wall Street Barry” and “Bankruptcy Bill Joe”) were to somehow take power one day, they will be hogtied by the mess left behind by the elite’s financial boondoggles and their many wars. They’ll be lucky if there is enough spare cash on hand to buy a few sandbags the next time a hurricane turns toward New Orleans, much less address any of the massive civic, social, economic and infrastructural disasters that confront us.
But of course no ticket committed to such a thing will ever be allowed to get near the White House. That game too is now as rigged as the market. Arthur Silber explains this double-rigging in rich detail in a recent piece: “The Vampire, Struck by Sunlight.” You should read the whole thing, but the passage below is particularly apt for the current situation (see original for links):
Those people who have followed the foreign policy catastrophes of recent years are repeatedly struck by this phenomenon: all the “experts” who are supposedly so knowledgeable in this area — that is, all the “experts” who led us into the catastrophes and who were grievously, bloodily, murderously wrong about every significant matter — remain entrenched in the foreign policy establishment. Moreover, they are precisely the people to whom everyone turns for the “solution” to the disasters that engulf us, both now and the disasters likely to come. This is what it means to have a ruling class. As I have said, the ruling class rules. The ruling class exercises a lethal monopoly on the terms of public debate, just as it exercises a lethal monopoly on the uses of state power. What you have seen over the last six months and more, and what you will see in the coming months and years, is the same phenomenon in the realm of economic policy. All of the solons who led us into this abyss of mounting debt, worthless securities, failing financial institutions, economic contraction and collapse, rising taxation, and all the rest, will now instruct us as to how we should “solve” the crisis that they have created. The crisis may be ameliorated to a degree, and the worst of the consequences may be postponed for a while. But whatever “solutions” are implemented, whatever reorganization and reregulation is imposed, it will all be done in accordance with the ruling class’s desires and goals. It will all be to protect their own wealth and power to whatever extent is possible, and to expand their wealth and power still more…. The ruling class is the state. The state exists to serve the interests of the ruling class, and only the interests of the ruling class. They may promise you greater unemployment benefits, better health care, and a host of other government benefits — all benefits also paid for by you, please note (the ruling class does have a sense of humor, after all; vampires are often crudely funny creatures) — and those promises will cause most Americans to fall for the con still one more time. Whatcha gonna do? Not a goddamned thing. Vote for McCain! Vote for Obama! It doesn’t matter. The ruling class wins either way. The ruling class always wins. That’s how the system was designed, and that’s how it works. For the ruling class, it works very admirably.
P.S. And for those who believe that the current conniption somehow presages the collapse of the American empire, please note that the sound system of elite service described above is backed up by the most powerful military machine in the history of the world (including a nuclear arsenal that can obliterate any nation at any time), directed by a militarized state that has never shown the slightest hesitation in using violent force against its own people should they step too far out of line. It’s not going to collapse overnight because of a well-cushioned crash on Wall Street or a few botched wars. It still has many miles to go – and much blood yet to spill – before it faces the inevitable axe of history.
A letter to and response from Joe Bageant
In “Life in the Post Political Age” posted on your web site, the anonymous political consultant wrote:
“His very presence, the color of his skin, the very strangeness of his name is the best guarantee of his betrayal of the expectations of the constituencies that will vote to elect him. Barack Obama is in short order a far more reassuring prospect for the continued dominance of the financial elite than another four years of neo-conservative rule which in an almost historically unique combination of greed, ill will, incompetence and stupidity have brought the country to the edge of disaster.”
OK Joe, broadly I agree. I suspect McCain is going to win anyway, so can I invite you to write up what America will look like two years from now on the other side of the disaster’s edge?
I can tell you a few conclusions at which I have arrived (without going into the years long process by which I arrived at them):
America is now a totalist state. This seems not so apparent because of the glossy “commercial skin” over everything. Shining goods, much meaningless commercial activity, the energy of every able person dedicated to profit making activity in the name of “the economy,” which has become god, yet no one can define it except in the language of Wall Street and the stock market — a faceless god in itself. Interestingly, the stock market goes up when people are paid less or more people are unemployed, etc., yet people have accepted its terms as the definition of their well being.
The rise of this state has required increased police forces and heavy-handed enforcement, thus we hold one-quarter of the world’s prison population, though we are only six percent of the earth’s population.
The elections are an illusion. A totalitarian state loves nothing more than elections, which gives the illusion of choice on the part of the people. The people, after so many generations of this illusory choice, believe it themselves.
America is already a second world nation, but the aforementioned shiny commercial skin and charming digital gizmos leads the citizenry to believe otherwise. No health care, no guarantee of anything really, except competitive struggle with one another for work and money.
Americans are presently comfortable because we have always been very materialistic from the beginning. And so comfort and goods have always trumped thought and morality. But now that natural resources are being heavily stressed globally, we are left without enough concern for the common good to save ourselves as a unified entity. The problem with American style democracy is that it is all well and good to say, “I owe no man anything. And no man owes me. I am free unto myself.” And, unfortunately, alone. No grasp of the common weal. And so we are left to depend entirely upon the state to do everything man does collectively, while we are each left to seek out the latest personal comfort or amusement.
Neither comfort nor amusement are boundless. And never do they replace or fulfill the moral and philosophical.
There is indeed a sort of unease. But not nearly so much as you might think. And that unease is inchoate because the language needed to describe its causes has vanished into, or been neutralized by the state’s economic consumer culture. There is almost no discussion of the meaning of anything, just the emotionalism managed by politics, marketing, etc.
And so the big “debate” about Obama vs McCain is really an emotionally based one of “good guy” vs “bad guy” dressed up in non-issues. The real issues are of course, global, ecological, population, etc. But the capitalists who sponsor all the candidates can never respond to the disappearance of fundamental resources underlying American comfort (the extravagantly wasteful but profitable lifestyle.) The notion of an inexhaustible world of resources is central to the idea of constant “economic growth” upon which capitalism is founded.
The American economy will at some point collapse completely. Americans cannot believe that is possible. In fact, they think a devaluation of currency means total collapse. Yet you Brits have experienced at least one in my lifetime — and you are still doing OK. No American believes such a things can happen here. Despite the nearly one million home foreclosures underway, each believes it cannot happen to him. (Remember, he owes no man and no man owes him. Those who lose their homes are not his concern.)
It’s going to take what most people outside the US would consider a ridiculous level of disaster before most Americans understand that something is deeply wrong with the trajectory of their nation. Personally, I think we are years away from that realization — decades away if we can steal enough oil and keep printing enough fiat currency to keep the public fooled.
No candidate is going to deal with any of these larger things because:
1. It is political suicide to even mention them.
2. There is no commonly accessible language in which to publicly discuss real and very serious weaknesses in the American system. There isn’t even an opposition party, just one party. The party of business, wearing two masks.
Even the best of humans here are left with only the illusion of a humane candidate — Obama. He has become a cult figure, a messiah to some, merely because they know that at least he will not attack other nations without reasonable provocation. And that, my friend, is a sad state of affairs. Choosing a president simply because he is not a cold blooded killer. Of course, there is an equal number who would choose a candidate because he IS a cold killer — it makes them feel safer.
Meanwhile, I am of the same camp as the rest of Americans. It’s still quite a comfortable place to live — if you don’t mind living in a police state, living a life with only two parts, the inside of your house and the inside of your assigned workplace. I am stuck here in the US for a while on book business, Fortunately, when I am here I tend to be satisfied with alcohol and television, so at this particular moment I have no complaints. I am truly an American.
In art and labor,
Saturday, June 28, 2008
The bicycle rickshaws that weave through New Delhi’s narrow lanes have long been scorned by authorities here for congesting the city’s already fierce traffic. The creaking carriages crawl alongside luxury sedans, book hawkers, horse-drawn carts, hulking buses and cows.
In this city and the other quickly modernizing capitals of South Asia, governments have called the rickshaws backward, embarrassing symbols of the Third World.
Now, however, in a time of $7-a-gallon fuel in New Delhi and growing concerns about pollution, environmental activists and transportation experts are pushing back against rickshaw critics. And rickshaw cyclists are seizing the moment to tout the virtues of their trade.
“My rickshaw is my life. It’s very cheap for my passengers,” said Saurabh Ganguly, a 27-year-old rickshaw cyclist whose shirt was sticky with dirt and grime. He proudly observed a knot of traffic where about 50 rickshaw cyclists were jangling their bells, pressing their horns and zigzagging past lumbering buses belching plumes of black soot. “We don’t even pollute,” Ganguly said. “We should be allowed to survive.”
Survival has been tenuous for bicycle rickshaws here. Last year, New Delhi banned them in the old walled neighborhood known as Chandni Chowk, one of the capital’s most ancient and crowded shopping bazaars, as well as on main roads. While the ban has not been aggressively enforced, rickshaw cyclists say they often pay bribes to keep working.
An international nonprofit group, the Initiative for Transportation and Development Policy, challenged the ban in India’s Supreme Court this month, saying current economic and environmental conditions have made rickshaws more necessary than ever.
“We must save the cycle rickshaw drivers. Look at the soaring fuel price hikes,” said Nalin Sinha, program director for the group’s New Delhi office.
“These bikes are wonderful alternatives. They provide an affordable, smog-free choice,” Sinha said. “But unfortunately, when the whole world is talking about the environment, we in South Asia are talking about ‘development.’ We somehow think we are better if we have hordes of swanky cars.”
We’re even worse: we think we’re better if we have hordes of junk!
There is anecdotal evidence that ridership has increased in some South Asian cities as customers look to save on transportation costs. Sinha said his group is studying the issue.
New Delhi’s Center for Science and Environment is also pushing for the court to overturn the ban in Chandni Chowk. The group has pointed to increases in the city’s pollution and in the number of children with asthma, blaming the growing number of motor vehicles. India’s economic boom is adding nearly 1,000 cars a day to the capital’s streets.
“We should be building bike lanes to provide the cycle rickshaws a humane driving area for many reasons. Let’s face it, fuel prices are only getting higher, and here we have an alternative right in front of us,” said Vivek Chattopadhyaya, the center’s pollution researcher. “If we keep banning them, we will regret this in future generations.”
Some activists in India cite the increasing number of bicycle rickshaws being used in cities such as London, Paris, New York and Washington, often in neighborhoods with high congestion and heavy foot traffic. Local governments have welcomed the rickshaws as environmentally friendly alternatives.
There are an estimated 600,000 bicycle rickshaws in New Delhi serving an estimated 4 million customers. Trips range from one to six miles. The rickshaws — many festooned with flowers and tricked out with paintings of cartoonish Bollywood starlets and cricket stars — usually charge less than 50 cents a trip. On a recent monsoon-drenched afternoon, two female college students shopping for jeans said they were taking a bicycle rickshaw as an alternative to increasingly pricey taxis and auto-rickshaws, also powered by gas.
Indian women and children tend to take bicycle rickshaws more often than men because the rickshaws are seen as safe compared with overstuffed buses and unknown taxi drivers.
“We love the peaceful and private ride and the breeze,” said Shweta Goyal, 19, an English literature major, as she settled in for a ride. “I like that the price is never impacted by fuel hikes. To me, it’s a lovely way to do some shopping as a woman.”
In Bangladesh’s traffic-clogged capital of Dhaka, where there have been widespread protests over the rising prices of rice and fuel, rickshaw cyclist Shamsul Haque said business has never been better.
We could use some widespread protests ourselves. And some widespread rickshaws.
“There’s been a turning point suddenly,” said Haque, 25, a father of two who moved from a rural area to get a job as a rickshaw cyclist. “Our customers know we are cheap and very friendly.”
Some government officials have a different view.
“The rickshaws are popular in the walled old city like Chandni Chowk, but they can lead to large amounts of congestion,” said Pawan Khera, secretary to the chief minister of New Delhi. “It’s also not so easy for them since there are so many different kinds of motorized traffic on the roads.”
It’s not so easy for them because of the polluting traffic that’s stopped in their way. So let’s ban them. That’ll make it easier for them!!
Khera said cycle rickshaws will always have a place around the city, but perhaps only in certain areas. New Delhi, meanwhile, is working to curb pollution by expanding the metro rail system and requiring new buses to run on compressed natural gas.
On a recent day in Chandni Chowk, rickshaw cyclists could be seen sweating and straining as they conveyed passengers through the city. Amid the chaotic lanes lined with sellers of Rajasthani slippers, fresh lime soda and incense, a few sari shoppers loaded stacks of wedding clothes onto one rusty old rickshaw. Their fare would be a quarter of what it would cost to drive or take a taxi.
“We do a proper job for everyone,” lamented Mohammed Avip, 35, a rickshaw cyclist nearby. “Why does the police and government harass us so?”
Did Mohammed Avip ever think of that? Did you?
When our mechanized civilization is all over except the crying, before the radiation poisoning has killed absolutely everybody, wheels will still roll and people will still roll them.
Prepare yourself or not; it’s your choice.
But don’t say I didn’t warn you.