Two days before Bolivian president Evo Morales was pushed out by the country's military, Mark Weisbot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research penned a warning about what was happening, and what might unfold, in a Nation article titled, The Trump Administration Is Undercutting Democracy in Bolivia.
Multilateral organizations like the Organization of American States (OAS) have a certain perceived impartiality because they are, in theory, controlled by a diverse group of nations. But sometimes a great power can wield a disproportionate influence. It could theoretically be a coincidence that both the Trump administration and the OAS have tried—without offering any evidence—to discredit Bolivia’s national election in the past couple of weeks. But it’s more likely that this dangerous, ugly, and destabilizing operation is being pushed by Washington.
This "destabilizing operation" came to a head yesterday when Morales resigned under pressure from the military amidst a wave of protests and violence. The situation is Bolivia is complicated, but one thing you can be sure of is anything you hear or read in U.S. mass media will be a heaping pile of lies and propaganda. Fortunately, I came across a really helpful thread courtesy of Kevin Cashman.
“Major movers” such as China, Russia and the European Union have a strong “motivation to de-dollarize,” said Korin, co-director at the energy and security think tank, on Wednesday.
“We don’t know what’s going to come next, but what we do know is that the current situation is unsustainable."
- Anne Korin, Institute for the Analysis of Global Security.
Irrespective of where you reside in the world, chances are you feel some sense of unease, a nagging concern for the future and a deep instinctual understanding that an era you knew and navigated your entire life is slipping away and won't be coming back.
We've been witnessing widespread protest and unrest across countries with distinct political and economic systems, such as Hong Kong, France, Chile, Spain, Ecuador, Lebanon and Venezuela just to name a few. Those with vested interests and an ideological solution to sell insist it's all because of socialism, capitalism or some other ism, but the truth is this goes far deeper than that. What's actually happening is the geopolitical and economic paradigm that's dominated the planet for decades is failing, and rather than address the failure in any real sense, elites globally have decided to loot everything they possibly can until the house of cards comes crashing down.
As President Trump has said many times, we rebuilt China over the past 25 years. No truer words were spoken, but those days are over.
The United States now recognizes China as a strategic and economic rival.
- Vice President Mike Pence during a speech last week at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
The truth is that China is a strategic competitor at best that uses coercion and corruption as its tools of statecraft. (Applause.)
We’ve reconvened “the Quad” – the security talks between Japan, Australia, India and the Untied States that had been dormant for nine years. This will prove very important in the efforts ahead, ensuring that China retains only its proper place in the world.
- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a speech last week to the Heritage Foundation
I don't take the U.S.-China trade war seriously, because I don't expect a transformative deal to come of it. Specifically, I see the current trade charade as little more than a warmup to a far more serious, unpredictable and dangerous conflict between the U.S. and China in the years ahead.
Last December, in a piece titled Is U.S. Geopolitical Strategy Experiencing a Monumental Shift?, I explained how the U.S. was repositioning its foreign policy to focus on China, and how this would set off a long-lasting and enormously consequential feud between the dominant empire and the emerging power. The post concluded with the following thought:
The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling – their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability.
- Arundhati Roy
Last week, Hillary Clinton called Tulsi Gabbard (and Jill Stein) Russian assets on a podcast. More specifically:
“I’m not making any predictions, but I think they’ve got their eye on someone who’s currently in the Democratic primary and are grooming her to be the third-party candidate. She’s the favorite of the Russians,” said Clinton, apparently referring to Rep. Gabbard, who’s been accused of receiving support from Russian bots and the Russian news media. “They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far.” She added: “That’s assuming Jill Stein will give it up, which she might not because she’s also a Russian asset. Yeah, she’s a Russian asset—I mean, totally. They know they can’t win without a third-party candidate. So I don’t know who it’s going to be, but I will guarantee you they will have a vigorous third-party challenge in the key states that they most needed.”
Tulsi subsequently responded to this slanderous accusation with a series of devastating blows.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr, along with co-conspirators in the UK and Australia, recently wrote a letter to Mark Zuckerberg requesting he not move forward with a plan to implement end-to-end encryption across Facebook's messaging services. A draft of the letter was published earlier this month by Buzzfeed, and it's worth examining in some detail.
What immediately strikes you is the letter's emphasis on "protecting the children," a talking point universally used by authoritarians throughout history to justify both a reduction of public liberty and a transfer of increased power to the state. Though this tactic is transparent and well understood by those paying attention, it's nevertheless disturbing to observe Barr's disingenuous and shameless use of it (the words 'child' and 'children' appear 17 times in the course of this brief letter).
Here's just one example from the letter:
When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.
- Maya Angelou
If nothing else, one silver lining to Donald Trump's election is the exposure of establishment types, whether Democratic or Republican, for what they really are. We now recognize that there's very little daylight between a neocon and a neoliberal, and that the back and forth fighting over power between these two camps -- which defined American politics for decades -- was nothing more than a manipulative pro-wrestling circus.
Trump's election has forced many establishment Democrats out of the closet as the intelligence agency, surveillance state, empire-worshipping, centralized power bootlickers they always were. Since neocons were historically more in your face shameless about their support for endless war, oligarch-coddling, and authoritarianism, establishment Democrats could pretend to represent an ethical opposition to such things. Alas, it was all an act and if the Obama administration didn't already prove that to you, the embarrassingly clownish neoliberal "resistance" movement should.
A second former Amazon employee would spark more controversy. Deap Ubhi, a former AWS employee who worked for Lynch, was tasked with gathering marketing information to make the case for a single cloud inside the DOD. Around the same time that he started working on JEDI, Ubhi began talking with AWS about rejoining the company. As his work on JEDI deepened, so did his job negotiations. Six days after he received a formal offer from Amazon, Ubhi recused himself from JEDI, fabricating a story that Amazon had expressed an interest in buying a startup company he owned. A contracting officer who investigated found enough evidence that Ubhi’s conduct violated conflict of interest rules to refer the matter to the inspector general, but concluded that his conduct did not corrupt the process. (Ubhi, who now works in AWS’ commercial division, declined comment through a company spokesperson.)
Ubhi worsened the impression by making ill-advised public statements while still employed by the DOD. In a tweet, he described himself as “once an Amazonian, always an Amazonian.”
- From the must read ProPublica expose: How Amazon and Silicon Valley Seduced the Pentagon
That U.S. tech giants are willing participants in facilitating mass government surveillance has been widely known for a while, particularly since whistleblower Edward Snowden risked his life and liberty to tell us about it six years ago. We also know what happens to executives who don't play ball.
All wars require casus belli, ostensible justifications. After all, despite humanity’s long history of vicious warfare, interstate combat often requires a government distant from its working class to motivate its people to kill and die for distant institutions and esoteric ideologies. That said, Washington doesn’t exactly have a strong track record of honesty regarding its rationales for war. Few Americans know or care much for their own history...
One of the most horrible features of war is that all the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting…It is the same in all wars; the soldiers do the fighting, the journalists do the shouting.
- George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia
It's fall 2019, and nearly twenty years into a series of disastrous and murderous forever wars sold to the public as a necessary response to 9/11, we're being instructed to prepare for another one. Replace the Q with an N at the end of IRA and you know what I'm talking about. Of course, this shouldn't surprise anyone considering much of the U.S. foreign policy establishment has been actively scheming for some invented justification to take out Iran (and many others) for decades.
Ryan Murphy, an economist at Southern Methodist University, recently published a working paper in which he ranked each of the states by the predominance of—there’s no nice way to put it—psychopaths. The winner? Washington in a walk. In fact, the capital scored higher on Murphy’s scale than the next two runners-up combined.
“I had previously written on politicians and psychopathy, but I had no expectation D.C. would stand out as much as it does,” Murphy wrote in an email...
On a national level, it raises the troubling question as to what it means to live in a country whose institutions are set up to reward some very dubious human traits. Like it or not, we’re more likely than not to wind up with some alarming personalities in positions of power.
- From last year's Politico article, Washington, D.C.: the Psychopath Capital of America
One of the most frustrating aspects of modern American politics -- and the culture in general -- is our all encompassing fixation on the superficial. It's also one of the main reasons I have very little interest in presidential politics, which basically consists of a bunch of billionaire friendly puppets auditioning to become the next public face of imperial oligarchy. Though I understand the desire for quick fixes, our focus on highlighting and mitigating only the symptoms of societal decay as opposed to the root causes, ensures we'll never achieve the sort of positive paradigm-level shift necessary to bring humankind forward.
Somewhere between the arrest of Jeffrey Epstein and his extremely suspicious death in a Department of Justice operated prison, the public learned that an FBI intelligence bulletin published by the bureau’s Phoenix field office mentioned for the first time that conspiracy theories pose a domestic terrorism threat. This was followed up last week by a Bloomberg article discussing a new project by the U.S. military (DARPA) to identify fake news and disinformation.
Since leaving office President Obama has drawn widespread criticism for accepting a $400,000 speaking fee from the Wall Street investment firm Cantor Fitzgerald, including from Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Only a few months out of office, the move has been viewed as emblematic of the cozy relationship between the financial sector and political elites.
But as the President’s critics have voiced outrage over the decision many have been reluctant to criticize the record-setting $65 million book deal that Barack and Michelle Obama landed jointly this February with Penguin Random House (PRH)...
While the Obamas’ deal is unique for the amount of money involved, outsized book contracts between politicians and industries they’ve benefitted has precedent. In a recent report issued by the Roosevelt Institute, the study’s authors, Thomas Ferguson, Paul Jorgensen, and Jie Chen, argue that the mainstream approach to money in politics fails to recognize major sources of political spending. Among the least appreciated avenues for political money, they argue, are payments to political figures in the form of director’s fees, speaking fees, and book contracts.
From the 2017 Naked Capitalism piece: The “Market Forces” Behind the Obamas’ Record-Setting Book Deal
Back in 2009, when the Obama administration was busy ensuring the nation's financiers would become larger, more powerful and never serve a day in jail despite their historic crime spree, Larry Summers had dinner with Elizabeth Warren. During the course of that meal, he instructed her about how power really functions in the U.S.:
Is a murder committed more heinous than a suicide allowed? In its act, sure. In this context? NO.
An “unlucky accident” like this is the ONE THING that a non-corrupt State must prevent. It’s the non-corrupt State’s ONE JOB to keep Epstein alive for trial, and everyone knows that everyone knows this is their ONE JOB.
It is impossible to violate this common knowledge without premeditation and malice, without conspiracy and criminality aforethought. It is impossible to have an “unlucky accident” like this in a non-corrupt State.
- Ben Hunt, I’m a Superstitious Man
It's entirely fitting that the death of Jeffrey Epstein is as disturbing, shady, bizarre and seemingly inexplicable as the rest of his life. It seems as if one could research this wretched man's time on earth for years and still come up with more questions than answers. An unfortunate reality complicated by the fact we don't have a mass media particularly interested in asking any of the big questions, such as:
It appears sexually abusing children and accumulating associated blackmail on the rich and powerful was a full-time job for Epstein, so who was actually bankrolling/overseeing this operation? Was it Wexner, somebody else, or was it an intelligence agency as Alex Acosta claims he was told? Seems kind of important to get to the bottom of this.
I could go on and on, but then this would become a book. Rather, the purpose of this post is to highlight the outlandishness surrounding many of the details (or lack thereof) surrounding Epstein's death a week ago in a Department of Justice operated New York City prison.
Indeed, what you'd have to believe in order to think this was a simple suicide is the actual conspiracy theory.
Let's begin with the initial attack, which happened three weeks before his death.
Did you wear a black armband
When they shot the man
Who said "peace could last forever"
And in my first memories
They shot Kennedy
I went numb when I learned to see
So I never fell for Vietnam
We got the wall of D.C. to remind us all
That you can't trust freedom
When it's not in your hands
When everybody's fightin'
For their promised land
Guns N' Roses, Civil War
You know things are getting really weird when news of Jeffrey Epstein's death in a New York City prison operated by the U.S. Department of Justice is the least surprising part of the whole story. Countless people, including myself, assumed this exact sort of thing would happen. Then, just like that, he's gone.
I continue to think the players involved with Epstein in what appears to have been an intelligence-linked blackmail operation, as well as those at risk of being exposed in more detail, are simply too powerful and connected to the institutions that run this country (and others) for us to ever get real answers. It's cynical and depressing, but based on what I've seen over the past couple of decades, it's the most likely outcome.
Rule of law in America? Don't be ridiculous. There are rulers and the ruled. Which bucket do you think you're in?
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
- Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
You're not losing your mind, everybody else is. Things are crazy and getting crazier. Something must be done. Somebody, please do something.
If paying attention to global events overwhelms and results in a combined sense of dread, concern and bewilderment, you're not alone. It's not simply because humans have more access to more information than ever before that you feel this way, there does appear to be a quickening in the pace of the unfolding of humanity's latest chapter. Things are genuinely falling apart, but things are always falling apart. Likewise, things are always being built and created. Governments come and governments go, as do global empires and monetary systems. Everything is dying and being born all at once, constantly and forever. This will not change.
Today's post revolves around a subject I've been thinking about since early 2017, when I noticed much of the population separating into pro-Trump or anti-Trump factions that were becoming increasingly tribal, vitriolic and hostile. I wrote about it in the piece, Lost in the Political Wilderness, and things haven't improved much since. Fortunately, around the same time I came across the theory of Spiral Dynamics which provided me with a useful framework through which to understand consciousness and the importance of guarding your mind and emotional state in a world that encourages fear, tribalism and anger.
Though we live in a time where more diverse information is available at our fingertips than at any other period in human history, we're still presented with news and narratives via specific channels; whether that be an alternative media figure, a mass media outlet or a tech giant algorithm. The news and commentary that somehow gets in front of us on a daily basis shapes our view of the world just as it always has, and this in turn triggers certain emotions - joy, sadness, anger, fear, inspiration, etc. There's space for all that in a human life, but the ones I'm most interested in for the purposes of this piece are fear and anger.
Perhaps, at long last, a serial rapist and pedophile may be brought to justice, more than a dozen years after he was first charged with crimes that have brutalized countless girls and women. But what won’t change is this: the cesspool of elites, many of them in New York, who allowed Jeffrey Epstein to flourish with impunity. For decades, important, influential, “serious” people attended Epstein’s dinner parties, rode his private jet, and furthered the fiction that he was some kind of genius hedge-fund billionaire. How do we explain why they looked the other way, or flattered Epstein, even as they must have noticed he was often in the company of a young harem? Easy: They got something in exchange from him, whether it was a free ride on that airborne “Lolita Express,” some other form of monetary largesse, entrée into the extravagant celebrity soirées he hosted at his townhouse, or, possibly and harrowingly, a pound or two of female flesh.
- From the New York Magazine article: Who Was Jeffrey Epstein Calling?
An honest assessment of the current state of American politics and society in general leaves little room for optimism regarding the public's ability to accurately diagnose, much less tackle, our fundamental issues at a root level. A primary reason for this state of affairs boils down to the ease with which the American public is divided against itself and conquered.
Though there are certain issues pretty much everyone can agree on, we simply aren't focusing our collective energy on them or creating the mass movements necessary to address them. Things such as systemic bipartisan corruption, the institutionalization of a two-tier justice system in which the wealthy and powerful are above the law, a broken economy that requires both parents to work and still barely make ends meet, and a military-industrial complex consumed with profits and imperial aggression not national defense. These are just a few of the many issues that should easily unite us against an entrenched power structure, but it is not happening. At least not yet.
We currently find ourselves at a unique inflection point in American history. Though I agree with Charles Hugh Smith's assessment that "Our Ruling Elites Have No Idea How Much We Want to See Them All in Prison Jumpsuits," we have yet to reach the point where the general public is prepared to do something about it. I think there are several reasons for this, but the primary obstacle relates to how easily the citizenry is divided and conquered. The mass media, largely owned and controlled by billionaires and their corporations, is highly incentivized to keep the public divided against itself on trivial issues, or at best, on real problems that are merely symptoms of bipartisan elitist plunder.
To appreciate the significance of what I'm about to share, you really need to go back and read yesterday's post: The Jeffrey Epstein Rabbit Hole Goes a Lot Deeper Than You Think.
In that piece, I shared many lesser known, but extremely bizarre facts about Jeffrey Epstein and the people around him. I also noted that it appeared his real job was to run a blackmail operation to ensnare some of the most wealthy and powerful people on earth. I alluded to the possibility that he was collecting this priceless information on behalf of a third party, and then just today we learn the following via the Daily Beast:
“Is the Epstein case going to cause a problem [for confirmation hearings]?” Acosta had been asked. Acosta had explained, breezily, apparently, that back in the day he’d had just one meeting on the Epstein case. He’d cut the non-prosecution deal with one of Epstein’s attorneys because he had “been told” to back off, that Epstein was above his pay grade. “I was told Epstein ‘belonged to intelligence’ and to leave it alone,” he told his interviewers in the Trump transition, who evidently thought that was a sufficient answer and went ahead and hired Acosta. (The Labor Department had no comment when asked about this.)...
Like many of you, I've been following the Jeffrey Epstein story with horror, disgust and open eyes for several years. While it's always been a creepy, twisted and completely bizarre saga, I was unaware of just how inexplicable and strange it is until I did some more digging earlier today.
I put a bunch of information together in a Twitter thread, and rather than reinvent the wheel, here it is:
As Americans head off to Independence Day celebrations, they'll be greeted with a plethora of headlines about record highs in the U.S. stock market. What I find most interesting about the latest bout of exuberance is the fact that priced in gold, stocks remain far below last fall's peak.
From my perspective, a real equity bull market is one where the stock market, in this case the S&P500, consistently hits new highs relative to what's historically been the world's politically-neutral monetary asset, gold; and the U.S. stock market did exactly that from August 2011 until September 2018. Though equities in nominal terms bottomed in March 2009, we didn't really get the all clear in my view until equities started rallying versus gold in late summer 2011.
We cannot content ourselves with simplistically dividing civilization into a workday world of everyday life that is properly social, as I call it, in which we reproduce the conditions of our individual existence at work, in the home, and among our friends, and, of course, the state, which reduces us at best to docile observers of the activities of professionals who administer our civic and national affairs. Between these two worlds is still another world, the realm of the political, where our ancestors in the past, at various times and places historically, exercised varying, sometimes complete control over the commune and the confederation to which it belonged.
- Murray Bookchin, A Politics for the Twenty-First Century
Today, the concept of citizenship has already undergone serious erosion through the reduction of citizens to "constituents" of statist jurisdictions, or to "taxpayers" who sustain statist institutions.
- Murray Bookchin, Cities
In the spirit of my recent interest in direct democracy and the future of human governance, I finally got around to reading something that's been on my radar for a while. It's a collection of nine essays by the late political philosopher Murray Bookchin published together in a book titled:The Next Revolution - Popular Assemblies and the Promise of Direct Democracy. It did not disappoint.
While there are numerous key points on which Bookchin and I would have disagreed spiritedly, that's not the purpose of this piece. Aside from being a wealth of information and knowledge (he closely studied nearly every major revolution in the Euro-American world), his greatest service here is a framework through which to understand human governance and how and why it's all gone so terribly wrong. Many of his themes cover ideas and realizations I've come to on my own, but the clarity with which he describes certain key concepts helped refine my thinking. The purpose of this post is to outline some of these ideas.
ZUCK: yea so if you ever need info about anyone at harvard
ZUCK: just ask
ZUCK: i have over 4000 emails, pictures, addresses, sns
FRIEND: what!? how'd you manage that one?
ZUCK: people just submitted it
ZUCK: i don't know why
ZUCK: they "trust me"
ZUCK: dumb fucks
- Leaked messages sent by Mark Zuckerberg to a friend at Harvard as he was building Facebook
Years ago, Mark Zuckerberg made it clear that he doesn’t think Facebook is a business. “In a lot of ways, Facebook is more like a government than a traditional company,” said Mr. Zuckerberg. “We’re really setting policies.” He has acted consistently as a would-be sovereign power. For example, he is attempting to set up a Supreme Court-style independent tribunal to handle content moderation. And now he is setting up a global currency.
- From Matt Stoller's recent article: Facebook’s Undemocratic Currency
For a long time, I've maintained there's no doubt the current system/paradigm we live under will collapse under its own weight, but that doesn't keep me up at night. What keeps me up at night is understanding we still have no idea exactly what will replace it. It could very well be a more decentralized and free world, a world less defined by brute force, grotesque power concentrations and coercion, but it could also very easily go the other way. The coming out party for FacebookCoin (aka Libra) is in my view the first real indication the forces of corporate oligarchy are determined to ensure the new world reflects their vision and is under their control.
Though I've seen many thoughtful and important articles on the dangers of Facebook and a consortium of large corporations building a new financial system in broad daylight, I have yet to see anyone explain precisely what seems to be going on. I think the level of strategic long-term thinking happening here is more extensive than even the most cynical observer is willing to contemplate. This looks like a power play of monumental proportions.
War is not a foregone conclusion or a national necessity. Each successive occupant of the White House only needs you to believe that in order to centralize the power of an increasingly imperial presidency, stifle dissent, and chip away at what remains of civil liberties.
- Danny Sjursen, retired US Army officer, The Pence Prophecy: VP Predicts Perpetual War at the West Point Graduation
Whenever I mention direct democracy, a certain segment of the population always comes back with a very negative knee-jerk reaction. Since this response tends to center around several concerns, today's post will dig into them and explain how such pitfalls can be structurally addressed.
The first thing that worries people is a fear there will be no protections for minority populations within such a system. Take the U.S. for example, where approximately 80% of the population lives in urban areas and only 20% in rural. If we moved to a system where direct popular vote played a meaningful role in deciding the majority of issues, rural populations would lose out every single time. It would end up being an oppressive system for people who live in less populated areas and would tear up the U.S. even faster than is happening now.
Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it. That is the point at which the negation of Catholicism and the negation of Liberalism meet and keep high festival, and the end learns to justify the means.
- Lord Acton
You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.
- Buckminster Fuller
If you've read anything I've written over the past several years, you'll be acutely aware of my belief that human civilization is currently in a major transition period between two great paradigms of world history. The old world we all grew up in no longer works for most people, yet is being relentlessly propped up by the powerful and their minions who benefit from its parasitic and destructive nature. Despite their best efforts, a system so poisonous, decrepit and corrupt cannot and will not last. At this stage, it's little more than a Potemkin village fraud barely kept standing courtesy of increasingly intense deception, manipulation and the sheer will of those who profit handsomely from it.
By stating we're in the transition period, I want to make it clear I believe things are very much already being disrupted and altered beneath the hood of a world which appears indistinguishable from what it was a decade ago on a superficial level. Specifically, I think there are two core aspects of human existence that will be completely transformed in the years to come. First, within the monetary and financial systems that define how commerce, savings and entrepreneurship function. The emergence and continued momentum of Bitcoin offers evidence that disruption in this realm is already very much underway, albeit still in its infancy. The second realm I expect will experience massive transformational change relates to forms of human governance. We've barely scratched the surface on this one, but nascent signs have started to appear, and I suspect a push towards political systems more defined by direct democracy will become increasingly common in the years ahead. I've spent many hours writing about the financial and monetary system, so today's piece will focus on what appears to be coming with regard to human political evolution.